The Indian Ocean Way to Self-Unfoldment


A red sunset hovers above the Usambara Mtns–my eyes close to the half-crescent undulations of the ocean spreading to the horizon.  Complete water-immersion joy–unfelt for months.  The evening star sparkles like the lightning flash clouds below.

Pure color.  So many waving, darting, contrasting shades of color:  Shimmering blue-green minnow-fish I dive down into for immersion, yellowish starfish with perfectly symmetrical protruding red adornment, as if dripping pentagonal blood towards the surface.  Pink, purple, orange corals.  Snorkeling and a sand-island snack with Kiwis, Canadians, a Brit, and an American near Peponi.  The green tongue of the waters off the retreating drowning island extended like a long sharp grass blade into the deep blue encircling the dhow.


I am the only tourist in these heavily populated Pare Mountains, and I love the slow genuineness of life and people.  My guide to Mt. Kindoroko asks many questions about America [or California; terms he uses interchangeably], mostly regarding: the slaughtering of animals, prostitution, traditional food, street children, and superstitions.  Full court mud-dust basketball with earnest but skill-less teenagers at Lomwe School [my campsite] upon our return.


Thunder rolls near above the insect hum, the green wall of rain-forest surrounds me at the buttress base of a stretching tree.  A breeze amplifies the underlying rustle.  At the end of my aimless circular walk—down the red-road to thick forest path, opening to tea plantations scattered with basket-backed “pluckers”—I miraculously return to the back door of the old German guesthouse, though the drunk eye-askance cane-brew bar owner assured me I would.  A surreptitiously smooth few days.

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I walked along the searing beach most of the day—over and wading around sharp coral rock, and along beautiful deserted strands of sand— when the tide started to come back in and I climbed back to the dusty road for a bit to buy some water.  Back to the beach near Pangani, where a herd of cattle followed me into town. Slightly sun-stroked, with puffy inflamed extremities and heat rash up to my thighs, a nun showed me to a room with a shower.  I head to a bar to find the one man who can arrange cargo-dhow passage to Zanzibar, that is, according to an avocado-stained first edition Rough Guide borrowed from a man named Elvis.  The barkeep points to a nearby house.  No reply at the open door.  Standing in the street in the dusk, about to give up, a boy rides up on his bike, says good morning, and something in which I recognize the sought after name of Iddi.  I nod and the boy goes to a window.  Iddi soon appears wearing only a towel, but his perfect English eases into an assertion to find a boat by tomorrow morning.  “You leave at four, and arrive in Zanzibar by nine, or noon at the latest”.

By five the calls to prayer began to blare into the calm starry night, and my slumbering captain and snoring crew showed no interest in rousing–though the incoming tide had recently refloated the craft.

“‘What is a Muslim?’ [The Prophet] said, ‘It is a person who surrenders his face to Allah’.  What does this mean?  The implication is that the direction of the face is the direction to which we are turning, towards our actions.  If we have abandoned hankering after the fruits of action, fear of the future, and all other psychological aberrations, then that action is pure action.  It is towards and for the absolute, it is for totality, and not for any specific personal purpose.”

Like getting to Zanzibar.  After 26 hours in the loaded leaking “sailboat” I again stepped foot on solid ground [where I waited three hours for the immigration officer].  Made from rough-hewn planks, low-sided, approximately 40 ft. long, the dhow was overloaded with fruit; oranges, pineapples, and the ugly spikey-skinned jackfruit [my seat, bed, and lunch], live chickens and at least one speckled goose, and what seemed a ton of coal.  Shade-chasing and horizon watching all day in silence with the 16 locals.  [One lone conversation was held towards evening with the geographically trained orange-man:  consisting in his naming a city or country on the globe, and my reply of yes or no as to whether I had been there].  A brief thunder-shower [our only real yet un-enduring wind] and a cloudy sunset killed all hope of arriving that day, and I settled in on my pile of jackfruit and pack for an endless evening of painful drowsing.

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Click for slideshow

As I lay staring eye-tired at the unfamiliar stars, slightly sea-sick and painfully aware of a need to relieve a mounting pressure in my bowels, the clearest, brightest shooting star slid directly through my gaze above the creaking tree-like mast.  I felt what might be described as self-unfoldment:

“The more we become alert, the more we become inwardly single-pointed, the more we observe, the more we can see.”

“When the mind is set free from past shackles and man is liberated from fear of future uncertainties, he can then look at each situation with spontaneity, purity, and clarity.”

“The awakened being is spontaneously in a state of recognition of reality as it unfolds and thereby he is totally at peace and in contentment in all circumstances.”

“If man is not in a state of gratitude, then he is denying the truth, or justifying his ingratitude, his ignorance.  This occurs because he has invested all these years in particular habits or expectations, a type of knowledge, and in whatever else he does.  He recoils from the light of truth which questions the foundations of his ‘security’.   …To meet reality face to face is a dramatic departure from his habits.”

“Time is like a sword, if you don’t cut through it, it will cut you down.”

-[All Quotes From]  “The Sufi Way to Self-Unfoldment”

-Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

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~ by Scott Hamilton Peters on March 8, 2009.

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