Saturday, April 30, 2011

All the Hemispheres and two other poems of Hafiz

 All the Hemispheres

Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out

Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadows and shores and hills.

Open up to the Roof.
Make a new water-mark on your excitement
And love.

Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
And giving
Upon our intimate assembly.

Change rooms in your mind for a day.

All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.

Greet Yourself
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home.

All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire

While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of

From: 'The Subject Tonight is Love'
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

School of Truth

O fool, do something, so you won't just stand there looking dumb.
If you are not traveling and on the road, how can you call yourself a guide?

In the School of Truth, one sits at the feet of the Master of Love.
So listen, son, so that one day you may be an old father, too!

All this eating and sleeping has made you ignorant and fat;
By denying yourself food and sleep, you may still have a chance.

Know this: If God should shine His lovelight on your heart,
I promise you'll shine brighter than a dozen suns.

And I say: wash the tarnished copper of your life from your hands;
To be Love's alchemist, you should be working with gold.

Don't sit there thinking; go out and immerse yourself in God's sea.
Having only one hair wet with water will not put knowledge in that head.

For those who see only God, their vision
Is pure, and not a doubt remains.

Even if our world is turned upside down and blown over by the wind,
If you are doubtless, you won't lose a thing.

O Hafiz, if it is union with the Beloved that you seek,
Be the dust at the Wise One's door, and speak!

From: 'Drunk On the Wind of the Beloved'
Translated by Thomas Rain Crowe

Like The Morning Breeze

Like the morning breeze, if you bring to the morning good deeds,
The rose of our desire will open and bloom.

Go forward, and make advances down this road of love;
In forward motion, the pain is great.

To beg at the door of the Winehouse is a wonderful alchemy.
If you practice this, soon you will be converting dust into gold.

O heart, if only once you experience the light of purity,
Like a laughing candle, you can abandon the life you live in your head.

But if you are still yearning for cheap wine and a beautiful face,
Don't go out looking for an enlightened job.

Hafiz, if you are listening to this good advice,
The road of Love and its enrichment are right around the curve.

From: Drunk on the Wind of the Beloved
Translated by Thomas Rain Crowe
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Photoblog from Isle of Skye, Eilean Donan Castle and more Lochs

The vast canvas of nature and tiny aperture of photographer's lens
One of the many Lochs on way to Isle of Skye (Gaelic word "Loch" means arm of ocean, bay, estuary)
Scotland: Land of endless mountains and lochs
Eilean Donan Castle
Isle of Skye, North Western Island of Scotland

View Larger Map

Is it not the Creator Who created the heavens and the earth, and sends down for you water from the sky by which the Creator cause to spring forth gardens of joyful beauty, (whereas) it is not in your power to cause (even a single one of) their trees to grow?

Is there any other creator along with Allah?

No! But most of them are a people who have equated (other with Allah)!

~ Al-Qur'an ~
Surah an-Naml, verse 60
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Friday, April 29, 2011

Photoblog from Inverness, Cairngorm National Park and Loch Morlich

Selected photos from travel to the Scottish Highlands, United Kingdom

Town of Inverness, Scotland
Bridge on River Ness, Inverness, Scotland

Composite panaromic image of Loch Morlich, Highland

Cairngorm National Park, Scottish Highlands
Loch Morlich


The sun's eyes are painting fields again.

Its lashes with expert strokes
Are sweeping across the land.

A great palette of light has embraced
This earth.

Hafiz, if just a little clay and water
Mixed in His bowl
Can yield such exquisite scents, sights,
Music - and whirling forms -

What unspeakable wonders must await with
The commencement of unfolding
The infinite number of petals
That are the

What excitement will renew your body
When we all begin to see
That His heart resides in

God has a root in each act and creature
That He draws His mysterious
Divine life from.

His eyes are painting fields again.

The Beloved with His own hands is tending us,
Raising like a precious child,
Himself in

~ Hafiz ~

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Teachings of Swami Sivananda on Satyam (Truth)


Truth is the seat of God. Truth is God. Truth alone triumphs.

Truth is the basic law of life. Truth is the means and the goal ultimate.

Truth is the law of freedom, falsehood the law of slavery and death.

Truth is justice, fair play, adherence to the fundamental laws of ethics. Purity and truth are the twin factors that unfold and awaken the divinity that lies dormant within you and lead you to perfection.

Truthfulness is the first pillar in the Temple of God-realization. Truth is the gateway to the Kingdom of God.

Truth is like a ladder. It leads you to the Kingdom of Immortal Bliss.


Speaking truth is the most important qualification of a Yogin (one who aspire to union with the Supreme). Truth is the queen of virtues. Truth is the supreme virtue.

Truth constitutes the essence of the Vedas. Control over passions constitutes the essence of truth. Self-denial or refraining from worldly enjoyments forms the essence of self-control. These attributes are always present in a virtuous man.

Truth is righteousness. Righteousness is light, and light is bliss. Ahimsa, Brahmacharya, purity, justice, harmony, forgiveness, peace are forms of truth.

Impartiality, self-control, modesty, endurance, goodness, renunciation, meditation, dignity, fortitude, compassion, and abstention from injury are the various forms of truth.

All the above virtues, though seemingly different, have but one and the same form, namely, truth. All these hold up truth and strengthen it.

When the path of truth is trodden, everything else also is done. When the root is watered, all the branches are automatically watered.


Be truthful. All righteousness is contained in this one commandment.

Whatever you do, be true to yourself and to the world. Hide not your thoughts. Be frank. Be sincere. Be candid. Be straightforward. Be courageous to express your views.

Be faithful to your trust. Deceive not the man who relies upon you. Keep up your promise even at the cost of your life. Your life may go, but not the given word.

Do not hastily give your assent to anybody, to anything. Think deeply. Cogitate. Reflect. Say, "I shall think over the matter and talk to you later on". Thus you will not be entangled.

Do not make promises, but say, "I shall try. I shall think over the matter". You are saved. You will not be caught in the whirlpool of troubles, repentance, and sorrow.

To tell a lie is a great sin. He who utters falsehood loses the faith of other persons. People will not believe him even if he speaks the truth. The habit of telling lies becomes deep-rooted by repetition of lies. Man tells several lies to cover up one lie.

A lie concealed by another lie leads to more lies. A sin concealed by another sin leads to more sins.

A liar is a coward. Uttering falsehood is a certain mark of cowardice. Speak the truth. You will become courageous.


Truth is complete in itself. Truth has a strong foundation in itself. It is bold, it has no fears. It has no limit of space or time. It is a fearless, free bird in the sky. It does not care for status. It is wealth in itself. Truth stands even when there is no public support.

Truth can be compared to a road of pasture, while falsehood can be compared to a bush of thorns. In a man who indulges in false thoughts, there is a lurking fear at every moment, an uneasiness, a fear of the self, a want of confidence and a feeling that something wrong may happen.

Truth, on the other hand, is the path of righteousness which certainly leads to success in the long run. It is a straight road with no doubtful cross-roads.

