Monday, June 8, 2020

We Are All Slave-girls!

RUMI has narrated a story of a slave girl of Samarqand. According to the narrative, once the king of an adjoining state visited the bazaar of Samarqand.

There in the shop of a goldsmith, he saw a beautiful slave girl. He instantly fell in love with her, unaware of the fact that the slave girl was in love with the goldsmith.

On return to his capital, the king ordered one of his viziers to bring that slave girl to his court at any cost. The vizier went back to the goldsmith of Samarqand, enticed him and bought the slave girl from him.

 The vizier presented the slave girl to the king who immediately took her as his wife. Later on, the king discovered that the slave girl was not happy with the new arrangement and remained depressed and melancholic all the time. The king also became melancholic and did not know how to make her happy.
One night the king had a dream. In his dream a spiritual guide appeared to him and inquired about his miserable state. The king told the spiritual guide the whole story about how he fell in love with the slave girl of Samarqand and how she remained unhappy despite all his best efforts to make her happy. 
The spiritual guide told the king that he would visit his palace the next day to solve his problem, then and there. The next day the king along with his courtiers waited outside the city walls for the spiritual guide. When the much-awaited spiritual guide arrived, the king was very happy to see him. He rushed towards the guide, kissed his hands and took him to his palace with honour and respect.
There the spiritual guide demanded a private session with the slave girl. During his discourse with the girl, he described in exotic terms the bazaars and markets of Samarqand. Suddenly the slave girl broke her silence. She confessed to the spiritual guide that she was madly in love with the goldsmith of Samarqand; that this was the precise cause of her unhappiness with her marriage to the king.
The next morning the spiritual guide told the king about the cause of the melancholic moods of the slave girl and advised him to summon the young goldsmith of Samarqand to his court in order to help her recover from her misery.
 Eventually the goldsmith was brought to the palace and found the beloved of his yesteryear there. The king allowed them privacy and gradually the slave girl recovered from her miserable state. Together she and her lover enjoyed music, dance, good food and had lots of fun in the palace for many days.
Gradually, the spiritual guide started poisoning the goldsmith. First he became yellowish, and then weaker by the day.
 One day the slave girl felt repulsed by him and finally abandoned him to his disease. The goldsmith died and the slave girl found her new lover in the person of the king. The spiritual guide left the palace the very next day.

This narrative contains symbolic meaning for us, in two contexts. The first context is personal and affects all of us in these days of spiritual vacuum. The slave girl is a symbol of our sick hungry souls; the goldsmith is our unbridled ego-desire; the king is our heart seeking satisfaction; the palace is our primordial spiritual state of existence to which we want to return; and finally the spiritual guide is a person or spiritual idea to show us the path to self-satisfaction.

.I was watching the movie Baraka and it has these harrowing images from around the world of people running and striving and running with a vacant look in their eyes.

The uncontrolled desire chambers of our ego has made our hearts more and more dissatisfied. The more we desire to possess and own; the more our soul becomes melancholic and cut of from its real purpose. 

We are all running like the slave girl.

Our slave girl is enamored by the material objects and toys of globalization. 

You must live to consume is the dictum.I love David Mitchel's novel Cloud Atlas, in oneof its russian doll like stories is about a genetic clone in a dystopian materialist  future--in this all too possible future, society is only constructed to facilitate and encourage consumption and those who refuse to become drones, are outcast and penalized. 

Our cognitive matrix is only populated with fanciful objects and bodies.  
We have become objectified brands, WE ARE WHAT WE OWN.Our identity is Nike, Apple or Gap.We identify and categories human beings by what they are wearing, listening to or driving.This consumption makes us more sad and we feel meaningless and hollow inside.

Everybody is monitored by precise gadgets of control. Our thoughts are regulated. Our networks are watched. Our freedom is mechanical and our choices are shaped by the sinister machine of our civilization. It is driven by the ever-more complex cycles of cultural mechanisms of consumption and destruction. It is dominated by the subtle moves of electronic capitalism.

There is another way to live.We need to find the silence within and construct our identity on spiritual rather than material parameters.You only become what you own/buy /consume when you are too spiritually lazy to find out, who you really are!

Thursday, August 2, 2018


A reader commented on one of my blogs that Quranic tafsir based on Baatin is un-Islamic and heretical. 

Nothing could be farther from the truth. 

It deeply hurt me that petrodollar-funded Wahabi propaganda has distorted Islamic culture to the extent that we have disavowed our own occult, mystical history to embrace a 100-year-old materialistic cult-like Salafism which is completely disconnected from the 1400 year old rich and syncretic Islamic history.

It's important to discuss the concept of Baatin or Baatiniyat; it's one of the most important words in Islamic mysticism and is the cornerstone of Shite faith and Sufi worldview. Ismailism was once even called Batiniya owing to its' deep belief in the baatni world view.

Imam Ali once wrote in on of his letters that one of the signs of awakening in this life from the deep sleep of unconsciousness is to be able to see (perceive) the inner meanings of things, not just the outer. ( He, of course, was gifted with the sight to penetrate the meaning of existence beyond the veil of time and appearances

Life is full of various levels of inner meanings and messages, clues and hints according to the level of the person’s spiritual unfoldment. There are many ayat in the Qur’an and ahadith to confirm this phenomenon. 

The words zahir and batin are two Quranic terms that, while not too well known outside specialist circles, describe something highly important in the Islamic tradition. Zahir refers to the outer dimension, or the outer face, of the Islamic faith. 
Batin, on the other hand, refers to the inner, spiritual dimension. At its most simple level the former term refers to acts while the latter refers to the intention behind those acts. 

He is the First and the Last, the Zahir (outward) and the Batin (inward), and He is, of all things, Knowing

– Holy Qur’an 57:3

Are you not aware that God has made subservient to you whatever is in the heaven and whatever is in the earth, and has bestowed His favours upon you both in zahir and in batin.

