A transformative spiritual practice that unites sacred phrases, music, and movement from global traditions.
The Dances of Universal Peace (DUP) represent a unique form of spiritual practice that combines singing and dancing with sacred phrases from the world’s religious traditions. This practice is aimed at raising consciousness and fostering peace among diverse religions. Originating in North America within the Sufi tradition, the DUP has evolved into a global movement that emphasizes participation, joy, and the communal experience of spirituality.
Origins and Development
The Dances of Universal Peace were conceived by Samuel L. Lewis, a Sufi teacher and Zen master, in the late 1960s in San Francisco, California. Lewis, deeply influenced by his spiritual apprenticeships with Hazrat Inayat Khan, a pioneer of universal Sufism in the West, and Ruth St. Denis, a modern dance innovator, sought to promote peace through the arts. The dances combine elements from various spiritual paths, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and more, reflecting Lewis’s vision of unity through diversity. Since their inception, the DUP has grown significantly, touching lives across continents with over half a million participants worldwide.
Practices and Philosophy
At a typical DUP event, participants form a circle around a leader and musicians, engaging in dances that are easy to follow regardless of experience level. These dances use sacred phrases, chants, and movements from numerous spiritual traditions to create a shared experience of unity and peace. The emphasis is on participation, with the goal of fostering joy and spiritual awakening rather than technical performance. Languages such as Arabic, Aramaic, English, Hawaiian, Hebrew, Persian, and Sanskrit are used to highlight the universal joy found within the diversity of religious expressions.
Today, the DUP continues to adapt and expand, finding new relevance in schools, spiritual centers, prisons, hospices, and more. These practices serve not only as a form of spiritual meditation but also as a tool for physical and emotional healing. The Mentors Guild, under the spiritual guidance of leaders like Pir Shabda Kahn, ensures the growth and transmission of this rich legacy. The ethos of “eating, dancing, and praying together” as a means to world peace, as envisioned by Samuel Lewis, remains central to the DUP’s mission.
Impact and Expansion
The DUP’s impact extends beyond its immediate spiritual community, contributing to interfaith understanding and peacebuilding efforts globally. Its inclusive approach welcomes individuals of all backgrounds to partake in the dances, fostering a sense of belonging and community. As the movement continues to grow, it carries the potential to inspire and nurture peace and unity across diverse cultural and religious landscapes.