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Free Will
Origin of Mysticism
Mysticism - The Universal Mystery
Buddhist Mysticism
Greek Mysticism
Semitic Mysticism
Christian Mysticism
Islamic Mysticism
Mysticism, the Vedic Legacy - Part 1
Mysticism, the Vedic Legacy - Part 2

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The Vedic Legacy (Concluding Part)

by Anwar Shaikh

Is Islamic Mysticism (Tasawwuf) really an extension of Hinduism? If the reader follows the ensuing argument sincerely, he will inevitably come to this conclusion.

The Rgveda, the oldest Scripture of mankind, is the first to declare that the entire universe has the same origin. It is called monism. This statement fundamentally distinguishes the Indian philosophy from the Semitic doctrine because both the Bible and the Koran advocate that this world is the work of a creator God, who is independent of creation:

1. Monism

    1. The Vedic point of view is stated thus:
    Then was not non-existent nor existent:
    there was no realm of air, no sky beyond
    What covered in, and where? and what
    gave shelter? Was water there, unfathomed
    depth of water ?

    2. Death was not then, nor was there aught
    immortal: no sign was there, the days'
    and nights' divider.
    That One Thing, breathless, breathed by
    its own nature: apart from it was
    nothing whatsoever.

    3. Darkness there was: at first concealed in
    darkness this All was indiscriminated
    All that existed then was void and formless:
    by the great power of Warmth was
    born that Unit.

    4. Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning,
    Desire, the primal seed and germ of

    5 ......................................................
    The Gods are later than this world's
    production Who knows then whence it
    first came into being?

    6. He, the first Origin of this creation, whether
    he formed it all or did not form it,
    Whose eye controls this world in highest
    heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps
    he knows not. (R.V.X - CXXIX)

Stanza one clearly states that in the beginning prevailed the state which can be described neither as existence nor as non-existence. Second stanza makes it clear that All i.e. everything to be, was concealed in a dark "Indiscriminated chaos," and nothing ranked as immortal (for being subject to the Law of Change, responsible for evolving things by giving them forms and properties).

The world (to be) was one formless void which the power of Warmth started changing into being (Unit). The Hymn CXC of the Rgveda explains the nature of Warmth by adding: "From Fervour kindled in its height ETERNAL LAW and Truth were born .." Thus Warmth means extreme heat. This statement about the beginning of the universe conforms to the modern scientific theory known as Big Bang, which is held as the source of matter as well as the law that controls its shaping and qualities. Having said that, I may restate the salient points:

    a. In the beginning prevailed chaos, which was gradually organised into being by the Eternal Law, and originally formed a part of it.

    b. Since the universe originates from a common source i.e. the Chaos, the basic principle is Monism and not Monotheism.

    "He, the first origin of this universe" as described in the last stanza makes it clear that "He" does not refer to God but to the origin of things. Therefore, "He" does not mean God, and this is especially so because the stanza 2 states quite unambiguously that in the beginning nothing was immortal.

    c. The Gods came into being after the primary chaos started shaping itself according to the Eternal Law. It means that spiritual development is a part of the physical evolution; if this were not true, gods would not have evolved later.

In a nutshell, the world is not the work of a Creator God; it has always existed, though in a chaotic state, and everything is essentially the same.

The theory of monism occupies a high position in the Vedic metaphysics. This is what led to the concept of Brahma. The Upanishad philosophy has dealt with this point in detail. According to the earlier theories, Brahma was a primal entity, which procreated the world, but having done so, "he entered it." (TAIT 2. 6)

    MUND. 2.2.11 states:
    ''Brahma, indeed, is this immortal. Brahma before,
    Brahma behind, to right and to left.
    Stretched forth below and above,
    Brahma, indeed, is the whole world, this widest
The ATHARVA-Veda (10. 7. 32-34) states that the earth is the base of the highest Brahma, the air is his belly, the sky his head, the sun and moon his eyes, fire his mouth, the wind is his breath.

In fact, Brahma is the whole universe. This also happens to be the faith of a Sufi except that he calls it God. (Khuda).

