Ifá is a path. A path implies a road which leads to a predetermined, desired and sought out destination [objective]. A path implies that there is someone who intends to walk this path with diligence, perseverance and determination until arriving at the destination. There are some who say, “The journey is the destination” or some say “It’s not about the destination but about journey”. What do you think about these ideas or statements? What would you say?
In regard to the above sayings, Ifá disagrees with these kinds of sayings. The journey is important, there is no doubt about that, but what gives meaning, purpose and significance to the journey is the destination or final aim/purpose. The exciting journey of discovery and its destination [attainment of purpose] are equally important.
When the irunmole descended and made their appearance upon this earth they did so with a purpose and with a sense of mission. The purpose/ mission and its expected fulfillment is what gave meaning, value, significance and satisfaction to the journey, their toil, their effort and their sacrifices.
What is the aim or purpose of being an Ifá devotee? Can you give me a definitive, precise and exact answer to this question? Who determines what this aim or purpose is? Do you determine this or does Ifá determine this? What is happiness? What is fulfillment? What is power? Who determines in what consists happiness, fulfillment and power?
If you are not an enlightened devotee or follower of Ifá then that means that you determine or attempt to determine for yourself in what consists true happiness, fulfillment and power.
If you are an enlightened devotee or follower of Ifá then Ifá reveals, explains, defines and determines for us in what consists our true happiness, fulfillment and power. The devotee of Ifá is not left to himself or herself to guess or try to figure out who he/she is, why he/she is here and how can he/she live a fulfilled, meaningful and successful life. Ifá clarifies and explains these things to us in clear, precise and plain details. We can verify and know the truth of Ifá by doing what Ifá says, and by our experience of the salutary results of obeying Ifá we come to personally know the truthfulness, goodness and efficacy of Ifá, and thereby our faith in Ifá becomes confirmed and our confidence, happiness and success increases by leaps and bounds.
If you feel, think or believe that you are capable and competent in yourself, to determine for yourself, independently of superior divine guidance, what true happiness, fulfillment and power is, then why are you here reading these words, why are you approaching Ifá and seeking for solutions, possibilities and answers in Ifá?
The path of Ifá cannot be walked in theory. The path of Ifá has to be actually pursued, worked, applied and walked. If we are going to be successful in our Ifá journey then we have to take Ifá and ourselves seriously, and we must follow, practice and obey the injunctions and guiding regulative principles of Ifá for our lives. If you want to pick and choose according to your own judgment which one of Ifá’s instructions you are going to obey or not obey then Ifá is not the path for you and you are sure to fail. We do not and cannot pick and choose which one of Òrúnmìlà’s words of guidance, instruction, admonition and correction we want or ‘feel’ to obey. When Ifá gives us guidance and instruction not everything which Ifá says or tells us will seem logical or reasonable to us because Ifá is looking at countless things in relation to our lives that are impossible for us to understand. If you study Ifá you will see countless histories when Ifá gave instruction to do certain things which did not seem to have anything to do with the problem, solution or situation at hand. But one thing is for sure that whoever with humility obeyed Ifá, at some point it became absolutely clear to them as to why Ifá said to do and accomplish a certain thing, in a certain time and in a certain way. Ifá doesn’t always explain all things to us in advance because Ifá knows that if we just listen to and obey what Ifá says we are sure to understand and know the why and how of things. [Ifá does explain all that is good and necessary for us to know. Sometimes we get the full answer at the beginning of consulting Ifá and at other times we get the full answer as the result of obeying the instructions of Ifá.]
The first lesson in Ifá is that we all need guidance, instruction, support and asé. It is not in our power or ability to know in ourselves and by ourselves who we are, why we are and what our purpose for existence is independently of receiving divine initiation, instruction and revelation. If you do not agree with this then let me ask you. Why did you initiate into Ifá? What were you expecting to gain? If you have and know the answers and solutions in yourself then why do you consult Ifá and offer ebo? What was your awaited anticipation or expectation in regard to your initiation? If you were able to fulfill yourself by yourself then why did you make the effort and sacrifice to become initiated, to study, to understand and to practice?
