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Duties of Brotherhood in Islam - Part 3

by Sangharakshita

The Duties of Brotherhood in Islam” Seminar Page 1
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Kuladeva: I was under the impression that something of that sort had actually happened in the Chairmen's meeting, some kind of mutual
criticism and rejoicing in merits, and that it had somehow been taken by other people as well and used in other contexts.

Subhuti: It was some time ago, about three years ago. I don't think it was particularly good, actually, in one or two cases. It's only good if
there's very good communication already, and if there was it was quite .........

S: I think one has to concentrate on communication and friendship. If there is communication and friendship, that kind of thing will happen, if
one is at least a little mindful and concerned about one's fellow Order members.

Subhuti: I think that because it's quite intense it has quite a strong effect, which you can mistake for being a positive effect.

S: I think what happens - and I think this is one reason why people are fascinated by encounter groups - [is that] people's lives are so lacking in
any positive experience or any sort of definite experience that they go searching for experiences, and if they find they get an 'experience' in this
way they will be attracted by it; they feel something. Anyway, let's not linger over -

[End of tape 12 Tape 13]
"The Prophet (God bless him and give him Peace!) said:
- The believer is a mirror to the believer.
By this he meant that one can see from the other what he cannot see from himself. Thus a man can profit from his brother by learning his own
faults, whereas if left to himself he would lose this advantage, just as he can benefit from an ordinary mirror by becoming aware of the faults in
his outward appearance."

S: Yesterday, or the day before yesterday, I was editing a seminar extract for a forthcoming Mitrata, [and] I was making exactly the same point.
Commenting on or discussing a Song of Rechungpa, where Rechungpa says that the Dharma is a mirror, and then we talk about that and I go on
to say that the spiritual community is a mirror, the spiritual friend is a mirror. So that's the same thing as here. In the mirror of the Dharma, that
is to say with the help of the standards established by the Dharma, you can ascertain where you're at. Similarly with the help of the spiritual
community or the spiritual friend: the mirror will show, will reveal, a pimple on your face; in the same way, the spiritual community or the
spiritual friend will point out to you some defect that you cannot see yourself.

Sometimes it doesn't need a very direct or explicit pointing out. You feel a certain disharmony between yourself and the spiritual community,
especially a community in which you live. You feel a little out of step. And then perhaps you become aware that it's because of some weakness
or blemish or fault on your part, and that you need to conform yourself to the community. Anyway read on.
"Al-Shaf'i (may God be pleased with him!) said:
- To admonish your brother in private is to advise him and improve him. But to admonish him publicly is to disgrace and shame him.
The Duties of Brotherhood in Islam” Seminar Page 2
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Mus'ir was asked:
- Would you like to be informed of your faults?
- If the advice were confidential, yes. But not in the public forum.
He spoke truly, for advice before the crowd is ignominy. On the Day of Resurrection God (Exalted is He!) will remonstrate with the believer
under His Wing, in the shadow of His Veil, acquainting him with his sins privately. The book of his deeds will be handed under seal to the
angels, who will escort him to the Garden of Paradise. When they near the gate of the Garden they will give him the book, still sealed, for him to
read.
As for those who are full of hate, they will be summoned before throngs of witnesses and their limbs will be required to speak of their shameful
acts, so that their disgrace and ignominy will be increased. We seek refuge with God from disgrace on the day of the Greatest Review!"
[Laughter]

S: So it's as though God veils only what isn't really worth veiling, or doesn't really need to be veiled, because you're going to Paradise, it seems;
but unveils that which one would have thought had been better left hidden. But then we are dealing with a particular kind of god; as in the case
of the Christian God, who does send people to hell for ever and ever. So if he's capable of that, he's capable of anything. Carry on. There's no
new point being made.
"The distinction between rebuke and advice, then, is a matter of secrecy or publicity, just as the distinction between courtesy and hypocrisy
depends on the purpose motivating your connivance. If you connive for the integrity of your religion and because you see it as conducive to your
brother's good, then you are courteous. But if you connive for your own comfort, the satisfaction of your desires, and the integrity of your
influence in the world, in that case you are a hypocrite."

S: What do you think is meant by 'connivance' here? This is not usually considered a very positive term, but here clearly it is being used in a
positive sense.

Well, perhaps it means veiling your brother from public shame. You are not conniving at what he is doing, because you are advising him
privately; but your public attitude is, so to speak, to use that term, apparently one of connivance. [Pause]

'But if you connive for your own comfort, the satisfaction of your desires, and the integrity of your influence in the world, in that case you are a
hypocrite.' The so-called connivance must be only out of consideration for your brother, quite genuinely. Carry on with the next.
"Dhu'l-Nun said:
- In fellowship with God, only concord. In fellowship with men, only sincere advice. With the self, only opposition. With Satan, only enmity."

S: Anything that requires comment there, or is it perfectly clear?

The Duties of Brotherhood in Islam” Seminar Page 3
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Nagabodhi: It seems a little harsh towards the self.

Kulananda: To say nothing of Satan! [Laughter]

S: What does one mean by the self here?

Nagabodhi: The lower -

S: I think it's what - I'm only guessing but I think it's probably the Arabic word nafs, which is used for the lower self, so to speak: the id, almost,
not to press that comparison too closely again. It's one's lobha, dvesa and moha, in Buddhistic terms - it's the passional soul, so to speak.

Devaraja: Where's the term you just coined - or is that an actual - ?

S: Nafs - (spells it): there is that Arabic word which occurs in the Koran, which is frequently used by Muslim writers. I think it may well be that
word, though I'm not sure. The word isn't actually mentioned in the original.

Devaraja: The term 'passional soul' - is that your own coinage?

S: Yes, that is my own coinage. Perhaps 'ego' would have been a better translation: 'with the ego, only opposition' - because ego has a somewhat
negative connotation. 'With Satan, only enmity'. Well, Satan personifies whatever is evil, in a rather more extreme fashion than Mara in
Buddhism. You can't afford to be friends with Satan.

Prasannasiddhi: Although presumably a Bodhisattva would even try to make friends with Satan in order to convert him to the Dharma.

S: Well, one doesn't perhaps know what Bodhisattvas might and might not do!

Prasannasiddhi: Well, one's read things! [Laughter]

S: Some of these Maras are quite scared of Bodhisattvas and wouldn't let them come within a mile of them, if they could help it.

I think we shouldn't try to weaken the force of what the saying is trying to get at there: i.e. there are some things with which we can just not
afford to have any truck, so to speak. So far as we are concerned - on our level of development - we can only take up an attitude of, so to speak -
I mean metaphorically - enmity towards them. From a Buddhist point of view that would not be any person, but certainly, say, an unskilful
quality, or embodiment of an unskilful quality.

Even Shantideva says you must hate hatred. You can't really speak of taking up a positive attitude towards hatred; it is a completely negative
The Duties of Brotherhood in Islam” Seminar Page 4
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