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August 4, 2010


Eastern Sources of The Heart Doctrine

5c. From Islam & Sufism

to Bhagavan Sri Ramana, Gibran & Baha'u'llah

"I who cannot be fit into universes upon universes,
fit into the heart of the sincere believer."

 “Everything needs a kind of polish to cleanse it, 
and the polish for the Heart is the remembrance of God.”


"The heart is the treasury
in which God's mysteries are stored;
Seek the purpose of both the worlds
through the heart, for 
that is the point of it."

Sufi poet, Lahiji

"God placed a divine spark into
every human being.  And that divine spark
is the secret of secrets."

(Robert Frager/Sheikh Ragip, psychologist and Sufi Master
in conversation with Jonathan Cott: On the Sea of Memory: 
A Journey from Forgetting to Remembering, 2005)

In Islam, it is most important to have a benevolent heart—rather than a harsh heart.  The heart holds either your belief or kufr (disbelief); dedication or indolence and hypocrisy; your praise of Allah or your forgetfulness of Him; your happiness or misery; purity or insolence and sin;  mercy or inhumanity and heartlessness;  knowledge/wisdom or ignorance;  courage or cowardice; love or hate; decency or impropriety; chivalry or discourtesy; envy or jealousy and enmity; courage or cowardice;  and decency or impropriety.  There is a whole psychology to the heart and it determines the quality of a human being.  The greatest of gifts of Allah is the possibilities of a loving and enlightened heart, and the Islamic religion teaches practical ways to cure a heart’s harshness.  Especially this involves baring or uncovering one’s heart, and the experience of remorse for one’s wickedness and selfishness.   To work on your heart requires inner struggle and  learning to remember Allah and live by His moral teachings.  Upon death, a individual is judged and punished according to the qualities of the heart. 

The celebrated Sufi poet, Rumi, was born in Afghanistan in 1207 and died in 1273 in Turkey.  Rumi is associated with the Whirling Dervishes, a mystical order, which pursues spiritual realization through experiences of ecstasy and divine love.   Sufism is a form of esoteric or mystical Islam.  Rumi depicts the plight of the lost souls searching for God and Self, seeking in the outer world for what really lies within:

 Cross and Christians, end to end, I examined.  He was not on the Cross.  I went to the Hindu temple, to the ancient pagoda.  In none of them was there any sign.  To the uplands of Herat I went, and to Kandahar, I looked.  He was not on the heights or in the lowlands. ... I went to the Kaaba of Mecca.  He was not there. ...  I asked about him from Avicenna ....  (finally) I looked into my own heart.  In that, his place, I saw him.  He was in no other place.   (In Shah, 1968, p. 105)

 For humankind asleep, it is natural to look outwardly to find God--to go searching for God or spiritual experience.   However, people seldom experience the light, love and life within themselves, and feel awakened in the bliss of the heart.  Neither the soul nor God exist as objects for consciousness, as they are the source of light consciousness within Space itself, which emerge from within the depths of one’s heart.

The Self within the heart is the subtlest of hidden treasures, the source of that consciousness and life which turn outwards in search of self or happiness.

“There is a Soul inside of your Soul,

Search that Soul.

There is a jewel in the mountain of body.

Look for the mine of that jewel.

Oh, Sufi, passing,

Search inside if you can, not outside.”

Jalal al-Din Rumi

 The image of the jewel reminds us of the bliss sheath within the heart,described earlier as ‘the size of a small grape,’ or is suggestive of an even finer zero point source or Self.  In Christian teachings, the pearl of great price similarly suggests an actual centre to a human being.

In the Masnavi, Rumi’s great work composed over a forty-year period, he often refers to those “men of heart,” who glimpse the hidden mysteries.  Rumi explains:

The knowledge of men of heart bears them up,

The knowledge of men of the body weighs them down.

When ‘tis knowledge of the heart, it is a friend;

When knowledge of the body, it is a burden. ...

Yea, see in your heart the knowledge of the Prophet.

(In Whinfield, 1979, pp. 52-3)

 Of course, Rumi notes, “The people of the world lie unconscious, with veils drawn over their faces, and asleep;” (p.56) and are ruled by “the sickness of your heart.”