– Holy Qur’an 31:20

Most of the Universe is composed of the dark matter and dark energy which is shaping the cosmos. Our reality mirrors that reality. Quranic verses carry mutitudes of meanings within it as does sufi poetry and sufi rituals. The Baatin of reality is its true meaning beyond the social labels and the veil of compromise laid over the truths which man is often too demenetd to ever truly comprehend.

This is where the term “blind” has been used in the Qur’an, alluding to people who in spite of having eyes, yet cannot see. Indeed they see the forms and the exoteric aspects of things but do not see the esoteric meaning within.

Consider this: over ninety-five per cent of the universe is invisible. The existence of the so-called dark matter and dark energy cannot be measured or observed directly; we can only rely on the gravitational effects caused by them. Dark matter, which outweighs standard matter five times, has mass and gravity but it does not reflect or absorb light. 

What is essential is invisible to the eye. And yet it is fundamental to the whole universe. It initiated its creation. It anchors galaxies, making them stable instead of full of celestial objects spinning around precariously. 

Allah (swt) points to this repeatedly in various verses in the Holy Book, usually after a story, parable or symbolism:

“in this there are lessons for those who can understand”
"there is indeed a lesson for all who have eyes to see" 
“if only they could understand” or 
“if only you could see”

"we detail Our signs for people who understand".

Becoming conscious of these unconscious processes active in our universe requires a shift in perspective. As Jung noted in Mysterium Coniunctionis, “the conscious mind is usually reluctant to see or admit the polarity of its own background, although it is precisely from there that it gets its energy.” Or as Rumi said, “life’s water flows from darkness.

As RUMI says in the 6th verse of the opening of the Mathnawi:

Every one became my companion through his own perception
None tried to know my inner secrets and notion

And immediately follows it with:

My secret is not distant from my outcry
But your eyes and ears do not possess the light

What is this light that the ordinary eyes and ears do not possess in order to find out the secrets? 

For the answer we go to Rumi himself, since he says he has revealed everything in this book, sometimes through explanation, sometimes through allusions, sometimes only hinting.

Why so?

 He explains that by saying:

The secrets are hidden in between the lines
If I say it any more clearly, it would disrupt the order of the world

In other words, if everyone knew the truth, hardly anyone would go after the affairs of the world. This is why the enlightened people are always only a few, compared to the masses. 

The Qur’an also refers to this by repeatedly saying 'only a few would know', or ‘only a few would perceive’ or ‘only a few would think’ etc.

But somehow, although we are looking right at them, the majority of these signs are missed. They go right over our heads and we see only the outermost aspect of them, for good reason since our heads are not the apparatus for the perception of these things. 

God taught Hazrat Yusuf (Joseph) the ta’wil of dreams and visions, experienced by himself and others:

And thus will your Lord choose you and teach you the ta’wil of narratives and complete His favour upon you and upon the family of Jacob, as He completed it upon your fathers, Ibrahim and Ishaq. Indeed your Lord is Knowing and Wise.

– Holy Qur’an 12:6

And thus, We established Yusuf in the land that We might teach him the ta’wil of events.

– Holy Qur’an 12:21

My Lord, You have given me [something] of sovereignty and taught me of the ta’wil of dreams.

– Holy Qur’an 12:101

We are told that all the signs/ayat of Allah are in two books; the book of the Holy Qur’an, and the book of the cosmos - life and creation.

 We are clearly told with regards to the Qur’an that only the cleansed or pure ones (motaharoun) will be able to touch this (Qur’an 56:79).

 The “cleansed" or "pure ones” have generally been taken for their outer meaning of having been physically cleansed and having had ablution. 

While that holds, yet there is more to it. It alludes to the state of inner purity, the purity of heart. If all that was meant was outer cleanliness and ablution, why then would we witness from time to time, that people who have not prepared themselves that way, still gain access and are able to touch the Qur’an? 

When we consider that Allah’s word is the Truth and there cannot be an exception to it, then when we see these exceptions it should highlight the discrepancy between our understanding and the real meaning of the Words.

Wanting to know what is veiling us from the light of hearing and seeing, we go to Moulana again. He says:

The blinkers covering people’s eyes are nothing but the secondaries
Who ever did not go beyond the secondary is not one of the companions

So the eyes which Rumi is talking about are the eyes that could see the Reality and not be veiled by people, the material world, and above all by the self, which is the biggest obstacle. We need to acquire the eyes that could see the primary beyond the secondaries.

He says:

I want the eyes that would know the King
So that it could recognise Him in every different clothing

How does one acquire these eyes? 

He guides us to journey on the Sufi path.

Sufis possess a Surmeh, go and seek that
So that your eyes of narrow stream become an ocean

What is this veil that is with us all the time and gives us a different account of the reality? 

An account that we believe is true. 

What is self, and how does it prevent us from realising the Truth and the Reality?

When Moulana tells us to go and take the journey of the Sufi path, so that our power of seeing widens, he is pointing to this widening of sight and insight, since an enlightened person could see and perceive things that are not available to most people. Enlightened people are capable of seeing the unseen, in various degrees, according to the level of their enlightenment.

Therefore we need to understand there are different kinds of seeing, and realise how limited our ego-senses are and not take that for the absolute reality. We need to be mindful that what we think and see is not all that there is, and there is another kind of seeing which requires journeying on the Sufi path and going beyond the senses of the self.

The purpose of these signs is the realisation of the purpose of our life in this human body, which is God-consciousness, in spite of the forgetfulness that has been placed in human beings, and in spite of distractions we experience, some of which provide very strong attractions that constantly pull us in the opposite direction. 

This purpose has been revealed in a famous Hadith Qudsi, where Allah (swt) explains the purpose of the creation by saying:

“I was a hidden treasure and I loved that I be known, so I created the creation so that I can be known”.