In the day-to-day world, it seems as though it is impracticable to strictly follow the path of truth, but if it is practiced as your ideal and goal in life, you have your way. All the stumbling blocks on your road to Truth will melt away as you proceed along the direct road.


There are certain fallacies that arise in following the straight path of truth. It is absolutely no harm for a mother who fondly nurses the child in just diverting the attention of the child by saying that the small piece of sweetmeat has been carried away by the crow a short while back, and when she shows to be extremely sorry for it and brings round the ideas of the child by saying, "Papa, do not mind it, I shall bring a bigger cake for you in the evening". It is absolutely no untruth if you do not interfere with others, wound their feelings, harm others or spoil others.


A worldly man, a moralist, and a spiritual man have different conceptions of truth. A moralist cares for the result of truth. If a man can save the lives of many innocent persons by telling a lie, it is truth for a moralist, because an untruth has brought greatest good. If the uttering of a truth brings greater harm to many persons, it is an untruth according to a moralist. According to a spiritual man, Brahman is truth; this world is unreal.


The world is untruth and the Absolute is Truth. The world is represented by sex and ego; the Absolute is represented by the noumenal, gnostic Being.

Truth is not expressed even by Existence-Consciousness-Joy! It is only the nearest relative of Truth. Truth is even greater, grander, mightier, truer!

Truth is; untruth is not. Hence, it is not absolutely correct even to say that Truth is one, for Truth is Existence itself, and is neither one, nor not-one. Truth is undivided.

Truth is utterly public. It cannot be hidden even if one would try to do so. Truth persists and is expressed even in the extreme of untruth. The extreme of truth is the Absolute. Untruth is a shadow of Truth.

Everything that changed itself is untruth. Hence, Truth is infinite. Truth alone endures, while everything else perishes.

Everyone, right from Brahma down to a blade of grass, moves towards Truth, some consciously, some unconsciously. They differ only in the degree of consciousness or to the extent of mental purification or subtlety of condition. Every leaf that flies in the air, every breath that flows from us, in other words; every act of universal life, is a step taken nearer the Truth; for Truth is the eternal home of all beings. Into it they all enter and find permanent satisfaction and peace. It is Truth that triumphs over falsehood, not falsehood over Truth, whatever the apparent and immediate experience may be.


Scriptures emphatically declare: "Speak the truth. Truth alone triumphs, falsehood never". God is Truth and Truth must be realized by speaking truth. A truthful man is absolutely free from worries and anxieties. He has a calm mind. If one observes speaking truth for twelve years, one will get 'Perfection of Speech'. Then, whatever one speaks will come to pass. There will be power in the speech of such a person.

Your thoughts should agree with your words, and the words should agree with your actions. In the world, people think of one thing, say another thing, and do another thing. This is horrible. This is nothing but crookedness. You must carefully watch your thoughts, words, and actions. The little gain that you get by telling lies is no gain at all. You pollute your conscience and infect your subconscious mind. The habit of telling lies is carried to your next birth also and you undergo suffering from birth to birth.

Meditate on truth. Derive inspiration from the lives of those who have sacrificed their all for the sake of truth. Write in bold types the words "SPEAK TRUTH" on cardboards and hang them in different places in your house. This will caution you when you are about to speak a lie. You will then check yourself at once. A time will come when you will be established in the habit of speaking truth. Punish yourself by fasting if you tell a lie and record the lies in a diary. Gradually the number of lies will decrease and you will become a truthful man.

Stick to the path of truth at all costs. Truth has a lustre of its own. It shines for itself and sheds its light on others. When you stick to truth as your only religion, when you strictly adhere to truth alone at all times, at all places, and on all occasions, you cannot afford to harm any one. Perfect peace and real happiness will be yours.

Have ceaseless devotion to truth. Be ready to sacrifice your all for it. You will develop a strong will. You will become fearless. You will draw immense strength and courage from the Atman or the Supreme Self within. You will attain Self-realization.


Should you ask me "What is the first thing in Realization?", I should reply "The first, second, and third thing therein, nay, all-is truthfulness".

Let truth and purity light up your career, guide your conduct, and mould your character.

If the mind is impure, Self-realization cannot be attained even if you meditate for twenty hours daily. Even Yudhishthira had to see the hell as he once told a lie-a modified, twisted truth, in a dexterous manner.

In truth, there is no deceit. That which is simulated is untruth.

Truth can never contradict non-injury. When it does, it is no more a truth, but the selfishness of the man which is on the fore.

When truth-speaking leads another to dishonour, injury and pain, it is no longer a virtue. Then it becomes a deadly sin.

Speak what is true. Speak what is pleasant. Speak no disagreeable truth, speak no agreeable falsehood.

Truth always exists in a pure unmixed state. Truth includes self-restraint, absence of jealousy, forgiveness, patience, endurance, kindness, love.

Peace is truth. Truth is peace. If you want to attain peace, be truthful at all times.

Mind is exalted by truthfulness. Intellect is refined by sublime divine ideas.

By the practice of speaking the truth, the Antahkarana (intellect, mind, ego) is purified of its dirt. It shines like a clean mirror and reflects the divine form of the Lord with great effulgence.

All is well with him whose heart is turned towards the True. No disease, physical or mental, can assault him.

The mover towards the Truth is mighty, lives long, knows everything, and is ever delighted; for he is nearing the Almighty.

The path of Truth is a precipitous one. It is slippery and as sharp as the razor's edge. Hard it is to tread, difficult a path it is. Giants among spiritual men walk over it to the City of Perfection.

Keep company with evolved souls who tread the path of Truth. Always mark carefully what is going on in the inner mental factory. Give up all sorts of mean actions. Become a noble magnanimous soul. Nobility is good. Magnanimity is truth. If people mock at you, keep quiet. Never retort. Excuse them. Give a Vedantic smile. Stand adamantine as that yonder rock. Will you, my dear Niranjan?

Teachings of Sri Swami SivanandaSwami Sivananda (1887-1963) was one of the great soul and dedicated servant of God the Most High. He was a brilliant spiritual teacher and a well-known proponent of Yoga and Vedanta. Born in India, he studied medicine and served in Malaya as a physician for several years before taking up monasticism. His teachings are still in work among his followers in transforming their lives. He lived most of the later part of his life near Muni Ki Reti, Rishikesh. He is the founder of The Divine Life Society (1936), Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy (1948) and author of over 200 books on yoga, vedanta and a variety of other subjects. May his soul be blessed and may his teachings continue to inspire and guide many.

His detailed biography can be accessed here.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Becoming Companion in the Everlasting Abode

One of the companion Rabee'ah narrates from his companionship with the blessed Messenger of God, may abundant peace and blessings be upon him:

It was the beautiful habit of the Prophet that if someone did him a good turn, he loved to repay that person with something more excellent. He wanted to do something for me too in return for my service to him.

So one day he came up to me and said: 'O Rabee'ah ibn Ka'b.'

I responded: 'Labbayk ya rasulullah wa Sadaik' - At your command, O Messenger of God and may God grant you happiness.

