Self in Sufism, Advaita Vedanta and Psychology

Self in Sufism, Advaita Vedanta, and Psychology

In this paper, I attempt to investigate the irrefutable similarities found between the underlying foundations of many of the world religions, specifically their ontology. In fact, it seems implausible to neglect to also reveal the resemblance these religions have with a significant number of psychologists’ theories. Due to the vastness of this subject, I have paid particular attention to two specific world religions, Hinduism and Islam and again due to the complexity and diversity of each of these religions, I have chosen to examine only one school of thought from each religion, Advaita Vedanta in Hinduism and Sufism in Islam. There are such significant similarities in their ontology that I feel further investigation is fundamental.

The idea that all religions are essentially the same and the debates that surround that idea are briefly discussed, followed by the significant role India and Hinduism have played in the development and spreading of this ideology as well as its role in the nourishment of so many revolutionary philosophies.

In order to get an understanding into the specificity of the subject matter, an outline of both Advaita Vedanta and Sufism are given along with Jung’s concept of the ‘collective unconscious’ that seem to dovetail with Advaita’s and Sufism’s ontology.

I feel it was also important to mention the different levels of reality/knowledge that exist according to these schools of thought.

A large part of this work is focused on the similarities found to exist in both religious schools of thought as well as in one of the most of profound psychological theories on the idea of the Self and its relationship to the Ultimate, God, Being.

A comparative analysis into the processes and stages an individual goes through in order to achieve enlightenment or self-actualisation is delineated along with the manifestations that an ‘enlightened’ person possesses.  

The world is seeing an unremitting increase in global communications among political and economic philosophies, physical sciences, social sciences and inevitably among religion. This has therefore forced the different religions of the world to come together, which has lead to a rise in the overwhelming sentiment that favours increased communication and understanding, if not unity, of the religions of the world.  “They must develop a spirit of comprehension which will break down prejudice and misunderstanding and bind them together as a varied expression of a single truth[1].

The problem that has arisen thus far from the meeting of religions is that such contact has, for the most part, represented conflicts rather than dialogues. This, according to Hume is due to the fact that “in matters of religion, whatever is different is contrary.[2] That is, whatever grounds an individual has for believing in a particular religion, must be the same grounds for disbelieving in another.

Conversely, there has been a plethora of philosophers, scholars and theorists who believe that the essence of all religions is indistinguishable, that the fundamental principles running through all of them are one and the same. They acknowledge the fact that there are differences, however, these are things that are personal, non essential and will gradually fall away.[3]

John H. Hick distinguishes between three kinds of differences among religions. First, the Differences in the Modes of Experiencing the Divine Reality, as Personal or Impersonal – which he sees as unproblematic given that the personal and impersonal modes of encountering reality could be “understood as complementary rather than incompatible[4], in that people of the same or different religions have been found to experience God in different ways. Second, Philosophical and Theological Differences – which are also relatively easy to overcome, as the consequences of globalization, critical scholarship and science will call for religions to overcome or at least moderate their historical specificities. Third, Differences in the Key or Revelatory Experiences that Unify a Stream of Religious Experience or Thought – it is this difference that Hick sees as comprising of the largest difficulty in religious agreement, since each religion has its own holy founder or scripture.

Ralf W. Trine solves this third difference with his answer to someone who cannot grasp the great truth of the unity and oneness of all religions, “A Christian for example asks ‘But was not Christ inspired?’ Yes, but he was not the only one inspired. Another who is a Buddhist asks, ‘Was not Buddha inspired?’ Yes, but he was not the only one inspired”[5] With regards to the Holy Scriptures, he explains that all these inspired writings all come from the same source, God. The name that is given to ‘God’ is unimportant, be it Allah, Brahman, Being or the Unlimited, for “priests and poets will with words make into many the hidden reality which is but one”.[6]

This notion of the oneness of all religions has been greatly influenced by India, its thinkers and the acceptance of its ‘religion’. Culture is an extremely complex phenomenon that is constantly evolving, for no society can remain static for any length of time. The old moulds of society merge with the new attitudes which irrefutably will change the character of that civilization.

