Whoever Knows their Self, Knows their Lord A Rendering
An Explanation of the Oneness of Being | Awhad al-din Balyani – Sufi – Persia – 13th century
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful . . .
Praise belongs to God, before whose oneness there is no before unless the before is He, and after whose singleness there is no after unless the after is He. He is, and there is not with Him any before or after, above or below, closeness or distance, how or where or when, time or moment or duration, manifested existence or place.
And He is now as He has always been. He is the One without oneness and the single without singleness. He is not composed of name and named, for His name is Him and His named is Him and there is no name or named other than Him. He is the first without firstness and the last without lastness.
God is the apparent without appearance and the hidden without hiddenness. He is the very existence of the letters of the names, the first and the last, the apparent and the hidden. There is no first or last, apparent or hidden except Him, without the letters which form these divine names becoming Him and without Him becoming these letters.
Understand this so you do not make the mistake of those who believe in incarnation. God is not in anything and no thing is in Him, whether entering into Him or coming out of Him. It is in this way that you should know Him and not through theoretical knowledge, reason, understanding or conjecture, nor with the senses, the external eye or interior sight or perception.
No one sees Him except Himself, no one reaches Him except Himself and no one knows Him except Himself. He knows Himself through Himself and He sees Himself by means of Himself. No one but He sees Him. His veil is His oneness since nothing veils Him other than Him. His own being veils Him. His being is concealed by His oneness without any condition.
No one other than He sees Him. No sent prophet, perfect saint or angel brought close knows Him. His prophet is He, His messengers He, His message is He and His word is He. He sent Himself from Himself, through Himself to Himself. There is no intermediary or means other than Him. There is no difference between the sender, that which is sent and the one to whom it is sent. The very existence of the prophetic message is HIS existence.
There is no existence to any other who could pass away, or have a name or be named. Because of this, the Prophet, God bless him and give him peace, said, whoever knows their self, knows their Lord. He also said, I knew my Lord through my Lord. What the Prophet pointed out by that is that you are not you but you are Him and there is no you. It is not that He enters into you or that you enter into Him, or that He comes out of you or that you come out of Him. It does not mean that you have being and you are qualified by this or that attribute.
What is meant is that you never were and never will be, whether through yourself or through Him or in Him or with Him. You have neither ceased to be nor are you existent. You are Him and He is you, without any of these imperfections. If you know your existence in this way, then you know God, and if not, then not.
Most of those who claim to know God make the knowledge of God dependent on the passing away of existence and on the passing away of that passing away. That is clearly an error and misconception. The knowledge of God does not require the passing away of existence or the passing away of that passing away because things have no existence and what does not exist cannot pass away. Passing away implies the prior existence of something that passes away. If you know yourself without existing and passing away, then you know God, and if not, then not.
By making the knowledge of God dependent on the passing away of your existence and the passing away of that passing away, there is an affirmation of something other than God. The Prophet said, Whoever knows their self, knows their Lord. He did not say, Whoever annihilates their self, knows their Lord. Your being is nothing and whatever is nothing cannot be placed in relationship to anything else, whether capable of passing away or not, whether existent or nonexistent.
The Prophet pointed to the fact that you are nonexistent now as you were nonexistent before creation, because now is eternity-without-beginning and now is eternity-without-end and now is timelessness. God is the very being of eternity-without-beginning, eternity-without-end and timelessness even though in reality there is no eternity-without-beginning, eternity-with-out-end or timelessness. If it were otherwise, He would not be alone, without any associate.
However, it is necessary for Him to be one without any associate because any associate would exist through itself, and not through the being of God. Then that associate would not need God and would therefore be a second Lord, which is impossible. God has no associate, equal or like. Whoever sees anything with God, whether coming out of Him or within Him, or dependent on Him by virtue of His lordship, has also made that thing an associate even if that associate depends on Him by virtue of His lordship.
