Sufi Service Committee of Boston

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Every Sunday from 10 am to 1:30 pm we get together at Noor Oriental Rugs, Inc. 769 Concord Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138 to sort, organize clothes for homeless children, women and men. Please join us to share your love with them while enjoying a tasty colorful brunch over friendly conversation with other passionate volunteers.


Dr. Alireza Nurbakhsh, Master of Nimatullahi Sufi Order & Founder of Sufi Service Committee: Caring for Others: Sufism and Altruism

Altruism has been a central aspect of Persian Sufism since it was developed by such figures as Ibrahim Adham (d. 782), Shaqiq Balkhi (d. 810), Bayazid (d. 874), Abul-Hasan Kharaqani (d. 1033) and Abu Said Abel Khayr (d. 1049) in the region of Khorasan, now the north-eastern part of Iran. Altruism, as developed by these early Khorasanian Sufis and practiced by Persian Sufis for centuries down to the present day, advocates that Sufis - indeed all human beings - should serve God by remaining in society and helping and serving others. It stands in stark contrast with the Sufi tradition that was developed in Baghdad by Junaid (d. 910) and his followers, which advocated the practice of renunciation and withdrawal from society as the central tenet of Sufism...

Recent studies in neuroscience suggest that there is a neurological basis for altruism, that this trait is inherent in us. These experiments show that when we generously place the interests of others before our own, a primitive part of our brain - usually stimulated in response to food and sex - becomes activated, suggesting that altruism is not a superior moral faculty but rather something hard-wired in our brain, that when stimulated makes us feel good (see note 1). In other words, it is natural for us to behave altruistically; it is not instilled in us through religion or moral teachings. It comes to us as easily as eating food.

Altruistic behavior is rooted in empathy, in the ability to put oneself in another's position and identify with his or her state or situation. Again, recent studies in neuroscience have shown that observing another person's emotional state activates parts of the brain that are involved in processing the same state in oneself (see note 2). Thus, when we are confronted with the pain of another person, we tend to feel pain ourselves. Research has also shown that in people suffering from certain types of psychopathology the components of neural circuits involved in empathy are impaired, causing them not to care about other people and their feelings...

If we are to survive as a species on this planet, we need to embrace views or belief systems that are inclusive of others, that emphasize the essential similarities among people rather than the differences, which we know with a moment's reflection to be superficial and insignificant in comparison. Our views of the world should reinforce our basic instincts of altruism and empathy. Take, for example, the notion of sin that is an element of many religions. Once one views a person as sinful, one creates a chasm between oneself and that person, thereby blocking the path of empathy. By contrast, consider the concept of compassion, which is an integral part of Buddhist practice. Here we are encouraged to direct our compassion equally towards all beings, without distinction, which is in complete agreement with our natural instincts of empathy and altruism.

Sufism also is known for its inclusive nature. All living creatures are essentially manifestations of one being, one reality, and therefore the entire cosmos is in essence one and the same thing - a reflection of the divine. One who experiences the unity of being will embrace all of humanity and all living things with the utmost feelings of empathy. It is in the spirit of such altruism that Kharaqani placed a sign at the entrance of his khaniqah with the following message: "Whoever comes here should be given food without being asked about their creed and religion."

The altruism practiced by the early Khorasanian Sufis went beyond the practice of altruism as I have described here. In fact it was defined in terms of caring for the welfare of others before and prior to one's own welfare and comfort, without any expectation of reward.

Attar, one of the greatest Sufi poets (d. 1221), relates the following story about Ibrahim Adham. One day three people were performing their devotional practices in a ruined mosque. After they went to sleep, Ibrahim stood by the door of the mosque until morning. When he was asked later to explain his action, he replied that the weather was very cold and a harsh wind was blowing. Since there was no door to the mosque, he stood in the threshold to make it possible for the people inside to sleep.

Some Sufis have gone so far as to say that one's altruism is the most important disposition in reaching God. Kharaqani relates the following story to his disciples: There were two brothers, one who devoted himself completely to God and the other who dedicated himself to their mother. After a while the brother who devoted himself to God had a vision in which God tells him that his brother has reached salvation through serving their mother. He was puzzled and asked God for an explanation. "Because," God replied, "He served the needy and you served the One who has no need."...

