THE MUSLIM MIND
PROF. ZEBA BASHIRUDDIN
FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT
Those who believe in Mohammad's body, know that it is no more, but those who put their trust in Allah, consider that He is ever living." These are the words of Abu Baker Siddiq (Peace be on him), spoken boldly to a confused and grief stricken multitude of Muslims on the event of passing away of the Prophet of Islam. The experience is repeated at the Martyrdom of Imam Hussain (RZA), at the fall of mighty Islamic empires, after the demolishing of cities ami places of worship. Time has proved one truth: "All that is on earth will perish but the face of Allah will abide" (The Quran LX:27). Also there has grown with the passing of centuries the distrust of the physical, the World of phenomena as ungodly, even evil. Individually too each mind has absorbed this sense of duality of the Manifest (Al-Zahir) and the Hidden (Al-Batin). Then comes a time when the awareness realizes that the formless One-Allah is both this and that. They are the contours of only One Face. This is what is confirmed in every call for prayer - Allah-Ho-Akbar (God is Great - He encompasses all.)
Usually the muslim mind does not grasp this truth. Belief remains at the verbal level, limited and unbending. Only when the stars fall down, the Moon and the Sun darken, the consciousness is forced to introspect, to accept that Truth is only one - it may be called with different names. Each soul tastes the bitter cup of hardship and humility to begin its return to Allah.
My time also came. It was my good luck that it happened at Sai Baba's holy feet. For more than fifteen years He has educated me about Truth, through the medium known to me - the dialect of my own religion, without speaking one word at the physical level. The writings of Sufi Masters, the re-learning of the Quran from a different angle has uplifted my mind from narrow grooves. Today, when Baba gives a discourse my ears grasp the Quranic truths in His words. Though many will not understand the experience related in the following chapters they are not coincidences nor illusions of a paranoid consciousness. The emphasis is not on the events or "miracles." The change in the mind is focussed on and stressed. If pious Muslim minds consider my equating Baba's words with the Quranic verses as shocking I beg for forgiveness. For me, like the Truth, they are one. Who can divide light because the bulbs are different? Faith cannot be imposed, especially when the Quran itself has asserted that "to each is given a goal to which God turns him; then strive together towards all that is good..." (The Quran II:148)
To many the following chapters may also appear without any chronology.
This is exactly what is being avoided. Each title is to be studied separately: The only link is the journey of the mind to the formless and each chapter represents one state. Only a few stages are mentioned.
The story of my mind is rooted above all, in Baba's own statement:
I have come Not to disturb or destroy any Faith, But to confirm Each in his own faith So that, the Christian becomes A better Christian The Muslim a better Muslim A Hindu a better Hindu
WHAT SAI BABA IS TO ME
Many a time the question is asked: How can a Muslim believe in Sai Baba? To those who Allah wishes to guide a particle can become a sign to believe. God's call comes in many ways. It comes from the oracle of Delphi, from the book of Torah, the temple bells, the holy fire and the heart of men. Who can limit Him? Indeed inexhausting are His Words:
To me this instruction has come through a human voice and a human form. From a fundamentalist Mohammadan to a believer in and the follower of the principle of Ibnul Arabi's What-Ul-Wujad (Unity of Essence) is a long journey, and not an easy one. When I say that to me SAI BABA IS THE QURAN IN ACTION I believe and utter on the basis of experience. Indeed, He is the one who has shaped my mind; led it to know the inner reaches of that angle of faith which has been familiar to me but not fully known. His form like the recitation of the holy verses sweeps me to the Ocean of infinity. Similar is the case with thousands of muslims who read the Quran without knowing Arabic as a language. The rhythm, like the form, becomes a surge of remembrance. In its constant movement the object, the agent and the process are fused and become one. To me Baba is not a form. But most men do not understand.