I will tell you why. You did this because you knew and understood that we all need a power and guidance superior to ourselves to help us understand and realize our purpose for being because we did not create ourselves and we are not the authors of our purpose for being. Our purpose is known by Olodumare and hidden in Olodumare until He reveals it to us. This is why you initiated. There are many other reasons why people initiate. Some reasons are good and legitimate. Some reasons are not correct or legitimate. But regardless of whether someone made an enlightened, researched and intelligent decision or not, or whether they initiated for realistic or imaginary reasons, everyone initiates because he or she knows and senses that their is a POWER, MYSTERY and VIRTUE greater than oneself, and that this POWER, MYSTERY and VIRTUE holds the keys of our existence, meaning and purpose. We can only know and understand the purpose of being in relation to the POWER, MYSTERY and VIRTUE which brought us into existence! We cannot find our true meaning and purpose for being merely by looking at ourselves or by delving within ourselves because we are not the authors, designers, creators or owners of our life, capabilities and abilities. We have to look up to our source, center and originator, because it is in our source, center and originator that our purpose for being, existing and living can be known, found, fulfilled and experienced.
If you are a devotee of Ifá then only in Ifá and by Ifá can you discover who you really are, why you are here and what your purposes for coming into this world is. Knowing these things gives meaning, flavor, purpose and enthusiasm to all we do and experience. Knowing these things gives context and meaning to all we experience in life and it shapes and conditions how we respond to life’s realities. Our divinely given outlook is what gives us a true and uplifting sense of ourselves and how we experience and interpret the things that happen to us in life.
Ifá is a path to be practiced, followed and obeyed. Ifá is a path for people of maturity, intelligence and self-initiative. If you want make-believe, fantasy and imaginary pseudo-spirituality then you must go elsewhere but Ifá is definitely not for you. Ifá is about reality, actuality, truthfulness and genuine spiritual commitment and dedication. The first knowledge of Ifá begins by acknowledging a power, source and center greater than ourselves and more reliable than ourselves. The second knowledge of Ifá consists in looking honestly at ourselves in the mirror of truth with an objective attitude of non-judgment. We have to be willing to see and accept ourselves for who we presently are and where we actually are. We have to honestly and fairly acknowledge the good and the bad in our personal lives without exaggerating, inflating or deflating things. We have to look at ourselves without attempting to hide, cover up or deny what is wrong in our lives, our attitudes, our behavior, our conduct, our habits and our demeanor. We also have to look at the positive, wholesome and good things in our lives, and we must take joy and delight in our accomplishments and worthwhile good activities without exaggerating them or blowing them up in our minds. Ifá is about cultivating and acquiring a balanced, true, healthy and accurate perception [understanding] of things in relation to ourselves and others. Ifá teaches us to steer away from attitudes of superiority and/or inferiority.
To benefit from the knowledge of Òrúnmìlà and so that we are able to cleanse and elevate our life condition we must not neglect to assess ourselves justly, honestly, constructively and fairly. We must be dedicated to improving and correcting ourselves with joy, enthusiasm, zeal and determination. We must examine the motives for the things we pursue. We should be courageous and dedicated to Ifá so as to not allow ourselves to pursue things that will prick our conscience. Ifá teaches us how to prevent and avoid regret, guilt, calamity and a heavy heart. Òrúnmìlà teaches us to reflect upon ourselves, our actions and motives before we open our mouths to criticize others. Ifá teaches us how to become self aware of our own selfishness, and Ifá teaches us how to eliminate selfishness and how to increase good will, kindness and sympathetic understanding. If you are one of those people who likes to highlight, pinpoint, reveal and criticize the perceived flaws, shortcomings, lacks and imperfections of others then be prepared to have your own life scrutinized, exposed and revealed! If you cannot offer or give constructive criticism, or if you do not know how to see and highlight the good, positive and wholesome qualities in others then say nothing at all! In this world no one is entirely good or bad. There is a rubbish heap of unwholesome qualities in everyone that needs to be progressively diminished and eliminated. There is a treasure trove of sterling potential qualities in everyone which needs to be discovered, cultivated, developed and perfected [matured].