There are, of course, many methods to overcome such negative states, ranging from psychiatric drugs and psychotherapy to the practice of meditation. In the Sufi tradition, however, the main remedy to cure oneself of such negative states is to actively engage in altruistic actions even when one is not inclined to do so. This enforces our natural instincts. Persistent altruism towards one's spiritual guide and other people, regardless of how one feels or what one wants for oneself, will help the spiritual traveller to rid himself or herself of negative states. This is also borne out by recent psychological studies that indicate there is strong correlation between altruism and the general well-being of an individual. People who engage in helping others suffer significantly less depression and anxiety than those who do not. Clearly altruism plays a key factor in our psychological health.

The early Sufis of Khorasan discovered something fundamental about spirituality as well as the biology of our humanity: that the path of enlightenment converges with our basic instinct of empathy and altruism. Their discovery was as significant then as it is relevant now. With the world population increasing at an alarming rate (by the year 2050 it is estimated the world population will be nine and a half billion), and with limited resources in many poor countries, it seems inevitable that conflicts will increase throughout the world. Though we may never be able to eliminate conflict between people, we can certainly contribute to its decline by following the path of the Sufis from Khorasan.


Though we believe that our work with local charities has been successful up to this point, we always need more help. There are two main ways for you to get involved. If you'd like to serve brunch with us, we'd love to see you on any given Sunday afternoon. First time volunteers need to submit their application form first for an informal interview. Advance notice is also helpful; you can reach us at sufiserviceboston@gmail.com. If you would like to make a donation, you can mail a check to SSC and include the word "charity" in the space for a memo (our mailing address is 84 Pembroke St., Boston MA 02118), or you can send us money via PayPal (once again, our e-mail address is sufiserviceboston@gmail.com.)

We always enjoy sharing our work with new volunteers! Please consider joining us when we serve brunch at a shelter. Members of the community we serve are also occasionally hospitalized. When they are, company proves even more important, so making hospital visits is also a valuable service; please don't underestimate how much you can help just by saying hello to someone in need of companionship.

There are also ways to help that involve less direct contact with those we serve. These include helping us recover food to donate, helping with the project's administrative work, sorting and delivering donated clothing, and, of course, donating food or money.

We welcome volunteers of all ages, cultures and religions to join us in this important effort.

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Brunch Update

 

Issue 95 - June 2017

Sufi Service Committee (Boston)

Addressing the most pressing needs of our community

 

Malynda of Dress for Success poses with donated luxury items

 

 

Quote of the Month

 

"Attar, one of the greatest Sufi poets (d. 1221), relates the following story about Ibrahim Adham. One day three people were performing their devotional practices in a ruined mosque. After they went to sleep, Ibrahim stood by the door of the mosque until morning. When he was asked later to explain his action, he replied that the weather was very cold and a harsh wind was blowing. Since there was no door to the mosque, he stood in the threshold to make it possible for the people inside to sleep."
 

 

-Dr. Alireza Nurbakhsh, Master of Nimatullahi Sufi Order and Founder of Sufi Service Committee

 

 

Happenings

 

The welcoming scents of homemade food greeted the selfless volunteers who gladly assisted in our vital clothing and food services this month. We prepared, enjoyed, and served such food as naturally smoked turkey franks, Italian spaghetti, red onions, peas, red peppers, and cabbage to name a few.

 

Our tireless volunteers included Bill, Lisa, Emraan, Gaea, Steve, Peter, Edwin, Ivan, Brendan, Stephen, Nick, Michael P., Aiden, Jon, and Yijing.

Our steadfast drivers continued the consistent delivery of donated food to Rosie's Place, Margaret Fuller House, Project SOUP, St. Francis House and East End House. We also delivered vital non-perishable food to the Somerville Homeless Coalition (see picture), and meticulously cleaned the kitchen and served a healthy and delicious meal at a low-income residence in Somerville. We also celebrated Mother's Day with Lisa and Gaea's birthdays and took inventory of donated clothes.