In India there has been a continuity of cultural change brought about by both internal factors such as the development of Buddhist and Hindu schools of thought such as Advaita Vedanta and external factors such as the Iranian contact and the Muslim rule. Yet rather than these factors changing the basic principles of Indian culture, it has kept close to its roots while at the same time, allowing new seeds to settle and flourish. It seems that “whatever was received from abroad was assimilated by India to her own genius. Where it failed to do so completely – as in the case of Islam – its failure was only partial, as there was rapprochement in a number of cultural features, and, in some, complete fusion”[7].  

No country and no religion has ever adopted this level of understanding and appreciation of other faiths so persistently and consistently as India and Hinduism. India was not a nation of one people but of many peoples with an array of languages, religions and communities. Yet despite this fact, they still tended to possess similar attitudes and outlooks.

There were and still are two main religions professed by the people of India, Hinduism and Islam. In both it is possible to distinguish between two religious tendencies, one of which is more traditionalist and orthodox, where the emphasis is put on established doctrine and ritual, this according to Maslow is the legalistic and organisational side of religion[8]. For the second type the focus is turned inward, the focus was put on the spirit of religion, the withdrawal from objective reality and the unification with the Divine. It is this second approach to religion that is of particular interest.

It is this tolerance and acceptance of the Indian culture that has enabled Sufism to develop in the way that it has, for although it did not originate in India, it is in India that Sufism was allowed to survive and proliferate. Sufism or tasawwuf, as it is called in Arabic has been under debate regarding its origins and how this school of inner knowledge was established. Although Sufism is open to all humanity, it was born out of Islam[9] and there are records of it going as far back as to the lifetime of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), fifteen centuries ago.

When the news of Islam spread, many people traveled great distances to hear the teachings of the Prophet because of their inner yearning to learn the reality of religion.

These individuals met on the platform (Suffe) of a mosque in Medina where they would discuss the ways to inner knowledge, the truths of revelation and the meanings of the Quran. This group of followers later became known as Ahle Suffe, the People of the Platform, one of the most influential groups in the history of spiritual civilization. They later returned to their nations as diverse and widely separated as Persia, Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, North Africa and India in order to keep the Sufi tradition alive. Through this dispersion different orders and schools of Sufism have emerged, the four major ones being The Chishti Order, The Qadiri Order, The Suhrawardi Order and The Naqshbandi Order, yet all legitimate Sufi schools trace their roots back to the original groups of the Prophet’s spiritual disciples[10].

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, one of the leading scholars of Islam, contends that Sufism is simply the name for the inner or esoteric dimension of Islam. The Sufi teachings are based on individual understanding and experience, not just on knowledge of texts and rote learning. The central concept in Sufism is love, which they believe is a projection of God on the universe[11].

Their practices are based on knowledge of the true self, which then frees them from the self centered personality characteristics that blind them from Reality, “freedom from the self“, this process is called Fana[12]. The preoccupation people have with owning and controlling is in par with their inability to connect to God and see the true reality that is within themselves.

“What appears to be truth is a worldly distortion of objective truth” – Hakim Sanai one of the classic authors on Sufism.

Sufism is akin to Advaita Vedanta. Their belief lies in the non dual Absolute and that the Truth (Haqiqa) lies at the heart of all things and yet is beyond all determination and limitation. The Sufis feel that it is an illusion to see human beings as different or separate from nature and the universe. God said, “My earth and my heavens contain me not, but the heart of my faithful servant contains me.”[13] They view the world as a reflection of God.  A Sufi discovers that the “lover and beloved come from love.”[14]  

Many Sufi poets compare consciousness to a cup and unconsciousness to the ocean, individually we are like the cup but all of us together with nature are the ocean, unconscious reality, or God. If we have the ability to lose the limitation of the cup by freeing the self we can be reunited with the ocean of being, which would enable us to lose the anxieties of separation, loneliness and isolation and gain the permanency of the everlasting ocean[15].  

