A dear friend and I met recently for our monthly lunch. It is always the same location and pretty much the same menu – a cool one accompanied by guacamole and nachos, followed by soup and a sandwich with coffee to conclude our session that usually extends from 12.30 pm to 3.45 pm. In spite of the standard fare, the food for thought that we share is anything but routine. Books, politics, religion, world and family affairs all come under scrutiny and we leave, satiated in more ways than one.
This past week, we touched on the tragic downing of the Ukrainian aircraft and the loss of innocent lives. For Canada, this is the second such tragedy and while affecting all Canadians, it was especially distressing for those who had lost their loved ones in the Air India bombing back in 1985. Canadians and Governments at all levels across the country came together to embrace and comfort those in need; a radical shift from the way things had unfolded thirty-five years ago.
Our conversation meandered around religious and social divisiveness which has, in the last four or five years surreptitiously insinuated itself into private conversations and is now overshadowing and threatening public discourse, worldwide. Nationalist, Patriotic / Populist and Religious beliefs are all being used to divide and push an “Us” versus “Them” theme that empowers some people to turn into demagogues, who create their personal Soapbox platforms on social media to pontificate and twitter (mis)-information. Back in the 1970s as a trainee in London, England I had first heard the English expression “Twit” (Dictionary definition: an insignificant, silly or bothersome person); “twitter” is perhaps an apt description for most politicians and a number of other luminaries!
Everyone agrees that there is but one God. Yet, we go around seeking ways to identify and label others for being the followers of a God, different from ours.
My lunch partner recalled the following kafi (verse) from an incident in the life of Baba Bulleh Shah, the great 17th century Sufi Pir (Mystic Master) and poet from the Punjab:
|Bulleya, rabb da ki paunaa||O Bulla, where is the problem in finding God|
|Edhron put ke, edhar launaa||One has to pull it out from here and plant it there|
To provide context to these lines, I reproduce below an excerpt from the book “Bulleh Shah” by J.R. Puri and T.R. Shangari of Radha Soami Satsang, Beas:
“It is said that even before coming into contact with Inayat Shah, Bulleh Shah used to do some spiritual practice, and had acquired certain miraculous powers. When Bulleh Shah, the seeker, passed near the small field of Inayat Shah, he saw fruit laden trees on both sides of the road. Inayat Shah himself was engaged in planting onion seeds.
It occurred to Bulleh Shah to test Inayat Shah of his spiritual power. Invoking the name of God, Bullah (his name simply, when the title Shah is not used) looked at the trees, and the fruit starting falling on the ground. Inayat Shah looked back and saw that unripe fruit was falling from the trees without any reason. He immediately realized that it was due to the mischief played by the young man passing by. He looked towards Bulleh Shah and said, “Well, young man, why have you brought down the unripe fruit from the trees?” This is what Bulleh Shah wanted, to find an opportunity to talk to Inayat Shah. He went up to him and said, “Sir, I neither climbed up the trees, nor did I throw any stones at the fruit, how could I tear it from the trees?”
Inayat Shah cast a glance at Bulleh Shah and said, “You are not only a thief, you are also being clever!” Inayat Shah’s glance was so penetrating that it touched Bullah’s heart and he instantly fell at his feet. Inayat Shah asked him his name and the purpose for coming to him.
Bullah replied, “Sir, my name is Bullah and I wish to know how I can realize God.” Inayat Shah said, “Why do you look down? Get up and look at me.” As soon as Bullah raised his head and looked at Inayat Shah, the Master again cast him a full glance, laden with love, shaking him all through.
[Pointing to the tiny onion seedlings] He said, “O Bullah, what problem is there finding God? It only needs to be uprooted from here and planted there.” This was enough for Bulleh Shah. He got what he had wished for. Inayat Shah had poured the essence of spirituality in these few words.
He conveyed to Bulle Shah that the secret of spiritual progress lay in detaching one’s mind from the world outside and attaching it to God within.”
Later, Bulleh Shah himself reinforced the message of universal love, disregarding places of worship through this kafi:
|Masjid dhaa de, Mandir dhaa de||Break down the Mosque, bring the Temple down|
|dhaa de jo kujh dhaindaa||Break everything that can be broken|
|Par kissi daa dil naa dhaanvin||But don’t break anyone’s heart|
|Rabb dilaan vichh rehndaa||For it is in hearts that God resides|