buddhanet magazine article



“I follow the Way of Love,
and where Love’s caravan takes its path,
there is my religion, my faith.”

Ibn ‘Arabi

“Saints and mystics throughout history have adorned their realisations with different names and given them different faces and interpretations, but what they are all fundamentally experiencing is the essential nature of the mind.”

Sogyal Rinpoche

Sogyal Rinpoche, in his work The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (1992), quotes from many of the world’s Great Wisdom Traditions. Given the richness and radical insight of both Dzogchen and Sufism it is understandable that he chose to quote the Sufi mystic poet Jalaluddin Rumi: “O love, O pure deep love, be here, be now! Be all; worlds dissolve into your stainless endless radiance” (1992, p364).

Like Dzogchen, Sufism uses exquisitely rich metaphors which Dzogchen practitioners may find both beautiful and insightful as they study the View. Through a sample of the ecstatic poetry from Fakhruddin ‘Araqi’s work, Divine Flashes (Lama’at), we hope such an opportunity is afforded. Both Dzogchen and Sufism are diamond-like Wisdom Teachings grounded in the Radical Primordial Reality. The goal of Sufism is to become the perfect mirror of the Formless through the purification of the heart. “In Sufism, as in most other authentic traditions, it is possible to become aware of the metaphysical transparency of forms and to be able to contemplate the One in the multifaceted manifold.”

“Fakhruddin ‘Araqi was contemporary with other giants of Sufism such as Ibn ‘Arabi, Jalaluddin Rumi and Sadruddin Qunawi, men whose teachings dominate Sufi spirituality to this day. He himself was a leading light in a period so luminous that its brilliance still dazzles the eye some seven centuries later.

‘Araqi was a Gnostic who spoke the language of love. For him, as for Sufism in general, love is not juxtaposed to knowledge. It is realised knowledge. The Truth, which is like a crystal or a shining star in the mind, becomes wine when it is lived and realised. It inundates the whole of man’s being, plucking the roots of his profane consciousness from this world of impermanence and bringing about an inebriation that must of necessity result from the contact between the heart of man and the Infinite… Thus ‘Araqi sees the phenomenal world not as a veil but rather as a mirror reflecting the infinite noble qualities and possibilities of Radiant Perfect Being.”

The Divine Flashes is especially beautiful as it intersperses poetry with lyrical prose, often with the former an ecstatic rendering of the latter. Furthermore, there is a sense in which the Divine Flashes is a union of the Western and Eastern Schools of Sufism. The Divine Flashes was inspired by one of Ibn ‘Arabi’s major works The Bezels of Wisdom. Born in Spain, Ibn ‘Arabi is considered by many Sufis to be the greatest of all Masters and his writings are revered as great treasures. Fakhruddin ‘Araqi was one of the most preeminent figures of the Eastern School, which was especially regarded for its musical and poetic expressions and was enriched by the great spiritual jewels of the East, including both Hinduism and Buddhism. “‘Araqi was at once a metaphysician of the Ibn ‘Arabi school of Sufism and an exceptional artist of the Persian school of Sufism (which was to culminate with Jalaluddin Rumi).” Hence in the treasure, which is the Divine Flashes, we have the infinite vision of Ibn ‘Arabi rendered into the most exquisite Persian poetry, written in the language of love by the master poet of this genre, ‘Araqi.

Sufi poets in general, and ‘Araqi in particular, often choose to speak of Reality in terms of Love, the Beloved and the lover. In this usage, Love refers to the Absolute or Essence, the Ground of Being (Rigpa), whilst lover and Beloved refer to seeker and Sought, person and God, creation and Creator, etc., respectively. Eternally, “there is but One Reality: Love or Sheer Being, which manifests Itself in two forms, the lover and the Beloved “. The lover is cast as masculine, the Beloved as feminine. This casting can be changed at will as the subject matter radically transcends such differentiation.

Essential dissolution of subject and object, and indeed all polarities, into a state of union or non-duality is the experience which is evoked by such poetry, and furthermore, is the goal and essence of Dzogchen practice, as beautifully revealed in The Six Vajra Verses, said to be a perfect résumé of Dzogchen Teachings:

‘Although apparent phenomena manifest as diversity —
yet this diversity is non-dual.
And of all the multiplicity
of individual things that exist,
none can be confined in a limited concept.
Staying free from the trap of any attempt
to say ‘it’s like this’, or ‘like that’,
it becomes clear that all manifested forms are
aspects of the infinite formless,
and, indivisible from it,
are self-perfected.
Seeing that everything is self-perfected
from the very beginning,
the disease of striving for any achievement
is surrendered,
and just remaining in the natural state
as it is,
the presence of non-dual contemplation
continuously spontaneously arises.”

