What an awesome and delicate responsibility it is to see through the heart, to live from the heart. Judgment and opinion are like filters, set far back in the mind, that obscure the heart’s vision.
This month we will begin the first of a series of seven themes on “The Foundations of Heartfulness.” We begin with “objective witnessing.” Our first responsibility is to reduce the distortions of our egoism, to witness objectively, and be a reflector of Divine Presence in the world.
The purpose of human life can be stated as: to attain the knowledge of Reality. Everything that is given to human beings through revelation is to guide us to knowing our true selves and through our selves to attain the knowledge of all the dimensions of reality. Al Shahid, the Ultimate Witness, is a key to the knowledge of reality. God is Al Shahid and every attribute of God is also an attribute of the true Human Being. We are in the process of becoming
the non-judging, objective witness, al Shahid.
To begin, a reliable principle of the process is: to let go of our judgments of what we see, and so to see more. Taking the stance of an impartial witness to our own experience opens us to what truly is and how we truly are. We are not here to judge or blame others or ourselves.
By noticing the stream of judging mind without trying to stop it, by just being aware of it, we are entering a state of self-knowledge where change is possible. Through greater witnessing real intention and change can happen. The direction of this change, this transformation, is toward nobility of character.
This description of Alyosha, one of the main characters in Doestoievski’s The Brothers Karamazov, is a very interesting example of a human being in the state of witnessing:
Alyosha: from The Brothers Karamazov
“But he rarely cared to speak of this memory to any one. In his childhood and youth he was by no means expansive, and talked little indeed, but not from shyness or a sullen unsociability; quite the contrary, from something different, from a sort of inner preoccupation entirely personal and unconcerned with other people, but so important to him that he seemed, as it were, to forget others on account of it. But he was fond of people: he seemed throughout his life to put implicit trust in people: yet no one ever looked on him as a simpleton or naïve person. There was something about him which made one feel at once (and it was so all his life afterwards) that he did [pg 015]not care to be a judge of others—that he would never take it upon himself to criticize and would never condemn any one for anything. He seemed, indeed, to accept everything without the least condemnation though often grieving bitterly: and this was so much so that no one could surprise or frighten him even in his earliest youth. Coming at twenty to his father’s house, which was a very sink of filthy debauchery, he, chaste and pure as he was, simply withdrew in silence when to look on was unbearable, but without the slightest sign of contempt or condemnation. His father, who had once been in a dependent position, and so was sensitive and ready to take offense, met him at first with distrust and sullenness. “He does not say much,” he used to say, “and thinks the more.” But soon, within a fortnight indeed, he took to embracing him and kissing him terribly often, with drunken tears, with sottish sentimentality, yet he evidently felt a real and deep affection for him, such as he had never been capable of feeling for any one before.
“Every one, indeed, loved this young man wherever he went, and it was so from his earliest childhood. When he entered the household of his patron and benefactor, Yefim Petrovitch Polenov, he gained the hearts of all the family, so that they looked on him quite as their own child. Yet he entered the house at such a tender age that he could not have acted from design nor artfulness in winning affection. So that the gift of making himself loved directly and unconsciously was inherent in him, in his very nature, so to speak. It was the same at school, though he seemed to be just one of those children who are distrusted, sometimes ridiculed, and even disliked by their schoolfellows. He was dreamy, for instance, and rather solitary. From his earliest childhood he was fond of creeping into a corner to read, and yet he was a general favorite all the while he was at school. He was rarely playful or merry, but any one could see at the first glance that this was not from any sullenness. On the contrary he was bright and good-tempered. He never tried to show off among his schoolfellows. Perhaps because of this, he was never afraid of any one, yet the boys immediately understood that he was not proud of his fearlessness and seemed to be unaware that he was bold and courageous. He never resented an insult. It would happen that an hour after the offense he would address the offender or answer some question with as trustful and candid an expression as though nothing had happened between them. And it was not that he seemed to have forgotten or intentionally forgiven the affront, but simply that he did not regard it as an affront, and this completely conquered and captivated the boys.
“Here is perhaps the one man in the world whom you might leave alone without a penny, in the center of an unknown town of a million inhabitants, and he would not come to harm, he would not die of cold and hunger, for he would be fed and sheltered at once; and if he were not, he would find a shelter for himself, and it would cost him no effort or humiliation. And to shelter him would be no burden, but, on the contrary, would probably be looked on as a pleasure.”
A man asked the Prophet Muhammad about nobility of character. He said, “It means that you should forgive him who has wronged you, re-establish ties with him who has broken them off, give to him who has denied you something, and speak the truth even if it is against your own interests.” (Mishkat)
Nobility of character is to more and more radiate blessing, to be a source of positive energy. Abu Hurayrah related that the Messenger of God, peace be upon him, was once asked to curse the idol worshippers, to which he replied, “I was not sent to curse; I was sent only as a mercy.” (Hadith found in Muslim)
And these selections from the Qur’an illuminate al Shahid, the ever-present Witness: Our destiny is to witness the signs of God both within ourselves and “on the farthest horizons”:
And eventually the veils will be lifted at death for every human being; we will awaken from heedlessness:
y veyyou yourclearyouran intimate of his own being
But for the knower, the arif, conscious mind accompanies his or her inner urges, self-knowledge leads to transformation, the overcoming of our egoism, and a different quality of character. And so, this month’s theme: Leave opinions and blame; be an objective witness, and serve in love.