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Monday, May 12, 2008

Ifa is enlightenment

Aboru, Aboye, Aboshishe,

What most people don’t understand when they embark on the path of Ifa is what Ifa’s true purpose is. All too often, as with most religions, people turn to Ifa in their time of need seeking comfort and solace, or a solution to those problems which plague them. If a solution is found, the adherent is drawn deeper into the system of belief. However just as often, if they are unable to find what they seek, they wander and drift looking for some path to provide them with a solution. Those who remain often do so from a sense of relief that they have found something to provide them with the answers they seek. Certainly Ifa can provide this. But more often than not, the deeper meaning of Ifa is hidden, ignored or simply misunderstood.

I believe the true path of Ifa is one filled with reflection, self-analysis and contemplation of the difficult questions left when one tries to understand how we can live harmoniously as one community. Ifa can help you to see the world and yourself for what they truly are. It’s through this understanding that we are able to decipher the roadmap given to us by Olodumare and the true nature of our Ori/Head chosen at the house of Ajala. Ifa is a storehouse of knowledge that acts as a key, opening an understanding of the true nature of any given situation.

So why is it that we know that enlightenment through Ifa requires self-reflection? This excerpt from the Odu Iwori Meji tells us:

Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
If you undergo Ifa initiation (Itelodu)
Endeavor to use your wisdom and intelligence

Awo, when you have been given Ifa initiation
Initiate yourself again by using your wisdom and intelligence
Iwori take a critical look at what affects you

Two critical sections of the Iwori meji text point to this interpretation. By reminding us over and over throughout the Ese to “look at what affects [us]”, we are reminded that it is our responsibility to constantly reassess the world around us to see how it is affecting us. Further, there is a reminder to those members of the priesthood who have been given special access to the wisdom of Ifa. It is our responsibility to use our wisdom and intelligence, i.e. don’t assume Ifa will provide the key simply through initiation.

Lastly, Iwori meji reminds of one of the most important yet one of the least stressed concepts for the Awo Ifa, “Initiate yourself again by using your wisdom and intelligence”, it is here where Ifa tells the Awo that initiation alone does not make you a true Awo. It’s only through reflection and contemplation of Ifa that one can achieve an understanding of the initiation one went through, and through analysis and study, self initiation (awareness of the truths of Ifa) can occur.

The Odu Okanran Oturupon reminds us of our need to study in saying:

It is through constantly studying Ifa that we come to understand Ifa
It is through missing the way that we come to know the way
It is the road we have not traveled before that causes us to wander here and there

Ifa ki ko nii mu ni mo Ifa
Ona sisi nii mu ni mo ona
Ona ti a ko rin ri
Nii se ni sibasibo

Further, this excerpt from the Odu Ogbe Ate supports this idea :

Orunmila was the person who initiated Akoda
He also initiated Asheda
He equally initiated Araba
Only Orunmila Abonniregun
Was the person we do not know who initiated
Now, after I have been initiated
I will complement it with self-initiation
All those things that are my taboos
I will surely avoid them
I had been initiated
I will re-initiate myself, by myself...

Besides the clear support given to our earlier analysis, Ogbe ate takes things one step further by stating, “I will re-initiate myself, by myself...”. It’s in this statement that Ifa reminds us of one of the most important truths of them all, understanding of truth, is a solitary act. While others can help guide us along the way, in the end we face truth on our own. The solitary act of insight into the true nature of life is why we must travel the final road to realization alone.

It’s this epiphany that leads me to my next important, but potentially controversial statement.

Ifa is the path for everyone and no one.

The seemingly zen contradiction in this statement is an understanding that Ifa can provide universal truths to all those who seek it, while simultaneously acknowledging the solitary and unique nature of the epiphanies of truth. Truth reveals itself to each person in the way that person will understand it, and Ifa is but one path to Truth.


In order for any follower of Ifa, Awo and adherent alike, to benefit from the wisdom of Ifa, they must each have smaller revelations of truth. During each session of Ifa divination (D’afa), Ifa reveals an Odu which is drawn on the Opon Ifa. This process is meant to provide a mirror through which the devotee can recognize themselves and the truth of their situation in a given moment in time. As noted in earlier writings, D’afa (with the exception of major initiations such as Itelodu) is meant to provide a momentary glimpse into the true nature of a person’s life situation. This includes their actions, the actions of others, and the nature of people.