It is no wonder that His creation and the life of human beings are encoded with clues towards knowing Him. But that potentiality does not reach fruition for everybody. One needs to have a sincere longing and desire for his Creator and put on the walking shoes and set forth on the journey in order to be accepted as a traveller on the path to God, “salek”. In modern times we see a lot of people putting on their walking shoes but all they do is keep jogging. This walk is a different walk and in reality shoes are not necessary and are allegorical. As Allah (swt) said to Moses:

“Take off your sandals”, since he did not need them there.

In Sufism, we are told that there is nothing in this world whose source is not in the unseen. Therefore wherever we look lies a reminder, for those who can see.

“Wherever you look is the face of Allah” - Qur’an 2:115

In looking at birth, at childhood and dependency, at growing up, at relationship with parents, at becoming self-sufficient and independent, at using our will and putting it in action, at love relationships and at work and making a living; as I am reflecting on the list, I am reminded of at least one ayah in the Qur’an that applies to each stage and/or category, teaching us the right versus wrong behaviour, guiding us to the straight path and therefore to Him.

“How many a sign is there in the heavens and on earth which they pass by, and on which they turn their backs!” - Qur’an 12:105

One then must question why it is that with so many reminders, so many people remain asleep and only see things for their outer form, and in one dimension. 

My response is that the inner eyes do not open until one has done some degree of internal Jihad against one’s ego-personality (nafs). The potentiality is there in everyone – man is made in the image of God – to reach a degree of perfection in his attributes, but he has been sent to the lowest of the low. 

Our Creator says in the Qur’an:

“The life of this world is nothing but a play, whereas, behold, the life in the hereafter is indeed the only (true) life: if they but knew this!” - Qur’an 29:64

Imam Ali (a.s.) says in Nahjul Balagha:

“They have not taken lessons from things which are full of lessons, but they have taken them from far off places.” - Sermon 221

Moulana Rumi says:

"You see the world according to the measure of your eye" and then goes on saying

“the Arifs (gnostics) possess a ‘surmeh’ (black powder make-up used on the eyelid), 

go and seek it. So that your eye of stream may become an ocean." - Mathnawi, Book 5:1905-7

He is alluding that Arifs having done the required inner purification, are given the reward of seeing the inner reality of things, (which is an act of Beauty).

In the story of Moses and his staff, Allah tells Moses to throw his staff down and it turns into a serpent moving rapidly, and then tells him:

“Take hold of it, and fear not; We shall restore it to its former state.” - Qur’an 20:2

In this story, first Allah sets the stage by asking "what is this in your right hand O Moses?" and Moses responds:

"It is my staff; I lean on it; and with it I beat down leaves for my sheep; and other uses have I for it." - Qur’an 20:17-18

There have been different interpretations of this verse such as Allah wanting to hear Moses speak or that Allah is testing him.These verses are pointing to the esoteric and mystical reality. It means that as long as man only sees the outer form of things he will only see the staff. But things in life inherently carry other and deeper dimensions and uses. 

The miracle is the transformation to perceive the inner dimension of things.The fear referred to is the fear of letting go of the familiar form and touching (perceiving) beyond the form. 

We then are being assured in this story not to be afraid since after the transformation we are still able to see the form.
We need to pay attention to every word in the Qur’an and not get carried away with the story because the story covers the esoteric teaching since the stories are meant to be the apparent (zahir) and the teachings hidden (batin). 

In this Ramzan, during the special nights, recite Al Baatin many times so Allah may open your heart to recieve the true essence of reaity beyond the corruption of zaahir and materialism! 

our real self


A Sufi story.... A man went in search of truth. The first religious man he met was sitting under a tree, just outside his own village. He asked, ”I am searching for a true master. Please tell me the characteristics of a true master.” 

The fakir told him the characteristics. His description was very simple. He said, ”You’ll find him sitting under such and such a tree, sitting in such and such posture, his hands making such and such gestures – that is enough to know he is the true master.”

The seeker started searching. It is said that thirty years passed while he wandered the whole earth. He visited many places, but never met the master. He met many masters, but none were true masters. 

He returned to his own village completely exhausted. As he was returning he was surprised, he couldn’t believe it: that old man was seated under the same tree, and now he could see that this was the very tree that the old man had spoken of ”... he will be sitting under such and such a tree.....” And his posture was exactly as he had described. ”It was the same posture he was sitting in thirty years ago – was I blind? The exact expression on his face, the exact gestures....!”

He fell at his feet saying, ”Why didn’t you tell me in the first place? Why did you misdirect me for these thirty years? W

hy didn’t you tell me that you are the true master?”

The old man said, ”I told you, but you were not ready to listen. You were not able to come home without wandering away. You had to knock on the doors of a thousand houses to come to your own home, only then could you return. I said it, I said everything – beneath such and such a tree. I was describing this very tree, the posture I was sitting in, but you were too fast, you couldn’t hear correctly, you were in a hurry. You were going somewhere to search. Searching was very important for you, the truth was not so important.

”But you have come! I was feeling tired, sitting continuously in this posture for you. You were wandering for thirty years, but think of me sitting under this tree! I knew someday you would come, but what if I had already passed away? I waited for you-you have come! You had to wander for thirty years, but that’s your own fault. 

The master was always here.” It happens many times in our life that we cannot see what is near, and what is far attracts us. The distant drum sounds sweeter, we are pulled by distant dreams.

Zikar of the Heart

The experiences of ZikAR cannot easily be described: They belong to a level of reality beyond the mind, to a dimension of unity in which everything is merged, where the mind cannot get a foothold. In this stage of emptiness, we begin to experience our true nature which is a state of oneness: we are what we experience. 