The Messenger said, 'Ask of me anything and I will give it to you.' ..

I thought a little and then said: 'Give me some time, O Messenger of God, to think about what I should ask of you. Then I will let you know.'

He agreed.

At that time, I was a young man and poor. I had neither family, nor wealth, nor place of abode. I used to shelter in the suffah (porch) of the mosque with other poor Muslims like myself. People used to call us the "guests of Islam".

Whenever any Muslim brought something in charity to the Prophet, he would send it all to us. And if someone gave him a gift he would take some of it and gifted the rest to us.

So, it occurred to me to ask the Prophet for some worldly good that would save me from poverty and make me like others who had wealth, wife and children. Soon, however, I said: 'May you perish Rabee'ah. The world is temporary and will pass away. You have your share of sustenance in it which God has guaranteed and which must come to you. The Prophet, peace be on him, has a place with his Lord and no request would be refused to him. Request him therefore, to ask Allah to grant you something of the bounty of the hereafter.'

I felt pleased and satisfied with this thought. I went to the Prophet and the Prophet asked: 'What do you say, O Rabee'ah?'

'O Messenger of God,' I said, 'I ask you to beseech God most High on my behalf to make me your companion in Paradise.'

'Who has advised you thus?' asked the Prophet.

'No by God,' I said, 'No one has advise me. But when you told me 'Ask of me anything and I will give to you,' I thought of asking you for something of the goodness of this world. But before long, I was guided to choose what is permanent and lasting against what is temporary and perishable. And so I have asked you to beseech God on my behalf that I may be your companion in Paradise.'

The Prophet remained silent for a long while.

Then he asked: 'Any other request besides that, Rabi'ah?'

'No, O Messenger of God, Nothing can match what I have asked you.'

The Messenger said to me, "Then, in that case, assist me for your sake by performing much prostration to God."

So I began to exert myself in worship in order to attain the good fortune of being with the Prophet in Paradise just as I had the good fortune of being in his service and being his companion in this world.

Know, O beloved, that man was not created in jest or at random,
but marvelously made and for some great end.
- al-Ghazzali

In My Father's abode are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you;
for I go to prepare a place for you. - Jesus Christ, peace be upon him

The Reality Theory of Everything

Among the realities in the domain of the unseen reality (al-ghayb) which is to come after passing away from the world of apperance to the world of unseen: three knowledge of truth are of paramount importance and they are: concerning the resurrection after death, the day of meeting with the Lord and the life of hereafter. There is not a single faith tradition that didnt include these aspects of reality, there is not a single Messenger, Prophet, Avatars who didn't communicate about this reality in their own language, fitted in their time and people's understanding.

In ancient religions, communication regarding the truth of after-life was based mostly on language of symbols because of the unsophisticated nature of human consciousness where such reality was very difficult to grasp. Just as for a child inside its mother's womb floating in fluid, covered with darkness, the idea that a whole world with lights, colors and sounds existing outside the womb is impossible to grasp; similar is our limited experience of this world to grasp the reality of after-life.  We still lack a terrestrial vocabulary for our mysterious celestial quest. Among the three Abrahamic faith, Judaism provides very small account of afterlife reality (or the teachings are mostly lost), while Jesus in his teachings did mention it quite strongly yet he did mention that he can not tell everything because the disciples are not ready, yet when the spirit of truth comes he will make everything clear.

In the brotherhood of continuous chain of Divine Messengership, successor of Jesus, Muhammad Mustafa, through the revelations of the Quran provided the knowledge of the unseen regarding the reality of after-life, beginning from death, the life of barzakh (intermediate life), resurrection, meeting the Lord for accounting and finally the everlasting abode of the after-life. The Quran makes man aware of this reality.

And (those who have no knowledge of certainty), they say, “There is not but our worldly life; we die and live and nothing destroys us except time.” And they have no knowledge; they are only assuming. And when Our verses are recited to them as clear evidences, their argument is only that they say, “Bring [back] our forefathers, if you should be truthful.” Say, “God causes you to live, then causes you to die; then He will assemble you for the Day of Resurrection, about which there is no doubt,” but most of the people do not know. (Quran, 45:24-26)

In the Last Testament, "the reality theory of everything" regarding the hereafter is communicated in much more vividly, specially through the earlier Meccan revelations and subsequent explanations and commentary by the Prophet through his Prophetic narratives.

You will be with those whom you love

A man asked the Prophet about the Final Hour (i.e. Day of Judgment) saying, "When will the Hour be?"

The Prophet said, "What have you prepared for it?"

The man said, "Nothing, except that I love Allah and His Apostle." The Prophet said, "You will be with those whom you love." - Narrated by Anas, from Bukhari collection

wa allazina 'amanu, ma'a hu
Those who believe are with him.
ma'a hu. With him.
Do you really hear this? Do you perceive this? Do you feel this? With him.
This gave ecstasy to the heart of the holy companions.

 - a moving supplication by Habib Umar bin Hafiz, (click here to see and listen)
a contemporary Shaykh from the lineage of holy family of the Last Prophet

kama bada akum, taAAoodoon.

as Lord brought you forth in the beginning, so shall you also return.
- The Quran 7:29

# Resources:
* Dont forget about the Hereafter, a talk Abdur Rahim Green
* Dunya or akhira (beautiful advice) by Sheikh Hamza
* The Soul's journey after Death - Ibn Al-Qayyim's Kitabar-Ruh (download PDF)
* The Vision of Allah in the World and the Hereafter
* A talk by Sheikh Bahmanpour on Life after Death and the Hereafter via Youtube
* Islam basics and beyond
* Islamic eschatology
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Sunday, April 24, 2011

and we talk about the Beloved

If someone sits with me
And we talk about the Beloved,

If I cannot give his heart comfort,
If I cannot make him feel better
About himself and this world,

Then, Hafiz,
Quickly run to the mosque and pray -
For you have just committed
The only sin I know.

- Hafiz

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Zen: A movie on the Life of Master Dogen Zenji

How do we practice the wisdom of "love thy neighbour" unless we are willing to remove the barriers between us and the neighbours and first of those barriers are lack of understanding and lack of knowing. How do we appreciate the Divine Will that "Allah created humanity in many nations and communities so that they may know each other" without making an effort to know each other?

Watching well made movies on other spiritual path / religion / way of life is one of the best way to appreciate diversity of religion and spirituality of our common humanity. By "other" here I mean, other than one's own familiar spiritual / religious path. When watched with a keen eye and an attitude that is willing to appreciate with compassion and loving understanding of the other - this even can be a good spiritual action as well. And that attitude comes from realizing that within every community there were souls in whom there is this spark, aspirations to move towards the Light, to embody noble teachings and to live according to a heightened awareness- and that expression is capable to expressing itself in every spiritual path, in every age. It is also very rewarding in the here and now because such movies inspire one to a space from where one's own spiritual path, if practiced and alive within one's own heartscape - can be perceived more vividly, appreciation deepens and aspirations rise.

The true being is
Not anyone in particular;

But, like the deep blue color
Of the limitless sky,
It is everyone,
everywhere in the world.

