Ziraat is an inter-faced message. The outer fabric weaves a too brief outline with harvesting the fruits of the earth. The interfacing is the cultivating of the soul by individual workers under Allah's all-seeing eye. Ziraat enables the initiate to comprehend the qualities of the soul in every aspect of nature. By attunement of the breath while walking on Mother Earth and setting our sights on “Father Sky” we ground our beings to the planet. Through knowledge of the hydrologic cycle, seasons, and solstices, man learns how the veins of Nature circulate from earth's core through the vegetable kingdom. This exchange forever makes man dependent upon the exhalation of oxygen from foliage and the inhalation of carbon dioxide gas from our exhaled breath into the vegetable kingdom.
The substance of planet earth contains a spirit which the American Indian knew personally and revered. Because of this he respected and maintained the balance of Nature in all of the kingdoms: mineral, vegetable, animal, and human. The earth and its mantle can be compared to man's body and the skin which covers it. The core is the home of the Kundalini power carrying the base fire element by means of magma, exhaling its powers through volcanic action into the air element. Becoming conscious of the mystery of the Elements and Winds enables the spirit of the Farmer to develop and grow throughout the repeated seasonal transitions. The desecration of the earth's mantle by man insults the Spirit of Planet Earth and starves man of the magnetism which heals and sustains his soul.
No rock from Earth's depths is without life for, as Murshid teaches us, "through (the rocks) pulses the blood of the Universe.” The Experienced Farmer sees each layer of the earth as sacred as he works on the cultivation of his soul, ever "Toward the One.” Within the rocky layers man finds the source and goal of evolution in the planet and in himself. As the gardener clears the soil of rocks, surrounding the area with his tillings and rakings, working around landmark rocks and maintaining the contours of the land, so he realizes within his heart the rock qualities of his own character. The Experienced Farmer knows that Mother Earth accepts our thoughts, our power to act upon her mantle, and our responses to protecting her. As Mother Earth does not think for herself, her rhythms are impaired by man's judgments and behavior. To protect, nurture and respond to her needs is the Farmer's first duty. When we respond to Mother Earth's rhythms we prove ourselves worthy as her caretakers. It is not by chance that the Rishi chooses to sit in a cave of rock upon the earth's mantle or that Murshid Sam knelt and gardened on his knees upon the earth. As the Ploughman follows the furrows he has made in life, West to East, East to West, each according to his makkam, so the body magnetism tunes to the earth's magnetic field. As the life force flows up the chakras revivifying and illuminating the spirit of the Ploughman, he can relate Mother Earth to Father Sky and Planet Earth to the cosmos.
Ziraat brings to the surface of the mind many lost memories that become meaningful as one ploughs the soil of the Soul. Recalling my early childhood in a Dunkard community where one observed the farmers planning the Spring sowing, their mysterious actions now become meaningful. First they removed their shoes and socks and paced barefoot from stone boundary marker to marker, stopping at each one and picking up a handful of soil, crumbling it, smelling it, tasting it with tip of tongue, then scattering the remainder to the four winds with an inaudible prayer. Years later I saw the last of the Yosemite Indians in the Sierra Mountains of California doing much the same thing. As each stone was removed from the garden area, they scattered a bit of tobacco in that spot. Today in my valley I see the farmers of Swiss extraction turning to the four compass points and humming as they walk the rows planting seeds. On my great-grandfather's farm in upstate Schoharie County, New York, my father recalled seeing his grandfather shoot corn to the four winds from his rifle, "to scare any evil spirits away and allow the good spirits to work in his fields." Whatever the cultural background may be, at core it is the awareness and respect for the spirit of the Earth Mother and the promised fertility which moves all such honoring and tuning to her divine qualities whenever the mantle is broken.
