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11 January 2008, 07:18 AM
Sufism and Advaita

Some considerations of Frithjof Schuon:

Among explicit doctrines, the Vedanta stands out as one of the most direct formulations possible of what constitutes the very essence of our spiritual reality. This directness is compensated by its requirement of renunciation, or, more precisely, of total detachment (vairagya).
The Vedantic perspective finds its equivalents in the great religions which regulate humanity, for truth is one. Their formulation, however, may be dependent on dogmatic perspectives which restrict their immediate intelligibility, or which make direct expressions of them difficult of access. In fact, whereas Hindusim is as it were made up of autonomous fractions, the monotheistic religions are organisms in which the various parts are formally bound up with the whole.
Hinduism, although it is organically linked with the Upanishads, is nevertheless not reducible to the Shivaite Vedantism of Shankara, although this must be considered as the essence of the Vedanta and so of the Hindu tradition.

In Sufism the term Huwa, ‘He’, in no way signifies that the Divine Aseity is conceived in an objectivized mode, but solely that it is beyond the distinction between subject and object which is designated by the terms ana and anta, ‘I — thou’.

The demiurgic tendency is conceived in the Vedanta as an objectivation, and in Sufism it is conceived as an individuation, and so in fact as a subjectivation, God being then, not pure ‘Subject’ as in the Hindu perspective, but pure ‘Object’, ‘He’ (Huwa), That which no subjective vision limits. This divergence lies only in the form, for it goes without saying that the ‘Subject’ of the Vedanta is anything but an individual determination and that the Sufic ‘Object’ is anything but the effect of an ‘ignorance’. The ‘Self (Atmä) is ‘He’, for it is ‘purely objective’ in as much as it excludes all individuation and the ‘He’ (Huwa) is ‘Self and so ‘purely subjective’ in the sense that it excludes all objectivation.

The Sufic formula La anã Wa la Anta. Huwa (Neither I nor Thou: He) is thus equivalent to the formula of the Upanishads Tat tvam asi (That art thou). Where the Vedantist speaks of the ‘unicity of the Subject’ (or more precisely ‘non-duality’, advaita), a Sufi will speak of the ‘unicity of Existence’ (that is, of ‘Reality’, wa4dat al-Wujud). In Hindu terms the difference is that the Vedantist insists on the aspect of Chit (‘Consciousness’) and the Sufi on the aspect of Sat (‘Being’).[1] (http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/#_ftn1) That which in man goes beyond individuality and all separateness is not only pure ‘Consciousness’ but also pure ‘Existence’. Ascesis purifies the existential side of man and thus indirectly purifies the intellectual side. If man could confine himself to ‘being’ he would be holy by that very fact; this is what Quietism believed it had understood.

Atma is pure Light and Bliss, pure ‘Consciousness’, pure ‘Subject’.[2] (http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/#_ftn1)Maya, the power of illusion consequent upon the infinity of the Self. There is nothing unrelated to this Reality; even the ‘object’ which is least in conformity with It is still It, but ‘objectivized’ by
This is the very definition of universal objectivation. But within it one must distinguish further between two fundamental modes, one ‘subjective’ and the other ‘objective’. The first mode is the following: between the object as such and the pure and infinite Subject there stands, as it were, the objectivized Subject, that is to say the cognitive act through which, by analysis and synthesis, the bare object is brought back to the Subject. This function of objectivizing (in relation to the Subject, which then, as it were, projects itself upon the objective plane), or of subjectivizing (in relation to the object which is integrated in the subjective and so brought back to the Divine Subject), is the spirit which knows and discerns, the manifested intelligence, the consciousness, which is relative and so capable in its turn of being an object of knowledge. The other fundamental mode of objectivation may be described thus: in order to realize the Subject, which is Sat (Being), Chit (Knowledge or Consciousness) and Ananda (Bliss), it is needful to know that objects are super-imposed upon the Subject and to concentrate one’s mind on the Subject alone. Between the objective world, which then becomes identified with ‘ignorance’ (avidya) and the Subject, the Self (Atma), there is interposed an objectivation of the Subject. This objectivation is direct and central; it is revelation, truth, grace and therefore it is also the Avatara, the guru, the doctrine, the method, the mantra. Thus the sacred formula, the mantra, symbolizes and incarnates the Subject by objectivizing It and, by ‘covering’ the objective world, this dark cavern of ignorance, or rather by ‘substituting’ itself for it, the mantra leads the spirit lost in the labyrinth of objectivation back to the pure Subject.
That is why in the most diverse traditions the mantra and its practice,japa, are referred to as ‘recollection’ (the dhikr of Sufism): with the aid of the symbol, of the Divine name, the spirit which has gone astray and becomes separated ‘recollects’ that it is pure ‘Consciousness’, pure ‘Subject’, pure ‘Self.

‘Union’ (yoga): the Subject (Atma) becomes object (the Veda, the Dharma) so that the object (the objectivized subject, man) may become the (absolute) Subject. ‘Deification’: God became man so that man might become God. ‘Man’ pre-exists in God — this is the ‘Son’ — and ‘God’ pre-exists in man — this is the Intellect. The point of contact between God and man is, objectively, Christ and, subjectively it is the purified heart, ‘intelligence-love’. ‘Unification’ (tawhid): the One (illa-Llah) became ‘nought’ (la ilaha), in order that the ‘nought’ might become the One; the One became separate and multiple (the Koran) in order that the separate and multiple (the soul) might become the One. The ‘multiple’ pre-exists in the One — this is the uncreated Koran, the eternal Word — and the ‘One’ pre-exists in the multiple: this is the heart-intellect, and in the macrocosm it is the universal Spirit.

[1] (http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/newthread.php?do=newthread&f=11#_ftnref1) At least in the school of Wujudiyah (from Wujud ‘Existence’, Wujud mutlaq being ‘Absolute Existence’, God) though not in that of Shuhudiyah (from shuhud, ‘direct vision’, the word Shahid meaning ‘Witness’ like the Sanskrit word Sakshi) the perspective of which is closely analogous to that of the Vedanta. The two perspectives referred to necessarily have a Koranic foundation, but the former is doubtless more in conformity with the most apparent meaning of the Book. The latter school has been falsely accused of immanentism because of its thesis of the ‘One Witness’ and of indefinitely diversified ‘mirrors’.

[2] (http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/newthread.php?do=newthread&f=11#_ftnref1) The notion of ‘the subject’, far from being only psychological, is before all else logical and principial and so cannot be restricted to any particular domain; the obvious subjectivity of the faculties of sensation already proves that the pair ‘subject-object’ does not belong solely to the realm of psychology. All the more is it true that metaphysical notions such as the ‘Witness’ (Sakshin) in the Vedanta or, in Sufisrn, the ‘Knower’ (Al-Aqil, with its complement Al-Ma‘qul, the ‘Known’), or again the ‘Divine Subjectivity’ (Anniyah, with its complement Huwiyah, the ‘Divine Objectivity’) have nothing whatever to do with any kind of psychology.