The perception of seeing God everywhere. In everything is given to a few. Towards this goal of spirituality the heart aspires to, praying to be grouped with those
Who are those who go astray? Attaching undue importance to progeny, wealth or power or setting up partners with God against which Islam warns, hence all objects of attachment become idols, arresting and imprisoning awareness. The killing of Mansoor in eleventh century for proclaiming Anal Haq (I am truth) is a tragic example of faulty perception. The erring understanding destroyed his body, was it the body that announced the truth?
A Church, a Temple, a Mosque is accepted as a house of God. Is man the maker of a building less than a construction not to be vehicle of God's voice?
Likewise, the Quran as a message is a SIGN of its SENDER. To believe them as two is accepting duality. The first lesson that Baba has taught me is to see in the signs the presence of the sender. They are one
The second principle is to learn the true meaning of "I". The Quran and Baba identify "I" and "Me" as divinity within. Erroneous understanding has transferred it to the external, gross bodies. The Quran commands the prophet - "there is no God but I' therefore worship and serve me". (XX:27)
Baba too stresses
"I am the Ocean, everything is in Me".
This secret doctrine has been given only to the spiritual elite in the past.
The common man has been ignorant of it. Thus Hazrat Abdul Qadir Jilani on the crucification of Monsoor commented that he was hasty and exposed the secret (Anal Haq: I am God) to the public. But he also ascertains elsewhere:
"Allah most high said to me, O Ghous that man whose external and internal faculties manifest ME, he is not human, but Me only".
(Journal of Ghous-e-Azam. Hyderabad - 11th saying)
Today, that time draws near when "all shall perish from earth but the Face of God will abide" (LV: 27).
It is divine injunction that this secret must be proclaimed openly, Baba is doing it, His life reflecting this principle. Also the modern man's faith in theological concept of God is no longer functioning.
Above all, my heart recognizes Baba as the "I" in me. It sways as an lonean Harp to the tune of the ONE. It may be a glimpse only but it has made me aware even intoxicated to the beauty and the majesty of the first part of Islamic SHAHAADA.
LA-ILLAHA ILLA AHLLAH: GOD ALONE IS
SHATTERING OF AN IMAGE
In late 70 ties a letter from my husband read:
- I met Sai Baba in Dharmakshetra. He's prophesised that our troubles will be over by Dec: 12 this year. Rest in person -
"There he goes again". I mumbled, rather annoyed. This was the first introduction to Baba. Though I had heard a lot about him I had avoided meeting him despite peruasion or invitation from my friends. As a traditionally brought up Muslim I had tried to avoid contacts from all living non-muslim saints, but made it possible to visit all holy men and shrines belonging to Islam. Here my husband was doing, what I thought, a censurable act. Our socio-religious norms would not accept that.
Living in Hyderabad (India) of post independent period our social affinities were still friendly and broad - minded. However, we had set a limit to them. The dream of a bengine saracen state where we had grown up still prevailed our mental frame work.
We measured and looked at everything from a tolerant understanding but our yardstick was Islam. To me, especially the Quran was the best standard of everything. Crossing limits of its value never occurred to me. I considered the muslim socio-religious tradition as the most perfect aspect. Though other norms were looked upon with a friendly attitude our social codes were based on Islamic value system. Erroneously I considered the Quran and social norms same.
These attitudes gave us an ethnic identity and a courage to live with honour and even pride. We were proud to call ourselves Indian Muslims. We were Adam's descendents abiding our time on earth. The national modes made our lives vaster. Emotionally we participated in general activities of city and nation. At the same time our domestic standards remained untouched. The mind remained aloof, unstained, a witness to the incident outside the walls of home. It was not coloured by Holi, never brightered at Diwali, never sang of Christmas.
These contacts were ephemeral, - gestures of an outward friendly interactions. The mind, however prostrated before Allah, the Formless, the One and Only. It worshipped Him with the fullness of the heart at Id and fasting, pilgrimage to Ka'ba, prayers of five times. It swayed to the rhythm of quawali and music of the Quranic recitations.
