A Little Ruzbihan Baqli Sampler- Part I
‘Shamsa’ from the Ruzbehan Qur’an, circa 1550,
In the collections of the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin-Ireland.
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA, is a little sampler from the ‘Kashf al-Asrar, The unveiling of secrets: diary of a Sufi master-Ruzbihan Baqli’-Translated from the Persian by Carl W. Ernst for Parvardigar Press in 1994. More to come soon with our Via-HYGEIA English translation from the French of Paul Ballanfat’s translations of other Ruzbihan Baqli’s works, such as ‘The births of the light of Unicity’ (1998), or the ‘Treatise on holiness’ (2000) and of course, Henry Corbin’s edition and translation of the ‘Jasmin of Lovers’.
A little background Information
Ruzbihan Baqli (1128–1209) is celebrated for numerous works he wrote in both Persian and Arabic, treating a range of subjects, from Quranic exegesis to prophetic traditions, Islamic law, theology, jurisprudence, language and grammar, Sufism, and biography. Ruzbihan is most renowned, however, for his extensive mystical writings, especially his Abhar al-ashiqin (The Jasmine of Lovers), in which he meticulously outlines theories of mystical love, and his Sharh-i Shathiyyat, (Commentary on Ecstatic Saying), in which he offers a commentary on the ecstatic locutions of mystics, particularly Husayn Mansur Hallaj (executed in 922). Ruzbihan belongs to the group of malāmatī (self-blame) mystics who, as described in this book, maintained “perfect obedience to the law in private and outrageous behavior designed to incur censure in public” (Ali Asghar Seyed-Gohrab’s review of Carl W. Ernst, Ruzbihan Baqli: Mysticism and the Rhetoric of Sainthood in Persian Sufism Richmond, U.K.: Curzon Press, 1996.)
Excerpts from the ‘Kashf al-Asrar,
The unveiling of secrets: diary of a Sufi master’-
Translated by Carl W. Ernst.
164. From Striving to Grace
I recalled the days of discipleship, and the requirements of striving that had overwhelmed me, and their falling away from my heart over a space of twenty years. I remained without discipline or striving, and the chants of the masters and their many preceding disciplinary exercises fell away from my heart, as though I no longer approved of them in the court of knowledge. For knowledge with me makes use of grace and other things besides discipline and striving, otherwise it is the knowledge of the common people. I rejected such thought, and was concerned whenever a thought occurred to my heart. A visitation of the hidden befell me and the Truth (glory be to him) was unveiled to me twice, once in the form of beauty, and once in the form of greatness. I looked at the beauty of his transcendent face with the eye of the heart, and he said to me, “How can they reach me by strivings and disciplines, if my noble face remains veiled to them? This is reserved for my lovers and the near ones among the knowers of God; there is no way to me except through me, and by the unveiling of my beauty.” After the ecstasies, the spiritual states, and the visitation, I returned to the creed of oneness and the election of his favor through what he wishes, to whom he wishes, as he wishes: “Grace is in the hands of God, he gives it to whom he wills” [Qur’an 57:29). And the sweetness of that remained until I slept.
166. The Garment of God
I saw the Truth (glory be to him) suddenly in the cracks in the hidden world, in the form of majesty and beauty, and he drew me near so that nothing remained between us; there was no between. Over and over he was kind to me, and made me see him as though he (who is transcendent and sanctified beyond change) wondered at my concerns. That is, it is not appropriate [to suppose that) his thinking should become confused like yours at the occurrence of suffering. During that time I was between intoxication and sobriety, and sighs and tears. Then he hid from me, then I saw him in that form and nearness. I saw him in the form of Adam facing the world of eternity, and he was in the form of greatness and beauty. The highlands of pre-eternity passed in front of me, and he looked at me with the eye of perfection, and magnified me, and left me in my form. I returned from the fields of oneness to the space of servanthood, raving and bewildered. The beauty of post-eternity was opened to me from the world of holiness, and he ravished me, and I was like a raving drunkard. The Truth (glory be to him) illuminated me with the light of the beauty of pre-eternity, and with it he filled creation and time. A light crossed the regions of the heavens and earth and shone upon his likeness, “for his is the highest likeness” [Qur’an 30:27), like the radiance of the red rose and red gold in a crucible. It overwhelmed everything. I said, “What is this?” It was said to me, “This is the manifestation of the garment of God.” Then he cast into my mind his transcendent saying “We shall show them our signs on the horizons and in themselves,” up to his saying “truly he witnesses everything” [Qur’an 41:53).
