Jelaluddin is a Sufi guide living on the Sunshine Coast, Halfmoon Bay, British Columbia. He and Fazalunissa co-led the Vancouver Sufi Centre for many years.
Just one story about how I became a Sufi.
In 1974, when I was 30 years old and living in Edmonton, Alberta, the world of Sufis appeared mysteriously and offered itself to me. The particulars were woven into my life with Sufia Carol Sill, my wife at that time. It was her connection with Murshid Shamcher Bryn Beorse, a friend and student of Inayat Khan, at a time of personal tragedy for both of us that offered not just comfort but the possibility of understanding life.
One day in that year we got in the car and drove from Edmonton to Bremerton in Washington state (a drive of 1500 kms or 900 miles) with the intention of meeting Shamcher for the first time. He was surprised to see us, either because we had not told him we were coming, or perhaps because the date of our arrival was confused. Nevertheless, he immediately gave us his full and loving attention, even taking us out to dinner which he absolutely insisted on paying for.
Jelaluddin Gary Sill
Jelaluddin Gary Sill
The following day Shamcher took us on a tour of remarkable Sufi individuals living in the Seattle area. Still living with the loss of our seven year old son, I was not spending a lot of time in my body and that may be why Shamcher, in a kind but forceful way, insisted on having me drive his huge boat of a car (an Oldsmobile?) on to the ferry to Seattle.
Shamcher Bryn Beorse
I found myself very cautious of this crazy old man that my wife had an inexplicable connection with and although curious, was becoming resentful of being trapped in one of the passenger rooms with the two of them apparently ignoring me.
My suspicions would be confirmed when Shamcher abruptly ordered Carol to go get him a coffee. There we were, the two of us in the metallic sterility of the ferry’s waiting room when Shamcher picked up a National Enquirer magazine and began to read it. This confirmed beyond any doubt who this old guy was.
As these thoughts crowded my mind, two steely blue eyes gazed out at me from over the newspaper. You know he said, this is actually very interesting. And at that moment the most remarkable feeling of nonexistence overcame me. Vast, illuminated and filled with love, the transformation couldn’t have been more of a surprise. I was in a speechless, unthinking state separated from the world.
Shamcher Bryn Beorse
The teachings of Inayat Khan and other sufi teachers have allowed me a framework from which I interpret the world and a way to polish the mirror of the heart so that I can both enjoy the beauty found in our daily lives and withstand the pain and sorrow that is also a part of being human. I don't know what my life would be like without this framework and I try daily to live up to the ideals expressed so eloquently in the teachings of Inayat Khan.
It was now time to leave the ferry and once again I was to be the driver. There were instructions; I would have to be very careful not to scratch or dent his valued car and I would not be allowed to have an accident on the crowded, frantic freeway.
The gas gauge showed empty, but Shamcher simply said, it will be alright. Then, Get in the other lane - now! he exclaimed just moments before a car swerved erratically beside us. Certainly a serious accident had been avoided. Silence in the car, then; I’m sorry. I can’t help it. I get these pictures in my mind.
And so we travelled to visit the elderly Eye Drop Lady who had inherited the formula for an eye drop solution that could cure cataracts or any affliction of the eyes. She lay in bed, radiant, filling the narrow little house with an atmosphere of unconditional love. She was dying, receiving hospice care from a young man introduced as the Rooster Sufi. I believe in the infinite Ego, was his mantra. Then we drove to visit a woman, a Sufi centre leader, who kept me outside while she tried to convince Carol to become her student. After a badly ended affair with an important Sufi leader this woman had started her own Sufi organization and had many students.
It was for me a time of initiation, a time when I started down the Sufi path which rose higher as the connectedness became deeper. It led to a 30 year friendship with Hidayat Inayat-Khan, head of the International Sufi Movement, who came from Europe to lead Lake O’Hara Sufi Camp. I was also blessed by the beauty of devotional Tibetan Buddhism with Geshe Lama Khaldan and danced metaphysically with the aboriginal spirituality of Abe Burnstick. The life in Spirit may start out with one or two beautiful friends but if we gain anything as life unfolds it is that more and more people help until everyone and everything is the beloved.
Jelaluddin Sill 2018.01.16
A Personal Experience of the Sufi In Canada Community by Jelaluddin Gary Sill
In the late 1970’s, a group of young people living in Alberta, Canada were introduced to the philosophy of Hazrat Inayat Khan, a spiritual teacher who travelled from India to the West in 1910. He spread what he called the Sufi Message, first through his music, then through lectures and writing.
Sufia Carol Sill had written to Shamcher Bryn Beorse, a student of Inayat Khan, who lived in Washington state. Their deep connection informed and focused the weekly meetings held in Edmonton and Calgary and a Sufi community reflecting the ideals of Inayat Khan Sufism began to develop.