The philosophy of Advaita Vedanta is not easy to explain briefly and I do  not presume to be able to explain what takes whole volumes for accomplished experts, but rather to just give an outline of the key features of the most popular Vedantic school of thought.   The term Advaita means ‘Non-Dual’ which refers to the tradition’s absolute monism and the Upanishads are the Vedanta, the ‘end of the Veda’. Two specific passages from the Chandogya Upanishad provides a valuable insight into the foundation of the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta:

In the beginning, this world was just Being [i.e. Brahman] – one only, without a second …. And it thought to itself ‘Let me become many; let me multiply myself.

                                                                                    (Chandogya Upanishad 6.2.1-3)

By means of just one lump of clay, everything made of clay can be known: any modifications are merely verbal distinctions, names; the reality is just clay.

                                                                                    (Chandogya Upanishad 6.1.4)[16]

The most famous Advaita thinker and one of the most famous Indian philosophers of all time is Sankaracarya or Sankara, who is believed to have lived in the 8th century CE. After leaving home in seek of a guru, which he found by the Narmada river, he moved on to Varanasi where he taught, debated and gathered disciples. He then went on a pilgrimage to the source of the Ganges, in Badrinath where he stayed for four years and completed his major works. These include a commentary on Badarayana’s Brahma Sutra, the Brhadaranyaka and Taittiriya Upanisads and his non commentarial work the Upadesa-Sahasri – the ‘Thousand Teachings’[17]. He also established a monastic order, the Dasanamis, with four centres at Srngeri, Dwarka, Badrinath and Puri. He died in the Himalayas aged thirty two.

There were three main texts that Sankara believed should be taught in unison and what are now known as the ‘Triple Foundation of Revealed Truth’, the Brahma Sutra, the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanisads themselves.

One of the most important underlying notions in all Vedantic schools of thought is that man is suffering – that they have been caught in a never ending cycle of births and rebirths, known as Samsara. The ultimate quest of man is therefore to seek a way out of this bondage and attain liberation, Moksha. It is knowledge (Jnana) of the true nature of self (Atman) and the absolute (Brahman) and the loss of spiritual ignorance (Avidya) and illusions (Maya)[18], that will enable Moksha to be attainable. An individual who has reached this realisation, not just from scholastic knowledge but through his/her own experience, is known as a Jivanmukta and will not return to the cycle of rebirths.

The unity between the true self and universal reality is indicated by the Sanskrit language phrase tat tvam asi – you are that, i.e. you are that highest reality, Brahman.

According to Advaita Vedanta Brahman has no attributes, yet is pure being, consciousness or absolute intelligence and bliss (Sat – cit – ananda) which rather than taken as attributes are simply its essential nature.

‘In Truth these living creatures were born of Bliss, it is through Bliss that, having come into existence, they are kept alive, it is to Bliss that they will all return.’[19]

Here, I would like to acquaint the reader with a concept introduced by Carl Jung that corresponds very closely with the ideas that have just been presented about Advaita Vedanta and Sufism. Jung saw the human psyche as made up of layers, first is the Conscious Mind, the ego; composed of conscious perceptions, memories, thoughts and feelings. Secondly comes the Personal Unconscious which is made up of suppressed and forgotten memories. Finally, is his concept of the Collective Unconscious, which is universal, there is nothing that can be added to it from experience, it predates the individual. It is these deep structures of the psyche that Jung called the Archetypes, which were the conceptual matrixes or patterns behind all our religious and mythological concepts.

Although he initially introduced the concept as psycho-biological, after contact and research in the East, he preferred to see the collective unconscious in a more Platonic sense of preexistent spiritual entities. In the Platonic tradition, the archetype constituted of total spiritual reality, the perfect spiritual reality that created the imperfect physical reality.

