Aug 09 2013

Shah Nematollah Vali – I beheld my essence

Published by at 8:32 am under Poetry

I beheld my essence
by Shah Nematollah Vali

English version by Peter Lamborn Wilson & Nasrollah Pourjavady

I beheld my essence. What I saw
Was like the very light of the eye itself:
How wonderful that a single Essence should
Refract itself like a light, a single source
Into a million essences and hues.
The being of the lover and Beloved
Are the same, for where is Love without
A lover and Beloved to be found?
Behold His Essence by His Light, that you
May be yourself the seer and the Seen.
I have wandered through the essences
And found that His Reality makes up
The essence of all beings. To ourselves
We manifest ourselves; were it not so
There could be no relationship between
The One and many. Now then, go beyond
Relation, go beyond the going-beyond
Till there remains no body, soul or being.
“All that is must perish save His face”
And in His Being ours is burned to ash.
At last I see that vision of Him requires
A subject and an object: I and He.
And yet the Essence is the same, sometimes
A wave upon the sea, sometimes the sea;
Sometimes the eye, sometimes the object of
The eye. Whoever sees this ocean knows
Our essence as we know it in ourself.
We are the waves and yet in essence we
Are not different from the sea: Reality
Is one but shows itself as two: subject
And object, two in manifestation
But not in Essence: only one Existence
Though countless its attributes. The mystery
Is still too deep for all to understand,
For all to grasp: the supraformal Essence
Is the Beloved and the formal self
The lover — but if you switch the terms around
The statement still remains unchanged and true.
Or if you say the cup and wine are one
That too is true, as true as if you claim
That cup is cup and wine is wine; or if
You say that one is us, the other Him.
Regard these different levels of the truth
As “relatively absolute” and find
The subtle occult truth. Then… WA SALAAM!
The relativity of intellect
Results in statements which must contradict
Each other on the level of the mind
And yet beyond the mind both are correct.
Sometimes I am Mahmud, sometimes Ayaz
Sometimes I glorify myself, sometimes
I sing the other: lover and Beloved.
So from time to time I change and play
Both roles, and then a third one: Love itself.
Thus spoke Mustafa, beloved of God:
Go, search for the one who has enslaved your heart
Within your heart. There find the satisfaction
Of your soul at last. Seek Ne’matollah, find
All that you seek — and all that you require
Will then be found in me, as you desire.

— from The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry, Translated by Peter Lamborn Wilson / Translated by Nasrollah Pourjavady

/ Photo by itsdannie /

Today’s poem is a striking meditation on the fluid nature of relating to God as both separate from oneself — “I” and “Thou” — yet also recognizing how that duality naturally flows into the nondualistic realization of God as one’s very nature.

A wave upon the sea, sometimes the sea;

We are the waves and yet in essence we
Are not different from the sea: Reality
Is one but shows itself as two: subject
And object, two in manifestation
But not in Essence: only one Existence
Though countless its attributes.

How the intellect must summersault and dance about to conceive of this truth! To speak of it the masters shift about, playing games of perspective until the students understand:

I sing the other: lover and Beloved.
So from time to time I change and play
Both roles, and then a third one: Love itself.

God is the Beloved, yes, but also the lover seeking the Beloved. And God is the love joining the lover and the Beloved. And all three eventually melt into each other, and they are all God. Then… WA SALAAM!

Shah Nematollah Vali, Shah Nematollah Vali poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Shah Nematollah Vali

Iran/Persia (1330 – 1431) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Shah Nematollah Vali (or Nimatullah Wali) was born to a Sufi family in Aleppo, Syria. He travelled widely through the Muslim world, learning the philosophies of many masters, but not at first finding a personal teacher he could dedicate himself to. During this time, he also studied the writings of the great Sufi philosopher and mystic, ibn ‘Arabi.

Shah Nematollah finally met Shaykh Abdollah Yafe’i in Mecca, and became his disciple. He studied intensely with his teacher for seven years until, spiritually transformed, he was sent out for a second round of travels, this time as a realized teacher.

He temporarily resided near Samarkand, along the great Central Asian Silk Road. It was here that he met the conqueror Tamerlane, but, to avoid conflict with the worldly ruler, he soon left and eventually settled in the Persian / Indian region of Kerman.

When Shah Nematollah died, his fame had spread throughout Persia and India, and it is said he initiated hundreds of thousands of followers. Today the Nimatullah Sufi Order is one of the most important Sufi orders of Iran.

More poetry by Shah Nematollah Vali

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Shah Nematollah Vali – I beheld my essence”

  1. janon 09 Aug 2013 at 12:01 pm

    there is a kind of special,wind,blowing in an out and above those lines
    wich telling me in a facinating way the unique story I ever and always, love to here,
    again and again.and to sing.Peace is a possible feeling to feel.

  2. Brenda Pikeon 09 Aug 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Ivan,I just love and appreciate your wonderful gift and sharing of such poetry.Have long loved the Sufi mystics but knew little of their poetry.Above all,perhaps I benefit so much from your explanations which arise from deep contemplative being.
    I always forward them to my daughter,like you ,after years of severe ME (ten years bed bound) through such hiddeness,emerging and shining with love and wisdom,though she knows it not.
    I thank you and pray for you.Please pray for me,and be encircled in That Love,and held in Blessing,as you always are. Brenda.

  3. ebrahimon 10 Aug 2013 at 6:04 am

    May god grant ease and cure to both ivan and brendas daughter and patience to them and their families. Brendas daughters ailment certainly brings tears to their eyes as well as joy for her emerging with light and wisdom. In this a lesson too, that God in his infinite wisdom bestows favour and blessings not only to mystics and truth seekers who endure great affflicion as part of their course but to ordinary people who with good heart bear paiently and persevere with what ever ailments and difficulties they have. In this every good heart is a saintly heart, and who knows the secrets of hearts save he who as made them.

    Blessings to all.

  4. Pegon 10 Aug 2013 at 7:35 am

    Throughout my initiation, I have seen many faces but is it “his” face? And, what of the women faces? A few days ago Isis filled my vision with her face, filling the cosmos. Before Isis, Buddah with his fontanelle that springs forth the ever renewing river of life and his spiral hair that forms vortex energy that flows outward touching the whole world. Aristotle was before the Buddah and many more over the years. My crown burns from the light of source.

    I would enjoy hearing more on “his face” from anyone. I saw the Christos is or Adam Kadmon, which looks like the Vsuvian Man by Leonardo.

    Much love and divine perfection of light,

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