The cosmopolitan breeding made me read the Gita intellectually, appreciate the beauty of Lord Krishna as matter of aesthetic. But my soul and heart however, belonged to Allah, not to any Form.
Naturally, I could not relish what my husband had done - bowing to a Form.
"Let him do that, I'll remain aloof". I inwardly resolved. To my sister with a little more condescension I confided that Sai Baba might have performed miracles as our saints did, and might have a name common among the sufis but there was no need to prostrate before a human being. My religion did not allow it.
Yet, things started happening to us despite my external resolve. My husband was transferred from Pune to Hyderabad and the family was united again. He did get a professional position and the administrative tensions for him were solved. A month before meeting Baba one evening I decided to give up eating meat.
"In the name of Allah and Sai Baba I'll never touch meat." I repeated three times loudly and that was the end of a life-long habit. It was judged by my friends as an un-Islamic act. "What", mocked a friend, "You've avowed that you would n't believe in him".
"Yes, Even now I don't",
"But what is this? Your giving up a tradition."
"Yes, I know". I was found to be contradicting myself. Scoffed at, ridiculed, and even coerced, I stuck doggedly to my resolve. What explanation could I give? There was none. The "freak" finally was changed into a confirmed vegetarian. Even before Baba a complain was lodged against my "odd habit." Strange, he did not rebuke me, nor ordered me to resume my former habit. His solution was pointing out to us equally nutritions substitutes. Much later, my reading on the topic revealed that vegetarianism was good for spiritual aspirants. The Kashmiri Rishi Sufi Order observed this practice. Further, reading Dr. Hislop's book Conversation with Bhagawan also confirmed the point - that spiritual practices and vegetarianism were correlated!
How Baba had controlled my mind was an enigma. But His will had always reached me and made me do similar things. Outwardly my actions seemed irrational, even unwise, yet whenever he was consulted he affirmed and even protected me.
With these daily, insignificant acts he was certainly impressing on me that He was not a form. He could contact my mind and even control it. And with these was He also not telling me that as an on omnipotent force. He was the observer and knew all (The Quran LVII:4).
Nevertheless, the first interview also had its physical impact. My attitude also was appeared by the sights of discipline that I found in men and women sitting separately for Darshan. To me it was like muslim wisdom. His simple dress made me put Him in a sufi frame work. The figure of Shirdi Sai further deepened the belief. Most important, his attitude softened my defences. He did not ask me to worship Him, nor was I forced to prostrate before Him. There was a majestic aloofness in His behaviour to these outward acts. On the contrary, his earnestness to help people was spontaneous and divine. It was as if he knew humanity and was eager to pull it out of the low level into which it had sunk. To us he did not quote any scriptures, but his words were full of commonsense and wisdom - constrain, self confidence and peace were values he gave importance to. Were they not the Quaranic values also? I sat and wondered in the small interview room. My thoughts were quitened. My heart was suddenly overhelmed with the Love of Allah - a state occurring to me even now.
One more instance from the first interview could be mentioned. It influenced and shaped my life later on. He yet once more. over-whelmed us with unasked, undeserved mercy - giving me a ruby ring, curing a uterus cancer in initial stages and ten - year old asthema. These were acts of supreme kindness that changed the future course of my life.
More important was another act of compassion on that day. We were called for interview. Sitting among the selected ladies I saw Baba walked past me. He then turned and gave me just one full glance. Khaja Moinuddin Chisti, (Peace be on him) I was told used to completely change the character of people by fixing his eyes on them for a moment.
A similar thing happened to me. It was a brief contact, tender and very, very intense. In its unsullied power of Love the secret of earth's creation was revealed: Divinity pervading and aware of only its own beauty and glory. The holy Prophet (Peace be on him) must have meant to only this presence when he expressed the words: "I was a hidden Treasure. I wanted to be known and so I created the world".
So powerful was the glance that I lowered my head in submission and humility. It was the moment when I received the Light.
Then just as it had appeared so too suddenly the contact was over. He turned and walked away. I was left to control the involuntary tremors that were making me feel helpless. The carefully built image was shattered.