Jung describes these archetypes as “primordial images, which, because of their universality and immense antiquity, posses a cosmic and supra-human character.”[20] After extensive research into whether these archetypes could be attributed to racial inheritance or genetics, he found that “these images have nothing to do with so called blood or racial inheritance, nor are they personally acquired by the individual. They belong to mankind in general, and therefore are of a collective nature[21]

It appears that for Jung, although he refused to accept the relevance of an Absolute, he does continuously refer to God, in many forms, the self, the spirit, the collective unconscious, the God within. “The beginnings of our whole psychic life seem to be inextricably rooted in it, and all our highest and ultimate purposes seem to be striving towards it.”[22]  

It is the overdeveloped conscious mind of modern man that has led to the development of a  false sense of self and a false sense of mastery over and freedom from nature, man “suffers from being cut off from his instinctive roots in the collective unconscious.”[23]  

From the theories underlying Advaita Vedanta, Sufism and Jung’s layers of the psyche an implication of different realities or different types of knowledge arises, and in all three, ideas of this have been given.

The use of the term Maya to represent the illusory or unreal reality, for Sankara created problems. For to think in those terms lead to the Buddhist concept that the appearance of plurality has no conventional reality, giving this life little importance. The conventional world/reality is of great importance to Sankara, as it is at this level of reality that the Veda reveals the eternal truth and it is from this level that a person can seek to gain liberating insight. He therefore proposed that there are in fact ‘two levels of reality’, the Absolute and the Conventional. Conventional reality is that which is experienced due to the ignorance, Avidya, of the true nature of absolute reality. It is the “Superimposition of the self on what is not the self, and what is not the self on the self, is the natural propensity of ignorant consciousness.”[24] It is the overcoming of this ignorance and the gaining of knowledge of the identity of the true essential self, Atman, and its inseparability from the ultimate, Brahman, that enables someone to reach the second level of reality, the Absolute reality. Once the superimposition is understood for what it is, the individual is no more an individual, the universe is no longer the universe, all is Brahman[25].  

This idea of different levels of reality corresponds very closely with the three forms of knowledge described by Ibn Al Arabi one of the great Sufis of the Middle Ages whose work has deeply penetrated Eastern and Western thought. The first two forms of knowledge are intellectual and emotional, knowledge of information and the collection of facts and the knowledge of states, which includes emotional feelings and strange states of being in which something supreme is experienced but no benefit has been gained from the experience. The final form is knowledge of Reality, where what is right, real and true is perceived, beyond the boundaries of thought and sense. It seems that through the intellectual and emotional level of knowing it becomes possible for someone to reach the level of truly knowing reality. This signifies the importance of this reality as with Advaita Vedanta, for it is our knowledge of this reality and our actions in it that will determine if we are to ever attain real knowledge.

Jung’s analysis of perception can be compared to Advaita Vedanta’s two levels of reality and Sufism’s three forms of knowledge. He found that there are two levels of perception, the first is at the conscious level, perceptions of ordinary experience which are the result of the stimuli that stream into us from the outside world. The second is intuition, perception of the unconscious and is attributable to the basic function of the psyche. It is the “unconscious inner perception of the inherent potentialities of things.”[26] For Jung consciousness is restricted, we are only able to take in a very small number of simultaneous perceptions. This then can be linked back to the idea in Advaita Vedanta that what we perceive as reality is not reality, which fits with what Jung says about our perceptions of things in general, that what we think we perceive all around us, is in fact not all there is. So is it just a malfunction on the part of humans? Is the truth right there for us to see yet we lack the understanding or the knowledge of how to really use our sense perceptions?

Everyone has, according to Al Ghazali, one of the most significant Sufis of all time, the ability to experience God and attain direct knowledge from God. This view of the universality of true self knowledge is mirrored in the Vivekacudamani (The Crest Jewel of Discrimination), although it does as with Sufism, stress the incapability most people have of being able to successfully complete the stages required for this process. Both of these processes and realisations correspond very closely with the psychological theory of Self Actualisation, which was first coined by Jung, although Abraham Maslow later offered a more in depth description of a self actualised person and has come to be associated to a greater extent with this theory. This too everyone has the possibility of attaining yet the processes are hard and few are likely to ever achieve this state.

‘There is no such thing as absolute freedom. We are in bondage to the material world, to genetics and to the laws of nature… Alternatively we may be in bondage to Spirit, the one true power. If I can become a servant of Spirit, I will be free of many laws; I will be answerable to only one thing, and there is freedom in that.[27] Yet how is this achievable? In Advaita Vedanta and Sufism there are processes that an individual must go through in order to ever reach the truth, enlightenment, freedom from the self, real freedom. In order to do this, the first step is to be able to identify the false self, the ego which blinds and corrupts.

