World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson


Immanent And Near At Hand

This section brings together passages on God's immanence. God is described in the Qur'an as "nearer than the jugular vein," knowing all a person's thoughts and desires, and abiding within the human heart. In the Bible, God's immanence is expressed in the revelation to Elijah, where instead of a grand manifestation in earthquake or thunder, God's self-revelation is as 'a still small voice.' They may speak of God coming near or dwelling in the heart only when there is receptivity, humility, and faith. In the scriptures of the Abrahamic religions, while God is near at hand, He is rarely identified with the soul itself; that could be seen as tantamount to idolatry.

Other traditions teach more thoroughgoing notions of divine immanence. Sufis interpret the Qur'anic parable of the Lamp as expressing the presence of God in the human heart as a light, illuminating the lamp of the body. In Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism the divine immanence is described ontologically: Ultimate Reality is the Self (Atman). In Buddhism the divine immanence is described psychologically: Essence of Mind or Suchness (Tathata) is realized by a mind dwelling in Perfect Wisdom and expressing a mind of enlightenment (bodhi), Dhamma nature or Buddha nature. But there is no ontological self which could be immanent. These various doctrines of divine immanence avoid a simple identification of God with the individual soul. The ordinary individual soul (jiva) is beclouded and deluded by an egoistic sense of self; in contrast, the divine Self within, or Suchness, can only be realized through enlightenment.

The complete realization of the God within is a potential and a goal; passages which describe it as a state of existence are often referring to the ideal realized by an attained person. This ideal will be treated more fully in Chapter 3. Yet as many of these selections point out, even the ordinary beclouded mind is intrinsically pure and contains the germ of divinity.

We indeed created man; and We know what his soul whispers within him, and We are nearer to him than the jugular vein.

Islam. Qur'an 50.16

Ever is He present with you--think not He is far: By the Master's teaching recognize Him within yourself.

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Majh Ashtpadi, M.3, p. 116

[God] is not far from each one of us, for "In him we live and move and have our being."

Christianity. Bible, Acts 17.27-28

The Master said, "Is Goodness indeed so far away? If we really wanted Goodness, we should find that it was at our very side."

Confucianism. Analects 7.29

Brahman shines forth, vast, self-luminous, inconceivable, subtler than the subtle. He is far beyond what is far, and yet here very near at hand. Verily, He is seen here, dwelling in the cave of the heart of conscious beings.

Hinduism, Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.7

For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, "I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite."

Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Isaiah 57.15

"If I [God] am there, all are there, and if I am not there, who is there?" Hillel also used to say, "To the place where I wish to be, there do my feet bring me. If you come to my house, I will come to your house; if you do not come to my house, I will not come to your house." As it says, "In all places where I cause my Name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you." (Exodus 20.24)

Judaism. Talmud, Sukkah 53a

Qur'an 50.16: Cf. Qur'an 2.186, p. 826. Majh Ashtpadi, M.3: Cf. Gaund, M.5, p. 212; also Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7, p. 208. Acts 17.27-28: Cf. Psalm 145.18, p. 826. Analects 7.29: Cf. Luke 17.21, p. 218; Bhagavad Gita 7.21-23, Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 1, p. 725; Tao Te Ching 23, p. 685. Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.7: Cf. Katha Upanishad 1.2.20-22, Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.1-2, p. 212; Isha Upanishad 15-16, p. 74. Isaiah 57.15: Cf. Psalm 51.17, p. 902. Sukkah 53a: Compare Hadith, p. 686.

Great Deng is near, and some say far, O Divinity! The Creator is near, and some say he has not reached us! Do you not hear, O Divinity? The black bull of the rain has been released from the moon's byre, Do you not hear, O Divinity?

African Traditional Religions. Dinka Song (Sudan)

Why do you go to the forest in search of God? He lives in all and is yet ever distinct; He abides with you, too, As a fragrance dwells in a flower, And reflection in a mirror; So does God dwell inside everything; Seek Him, therefore, in your heart.

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Dhanasri, M.9, p. 684

The supreme Self is without a beginning, undifferentiated, deathless. Though it dwells in the body, Arjuna, it neither acts nor is touched by action. As radiation pervades the cosmos but remains unstained, the Self can never be tainted though it dwells in every creature.

Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 13.32

Within our Essence of Mind the Trikaya (Three Bodies) of Buddha are to be found, and they are common to everybody. Because the mind labors under delusions, he knows not his own inner nature; and the result is that he ignores the Trikaya within himself, erroneously believing that they are to be sought from without. Within yourself you will find the Trikaya which, being the manifestation of the Essence of Mind, are not to be sought from without.

Buddhism. Sutra of Hui Neng 6

As the holy one I recognized thee, O Wise Lord, When he came to me as Good Mind; The Silent Thought taught me the greatest good so that I might proclaim it.

Zoroastrianism. Avesta, Yasna 45.15

Dinka Song: The intention of the song in suggesting that 'some say far' is to urge Divinity to come near and help. Dhanasri, M.9: Cf. Suhi, M.5, p. 399. Sutra of Hui Neng 6: 'Essence of Mind' as Hui Neng uses the term denotes the original mind which is intrinsically the same as Buddha nature; cf. other passages from this sutra on pp. 217-19. But 'Essence of Mind' is tathata, which can also be translated Essence of all things. These indeed are not different, as the essence of things can be grasped only by mind; cf. Lankavatara Sutra 61-64, p. 155. For more on the Mahayana doctrine of the Trikaya, the Buddha's three bodies: cf. p. 650; Lotus Sutra 16, p. 121; Meditation on Buddha Amitayus 17, p. 646; Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala 5, p. 652.