His light may be compared to a niche 
wherein is a lamp 
the lamp in a glass 
the glass as it were a glittering star 
kindled from a Blessed tree 
an olive that is neither of the East nor of the West 
whose oil would almost shine forth 
though no fire touches it 
light upon light 


There is a Sufi saying that the disciple has to become “less than the dust at the feet of the teacher.” We have to be ground down until there is nothing left, just a speck of dust to be blown hither and thither by the wind of the spirit. Only when we have lost our sense of self, the values of the ego, can we carry the sweet fragrance of the divine, as described in the words of a Persian song
Why are you so fragrant, oh dust?

I am a dust people tread upon,
But I partake of the fragrance of the courtyard of a Saint.
It is not me, I am just ordinary dust
For the heart meditation, as long as the body is relaxed the physical position does not
matter: one can sit or even lie down.


In my teacher’s room we meditated, had tea and cookies, and listened and talked. My teacher would speak about her sheikh, about the power and beauty of his presence, and about the desire for truth that lies hidden within the heart. 
She shared with us the passion with which she lived this primal desire and pushed us to live what was deepest within us.

There was little form or structure to these weekly meetings; we meditated in silence and then just sat together, sometimes in silence, often in discussion. 
Later I came to realize that our way of meeting—just being together, in silence and also in discussion, talking about the path—is an essential feature of the tradition. 


Along with meditation, psychological inner work, dreamwork, and being together with other wayfarers, the other central practice of this path is a silent dhikr. The dhikr is the repetition of a sacred word or phrase. It can be the shahâda, “Lâ ilâha illâ llah” (There is no God but God), but it is often one of the names or attributes of God. 

The dhikr we were given is ninety-nine names Allâh, contains all His divine attributes.

The heart meditation may appear very simple, but it works as a catalyst, accelerating the process of inner transformation, bringing one’s darkness to the surface, where it has to be confronted and accepted. The rejected and unacknowledged parts of one’s psyche have to be acknowledged, “given a place in the sun.” 

Sahl said to one of his disciples: “Try to say continuously for one day: ‘Allâh! Allâh! Allâh!’ and do the same the next day and the day after, until it becomes a habit.” Then he told him to repeat it at night also, until it became so familiar that the disciple repeated it even during his sleep.
 Then Sahl said, “Do not consciously repeat the Name any more, but let your whole faculties be engrossed in remembering Him!” The disciple did this until he became absorbed in the thought of God. One day, a piece of wood fell on his head and broke it. The drops of blood that dripped to the ground bore the legend, “Allâh! Allâh! Allâh!”[
But for the Sufi, the name Allâh also points beyond all His attributes. According to an esoteric Sufi tradition, the word Allâh is composed of the article al, and lâh, one of the interpretations of which is “nothing.” Thus the word Allâh can be understood to mean “the Nothing.” The fact that His greatest name contains the meaning “the Nothing” has great significance, because for the mystic the experience of Truth, or God, beyond all forms and attributes, is an experience of Nothingness. 

There is nothing but Nothingness. . . Nothingness because the little self (the ego) has to go. One has to become nothing. Nothingness, because the higher states of consciousness represent nothingness to the mind, for it cannot reach there. It is completely beyond the range of perception. Complete comprehension on the level of the mind is not possible, so one is faced with nothingness. And in the last, most sublime, sense, it is to merge into the Luminous Ocean of the Infinite.

Thus, the name Allâh contains the essence of all Sufi teaching: to become nothing, to become annihilated in Him, so that all that remains is His Infinite Emptiness.
One of the mysteries of the path is that this Emptiness, this Nothingness, loves you. It loves you with an intimacy and tenderness and infinite understanding beyond imagining; it loves you from the very inside of your heart, from the core of your own being. 
It is not separate from you.
Sufis are lovers and the Nothingness is the Greatest Beloved in whose embrace the lover completely disappears. 
This is the path of love; it is the annihilating cup of wine which His lovers gladly drink, as in the words of Rumi:
I drained this cup:
there is nothing, now,
but ecstatic annihilation.
In saying the dhikr, repeating His name silently on the breath—“Al” on the out-breath, “lâh” on the in-breath—we remember Him. 

With each cycle of the breath, we return to the inner essence of the heart and live the remembrance of our love form Him. Practising the dhikr as constantly as we can, we bring this mystery into our daily lives. 

Lying awake at night we can silently repeat His name----when our mind is free enough to remember Him again, we rejoice once more in repeating the name of the One we love.
But with practice, the dhikr becomes a natural, almost automatic part of our breath, and then no moment is wasted; every breath aligns our attention with Him. 

And over time our whole coming to participate in this attention. By repeating His name, we remember Him not just in the mind but in the heart; finally there comes the time when every cell of the body repeats His name.

It is said, “First you do the dhikr and then the dhikr does you.” The name of God becomes a part of our unconscious and sings in our bloodstream. 

The way the name of God permeates the wayfarer is not metaphoric but a literal happening. The dhikr is magnetized by the teacher so that it inwardly aligns the wayfarer with the path and the goal. (It is for this reason that the dhikr needs to be given by a teacher, though in some instances it can also be given by the Higher Self or, traditionally, by Khidr)

Working in the unconscious, the dhikr alters our mental, psychological, and physical bodies. On the mental level, this is easily seen. Normally, in our everyday life, the mind follows its automatic thinking process, over which we often have very little control. The mind thinks us, rather than the other way around. 

Just catch your mind for a moment and observe its thoughts—every thought creates a new thought, every answer a new question. And because energy follows thought, our mental and psychological energy is scattered in many directions. To engage seriously in spiritual life means learning to become one-pointed, to focus all our energy in one direction, towards Him;the thinking process is redirected towards Him. You could say that the practice of the dhikr reprograms us for God.

Through repeating His name, we alter the deeply worn grooves of our mental conditioning that play the same tune over and over again, repeat the same patterns which bind us in our mental habits. The dhikr gradually replaces these old imprints with the single imprint of His name. 