The Six Vajra Verses (Quoted in Namkhai Norbu’s The Crystal and the Way of Light)

With such non-dual contemplation arises a clarity of View, as attested by Sogyal Rinpoche (1992, pp 152-153): “To see directly the absolute state, the Ground of our being, is the View;……. It is nothing less than seeing the actual state of things as they are; it is knowing that the true nature of mind is the true nature of everything; and it is realising the true nature of our mind is the absolute truth. Dudjom Rinpoche says: ‘The View is the comprehension of the naked awareness, within which everything is contained: sensory perception and phenomenal existence, samsara and nirvana. This awareness has two aspects: ’emptiness’ as the absolute, and appearances or perception as the relative’. What this means is that the entire range of all possible appearances, whether samsara or nirvana, all of these without exception have always been and will always be perfect and complete, within the vast and boundless expanse of the nature of mind. Yet even though the essence of everything is empty and ‘pure from the very beginning’, its nature is rich in noble qualities, pregnant with every possibility, a limitless, incessantly and dynamically creative field that is always spontaneously perfect.”

The following collage has been rendered from Fakhruddin ‘Iraqi – Divine Flashes, translated by W. Chittick and P. Wilson, 1982 SPCK. The authors of this article profoundly thank the translators for this exquisite work in English, “a close reading of which cannot but bring the reader to the words of ‘Araqi himself:

Before this there was one heart
but a thousand thoughts
Now all is reduced to
There is no love but Love.”

The poetry that follows is like an exquisite wine, which benefits from being consciously tasted and savoured, with a natural pause between sips.

DIVINE FLASHES (Lama’at) – Fakhruddin ‘Araqi

The Morning of Manifestation sighed,
the breeze of Grace breathed gently,
ripples stirred
upon the sea of Generosity.
The clouds of Abundance poured down the rain
upon the soil of preparedness;
so much rain that the earth shone with Light.
The lover, then, nourished with the water of life, awoke from the slumber
of non-existence, put on the cloak of being and tied around his brow the
turban of contemplation; he clinched the belt of desire about his waist
and set forth with the foot of sincerity upon the path of the Search.

The lover desires to see the Beloved with Certainty’s Eye, and wanders a bewildered lifetime in this aspiration. Then suddenly with his heart’s ear he hears a voice;
“The magic spring
that gives eternal Life,
is in your own heart
but you have blocked the flow.”

Then the Eye of Certainty opens, and staring inwardly at himself, the lover finds himself lost, vanished. But … he finds the Beloved; and when he looks still deeper, realises the Beloved is himself. He exclaims,

“Beloved, I sought you
here and there,
asked for news of you
from all I met;
then saw you through myself
and found we were identical.
Now I blush to think I ever
searched for signs of you.”

Everyone with eyes sees just such a vision … but remains ignorant of what he perceives. Every ant which leaves its nest and goes to the desert will see the sun, but not know what it sees. What irony! Everyone perceives Divine Beauty with Certainty’s Eye, for in reality nothing exists but Transcendent Unity;

They look, they see, but do not comprehend.
They take no pleasure in the View,
For to enjoy it one must know
through the Truth of Certainty
What he is seeing,
through Whom, and why.

And so, the lover seeks the Vision in order that he might pass away from existence; he knocks on the door of non-existence, for there he was once at peace. There he was both seer and seen, Both viewer and viewed … Because nothing in himself. When awakening from that peace and coming to be, he became the veil of his own sight and was deprived of Vision.

Know yourself: a cloud
drifting before your sun.
Cut yourself off from your senses
and behold your sun of intimacy.

If this screen … which is you … is struck from before your eyes, the Beloved will find the Beloved, and you will be entirely lost. Then you will say:

“By day I praised You
but never knew it;
by night slept with You
without realising;
fancying myself
to be myself;
but no, I was You
and never knew it.”

With the Eye of the Heart the lover now sees —
The Beloved’s Loveliness owns
a hundred thousand faces;
gaze upon a different fair one
in every atom;
for She needs must show
to every separate thing
a different aspect
of Her beauty.
Gazing from every angle
on that precious countenance
in Thy face we see our own —
hence the infinitude of descriptions.

Thus it is that every lover gives a different sign of the Beloved and every Gnostic a different explanation; every realised one seems to point to something different, yet each of them declares,

“Expressions are many
but Thy loveliness is one;
Each of us refers
to that single Beauty.”

All quotations not otherwise attributed and the collage (Divine Flashes 2,25,27,5) are drawn from Chittick and Wilson’s wonderful translation and commentaries, in which they have transliterated ‘Araqi’s name as ‘Iraqi (in other works the spelling ‘Eraqi has been noted). Should anyone wish to pursue further the topic of this article, the authors, Phil & Ian Brown, can be contacted through Rigpa Canberra. We wish to thank Lisse Stutchbury for her valuable comments during the finalisation of this article.