I forgot my prejudices, did not remember the social traditions. The resolve not to prostrate before a form was submerged into the serenity of an ocean: God's Love. And I was surrounded as if blue light. Nothing mattered.
What I did not realise at that moment was the fact that it was a mental contact. More important, all future contacts would be non-physical and they would change the narrow patterns of my thoughts.
These were concerns of days to come and were to start a process of introspection.
All that I experienced at that moment was a deep calm and a feeling of well being that lasted for ten days.
A DIFFERENT EDUCATION
You don't even know your own religion; how can you know ME!" The voice, uttering these words was heavy, deep and sonorous. Coming from the depth of my sleep it shattered the darkness of a slumber into which I had fallen that night. I had heard such voices directing and even explaining things to me before I had met Baba. But on that day I co-related it with Baba. It was not his voice and yet it was.
The restless sleep into which I had fallen at three o'clock had now disappeared. I sat up and looked around. Familiar things reassured me. Through the windows I saw a world bathed in a pink light of a new dawn and dews of September.
From the distant mosque echoes of the call for the prayer came floating to me. This sound turned out to be another sign of Divine Presence. On many a critical occasion it affirmed that Allah was ever near. Its contact always made me expect something beneficial, and ascertained that life was always beautiful. It mirrored Allah.
Invariably, I came to associate it also with Baba. But the state was to be achieved later on when all manifested and non manifested essences - called Aspect-Names would converge into a single Essence: BABA. However, that day it was a different story. I realized there was different knowledge I had to acquire.
"What is my religion?"
I asked the question several times during the course of the morning. Evidently there were gaps in my thinking as well as practicing of Islam.
The quest made me leave secular duties, applied for leave from teaching, assignments and walked upto the university's main library. Down in the well known stackroom, I felt more at ease, pulled out, listed all possible books on SUFISM. It took me fifteen years of intense study to know one bit of what was termed as the esoteric aspect of Islam.
Today I would define the word religion and Me differently. But during that initial period I took it to be Baba and religion as sufism. Due to desperation I tried to close the all comprehensing One into the frame work Sufism.
Today, I can assert that what is known to the world as BABA is beyond comprehension.
But fifteen years ago my state was different. Torn between two opposite forces of love and fear, I was trying to convince myself that Baba and Islam were same.
The first interview had brought in its wake immediate peace. But when that state was worn out there started an intense conflict, dissembling personality, gnawing at the heart and the soul. On one side was my traditional self, protected and assured by practices centuries old. They were narrow, doubtlessly. But as such they had given a sense of identity. The prostration before the formless might have sunk into a ritual, a habit but it was a belief that was not easily shakable. On the other side was Baba's serene Form to which the heart bowed in reverence and love. If demanded highest respect and unconditional surrender.
How could I accept a Form as Allah? I had asked myself repeatedly. But I could never question what I understood to be Allah? I could not break the narrow limits of my own mind. I was afraid. At that time, I believed in the popular muslim faith that man and Allah are two different things. As a servant man must surrender to Allah. The Quranic description of hell fire taken at its face value frightened me. Though heaven as a reward was beyond my reach I did not want to give up conventional faith in God. I would not want to step out of my physical interpretation of God and man. The higher reaches of Islamic belief, I told myself, meant jumping into an ocean. I hesitated to take the initiative.
The conflict was not temporary. Though basically mental, it had made the world of flesh and blood meaningless. I had become bitter, even temperamental. I could not sleep peacefully. During the day I debated with myself. At night I was restless. Often I found myself praying silently "God help me out of this hell".
It took a long time. So I thought. But the response came in the form of the dream, described in the beginning of the chapter.
The study of Sufism gave a new direction to my life. It was for me a new education - A relentless course of study demanded practicing what was learnt as theory. I was made to sit before many Masters, Indian and outside the country. The languages were different - Arabic, Persian, Urdu, English. Sometimes there were translations. Slowly my heart was opened to the universality of knowledge that was non-worldly. Love of Allah became the central passion of my existence.
