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Dancing Around the Center

Why are sacred dance and zikr so often done in a circle? Perhaps there are many practical reasons, but from an esoteric viewpoint, this dancing in a circle is a powerful metaphor which reminds us, on a deep inner level, that our entire life is a celebration of individuals dancing around the Center.

As the Egyptian-born Roman philosopher Plotinus (circa 205-270 AD) wrote:

The Supreme has no desire towards us, that it should centre about us ; but towards it we have desire, so that we centre about the Supreme. We have at all times our centre There, though we do not at all times look Thither.

We are like a company of singing dancers, who may turn their gaze outward and away, notwithstanding they have the choirmaster for centre ; but when they are turned towards him, then they sing true and are truly centered upon him. Even so we encircle the Supreme always, and when we break the circle, it shall be our utter dissolution and cessation of being ; but our eyes are not at all times fixed upon the centre.

Yet in the vision thereof is our attainment and our repose and the end of all discord, God in his dancers and God the true Centre of the dance.

Plotinus, Enneads: VI, ix, 8.

Similarly, Hazrat Inayat Khan said:

Our souls are dancers to God; born to dance to God they must enjoy beauty in its perfection. When we forget that dance in our absorption in earthly joys we neglect our duties for which we were created.

The object in the life of the Sufi is to keep his heart like a compass pointing to one goal, the center, Indra for whom every soul is created to dance. We need not go to the forest or the wilderness; we can be in a crowd, but we should be like the compass, always pointing to the one goal of our existence.

Volume XIV, The Dance of the Soul, by Hazrat Inayat Khan

As the great Sufi poet Attar once wrote:

The whole world is a marketplace for Love,
For naught that is, from Love remains remote.
The Eternal Wisdom made all things in Love.
On Love they all depend, to Love all turn.
The earth, the heavens, the sun, the moon, the stars
The center of their orbit find in Love.
By Love are all bewildered, stupefied,
Intoxicated by the Wine of Love.

Farid ud Din Attar, Essential Sufism, by Fadiman and Frager

And, as if to explain the effect of the music, Hazrat Inayat Khan said:

Music, the word we use in our everyday language, is nothing less than the picture of our Beloved. ... Those who attain to that perfect peace which is called Nirvana, or in the language of the Hindus Samadhi, do this more easily through music. Therefore Sufis, especially those of the Chishtiyya School of ancient times, have taken music as a source of their meditation; and by meditating thus they derive much more benefit from it than those who meditate without the help of music.

The effect that they experience is the unfoldment of the soul, the opening of the intuitive faculties; and their heart, so to speak, opens to all the beauty which is within and without, uplifting them, and at the same time bringing them that perfection for which every soul yearns.

Volume II, Music, by Hazrat Inayat Khan

And so it is, we dance around the Center, on our journey toward the Center, filled with loving-kindness for all, giving freely with no concern for any reward, filled with the glorious expression of unbounded Love, Harmony and Beauty.


Wishing you love, harmony and beauty,