Saturday, January 5, 2013
Breaking the idol of Self
No one was more aware or had the opportunity to develop a bigger idol of one's self, or ego, than Imam Ghazzali, perhaps. He was more respected and 'in demand' than anyone else of his time. He is said to have never lost an argument to anyone. He, being a polymath, had penetrated into every system of thought; being a rare erudite. And, no one else became a victim of that success in the eyes of the society than him. One fine day, in front of his students, his tongue would refuse to move. Senses would declare shutter-down strike; perhaps as a protest for their right to be transcended by themselves. He would face a crisis; not of faith. He had to break his own idol. Having heard of an experiential science of sufi that couldn't be found in book, he left for a decade long journey into achieving this two-fold task, a) knowing the highest form of certitude (as an experimental knowledge field, which can be replicated) - i.e, to test claims of Sufis; b) and to cure himself from this disease of self-worship. He'd follow the prescribed map; spend hours in contemplation and remembrance and serve as a janitor (even). Shaykh Hamza Yusuf would compare him to the most prestigious scholar of Harvard to explain his importance then.
The harmful consequences of developing and nourishing the idol of one's self have been identified even in West, where the metrics of success are purely worldly and materialistic. (Sentimentalism, as expressed in prestige and admiration, is another aspect of materialism.) In this insighful TED talk ('Your elusive creative genius') by the creative writer, she shows the arrogance of modern man to have made a god out of himself; to assign to oneself that is not his own creation. She argues that to save our creative mind from the ills they've fallen into, modern man should see these gifts to be transcendental, and a mere incidence of fate.