During that period Baba did not speak a word of it to me. Yet I knew that it was all his gift of grace - Not a book came to me without His guidance and only when I was ready for it.
Osmania University's stackroom became a haven for me. Often I would search for a particular book but repeatedly was led to another. Exhausted and irritated I would pull the volume out. It would contain, without any doubt, material useful for my growth. One such book was Mr. Ram Gopal's BABA FARID. Written in flawless Urdu it mentioned incidents of God's love for man irrespective of any religion. Baba Farid, like our Baba had devotees from different religions. Another book that came to me was the biography of Aminuddin A'la, a south Indian saint of thirteenth century, who taught the pure advaitic principle and was considered as God by his devotees.
Soon the stage of miracles and religion, country, caste was over. I was taken into deeper waters of unity. The study of Moulana Rumi and Hazrat Ibnul Arabi (Peace be on them) with gospel of love and oneness of Reality opened my eyes to a heaven I had not experienced.
Amazing was the similarity of thought and images of the two masters and Baba. The images of sugar, gold, light, ocean too indicated the divinity in varied manifestation were common. The similarity, no, oneness I thought would be dealt in a later chapter.
When I found Vedantic terms difficult to comprehend Meher Baba's Volume. God Speaks was handed over to me - I found equation of Vedantic terms with Sufi and Arabic words that were synonyms in the volume. Again I was amazed. For twenty-seven years I lived across the road where God Speaks was easily available, yet not even once I was led to it.
Naturally, the constant reading of these masters affected my life style. Superficial ornamentation like dying of hair, cosmetic, fashionable and costly dresses were given up. The desire to live away from the noise and the empty pursuit of the world made my life simpler. Gone was the madness for power, and glory. Had not the Quran enjoined to avoid such style of living?
Soon all this, said the book of Wisdom would become dry like a barren field. In my case an intense longing to reach Allah possessed me. Baba became the external centre of Divinity. He ceased to be a Form for me. Likewise in the physical absence of Baba, the Quran became His symbol. Its mysterious verses brought to me a world of beauty and delight, as Baba's form would do. While reciting the most beautiful names (99 of them) of Allah my mind perceived them to be Baba's attributes. How the equation took place would be difficult to explain here. But it was a long and slow process. It also was not an easy time. Apart from the outward claims that the process involved there was also the inner purification too. The hardest was to change the mental habits. It called for a determination and effort. To develop seeing in the changeable external the internal and the permanent was not easy.
But all that brought its own rewards. I could see new meaning in Islamic concepts. All that was negative or considered evil belonged to the world of duality. Allah, the one and only, the loving and lovable, the supreme could never be Negation.
With the change in perception, words also assumed new meanings. Momin and Kafir referred to in the Quaran had nothing to do with followers of Prophet Mohammed or of other religions, as the common muslim would interpret.
A momin became a believer and a Kafir a non believer of Divinity. They now had nothing to do with one religion or other. The first person pronouns "I", "Me", "We" indicated the divine breath in Adam (The Quran: XV:29). Baba had called them jivatma - Islam the ancient religion of mankind followed by the Semetic line of the Prophets to me became what Baba called Sanathana Dharma. No wonder Islam also had been termed as the natural Religion. With the influence of Sufism the greater meaning of the Merciful, most Compassionate (Al-Rahman, al-Rahim) united for me the Quran, the form of Baba, the Holy Ka'aba and the name of the Prophet. They all became vestures of a Higher Reality.
When Sai comes in anyone's life it does not mean that roses start blooming all the way. It means that things start falling into proper places. He teaches but also tests. This too is part of his compassion. To describe the process he uses the analogy of SURGEY, doctor and the patient. The ordeals are not uncommon. The best of men have been tried. Abraham was thrown in fire, Moses and Lord Jesus in wilderness and Mohammed to enemosity of his own people, who finally drove him out of his home town, Mecca.