- Poetry of Dogen

I love movies made on Zen / Buddhist themes. For sometime now I was trying to find well made movies on Buddhist theme. In the process I discovered a number of good movies (a list of tasteful and favorite Buddhist movies is provided at end of this post). Last night I watched a movie called ZEN (released in 2009), which is based on the life of Dōgen Zenji (19 January 1200 – 22 September 1253) the prominent Japanese Zen Buddhist teacher and the founder of the Sōtō school of Zen Buddhism.

Dogen's life is quite interesting, so was his quest for spiritual truth. At the age of 17, he was formally ordained as a Buddhist monk. He became possessed by a single question, about which he later described: ".. As I study both the exoteric and the esoteric schools of Buddhism, they maintain that human beings are endowed with Dharma-nature by birth. If this is the case, why did the Buddhas of all ages - undoubtedly in possession of enlightenment - find it necessary to seek enlightenment and engage in spiritual practice?"

He was also living in a time when Buddhism in Far East, specially in Japan reached a very low point. Teachings of Buddha became very clouded and various sects were struggling with internal politics as well as fighting with each other over the true teachings of Buddhism. Considering the Japanese Buddhism of the time to be corrupt and influenced by secular power struggles, Dogen traveled to China to discover the heart of the Dharma by studying Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism at several ancient monasteries. In 1223, Dogen undertook the dangerous passage across the East China Sea to China. The movie almost begin from his journey into the heartland of China.

Master Dogen was a talented writer and poet. Here are some of his poems written in Japanese, now available in translation. You may read some via Poetry Chaikhana.

Drifting pitifully in the whirlwind of birth and death,
As if wandering in a dream,
In the midst of illusion I awaken to the true path;
There is one more matter I must not neglect,
But I need not bother now,
As I listen to the sound of the evening rain
Falling on the roof of my temple retreat
In the deep grass of Fukakusa.

To what shall
I liken the world?
Moonlight, reflected
In dewdrops,
Shaken from a crane's bill.

Above all, don't wish to become a future Buddha;
Your only concern should be,
As thought follows thought,
To avoid clinging to any of them.

The core of Dogen's teaching was to transcend the mind's addiction to language and form in order to become fully present and recognize one's inherent enlightenment.

Directed by Takahashi Banmei, the film Zen provides an elegant and fascinating look both  into the life and times of this 13th-century monk. Offering a fairly faithful depiction of what is known of the monk's life, the film follows Dogen, handsomely portrayed by kabuki actor Nakamura Kantaro, from an orphan child inspired by his mother's dying words to a young monk wandering in China where he experiences his awakening. After reaching enlightenment, he returns to Kyoto to spread his teachings of silent meditation, attracting both dedicated followers and fierce detractors who cast him as a heretic.

In his travels and teachings, Dogen encounters many different people. Some guide him, some follow him, and some test him, but all become crucial figures in his spiritual journey of peace and meditation. Zen's supporting cast includes Kora Kengo as a young monk gone astray, Uchida Yuki as a prostitute and aspiring nun, and Fujiwara Tatsuya as the shogun haunted by inner ghosts (mental / psychic attacks).

scenes from the Movie, Zen 2009

The movie has some wonderful cinematographic work, depicting the beautiful landscape and scenario of Far East. Also the teachings of Dogen, his process of enlightenment and his teachings to his fellow monks are to be found all across the movie.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the Movie:
To study the Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things of the universe. To be enlightened by all things of the universe is to cast off the body and mind of the self as well as those of others. Even the traces of enlightenment are wiped out.

First, be free from desire.
Second,be satisfied.
Third, be tranquil.
Fourth, be diligent.
Fifth, remember the teachings.
Sixth, meditate.
Seventh, practice wisdom.
Eight, avoid pointless talk
- each of Buddha's disciples learned these eight means of enlightenment.

The movie from the Sufi point of view reminds a lot of similarities of the two spiritual currents, Sufism and Zen Buddhism. Both have a lineage which is passed down, an unbroken chain of transmission from the original Master to the present time. Piercing beyond the apparent, if one wishes to look at the commonality, one can see that in both Zen and Sufism the training of the novice / disciples happen through the close connection with the Master. Disciplines are emphasized aiming at the purity of mind and heart. Obedience of one's Master is a must in both Path. Practice of compassion and service to the world is seen integral to the spiritual practice.

There are a number of very moving scenes in the movie, specially when Master Dogen gave a profound discourse while he was ill towards the end of his life. Also the moment of his Nirvana (passing away) from this world to the next while sitting in Zazen at the meditation hall was beautifully depicted. Just before his passing away, Master Dogen says:

In the time of life, there is none other than life.
In the time of death, there is none other than death.

Those who are familiar with Sufi Teachings and specially Divine Attributes (noteworthy here are three names of Reality, al-Hayy:  The Ever Living and Life Itself: Muhyî, Mumît: The Giver of Death, The Death Itself) and and understand that Zen doesn't talk about the Transcendence / The Reality itself because it is beyond the language - they can hopefully relate the value of this teaching that ultimately speak of the same and one Mystical Reality.

There is a wonderful scene of the movie at the end. This is my favorite which comes almost towards the last scenes of the movie where the nun teaches Zazen to young children. During the meditation practice the Buddhist nun instructs the kids: "You hold Buddha in your hands. Buddha lives in your hands. So let us hold him close and protect him."

scenes from the Buddhist Zen Movie on Dogen, Zen 2009

Its raining outside and they are sitting at the porch of a small hut facing the beautiful rain outside. All the child is sitting in perfect Zazen position with palms resting in a certain way, thumbs of two hands touching each other. Only one of the girl is placing her hands over her lap in way different than others. The nun goes up to her and says,"Hold your hands like this, not like that, but like this."

And the girl replies sweetly with all her purity of heart, "Because it's raining..." (she is as if protecting the Buddha in her hand from rain by her posture)

I hope you will enjoy the movie and appreciate spiritual heritage of Buddhism, specially its Mystical component: Zen and the beauty of sincerity in which it was preserved and passed down. As ignorance remains to be the biggest enemy when it comes to understanding faith, religion and spirituality of various member of humanity, hopefully the language of cinema remains a hopeful and effective tool to reduce that ignorance and to know "the other".