“He who knows himself knows his Lord”. Saying of Prophet Mohamed PBUH[28]

In the path of Sufism a Salik (traveler) must go through seven stages of nafs (self) in order to reach the essential self, the self that is merged with the divine. According to Fadiman & Frager the lowest level of self is the commanding self, which is the selfish and evil self. The regretful self is able to at times discriminate between right and wrong and resist temptations. These first two are more or less under control of the false self. The inspired self is interested in spiritual knowledge and is compassionate. This is the highest stage that conventional religion can attain. The contented self  is the beginning of the loss of ego and attachments, which is followed by the pleased self that has accepted good and bad as things from God and submits to reality. The sixth stage is the self pleasing to God, which is in total submission to God; they have reached the ‘inner marriage of self and soul’. The final stage is the pure self, the soul of perfection where there is no self left, it is the complete human being, it is the divine. 

The Vivekacudamani (The Crest Jewel of Discrimination), identifies four stages that an individual must go through in order to reach the truth. The first stage is an essential identity crisis. They are likely to feel lost and confused about who they are and what their purpose in life is. The world seems to be evil and to only bring torment to their lives. They are looking for a solution and are open to any escapes offered to them. This is likely to be followed by the realization of their false self, for it the ignorance of the truth that affects every aspect of our lives and how we experience the world around us. It is the ability to discriminate, essentially to distinguish between what is self and everything that is not. It is the impermanency of things that enables the person to distinguish between self and non self, as the fundamental self is simple, free and unchanging. The third stage of this path is how a person can discover self and become integrated and whole. It is the realization that your own self is the same as the self of the universe, non dualism. Finally, once these stages have been completed and practiced the individual is able to celebrate the achievement of true self awareness and live life accordingly without illusions.

According to Maslow, in order for an individual to be self actualized they have to be able to fully satisfy certain basic human needs, which he has called the Hierarchy of Needs. These basic needs include, biological and physiological needs such as food, air, shelter, sex, sleep etc. Safety needs that include things like protection, stability and limits. The need for belonging and love from friends, family and colleagues is also an essential requirement to satisfy a human being. Finally the esteem needs, such as the feeling of achievement, status, responsibility and a good reputation in their community. It is with the total fulfillment of these needs that a person will be totally satisfied in their life, and eventually have the ability to be self actualized.

The spiritual journey is essentially the same for every seeker of truth from the point of view of the stages of the self, however from the point of view of manifestation, this process is unique for each person[29].

Some of the most evident and collective manifestations of loss of self in Sufism are likely to include things such as internal silence, in which the Sufi is alert and conscious and is free from dualistic thinking. The relation between nature and the body seem to disappear and invisible rhythms are created between them. They feel an annihilation of self centred personality characteristics and an overwhelming feeling of love and emotion. The experience of the Light of Reality is the ultimate goal of most mystics, including Sufis. This light is all around us, yet we are blind to it due to our illusions and self conceit. A Sufi tends to experience a loss of self awareness due to intense feelings of joy (shauq) and ecstasy (wajd) in seeing and being in the unitary essence of existence, existential communion with God known in Arabic as wahdat al wujud.

The ultimate goal of the Sufi’s journey is Mushahada, Vision of Reality and they get their belief in the possibility of this from a saying of Prophet Mohamed (PBUH), “Worship God in such a way that you see Him, if you cannot do so be aware that he sees you.”[30]  

Unlike traditional teaching of the idea of enlightenment where it may be learned and conceptualised, in Advaita Vedanta, it is a freedom which already existed, our focus on the division between ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ simply blinded us from it. When a person is free of the dualistic thinking they are likely to possess certain characteristics and live life in a specific manner. “They become wise and free; the world becomes a realm of freedom, and he can live anew, fully alive.”[31]  