Whoever allows that there could be anything with God, whether subsisting by itself or through Him, whether in a state of having passed away or the passing away of passing away, is far from breathing the scent of self-knowledge. Whoever accepts that there could be any being other than Him, yet subsisting through Him and in Him, then passing away in successive stages of passing away, and the passing away of passing, is a polytheist (one who believes in many gods) and knows neither God nor their self.
The knowledge of the self and knowledge of God consists in being aware that God is, and nothing is with Him, and He is now as He has always been. Ask of God to show you things as they are, to show you what is other than Him as Himself, without the existence of what is other than Him. In this way you may know all things as the essence of God, who is exalted, without how or where. The word “things” applies to the separate self and to other things, because the existence of the separate self and the existence of things are equal in terms of being “things.”
When you truly know the things, you know yourself and when you know yourself, you know the Lord. What you think is other than God is not other than God but you do not know it. You see Him and you do not know that you see Him. When this secret is revealed to you, you will know that you are not other than God and that you yourself are the object of your quest. You do not need to get rid of your self. You have not ceased nor will you cease to exist, without time and without moments. You will see God’s attributes as your attributes, your exterior as His exterior, your interior as His interior, your first as His first and your last as His last, without any doubt or uncertainty.
You will see your attributes to be His attributes and your essence to be His essence, without you becoming Him and without Him becoming you in the least degree. Nothing exists except His face, both outwardly and inwardly. Nothing other than Him has ever had being, and there is nothing that needs to pass away so that His face remains. There is nothing except His face.
It is as if a person does not know something, then comes to know it. Their existence does not disappear, but their ignorance disappears. Their existence remains as it was, without being exchanged for another, and without the existence of the ignorant person being added to or mixed with the knowing person: ignorance simply disappears.
Do not think therefore that you need to pass away, because if it were necessary to pass away, that would mean that you are His veil. He would therefore be veiled by something other than Himself. This would require something other than Him having power over Him, preventing Him from being seen. That is an error and misconception. As we have already said, His veil is nothing other than His Oneness, His singularity.
That is why the person who has reached the essential truth is allowed to say, I am the Truth, or Glory to me. No one has truly reached God unless they see their attributes to be the attributes of God and their essence to be the essence of God, without their essence or their attributes ever entering into God or coming out of Him, and without their passing away in relation to God, or remaining in God. They see that their self has never been their own, not that it was and then it passed away.
This is because there is no self except His self, and there is no being except His being. This is what the Prophet was alluding to when he said, Do not curse time, because God is time and distance and closeness, and God, who is blessed and exalted, is unblemished by any associate or equal or like. it is also reported that the Prophet said The high God says, “O child of Adam, I was sick and you did not visit Me, I was hungry and you did not feed Me, I asked of you and you did not give to Me…”
The being of everyone who asks is His being. When that is accepted, it is also accepted that your being is His being, and the being of all created things is His being. When the secret of the smallest is discovered, the secret of all created things is made clear, whether apparent or hidden. When that is truly accepted you will not see the two worlds as other than God, without the two worlds and their names and what they name existing – or rather, their names and what they name and their existence are Him, without any doubt.
Do not see God as having ever created anything but rather as being in every moment a different configuration that sometimes seems to reveal Him and sometimes seems to conceal Him, without any conditions, because He is the first and the last, the apparent and the hidden and He IS knowledge of everything. He manifests Himself in His oneness and hides Himself in His singularity. He is the first in His essence and in His Self-subsistence and the last in His everlastingness. He is the very being of the name of the first and the name of the last, of the name of the apparent and the name of the hidden. He is His own Name and what is named.
Just as God’s existence is necessary, the nonexistence of what is other than Him is necessary. What you think is other than Him is not other than Him. He is free from there being any other than Him. Indeed, other than Him is Him without any otherness, whether believed to be with Him or in Him, inwardly or outwardly. Whoever is qualified in this way has innumerable attributes, without limit or end.
Just as the person whose physical form passes away is deprived of all their attributes whether praiseworthy or blameworthy, so the person who dies a mystical death has all their attributes, whether praiseworthy or blameworthy, taken away from them and God comes into their place in all their expressions and states. The essence of God comes into the place of their essence and the attributes of God come into the place of their attributes.