#Watch online via External site:
* Part 1, Part 2

# Watch the Movie via Youtube:
* In Spanish Subtitle: Part 1, Part 2

* Download via Buddha Torrent

# Resources:
# Past Posts on Buddhism:

# My Favorite documentaries / movies on Buddhist theme:

+ Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring (favorite)
+ Travellers And Magicians (2003) by Khyentse Norbu
+ Kundun
+ Peaceful Warrior
+ Words of my Perfect Teacher - Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
+ Enlightenment Guaranteed (Erleuchtung garantiert) - Buddhist Comedy (Doris Dörrie, 2000)
Yet to be watched List:
+ Milarepa
+ Asoka
+ Buddha's Lost Children
+ Amongst White Clouds: Documentary about Buddhist hermit traditions in the chinese woods.
+ The Cup by Khyentse Norbu
+ Wheel of Time
+ The Dhamma Brothers
+ The Tibetan Book of the Dead narrated by Leonard Cohen
also read The Most Spiritually Affecting Buddhist Movies

What's your favorite movie / documentary based on Buddhism /Zen theme?
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Levels of Divine Guidance, General and Exclusive

It is the Lord of Mercy, who taught the Revelation. 
Hu created man and taught him to communicate.
The sun and the moon follow their destined courses; 
the plants and the trees submit to Hu's designs. 
- The Quran 55:1-6

Introduction: Dara O Shayda

In our modern times, since the very childhood, we have been exposed to a theatrical rendition of the God’s Inspirations to prophets: We see tall handsome Charlton Huston walking in a long robe, in a stately manner, and a deep Anglo Saxon voice calls out to him “O Moses”.

These images are engrained within our psyche, accompanied by a simplistic child-like language of the West dealing with the Divine Inspiration and we are left as not so bright children seeking the understanding of Allah’s Inspiration and communications with the prophets and the holy books.

Within English language there are few words dealing with the forms of Divine Communications, for the most part we have Revelation and Inspiration and both truly rendering one concept: God talked to so and so.

In this treatise we are borrowing from Jawziah to learn the different levels of Divine Communications to develop a language that is applicable for this endeavor and the nascent understanding of this grand affair.

Of the Levels of Divine Guidance, General and Exclusive: Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziya

They are ten levels; the first three are specific to the Prophets:

The First Level

It is that in which Allah the most High addresses directly his slave who is in a normal state of wakefulness as it happened in the case of Moses. This is the highest level of Guidance.

Allah The Exalted stated in 4: 164
“Wa kallamma-lāhu Musā Taklimā”: “and to Moses, Allah addressed His Word, speaking (to him)”.

Already in [4:163], Allah reminds of ITs/His inspiration to the various Prophets:
“Surely We have revealed to you as We revealed to Nuh, and the prophets after him, and We revealed to Ibrahim and Ismail and Ishaq and Yaqoub and the tribes, and Isa and Ayub and Yunus and Haroun and Sulaiman and We gave to Dawood the Psalms.”

This is followed in 4:164 by the specific information that Allah spoke to Moses:
“And (We sent) messengers We have mentioned to you before and messengers we have not mentioned to you; and to Musa, Allah addressed His Word, speaking (to him)”

This shows that the "speech" referred to here is more specific than the general inspiration mentioned in [4:163]- The addition of the Predicate Taklimā (speech) to the verb Kallama (spoke) emphasizes this meaning and refutes the attempts of some to interpret "speech" allegorically as mere inspiration or pointing or information of the inner meaning without direct speech.

The Second Level: The Revelation specific to the Prophets.

“We have sent thee inspiration, as We sent it to Noah and the Messengers after him…” [4:163]

“It is not fitting for a man that Allah should speak to him except by inspiration, or from behind a veil, or by the sending of a messenger to reveal, with Allah's permission, what Allah wills: for He is Most High, Most Wise”. [42:51]

In this Ayah, Allah made Revelation a part of speech, with two considerations: It is a part of the direct specific speech without a medium and part of the general speech that involves relaying information in various ways. Wahy (Revelation) linguistically means rapid and secret/hidden relaying of information.

The Third Level: Sending an angelic messenger to a human messenger.

The angelic messenger reveals Allah's orders that were entrusted to him. The angelic messenger may take a human form and be seen by the human messenger and spoken to or seen in the form he was created in or the angel enters the human messenger and reveals to him what he needs to then dislodges himself from him.

The Fourth Level: The level of ‘the addressed’ or ‘the spoken to’ (Al-Muhhadath)

The addressed/spoken to is someone who is spoken to in his innermost and in his heart about some matter. The Prophet is reported to have stated: “ In previous communities there were people who were spoken to (Muhhadathun), if there were ever to be one in my community it would be Omar ibn al-Khattab."

Ibn Taymyia stated:
"The Siddiq (the entrusted) is more perfected than the addressed/spoken to, as he has –in the perfection of his Sidq- no further need for inspiration and unveiling (Kashf). He has entrusted his heart, his secret, his innermost and his outward being to the Prophet and has no other needs.

The Muhhadath (Omar bin al-Khattab) always compared what he was spoken to with what the Prophet brought (Qur'an); if they agreed the Muhhadath accepted the discourse, otherwise he rejected it ; that is how it was established that the level of (being entrusted) Siddiqiat is higher than that of (being spoken to)Tahdith.

As for the one who speaks out of fantasy and ignorance and says: "My God has spoken to me "; it is true that his heart has spoken to him, but who is at the origin of the speech his evil or his God? If he were to insist that it is his God, he then is attributing the discourse to someone without any certainty, and this is a lie."

The Fifth Level: The level of bestowed understanding (Fahm)

Allah, The Sublime, mentioned the two Prophets David and Suleiman, praised them both for their knowledge and wisdom and favored Suleiman with "understanding" in this particular case:

“And Dawood and Suleiman when they gave judgment concern the field when the people's sheep pastured therein by night, and We were bearers of witness to their judgment”. [21:78]

“To Solomon We Fahm (Inspired, made to understand) the (right) understanding of the matter: to each (of them) We gave Judgment and Knowledge; it was Our power that made the hills and the birds celebrate Our praises, with Dawood: it was We Who did (all these things)”. [21:79]

Ali Ibn Abi Taleb related that, he was asked if the Prophet had bestowed any favors on anyone among his people. Ali stated: “No, in the name of the One who has caused the seeds to burst and created every being, no one was given anything except the understanding given by Allah through his Book”.

In his book on Omar ibn al-Khattab, Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari states: "The understanding of what was given to you." For comprehension is a gift from Allah to his slave, a light thrown by Allah in the heart of his slave. Allah is known through it, with it the slave is able to comprehend what no one else comprehends or knows, he understands from the text of the Qur'an what others do not understand, even if they are equal to him in their ability to memorize or to understand the basic meanings of the words.

Understanding [of the knowledge bestowed] from Allah and His Prophet is the hallmark of Siddiqiat (the state of being entrusted), the scholars are ranked according to it.

Look at the understanding of Ibn Abbas of Surah Al-Nasr [110]: “When Allah’s succour comes, and victory and thou seest people enter God's religion in hosts, extol thy Sustainer's limitless glory, and praise Him, and seek His forgiveness: for, behold, He is ever an acceptor of repentance “

Ibn Abbas was with Omar among the Companions who attended the battle of Badr, he was favored in his understanding of this Surah and stated: “It is the Surah in which Allah announces that he is taking His Prophet back to Himself, it informs the Prophet of his upcoming demise”. Omar agreed with this understanding which appears to have remained hidden from the rest of the Companions although Ibn Abbas was at the time their youngest. For where would one find the death announcement in this Surah unless one were favored with a special understanding? (Dara: This serves as the Bātin (Deeply Concealed & Innate) understanding of the Qur’an vs. Zāhir (Surface) concepts that we read in the syntax.)

