Saturday, December 19, 2009

blameworthy traits of the self

fume from mouthInvoking Refuge in Lord, from the outcast, the deceiver

1.
Every age has a subtle (as well as gross) quality that gradually manifest in the overall fabric of mass consciousness, in how the majority think, behave, embrace their life-style and think of what is proper. In our age this gradual shift have made the dominating tendency of our time to produce radical individualism, selfish, materialistic and that of consumer mentality. So much that now a days to be a consumer is fashionable and what our leaders(!) urges us to do ('shop till you drop' is the new motto, Christmas is around the corner, watchout), to disregard completely about other less fortunate ones is the trend, to think only 'me' 'me' 'me' is normal. This phenomena has become so over-spread that it has even penetrated in the spiritual discourse of our time.

Self-help books are best-sellers. 'Do it yourself spirituality' has become the only religion appealing to the people out there. 'I know better', 'I am better than all' is no longer ignorant arrogance (jahel) but seems to be an addiction that everyone enjoy. This is not surprising because it only complements our age's trend of pre-occupation with the individual self. It has become such trend that we even invented old-homes to discard our vulnerable parents at their mature age because they interfere with our personal life, career focused selfish pursuits, and feel completely ok about it (all the while forgetting that when we were child and vulnerable it was them who cared for us). What a system of expressing gratitude! The self-obsession for money and wealth has reached to such level that we virtually spend our whole life running after making money only to become consumers of higher degree, but sadly to discover that silently our life passed away without even reaching any degree of realization, without serving others, without even yearning for anything what is real.

The so called popular trend of self-centeredness have already influenced our mind in such way that it perceives certain things in spiritual discourse old-fashioned. By becoming superficially modern we've already lost the receptivity of certain knowledge that is dangerous to our whole system and making our collective condition far more complex. Instead of being people of ease (considering all modern gadgets which suppose to make life easy) we're becoming beings infested with worries, manic depression and perpetual anxiety.

One of the required knowledge for self-realization (and he who knows himself know his Lord) is the knowledge of inherent evil which is to be found no where but within our own selves. In our soul are both animal instincts and angelic qualities. Yet only recently we often seem to fail to acknowledge the first. Because of our self-imposed narcissist behavior, we camouflage our inherent evil with all sort of ignorance and niceties. But an authentic spiritual path of our time (or any other time) is tested for its authenticity by its vigilance against such evil, and by its ability to transform from a lowly state to a higher one.

Even Buddha's teaching didn't ignore the evil which is found within, "By oneself, indeed, is evil done; by oneself is one defiled. By oneself is evil left undone; by oneself, indeed, is one purified. Purity and impurity depend on oneself. No one purifies another." - Dhammapada

2.
.. And I do not make myself free of blame, for the human soul is inclined to ignorance, except what my Lord has mercy on. Surely my Lord is Forgiving, Merciful - The Quran, 12:53

The universal spiritual path of surrender to divine will (islam) has never been naive about the inclination of human self to its descent into ignorance, into its straying from the straight path. Because to deny this would be to deny a reality which simply is. The dualistic nature of our self's inclination to stray is just part of how things are and necessarily so.

There has to be evil so that good can prove its purity above it.
- Buddha

Thats why all effective spiritual training and struggle always begin by acknowledging our own blameworthy attributes, which if the self is not made aware, mindful and those attributes if not purified, can cause the whole landscape of our inner purity to descend into catastrophic pollution. And in doing so we lose touch with our original nature.

Blessed are the pure in heart
for they shall see God.
- Sermon on the Mount

.. when none shall be saved except him who will come before God with a pure heart (qalbin saleem) - The Quran 26:89

Indeed whosoever purifies himself [man tazakka] shall achieve success. - The Quran 87:14

An important question to ask, following the timeless beatitude of Christ on his sermon on the Mount or from Quranic verses on the emphasis on 'purity' is this: "How to purify the heart (or the self)?" and I warn you, the answer (or the process) may sound not so fashionable (spiritually), may sound out-dated and may not comply with narcissist 'do it yourself spirituality' where everything is about feeling nice. And who will deny the fact that purification always requires washing (cleaning away), more washing and more washing of all that is impure? And it involves abrasion, involves facing something which yourself dont want to face, 'your own shadow,' or an archetype of all shadow (the Satan as traditional religious language use the term).

