Thursday, July 18, 2013

SUFI version of the Buddha's life

Dhr. Seven, Amber Dorrian, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly;
St. Issa (Jesus), the Buddha, Goddess Oshun, Bodhisattva Kwan Yin, Shiva (
Sultan "Ibrāhīm Ibn Adham of Balkh Served by Angels" from the Read Mughal Album. Mughal, probably Oudh, third quarter of the 18th century, attributed to Mīr Kalān Khān. Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911; MS M.458.32 (

Rumi, inspired by Buddhism, set forth Seven Pieces of Advice. They are universal, transcending religious boundaries, epitomizing the highest sentiments of humanity, and encompassing the common values of all religions:
  1. In generosity and helping others, be like the river.
  2. In compassion and grace, be like the sun.
  3. In concealing others’ faults, be like the night.
  4. In anger and fury, be like the dead.
  5. In modesty and humility, be like the soil.
  6. In tolerance, be like the ocean.
  7. Either appear as you are, or be as you appear.
Rumi, Founder of Whirling Dervishes
Sufism well knows the story of Siddhartha Gautama, who became the Buddha. But the story is told of an ancient king of Balkh:
After a spiritual awakening, Ibrāhīm Ibn Adham (d. 798), an 18th century ruler of Balkh, renounced his kingdom and wealth to become a wandering dervish.
Part of his spiritual awakening happened one night when he heard people on the roof of his palace. When he made inquiry, a man told him they were looking for a lost camel.
Ibrāhīm then replied it was ridiculous to expect that the camel would be on the roof of his palace. The man then said it was equally crazy to expect to find Allah [oneness with the divine, GOD, the Source, the ultimate, etc.] in the lap of luxury. Ibrāhīm then realized that his hope of finding Allah in his present surroundings was as futile as searching for a camel on his roof.
Rumi Museum (
Jalal al-Din Rūmī (1207-1273), a later Sufi mystic, also born in  Balkh (an early center of Buddhism), recounted Ibrāhīm's story in his six-volume poetic work, the Masnavī. (He is depicted showing his love for his young male disciple Hussam al-Din Chelebi, c. 1594, extract from Tardjomev-i-Thevakib, by the Mawlewiyya Dervich Aflaki Baghdad, Pierpoint Morgan Library, New York).
Legend has it that Khiżr, the immortal guide of the Sufi, played a role and that Ibrāhīm, regarded as a spiritual ancestor of the Chrishtī Sufi order, was fed by angels. (Siddhartha during his futile period of severe fasting and penitence was going to be fed by the devas through the pores of his skin to keep him alive, but he declined thinking it would be deceptive since everyone assumed him to be fasting).
Here the haloed Sufi shaikh (spiritual master) sits at the right, with eyes closed and supported by a staff. Seven "angels" (devas, "shining ones") have already arrived, and an eighth is en route. A pensive man, at the far left, echoes the figure of Ibrāhīm.
The subject may have been inspired by engravings of Christ fed by angels in the wilderness -- another echo of the Bodhisattva Siddhartha's quest for spiritual enlightenment. The painting is probably by Mīr Kalān Khān, who was active in Oudh and Delhi during the 1760s.

The Read Mughal Album
Rumi Mausoleum (
Pierpont Morgan purchased the Read Mughal album, along with a Persian album, from Sir Charles Hercules Read, Keeper of British and Medieval Antiquities at the British Museum, in 1911.
The Morgan purchase consisted of 30 folios (including both Indian miniatures and the Mughal portraits). But Read owned at least 48 others, now widely dispersed. The leaves were probably once bound in several lacquered bindings. 
The identity of their compiler has not been established, but many borders date from the 18th and 19th centuries. The Mughal emperors of India commissioned biographies and were frequently portrayed by artists. Here the paintings are presented in the order of the emperor's reigns rather than the dates of the miniatures, starting with Bābur (r. 1526–30), the Muslim founder of the dynasty, and ending with Shāh Jahān (r. 1628–58), builder of the Taj Mahal. More

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