This becomes more complex and delicate to reach a point where the understanding of most people fails and they are unable to give the basic texts their dues in understanding; as for those endowed with understanding, they are in no need for additional texts to comprehend the essential ones.

The Sixth Level: The level of general education/clarification of truth from a state of vagueness and confusion to a state of clarity (Bayān).

It is the clarification of the Truth (Haqq) and its differentiation from falsehood through proofs, testimonies and indices, so that Truth becomes witnessed (Mash-hūd) by the Qalb (heart) as clearly as physical objects are seen by the eye. This is the level of Allah‘s argument/evidence (Hujjat) against His Creation, according to which, He does not punish anyone or misguide him until each of them has reached this level [of information, clarification].

”And Allah will not mislead a people after He hath guided them, in order that He may make clear to them what to fear (and avoid); for Allah hath knowledge of all things.” [9:110]

Misguidance to the people is then punishment from Allah after He has clarified the Truth and they rejected it or did not act according to it. Their punishment is at that point to err away from Guidance. Allah has never caused anyone to err until they have received this level of clarification.

If you know this then you can understand the secret of Predestination and you abandon doubts and misconceptions on this subject. You would comprehend Allah’s law in misguiding whomever he does misguide of his slaves when He does.

The Qur’an is clear on this matter in several verses like:

“Then when they went wrong, Allah let their hearts go wrong”. [61:5]

“….and their boast, "Our hearts are already full of knowledge"- nay, but God has sealed their hearts in result of their denial of the truth, and [now] they believe in but few things” [4:155]

The first is obstinate disbelief; the second is disbelief due to the sealing of the heart.

Moreover, Allah states: “So long as We keep their hearts and their eyes turned [away from the truth], even as they did not believe in it in the first instance: and [so] We shall leave them in their overweening arrogance, blindly stumbling to and fro”. [6:110]

Allah punishes them for abandoning Belief in Him after Certainty and ascertainment of the Truth in that He keeps their hearts and eyes turned away unable to guide them to Him.

Consider this matter carefully then for great consideration is due to it. Allah the most High states in [41: 17],
“And as for [the tribe of] Thamud, We offered them guidance, but they chose blindness in preference to guidance”.

This then is Guidance after clarification and evidence, if not followed by the Guidance to success and inspiration, the perfection of Guidance is not reached.

There are two types of this level of Bayān:

The Bayān of hearing the recited Qur’anic Ayat and that of witnessing Ayat (Observed Signs) in the physical world. Both are evidence and proof of the Oneness (Tauhid ) of Allah and His Names, Attributes, His Perfection and the Truth of what you have been told about Him.

That is why He invites His slaves, through His recited Ayat (Verses), to contemplate the Ayat (Observable Signs) that they are able to witness and urges them to reflect upon them.

This is the level of Bayān entrusted to the messengers and to the scholars after them, after which Allah misguides whom He wills.

“And never have We sent forth any apostle otherwise than [with a message] in his own people's tongue, so that he might make [the truth] clear unto them;' but God lets go astray him that wills [to go astray], and guides him that wills [to be guided] -for He alone is almighty, truly wise” [14:4]

It is then so that, the messengers bring clarification after which Allah guides or misguides whom He wills in His grandeur and wisdom.

The Seventh Level: It is the level of exclusive education/clarification of truth from falsehood (Bayān Khāss).

It is closely linked with exclusive Guidance in the form of gifts of divine care/management (‘Ināyat), direction to the right course (Tawfiq) and the distinction with abundant bounty from which various blessings result (Ijtiba’) as well as the elimination of the circumstances (Asbāb) and of the elements of failure from the Heart (Qalb) so that Guidance never abandons it.

Of this level, the most High has stated:

“Though thou be ever so eager to show them the right way, [know that,] verily, God does not bestow His guidance upon any whom He judges to have gone astray;" [16:37]

“Verily, thou canst not guide aright everyone whom thou lovest: but it is God who guides him that wills [to be guided]”. [28:56]

The Eight Level: It is the level of “Bestowing hearing” (Isma’).

Of this level, Allah the most High said:

“For, if God had seen any good in them, He would certainly have made them hear: but [as it is,] even if He had made them hear, they would surely have turned away in their obstinacy”. [8:23]
“And neither are equal the living and the dead [of heart]. Behold, [O Muhammad,] God can make hear whomever He wills, whereas thou canst not make hear such as are [dead of heart like the dead] in their graves” [35:22]

This “bestowing hearing” is more exclusive than making hear the argument/ evidence of Allah and the message of the Messenger. For hearing Allah’s argument/evidence is owed to them [according to Allah’s Law] and involves only the hearing of the ears while the hearing in this level is that of the Heart; speech being words and meaning, it relates both to the ears and to the Heart. To hear the words is the function of the ears while to hear the meaning is that of the Heart.

He, Subhāna-Hu, has deprived the disbelievers from the ability to hear the part of the Heart and allowed them only the part of the ears as He states:

“Whenever there comes unto them any new reminder from their Sustainer, they but listen to it with playful amusement, (Lit., "while they are playing"). [21:2]

Such hearing does not benefit the hearer; it serves only to establish the argument/evidence of Allah against him that Allah has made the information available to him. The goal of hearing and its fruit and end-result do not occur when the Heart is playing in amusement, careless and declining to hear, the hearer in this case comes out saying:

"What is it that he has said just now?" It is such as these whose hearts God has sealed because they [always] followed but their own lusts”. [47:16]

The difference between this level and that of the level of “bestowing understanding” (5th level) is that, understanding is more comprehensive and exclusive in a different manner from this level. Understanding is related to the desired meaning, its conditions, its relations and its pointers (‘Isharat) while hearing revolves around ensuring that the desired meaning of the discourse reaches The Heart. It follows that this hearing is the hearing of acceptance.

The Ninth Level: It is the level of Inspiration (‘Ilhām).

Allah the most High stated:
“ Consider the human self (Nafs), and how it is formed in accordance with what it is meant to be, and how it is imbued with moral failings as well as with consciousness of God!” [91: 7-8]

The Prophet instructed Husayn bin Khuza’I upon his conversion to say:
“My Allah, inspire me with my wisdom and protect me from the evil of my Nafs”.

Inspiration has been considered by some to belong to the stationary rank (Maqām) of the (the spoken to) Muhhadathin. It is felt to be higher in rank than prediction (Firāsa). For prediction (Firāsa) can be accurate in rare cases; at times, its owner may lose it or have difficulty with it, while the one with Inspiration enjoys a stable rank: that of closeness and presence (Qurb and Hudhūr).

