Wednesday, April 14, 2010


These are from the 9th Century Sufi wise man Abu Yazid Al-Bistami and come from the "Anthology of Sacred Prose" THE ENLIGHTENED MIND edited by Stephen Mitchell, a favorite book of mine for many years. The Al-Bistami translations are by Reynold A. Nicholson:

"Nothing is better for a man than to be without anything, having no asceticism, no theory, no practice. When he is without everything, he is with everything."

"Anyone whose reward from God is deferred until tomorrow has not truly worshiped Him today."

"A single atom of the sweetness of wisdom in a man's heart is better than a thousand pavilions in Paradise."

and my favorite:

"For thirty years I used to say, "Do this" and "Give that"; but when I reached the first stage of wisdom, I said, "O God, be mine and do whatever You want."


Jamie Rose said...

Ah, thanks Lals.

Zuckster said...

As I read your post Michael I turn and on the shelf next to my desk are worn copies of The Enlightened Heart and The Enlightened Mind, along with Stephen Mitchell's version of the Tao te Ching. My survival package. I flipped open The Enlightened Mind to a folded page to find three favorites by Franz Kafka: "Beyond a certain point there is no return. This point has to be reached." "The Messiah will come only when he is no longer necessary." and, "The fact that there is nothing but a spiritual world deprives us of hope and gives us certainty." Someone once said that all of rock'n'roll and blues is one long song sung by different singers, which is how I feel about your great quotes and those that make up these books.


epaminondas said...

when i surrender my life to the divine design of my soul i free myself from 'this i know' and so i'm no longer guide by fear, but am guided by love

AlamedaTom said...

Hey Lal:
Thanks for this stuff, if only for the purpose of testing my honesty with myself. Having had my home and all my possessions burn to ash in the 1991 Oakland firestorm (including about 10,000 negative that I shot and developed as a semi-pro photographer), I am not ready to say that being "without everything" results in my being "with everything."

On the contrary,today I have a beautiful loving wife, a great dog, a very nice house (which my kids, grand kids, and friends enjoy with me), and lots of gadgets to play with that give me a lot of joy.

At age 66, I must be honest and say that I am not even remotely disposed to be without all of that to be "with everything."

~ Willy

Lally said...

I hear you Tom, and e & z & j. But I must admit, when I was first recovering from the brain surgery and thought IT WAS ALL SO PERFECTLY CLEAR as it often seems to be in moments like that, I had no interest in any of the material things I still own, mostly books and artwork and CDs and boxes of manuscripts etc. and it felt really pretty sweet. Of course, as soon as my recovery progressed and I started getting back the capacity to read and write and etc. these things began to become very dear to me again.

TC said...


Lovely these, drew me back again, and/but the second time round I found myself pausing and pondering... if it's possible to split that atom of the sweetness in one's heart, I'd do it in a minute and trade that half atom for a ticket to just one of those paradise pavilions... which are sounding better and better the more I think of them.

(Sign of lack of wisdom possibly?)

Thanks and all best to you as always, Tom

Lally said...

Your poetry is too full of the kind of wisdom I most admire for me to ever believe there's any "lack of wisdom" on your part. I suspect it's on mine, with these quotes seeming to me to contain a kind of poetry of contradiction that creates more mystery perhaps than actual wisdom but does it in a way that calls to that part of me that craves the serenity that my experience tells me may come from acceptance of these contradictions as opposed to succumbing to despair over the lack of my ideal world ever being anywhere other than in my mind. If that makes any sense.