The Great Book of Sermons
Today I talk about one of the greatest books ever written on spiritual life.
MUHAMMAD MAROOF SHAH
What better gift can we give to our friends than a good book? And if this book happens to be about the most important and treasured things of life then this gift can be life transforming. I don’t believe in guilemeuth but give books to my firiends who invite me for wiliema. Today I talk about one of the greatest books ever written on spiritual life. This is The Sermons of Meister Eckhart. Coomaraswamy said about Meister Eckhart, the greatest mystic-metaphysician of the Western world that the West doesn’t need Upanisads because they have Eckhart. Eckhart has presented the heart of metaphysics in a language accesible to ordinary mortals who are not well versed in philosophy and theology. He has delivered these sermons for the laity. I am reminded of sermons of some Sufis when reading him and in fact it is very difficult to imagine that the passages I shall quote here don’t represent the essence of other spiritual traditions as well. There is hardly anything Christian about them. In the realm of pure truth of metaphysics there is room only for the One. There is included in the collection under review edited by Blankey the Book of Divine Comfort. This is the best short treatment of the nagging question of suffering and I think anyone who has ever had any question regarding wisdom of suffering of good people or his own misfortunes, or who complains of bad luck will find the satisfactory answer in it. This is the best antidote for depression. Are you worried about anything? If yes kindly have a look at it.
I reproduce some quotations with as little a commentery as possible. About pure heart that he reckons as the greatest of blessings he says: “A pure heart is one who is unencumbered, unworried, uncommitted, and which doesn’t want its own way about anything but which, rather, is submerged in the loving will of God, having denied self” (p.4). What else is definition of the station of raza in Sufism? What can a pure heart pray for? He answers:
Then I ask: what is the prayer of the disinterested heart? I answer by saying that a disinterested man, pure in heart, has no prayer, for to pray is to want something from God, something added that one desires, or something that God is to take away. The disinterested person, however, wants nothing, and neither has he anything of which he would be rid. (88-89)
According to Eckhart “if the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘Thank You’ that would suffice.” There must be expressed gratitude for even suffereing.
Eckhart, on the basis of his own experience that he shares with the world fraternity of mystics, that there is an agent in the soul, untouched by time and flesh and the thorns of pain, which proceeds out of the Spirit and which remains forever in the Spirit. “In this agent, God is perpetually verdant and flowering with a joy and glory that is in him. Here is joy so hearty, such inconceivable great joy that no one can ever fully tell it” (Eckhart, 1973: 211). Eckhart further elaborates:
For this reason, if a person had a whole kingdom or all this world’s goods and left it solely for God’s sake, to become the poorest man who ever lived on earth, and if then God gave him as much to suffer as he ever gave any man, and if this person suffered it out until he was dead, and if then, even for the space of a moment, God once let him see what he is in this agent of the soul, all his suffering and poverty would seem like a very little thing beside the joy of it, so great in that moment (p.209).
If we have access to this centre of the soul all our joys that we have ordinarily experienced will apppear as nothing. And we will not demand anything else from God. This explains Rumi’s statement that if kings knew what Derveshes have they will abondon their palaces in the midnight and follow them. This also explains Dostovesky’s story in The Brothers Karamazarov regarding the sinner who forgets the suffering of countless years after tasting a moment in heaven. Why doesn’t a mout, a fakir, care for anything? This could be the reason
Here is Eckhart’s advice to those who have any ground for complaining about their misfortunes. “A good man can never complain of his misfortunes and distresses; he may only complain of his complaining – that he should be aware of it at all” (p.49). “If I am sad for passing things, not loving God with all my heart nor even giving him the love he might justly expect to meet in me, what wonder if God ordained that I should still suffer loss and pain.”
I further maintain that sorrow comes of loving what I cannot have. If I am sad about my own losses that is a sure sign that I love external things and really enjoy my sorrow and disease. What wonder, then, that I grow sad, loving my affliction and sorrow, if my heart seeks what it has lost and my mind attributes to things what belongs to God alone? I turn toward the creature from which discomfort comes in course and turn away from him from whom joy and comfort naturally come. What wonder, then, that I am sad and grow sadder? Truly it is impossible either for God or the world that any person should ever find true comfort when he looks to a creature for it, but those who only love God in the creature and the creature only in God shall discover real, true, and opposite comfort on all sides (p.47).
I suggest for those intersted in understanding the heart of traditional mysticism and metaphysics directly from the sources or traditional authorities reading selections from Eckhart, Ibn Arabi, Lao Tzu and Nagarjuna. It is a life’s treat. In Perry’s Treasury of Traditional Wisdom we find all of them represented.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 21 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 21 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 22 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST
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