2. MAYA - The World as an Illusion

The theory of Maya, or the world as an illusion, is a Greek misunderstanding of the Vedic doctrine. According to Plato, everything being a reflection of an individual prototype, which is real, ranks as unreal. Through sheer ignorance, this theory came to be associated with the Hindus. The Muslims of India seem to be the major cause of it.

The Rgveda, VIII: XV - 13, states:

    "Already have all forms of him (Indra) entered
    over spacious dwelling-place."
It is a declaration of monism, which means that though things look different, the reality behind them all is the same. When a Sufi says: "HAMA OST, " this is what he means.

Having said that, it will be wrong of me to gloss over this issue: the Upanishads. the philosophical Hindu treatises do mention Maya, and it is based on the interpretation ot the Rgveda, 6.47.18:

    "In every figure he hath been the model:
    this is his only form for us to look on.
    Indra moves multiform by his illusions;
    for his Bay steeds are yoked ten times
    a hundred."
When I ponder over: "In every figure he hath been the model," it makes me believe that Plato was aware ot the contents of the Rgveda because not only his theory of Forms has been designed on this verse, but his other views including reincarnation and Eros are also very vedic.

The above quoted stanza does not confirm the theory of Maya; it states that Indra is in every form, phenomenal or noumenal. These forms appear as illusions tut they are not so. The illusions are in the eyes of the beholder and not the thing in itself because Indra, the reality is in it.

However, this metaphoric description of reality was turned into the doctrine of Maya:

    "This whole world the illusion-maker projects
    out of this (Brahma).
    And in it by illusion the other is confined.
    Now, one should know that Nature is illusion,
    And that the Mighty Lord is the illusion-maker."
    (SVET. 4. 9-10)
I am inclined to think that Plato himself was influenced hy this mistaken Upanishadic view. As Plato's works were translated into Arabic, they were considered as part of the Greek philosophy.

As the Indians had lost their sense of national honour and achievement, they found it easier to surrender to the foreign literary and religious supremacy as they had done in the political and cultural fields. This fact is evident from the attitudes of the great spiritual leaders of India such as Sankra and Ramanuja:

Sankra is credited with the acosmic view of the universe. This, in fact, is the doctrine of Maya, which indirectly represents the Semitic view of the world. It means that the Creator is real, but the world, being His creation, is unreal, and shall be destroyed one day. Possibly to conform to this dominant Semitic idea, Sankra postulated a higher Brahman (God) as being the eternal and absolute, and a lower Brahman, which appears as the physical phenomena around us. He emphasised that all save the higher Brahman i.e. the physical world is the product of ignorance, and exists in people's mind only like an image in a dream. This illusory world (maya) disappears when one receives enlightenment through knowledge but the Higher Brahman i.e. the absolute exists eternally.

I find this notion both against common sense and the Vedic principle. Firstly, ignorance or knowledge has nothing to do with the absence or existence of a thing: the Himalayas exist not just because I have heard of them or seen them. Even if I had not heard of them or seen them, they would have existed just the same. Secondly, I rnay quote from the Rgveda (10. Hymn XC):

    1. A thousand heads with Purusa, a thousand eyes,
    a thousand feet.
    On every side pervading earth he fills a
    space ten fingers wide.

    2. This Purusa is all that yet hath been and
    all that is to be;

Here, Purusa, the embodied spirit or Man personified is compatible with the already quoted Hymn CXXIX of the Rgveda, which mentions "He, the first origin of this creation." The Rgveda does not acknowledge a Creator God, but points to a common Origin of procreation. The Bhagavadgita in Chapter IX, 6-10, shows how things come forth from the Origin, and eventually return to it, and then re-emanate, and this cycle of evolution-devolution and re- evolution goes on indefinitely. This is the modern scientific theory, which was enunciated by the Vedic seers thousands of years ago.

The Vedic view of existence is monistic. Everything, emerges from the same Origin, and therefore, it is essentially the same as the origin itself. Therefore, the Vedic philosophy is undualistic. But Shankra's division of Brahman into higher and lower categories renders it dualistic.