They posses an inner calm and remain that way even under the most hostile conditions. They do not desire wealth and social position, yet are very highly respected in the community. They fail to see things in a dualistic way, and feel a real connection or unity between themselves, other people and nature. They see clearly the nature of the mind and the extent of its conditioning. They are accepting of others and their faults and do not tend to judge and blame. They are desire less. They live in constant bliss with the knowledge that they have seen truth. “The knower of self wears no outer mark and is unattached to external things, rests on this body without identification; he experiences sense objects just as they come, as others wish, like a child…[32]

The unique characteristics of a Self Actualized person that Maslow[33] (1954) identified are significantly similar to an enlightened individual in either Advaita Vedanta or Sufism. They are more than likely to have a more accurate perception of reality and are more able to reason, think logically and see the Truth. They have a greater extent of self acceptance as well as an acceptance of others and the world around them. Their thoughts are less troubled by convention and are individuals that are motivated by continual growth. Their thoughts are turned outward, and their mission in life is to devote themselves to the duty of others. The self actualized person owns their own behaviour, is able to accept personal misfortunes all the while remaining objective. They have a tendency to be detached and can be alone without being lonely, while at the same time having profound intimate relationships as they are capable of greater love than others see possible.  

They don't hold stereotypical ideas of life and people, and appreciate and learn from them regardless of class, race, culture or colour. Awareness of their own imperfections and impatience with themselves as a result of this is an intrinsic value of a Self Actualized person. They live life for the present moment and are focused on the journey rather than the destination and therefore are able to retain their childlike qualities yet at the same time remain very wise. Their focus changes from a need for material comforts to a yearning for spiritual growth which interestingly leads them to a feeling of inner freedom and peak experiences.
"Feelings of limitless horizons opening up to the vision, the feeling of being simultaneously more powerful and also more helpless than one ever was before, the feeling of ecstasy and wonder and awe, the loss of placement in time and space with, finally, the conviction that something extremely important and valuable had happened, so that the subject was to some extent transformed and strengthened even in his daily life by such experiences.[34]" 

The similarities that are so evident between the processes and characteristics of an enlightened, self actualized person discussed in Sufism, Advaita Vedanta and certain psychological theories can not simply be a coincidence. They seem to be qualities that today most people take as being enviable and admirable qualities, that all of us would want to possess. Unlike most of society they do not desire for material belongings and power, in fact they seem to posses a sense of freedom because of their detachment to these things. This non dualistic way of thinking creates a feeling of unity with the world that gives them a certain respect for all existence and this is made evident in the way that they treat all people, creatures and nature.

After the analysis and comparison of these three different yet perfectly in tune ideologies, it seems inevitable to ask the question of whether this striving for the truth and the experiences of the truth are in fact religious or simply psychological, human impulses. However, does it even matter? These underlying similarities in ontology are found not only among the religions discussed but also among a number of other religions, such as Christianity and Buddhism as well as a number of the major philosophies and yet from the examination of only these three seemingly different ideologies, the fact that only one true essence is found, must suggest that there must be some truth in it, regardless of whether it is taken from a psychological or religious perspective. The different religions may have been created by society and the psychological theories by people, yet can a universal phenomenon such as this simply be attributed to society as well?


Angha, N. Practical Sufism and Philosophical Sufism. Accessed on 3rd September 2005.

Behari, B. (1982). Sufis, Mystics and Yogis of India. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, India.

Chand, T. Indian (1979) Thought and the Sufis – in – The World of the Sufi. The Octagon Press Ltd. UK.

Clooney, F. X. (2001). Hindu Wisdom for all God’s Children. Orbis Books, USA.

Coward, H. (1985). Jung and Eastern Thought. State University of New York Press, USA.

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Hilmi, A. (1999). Awakened Dreams. Shambala Publications, USA.

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Rushbrook Williams, L.F. (1974). Sufi Studies: East and West. Tonbridge Printers Ltd., UK.

Shafii, M. (1985). Freedom from the Self. Human Sciences Press Inc., USA.

Shah, I. (1980). The Way of the Sufi. The Octagon Press Ltd., UK.

Sharma, A. (1995). The Philosophy of Religion and Advaita Vedanta. Pennsylvania State University Press, USA.