Because of this, the Prophet said, Die before you die, that is, Know yourself before you die. He also said, God says, “My servant continues to approach Me with free acts until I love him. And when l love him, I am his hearing, his sight, his hand. . .” This refers to the fact that whoever knows their self sees their whole being as the very being of God, without any change in their essence or attributes.
God takes the last step upon a journey that never happened. There is no need for any change since a person was not the existence of their own essence but instead was simply ignorant of the knowledge of their self. When you know yourself, egoism disappears and your knowing is that you are no other than God. If you had an independent existence, you would have no need of passing away or of self knowledge. You would instead be a lord apart from Him, but there is no lord apart from God, who is blessed and exalted.
The benefit of the knowledge of the self is to know for certain that you are neither existent nor nonexistent, that you are not, never have been and never will be. In this way, the meaning of There is no god but God becomes clear: there is no divinity other than Him, being belongs to none but Him, there is no other except Him, there is no god but He. He has never stopped being both ruler and ruled, just as He has never stopped being both creator and what is created, and He is now as He has always been. His creativity and His lordship do not need what is created or is subject to Him.
When He brought creation and creatures into existence, He was already endowed with all His attributes, and He is now as He has always been. His oneness is the same whether it is seen as the new or the eternal. The new requires His manifestation and the eternal requires His remaining hidden. His exterior is identical to His interior and His interior is identical to His exterior; His first is the same as His last and His last is the same as His first, the all is one and the one is all.
He is described as every day in a different configuration when there is always nothing other than Him. And He is now as He has always been, since in reality what is other than Him has no being. Just as in eternity-without-beginning and timelessness, He was every day in a different configuration when no thing existed, so He is now as He has always been, although there is no thing or day, just as there has been from all eternity no thing or day. The existence of the creatures and their nonexistence are the same.
If it were not so, it would require the origination of something which was not already in His oneness. That would imply imperfection and His oneness is far more exalted than that. When you know yourself in this way, without attributing any opposite, like, equal or associate to God, then you really know yourself. That is why the Prophet said, Whoever knows their self knows their Lord and not Whoever gets rid of their self knows their Lord, because he knew and saw that there is nothing other than Him. Then he pointed out that the knowledge of the self is the knowledge of God.
In other words, to Know yourself is to Know your being, because you are not you but you do not know it. That is, know that your being is neither your being nor other than your being. You are neither existent nor nonexistent, nor other than existent nor other than nonexistent. Your being and your non-being are His being, without any being or absence of being, because your being and your non-being are the same as His being and His being is the same as your being and non-being.
So if you see things without seeing anything else with God or in God, but see things as Him, then you know yourself and such a knowledge of the self is knowledge of God, without doubt or uncertainty and without mixing anything temporal with the eternal, whether in Him or through Him.
If someone asks you: What is the way to union when you assert that there is no other than Him, yet one thing cannot be united to itself; this is the reply: There is no doubt that in reality there is neither union nor separation, distance or closeness, since union is only possible between two things and if there is only one there can be neither union nor separation. Union requires two things which are either similar – in which case they are equal, or dissimilar – in which case they are opposites. However, He is exalted far above having any opposite or equal. Therefore union lies in something other than union, closeness in something other than closeness and distance in something other than distance. There is union without union, closeness without closeness and distance without distance.
If someone asks: We understand union without union, but what does closeness without closeness and distance without distance mean; the reply is: In those times of closeness and distance you were not anything other than God, but you did not know yourself and you were not aware that you were always Him, without “you.” When you reach God, that is, when you know yourself in a way that is beyond all conditions, you know that you are Him, and you know that you did not know before whether you were Him or other than Him. When knowledge comes upon you, you know that it is through God that you know God, not through yourself.