Ramanuja seems even more influenced by Islam. While his notion of the world cycle is Vedic, he seems to believe in a Brahman, who first procreates himself on the Islamic principle of Kun Fa Ya Koon i.e. Allah commands a thing: "be and it becomes." Accarding to Ramanuja's point of view, the universe i.e. Brahman devolves into his unmanifest state to such an extent that his body is no more than a very subtle matter of darkness, and he decrees "May I again possess a world body." Thus, in his manifest state, everything becomes a part of his body.

Again, in Ramanuja's view, Brahman controls the world: he supports or prohibits choices according to his pleasure and displeasure. Thus, he introduces the element of fate in the Hindu Dharma, which is actually based on the doctrine of Karma, treating man as a free agent.

In fact, Ramanuja represents a relativistic monistic pantheism; it is not quite compatible with the Vedic monism, which treats everything as of the same essence and whose evolution, devolution and re-evolution is governed by the Eternal Law, and not by the will of God.

This basic Vedic concept wtas misunderstood long before the advent of Shankra and Ramanuja. The Vendantic philosophers also participated in this exercise, giving rise to the doctrine of Maya, which entered the Greek philosophy, and thence penetrated the world of Islam to create the principle of: "HAMA OST" the whole universe is God.

3. Union with God

It should be the pride of every Indian to realise that as a rational concept, the idea of life-after-death first arose in India:

    "(AGNI) Master of present and of future life, the
    maiden's lover and the matrons." (R.V.I. LXVI: IV)
It automatically raises the question that what is the goal of future life? According to the Indian Scriptures, it is union of the human soul with God. This purpose is quite compatible with the monistic nature oi the universe. It is because man is the highest being in the universe, only next to God; he is in fact a god for beinf the kinsman of gods:
    "Ye, O ye Gods, are verily our kinsmen;
    as such be kind to me who now implore you."
    (R.V.2, XXIX: IV)
Of course, man is a poor relation of gods for living a problematic life. Therefore, when he implores God for help, he does so as a relative and not as a menial. Even the celebrated gods such as Agni and Indra are held by man as his friends:
    "The friendship of the gods have we devoutly
    sought." (R.V.I - LXXXVIII: 2)
Since man is of the same essence as God Himself, the purpose of nis future life is to become a part of God by uniting with him as a drop joins a sea to become a sea itself.

Union of soul with God is a major point of excellence in the Indian philosophy. This, too, has been claimed as a Platonic idea though it was propounded centuries earlier in the Upanishads.

The Rgvedic idea cf Purusa, the universal soul, I have already mentioned. We find in CHAND 5.11-18, a dialogue which gives view of five learned householders about Atman, the world soul, which is best referred to as one's self. Simply slated, the world is conceived as a Universal soul and a person's self is considered its miniature. Thus man receives the status of a microcosm compared to the universe, which is held as macrocosm. This idea has also been ascribed to Socrates! However, the truth is revealed by BRIH. 1.4.7:

    "One's self (Atman), for therein all these become
    one. That same thing, namely, this self, is the trace
    of this All; for by it one knows this all. Just as,
    truly, one may be traced by one's footprint."
Here man is treated as self (microcosm) whose destiny is to seek absorption in the macrocosm, the universal soul. This principle is further explained in SVET. 2.15:
    When with the nature of the self, as with a lamp,
    A practiser of yoga beholds here the nature of
    Brahma (the world soul).

    Brahma as the World Soul is classified by BRIH. 3.4.1:

    "Explain to me him who is the Soul in all things."

Union of soul with God or of self with the Universal Soul is a part of the Indian philosophy borrowed by the Islamic Mysticism under the Greek cloak. Why all this eulogy for Greece, and none for India, the originator of philosophy? The reason is that the Arabs learnt their metaphysics without realising that the Greek practised the Indian culture. I have not made up this story. It is generally agreed by the historians of the early 20th century that people of India, Greece and Italy are members of the same racial stock. Obviously, as emigration started from India, these people took their Vedic culture with them. This is the reason that there is a good deal of semblance between the philosophy and mythology of India and Greece. As I have discussed this issue in my unpublished book "The Wonders of the Rgveda," I need not go into details here. However, I ought to mention that Plato was born c. 428 B.C. His family was related to the celebrated early law-maker Solon, and traced its ancestry to Dropides, a well-known Indian name.

