Videha, who teaches whirling in various workshops, talks to Osho News.

Osho introduced the Whirling Meditation as soon as he moved to Pune in 1974. The meditation was first held in Empress Garden and, as soon as the Krishna House compound was purchased, on the concrete paths around the house (some might remember the uneven surface under their feet). For the first few months the instructions were to whirl for two hours anticlockwise – and then to let go and fall down; later, the direction was changed to clockwise and the meditation then lasted only one hour.

After Osho had devised the new Kundalini Meditation, it replaced the evening slot the Whirling Meditation had held for those first months. But Whirling has lived on in our commune as a beloved meditation and can still be enjoyed at least twice a week. The devotees would go to the tailors and have round skirts made for whirling.

One of these devotees is Videha who agreed to be interviewed by us.

Videha Whirling 1
Videha Whirling 2

How did you become interested in the Path of the Sufi?

I have always been fascinated by the East. Four years after taking sannyas, I was in Italy in 1984 when I participated in a Sufi workshop led by another sannyasin. There was no specific reason why I enrolled; I simply felt ‘called’ by it. Sometimes such inexplicable things happen in life…. It was a discovery, or rather a re-discovery; I immediately felt in tune with it and I wanted to know more and go deeper into it. Since then I was caught by whirling… and haven’t recovered from that yet!

In 2002 I travelled to Anatolia in Turkey, to Konya to be precise, which is the city where Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi lived. If you are on the Sufi Path, and particularly Whirling, then Konya is the place for you to go. There I was initiated into the Mevlevi Sufi Brotherhood (the Whirling Dervishes) by a dervish dance master; it happened in a milk shop! A year later I received another initiation, this time from Salauddyn Ojat Celebi, a great and beautiful Sufi master, a Mevlevi sheik from the direct lineage of Rumi’s family.

I met Salauddyn Ojat Celebi in a very special and unique way. After the first Sufi camp in Turkey, we went to Konya. The second night after our arrival we were invited to visit Rumi’s samadhi where his ashes are kept. This in itself was a rare chance and unique ‘coincidence’ since the Mevlana Samadhi it is open just once a year at night and, moreover, it’s not open to the public… and that was the very night. Entering the samadhi, in the middle of the night, was magic. Nobody was there except for three people; an old man, a woman, and a whirling dancer. The ‘old man’ was Salauddyn Ojat Celebi who, after the Semazen stopped dancing, greeted us without words but with a long loving smile, suddenly followed by a literally mind blowing shout of “Hai!” – a Zikhr meaning ‘Life!’ A powerful wind, a wave, flooded us… what happened after that was personal, intimate, a loving connection, beyond time and space.

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Whirling is the essential meditation of the Sufi Path – can you say more about whirling?

When whirling, we join the inner movement of the universe, the spontaneous dance of existence. It is a path that can unfold countless layers and dimensions of our self and then, in surrendering, make us disappear… a spiritual remembrance of Presence at the center of existence, and a place where to dissolve our ego.

Whirling can be called the spiritual journey of love towards truth, where the soul may reach a state of union and then comes back to this life to share its love and joy. Sema, the worship ceremony which is entrenched in a subtle silence that pervades the whole ceremony, includes whirling dance, meditation, chanting and music. It is an important moment in the spiritual journey of the dervish. The insights and the feel of the dance continues in his day-to-day life. It is a path of love, a search and a remembrance of the divine in ourselves and in existence.

Whirling also symbolizes and represents man’s unity with the cosmos; it is a movement where we dissolve ourselves in a world that cannot be understood with our minds; it has to be felt in the heart. Ultimately, even the heart has to be dropped.

Naturally, as a sannyasin I have integrated the Sufi Path into Osho’s vision and love.

How does the Path of the Sufi fit in with Osho?

