The Great Sufi Master

Frithjof Schuon was a Sufi master and metaphysician and the chief exponent of the perennialist school of comparative religion. His approach toward truth is through the path of knowledge, similar to Jnana Yoga in Hinduism. In this short video he explains the relationship between religion and its esoteric dimension.

To Be Present

Every event in our lives is a gift that we will some day unwrap and appreciate. The very being of the moment, the ceaseless flow of conscious experience within which this life-world is given, is the primordial revelation of the One; we only take it for granted, as if it were our own consciousness; little do we realize that we too, along with the world, are known in and through consciousness which is always transcendent to all subsequent knowledge, including our self-knowledge.

There is only one unquestionable, brute fact that defines life and world: Impermanence. Our sciences, religions, philosophies, our state of knowledge and technology, all change; they have no absolute reign. But impermanence is the very nature of phenomena. What is ironic of human existence is that we accept and entertain all kinds of fiction with no trouble at all but we have not been able to accept and cope with this one brute fact. All the pain and suffering comes from our tantrums in the face of the inevitable, the impermanence of all things. So much for man as the rational animal!

When we judge a situation we are viewing it from our particular state of mind at the moment of judgment. Whether things are good or bad depends on our values at that moment. What we judge now as the worst mistake of our life may in a few years turn out to be the best gift of life, and then again the worst mistake when we judge it after a decade. If we are rational and reasonable animals, then we must see that judgment is the most futile epiphenomenon in nature. An act propagates endlessly into the inaccessible future; it has no end result, and hence no intrinsic value expect against the background of our our values and expectations.

One may object and bring the example of murder. But we ought to be objective and detached from our passions: A man who hates murder is more likely to commit murder when what he loves is destroyed. If we do not like murder here in America it is because we forget our democracy is founded upon the genocide of Native Americans, and this is for all great empires that ended up creating great men and women in history who transformed the masses. It would be a good research project for us to investigate and see how many people are being killed in poor countries for us to enjoy the little things of our everyday lives in developed countries!

And how about the murder of animals; it is perfectly justified as long as we like meat, though we prefer others do the murder for us. Thus, every single one of us is in one or another, directly or indirectly, involved in and benefiting from, whether physically or spiritually, some murder somewhere in history. But so far it was only the physical murder that concerned us, since we believe only in the physical reality; but there is more: On a daily basis we murder dreams, crush human spirits, and commit murder against ourselves by food and medication.

The pain and suffering will continue as long as our individual interests and benefits come before our objective intelligence which is really our consciousness of impermanence and the source of humility. This is so because the inevitable part of life, the impermanence, constantly gives and takes away, and hence constantly puts our egos under stress and strain. Insofar as we identify with the ego which is the inertia of the mind we won’t be able to face the inevitable and at once enjoy it. Ego is the cancer of the soul, and only divine radiation can eliminate it.

The good is Him; the bad is Him

The pleasure is Him; the pain is Him

In pain and pleasure, in hell and heaven, I am always with Him

If you have come to take Him away then take Him away, for this too is Him

He is the here and the away

He is both the Being and the Non-Being

It is not that we are made to suffer: Suffering is there in the world as the blue of the sky is there in the world; we feel the suffering only because we identity with it, thinking that it is ours. Both pain and suffering arise from our attachment to phenomena: Pleasure comes when our attachments are present and safe; pain comes when our attachments are being taken away. But attachment to and identification with the impermanent is suicide, for there is no pain without pleasure and no pleasure without pain. Suffering comes to an end only when we all learn to prefer peace to pleasure, unity to individuality, Oneness to mine-ness, God to ego.

What we must learn, and what spiritual traditions speak of, is precisely the art of facing the inevitable and undergoing impermanence. What is the original sin but lack of patience, and what is lack of patience but the reign of the ego, the snake of the Eden? If an object falls due to its mass, man falls due to its ego. The Fall is not so much the fall from heaven which is the eternal present given by the One. Our fall, the real fall, consists in our forgetfulness of still being in heaven and in His presence.

The existential angst of modern man, which is the vertigo of this apparent fall, comes from resistance against the inevitable. The return to the One, that is accepting the impermanence, is in the heart’s act of embracing Its present to us, and Its present which is Its presence is none other than the present, the now, which is indeed the primordial present. Thus, to be with the One is to be fully in the present, that is to be perfectly committed nihilists. It is often the case that our seeking the One makes us farther away from Him.

Meister Eckhart, a 13th century Christian mystic and theologian, says:

“A man must become truly poor and as free from his own creaturely will as he was when he was born. And I tell you, by the eternal truth, that so long as you desire to fulfill the will of God and have any hankering after eternity and God, for just so long you are not truly poor. He alone has true spiritual poverty who wills nothing, knows nothing, and desires nothing.” 

The Zen Master Nan-Sen says:

“Do not strive to seek the truth; only cease to cherish opinions.”

The Sufi Master Bayazid Bastami says:

“Knowledge of truth cannot be attained by seeking; but it is found only by those who seek it.”

To seek God in heaven, in church or mosque, in the saint and the prophet, is like seeking a picture of him who is always already present with us. To be with the One is to stop looking for Him and seeing Him in the very Being of everything in and around us.