I say: The state of being spoken to (Tahdith) is more exclusive than that of being inspired (‘Ilhām). For inspiration (‘Ilhām) is general to the believers who have reached faith, while being spoken to (Tahdith) is more exclusive as elaborated above in the case of Omar. Tahdith then is exclusive ‘Ilhām. It is revelation to a non-prophet either to those creatures who have been tasked/made responsible [by Allah the most High] (Mukallafun) as in His Ayat:

And so, [when he was born,] We inspired [thus] the mother of Moses: Suckle him [for a time], [28:7]
"And behold! I inspired the disciples to have faith in Me and Mine Messenger: [5:111]

Or to those who are the non-responsible:
“And [consider how] thy Sustainer has inspired the bee: "Prepare for thyself dwellings in mountains and in trees, and in what [men] may build [for thee by way of hives]” [16:68]

Another difference between Prediction and Inspiration is perhaps the fact that prediction may be the result of gain (Kasb) and achievement (Tahsil), while ‘Ilhām is a pure gift that cannot be obtained through gain.

The Tenth Level: The level of true vision [in the sleeping state].

It is a part of prophecy as established by the Prophet who stated: “True vision is one of forty six parts of prophecy.”

It has been said that true vision was the beginning of revelation/wahy and lasted half a year; it was followed with revelation/wahy in the waking state for twenty three years up to the death of the Prophet. The percentage of the true vision in the dreams amounted thus to one of forty six parts of the prophecy. This is a Hadith Hassan (A fairly authenticated Prophetic Narration); others have reported that the true vision is one part of seventy.


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Monday, April 18, 2011

The Interior Life in Islam - Seyyed Hossein Nasr

"O thou soul which are at peace, return unto thy Lord,
with gladness that is thine in Him and His in thee.

Enter thou among My slaves.
Enter thou My Paradise."

- The Quran - LXXXIX; 27-30
translated by Martin Lings

The function of religion is to bestow order upon human life and to establish an "outward" harmony upon whose basis man can return inwardly to his Origin by means of the journey toward the "interior" direction. This universal function is especially true of Islam, this last religion of humanity, which is at once a Divine injunction to establish order in human society and within the human soul and at the same time to make possible the interior life, to prepare the soul to return unto its Lord and enter the Paradise which is none other than the Divine Beatitude. 

God is at once the First (al-awwal) and the Last (al-akhir), the Outward (al-zahir) and the Inward (al-batin). By function of His outwardness He creates a world of separation and otherness and through His inwardness He brings men back to their Origin. Religion is the means whereby this journey is made possible, and it recapitulates in its structure the creation itself which issues from God and returns unto Him. Religion consists of a dimension which is outward and another which, upon the basis of this outwardness, leads to the inward. These dimensions of the islamic revelation are called the the Shariah (the Sacred Law), the Tariqah (the Path) and the Haqiqah (the Truth), or from another point of view they correspond to islam, iman, and ihsan, or "surrender", "faith" and "virtue".

Although the whole of the Quranic revelation is called "islam", from the perspective in question here it can be said that not all those who follow the tradition on the level of islam are mu'mins, namely those who possess iman, nor do all those who are mu'mins possess ihsan, which is at once virtue and beauty and by function of which man is able to penetrate into the inner meaning of religion. The Islamic revelation is meant for all human beings destined to follow this tradition. But not all men are meant to follow the interior path. It is enough for a man to have lived according to the Shariah and in surrender (islam) to the Divine Will to die in grace and to enter into Paradise. But there are those who yearn for the Divine here and now and whose love for God and propensity for the contemplation of the Divine Realities (al-haqaiq) compel them to seek the path of inwardness. The revelation also provides a path for such men, for men who through their iman and ihsan "return unto their Lord with gladness" while still walking upon the earth.

While the concrete embodiment of the Divine Will, which is the Shariah, is called the exoteric dimension in the sense of governing all of man's outward life as well as his body and psyche, the spiritual path, which leads beyond the usual understanding of the "soul" as a separated and forgetful substance in the state which Christians call the "fallen state", is called the esoteric dimension. In Sunni Islam, this dimension is almost completely identified with Sufism (tasawwuf) while in Shi'ism, in addition to Sufism, the esoteric and the exoteric are intermingled within the general structure of the religious doctrines and practices themselves. 

And even within Sunnism, there is an intermediate region between the exoteric and the esoteric, a world of religious practice and doctrines which while not strictly speaking esoteric are like the reflection of the inner teachings of Sufism within the whole community and a foretaste of its riches. In fact, many of the prayer manuals which occupy such a position in the Sunni world, such as the Dalail al- khayrat, were written by Sufi masters, while in the Shi'ite world, the prayers almost all of which, such as the al-Sahifah al-sajjadiyyah of the fourth Imam Zayn al- Abidin, were written by esoteric authors, partake of both an esoteric and an exoteric character. Occasionally, there has even been the penetration of one domain upon another, such as the sayings of many of the Imams which have appeared in Sufi writings and even of some Sufi writings which have penetrated into certain Shi'ite prayers identified with some of the Imams.

Prayers such as those of Khwajah 'Abdallah Ansari, the great saint of Herat contained in his Supplications (Munajat) are at once the deepest yearning of the heart for the Ineffable and the Infinite and common devotional prayers chanted by many of the devout in the community and thus belonging to the intermediate level alluded to above:

I live only to do Thy will,
My lips move only in praise of Thee
O Lord, whoever becometh aware of Thee
Casteth out all else other than Thee.

O Lord, give me a heart
That I may pour it out in Thanksgiving
Give me life
That I may spend it
In working for the salvation of the world.

O Lord, give me understanding
That I stray not from the path
Give me light
To avoid pitfalls.

O Lord, give me eyes
Which see nothing but Thy glory.

Give me a mind
That finds delight in Thy service.

Give me a soul
Drunk in the wine of Thy wisdom.

In the same way that the dimension of inwardness is inward in relation to the outward and the outward is necessary as the basis and point of departure for the journey toward the inward, so is the experience of the Divinity as imminent dependent upon the awareness of the Divinity as transcendent. 

No man has the right to approach the Imminent without surrendering himself to the Transcendent, and it is only in possessing faith in the Transcendent that man is able to experience the Imminent. Or from another point of view, it is only in accepting the Shari'ah (the unambiguous Divine commands and prohibitions through the Final Testament / the Quran) that man is able to travel upon the Path (tariqah) and finally to reach the Truth (haqiqah) which lies at the heart of all things and yet is beyond all determination and limitation.

To interiorize life itself and to become aware of the inward dimension, man must have recourse to rites whose very nature it is to cast a sacred form upon the waves of the ocean of multiplicity in order to save man and bring him back to the shores of Unity. The major rites or pillars (arkan) of Islam, namely the daily prayers (salat), fasting (sawm), the pilgrimage (hajj), the religious tax (zakat) and holy struggle (jihad), are all means of sanctifying man's terrestrial life and enabling him to live and to die as a central being destined for beatitude. But these rites themselves are not limited to their outer forms. Rather they possess inward dimensions and levels of meaning which man can reach in function of the degree of his faith (iman) and the intensity and quality of his virtue or inner beauty (ihsan).