A true devotee of Ifá highlights the good qualities in others and hides, covers over and conceals [does not reveal] the flaws of others. A true devotee of Ifá inspires others and brings out the best in them. A true devotee of Ifá knows how to make other people identify with and pursue the good, noble and beneficial. A true devotee of Ifá knows how to elevate others. A true devotee of Ifá does not demoralize others or maliciously injure the feeling and sentiments of others. A true devotee of Ifá does not invest his or her time in scrutinizing, criticizing and analyzing other people. Scrutinize, criticize and analyze yourself with the same measure that you use to size other people up. Just like you overlook, ignore and wave off your own flaws, defects and shortcomings, with the same ease and disposition overlook, ignore and wave off the flaws, defects and shortcomings of others.
Learn how to say thank you from the heart for the good blessings and benefits you receive from others. Learn how to appreciate and value the good works and activities of others. If you do not like what others are doing or how they are doing it then why don’t you do something about it and do something better and more excellent with your own actions, works, commitment and dedication? Instead of always finding fault with someone else’s building and how they are building, why don’t you build your own edifice and show others how it’s done in good faith and with good motives? If you don’t like or agree with what someone wrote in a book, why waste your time complaining about it. Why don’t you write your own book? If you think you know something or if you think that you can do something better than someone else then why don’t you display what you know? Why don’t you do something practical? Instead of complaining about the sincere activities and noble works of others and forever finding fault with what other people are doing, why don’t you ask yourself what you are doing? Who are you benefiting? Who is receiving benefit from your activities? At least the other person is doing something and/or trying to accomplish something. What are you doing or trying to accomplish? Where can the fruits of your superior works, industry, commitment and activities be seen?
Ifá reveals to us repeatedly that the person who is living a useful, satisfying, fulfilling and productive life has no time, disposition or desire to be complaining about or criticizing what others are, or are not doing.
My dear friends we now have come back full circle. Ifá is the path of truth, reality and fulfillment. The path of Ifá cannot be realized in theory. It must be actually walked in, from beginning to end. You must walk on it from beginning to end. What others do or not do on the path, what does that have to do with you? What others do wrong on the path what does that have to do with what you are doing or will do? Are you pursuing what is right, commendable, proper and honest? What others are doing right and correctly on the path, what will accrue to you of their good and honest undertakings if you fail to pursue the good and honest like they are doing? Self-initiative, self-discipline, humility, truthfulness, sympathetic-understanding and self-responsibility are the corners stones of a healthy, prosperous and fulfilling Ifá lifestyle and practice.
The best criticism does not consist in stepping on others and publishing their flaws, lacks and shortcomings. The best criticism consists in you setting the example of integrity, correctness, humility, kindness and honesty by the way and manner of your practice and life. Rubbish reveals itself by the stink it gives off. There is no need to make flyers/signs and post flyers/signs to inform others about the stink that the rubbish is giving off. Bad work and bad living will collapse on itself. Do not try to elevate yourself at the expense of others. Do not try to rise up by stepping on the heads of others. Ifá says that we do not become good by our comparison with others. We are good by who we truly are in ourselves and by how we are in ourselves. There is no need to compare ourselves to others or others to us. If you want, and feel the need to compare yourself, then compare yourself with the person who is actually achieving and realizing in practice and through effort what you are attempting to secure through non-constructive and negative criticism. Only insecure, lazy and dishonest people dedicate themselves to criticizing someone else’s garden and how others develop their garden. Ask these insecure, lazy and dishonest people to show you their own garden and what they are doing with it or cultivating in it. They have no garden to show you, and beyond criticizing the works of others, they themselves are doing absolutely nothing, yet they have the time and disposition to criticize the hard, sincere, good hearted and honest works of others. Envious people who are unhappy, and dissatisfied with themselves never see or acknowledge the good and excellent work that others are doing.
My Ifá friends and family this is a New Year that Ifá has blessed us with. If we continue the same old negative, unproductive and meaningless round of activities then no benefit or advancement will be gained by us. If we want this New Year to be truly new, auspicious and fruitful then we must change and do things with a new attitude and a new way. Ifá can and will confer this new attitude, outlook and way to us if we are willing to take up the challenge to actually follow through with our resolutions and determinations; that is if we are sincere and genuine people. May Ifá confer the highest blessings, benefit and encouragement to all sincere readers [students] of this teaching.
Ela-Òrúnmìlà moyin aboru. Ela-Òrúnmìlà moyin aboye. Ela-Òrúnmìlà moyin abosise.
Oruko Odumare ni ka fi iyin fun.
~ Awo Òrúnmìlà Mark Casillas