            In Sufism: The Alchemy of the Heart, Muhammad, Isa Waley explains that the Sufi’s goal is to attain Divine Grace, a love and a certainty which spring from direct knowledge and experience of God.   The Sufi thus attempts to invoke and remember the Name of the Lord. “Recline on the throne of the heart, and with purity in manner be a sufi.”  (Sa’di)   It is through the remembrance of God that the inner being becomes increasingly illumined and achieves detachment from the world of illusion.  With the selfless remembrance of God, attention to the egoistic self falls away and the heart and soul are transformed by the divine attributes.   The Sufi master is described as a “physician and trainer of hearts and souls” –the alchemist who brings about the inner transformation and illumination of the heart.

What is false is that which veiled by the veil of the ego and what is true by the veil of the Heart.  The veil of the ego is a dark, earthly veil, while the veil of the Heart is a radiant, heavenly veil.   (Umar al-Suhrawardi, in Waley, 1993, p. 33)

The power of love and of invocation and remembrance can open the heart to direct experiencing of the unseen–the world beyond or within.  The prophet Muhammad explained:   “Everything needs a kind of polish to cleanse it, and the polish for the Heart is the remembrance of God.”  (Waley, p. 48)  The heart is a mirror created by God and capable of reflecting the light and attributes of God.

     Another Sufi master, Hazrat Inayat Khan explains the nature of one who lives “the inner life”:
The exact meaning of the inner life is not only to live in the body, but to live in the heart, to live in the soul.  Why, then, does not the average man live an inner life when he too has a heart and a soul?  It is because he has a heart, and yet is not conscious of it; he has a soul, and knows not what it is. ... All this experience obtained by the outer senses is limited.  When man lives in this limitation he does not know that another part of his being exists, which is much higher, more wonderful, more living, and more exalted.  Once he begins to know this, then the body becomes his tool, for he lives in his heart. And then later he passes on and lives in his soul. ... When once he begins to realize life in his heart and in his soul, then he looks upon his body as a coat.   (1960, pp. 79-80)   

Many seem wide awake to the life without, but asleep to the life within; and though the chamber of their heart is continually visited by the hosts of heaven, they do not know their own heart; they are not there.  (1960, p. 123)
As Kahn says, humans are asleep and ignorant of the inner dimensions of the heart.  The deeper soul life lies beyond the external senses and outer dramas of life, the attachments,  conditioning and suffering.  The greatest treasure is to live fully within the life of the heart, and thereby, within the life of the soul.

Robert Frager, by his Sufi name—Sheikh Ragip, is an American psychologist and Sufi teacher.  Frager provides lucid descriptions of essential Sufi practices and teachings:

"The secret of secrets is the divine spark within each of us. 

Rememberence is remembering 
that which we already know
It is to get in touch with that divine spark
that God has placed within each human being.
In the Koran it says that God breathed from
the divine soul into Adam; 
another way of translating that would be
that God placed a divine spark into
every human being.  And that divine spark
is the secret of secrets.
My master put it this way:
That spark in us could set the whole universe
on fire. Its greater than the universe itself
because its a spark of what is infinite.
And its within every one of us.
Who we are is far more than who we think
we are. 
"To practice rememberence," you've said,
"is to unveil the knowledge and power 
and beauty of this spark of God within us."

Robert Frager/Sheikh Ragip, psychologist and Sufi Master
in conversation with Jonathan Cott, On the Sea of Memory: 
A Journey from Forgetting to Remembering  (Random House, N. Y., 2005)

A divine spark is a zero point source emanating out the infinite realm within.  This spark is beyond the level of physical differentiation in terms of the Planckian units of physics, beyond which we cannot measure.  A divine spark does not ‘have extension,’ as judged from the external viewpoint.  Recall Blavatsky described “material points without extension’ as the basis upon which the God’s and other invisible powers clothe themselves in bodies.  The divine spark then ensouls the body through the breath, spreading life and vitality from the heart and lungs.  Human consciousness is due to such a metaphysical process, which brings the light of consciousness and the life principle into the heart.  The divine spark exists always at the centre of our being at zero point levels, and through the breath and blood, consciousness and life are infused into a living, breathing human being.   Remembrance is recalling and living in this inner experience, which had strangely been forgotten, as the light has been so veiled.