Yes 'speaking God in the language of love' may give us auditory bliss, yes 'calling God as Beloved' may sound fantastic to our starving soul surrounded by other selfish human forms who only know how to love themselves but not other - yet if we are not aware of our own shadow and darkness - all these calling are mere callings without our progressing towards Real. And the proof of that is our entanglement with activities which continue to keep us in separation with others, with our deepest part of self, let alone with God and thus suffering in the present life continues.

The self has its own wonderful mechanisms for deception which is a reality about which God speaks in Quran, "God knows the deceit of the eyes (both external and eyes of the heart, which is the faculty of perception) and all that which the hearts conceal." This deception of the self can be very dangerous particularly to people of spiritual seeking because their spiritual pride and arrogance is the worst of its kind.

3.
O you who believe! enter into submission one and all
and do not follow the footsteps of Satan;
surely he is your open enemy.
- The Quran 2:208

The people of reality (the Sufis) have long established method of spiritual training taking guidance from the divinely revealed words, Quran and the way of the Last Messenger - which encompasses certain knowledge about the manifest enemy of humanity, the Satan (Shaytaan or Shaitan in Arabic).

Now how do you interpret the archetype of Satan or Devil or Source of Evil is upto you, but the reality is it exist. Its not a question of this belief system or that, its a question of whether you are in denial with its reality or not. You may call it darkness, shadow, the absence of light - it doesn't matter. What matters is that it exists and the blameworthy traits that issue from the Satan is a real threat to human beings that bring them down from their lofty station of divine proximity to the lowest of low.

Say: I invoke refuge in the Lord of Dawn,
From the evil of that which is created;
From the evil of dark night as it arrive.
- The Quran, 113, 1-3

The book Tahdheeb'l Insaan Min'l Khisaal as-Shaytaan (The Training of Humanity Against the Traits of Satan) is an excellent manual that touches on this subject. But before I quote selectively from this booklet which might be useful, let me have few words of caution. The following text will be useful if seen and used simply as a map. Just as a map of the world is NOT the world itself, but still has its use - so it is with the following text that explores the dark recess and shadows of our self and its traits. Just as a map on paper represents three dimensions by lines and dots, so you will find in this map languages used which such as animals, predators, etc. which are used as a pointer to reality, as fingers pointing to the moon.

Realize that the nobility of humanity over the remainders of animals is their propensity for direct experiential knowledge of Allah and obedience to Him. This direct experiential knowledge does not occur except in the heart.

The human soul gathers within itself four qualities: [1] those of predatory animals (as-sab'iya); [2] those of livestock (al-baheema); [3] those of devils (as-shaytaniya); and [4] those of highly lordly beings (ar-rabbaniya). The blameworthy trait that underlines the predatory nature is unjust anger (ghadab), that of livestock nature is corrupt passions, that of devilish nature is a combination of anger and passions.

The blameworthy traits which underline the higly lordly beings are a combination of eight: [1] love for exaltedness; [2] love for position; [3] love for designation; [4] autocracy in all affairs; [5] being singled out for leadership; [6] withdrawing from the bondage of servitude; [7] love for information of all the realities of things; [8] the desire to subdue the whole of creation. All of these eight traits are characteristics that are in reality the qualities of Divine Lordship.

The heart is predisposed to direct experiential knowledge (al-ma'arifa) of all divine, celestial and terrestrial realities. However, the heart becomes veiled from these realities by means of five things, [1] disobedience (al-ma'asiya). [2] corrupt passion (as-shahwaat), [3] ignorance (al-jahl), [4] blind following (at-taqleed), and [5] satanic whispering.

The means by which Satan enters into the human heart is through the blameworthy qualities (sifaat al-madhmuuma), which are numerous. However, twelve of these are fundamental traits.

[1] Unjust Anger (al-ghaddab) - whoever becomes angry and acts upon his anger, Satan enters his heart and plays.

[2] Corrupt Passions (as-shahwa) - whoever follows after his corrupt passions, Satan then enters upon his or her heart and make these passions seem fair seeming until it overcome and destroy.

[3] Satiation (as-shabi'u) - consuming food to the point of satiation (excessive consumption of food), which fortifies and strengthen the corrupt passions, the sole weapon of Satan.