The lover experiences a deep joy in repeating the name of her invisible Beloved who is so near and yet so far away. When He is near, saying His name becomes the expression of our gratitude to Him for the bliss of His presence. 
When He is absent, it becomes our cry to Him and helps us to bear the longing and the pain.

In times of trouble, His name brings reassurance and help. It gives us strength, and it can help to dissolve the blocks that separate us from Him. When we say His name, He is with us, even when we feel all alone with our burdens.

Through repeating His name----we begin to lose our identification with our isolated, burdened self and become identified with our Beloved who has been hidden within our own heart. 

Gradually the veils that have kept Him hidden fall away and the lover comes to know His presence in her heart. 

And as He removes the inner veils, so also does he lift the outer veils. Then the lover finds Him not only within the inner dimensions of her heart but also in the outer world; she comes to experience that “whithersoever ye turn, there is the Face of God.”

Then He whom we love and whose name we repeat becomes our constant companion. And the lover also becomes the companion of God, for the “eyes which regard God, are also the eyes through which He regards the world.

The Beloved is our true friend, and this is the deepest friendship; it demands our total participation. Practising the dhikr, repeating His name, we are with Him in every breath.

This is the traditional Sufi work of “polishing the mirror of the heart,” through which we come to glimpse our true nature. When this inner mirror is covered with what in the West we would call projections and ego-conditioning, we see everything in a distorted way; we see the confused reflections of our own light and darkness. 

But as we polish the mirror, the distortions are removed and we begin to see with a new clarity and simplicity. 

From the seeming chaos of multiplicity, we become aware of an underlying unity. The divine is born into consciousness and its quality of wholeness begins to permeate our inner and outer life. Looking within, we see beyond the ego, or nafs, to what is more essential and more enduring: Although you were completely changed you see yourselves as you were before.

The state of Zikar  is a complete abstraction of the senses in which the mind is stilled by the energy of love within the heart, and the individual mind is absorbed into the universal mind. The actual experience of dhyana rarely happens during the first practice of meditation.

It may take months, even a few years, to reach this stage.

And once we do begin to experience dhyana we may not realize it. 

The initial experiences of Zikar  usually last for just a split second—for an instant, the mind dips into the infinite and just for a moment we are not present. There may be little or no consciousness that this has happened; the mind may not even be aware that it was absent. 

But gradually, the mind disappears for longer and longer periods; we become aware that our mind has shut down. The experience can for some time seem like sleep since sleep is the nearest equivalent we have ever known to this mindless state.

The experience of Zikar deepens as the lover is immersed deeper and deeper into a reality beyond the mind. More and more one tastes the peace, stillness, and profound sense of wellbeing of a far vaster reality where the problems that surround us so much of the time do not exist—a reality beyond the difficulties of duality and the limitations of the world of the mind and senses, into which, for a little while each day, meditation allows us to merge.

It is the first stage after transcending the thinking faculty of the mind, and from the point of view of the intellect, it must be considered as an unconscious state. 

It is the first step beyond consciousness as we know it.”, the heart is activated and the energy of love slows down the mind. The mind loses its power of control and individual consciousness is lost, at first for an instant and then gradually for longer periods of time. The lover becomes absorbed, drowned in the ocean of love.

Also, our experience of it changes: no two meditations are the same and our experience becomes deeper and richer, more and more complete. On this plane of unity everything has its own place and fulfils its real purpose.

Here the true nature of everything that is created is present as an expression of divine oneness and divine glory. In the outer world, we experience only a fragmented sense of our self and our life. Here everything is complete and we come to know that everything is just as it should be.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Lala-Dad: Sufi Kashmiri Poetess

I trapped my breath in the bellows of my throat:
a lamp blazed up inside, showed me who I really was.
I crossed the darkness holding fast to that lamp,
Scattering its light-seeds around me as I went.

I learnt dohas by Kabir and Fraid,but the vakhs of Lal Ded — the 14th century Kashmiri mystic — blew me away more powerfully. Perhaps because her spiritual and spirited poetry has been a part of folk memory. 

My friends who grew up in Kashmir have memories of women reciting Lalla’s verses while they spun fine shawls at the spinning wheel. Over the centuries, Lalla became the wise woman of Kashmiri culture. She was invoked not only at moments of personal dilemma but also to celebrate moments of social togetherness.
the Chitta (the mind), is ever new
the ever-changing moon is new
and ever new the shoreless expanse

 of waters that I have seen
Since I, Lalla, have scoured my body and mind,
(emptied it of dead yesterdays
and tomorrows unborn),
I live in the ever-present Now
(and all things always are to me)
forever new and new

Lal Ded, Kashmiri medieval poetess and representative of mystical thought, is called by a number of names. She is LallaArif(Lalla, the Realised One) for Muslim scholars, Lalla Yogishwari (Lalla, the adept in Yogic practices), Lalleshwari or Lalla Yogini for Hindus (Kashmiri Pandits) or simply Lalla or Mother Lalla – as lay Kashmiri people of all faiths like to call her.

There is no precise date of Lal Ded’s birth. The sources differ and it is generally assumed that she was born around 1320-1352 into a Kashmiri Pandit (Brahmin) family. Her place of birth was Pandrethan, a village located few miles to the southeast of Srinagar, in Kashmir Valley, which today constitutes a crucial part of Indian Administered Kashmir. All her life passed into a legend and along with her verses became a part of local storytelling and oral performance tradition, handed down from generation to generation.

She was born in a Brahmin family and received brief education in religious texts, but very soon she was married off at the age of 12, in accordance with the customs of her community. She was unhappy in the bridegroom’s house as her husband and mother-in-law mistreated her. According to a popular legend, she never complained, even when she was humiliated and did not receive proper food which made her constantly half-fed. 