Suppose, for example, that you do not know that your name is Mary, or that what your name designates is Mary (name and named are the same), and that you think that your name is Jane. If you then learn that you are really Mary, you do not stop being who you were. The name Jane is simply taken away from you because you have come to know you are Mary and you were only Jane by believing you were other than Mary.
Ceasing to be presupposes the affirmation of the existence of what is other than God, and whoever affirms the existence of what is other than Him has attributed (projected) the existence of something other than Him. Nothing has been taken away from Mary: Jane did not pass away into Mary and Mary did not enter into Jane or come out of her, nor did Mary ever become incarnated in or as Jane. When Mary knew (realized) herself, that she was Mary and not Jane, she knew herself through herself and not through Jane.
Because Jane never was, how could anything be known through her? Therefore the knower and the known, the one who arrives and what he arrives at, and the seer and the seen are one. “The knower” is His attribute and “the known” is His essence, and “the one who arrives” is His attribute and “what he arrives at” is His essence. In actuality, the attribute and that to which it is attributed are one. That is the explanation of the saying, Whoever knows their self, knows their Lord.
Whoever understands this example knows that there is no union or separation. The knower is He and the known is He, the one who sees is He and what is seen is He, the one who arrives is He and what he arrives at is He. No other than He reaches union, no other than He separates from Him. Whoever understands this is free of polytheism, and whoever has not understood this has not breathed the scent of this freedom from polytheism. Most of “those who know,” who think that they know themselves and their Lord and think that they are free of the bonds of existence, declare that the way can only be travelled by passing away, then by the passing away of passing away.
That is because they do not understand the saying of the Prophet and, believing themselves to be free of polytheism, they allude sometimes to the negation of existence, that is, to the passing away of existence, sometimes to the passing away of passing away, and sometimes to extinction or annihilation. All these expressions are unadulterated polytheism because whoever accepts that there could be anything other than Him that is subsequently capable of passing away, then of passing away from passing away, affirms that there is something other than Him, and whoever affirms this is a polytheist. May God guide them and us to the right path.
You thought you were you, but you are not you and never were. For if you were you, you would be a lord and the second of two. Stop what you were thinking. Between His being and your being there is no difference. He is no different from you nor you from Him.
If you say in ignorance you are other, then you are stubborn, so that when seeming ignorance disappears you become submissive. This sort of union is more separation, separation that “becomes” union, distance that “becomes” closeness, and through such as that you believe you become suitable. Instead of all that, abandon the intellect and understand by the light of unveiling, which is the undoing of what never was, so that what you are still safeguarding does not escape you. Do not debase yourself by associating any other with God, for associating other with God is debasing.
Whoever truly knows their self knows that their being is not their being, nor other than their being. Rather they know they are the very being of God, without their being becoming the being of God or entering into God or coming out of Him, and without their being existing along with Him or in Him. They see their being as it was before coming into being, without the need for passing away, effacement, or the passing away of passing away.
For the passing away of something implies that it was previously existent and that in turn implies that it exists by itself and not by the power of God, which is clearly impossible. It is evident that the knowledge that the knower has of their self is the knowledge that God has of Himself, because their self is no other than He. By this “self,” the Prophet meant “being.”
The being of the one who reaches this spiritual level is no longer their being whether inwardly or outwardly, but rather it is the very being of God. Their speech is His speech, their actions are His actions, and their claim to the knowledge of God is the knowledge God has of Himself through Himself. Because of ignorance someone may hear this claim as though coming from a person, or see such a one’s actions as though coming from a person, and so see them as other than God. But this is only because they are seeing themselves as other than God.
The faithful ones are the mirror of the Faithful One. He is He in His eye, for his sight is God’s sight without any conditions, though he may not be He through your eye or your knowledge, understanding, imagination, thought or vision. Yet he is He in His eye, His knowledge and His vision. If it is this way, then if he says I am God, listen to him, because it is God who is saying I am God, not him.
You have not reached the point he has reached, since if you had arrived here, you would understand what he says, you would say what he says and you would see what he sees. To summarize, the existence of things is His existence, without them existing. But do not fall into confusion and do not let these allusions lead you to imagine that God is created.