Hazrat Inayat Khan tells a story about a man who found a stone he called a magic stone, but in reality it was quite ordinary, only it often changed color and shade, especially when a particular person held it. "Even a stone responded to that person's mind and taught him that there was a great deal to explore and learn from the mineral kingdom." All ancient peoples knew this, and aborigines today still remember it. Modern man seems to have forgotten most of it.
The collecting of special stones, meaninful in color, form and texture, that the Farmer uses as boundary markers is important because once placed they become guardians of the land in the absence of the Farmer. In California there remain today many of the original Spanish Land Grant stone markers. They are still respected by modern land owners. No one will move those stones, even now. They are considered sacred. To the Indians they were spirit houses that guarded the land.
Jelal-ud-din Rumi taught us in his poetry: "God slept in the Mineral Kingdom, dreamed in the Vegetable Kingdom, became conscious in the Animal Kingdom, and realized himself in the Human Kingdom."
Hazrat Inayat Khan warns us that modern man may question or ridicule certain superstitions of the past, present, or future, but in the Sufi Message we accept that there is one life in which the circulation is always pulsing. "If we are able to communicate with even one vein of this one life, then we are in touch with all the veins of the universe." It is the tuning to the land, becoming one with the magnetism of the Earth and her many layers, that we become aware of this one life which binds man from the soles of his feet to the crown chakra touching Father Sky. When we lack this understanding, earthquakes and famines that we see today on the planet are the result. Disorder in the body of Mother Earth or Father Sky causes every part to suffer. The whole world feels the strain and pain. When we tune to Father Sky we hear the answer: "Every thing and being is put in its own place and each is busy carrying out that work that has to be done in the whole scheme of nature." So every stone raked from the garden bed by the Farmer becomes a border to the plot it was removed from.
The unity of life which exists between the Kingdoms is reinforced in the work the Farmer does in the magnetizing of the atmosphere by breath and thought power: more, as he nurtures and heals the Plant Kingdom, he also heals himself. We are One. Some Ziraat practices are valuable tillers of the soil of our soul. Starting with the Earth walk is tremendously important. Use it daily in your garden walks as well as at times of planting, cultivating, or harvesting.
This is a slow, flat-footed, heel-toe walk in 4/4 rhythm. Breathe in 4 through the feet and out through the heart; or, in the second phase, breathe in through the feet to the heart, then exhale through the hands, which are held open and limp as though the fingers were dripping, so that the earth's magnetism is circulating through our bodies. One may add the Earth Movement as one walks: with the palms toward Earth, moving in a slow, undulating ripple, like the horizon of a rolling plain. The movement is done left to right, then reversing right to left. Thus we imbibe the magnetism of Mother Earth and return with love and recognition the magnetism of our own hearts.
Then practice the Earth Breath: inhale the magnetism of the Earth's core, pull it up
through the feet to the heart, then exhale down the arms and out the hands via fingertips, back to the earth. This unites man to earth. Learn to heal and be healed by Mother Earth. Healing is performed standing. Concentrate on the water table beneath the earth, the minerals, the matrix, clay, sand, loam, and the mantle. Maintain the 4/4 rhythm. Pull the Earth magnetism to the heart, then breathing very slowly on the exhalation, direct it downward and out the feet. At the same time, send your magnetism consciously through the palms, back to Mother Earth again with love and reverence.
The tillers of the soil who are depleted emotionally or physically may do this practice lying down on the Earth's mantle, with palms down and eyes fixed on the infinity of Father Sky. Complete your practices as you inhale on count of 4 from the magnetic field above earth, hold 8, exhale 4 into mantle of the earth you're lying upon, with palms turned downward.
The earth is His and He made it and we are the guardians of the Garden of the Soul.
(Note: except where otherwise identified, quotations in this article are from Hazrat Inayat Khan. The terms Plougher, Sower, Farmer, and Experienced Farmer are grades of Initiation in Ziraat.)
(This article appeared in the October 1985 NEWSLETTER of the Sufi Islamia Ruhaniat Society and is copyrighted.)