There is even a Kashmiri saying:

“Whether they killed a goat Lalla had always a stone for her dinner” as her mother in law used to put a flat stone on her plate and cover it with rice so it would look as a bigger heap of food. It can be assumed that she did not want to complain as she gradually turned to ascetic exercise which required deeply rooted self-imposed discipline.

Being unable and unwilling to withstand constant control and limitations resulting from rigid rules of family life, Lal Ded abandoned her marriage and material life and became a shelterless mystic without any possession, wandering in rags and reciting poetry. 

For a woman, it was an unprecedented courage to renounce the culturally imposed traditional role of self-sacrificing wife, abandon the family and enter the patriarchal world of metaphysical/poetic experiences. It was also an exceptional proof of dauntless spirit when she openly questioned
the authority and unassailable position of the then educated elite of Sanskrit academia. 

Without any doubts she consciously chose a life of a rebel, addressing her words to a man in the street.

By the age of 24, Lalla had had enough of the marriage and left home to follow the Sufi teacher and embraced Islam. 

Her rebellion was unprecedented: She challenged the validity of all the socio-political and religious structures and was deadly against maintaining the status quo, thus she was perceived as a threat to the established social order. 

The idol is but stone
The Temple is but stone, 

From top to bottom, all is but stone
Whom will you worship, O stubborn Pandit?”
It covers your shame,
Saves you from cold,
Its food and drink, mere water and grass
Who counselled you, O Brahmin,
To slaughter a living sheep as a sacrifice
Unto a lifeless stone?”

To neutralise the impact of this rebellion, the elite of the times, the custodians of the tradition declared her to be mad and insane.

One of her translators, Coleman Barks, writes ‘Ecstasy is only one of her moods and not the primary one. Political disgust is another, and a Hopi-like prophetic mode: Sifting through scattered clues, rumours and oral narratives, he concludes: “She is the play of versions, not an absolute entity… Lalla, to me, is not the person who composed these vakhs; rather, she is the person who emerges from these vakhs.” That could well be true, whether she was a single yogini or a composite of many ever-questing beings who straddle yoga and Tantra, Kashmiri Saivism and the solo soul.

She articulated the spiritual path and message she had inherited; in Kashmiri language which was the language of the man in the street. By doing so, she made it available to all the people irrespective of caste, creed, colour, sex, religion or region like a true Sufi.

O fool right action does not lie
In providing for bodily comfort and ease
In contemplation of the self alone is right action and right council for you.
The pilgrim sanyasin goes from shrine to shrine,
Seeking to meet Him
Who abides within herself.
Knowing the truth, O soul, be not misled;
It is distance that makes the turf look green
Some leave their home, some the hermitage
But the restless mind knows no rest.
Then watch your breath day and night,
And stay where you are
I have worn out my plate and tongue reading the holy books,
But I have not learnt the practices that would please my lord.
I have worn thin fingers and thumb telling my rosary beads,
But I have not been able to dispel duality from my mind.”
The thoughtless read the holy books
As parrots in their cages recite “Ram, Ram”
Their reading is like churning water,
Fruitless effort, ridiculous conceit.

She had her own revolutionary views regarding the rituals like idol worship, animal sacrifice, fasting, visiting sacred places and reading sacred books. In the light of her own intense spiritual experiences, she re-evaluates these rituals and comments:
By opposing vehemently the ritualistic aspect of Trikmat, Lalla revolted against the powerful clergy of the times who had transformed these rituals into a means of exploitation and a tool for perpetuating their hereditary hegemony. She also revolted against the objectification of women in Saiva rituals. She totally rejects the secondary dependent status allotted to women in these rituals and emerges and dominates the scene as a subject.

Realization is rare indeed, Seek not afar, it is near, by you
First slay desire, then still the mind, giving up vain imaginings
Then meditate on self within and lo! The void merges in the void

Or this one:

Let go the sacred tantra rites
Only the mantra sound remains
And when the mantra sound departs
Only the chitta is left behind
Then lo! The chitta itself is gone
And there is nothing left behind
The void merges in the void[iv]

In the true Sufi spirit Lalla-Ded advocates the ego-annhilation as the path of liberation and we may consider the following Vᾱk in this regard:

By pandering to your appetites and desires
You get nowhere
By penance and fasting,
You get conceit
Be moderate in food and drink

You will be moderate
Your path will surely be illuminated*”[v]
She wrote about non materiliasm and
In life, I sought neither wealth nor power,
Nor ran after the pleasures of sense,
Moderate in food and drink, I lived a controlled life;
Patiently bore my lot, my pain and poverty,
And loved my god
O fool, right action does not lie
In observing fasts and ceremonial rites
O fool, right action does not lie
In providing for bodily comfort and ease
In contemplation of the self alone
Is right action and right counsel for you
My guru gave me but one precept
From without withdraw your gaze within
And fix it on the Inmost self."
Taking to heart this one precept,
Naked I began to dance.

These Vᾱks give us an idea of the spiritual discipline that Lal practised and prescribed for us. Now let us see the fruit of this spiritual labour:

Thou wert absorbed in Thine Own Self,
hidden from me;
I passed whole days in seeking Thee out
But when I saw Thee in mine own Self
O joy! Then Thou and I
disported ourselves in ecstasy
I traversed the vastness of the void alone,
Leaving behind me reason and sense,
Then came upon the secret of the self;
And, all of a sudden, unexpectedly,
In mud the lotus bloomed for me.
Like a tenuous web Siva spreads Himself,
Penetrating all frames of all things,
If while alive, you cannot see Him,
How can you see Him after death?
Think deep and sift the true Self from the self.

The last two Vaks are a bold statement that absolute reality can and is to be realized in this very life. Notice the interrogative emphasis in the two lines:

If while alive you cannot see Him,
How can you see Him after death?
And relate it to the last line of the earlier Vak which reads:
In mud the lotus bloomed for me.

