Sunday, July 24, 2011

Man is what he is, or he is nothing

In his book, "Logic and Transcendence" (London: Perennial Books, 1984, translated by P. Townsted), Swiss Philosopher and Sufi Master Frithjof Schuon states, "Man is what he is, or he is nothing."

The statement has Zen Koan like paradoxical characteristics and at the same time carries within great seed for contemplation. If one to probe deeply into the remarkable statement, in which Man doesn't refer to a single gender, but human being in general, it calls to remember and focus on the true nature of human being and applies for every individual.

For those to whom the matter of faith is only adhering to certain belief system inherited from ancestors, taking up name of a religion which they found their parents without any attempts on their part as to what faith really signifies - to conform to certain rituals because others in the family and society also does so as a matter of norm - to them faith remains superficial. In truth this is not faith at all. It could be termed as label, tag, naming system, inheriting titles in which a name of a religion is claimed but never realized.

"Man is what he is" from the spiritual point of view signifies those aspects of him or her which he is, and only that what he or she is, define one's embodiment. The rest are mere claims and namesake. We will not be asked what we knew, but we are held responsible for our action, how did we act. No matter what amount of knowledge an individual may boast over accumulating, in the Ocean of truth, all such knowledge is less than a drop of water.

If someone is never characterized by the same kind of grace, blessing, attitude, humility, compassionate and loving like Christ, what business that person has in calling himself or herself a Christian. Man is what he is, or he is nothing. If someone fails to embody the principal of Rahma (Compassion) even after beginning his prayer numerous times in days and years by saying Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim - what business he has to claim the servant of ar-Rahman? If saying so many times over "Alhamdulillah", 'all praise is for Allah' - he fails to attain the station of Praise - then his progress in the path of seeking has not yield fruit.

Our faith, our ten thousand claims over what we believe come to naught if those very substance is not lived, if those principals are not found in our activities, attitude and engagement. Then the subject matter of religion, faith, prayers, supplications turn into either mere illusions, falsehood or entirely hypocritical.

Thus truly Man is what he is, or he is nothing.
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