God said to Elijah... "Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord." And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

Judaism and Christianity. Bible, 1 Kings 19.11-12

God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche, and within it a Lamp; the Lamp enclosed in Glass: The glass as it were a brilliant star: Lit from a blessed Tree, An Olive neither of the East nor of the West, Whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it. Light upon Light! God guides whom He will to His Light: God sets forth parables for men, and God knows all things.

Islam. Qur'an 24.35

In the golden city of the heart dwells The Lord of Love, without parts, without stain. Know him as the radiant light of lights.

There shines not the sun, neither moon nor star, Nor flash of lightning, nor fire lit on earth. The Lord is the light reflected by all. He shining, everything shines after him.

Hinduism. Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.10-11

Daibai asked Baso, "What is Buddha?" Baso answered, "This very mind is the Buddha."

Buddhism. Mumonkan 30

1 Kings 19.11-12: God is manifest in His Word, communicated to the heart. He is not in the storm or the earthquake or other manifestations of power in nature. This is a radical critique of nature-religion as it was practiced by the Canaanites. Qur'an 24.35: Islamic mystics since Ghazali have interpreted these verses as expressing God's inner illumination of the human soul. The Niche, Glass, Lamp, Tree, and Oil correspond to the five faculties of the soul, namely: (1) the sensory faculty; (2) the imagina tion; (3) the discriminative intellect; (4) the faculty of ratiocination capable of abstract knowledge, and (5) the transcendent prophetic spirit that may apprehend divine truth. The human soul is thus a graded succession of lights, 'Light upon light,' whose source is God. Cf. Katha Upanishad 2.3.7-8, p. 93. Mumonkan 30: Compare "That art thou," Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7, p. 208. But Mumonkan 33, p. 899, asserts the seeming opposite !

That mind which gives life To all the people in the world Such is the very mind which nourishes me!

Shinto. Moritake Arakida, One Hundred Poems about the World

God is the subject of heart. He has feelings of boundless sorrow and joy.

Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 2-12-61

I am the nucleus of every creature, Arjuna; for without Me nothing can exist, neither animate nor inanimate.... Wherever you find strength, or beauty, or spiritual power, you may be sure that these have sprung from a spark of My essence.

Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 10.39, 41

At whose behest does the mind think? Who bids the body live? Who makes the tongue speak? Who is that effulgent Being that directs the eye to form and color and the ear to sound?

The Self (Atman) is ear of the ear, mind of the mind, speech of speech. He is also breath of the breath, and eye of the eye. Having given up the false identification of the Self with the senses and the mind, and knowing the Self to be Brahman, the wise, on departing this life, become immortal.

Hinduism. Kena Upanishad 1.1-2

Lord, the Tathagatagarbha is not born, does not die, does not pass away to become reborn. The Tathagatagarbha excludes the realm with the characteristic of the constructed. The Tathagatagarbha is permanent, steadfast, eternal. Therefore the Tathagatagarbha is the support, the holder, the base of constructed [Buddha natures] that are nondiscrete, not dissociated, and knowing as liberated from the stores of defilement; and furthermore is the support, the holder, the base of external constructed natures tha t are discrete, dissociated, and knowing as not liberated.

Lord, if there were no Tathagatagarbha, there would be neither aversion towards suffering nor longing, eagerness, and aspiration towards Nirvana. What is the reason? Whatever be these six perceptions [i.e., the five senses plus the mind], and whatever be this other perception [perhaps intellectual cognition?], these seven natures are unfixed, momentary, and lack experience of suffering; hence these natures are unfit for aversion towards suffering or for longing, eagerness, and aspiration towards Nirvana. Lord, the Tathagatagarbha has ultimate existence without beginning or end, has an unborn and undying nature, and experiences suffering; hence it is worthy of the Tathagatagarbha to have aversion towards suffering as well as longing, eagerness, and aspiration towards Nirvana. Lord, the Tathagatagarbha is neither self nor sentient being, nor soul, nor personality.... Lord, this Tathagatagarbha is the embryo of the illustrious Dharmadhatu, the embryo of the Dharmakaya, the embryo of the supramundane Doctrine, the embryo of the intrinsically pure Doctrine.

Buddhism. Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala 13

One Hundred Poems about the World: See note on p. 497. Sun Myung Moon, 2-12-61: 'Heart' is the irrepressible impulse to love others, which is the inner motivation for all God's actions. In humans, heart lies at the root of the mind, motivating intellect, emotion, and will. In prayer one can touch the heart of God and feel its affective aspect: joy when His beloved children respond to Him and deep sorrow for those who are lost in sin. Cf. Sun Myung Moon, 10-20-73, p. 146; 6-20-82, p. 146. Bhagavad Gita 10.39-41: Cf. Mundaka Upanishad 1.1.7, p. 132. Kena Upanishad 1.1-2: Cf. Atharva Veda 10.8.43-44, p. 582; Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7, p. 208; Mandukya Upanishad, p. 834; Katha Upanishad 3.13, p. 840; Black Elk, p. 536; Luke 11.34-36, p. 535. Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala 13: In Mahayana scriptures the Tathagatagarbha, or Embryo of the Tathagata, is the intrinsically pure consciousness pervading all sentient beings which is capable of maturing into Buddhahood.

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