“Mann re tu kaahe naa dheer dhare
O nirmohi moh naa jaane, jinkaa moh kare
Iss jeevan ki chadhti dhalti dhoop ko kisne baandhaa
Rang pe kisne pehre daale roop ko kisne baandhaa, kaahe ye jatan kare
Utnaa hi upkaar samajh koi jitnaa saath nibhaa de
Janam maran kaa mel hai sapnaa yeh sapnaa bisraa de, koi naa sang marey” – Sahir Ludhianvi
[(My) ego/anima why can you not be still
O estranged being, those you pine for know not what desire is
Who is able to capture the rising and receding life’s (sun)-light
Who is able to imprison color, who is able to shackle beauty, why (do you even) make this effort
(Simply) acknowledge the favor of those to the extent they accompany you (in this life journey)
Union of (or, through) life and death is a myth let go of this dream, no one dies with you]
Early one winter morning several years ago I got a call informing us that a very dear friend had passed away. My wife and I were close to her and because of her prolonged illness, had been expecting such news. Yet, as usually happens when a young vibrant life is snuffed, our immediate reaction was of shock and disbelief. I immediately left for the hospital. As I drove, music from my gadget filled the car while memories of times shared with our friend flooded through my head finding release occasionally, through watery eyes. And then out of the blue this classic song came on. It jolted me out of my self-pitying sense of loss and grief. It was an epiphanous moment – I recall that the cloud lifted and I smiled.
The lyrics served to remind me of the nature of our ephemeral existence and the futility of our propensity to exercise control over things that are fluid and cannot be grasped. Sahir’s song concludes that the birth-life-death cycle is illusory. Instead of hankering for lasting relationships, the lyricist suggests we simply acknowledge the favor of companions for the time they choose to share with us.
In this context, I am reminded of Osho’s parable about a Sufi fakir Junaid. His son, whom he loved dearly, was killed suddenly in an accident. Junaid went and buried him. His wife and others expected him to go mad with grief. Yet, here was Junaid acting as if nothing had happened, as if the son had not died! After the mourners had left, his wife asked him, “Aren’t you sad at all? I was so worried you would completely break down, you loved him so much.” Junaid replied, “For a moment I was indeed shocked, but then I remembered that I had existed and was quite happy before the birth of my son. Now when the son is not present, I have become as I was before, so what is the reason for sorrow? In between, the son came and went. When I was not unhappy before his birth, why should I be unhappy now to be without a son? What is the difference? In between was only a dream that is now over.” Each wave is but a dream; the ocean is the reality. It is as if the river continues to flow unimpeded.
The meaning of relationships beyond the physical was further reinforced to me the evening we lost our friend. I had retired for the night but inexplicably awoke a couple of hours later, intuitively humming this Adeem Hashmi sher:
“Woh ke khushbu ki tarah phailaa thaa mere chaar soo
Mein use mehsoos kar sakta thaa chhoo saktaa naa thaa”
[(That) presence was, like fragrance, spread all around (me)
I could experience (it) but not touch the essence (of that being)]
The dancer having performed leaves the stage but the experience remains with us. The sounds of a musical composition reverberate in our mind long after the performance is over. Our children tell me the aroma of the special “halwa” my mother used to make for them remains fresh today, many years after she has passed on.
“Dukkha” (suffering) resulting from an attachment to the impermanence of beings and things is central to Buddha’s philosophy.