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[1] Radhakrishnan, S. (1940). Eastern Religions and Western Thought 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, UK.  pg. 306.[2] Hick, J. H. (1983). The Philosophy of Religion 3rd ed. Englewood Cliffs, Prentice Hall, USA. Pg. 109.

[3] Sharma, A. (1995). The Philosophy of Religion and Advaita Vedanta. Pennsylvania State University Press, USA.

[4] Hick, J. H. (1983). The Philosophy of Religion 3rd ed. Englewood Cliffs, Prentice Hall, USA. pg. 116

[5] Trine, R.W. (1933). In Tune with the Infinite. The Religious Book Club, UK. pg.  204.

[6] Rig Veda. x. 114.

[7] Chand, T. Indian (1979) Thought and the Sufis – in – The World of the Sufi. The Octagon Press Ltd. UK. pg. 89. 

[8] Pettifor, E. (1996). Beyond Dichotomies: Health and Values in Maslow’s Holistic Dynamic Theory.

[9] Although it is not part of the mainstream religion of Islam and never has been.

[10] Angha, N. Practical Sufism and Philosophical Sufism.

[11] Godlas, A. A. (1996). What is Tasawwuf?

[12] Shafii, M. (1985). Freedom from the Self. Human Sciences Press Inc., USA. pg. 144.

[13] Fatemi, N. S. A Message and Method of Love, Harmony and Brotherhood – in – Rushbrook Williams, L.F. (1974). Sufi Studies: East and West. Tonbridge Printers Ltd., UK. pg. 61.

[14] Arasteh, A. R. Psychology of the Sufi way to Individuation – in – Rushbrook Williams, L.F. (1974). Sufi Studies: East and West. Tonbridge Printers Ltd., UK. pg. 109.

[15] Shaffi, M. (1985). Freedom from the Self. Human Sciences Press Inc., USA. pg. 37.

[16] Chandogya Upanishad. Taken from Hamilton, S. (2001). Indian Philosophy, A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, USA. pg. 125.

[17] Flood, G. (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge University Press, UK. pg. 240.

[18] Which is not ‘illusion’ in the Western sense of the word, but a word that means that which flows, changes every moment, which appears and disappears. Raphael. (1990). Self and Non-Self. Kegan Paul International, UK. pg. 5

[19] Taittiriya Upanisad (III,VI, 1). Taken from Raphael. (1990). Self and Non-Self. Kegan Paul International, UK. pg. 9. 

[20] Coward, H. (1985). Jung and Eastern Thought. State University of New York Press, USA. pg. 15. 

[21] Ibid. pg. 39.

[22] Ibid. pg. 181.

[23] Ibid. pg. 15.

[24] Flood, G. (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge University Press, UK. pg. 241.

[25] Hindu Religion and Philosophy

[26] Coward, H. (1985). Jung and Eastern Thought. State University of New York Press, USA. pg. 71.

[27] Helminski, K. E. (1992). Living Presence. Penguin Putman Inc., USA. pg. 134.

[28] Ibid. pg. 57.

[29] Hilmi, A. (1999) Awakened Dreams. Shambala Publications, USA.

[30] Shafii, M. (1985). Freedom from the Self. Human Sciences Press Inc., USA. pg. 156.

[31] Clooney, F. X. (2001). Hindu Wisdom for all God’s Children. Orbis Books, USA. pg. 29.

[32] Ibid. pg. 28. (vv. 528, 536-39)

[33] Maslow, A. H. (1970) Religions, Values and Peak Experiences.

[34] Ibid.

12 Responses to “Self in Sufism, Advaita Vedanta and Psychology”

  1. Namaste,
    In dhyanayoga bhashyam of adishankaracharya, he says that, only sanyasis are eligable for dhyanayoga, so to acheive self realisation, is it nessassary for one to sacrifice every thing in life?