The daily prayers (salat in Arabic, namaz in Persian, Turkish and Urdu) are the most fundamental rites of Islam, preceded by the ablutions and the call to prayers (adhan), both of which contain the profoundest symbolic significance. The form of these prayers is derived directly from the sunnah of the Holy Prophet and the daily prayers are considered as the most important of religious deeds for as the Prophet has said, "The first of his deeds for which a man will be taken into account on the day of resurrection will be his prayer. If it is sound he will be saved and successful, but if it is unsound he will be unfortunate and miserable. If any deficiency is found in his obligatory prayer the Lord who is blessed and exalted will issue instructions to consider whether His servant has said any voluntary prayers / devotions so that what is lacking in the obligatory prayer may be made up by it. Then the rest of his actions will be treated in the same fashion." 

The salat punctuates man's daily existence, determines its rhythm, provides a refuge in the storm of life and protects man from sin. Its performance is obligatory and its imprint upon Islamic society and the soul of the individual Muslim fundamental beyond description.

Yet, the meaning of the prayers are not to be understood solely through the study of their external form or their impact upon Islamic society, as fundamental as those may be. By virtue of the degree of man's ihsan, and also by virtue of the grace (barakah) contained within the sacred forms of the prayers, man is able to attain inwardness through the very external forms of the prayers. He is able to return, thanks to the words and movements which are themselves the echoes of the inner states of the Holy Prophet, back to the state of perfect servitude (ubudiyyah) and nearness to the Divine (qurb) which characterize the inner journey of the Holy Prophet as the Universal Man (al-insan al-kamil) to the Divine Presence on that nocturnal ascent (al-miraj), which is at once the inner reality of the prayers and the prototype of spiritual realization in Islam.

Not only do the canonical prayers possess an interior dimension, but they also serve as the basis for other forms of prayer which become ever more inward as man progresses upon the spiritual path leading finally to the "prayer of the heart", the invocation (dhikr) in which the invoker, invocation and the invoked become united, and through which man returns to the Center, to the Origin which is pure Inwardness.The interior life of Islam is based most of all upon the power of prayer and the grace issuing from the sacred language of Arabic in which various prayers are performed. Prayer itself is the holy barque which leads man from the world of outwardness and separation to that of union and interiority, becoming ultimately unified with the center of the heart and the rhythm which determines human life itself.

The same process of interiorization takes place as far as the other central rites or pillars of Islam are concerned. Fasting is incumbent upon all Muslims who are capable of it during the holy month of Ramadan, a month full of blessings when according to the well-known hadith "the gates of heaven are opened". But the outward observation of its rules, while necessary, is one thing and the full realization of its meaning is another. Fasting means not only abstention from eating, drinking and passions during daylight but above all the realization of the ultimate independence of man's being from the external world and his dependence upon the spiritual reality which resides within him. Fasting is, therefore, at once a means of purification and interiorization complementing the prayers. In fact, it is itself a form of prayer.

The same truth holds true of the other rites. The pilgrimage or hajj is outwardly the journey towards the house of God in Mecca and inwardly circumbulation around the Ka'bah of the heart which is also the house of God. Moreover, the outward hajj is the means and support for that inner journey to the Center which is at once nowhere and everywhere and which is the goal of every wayfaring and journeying. The zakat or religious tax is likewise not only the "purifying" of one's wealth through the act of charity which helps the poor, but also the giving of oneself and the realization of the truth that by virtue of the Divine origin of all things, and not because of some form of sentimental humanitarianism, the other or the neighbour is myself. Zakat, therefore, is, in addition to a means of preserving social equilibrium, a way of self-purification and interiorization, of creating awareness of one's inner nature shown from artificial attachment to all that externalizes and dissipates.

Finally, the holy struggle / war or jihad is not simply the defense or extension of the Islamic borders which has taken place only during certain episodes of Islamic history, but the constant inner war against all that veils man from the Truth and destroys his inner equilibrium. The greater holy war (al-jihad al-akbar) as this inner battle has been called, by the Holy Prophet, is, like the "unseen warfare" of Orthodox spirituality, the very means of opening the royal path to the center of the heart. It is the battle which must of necessity be carried out to open the door to the way of inwardness. Without this greater jihad man's externalizing and centrifugal tendencies cannot be reversed and the precious jewels contained in the treasury of the heart cannot be attained. The jihad, like the prayers, fasting, pilgrimage and religious tax, while a pillar of Islam and a foundation of Islamic society, is also a means toward the attainment of the inner chamber and an indispensable means for the pursuit of the inner life in its Islamic form. 

The goal of the inward life in Islam is to reach the Divine as both the Transcendent and the Imminent. It is to gain a vision of God as the Reality beyond all determination and at the same time of the world as "plunged in God". It is to see God everywhere. The inward dimension is the key for the understanding of metaphysics and traditional cosmology as well as for the penetration into the essential meaning of religion and of all religions, for at the heart of every authentic religion lies the one Truth which resides also at the heart of all things and most of all of man. There are of course differences of perspective and of form. In Christianity, it is the person of Christ who saves and who washes away the dross of separation and externalization. In Islam, such a function is performed by the supreme expression of the Truth Itself, by the Shahadah, La ilaha ill'llah. To take refuge in it is to be saved from the debilitating effect of externalization and "objectivization" and to be brought back to the Center, through the inward dimension.

It is not for all men to follow the interior life. As already mentioned, it is sufficient for a Muslim to live according to the Shari'ah to enter paradise after death and to follow the interior path after the end of his terrestrial journey. But for those who seek the Divine Center while still walking on earth and who have already died and become resurrected; in this life the interior path opens before them at a point which is here and a time which is now.

"It is related that one night Shaykh Bayazid went outside the city and found everything wrapped in deep silence, free from the clamour of men. The moon was shedding her radiance upon the world and by her light made night as brilliant as the day. Stars innumerable shone like jewels in the heavens above, each pursuing its appointed task. For a long time the Shaykh made his way across the open country and found no movement therein, nor saw a single soul. 

Deeply moved by this he cried:
"O Lord, my heart is stirred within me by this Thy Court displayed in all its splendour and sublimity, yet none are found here to give Thee the adoring worship which is thy due. Why should this be, O Lord? 

Then the hidden voice of God spoke to him:
"O thou who art bewildered in the Way, know that the King does not grant admission to every passer-by. So exalted is the Majesty of His Court that not every beggar can be admitted thereto. When the Splendour of My Glory sheds abroad its radiance from this My sanctuary, the heedless and those who are wrapped in the sleep of indolence are repelled thereby. Those who are worthy of admittance to this Court wait for long years, until one in a thousand of them wins entrance thereto."

No religion would be complete without providing the path for the "one in a thousand". Islam as an integral tradition and the last plenary message of Heaven to the present humanity has preserved to this day the possibility of following the interior life, a life which, although actualized fully only by the few, has cast its light and spread its perfume over all authentic manifestations of the Islamic tradition.

- Selection from the article "The Interior Life in Islam" by prominent philosopher and scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr

+ For full article with references, follow the link:
+ Published in Al-Serat Journal, Vol. III, Nos. 2 & 3

* Good Read:
. THE INNER LIFE from the Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan Pin It Now!