4. Look into Thyself

is a particularly Indian doctrine and is a part of the basic Hindu philosophy of Karma, which simply means that one reaps what one sows. Though it is also the major tenet of the Sufi saints, it is totally opposed to the fundamental Islamic teaching, which seeks salvation through faith and the Intercessory powers of the Prophet Muhammad.

The realm of self is situated in one's heart (mind), and according to CHAND. 8.1.3:

"As far, verily, as this world-space extends, so far extends the space within the heart. Within it, indeed, are contained both heaven and earth, both fire and wind, both sun and moon, lightning and stars, both what one possesses here and what one does not possess; everything here is contained within it."

This unlimited expanse of self goads the seeker to dive into one's self to seek the Truth, because nothing exists outside. Thus self is the uniting link between man and God, equating the former with the latter when he has accomplished unity. Just see the following quotations from the Upanishads to realise the truth for yourself.

    "This whole world is Brahma .. This soul of mine
    within the heart .." (CHAND. 3. 14.1,3)

    ''He is the world-protector. He is the world
    sovereign. He is the Lord of all. He is my self."
    (BRIH. 1.4.10)

As the philosophical cogitation gathers excellence, the significance of self rises higher:
    "He who has found and has awakened to the Self
    ..... the world is his; indeed, he is the world itself."
    (BRIH. 4.4.13)

    One should adore the thought "I am the world-all."
    (CHAND. 2.21.4)

    "I alone am this whole world." (CHAND. 7.25.1)

    "Whoever thus knows 'I am Brahma'
    (the World-Soul) becomes this All (Brahma); even
    the gods do not have power to prevent his becoming
    thus, for he becomes the self." (BRIH. 1.4.10)

This states the significance of self. The ony way of uniting with God is through one's self. This is the Vedic philosophy, propounded hy various seer, according to their calibre and vision. It was stated some 500 years before the birth of Plato. The references to Nafas (self) in the Koran are totally irrelevant in this context. They advocate humiliation of one's self whereas the Vedic principle advocates raising the dignity of self so that it can unite with God to become Divine.

Dr. Iqbal, who is considered a great exponent of the Islamic Myticisnn, actually preached the Vedic Mysticism when he said:


    (Raise the dignity of your self so high that before
    fixing your destiny God Himself should seek your

When they crucified Mansur Al Hallaj, he was in a mood, which assured him unity with God. This is why that, despite extreme persecution, he repedtedly declared:
    "I am the Truth i.e. God."
All Sufis believe in this Hindu tenet. Mansur was no exception.

5. Love

Sufi ideal as stated earlier, is founded on the love of mankind, but it is the exact opposite of Islam, which is based on the hatred of non-Muslims:

    "Oh ye who believe! the non-Muslim are unclean."
    (Repentance: 17)

    "Oh ye who believe! Murder those of the
    disbelievers .... and let them find harshness in you."
    (Repentance: 123)

    "Certainly God is an enemy to unhelievers."
    ( The Cow, 90)

    "Humiliate the non-Muslims to such an extent that
    they surrender and pay tribute." (Repentance: 29)

Contempt of the unbelievers and persecuting them form the major subject ot the Koran. Therefore, it cannot be the source of Tasawwuf (Islamic Mysticism). Of course one does come across certain verses in the Koran which can be interpreted to support Tasawwuf but this is a wishful act, which is against the ethos ot the Koran. For example, it has several times called man as Allah's lieutenant on earth and thus sounds a great honour for man but the veneer disappears when one reads:
    "Perish Man! How unthanktul he is!
    Of what did He (Allah) create him?
    Of a sperm drop .." (LXXX - He frowned: 16)
Here man is condemned by Allah and reminded of his low birth. The Almighty claims to have created him for no purpose but to worship Him (L. QAF 155). One must rememher that worship is the lowest form of self-humiliation that a person can show to his superior with a view to gaining his pleasure.

