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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Contemplation, meditation and the Ifa in our everyday lives...

Aboru aboye aboshishe,

I was recently approached by a reader and asked to speak about how Orisa/Ifa fit in our everyday lives, as opposed to being a milestone practitioner (next reading, next ileke, next initiation) or someone who only practices on the holidays (tambors, Orisa feast days, priest "birthdays").

Religion is often the place where we seek refuge from our worries and problems, seeking answers to questions or solutions to situations that confront us. Through divine intervention or inspiration, we hope to overcome these issues. But what happens when we are not in need? Most often, religion is forgotten, or it's role in our daily life downplayed as we are consumed with the trials of daily survival. This is where most people become milestone or holiday practitioners.

But is that what Ifa is? A solution to a problem to be placed on a shelf consulted only when we are in need?


Ifa certainly is a solution, and can help us in our times of need, but even more then that, Ifa is a way of life. By studying Ifa we can gain wisdom and insight into all the inner workings of ourselves and the world around us. In the Odu Eji Ogbe, Ifa tells us:

At the beginning of a new dawn
One must not perpetrate yesterday's ignorance
Divined for Koimọ (I-do-not-know)
Who went to sleep thinking of the previous day's challenges
At the crack of the next day
Clarity came into Koimọ's visions.

Bi ojumọ ba mọ
A kii ya ogberi bi ọjọ ana
Difa fun Koimọ
Ti nro'nu bi oun ti ma ṣe ohun ti o ṣẹlẹ ni ana si
O ronu titi, ti o sun
Ni igbati oju mọ, ti oye la
Koimọ wa mọ eyi to oun o ṣe dandan

Ifa is a contemplative practice, it's only through thought and examination that we can consistently overcome our challenges. By studying the wisdom of Ifa, we can certainly overcome our daily challenges and lead an easier and more properous life. Ifa is a daily pursuit, not one saved for feast days and times of need. In the Odu Oturupon Owonrin Ifa says:

Ifa says that whenever we wake up
We must be teaching each other wisdom
We must not wake up at dawn and then lay the foundation of foolishness
Whatever the matter which we deliberated upon, but could not arrive at a satisfactory solution
Then we are to approach our Ikin
These were the declarations of Ifa to Paraka, the masquerade with brilliantly colored costume
When going to engage in a complex but marvelous dancing display at the seat of the Odan shade tree

Ifa ni ti a ba ji
Ogbon ni ka maa ko'raa wa
Ka ma jii ni kutukutu pile e were
Oro ti a ba ro ti ko ba gun
Ikin eni laa kee si
Dia fun Paraka, alawoo winniwinnin
Nijo to nlo ree jij alaranbara labe Odan...

Ifa reminds us not only that we should constantly be seeking the truth, and sharing that wisdom with others, but that Ifa is not meant to supplant our own minds/wills. If we have a question, we should first try and solve it ourselves, and only after our own careful evaluation, if we can not come to a solution, do we approach Ifa for answers. Ifa is a contemplative practice.

Going one step further, Ifa teaches us that we should strive daily to reach balance, and only through balance and meditation, can we achieve thoughtfulness and enlightenment. Ifa asks that we meditate on a daily basis, through contemplation and prayer, and in those moments, we become closer not only to Ifa and God, but also to our own truth and path. In the Odu Otura Irete Ifa says:

Reconstruct yourself
If we are given birth, we should bring ourselves into being again
The Balanced person. The moderate person.
One who knows moderation will not fall into disgrace
I ask, "who knows moderation?"
Orunmila says, "one who does not squander money"
I ask, "who knows moderation?"
Orunmila says, "one who dares not steal"
I ask, "who knows moderation?"
Orunmila says, "one who does not owe excessive debts"
I ask, "who knows moderation?"
Orunmila says, "one who does not drink liquor"
One who does not break commitments to a friend
One who wakes early in the morning, meditates, and thinks deeply about one's actions
From among the thorns and thistles, the palm leaf emerges pointing upward
A balanced person is an ameso, one who is truly thoughtful in conduct.

Tun ra re te
Bi a bi ni, aa tun ra eni bi
Amuwon Amuwon
Eni mo iwon kii te
Emi ni tani mo won?
Orunmila ni eniti nsise
Emi ni tani mo won?
Orunmila ni eniti kii nawo owo re tan
Emi ni tani mo won?
Orunmila ni eniti ko je jale
Emi ni tani mo won?
Orunmila ni eniti kii je gbese rekoja
Emi ni tani mo won?
Orunmila ni eniti kii mu oti
Eniti ko je dale ore
Ojikutukutu banu ara re siro nitori ise re
Ninu egun niny iso mariwo ope yo ri soke
Amuwon ni ameso

Meditation is a little explored idea in the diaspora Orisa traditions, however it is a long standing practice in Ifa. Iyere Ifa (Ifa poetry) is a form of meditation, where especially long stanzas are chanted and create altered state of calm. Furthermore, prayer is meant to be a form of meditation, allowing us to contemplate our life and the wisdom/lessons of Ifa (see my 2 articles on prayer #1 here and #2 here).

In parting, I'll leave you with an excerpt from the Odu Owonrin Ogunda where Ifa says:

I wake up
I behave as Ifa tells me
I am full of wisdom
It is the footsteps of my Ope that I am following
I bemoan my precarious condition
Yet I will not consult an idiot in his house
What Ifa tells me
Is what I would always do
Cast divination for the Truth
Their priest on earth
He was asked to perform sacrifice
Truth offered the sacrifice...
(Life pleases Truth)

Mo ji
TIfaa mi ni mon se
Mo moran moran
Topee mi ni mo n to leyin
Mo ko gbongan gbongan gbongan
N o nile Oniyeyee de
N tIfa ba wi fun mi
Ni n o moo se
A diafun Ooto
Awo Ile aye
Won ni ki won o rubo
Ooto ba rubo...

We practice Ifa everyday we spend time contemplating life.
Aboru aboye aboshishe
Marcos Ifalola


iyanifa onifa said...

aboru,aboye,abosise baba,

absolutely beautiful!
thank you for this insightful post affirming the contemplative aspects of our faith and the blessings of spiritual evolution therein.

iyanifa onifa

Ale Afolabi said...

Agba o ni tan l'ori ile ooo

osupa wordpress said...

I woke up this morning thinking of how to include the insightfulnrss and guidance of Ifa into my everyday existence. I found your article. It was exactly what I needed. Thank you.