A wide variety of eastern teachings elaborate the heart doctrine in some manner. In Revelation, Bhagavan Sri Ramana writes:

Unto that transcendental Being, the unborn (Self) shining in the Heart, in every creature, as the limitless I, the Guru of all gurus, my real Self and Lord ... The Sun of Pure Consciousness ... is most excellent.  Verse 1 & 3

Since that (Reality) dwells, thought-free, in the Heart; how can It,  - Itself named the Heart, - be meditated on?  And who is there, distinct from It, to meditate on It, the Self whose nature is Reality Consciousness?  Know that to meditate on It is just to be at one with It within the Heart.  Verse 4

When the mind, introverted by being engaged in the Quest of ‘Who am I,’ is lost in the Heart, and the ego bows his head in shame, there shines by Its own light a Pure Consciousness as the limitless Light; that (Consciousness) is not the spurious ego; It is the Transcendental, Infinite Reality: It is the blissful Real Self.  Verse 35     (Sarma, 1980)

In these beautiful verses, Bhagavan depicts the subtlest of ideas so simply.  To meditate on the Self “is to just be at one with It within the Heart”!

Elsewhere, in Kahil Gibran’s classic work, The Prophet, a man from the village approaches the Prophet and asks him to:

“Speak to us of Self-Knowledge.”

And he (the prophet) answered, saying: “Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights. But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge. You would know in words that which you have always known in thought....  the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes. But let there be no scales to weight your unknown treasure; ... For self is a sea boundless and measureless. ...  The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless pearls.”  (1968, pp. 54-55)

 Gibran contrasts the thoughts of the mind and ego with the secret self within the heart.  Whereas the mind is full of chatter, the Self within the heart is known in silence.  Again, the heart center is compared with a flower, a lotus unfolding from within-without.  In western traditions, the rose is the common symbol of the mysterious heart center.

Baha’u’llah, the prophet of the Bahai faith, also elaborates upon the inner mysteries of the heart:
How often hath the human heart, which is the recipient of the light of God and the seat of the revelation of the All-Merciful, erred from Him Who is the Source of that light and the Wellspring of that revelation.  It is the waywardness of the heart that removeth it far from God, and condemneth it to remoteness from Him.
Baha’u’llah depicts the Self as a light source–recipient of the light of God–within the heart.  Further, he asserts that it is the false or unnatural condition of the heart, in its waywardness, which obscures the deeper spiritual or divine realization of God.
    Baha’u’llah (1945) depicts the divine treasures hidden within the dimensions of the heart.  In the Valleys of Search and of Knowledge, the prophet explains:
    He hath most excellent names in the hearts of those who know. ...  there shall appear upon the tablet of thine heart a writing of the subtle mysteries ... and the bird of thy soul shall recall the holy sanctuaries of preexistence ... cleanse the heart–which is the wellspring of divine treasures ... . (pp. 2-5)
    With inward and outward eyes he witnesseth the mysteries of resurrection in the realms of creation and the souls of men, and with a pure heart apprehendeth the divine wisdom in the endless Manifestations of God.  In the ocean he findeth a drop, in a drop he beholdeth the secrets of the sea. Split the atom’s heart, and lo! Within it thou wilt find a sun.  (p.12)
     ... the grades of knowledge relate to the knowledge of the Manifestations of that Sun of Reality, which casteth Its light upon the Mirrors.  And the splendor of that light is in the hearts, yet it is hidden under the veilings of sense and the conditions of this earth, even as a candle within a lantern of iron, and only when the lantern is removed doth the light of the candle shine out.  In like manner, when thou strippest the wrappings of illusion from off thine heart, the lights of oneness will be made manifest.  (pp. 23-4)
    Knowledge is a light which God casteth into the heart of whomsoever He willeth.   (p.54)

“Split the atom’s heart, and lo! Within it thou will find a sun.”  These mystical verses suggest the deep origins of consciousness and life within inner dimensions of the heart, the mirror of the Sun of Reality.  The wisdom of the heart reveals and illuminates the mysteries of self and God.  The hidden self within the mystical dimensions of the heart is the source of light and life within the material body and originates from deep metaphysical realms.  The same themes are found throughout numerous Eastern and middle Eastern religious and mystical/spiritual teachings--from Islam and the Koran, to the Upanishads and Vedas of India, to the Sufi poets, prophets and seers of the wisdom teachings.

Eastern and mid-eastern spiritual teachings provide profound poetic and lyrical descriptions of the Self.  Mystics repeatedly identify the Self with the heart and relate it to the Supreme Self, or God.  Like the sun, the Self is self-luminous, a light emerging out of infinite light, a point source of consciousness reflecting a Supreme Consciousness.  The Self is also described as having a zero point source of origin—as a ‘divine spark,’ or ‘the secret of secrets.’   The Self and the Heart are mysteriously related to the larger universe, to the unity of life, to the experience of higher love and ultimate realities.  To gain the understanding and wisdom of the Heart and of Self is the primary goal of spiritual realization.

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Zero Point Dynamics

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