 

Additionally we facilitated the donation of many quality lady's handbags to an organization called Dress for Success. Lisa Camacho's experience is below:

 

 

On Thursday, May 18th, Sufi Service Committee delivered a number of handbags to the non-profit Dress for Success. The organization provides women with professional outfits to help them secure employment, but as Dress For Success itself states, they do much more than that. Find out more about them at https://boston.dressforsuccess.org/about-us/what-we-do/. Dress For Success lives by their own mission - their boutique on Commonwealth Ave. is clean, tidy and well-organized. The staff is gracious and welcoming. They were glad to share some of their experience with us, giving us valuable information we can use to become a more useful partner for them. Dress For Success is currently in desperate need of handbags. If you have any that you no longer use, please get them to us and we will take them over to the boutique.

 

The amazing organization sent us the following message:

 

Thank you for donation to Dress for Success. You are helping disadvantaged women make the transition into the workforce. We are a non-profit organization whose mandate is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women through professional attire, a network of support and career development tools to help women thrive and grow in both their careers and lives. -Dress for Success.


Some comments from our cherished friends:

 

"When it comes to food, everyone comes together."


"If you have had a bad day, Sufi volunteers are the ones you want to talk to!"


"Sufi volunteers are ready to head out when others head home."

 

 

 

Appetizers and desserts

 

 

Delivery to Rosie's Place

 

 


Kathryn of Somerville Homeless Coalition happy to receive Sufi Service's non-perishables

 

 


Leaving our Heart Behind...


A Reflection by Edwin Morals at Easter Sunday Charity Event

 

My colleague Ivan and I participated at Easter celebration at Sufi Service. It was a wonderful experience.


Our assigned task was to facilitate Amy and Barrett- a couple who served and supported Sufi Service for about four years. They were relocating to New Orleans. It was so amazing to see Mr. Mo Nooraee cooking and preparing all the food for brunch, celebrating Amy's and Barrett departure.

 

Amy said, "Throughout the morning I realized how important it was for Mr. Mo Nooraee that we don't miss our flight, and at the same time that we can spent a bit of time at the charity event with friends to celebrate the Easter Sunday."

 

Ivan said, "I finally understood why Mr. Mo Nooraee is so passionate on helping friends even with their ride to the airport. I felt like I became a member of this family." He was right, being with all these people who treat each other with so much respect and kindness is just like family.

 

On the other hand Amy and Barrett told me how happy they feel knowing that they are both going back home, and also with the fact that their 7 months old Honore' is going to spent more time with grandparents, aunties, uncles and many members of family. "At the same time we know we leave all of our real friends behind in Cambridge. " People at Noor were excited to see them and cut the cake and celebrate, and at the end they hugged each other and it was so emotional.

 

Thank you all for helping the poor and the homeless, and thank you Mr. Mo Nooraee for all the food.


At the Logan Airport when we were hugging each other, Amy, drying tears off her face, said, " We are leaving part of our hearts here at Sufi Service!"

 

Salad preparation items - tomatoes, zucchini squash, red onions

 

 

Scallion pancakes, eggs in buns, and Thai salad

 

 

We prepared and served a multi-course meal of muffins, bagels, mixed salad, stuffed red and green peppers, and oven-baked corn

 

 

Please Join us for
The Second Anniversary of the
Sufi Service Committee Clothes Drive

 

As we enjoy the warmer seasons of 2017, we must not forget how the colder seasons affect the less fortunate homeless population in our neighborhood. Our aim is to provide warmer clothes to everyone in need as a new outfit may provide that boost in self-confidence needed by those struggling to improve their lives.


Friday September 22, 2017
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Noor Oriental Rugs, Inc. I 769 Concord Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138
Sufi Service Committee I 617-938-3680 I sufiserviceboston@gmail.com

 


KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY


Cambridge Mayor
Denise Simmons


Cambridge Vice-Mayor
Marc C. McGovern


Executive Director of Somerville Homeless Coalition

Mark Alston-Follansbee

 

 

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

 

 

 

Volunteers Edwin, Ivan, Brendan, Stephen, Nick, Peter, Steve, Bill and Michael P. pose oustide Noor Oriental Rugs

 

 

You are welcome to get involved by volunteering, making financial contributions, donating clothes, gift cards and non-perishable food.

 

 

 

 

Contact:

Mo Nooraee

Sufi Service Committee (Boston)

84 Pembroke Street, Boston, MA 02118

(617) 938-3680

 

sufiserviceboston@gmail.com