  2. i dont think so, because the word ‘sacrificing’ is questionable. if you leave everything and think ourself great that ‘oh i have done this!’ every thing will be spoiled in present days practising dhyana is common in grihasthas through which they could achieve self realization

  3. Salam
    Yes, Islam and Advaita-Vedanta are -in their essence – absolutely
    congruent, since Truth – Al-Haqq, Allah, Brahman – is One.
    Truth is unique , and there is nothing but the One Self – The Highest – ; Islam as a religion is the outer expression of this fundamental teaching, Sufism or Erfaan is the Way to realize the
    saving and blissful knowledge of Brahman – of the Absolute .
    Alhamdulillah – I´m pleased , when I read about this Unity, for not always it is really recognized. But – enshaAllah – it will soonly reveal itself like the Coming of the Dawn. Ya Ali !

  4. Reading the different expressions of truth from the different traditions leads myself to seeing no distinction but just a SEEING of what already is, always has been and always will be. Well truth is that Truth Just is. No distinction of this or that, but an intuitional experience of oneself beyond expression. I feel beings who have come to the undoubtable experience of themselves have tried to express this truth with the medium of language. Just as a medium is needed to drink water, medium of language is needed to express the truth of oneself to the beings who are still bound in their own intellect and body. However one who can quench his thirst from drinking straight from the stream, can realize his own inherrent truth from the silence of the master, or from his own eternal presence. Turning to this clear, distinctionless SEEING is what all teaching point to. Trying to say the unsayable, so what is said can be seen as oneself.

  5. Hello, you should read Toshihiko Izutsu’s book “Sufism and Taoism: a comparative study of key philosophical concepts”

  6. I don’t have anything to add. Would like to say thank you for writing this paper.

  7. Many Thanks for this and please continue your exploration should continue, christianity, the forbidden gospels and Kabbalah also share the same ideas. Best wishes Phoebe

  8. Thank you for your time and information , similar paths crosses across my mind and i was tickled along the way with insights through words of wisdom from strangers and sometimes from nature itself.One book that i could relate with each of the scenarios that cross my mind was from “Hero with a thousand faces by Joseph Campbell”.

  9. I Would like to narrate the famous statement of Adi Sankara as Brahmasattyam jagatmitya,jivo brahmaiva naparah, Which means the identification of individual consiousness with the cosmic consciousness as Hindu called it jivanmukthi,a buddhist nirvana and sufists as enlightenment. whatever path all religions teaches,
    the ultimate junction point is one and one absolute only.

    A very fine article to read and my thanks to the author

    BY RSR 18.07.13

  10. What you are doing here, with the means of this, and other such articles, is the greatest service to humanity. I say this with awareness; and because it is our relationship with God that defines who we are and what we do in this world. A belief in a “judging & reprimanding” God is causing humanity to make laws — either as Divine revelations or simply modern civil society laws — which reflect and propagate just this belief.

    And the lost opportunity in this is to have created a society which could have reflected One-ness. The result in all likelihood would have been a more humane society, with equal opportunities of self-expression for all genders and races alike. And in this process perhaps fulfilling the very purpose of the existence of this Universe.

    Just a couple of days ago i started reading “In Search of Onenness — The Bhagvad Gita and Quran through Sufi Eyes” by Moosa Raza. It is a brilliant book on this same topic of One-ness in Sufism and Hinduism (incl Vedanta) as the title clearly suggests. I highly recommend all your readers to buy and read it.

    Meanwhile, i reached this book, and your brilliant paper, Googling for communicating “one-ness” in my (work-in-progress, as of today) article on “Understanding Hinduism — For Muslims and Christians”: . Please do drop in comments so that i might improve it over the course of the next weeks.

    Before i end, i’d leave references of a few books which have been transformative for me, and profoundly defined my relationship with the creator:

    — “Conversations with God (Book 1, 2, 3)” by Neale Donald Walsch
    — “Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse
    — “Road Less Travelled” by Scott M. Peck
    — “Many Masters, Many Lives” by Brian Weiss
    — “Turning Point” by Fritjof Capra

    Warm Regards, Love and Prayers,

  11. […] largely does *not* hold true for the Sufis. They continue to be the mystical arm of Islam. The sufis merged, adopted yogic meditative & spiritual practices into Islam, translated the Upanishads and the Gita often using their influence of Kings such as Akbar, even […]

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