Through dismantling of ego, one has to realize the blooming of the flower upon the dirty ground covered with litter, mud and dirt (world) something valueless (representing human body). To recognize one’s soul is to walk on the path toward Allah.

This vibration is not physical, it is not vibration in the sense of movement, it is the creative power of consciousness which is beyond all human communication. Lal says:

Here is neither word nor thought,
Transcendent nor non-Transcendent
The vows of silence and mystic mudras,
cannot gain you admittance here,
Even Siva and Shakti (tattva-s) remain not here

Illusions are the part and parcel of this worldly life, The more one is spiritually evolved the fewer illusions will he or she entertain.

Resilience: to stand in the path of lightning.
Resilience: to walk when darkness falls at noon.
Resilience: to grind yourself fine in the turning mill.
Resilience will come to you

Thursday, February 15, 2018


Rumi was dancing the dance of life. He knew it, and so did his listeners, which is why the line between poet, saint, and lover became quite blurry in his case.
No poet is more intimate than Rumi, no lover more crazed, no saint more innocent.

An air of the supernatural gathered around him because he never lost this wild, extreme state of ecstasy. Somehow the deepest lovers don't have to fear time. Their intoxication is permanent, even though the divine beloved is invisible, remote, and never touched physically.

A lover asked his beloved,
Do you love yourself more
than you love me?
The beloved replied,
I have died to myself
and I live for you.   

I’ve disappeared from myself
and my attributes.
I am present only for you.
I have forgotten all my learning,
but from knowing you
I have become a scholar.
I have lost all my strength,
but from your power
I am able.
If I love myself
I love you.
If I love you
I love myself.
I’m drenched
in the flood
which has yet to come
I’m tied up
in the prison
which has yet to exist
Not having played
the game of chess
I’m already the checkmate
Not having tasted
a single cup of your wine
I’m already drunk
Not having entered
the battlefield
I’m already wounded and slain
I no longer
know the difference
between image and reality
Like the shadow
I am And I am not


I love this poem by Rumi, there are so many secrets in it that a new layer opens up to me every time I read it. It's about the dance between love, fear and surrender. 

Love Said to Me
I worship the moon.
Tell me of the soft glow of a
candle light
and the sweetness of my moon. 

Don't talk about sorrow,
tell me of that treasure,
hidden if it is to you,
then just remain silent.

Last night
I lost my grip on reality
and welcomed insanity.
saw me and said,
I showed up.
Wipe you tears
and be silent.

I said, O Love
I am frightened,
but it's not you.
Love said to me,
there is nothing that is not me.
be silent.

I will whisper secrets in your ear
just nod yes
and be silent.

A soul moon
appeared in the path of my heart.  

How precious is this journey.

I said, O Love
what kind of moon is this?
Love said to me,
this is not for you to question.
be silent.

I said, O Love
what kind of face is this,
angelic, or human?
Love said to me,
this is beyond anything that you know.
Be silent.

I said, please reveal this to me
I am dying in anticipation.
Love said to me,
that is where I want you:
Always on the edge,
be silent.
You dwell in this hall of
images and illusions,
leave this house now
and be silent.

I said, O Love,
tell me this:
Does the Lord know you are               

treating me this way?
Love said to me,
yes He does,
just be totally…
totally… silent

Love came,
and became like blood in my body.
It rushed through my veins and
encircled my heart.
Everywhere I looked,
I saw one thing.

Love's name written
on my limbs,
on my left palm,
on my forehead,
on the back of my neck,
on my right big toe…
Oh, my friend,
all that you see of me
is just a shell,
and the rest belongs to love.

Sufi Love

In Sufism, love is an alchemical force of enlightenment; the lightning bolt which brings you back to life. Love symbolized the emotional element in religion, the rapture of the seer, the courage of the martyr, the faith of the saint, the only basis of moral perfection and spiritual knowledge.

A lover asked his beloved,
Do you love yourself more
than you love me? 
The beloved replied,
I have died to myself
and I live for you.   
I’ve disappeared from myself
and my attributes.
I am present only for you. 
I have forgotten all my learning,
but from knowing you
I have become a scholar. 
I have lost all my strength,              

but from your power
I am able. 
If I love myself
I love you.
If I love you
I love myself.
I’m drenched
in the flood
which has yet to come 
I’m tied up
in the prison
which has yet to exist
Not having played
the game of chess
I’m already the checkmate
Not having tasted
a single cup of your wine
I’m already drunk
Not having entered
the battlefield
I’m already wounded and slain
I no longer
know the difference
between image and reality
Like the shadow

I am And I am not

Practically, it is self-renunciation and self-sacrifice, the giving up of all possessions--wealth, honour, will, life, and whatever else men value--for the Beloved's sake without any thought of reward. I have already referred to love as the supreme principle in Sufi ethics, and now let me give some illustrations.

"Love," says Jalaluddin, "is the remedy of our pride and self-conceit, the physician of all our infirmities. Only he whose garment is rent by love becomes entirely unselfish."
I was dead, I became alive, I was tears, I became laughter
The sovereignty of love appeared, and I became everlasting sovereign.

Jalaluddin Rumi proclaims :"Our copper has been transmuted by this rare alchemy,"meaning that the base alloy of self has been purified and spiritualised. 

In another ode he says: "O my soul, I searched from end to end: I saw in thee naught save the Beloved; Call me not infidel, O my soul, if I say that thou thyself art He." 

Divine Love in Sufism, like gnosis, is in its essence a divine gift, not anything that can be acquired. "If the whole world wished to attract love, they could not; and if they made the utmost efforts to repel it, they could not." Those who love God are those whom God loves. "I fancied that I loved Him," said Bayazid, "but on consideration, I saw that His love preceded mine." 