167. The Face in the Window
Then he hid, and then his face appeared from the window of the angelic realm, and he plundered my heart and spirit. Then his essence and attributes appeared, and he drew me near until there was only a cubic between us. I looked at his majesty and beauty, and I was intimate with him, and passionate, and I remained in that state for hours. Were it not for the grace and mercy of God when he appeared in the form of majesty, he would have consumed me with the flame of greatness and the lights of his sanctified sublimities. My heart flew in the form of longing in the air of ‘Illiyyin (the highest heaven), and the risings of the dawn of witnessing suddenly burst forth. All the prophets laughed at its light, and I saw myself in the desert of the hidden in the form of isolation. I heard the voice of God (glory be co him) from beyond the veils of greatness, and he said, “Welcome.” I smiled and marveled and was happy and entered ecstasy, and my conscience and spirit were glad. Then the beauty of the Truth arose in the form of majesty and greatness. Everything became beautified by his beauty, and illuminated by his light, but between us were fields and wastelands. He was manifesting himself from one world into the temporal world. I remained in the enjoyment of intimacy and the sweetness of witnessing.
169. The Eye of Vision
Then I saw the world of ‘Illiyyin (the highest heaven), and the veils of the presence were unveiled. I saw beyond a blue mountain the beauty of the sites where the Truth is witnessed, as though he had seized everything from Mount Qaf to Mount Qaf. I remained astonished and intimate with his majesty and beauty. That ended, night came, and was mostly gone. I saw the radiances of unveiling from the worlds of the hidden, but I was not satisfied with that. So he brought near to me that light and glory, and the Truth (glory be to him) appeared and sat by me (his greatness is transcendent), turning his face in the directions of his power, away from the witnessing of time. He said, “Look at me with the eye of vision.” My heart, spirit, soul, intellect, and form were in the lights of his majesty, drowned in the oceans of intimacy and ecstasy. When my conscience was calm, I said, “My God! Become my hearing, sight, tongue, heart, spirit, intellect, and all my parts, and drown me in the oceans of your divinity, so I can look upon your essence and your attributes without a veil, forever, with passion, longing, love, and knowledge.” Refreshing streams of ecstasy and flashes of manifestation descended upon my heart from the horizons of eternity, and I swam in the oceans of thought and remembrance. The nets of concentration were flung over the deserts of the hidden to trap the birds of the lights of might and the angelic realm. I saw in the beginnings of unveiling in my heart the joys of union.
172. Hide and Seek
I performed ablutions and prayed two cycles, and ecstasy overcame me during prayer. When I prayed, God spoke to me with noble invocations and gracious remembrances in my free prayer. He opened for my heart the doors of free prayer. What was in my heart came easily to my tongue, and the secrets of oneness and the graces of expansiveness were expressed on my tongue. The clouds of the hidden rained upon my conscience the rain of realities and subtleties. I spoke with the tongue of the prophets, and then I asked him for the vision of knowledge and perception. My concentration did not rise beyond existence; I did not know that he was with me. He appeared to me and said, “Where are you, when I am with you?” Then he hid, and then he surprised me; he seized me and tumbled me through the heavens of substantiality and the pavilions of majesty. I saw him in the abode of majesty in “the most beautiful form”; if the cherubs saw him in that form, they would all melt from the effect of his loveliness and his beauty. Then he made me enter the world of the sublimities of the essence, and between us were sublimities and oceans of holiness, shining more than the atoms of being. These were veils closer than which I could not approach by so much as the head of a pin. Here creation and time threw me, and I was astonished in the heart of my understanding at the form of the Truth (glory be to his majesty). I returned as one bewildered and lost. I was in the best of the brief states that arise from purity, and here was nothing but pure remembrance of God’s names, without disturbance. Union dawned suddenly, and the armies of manifestation passed the beauty of the Truth. I saw him as though he sought to manifest himself to increase my longing for him. Then I sought him after midnight, and I said to myself, “Would that I had seen the Truth (glory be to him) in the form of eternity!” Then he appeared to me in the most beautiful shape. He said, facing me, “Do you doubt that I am the lord of the worlds?”
175. Gazing at Beauty
I sat for meditation, and I saw on the bench of my house the Truth (glory be to him) unveiled of the robes of power, pure and dressed in majesty and beauty. He was acting as a beloved does with a lover, scattering from the beauty of his transcendent face a loveliness that, if Mount Qaf looked at it and saw the Most High in that form, it would melt from the sweetness of his beauty and the loveliness of union with him. I remained in that for hours, and sighs and tears overpowered me. Then he unveiled to me the world of holiness, and I saw him in the world of the angelic realm, and in the world of majesty in the form of beauty. He manifested himself from his beauty as that world, and I saw all that I had seen in the form of the beauty of the Truth. I saw none of the prophets, saints, and highest angels except with that beauty. I saw our Prophet, and he was drowned in that form, qualified by this attribute, and he was dancing. So also were all the prophets and angels. He brought me still nearer, and I saw him as though I saw the likeness of the full moon, with planets around it. It was a garment for beggars in the station of being clothed with divinity. The moon was the Truth (glory be to him), and these planets were the angels. The nearest of them to the Most High was Gabriel. It was as though they never hoped for anything from him, and as though they loved him passionately. The Most High was kind to them as though they were his family. Then he brought me near, and increased my nearness from the world of substance and eternity. I halted before his power and gazed upon him for hours. The doors of angels were closed to me, and these stations were bequeathed to me in intimacy, passion, love, and eloquence. Then God most high made peace descend on my heart, from which all worldly sorrows departed. May God increase us and you in the loveliness of his nearness and the nobility of his nearness.
