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.

Become a Volunteer

Brunch Update

 

Issue 97 - August 2017

Sufi Service Committee (Boston)

Addressing the most pressing needs of our community

Volunteering is a happy time - celebrating Tito's birthday

 

 

"Love and loving-kindness...cannot be taught by words."

 

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

 

Happenings

 

July was a rewarding month for our dedicated clothing service, with multiple deliveries of donated and sorted clothing to such organizations as Cradles for Crayons and Dress for Success. Cradles to Crayons provides children from birth through age 12, living in homeless or low-income situations, with the essential items they need to thrive - at home, at school and at play. Dress for Success is an international not-for-profit organization that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

 

On July 2 we carpooled to Somerville to serve a monthly meal at a group home. This month's menu included slow cooked beef chuck roast, homemade mashed potatoes, baby arugula salad with grape tomatoes and feta cheese, basmati rice with mung bean, egg, sausage and cheddar cheese mini sandwiches, and watermelon.

 

There was an atmosphere of calmness among the residents focusing on enjoying their Sunday brunch. Everyone was doing something he / she liked: watching, browsing text messages, or even painting and drawing, playing violin, chatting and cleanup.  Our intrepid musicians provided the usual entertainment consisting of depressing songs and lively dance numbers.

 

On the remaining Sundays, volunteers gathered at Noor Oriental Rugs to sort and bag/box donations.

 

Volunteers were treated to delicious brunches that included:

 

Apples, honey, and cinnamon with yogurt mixed inand corn flour, grilled tomato with Cyprus cheese and glaze sauce, Thai fried omelets, Salad Shirazi, yogurt blended with almond milk, grilled chicken, corn, mashed potaoes, energy bars, watermelon, avocado and jam, basmati rice with Mung bean, sausage kebab, stuffed peppers, lentils and chicken, a potato dish, spinach burgers, warm Mexican salad, oatmeal - and of course Persian water (water served by a Persian) served with charm.

 

This month's dedicated volunteers included Bill, Michael P., Stephen, Steve, Jo and, Peter.

 

Our faithful drivers continued to steadfastly deliver donated food to Rosie's Place, Margaret Fuller House, Project SOUP, St. Francis House and East End House.

 


Some comments from our cherished friends:

 

"Our heartfelt thanks to and the Sufi Service Committee of Boston for their thoughtful - and much needed - donation of gently used, professional looking handbags. We especially appreciate the time that was taken to determine our needs, so that efforts could be focused on collecting the specific items we requested. We were happy to meet Mo and Lisa, who graciously delivered the handbags to our doorstep.  Our clients will walk into their interviews looking polished and professional, thanks in part to your efforts. Thanks for including Dress for Success Boston in the good works you do." - Malynda Roberto  of Dress for Success
 

"When I'm eating with Sufi volunteers, i stop and send them a silent thank you in my heart!"

 

"Thank you for your email and the information about your charity project! It's really great what you guys do. It's a good example for us what we could also do in Berlin. Keep me posted with the campaign." - Alla and Paul

 

"Certainly the food can't get better!"  

 

 

"New faces, bringing new flavors of charm, humor and life stories with them, intensifying the entire group's energy and assurance,
leaving long lasting fragments of sweet memories behind!"

 

"Great company run by honest, reliable local folks."

 

 

 

 

Grape tomatoes

 

 

Michael presents his artwork

 

 


Shirazi salad

 

 


Volunteer Reflection


"I think some of the main reasons we stayed involved with Sufi service was for the opportunity to give selflessly and the sense of community we felt as a part of the service.


"One of the important parts of being a parent is to teach your child to learn about the positive and important things in life. One of these things is giving back to the community in which we live - whether it be Massachusetts or Louisiana. And that may be leading by example through our career choices or things in day-to-day life as simple as helping a stranger change a flat tire! We will always strive to think globally and act locally. Thank you!" - The Deris Family
 

 

Stuffed peppers, lentils and chicken, potato salad, Mexican garden salad, and spinach burgers

 

 

Zaid prepares the arugula salad

 

 

Steve, Reza. Zaid, Bill, Steven and Jon (from left to right) at Noor Oriental Rugs

 

 

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.  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 ADDRESSES BY

 

Denise Simmons

Mayor of the City of Cambridge


Marc C. McGovern

Vice-Mayor of the City of Cambridge


Mark Alston-Follansbee

Executive Director of Somerville Homeless Coalition

 

 

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

 

 

 

Volunteers help sort donated clothes

 

 

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

 

Administrative Help Wanted

 

SUFI SERVICE COMMITTEE (BOSTON), a charity organization trying to end hunger and homelessness, is currently looking for administrative assistance for data entry, writing short essays or reports and PR. Requirements include speed and accuracy, punctuality, concise & creative writing. One day a week on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday or Saturday from 8 am till 4 pm. The position is available now and it runs beyond the summer into school year. Compensation ranges from $11 to $15 per hour depending on the years of experience especially the quality of writing. This position may run into the school year as well.

 

 

Contact:

Mo Nooraee

Sufi Service Committee (Boston)

84 Pembroke Street, Boston, MA 02118

(617) 938-3680

 

sufiserviceboston@gmail.com