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Spiritual Meditations ( 22 Jan 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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All Those Who Are Ready To Put The Other Before The Self Are Ready To Access Latent Reservoirs Of Joy

By Muhammad Maroof Shah

Nov 07, 2020

If to say ‘I’ is a lie, as Simone Weil noted, and if joy consists in knowing Truth/Reality, it follows that it would require giving up this lie of ‘I.’ If joy requires health and the basic pathology is one of being somebody, one needs being nobody. Iqbal said, “Strive hard in the ways of selflessness to discover and realize your self.”

The purpose of life, as Chinese says, is happiness. In fact happiness/joy/bliss figures as a fruit of religio-mystical life. God framed in the Vedantic ternary of Sat, Chit and Ananda or Platonic ternary of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty or Islamic ternary of Wuju¯d–Wijda¯n–Wajd, “Being–Consciousness–Ecstasy,” grounds/connotes superabundant joy. Heaven is, in every tradition, pre-eminently a space where spirit blooms and that is manifested in joy. Nirvana is the highest joy as is the Self according to Buddhism and Upanishads respectively.

Union/proximity with the Source/Origin which is God/Being is always manifest through joy. The division of life into various stages or categorization of joys associated with each also shows joy centric interpretation of life and its goals in traditional India. Even the supposedly pessimistic religions/traditions such as Buddhism are geared towards maximizing happiness and have produced exemplary beauty in their cultures. To quote the Dhammapada: “Let us live happily then, we who possess nothing. Let us dwell feeding on happiness like the shining gods… Health is the greatest of gifts, contentment is the greatest wealth; trust is the best of relationships. Nirvana is the highest happiness.” Eudamonia, felicity, salvation, deliverance, satori, enlightenment, the kingdom of God, beatific vision or other terms used for ethico-religio-spiritual ends all have in common conquest over sorrow and concomitant happiness/joy/bliss that constitutes the substance of consciousness/Spirit. Other ideals such as contentment, peace or cessation of suffering are also expressible in terms of the joy that is Spirit.

We don’t get access to joy as the latter is not in some remote corner or an abstract region but we are made of the very substance of joy. Joy is only manifested as its treasures lie all the time within us. External events or supports for contemplation help evoke it. Ordinarily encountering our family members, friends, art objects, nature, music, play mediate this evocation by paving way for overcoming the sense of separate self/ego that explains their universal value for mankind.

The cost of joy is a readiness to lose our very dear self. To lose oneself is to find joy and our resistance to it is also universal. All those who are ready to put the other before the self or lose themselves in pursuit of excellence or perfecting style are more ready to access latent reservoirs of joy. Artists, children, saints, players, devoted workers – karma yogis, lovers, have especially little resistance for losing themselves or losing the sense of time in work/play/rest and no wonder they live more meaningfully or joyfully.

The secret of attraction of watching a play is the universalization of consciousness. We treasure those moments in which we aren’t or time is not, moments in which the subject loses himself in the object and in fact there is only experiencing and not experience an object by a subject. The formula remains valid in religion, in philosophy, in literature and art and in such pursuits as crafts and sports that when unity is realized, joy follows.

Whenever and wherever the sense of time which is in fact the principle of sorrow due to separation from the Real/Consciousness/Self is lifted, we touch eternity which is heaven here and now. Unity means there is no other to Self/Consciousness and thus Ananda has to manifest. The following analysis captures the paradoxical nature of the assertion that to find oneself one has to lose the self we ordinarily identify with and to subsist in God one has first to be annihilated.

The paradox is that the “I” ceases to be “I” and yet continues to be “I.” “I” finds that the dissolution of “I”, its disappearance, is not the extinction of “I” but on the contrary is the “I’s” only true life.” The fear of loss of personality is quite unfounded. The loss of personality (if so it were) is “the only true life” as Ternyyson once remarked. With theists, we can maintain the difference between God and the finite self but reject their rejection of their identity. The paradox of identity in the difference has to be underlined. It implies that future life as a loss of separate individuality while at the same time the “I” is not annihilated but enjoys in ultimate peace.

Panniker has observed, “The more we are the other, the more we are ourselves . . . to be our true self we must transcend our ego and become also lily.” And explains the rationale:

The “end of Man,” then, is not individual happiness but full participation in the realization of the universe—in which one finds as well one’s “own” joy . . . You need not worry about your own salvation or even perfection. You let live, you let be. You don’t feel so much the need to interfere with Nature as to enhance, collaborate, and “allow” her to be.”

Given the distinction between soul (with which mind and personality are identified) and spirit, we need to recall shocking call for denying the soul by Jesus. Al-Ghazali calls the soul (the self we are here required to lose to find the true self/Self) “the greatest of your enemies.” Elsewhere we are also told to slay the tempter soul. Abu Sa’id asks: “What is evil, and what is the worst evil?” and answers, “Evil is ‘thou,’ and the worst evil ‘thou’ if thou knowest it not.” Ananada Coomaraswamy remarks here that Abu Sa’id, therefore, called himself a “Nobody,” refusing, like the Buddha, to identify himself with any nameable “personality.” Personality is a mask that is not to be identified with. It is the nameless colourless light of being, the luminous centre of awareness, the Spirit that is in us and not ours that constitutes our true being and salvation. We transcend all the roles or actions and masks. We are the celestial children of Light and accordingly our dignity is far higher than due to anybody on earth.


Muhammad Maroof Shah, Author and Columnist Interested in the interface of philosophy, literature, religion and mysticism and exploring dialogue between the Religio-mystical and the Secular, Perennial Philosophy and Postmodern Thought, world religions and multiple identities within and without. Islam\'s dialogue with the religious other, trans-theistic mysticism, engaging with various resources on overcoming contemporary nihilism and seeking to philosophize are special fascinations.

Original Headline: To be is not to be: Oneself as Other

Source: The Times of India


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