Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bayazid Bastami's God of the Heart.

I often turn to "heretical" sufi masters when the orthodoxy of proprietors of Islam becomes too much for me, and there is none more heretical than 9th century Persian drunken Sufi master: Bayazid Bistami.

Schooled into occult mysteries by the Eight shia imam, he still scandalized religious orthodoxy  with his "drunken" sayings. I love him personally for his focus on(what my boss refers to as )THE FUNDAMENTALS: the connection to God.

Bayazid says: "I saw God in a dream and asked Him what is the path towards You? 
He replied, Abandon yourself and you are already there." (Attar 1976).

In search of Love I wandered far and wide,
From thought to thought and fear to fear I went,
The final clue is buried in your stare:
So long as 'I' continues to exist
The sun I seek is shrouded in "I's" mist

These lines are written by one of the earliest and most drunk of all Sufi's .....Bayazid Bistami believed god lay in the heart and was not to be accessed by religious ritual but by eliminating the ego and recognizing the divine.

To make sure that he will not be wrapped up again in his foolish imagination, God lays down the condition for Bayazid's encounter with the Real: Do not see yourself.
His paradoxical sayings gained a wide circulation and soon exerted a captivating influence over the minds of students who aspired to understand the meaning of the wahdat al-wujud, Unity of Being. It is most likely Bayazid learnt this doctrine from the Twelve Imams, who declared "We are the Wajhullah (Face of God), we are the Eyes of Allah, we are the Hands of Allah"
These sayings are some of Bayazid's famous sayings that caused him to be labeled as an intoxicated Sufi.

"I am I; there is no God but I; so worship me!
"Glory be to me! How great is My majesty!"
"Thy obedience to me is greater than my obedience to Thee"
"I am the throne and the footstool"
"By my life, my grasp is firmer than His"
"I saw the Kaba walking round me"
"Moses desired to see God; I do not desire to see God;He desires to see me


Let's begin with Bayazid's understanding of God. The following story appears in Hujwiri's Kashf al-mahjub, the oldest Persian treatise on Sufism:

It is related that Bayazid said: "I went to Mecca and saw a House standing apart. I said, 'My pilgrimage is not accepted, for I have seen many stones of this sort.' I went again, and saw the House and also the Lord of the House. I said, 'This is not yet real unity.' I went a third time, and saw only the Lord of the House. A voice in my heart whispered, 'O Bayazid, if you did not see yourself, you would not have been an idol-worshipper even though you saw the whole universe, but since you see yourself, you are an idol-worshipper blind to the whole universe.

'Thereupon I repented, and once more I repented of my repentance, and yet once more I repented of seeing my own existence' (Adapted from Hujwiri 1976, p. 108).

Hajj is a sacred ritual that all Moslems are obligated to perform at least once in their lifetime. At the time of Bayazid this was perhaps the ultimate goal in life. The journey was extremely harsh and, in fact, most pilgrims didn't know if they would ever come back. 
Like everyone else, Bayazid takes up this journey with eagerness. But unlike almost everyone else, he also approaches it with utmost seriousness. Since he is going to the house of God, it is only natural for him to expect that he will see God. Anything short of seeing God is not good enough for him. But he arrives only to see an ordinary house built with stones and mud. He is clearly dissatisfied. He makes a vow to himself that he will continue making the pilgrimage to Mecca until he sees God. 
At this point he has probably immersed himself completely in all sorts of litanies, remembrances, recitations, prayers and anything else that will make him forget the house ” the world in other words ” and bring him closer to God. 
After his third trip, he finally sees the Lord, or at least thinks that he has seen the Lord. He is joyous and content at this point, but clearly the Lord is not. God tells Bayazid that He doesn't care if he sees the world or not. He only cares if Bayazid doesn't see himself. And it's only when he ceases to see himself that Bayazid can truly say that he has seen God.

This is when Bayazid says ;
The final clue is buried in your stare:
So long as 'I' continues to exist
The sun I seek is shrouded in "I's" mist

Bayazid repents first from thinking he has seen God, and second he repents from that repentance for this is just another manifestation of his being; finally, he repents from seeing his own existence altogether.

He addresses GOD;"Oh, Allah, this is how I see myself. I am not offering You my life's mortification, my constant prayers, my day and night fasting, You know that nothing will take me from You. I confess that I am shameful, I have nothing, You are the One who has given me all this fortune. I witness that there is no god but You. Your have accepted me. Purify me from my errors, forgive my faults, wash away my shortcomings.

Bayazid comes to understand the difference between the god of one's imagination and the Real God. The former is constructed perhaps by immersing oneself in meditation and contemplation of the divine to the point that one becomes completely oblivious to the rest of the world. Clearly, this is not satisfactory, for the simple reason that one's imagination is self-serving. It constructs a god out of one's psychological need or possibly as a projection of one's ideals. But ultimately it is constructed for one's own sake. Bayazid sees this flaw in his own pursuit of God. The Real God is not self-serving. He is independent of one's wishful thinking and imagination. 

A prayer remained from Bayazid:
Oh, Allah, how long this “you” and “I” remain between You and I. Take this “I” from me so all that remains is “You”.
Oh, Allah, when I am with You I am greater than all; when I am without You I am nothing.
Oh, Allah, my poverty took me to you and Your blessings protected my poverty.

Being asked his age, he replied, "I am four years old." "How is that, Sheikh?" they said. "For seventy years," he said, "I have been enveloped in the veils of this dull world; it is only four years since I disentangled myself from them and see God." Being asked to define Sufism, he said, "Sufism consists in giving up repose, and accepting suffering."

In the last moments of his life he put on a girdle and seated himself in the "mihrab" of the mosque. Then, turning his cloak and cap inside out, he said;

 "My God, I ask for no reward for the austerities I have practised all my life. I say nothing of the prayers which I have prayed during whole nights, of the fasts I have kept during the day, of the number of times I have said the Koran through. O my God, thou knowest that I think nothing of the works which I have done, and that so far from putting trust in them, I would rather forget them. Besides, is it not thou who hast covered my nakedness with the raiment of these good works? As for me, I consider myself as a fire-worshipper who has grown to old age in a state of infidelity. But now I say 'Allah! Allah!' and I cut the girdle of the idolator. I enter Islam as a new proselyte, and I repeat the profession of the Moslem faith. I reckon all that I have done nothing. Deign, for Thy mercy's sake, to blot out all my evil deeds and transgressions." When he was dying, he again ejaculated "Allah! Allah!" Then he cried, "My God, I have passed my life in neglect of thee; I have not served Thee faithfully," and expire

1 comment:

  1. Dul Nhun, the egyptian, has sent a disciple from Cairo after Bayazid, to know how his friend was going . The guy didn´t know Bayazid and, arrived in Bustami, Bayazid was in his hovel. He looked at Bayazid and asked if that old man was Bayazid. "What Bayazid do you wish to see? Now I am Bayazid, however I´ve been search for him over 70 years withou any effect...". José Ricardo (Brazil)