Since Islam is the preacher of cruelty against the non-Muslims, it cannot be the fountain of Mysticism. Does then, a Sufi get his inspiration for love from the Hindu Scriptures? Yes, he does. Just look at the following quotations from the Bhagavad Gita:

    "He who is free from malice towards
    all beings, who is friendly as well as
    compassionate .... that devotee of Mine (God)
    is dear to me." (12. 13 -14)


    "He who is not a source of annoyance
    to the world, and who never feels
    offended with the world ... he is
    dear to Me (God)." (12.15)

It is evident from the two quotations that a person does not have to belong to any particular faith because if he wishes well to all beings and not just the Hindus, he automatically qualifies as the devotee of God: he must not be a source of annoyance to the world! On the ccntrary, the Koran prescribes torture of non-Muslims until they accept Islam or surrender to the Muslims and pay (servility) tax. To encourage the Muslims to be aggressive, the Koran sanctifies murder, rape and pillage of the unbelievers through Jehad. This is the highest form of worship in Islam!

6. Eroticism

In X. CXXIX: IV, the Rgveda states,

    "Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning,
    Desire, the primal seed and germ of Spirit."
This Desire, has been personified as Kama, variously known as the cosmic desire or the creative impulse. This is the first-Born of the chaos that prevailed in the beginning and served as the source of all the following creation.

At a later stage, Kama was represented as a handsome youth, attended by heavenly nymphs. He is shown carrying a bow, which is a sugar cane, and his bow is a string of bees. Kama uses love-producing arrows of flowers. Once a person is struck by Kama, he is bound to fall in love. In fact, Kama, the Vedic god of love is the messenger of sweet pleasure, whose purpose is to create and soothe the pains of frustration.

However, Kama is not the ambassador of lewdness, and this is demonstrated by the fact that as a Sanskrit term, applied to a householder, it strictly implies pursuit of legitimate pleasures, both physical and spiritual.

This Vedic Kama appears as Eros in Greece and Cupid in Rome. Even in these countries, he is equipped with a bow and arrows for inducing love. The chivalrous or courtly love that prevailed in the medieval Europe may be considered an extension of Kama, as understood in India. This shows priority of the Indian philosophy and culture over Greece and Rome. However, the word "love" assumed a different meaning in these two countries, especially Greece, which was to act as the fountain of Western culture and philosophy. Though it is claimed that it was a hetrosexual love, it also implies homosexual love. This is what Platonic love means; Plato has used for illustration the cohabitation of Socrates and Alcibiades, a beautiful youth, who later took part in the Athenian politics. Citing them as the model of erotic love, Plato claims that it can lead to true love, illumining the hearts of both the lover and the loved. During the times of Socrates, the wise man, homosexuality was a part of the Greek culture. The law did not approve of it but the custom did. As I have discussed in 'The Wonders of the Rgveda," the Greek Chief God, Zeus, was a replica of the Indian Chief God Indra except that the former, who had Ganymede, a beautiful young lad, as his cup-bearer, indulged in homosexuality whereds the latter, though erotically promiscuous, was hetrosexual.

After the death of Alexdader the Great this Hellenistic tendency based on Platonic love flourished in the Middle East. No wonder the Koran repeatedly declares bride-like youths as a part of paradise, where they will serve the lucky ones. This Greek tradition entered the mystical poetry of Persia with full force. Its greatest mystical poet Jalal-ud-Din-ar-Rumi (1207-73), whose love poetry, consisting of 26,000 couplets, is considered next to the Koran, sought God through the association or another man. One of the men, he loved was murdered hy his own sons out of domestic jealousy.

Though Kama is the fountain of the Greek mystical love, the concept of beautiful youths, who radiate divine affection through association with an older man, acting as the teacher, is the Greek contribution to Mysticism. This practise gained extreme popularity in the Persian poetry. To give it legitimacy, the Sufis quote a hadith: "I saw my Lord (Allah) in the form of a youth with a cap tilted."