Oworin Obara is a perfect example or our need to use Ifa as a mirror:

She sees me. I don’t see her.
This was the teaching of Ifa for Owa
They said that which we are looking for is near us
But we do not recognize it
Orunmila, Witness to Destiny, said:
The very thing we are looking for is near us
But our lack of knowledge prevents our seeing it

O ri mi. N ko rii
A difa fun Owa
Won ni: ohun ti a nwa nbe nitosi eni
Afi aimo eni
Orunmila, Eleri ipin, o ni:
Ohun ti a nwa nbe nitosi eni
Afi aimo eni ni kii je ka rii

Ifa is knowledge that provides us with the key to unlocking the door to that which we seek. If only we use it, we can recognize what we are looking for, and fulfill our destinies.

Ifa will enlighten us, if we take the time to reflect on, and apply the wisdom which it gives to us…

Aboru, Aboye Aboshishe
Marcos Ifalola Sanchez


Anonymous said...

Aboru Aboye.

Good post!

I love how you tied this in to self actualization.

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Dina said...

My name is dina and I love your blog. I have one as well as a Ifa practitioner. When you have a chance please check it out on

Ziggyroc said...

Thank you for reaching out to the community. My wife found your post and ask me to read some of them. She received her Kofa in June, 2008
I have hand of Orula 13 years. She is on a journey to understand Ifa better. Although we are in the religion we are in need of deep study. I have always struggle with the language barrier. I am African American with no Spanish language knowledge in order to work with others. However, I have never let that stop us from seeking communication with people that speak english. Anyway Thank you for your enlightenment of Ifa for the community.
Aboru, Aboye, Aboshishe

imodoye said...

Aboru,Aboye,Abosise o,your posts on such important subjects about Ifa is a breath of fresh air. One could wander for years before discovering the plain truth. I am one of the founders of the second religious cultural Temple in Los Angeles called Imole Olumo Akinwale Yoruba Temple that opened in 1985. Your articles bring clarity to subjects that we were struggling to understand 25 years ago,only today things seem worse among the general population of Ifa-Orisha worshippers. While there is more knowledge there is less understanding and less preparation to assume the respondsibility of carrying on our religious traditions.But we give thanks ,that you are a pathfinder and a seeker of wisdom. Awo Alagba Imodoye Shabazz Ifa gba wa o

Anonymous said...

aboru aboye aboshishe Awo Alagba Imodoye Shabazz,

Thanks for the feedback and well wishes. I've been doing some speaking, so please feel free to let me know if you're interested. Though I'm on the east coast, I do get to the west coast at times.


Anonymous said...

Aboru aboye Baba Ifalola
This is a wonderful blog post! Ase ooo
Adupe for sharing these revelations with us.

Las said...

Iboru Iboya, thank you for this fantastic insight. I do ask for help on one matter however.

When I explain to newcomers the basic purpose that Ifa serves in our lives I say OK, well we believe that before coming down from heaven to inhabit this earthly body, your heavenly Ori (your eternal soul which has the accumulated wisdom of many many lifetimes - the part of you which is closest to the light of Olodumare) kneels before God and together you decide on an optimal destiny for you in this life. Orunmila as witness of creation is there and records that entire conversation and holds on to it for you.

Then I explain that the only way to connect with that self-chosen destiny is through Ifa. Ifa tells us the path we should take in accordance to what we chose for ourselves, but the hard part is internalizing and implementing that wisdom into our everyday lives.

Then people say OK, that sounds good, but "if you do it right (i.e. if you follow Orunmila's wisdom, find you path, AND actually walk that path)do you have to do it over again?"

This is where I get tripped up...

So I ask: "doing it right". Can that liberate you from the cycle of death and rebirth? (a central notion of Buddhism and Hinduism) this possible according to Yoruba thought? Do they even care about escaping from that cycle?

As John Mason wrote, "the Yoruba religion is the science of allowing God to flow through you, so that as He breathes, you breathe". I agree 100% and add that the meathod to achieving this goal lies in Ifa.

This is "total Oneness with God. Nirvana; utter heavenly bliss" also the "big-picture purpose" in Hinduism.

But where I'm confused is here:

For Hindus the great reward of finding your inner Truth and achieving this "Oneness with God" is liberation from the cycle of reincarnation.

But is escape from this cycle a priority to the Yoruba? Is that the great reward of Oneness with God? Do they even care about escaping that cycle?

Basically my question boils down to this: To what extent are Yoruba concepts of destiny and reincarnation compatible with Hindu concepts of this same subject?

Sorry for the drawn out question, but it is the #1 thing that people ask me when I begin to explain Ifa, and I honestly don't have an answer for them.

Mo dupe, alafia