For the common people like us they appear to be consequences of our own actions. Baba very rarely averts them but he gives courage to face them with dignity and self-respect. What should have been an avalanche will pass like a shower, he has told once a devotee. The process matures the mind and expands the horizon into a deeper understanding of things in the world. Faith and patience are all that he asks for.
Often I look back to a period of seven year, 1985-91, which can be called "testing time".
I had chosen to work at a place which had brought a complete change in the previous life pattern. As a consequence, I had to give up my home town, family and twenty seven years of service in an Institution. It was like beginning life again, build up values like honour, reputation, comfort, pace of work from a zero point. Holding on to trust in Allah and the love of my children, still to be educated or married I started another journey whose end was not known to me. I would take only one day as a stepping stone and offering my work and motivation to Baba would complete the day.
The place of work was new to me and I had to carve a niche for myself without looking for reward or satisfaction. Also I was aware that nothing could measure according to previous codes of values. There was therefore, one law - the law of work for me. My witness to it was Baba.
There is no need to recount specific instances, for they are the common fate of humanity - privation, separation, loneliness, social censure, stress, when faith is stretched to its last limits, and endurance breaks down. It must have happened to followers of Moses, Christ and Mohammed. Similar will be the fate of those who choose to struggle with their imperfection, inner and external. They must stand by the chosen principles and accept affliction as tests of their belief.
During those dark years often in moments of distress I would take the Quran into my hands and press it to my heart. A strength and comfort would immediately flow into me. Confused thoughts would subside and a clear vision emerge.
I also gave up craving for Baba's physical presence, for a look or a word. I would call upon Him as the Merciful, the Compassionate. Often, while I was hankering for the physical proximity, words, that he wrote on the Quran of a muslim devotee, would come to my mind.
"I AM IN YOU AND AROUND YOU - BE HAPPY".
Immediately I would check my negative thoughts and old habits.
As time passed on He became a presence, far more pervasive, bounteous and altruistic than anything I ever had experienced before. Two minor instances of his constant presence could be described here.
In November during college vacation I came to Hyderabad and stayed with my mother in Jubileehills. My young children were with me. One evening I was forced to send three of them to the city - 15 miles away from Jubileehills. Evening's twilight deepened into the darkness of early night. It occurred to me that the nature of work could be unpleasant even dangerous for them. Being new to the place it would be easy to lose the way. Our house was located on a remote, unpopulated stretch of land. They had to walk as in the darkness no taxi driver would agree to come to the place. I panicked. Helplessly, I sat on the doorsteps, gazing at the lonely road. Time would refuse to move: 8 o'clock, 9 o'clock still no sign of the children. Observing my anxiety, my eighty year old mother started mumbling a prayer. I pitied her and thought that the situation demanded a more practical approach. My sisters, were they here, would have helped me certainly, I thought. After sometime she kept aside the rosary and closing her eyes remained silent for a long time. An hour later my children returned and I forgot my mother's gesture. The next morning when everyone was away she called me to her side:
"Has your Baba dark, big eyes?" she asked.
"Wears long dress that falls to his feet?" was the next question.
"Yes - but how do'u know?"
"Hum! His hair spread as a circle around his face."
"Of course, yes - but how...?"
She did not allow me to complete the query.
"Last night watching your misery I started chanting Ayat-ul-Kursi (Verse of the throne; recited for protection). Wanted to help you. With my visionary eyes I saw your three children where they were at that time. I also saw your Baba standing near them. Knowing that he was already protecting them I stopped reciting the verse. Doesn't he look that way I describe". I could not speak. My mother did not believe in the Form. She had faith in the power of the Word. But she was wise to realise the oneness of the Formless and the Form. The words that she recited were from the well-known Quranic passage.