7. Monasticism

A Sufi saint is usually poorly dressed and requires just about enough food and water to keep his body and soul together. In fact, the word Sufi is derived from SUF, meaning wool.

The Sufis practise monastic life, which is against the tenets of Islam:

    "And monasticism they invented - We
    did not prescribe it for them - only
    seeking the good pleasure of God; but
    they observed it not as it should be
    observed. So we gave those of them
    who believed their wage; and many of
    them are ungodly." (LVII -IRON: 25)
Obviously, Islam holds monasticism as an ungodly way of life, which goes against the grain of the Prophet, who had nine wives, two concubines and about thirty household servants. However, the Sufis claim that he lived a life of extreme poverty and wore mended clothes. They do so to justify their monastic style of living. Is having nine wives, and the rest, a life of poverty?

However, all Hindu saints do not practise celebacy. Many of them have wives and children. A Sadhu is a Sadhu because he leads a meditative life based on abstinence. This is how a Sufi lives.

8. Mystical Concert or Sama

Islam does not allow indulgence in music. This is the reason that we do not hear of any great Muslim musician, but a musical concert or Sama has become an integral part of Sufism. Sama is considered the vehicle for expressing the restlessness of soul for union with the beloved. In all musically sung poems the beloved happens to be a male. This tradition, which became a feature of the Persian poetry, has penetrated the poetry of every Islam-dominated country in the world, and is quite evident in Urdu as well as other languages of the Indian sub-continent.

Though love of boys was given a fillip by the Persian poetry, especially Ar-Rumi, the ritual of starting mystical sessions with the introduction of music and erotic poems is said to have started in Baghdad during the mid-9th century. The purpose of music and singing is to induce ecstasy among the listeners. Jalal-ud-Din-ar-Rumi inspired the organisation of whirling dervishes, who danced to melodious music for gaining spiritual bliss.

Islam does not tolerate music and dance. Treating it as a part of divine worship is unthinkable to any true Muslim scholar, yet the Sufis justify it on the authority of a single hadith, which is probably apocryphal because it does not conform to the Prophetic Model.

Music and dance are part of the Hindu temple- worship, and this is the source of the Sufi Sama.

9. Pir and Murid

According to the Islamic tradition, a faithful needs no Waseela or Divine Medium other than that of the Prophet Muhammad; the Koran is his perfect teacher. All Sufi Orders such as Qadiriya, Suhrawardiya, etc., are founded on an initiation ceremony called "Bayat:" the novice places his hand in the master's hand and swears allegiance to him. The master or Pir is treated like god by the novice (Murid) because he seeks divine union through the former.

This is the imitation of the Hindu model of Guru- Chaila. It incorporates most yoga principles and practices, which even Pythagoras took back to Greece when he visited India.


Finally, I may draw the reader's attention to Dhikr i.e. recitation of Isme Azam i.e. "Allah Hoo" which is the imitation of the Jaap of Om or Ramnam.

There are several other Vedic features which have been incorporated in Tasawwuf but I think that I have said enough to make the point. This is what renders Tasawwuf, the Islamic doctrine. The reason is the terror of the orthodox mullah, who has always been politically ascendant for enabling the Muslim rulers to wage holy wars against the infidels, and has thus acted as the royal tool of power. The Sufi, who was looked down upon suspiciously, found it necessary to exaggerate the spiritual grandeur of Muhammad. Again, being a lover of humanity, he had no use for the rulers except praying for them in their hour of need. The fate of Dara Shakoh, the Sufi brother of Auranzeb, who was declared a heretic and executed at the instigation of the orthodox mullahs, serves as a good example of this truth. Finally, poetry is more a matter of the heart and less of the brain. As Sufism became its major subject, it affected masses through its erotic appeal and the lure of easy salvation through the agency of the PIR, whose own entry into paradise depended on Muhammad, further exaggerated his magnificence.


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