Junayd defined love as the substitution of the qualities of the Beloved for the qualities of the lover. In other words, love signifies the passing-away of the individual self; it is an uncontrollable rapture, a God-sent grace which must be sought by ardent prayer and aspiration.

In Sufism, the human form of love can be, and for the Sufi is---- the ladder to Divine Love.

  Sufism decrees that by learning how to love through the love of a person, the sincere Sufi could – in principle – transform his or her love of a person into the love of Allah. 

Because love is the most brutal ego annihilation, Being IN love means surrendering your ego.  The word orgasm in French is called little death. Being in love with anyone is like dying to your old life and being reborn into a new dimension. 

The relationship is dangerous.

It is dangerous because the more you love someone, the more and more you evaporate. And when you have come really close you are no more. It is dangerous because it is suicidal but the suicide is beautiful. Because if you survive this suicide---you will walk towards God because you would have experienced the limitations of egoic living and tasted the ecstasy of surrender.

 All the love-romances and allegories of Sufi poetry--the tales of Layla and Majnun, Yusuf (Joseph) and Zulaykha, Salaman and Absal, the Moth and the Candle, the Night-ingale and the Rose--are shadow-pictures of the soul's passionate longing to be reunited with God. 

Death in human love is a catalyst of an alchemical crucible which can -potentially- lead to transformation.

To love so that nothing of you remains, is the way to enlightenment.You no longer exist.Non-being is the way to being, and love is the most adequate method to disappear.Just as nature abhors a vacuum, God also abhors a vacuum.

You become a vacuum, and love of God rushes in to you!

Ibn al-‘Arabi claims that Islam is peculiarly the religion of love, inasmuch as the Prophet Mohammed is called God's beloved (Habib)

To die in God is the only way to live really. Until you die, until you die voluntarily into love, you live an existence which is simply mediocre; you vegetate, you don't have any meaning. No poetry arises in your heart, no dance, no celebration; you simply grope in the darkness. You live at the minimum, you don't overflow with ecstasy.

Nuri, Raqqam, and other Sufis were accused of heresy and sentenced to death.
"When the executioner approached Raqqam, Nuri rose and offered himself in his friend's place with the utmost cheerfulness and submission. All the spectators were astounded. The executioner said, 'Young man, the sword is not a thing that people are so eager to  meet; and your turn has not yet arrived.' Nuri answered, 'My religion is founded on unselfishness. Life is the most precious thing in the world: I wish to sacrifice for my brethren's sake the few moments which remain.'"

In the Hindi Film Anwar (2007), the chosen murshid (guide) advises the young protagonist of the movie Anwar, that he has to fall in love in the earthly realm in order to evolve true love for God in his heart.   


        Poetry has that elusive quality of transcending words and lightly touching upon this secret garden of the human heart.In the book, Rumi, The Persian, The Sufi, Rumi quietly murmurs and speaks from his heart about his personal experience:

Do you know who is alive?

That one who is born in love.
I am not the moon, or the universe, or thunder
Or clouds
I am all love, all love, I am all soul by your
I am full of love, flaming as a burning tree;
A stranger to everyone except love, like oil and

While Divine Love might appear to some to be completely distinct from human love, for many Sufis such as Ahmad al-Ghazali (d. 520/1126), Ruzbihan (d. 606/1209), Ibn ‘Arabi (d. 638/1240), Rumi, and ‘Iraqi (d. 688/1289), there was a continuum from human love to Divine love.

The contemporary scholars Chittick and Wilson, in the introduction to their translation of ‘Iraqi’s Lama’at, discussed this relationship of human love and Divine love.

          Speaking of ‘Iraqi’s understanding of love, they stated, “There is no irreducible dichotomy between divine and human love…There is a gradation from the love of forms, which is “apparent love” (‘ishq-i majazi) to the love of God, which alone is ‘real love’ (‘ishq-i haqiqi).

Love is the ark appointed for the righteous,
Which annuls the danger and provides a way of escape.
Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.
Cleverness is mere opinion, bewilderment intuition. RUMI

 That is the meaning when Jesus says, "God is love because it is the purification of love that will bring you to God.Love is the bridge. Love is the process of alchemical change in your consciousness.

Rumi's couplet is alluding to this state.

My head is bursting
with the joy of the unknown.
My heart is expanding a thousand fold.
Every cell,
taking wings,
flies about the world.
All seek separately
the many faces of my love.

        When you fall in love with a person you have seen a glimpse of the divine. It is not really the person that you have fallen in love with; They have been just a window, a beautiful window but still a window. You have seen something beyond, it may have been just a flash; that’s why it is so difficult to explain your love affair to anybody.

If somebody asks, ’Why have you fallen in love with this person?’ it is almost inexplicable. And if you try to explain it looks absurd, even to you. But the problem is that you have not fallen in love with this person at all: you have fallen in love with something beyond.

"This woman, who is your beloved, is, in fact, a ray of His light,
She is not a mere creature. She is a creator.  RUMI

Sufi's believe that only when a person treads on the path of earthly ‘true romantic love’ and suffers the pain of separation from one’s beloved, can one get in touch with the separation from God Almighty that is suppressed in the heart of every Individual.

A true Lover doesn't follow any one religion,
be sure of that.
Since in the religion of Love,
there is no irreverence or faith.
When in Love,
body, mind, heart and soul don't even exist.
Become this,
fall in Love,
and you will not be separated again


We hear the same answer that Ibn Arabi heard in one of his intimate conversations when he asked Allah “How could one get close to You?

”And Allah responded, “Through an attribute that I do not possess”, meaning ubudiyyat, which means servant-hood

You think you are alive

because you breathe air?
Shame on you,
that you are alive in such a limited way.
Don't be without Love,
so you won't feel dead.
Die in Love
and stay alive forever.