It fits in all possible ways. Does Osho have one path? His are all the paths! In my understanding Osho’s path reduced to one word is ‘awareness’. And whatever helps raise awareness is part of the path. Besides bringing revolutionary insights into the spiritual world, Osho talks about all paths of the human search and has breathed new life into them, reminding us of their original meaning, clearing them, without mercy, from pollution that human stupidity, unconsciousness, and politics have added to them.

What do we learn in a Sufi workshop?

To me a worskhop is a meditative process which uses different methods to enter a state of emptiness: rhythm, breath, music, dance, voice, sound, poetry. Much of the time together is dedicated, of course, to whirling, the circular dance of the dervish. We give whirling enough time for everyone to get a taste of its flavour; it might be one or two hours per day, it depends. I teach the introductory steps and movements; they are simple, and meaningful, but eventually we have to let go of them too….

Zikhr, which means remembrance, is also an essential Sufi method which uses the voice, vigorous body movements, standing or sitting in a circle, holding hands or alone. Zikhr will bring us in touch with different layers of our being.

Some time is also dedicated to gibberish (talking in a language we do not know), which I see as a deep cleaning of the unconscious. We also explore the beauty of Sufi poetry and music which can sometimes be delicate but also powerful. I read the poems in the English translation, and sometimes we listen to them in the original Persian while we whirl.

This gathering is a process to empty ourselves in an atmosphere where love, wildness, and passion flower into meditation. It is a deep immersion into our inner world, an exploration of the love and wisdom we all carry in our being. A remembrance of the joyful song and luminous silence of existence.

Could you describe what the benefits of such a workshop are?

To open our being to a deeper awareness.
To drop from the head to the heart, as a first, beautiful, and unavoidable step to remember the being.
To adventure into the Garden of Lovers.
To gather the courage to look into our true nature.
To enjoy the beauty of all this and all that is.

In your program, you also offer a combination of Sufi with Zen.

I have now been a Zazen meditation practitioner for about ten years; so it was natural for me to combine these two. As the Path of Sufi is the expression of the ancient wisdom of the heart, so Zen is the silence, the sky, of that wisdom.

Sufi-Zen, as I call it, is a structured process of Sufi whirling, Zen sitting, and Zen walking. Whirling will take us through the many expression of ourselves to a state of union; and sitting in Zazen will help us remember the wisdom and silence of our true nature.

I am also adding sessions where we listen to Sufi poetry and Zen haikus.

This combination, Sufi and Zen, works very deeply.

You are conducting many Dervish Dance workshops also in Central Asian countries which were part of the former USSR. Why the attraction?

I don’t really know the reason why I feel such a connection to these countries, but I always had a strong attraction, so I was naturally drawn to go there. I always choose very beautiful places; for example, during the Sufi-Zen Camp and Retreat we will live in yurts, the circular tents of the nomads, on the shore of Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan. It’s a place of wild beauty in the magic and ancient mountains of Tien-Shan in the heart of Central Asia.

Why do you think there is such great interest among the young people in mysticism and Sufism?

There are all kinds of people, not only the young ones. The people there certainly have a great heart… and with it great illusions and dreams, unfortunately. I can say they have a long and ancient tradition in this aspect of the spiritual search, in mysticism and Sufism. Or maybe I have some past life connection…?

Related discourse
Sufism is a Death and a Resurrection

Videha was born in Italy and at age 18 started travelling, mainly to the East. He was initiated into sannyas in 1980 and into the Mevlevi Sufi Order of Konya (the Whirling Dervishes) in 2002. Since more than 28 years he has been leading workshops, seminars, Zen and Sufi meditation camps and retreats all over the world. He is the author of a photo book on beauty called ‘Sundaram’, and two on Tibet, ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’, and ‘Tashi Delek’ (which means ‘May you find happiness’ in the Tibetan language). www.pilgrimsofemptiness.com

Videha will be leading two retreats in September 2015 at Lake Issyk-kul in Kyrgyzstan. For more information visit: www.pilgrimsofemptiness.com

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