[4] The Love of Adornment (hubb at-tazyeen) - includes attraction and attachment to beautiful clothing, gorgeous homes and luxury. As the love of adornment enters the heart, Satan utilizes this until the person is preoccupied with self-beautification and love for external adornment for the entire period of his or her life.

[5] Covetousness (at-tam'u) - the one who is overcome by covetousness, Satan persist in causing the person to smooth thing out for the one whom he covets and to embellish himself by him by means of showing-off and fraudulent behavior until the thing which he covets become like something which is worshiped.

[6] Haste (al-ujla) - Satan enters the human heart through haste and rushing into every affair, which occur to the mind without giving insight into anything.

[7] Excessive Wealth (al-maal alladhi zaada ala ad-daruura) - Satan enters into the human heart through wealth, which is in excess of what is necessary. Satan enters the heart of a person and whispers to him about his needs until he becomes forever preoccupied with gathering needless wealth (stuff) until he or she dies.

[8] Stinginess (al-bukhl) - the heart is occupied with fear of poverty and made to hold fast to withholding expending money on others and giving charity. It leads to hoarding wealth and finally begin to have evil opinion of his Lord (doubting provision).

[9] Fanaticism (at-ta'assub) - when Satan sees that fanaticism is dynamic in the heart, he moves in him the desire to be victorious over his adversaries without resulting to the truth. Satan then beautifies this fanaticism in the heart until it leads him towards hatred and envy.

[10] Having Evil opinion to divinely surrendered beings (su'u ad-dhan bi'l muslimeen) - due to this Satan enters the heart and cause the person to fall headlong into five subsequent traits: making slander, being deficient with regard others rights, procrastinating in showing respect towards other, looking on them with pure disdain and seeing himself better than other.

[11] Love of Rank (hubb 'l-jaah) - When Satan see this destructive trait in the heart, he cultivates in it in-numerous detestable personality traits and guide him to self-deception until he is eventually destroyed. The person erroneously thinks that he is among the redeemed and there is none like him. Satan then cultivates in his heart the need to be preoccupied with giving lectures to people. Then by means of this self-deception, Satan causes him to be ostentatious by eloquently beautifying his words for the people, by falsely manifesting his desire for good. Satan says to him, "If you do not perfect your expressions for them then your words will plunge in the hearts of the people and they will not be guided to the truth' Satan thus, urges him to showing-off and love for people's acceptance based upon what he ways. He thus take pride in his numerous followers and other destructive traits.

[12] Arrogance (al-kibr) - is among the most immense of the destructive blameworthy traits. The abhorrence of arrogance is not hidden from anyone. May Allah protect us from it.

The outcome is that every blameworthy trait is an entrance-way for Satan (mudakhal as-shaytaan) into the heart of humanity. For this reason humanity should be on guard against all blameworthy traits and may Allah give us success and arriving at what is correct.

If the gates of the city are open and the enemies are present and skillful, there is no way the city can be defended except through three means, [1] watchful attentiveness (al-muraaqaba), [2] spiritual struggle (al-iijtihaad); and [3] seeking assistance with Allah (isti 'aanatu billahi). There is no power and might except with Allah.

[>] You may access this valuable Book here.

4.
When the hypocrites come to you, they say: We bear witness that you are most surely Allah's Messenger; and Allah knows that you are most surely His Messenger, and Allah bears witness that the hypocrites are surely liars.

They make their faith a pretext, and thus turn away from Allah's way. Surely evil is that which they do. That is because they believe, then disbelieve, so a seal is set upon their hearts so that they do not understand.

When you look at them, their exteriors please you; and when they speak, you listen to their words. They are as (worthless as hollow) pieces of timber propped up, (unable to stand on their own). They think that every cry is against them. They are the enemies; so beware of them. The curse of Allah be on them! How are they deluded (away from the Truth)! - The Quran, Hypocrites, 63:1-4

And say to My servants (that) they speak that which is best; surely the Satan sows dissensions among them; surely the Satan is an open enemy to mankind. - The Quran 17:53

.. the one who repents, becomes a true believer, and starts doing good deeds, for then Allah will change his evil deeds into good, and Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful. He that repents and does good deeds, has truly turned to Allah with a good turning. - The Quran 25:70-71

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