-1990 - 91:
December 1990: fate took me to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Originally I had taken Baba's permission to visit my son and his family, especially to see the new born son. The quiet visit turned into a nerve-war that was known to the outside world as the Gulf War. I was hardly a week there, when war was declared. Within hours the beautiful city was changed into an area where fear of death stalked the roads as rumours of scud missiles. On the TV were announced hourly the precautions to be taken to minimize their effects. The first day of the war was unbearable. The announcement of an air attack, first for Riyadh, drove us in the sealed room of our house. The sirens hooted over our heads and the noise of approaching of planes, filled the air with the sound of a million birds flapping their wild wings, shrieking as they flew.
Inside the dark room I had clasped my five year old grandson, Sai Ahmed. The baby was with the mother. Lights went off and in the pitched, hot darkness I could feel the nervous breathing of the child against my breast. There was also another sound. Someone was sobbing. It took me sometime to realize that the baby had no gas-mask. My daughter-in-law held the little one and wept, constantly praying to Baba. A rumbling was heard in the air, Aircraft. We waited knowing the end to be near. The noise grew louder, deafening. The very walls of the house seemed to echo it. A thunder crashed near by. The house shook.
"Baba take our souls to you" - was my last thought.
But we did not die.
By degrees the thunder and the rumbling subsided. Sai Ahmed now started sobbing. My son found a candle and after fumbling struck a light. It took us quite sometime to comprehend that we were unhurt, alive.
Hours later, in the morning we came to know that the antimissile "Patriot" had destroyed the scud. The debris had fallen on an insurance office building, next to our house, gutting the edifice into a shell. "Had it fallen on our house?" was my thought. Chance? Or grace? Our lives were saved. Quietly I thanked Baba. The uncaring minds of the media were busy in giving the details of the event and talking of the new era of war, strategies, the sensation and the trauma of it. Only a few heads were bent in gratitude to God.
When the war was over I returned to Prasanthinilayam. In darshan line the sights of familiar scenes and people filled me with a feeling of gratitude and well being. In the centre of this peace floated an Orange Robe. I had to fight back my tears as I quietly thanked Baba for saving our lives.
"You're alive" - He smiled reading the thought.
"Thank you Baba for saving us", I managed to say,
"Sub-ko bacha diya". (All were saved)
His words were enigmatic. But thinking over them much later I could comprehend a little of the divine concern for life in general. I realised that on that eventful night, thousands in Riyadh must be praying for safety and their prayers were answered.
Such is the wisdom of unbounded Love. Is it not believed that all supplications go to him or decisions?
The event also taught me that good thoughts would help to overcome any situation.
How absurd it was to think that circumstances victimize us. What are circumstances but yardsticks of our own mind? The positive mind swims through them as crossing the troubled waters; consider them as tests of the spirit. The Quran puts it in a different language.
"And if anyone puts his trust in Allah - Sufficient is Allah for him". (LXV:3)
These years also confirmed to me the Quranic value of the spirit that Baba long ago had stressed.
"I am in your heart:" He had said when I expressed to see him in a dream. The emphasis of "I" was on the spirit. It did not refer to form. It referred to the divine spirit that was "breathed into Adam" - and is called "the breath of the compassionate" in the Book of Wisdom.
The years deepened my faith and love of God. Forbearance and silent facing of troubles made their intensity less disturbing. I also learnt to watch dispassionately and to control my thoughts. Two points could be mentioned here.
First, I disciplined my mind never to allow hard feelings prevail against those who had harmed me. The second, a common truth of Christianity, was to love such people, at least mentally. The second one was hardest to cultivate. But Baba's injuction was to overcome even this weakness. I remembered one day in darshan line he came to me and asked why I was sitting in one, X's place. To my surprise I answered: "where are two Baba? There is only One".
I was bewildered at my own answer. What had made me say these words unless He spoke them, through me to convey a message. I looked down and in my lap was Gyan Vahini. Was it not the single message of the book? and that of the Quran also. "There is no God but ONE".
Above all the years and hard life gave me a new strength. I understood the underlying principle: "The Lord does not test a man just for fun. He does not pile calamity on calamity because he enjoys it. