Vadan Commentary

Music of the Spheres: Gamaka Commentaries, Vadan

“Art is dear to my heart, but nature is near to my soul.”

In the human being, the soul comes first. Before the mind crystallizes, there is simply a channel of life flowing from the Unseen into the visible world. The subtle template of the mind precedes birth, but it is only with incarnation that the terrestrial mind takes full form. As the mind grows, the give-and-take between what is within and what is without produces the fruit we call the heart.

In the macrocosm, primal nature comes first. Nature, you might say, is the soul of the universe, its original condition. Then comes humanity, Vulcan, who forges the raw stuff of the cosmos into novel forms, physical and noetic. When this transformation of material is inspired and inspiring, it is called art. In this sense, art is the beating heart of the universe.

Nature and art each have their incomparable magic. Nature is vast and intricate beyond all human imagining. Art is poignantly human. The first is redolent of being, the second, fragrant of becoming. Nature is the mirror of the soul and art is the lamp of the heart.

Music of the Spheres: Gamaka Commentaries, Vadan

“My friends lull me to sleep, but my enemies keep me awake.”

The presence of a friend is pure ease. Friends think alike, and when they differ, differ amicably. With a friend one feels little need to watch one’s step; the friend is always ready to overlook or forgive missteps. The friend knows one’s heart.

An enemy is a different animal. Far from overlooking missteps, the enemy stands ready to pounce on the slightest false move. In fact, the enemy delights in making what is innocent look nefarious.

In this way the enemy teaches wakefulness. With enemies about, one is compelled to expect the unexpected and take nothing for granted.

Even if the enemy is outrageously harsh, there is usually a grain of truth in what the enemy says. We do well to listen. While the friend mirrors our persona back to us, the enemy mirrors our shadow. The first shows us what we wish to see and the second what we do not.

Perhaps there is no truth whatsoever in what the enemy imputes. In that case, one learns patience. All will be made clear at the great Reckoning. Till then, one learns not to be dependent on others’ esteem.

The real enemy is the selfishness within us. May it keep us awake on the path that leads to the Friend.

Music of the Spheres: Gamaka Commentaries, Vadan

“Nothing new I say when I speak, I only renew the memory of things which may not be forgotten.”

Imagine falling asleep and waking up devoid of memory. This is a description of the human condition.

We are travelers from beyond time and space. We are extraterrestrials—in fact, extracelestials.

            My place is the Placeless, my trace is the Traceless;

            ‘Tis neither body nor soul, for I belong to the soul of the Beloved.

But we’ve fallen into amnesia. We imagine our skin is the boundary of our being. We forget we are children of the void, siblings of the stars, and parents of a new universe.

We are like the lion cub that wandered away from its pride and fell in with a herd of sheep. Before long it too began bleating and eating grass. One day a lion found the cub. As the cub quivered in terror, the elder lion nudged it along to the shore of a lake. The cub looked into the lake’s mirror, and looked again. The face staring back was not the face of a sheep.

The Murshid is the lion that shows you that you are a lion.

Music of the Spheres: Gamaka Commentaries, Vadan

“I neither defend the wrongdoer nor do I condemn him.”

Wrongdoing is unbeautiful action, action that mars the world rather than adorning it. Wrongdoing goes against the grain of the universe and yet is intrinsic to its unfolding story. It is against the background of the unbeautiful that the beautiful is distinguished.

By defending wrongdoing one makes oneself an accomplice. But neither is condemnation a simple matter. To condemn is to put oneself in the position of judge. Does one really have all of the facts? Is one’s impartiality beyond question?

Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” To cast an accusation is to run the risk of hypocrisy. That which stirs our condemnation always exists in some degree within ourselves. Otherwise we would not recognize it in the world around us.

Acts of tyranny must be challenged if there is to be justice in the world. But solving the problem of the wrong and denouncing the wrongdoer are two different matters. No soul is wrong, but minds go wrong. What misguided minds need is healing, good guidance, and an open door to new possibilities.

Music of the Spheres: Gamaka Commentaries, Vadan

“None need I remove to place another in my heart;
My heart is large enough to accommodate each and all.”

The heart is the container in the mind in which others find a place within the self. The more malleable the heart, the more numerous the presences it can contain. A rigid heart can hold only so much, and is prone to crack when stretched, whereas a flexible heart can expand to encompass multitudes.

The secret of expansion is witnessing the One in the many. Perceiving separate beings—beings imagined as separate from oneself, from each other, and fundamentally, from God—is exhausting. Perceiving the One shining out in innumerable names and forms, by contrast, buoys the spirit and deepens the contentment of the witness.

The voice of the One declares, “I am contained in no thing, but I am contained in the heart of the sincere worshiper who loves me.” The heart devoted to the All-in-All has room for each and all. “My heart has become capable of all forms,” sings Shaykh al-Akbar.

For the heart that beats for God, love is not a fixed resource. Love is God; hence there is no end to its supply.