180. Beyond Imagination
One night I was confronted with psychic imaginings, trivial imaginings, and spiritual imaginings. I tore their veils and saw their graces, and I thought about some of their shapes, from the sight of which my heart had fled. I was distressed by the sight of some of them, and I was astonished at my rank, until the beauty of God appeared to me suddenly, and there was such loveliness and beauty that I cannot describe it. I said, “My God! What are these likenesses in which I have been veiled before witnessing?” He said, “This is for one who seeks me in the first unveilings of my majesty, until he knows me through these veils, and this is the station of knowledge; one who only knows me through them is not a [true] knower of me. This is the station of striving for the people of witnessing.” Then he made me enter the veils of the hidden, and showed me his attributes with most of the clothing of majesty and beauty. Then he hid, and I abased myself before him, because I had found the sweetness of union and the pleasure of longing for beauty.
184. From the Dawning Orient
I was in the station of confidences, tales, and secrets unfolded. The Truth (glory be to him) showed me kindness by unveiling his lights, and the north wind of union blew in the deserts of my heart. My heart was assailed by the glory of the lightning of his holiness and the radiance of his majesty. He appeared to me and took from me every station and statement. He bequeathed to me a sweetness of heart, refreshment of spirit, agitation of conscience, and forgetfulness of all else. He drowned me in the ocean of ecstasy and spiritual states, and made sighs, rapture, tears, and sobs appear from me. When that station was perfected, the Truth (glory be to him) dawned upon me from the East of the hidden in a form that-My brother! I want you to see him in that form, and by God! If Mount Qaf saw him in that state, it would melt from the sweetness of witnessing him. It was as though he arose from the world of roses, glory, light, and lights. My conscience was reckless and my intellect was baffled, my heart was annihilated, and my eyes stared. I was in such a state, that if one of the angels that are nearest to God, or a prophetic messenger had seen me, they would have envied me.
190. Journeys of the Heart
I sent my heart to the world of time, and it reached the earth. Then it turned from the lower angelic realm to the higher angelic realm, and it turned above the throne; nothing existent remained with it. Then it crossed the wasteland of eternity between time and eternity. It reached the witnesses of lordship by way of the unveiling of the radiances of special actions to which existence is connected. Then it shot into the station of astonishment at lordship, the vision of the lights of action, the effects of power, and the wrath of eternity. Then the greatness of God most high and his majesty appeared to it, and it was as though it were in between the layers of surging oceans. Then it saw the infinitely great one, who is the form of the eternal essence. It was annihilated in the vision of the essence, and it acquired no comprehension or knowledge. But the Most High made it sec him without obscurity, and it remained there for hours, seeking the bestowal of rapture, bewilderment, sighing, and tears from that station. Then it resumed the journeys of eternity and saw the Truth (glory be to him) in the form of beauty, and he was facing it as though he appeared from the world of roses and light. He was kind to it with rare kindness. Then God most high appeared to it from another world, from the worlds of red roses, where the chosen presence was. God most high saw it, and God seized it by the hand, and embraced it and called out in the worlds of holiness, “This is a king. ‘Whose is the kingdom?'” [Qur’an 40:16] From that station appeared chosen passion, chosen love, intimacy, and divine presence.
196. Seeking the Seeker
Then he exposed me to the radiances of holiness and the lights of divine presence-glory be to him, for he transcends all that does not match his quality. My conscience agreed to seek the sublime and the splendid, starting from the world of the hidden, so I traversed time and reached the edge of eternity. I heard the word of the Truth (glory be to him) from the hiding place of pre-eternity, saying, “I created existence to seek me, and you have reached the station of holiness; who is there like you in the world? I seek you underneath my foot.” He appeared to me in the form of divinity, holiness, and transcendence. Everything other than him from the throne to the earth vanished beneath the assaults of his greatness. I witnessed him with visual witnessing, and it was the witnessing of the eye of greatness. He appeared in the witnessing of the beauty of divine presence-and that is a strange thing, since he [usually] displays the manifestation of beauty in the form of greatness. He agitated my conscience, made my intellect nothing, and tore my heart to bits. I was there for some time. Then he said, “You are seeking me and I am seeking you; if you look, you will find me in yourself, without taking the journeys of the hidden.”
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