Contrasts between Ibn Arabi’s and Shankara’s perspectivees


Despite the fact that the Real transmutes itself into the forms of the world, the Real in itself undergoes no change. The Real is said to be “perpetually in a state of union with engendered existence” only in respect of its descent as Divinity: it is through this descent that the Real “is a god.” That is, only the already relative aspect of the Divine—not its transcendent aspect, the Essence—is subject to this transmutation: this accords with Shankara’s distinction between Sat or Brahma saguna as the material cause of the world and Brahma nirguna as being without any trace of the development of manifestation.

Furthermore, if, in Ibn Arabi’s perspective, the divine Names are of an “imagined” nature, in respect of their distinctiveness, then the world must itself also be so, a fortiori, since these Names are the ontological roots of the world. In both Ibn Arabi and Shankara, then, the world is both real and illusory, depending on the point of view adopted: real when seen as the expression of the Absolute in its relative dimension; and illusory when the emphasis is on the exclusive reality of the Absolute, in which light all else is illusory or “imagined”—including even the relative aspect of the Absolute, Brahma saguna or the Names of God.

As between the respective dialectical positions of Shankara and Ibn Arabi, then, it is again a question rather of emphasis and point of view than of mutually exclusive alternatives: the difference of emphasis is real enough on its own level, but it is a difference which is overcome inasmuch as the complementary perspective is simultaneously affirmed within each perspective. 

Reza Sha-Kazemi     (From a private letter -To be completed tomorrow)

About amartingarcia

General surgeon (retired). Studied Western philosophy at U of Toronto. Afterwards interest turned to advaita vedanta and non-duality for past 20 yrs, plus a long interlude in Sufism coinciding with that period. Now contributing in ’Advaita Vision’ with regular posts and discussions.
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