A feeling arises, like the turning on of a light. A generous glow suffuses the universe. Everything is woven into everything else. Meanings succeed meanings in a vast regress as far as the eye can see. The Ancient Bird is on the wing.

This feeling must always be kept alive.

Music of the Spheres: Gamaka Commentaries, Vadan

“My presence stimulates in your heart that feeling that must always be kept alive.”

The Murshid may teach the murid the ways of prayer, fasting, and vigils in the night. The Murshid may tell stories of the prophets and saints of long ago. The Murshid may speak of the invisible world. None of this, however, is of the essence. The essential work of the Murshid is to stimulate the heart of the murid.

This is a work, and yet it is not a work. There is no force in it. It happens naturally and effortlessly. The Murshid touches the heart of the murid not by doing, but by being. The Murshid’s words and deeds are the shore of an ocean of limitless depth.

The presence of the Murshid stirs a distant memory. The Murshid is of this time and this place, but also of the timeless and the placeless. The Murshid has a form, but is also formless.

A feeling arises, like the turning on of a light. A generous glow suffuses the universe. Everything is woven into everything else. Meanings succeed meanings in a vast regress as far as the eye can see. The Ancient Bird is on the wing.

This feeling must always be kept alive.

Music of the Spheres: Gamaka Commentaries, Vadan

“I have not come to teach you what you know not, I have come to deepen in you that wisdom which is already yours.”

The sun, the moon, and the stars inhabit you. A worshipful angel stands hidden within your frame, and a visionary djinn. Animals and plants are entwined in your limbs. Earth is your flesh, water your blood, fire your heat, and air your breath. The Most High pervades you as scent pervades a flower.

When the Murshid comes, a stranger has not come. You have come to yourself. The I in you has come to the self in you. The I teaches what you have always known, but have long since forgotten. There is nothing strange in this knowledge, though it may bewilder your distracted mind. This knowledge is what your bones know, what your soul knows.

The Murshid comes to tell you what you already know in the deepest recesses of your being. You are nothing. And in this nothingness, the All-and-Everything has made its home.

Music of the Spheres: Gamaka Commentaries, Vadan

“I am resigned to the past, attentive to the present, and hopeful for the future.”

What is done is done. The universal chain of causation has done its work, steered by destiny. To lament fate is to reject the unfolding disclosure of the Perfect Being implicit in the story of the universe in all of its varying episodes. Wisdom gently urges acquiescence to the perpetual flow of existence.

Acceptance of the past is one thing; lethargy is something else. What is done is done, but there is more to be done, and the time is now. This precise moment will never come again. Each instant calls for a new appraisal of the manifestation of the Hidden. The prophet Abraham was known to pray each morning, “O God, this is a new creation!”

On the horizon lies a future that gradually materializes as we approach it. To look to the future with hope is to walk with certain steps. Hope is trust in the kindness of the Creator, and the process of making oneself transparent to that kindness. Hope does not mean ignoring dangers. It means seeing both problems and prospects as steppingstones on the path that leads home.

Music of the Spheres: Gamaka Commentaries, Vadan

“The scriptures have called Him the Creator, the Masons have termed Him the Architect, but I know Him as the Actor on this stage of life.”

God is the Maker, Molder, and Builder of the universe.

How is God the Maker? All effects have their causes, all causes have prior causes, and the entire chain of causation at last culminates in the Divine Being. Behind every effect there is a cause, but nothing stands behind the First Cause, Whose glory the angels eternally sing.

How is God the Molder? From the smallest snowflake to the vastest galaxy, an artistry of unfathomable proportions is everywhere to be witnessed. The soaring architecture of the universe reveals the workings of a limitless intelligence.

How is God the Builder? The cosmos is an emanation of the Divine Life. In this palace of mirrors, every face is a reflection of the Face of the One. The One wears countless guises and acts innumerable parts. Thus the world we know is built. In the world we are yet to know, all the masks and mirrors will be removed. Then one Face will be seen alone, the infinite Light revealed.

Music of the Spheres: Gamaka Commentaries, Vadan

“When I open my eyes to the outer world, I feel myself as a drop in the sea; But when I close my eyes and look within, I see the whole universe as a bubble raised in the ocean of my heart.”

When we look out on the wide world, we feel small in comparison with the enormous vistas that surround us. To travel across a continent is a long journey, even by car. How much further are the planets and the stars! Our bodies are small, and the irises of our eyes are much smaller still. And yet, somehow, these little irises encompass faraway mountains, and even faraway stars! Our mind is yet smaller, so small it cannot be seen at all, and yet it encompasses not only all that we now see, but all that we have ever seen and heard and smelt and tasted and touched, and all that we can possibly imagine. At the center of the minuteness of our human condition is a vastness without end. We call it the heart.

When the heart looks out through the eyes of the body it is mesmerized by the rising and falling waves of the world. But when the eyes are closed the ocean turns inside out. The heart itself is now the sea. Every wave is the heart’s own churning, and the great wide world is so much froth and foam.


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