Sunday, May 3, 2009

Lattices of the Lamp

What are "I" and "You"?
Just lattices In the niches of a lamp
Through which the One Light radiates.
"I" and "You" are the veil
Between heaven and earth;
Lift this veil and you will see
How all sects and religions are one.
Lift this veil and you will ask---
When "I" and "You" do not exist
What is mosque?

What is synagogue?
What is fire temple?
……….Sa'd al-din Mahmud Shabistari (1250 – 1320)

The wisdom of the Sufi saints was profound. To understand this we need to look at the link between Islam and Sufi tradition. The Qu’ran informs us that Islam is not something that began with Prophet Muhammad some 1,400 years ago, but with the creation of the universe in which Adam was the first Prophet. Adam really means primal man, a concept similar to the Vedic Manu. Sufism is the timeless art of awakening the higher consciousness through submission to the Divine Will. The Sufi doctrine goes far beyond history and is rooted in the primordial covenant all unborn souls made with their Creator...

This view point is also reflected in all mystical traditions of the Middle East. Kabbalah states that the world of creation in the tree of life, known as Malchut, is the descended and dimmed light of Adam Kadmon (Primal light of God), which resides in the region of Keter (Crown). This light itself comes from the Ein Sof (Divine fullness). It is the same divine radiance that manifests itself in all creation.

The beauty of the poem cited above authored by the Sufi poet, Sa'd al-din Mahmud Shabistari, reflects this thought. All differentiations are lattices. This is the reason that Islamic architecture so heavily depended on lattices in marble and symmetry in execution. The light that resided inside can be reflected with minimal obstruction.

Every culture has to have its own lattice and the example of the lamp shielded by an external lattice or veil is very apt in depicting the differentiation. If we reside in a very windy area we cannot have an exposed lamp and its need proper glass covering to protect the flame from going out. So also in a terrain where there are moths and insects but the air is still we need latticed cover so that maximum light is available without allowing entry for the insects. If we have a light source that is rugged and provides enough energy to fuel the flame in extreme conditions, we require only a mechanical protection so that the flame does not burn through accidental contact. All great spiritual teachers, like Prophet Mohammed, were lamps that required no lattice or veil. For them differentiation was absent and under the glow of divine love only one Umma (community) was needed. A verse in the Qu’ran, after all, proclaims that Allah has created different “tribes and peoples, so that they should get to know each other”, hence Umma is a spiritual community operating on a higher plane of consciousness and not a religious identity.

Hence all cultural deviance must be given value in understanding the one light that resides in all but it would be foolish to value the cover of the lantern without tending to the need of the flame whose core function is to give light.

Love to you all

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