Saturday, April 5, 2008

A love-intoxicated iconoclast!

Bulleh Shah (1680 – 1757), originally Abdullah Shah, was a Punjabi Sufi poet. He was a direct descendant of Muhammad, through the progeny of Shaikh Abdul Qadir Gillani of Baghdad.

His Kafi verses (a style of Punjabi, Sindhi and Siraiki poetry used by the Sufis of Sindh and Punjab, and also by Sikh gurus) still haunt us. During his time, he witnessed communal strife between Muslims and Sikhs. In those circumstances, he was an ambassador for peace and believed that "violence was not the answer to violence".

My favorite is, of course, Bulleh!, ki jaana maen kaun!

A transcript (translation in italics):

Bulleh! ki jaana maen kaun
Bullah! what do I know who I am

Na maen momin vich maseet aan
I am neither a believer in the mosque

Na maen vich kufar diyan reet aan
Nor am in non-believing ways

Na maen paakaan vich paleet aan
Neither pious (clean), nor sinful(unclean)

Na maen moosa na pharaun.
I am Neither Moses nor Pharoah

Bulleh! ki jaana maen kaun
Bullah! I know not who I am

Na maen andar ved kitaab aan,
I am not in the vedas, nor in other holy books

Na vich bhangaan na sharaab aan
Neither in opium, nor in wine

Na vich rindaan masat kharaab aan
Not in an intoxicated waste

Na vich jaagan na vich saun.
Neither in wake-fulness, nor in sleep

Bulleh! ki jaana maen kaun.
Bullah! what do I know who I am

Na vich shaadi na ghamnaaki
In happiness nor in sorrow, am I

Na maen vich paleeti paaki
Neither clean, nor a filthy mire

Na maen aabi na maen khaki
I am neither of water, nor of earth

Na maen aatish na maen paun
I am neither fire not air

Bulleh!, ki jaana maen kaun
Bullah! what do I know who I am

Na maen arabi na lahori
Not an Arab, nor Lahori

Na maen hindi shehar nagauri
Neither Hindi, nor Nagauri

Na hindu na turak peshawri
Neither Hindu, Turk, nor Peshawari

Na maen rehnda vich nadaun
Nor do I live in (the city of) Nadaun

Bulla, ki jaana maen kaun
Bullah! what do I know who I am

Na maen bheth mazhab da paaya
I have not received the secrets of religion

Ne maen aadam havva jaaya
Nor am I born of Adam and Eve

Na maen apna naam dharaaya
Nor have I assumed a name of my own

Na vich baitthan na vich bhaun
I am neither in sitting, nor am I on the move

Bulleh, ki jaana maen kaun
Bullah! what do I know who I am

Avval aakhir aap nu jaana
I discovered myself as the beginning and the end

Na koi dooja hor pehchaana
No one else, have I ever known

Maethon hor na koi siyaana
No one is wiser than me

Bulla! ooh khadda hai kaun
Bullah! who then, stands here?

Bulla, ki jaana maen kaun
Bullah! what do I know who I am

Who, then, is reading these lines?

Bulleh Shah, coming from his innermost experiences, has de-constructed the essence of all spirituality.

What else is needed to go beyond the intellect and DIRECTLY experience bliss and infinite love?

J.R. Puri and T.R. Shangari share:

Saturated with the love of God, Bullah became the personification of compassion and forgiveness. He began to see the divine in every being, and distinctions of caste and religion, friend and foe, ceased to have any meaning for him. The following incident of his life illustrates this sublime state of his mind in a beautiful way:

It is said I that "once Bulleh Shah was engaged in meditation inside his chamber. It was the month of Ramzan. Some of his disciples were sitting outside eating carrots. After some time a group of orthodox Muslims who were keeping the fast happened to pass them. When they saw the disciples sitting at a faqir's abode and violating the fast, they were enraged. " They shouted in an angry voice, " Are you not ashamed of eating in the month of Ramzan, and that also at the abode of a faqir?" The disciples replied, "Brother believers, take your path. We are feeling hungry. That is why we are eating. "

The group of believers felt suspicious about their faith. So they asked, "Who are you?" They replied, "We are Muslims. Don't the Muslims feel hungry?". The believers again commanded them to stop eating, but the disciples did not heed. The believers who were on horses, alighted. They snatched the carrots from the hands of the disciples, and threw them away. They also gave a few blows to them. As they were about to leave, it struck them that the pir of these impious people must have been cast in the same mould. So they turned back to ask him what kind of instruction he had given to his disciples. They went to his chamber and said, "Who are you?" Bullah who was meditating with his eyes closed, raised his arms and moved his hands. They asked him again, "Why don't you speak? Who are you?" Bullah once again raised his arms. The riders taking him to be a mad man, went away. Soon after they left, the disciples entered the chamber, raising a hue and cry that they had been beaten. Bullah told them that they must have done something to provoke the believers. The disciples denied to have done any such thing. Bullah said, "What did they ask you?" The disciples replied, "They asked us who we were, and we said we were Muslims." Bullah retorted, "That's why you were beaten. You became something and you suffered. I didn't become anything, and they said nothing to me."

To consider oneself something emanates from the sense of ego. Such a person is still under the sway of maya, and has not had a vision of Truth so far. One who has had such a vision comes to know his true Self and gets liberated from the bondage of caste, religion and country. There are numerous instances in the poems of Bulleh Shah, which show that the soul, like the Lord, has no religion, no caste, no country.

All these distinctions are born out of time and space, but the soul is unborn and timeless. It has neither a beginning, nor an end, nor is it bound by the limitations of caste and religion.