The Three Treasures

We are in Konya, Turkey, and plan to see the whirling dervishes, as we did last Saturdsy.

We can see the green cone of the Kultur Merkesi, where the dervishes whirl, from our new hotel window. It is almost hidden in the fog in the center horizon of the final screen.

We had to move from our old hotel because it was closed down by the police. I think it was being used for money laundering — we were the only guests during our entire time there–until we were told we had ten minutes to pack up.

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We walk to the Kultur Merkesi and enter the hall where the Sema (whirling) occurs.

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After a long recitation in Turkish, probably the story of Rumi, the dervishes assemble.

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They perform a circular bowing ritual.

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They remove their black cloaks, symbolizing casting off the ego. Each dervish, in turn, then bows before the master dervish, who kisses his hat. The dervish then begins whirling, allowing his hands and arms to unfurl.

The dervishes whirl for about ten minutes, the first of four parts.

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The dervishes assemble in groups of two and three.

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Each dervish passes before the master dervish, and begins whirling again.

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The dervishes whirl during the second past.

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They assemble again.

They whirl again during the third part.

They assemble and whirl during the fourth past. Even the master and his assistant whirl.

The dervishes reassemble and put on their black cloaks during an oral presentation. Afterward, the master dervish begins a prayer for the departed.


The master dervish completes his prayer for the departed and departs. The dervishes bow and file out.


The remaining dervish retires the master’s sheep skin and departs, ending the Sema. There is no applause — the Sema is a religious event.

Lao tsu writes (chapter 69):

The generals have a saying:
“Rather than make the first move
it is better to wait and see.
Rather than advance an inch
it is better to retreat a yard.”

This is called
going forward without advancing,
pushing back without using weapons.

There is no greater misfortune
than underestimating your enemy.
Underestimating your enemy
means thinking that he is evil.
Thus you destroy your three treasures
and become an enemy yourself.

When two great forces oppose each other,
the victory will go
to the one that knows how to yield.

The three treasures, according to Lao tsu, are compassion, patience (or frugality), and humility. The Mevlevi, the group that evolved from Rumi’s teachings, holds on to the three treasures. Lao tsu dances with them!

Next, we go to Israel — to walk the Jesus trail!

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