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  • Writer's pictureMadhusudan

Sema- dancing with the Sufis

Once a Sufi Saint was walking through a desert with a young boy, ‘where are we going’? asked the boy. To a Sema gathering, the man replied. And then the boy asked many questions. 

Where is it?

I don’t know 

Who is coming?

I don’t know 

Do the people who are coming know it ?


So how will they come?

Old man looked at him with love and said – the ones who need to come will find it and will come. 

Sufi, a word which has been a mystery, fascination and admiration for me, and now it has become an exploration. Experienced my first retreat with two Sufi teachers in feb this year. Met many friends there who became dear as they were in similar path. This enquiry created a longing to come to turkey. Country where Rumi and many other Sufi teachers are from. I booked my tickets and planned to visit at the end of my Europe trip. No one to know, no place to go, just trusting an inner voice that said ‘go’. Now I am here, arrived two days back in Istanbul. Hosted in a friend’s friend place, by dearest Gozde. Within few hours of my arrival, dear friend David, who lives in London connects me with a dear friend Hatice and who immediately invited me to a Sufi gathering or Sema as it is called, happening an hour away from Istanbul. 

As I was standing in the dock of ferry, looking at the sea waves on my way to this gathering, I was reflecting how every moment in our life is orchestrated. In this trip I have felt deeply held by life, always feeling path opening or emerging as I took the next step. 

From yelova took a bus to Gokcedre and then walked on a small path asking occasionally for Mehmet Rasim Mutlu Dargeh, that’s where we all meet. After 20 mins I reached the center, a concrete building with two floors, the bottom one used for serving food and the top floor for Sema, where they do 24 hours, non stop prayers, singing and whirl dancing. 

It was the day of full moon and As I entered the Dargeh, everyone I met greeted me with a smile and a bow with heir hands in their heart. Salaam or Merhaba they would say. I immediately felt home. 

When I was in Spain, a random friend I had made told me that “ahh 

You are going to turkey, you should meet this teacher Uruc, she didn’t knew where he stayed or his contact, I  smiled and said, turkey is a big country but you never know, inshallah (by god’s will). 

And now in a small village in turkey, where with synchronicity I find myself attending this very beautiful Sema, I met the teacher or Sufi Sheikh who started it all, he was none other than Uruc. When I told him how I came there about this turn of events, he just smiled and said “that’s life” 🙂

Teacher Uruc would share Sufi stories from Rumi’s methnava every evening, with joy and twinkle in his eyes, a man with joyful heart. 

“If you are dark like Iron, polish polish, until your heart becomes a mirror filled with images, beautiful images, everywhere inside it”

Their Eyes were soft, warm hugs and deep reverence presence. We would deeply look into each other’s eyes and greet with Adab softly saying salaam / Merhaba. They came from all corners of the world, hippies, wanderers, seekers, pilgrims, musicians.. All in the path of Sufi. The gatherings is called ‘Sema’, in the tradition of Mevlana or Rumi, they would meet to do Ibadat/ Zikr or remember God. This particular one is of 9 days and nights ( also happens for 3, 5, 40, 114 days) chanting, singing , whirl dance to evoke ecstasy and connect with divine throughout 24 hours non stop. Offered in the spirit of gift and donations, the center is open for all. With food and tea always there on the table, pilgrims sleep in their own tents outside or in the prayer hall, dancing, resting and then dancing again. 

I would spend hours, Just listening to the music in Sema hall to various musicians from around the world, Music is healing, it slowly grows on you, it relaxes the nerves, I felt my own presence expanding, more peaceful, and I felt it in the collective energy, so much love, softness, and respect. 

We would enter the Dargeh and the sema hall with Adab (bowing down) and the same we would do when we greeted each other. 

One of the Hadith in the Quran says “two opposite feelings cannot stay together in your heart, if there’s love there cannot be hatred” , so greet everyone with love and Adab, even if they don’t respond back. 

After an intense week for me, with moments of exhilaration, joy and also sometimes deep exhaustion and emptyness, the Sema finished yesterday. We closed with dance and prayers. This week has been really a big gift from God, one of the most beautiful gathering of my life where my every breath said ‘ahhhhha’

One of the dervishes I met, summarized this event very beautiful my to me, he said “the work we are doing here is creating a wave of positive energy, the work done by Mystics and Rishis since thousands of years. This is real activism, creating inner change and this further creates a flow of love which vibrates in our environment wherever we go. It’s creating a balance in the world.”

As we said good byes today morning, my heart was full with love and hope which I have seen many around the world in different forms and yet in same universal spirit, towards oneness. 

Finally leaving for Konya, my beloved Rumi’s place with few dervishes in their van. 

With teacher Uruc

Story time in the evening. Inside the dergah. 

Sema hall in the Dergah. 

Saw this in the center – 

“Sufism is not mere looking inside but to invite the entire existence inside”. 

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