One of those who knows has said, The Sufi is uncreated. It is like that after the complete unveiling and dissipation of doubts and conjecturing. But this spiritual nourishment is only for the person whose nature is larger than the two worlds. As for the person whose nature is only as large as the two worlds, it is not suitable for them, for this nourishment is greater than the two worlds.
First, you must know that the seer and the seen, the one who finds and what is found, the knower and the known, the creator and the created, the perceiver and the perceived, are one. He sees, knows and perceives His being by means of His being, beyond any manner of sight, knowledge or perception, and without the existence of any of the forms of sight, knowledge or perception. Just as His being is beyond all condition, so the vision, knowledge and perception which He has of Himself are without condition.
If someone asks: How do you view all the repulsive and desirable things? For example, when we see dung or carrion, do we say it is God; the reply is: Our conversation is with those who do not see dung as dung, carrion as carrion, or desirable things as desirable things. We are only speaking with those who are endowed with inner vision and not with those who are inwardly blind. Anyone who does not know their self is blind and does not see. Until their blindness and lack of vision disappears, they will not grasp these meanings. Our conversation is with God, not with other than God and not with the inwardly blind.
Whoever reaches this spiritual station knows that they are no other than God. We are speaking with those who have determination and energy in seeking knowledge of their self in order to know God, and who keep fresh in their heart the image of their seeking and longing for union with God, and not with those without aim or intention.
If someone objects: God has declared that Eyes do not perceive Him but He perceives the eyes. God is the subtle and well informed one and you are maintaining the contrary, so what you are saying is not true. Then the response is: Everything that we are saying is the very meaning of God’s words, Eyes do not perceive Him, but He perceives the eyes, that is, there is no one else in existence, so there is no other that has sight which can perceive Him.
If it were conceivable that there were someone other than Him, then it would follow that this other could perceive Him. But God has informed us in His saying Eyes do not perceive Him that there is no other except Him. This means that no other than He perceives Him, that is, He who perceives Him is Himself. There is no other than He. He is the one who perceives His essence, not another. Eyes do not perceive Him because there is nothing but His being.
Whoever maintains that eyes do not perceive Him because eyes are transient and what is transient cannot grasp what is eternal and everlasting still does not know their self. For there is nothing other, neither transient nor not-transient, and there are no eyes which are not Him. He perceives His own being without the existence of perception, without condition and without other.
I know the Lord through the Lord
without doubt or uncertainty.
My essence is really His essence
without lack or imperfection.
There is no otherness between Us
and my self is the place where
the invisible appears.
Since I know myself
without mixture or blemish,
I have reached union with my beloved
without distance or closeness.
I have received a gift overflowing
without any giving or intermingling.
My self did not vanish in Him
nor does the one who vanished remain.
If someone asks: You affirm God and you deny the existence of everything else, so what are these things that you see; the answer is this: These words are for those who see nothing other than God. We have no discussion with those who do see something other than God, for they only see what they see. Whoever knows their self sees nothing except God, but whoever does not know their self, does not see God. Each receptacle only exudes what is in it.
We have already explained a great deal and if we explained more, whoever does not see will still not see, understand or comprehend; but whoever does see, sees, understands and comprehends already. A hint is enough for the one who has reached union. As for the person who has not reached union, they will not arrive by theoretical teaching, instruction, repetition, reason or learning, but only by putting themselves in the service of an eminent master who has arrived and so is a wise teacher. Guided by light upon the spiritual path, and progressing through the means of their own spiritual will, they will reach in this way what they are seeking, as God wills.
May God grant us completion in what He loves and in what satisfies Him in word and deed, knowledge and practice, light and guidance. He is the power of everything and will respond to every true request. There is no power or ability except in God, the sublime, the magnificent.
Peace and blessings on the Prophet, his family and friends.
Awhad al-din Balyani
13th century Sufi from Persia
(Rendered from a translation by Cecilia Twinch)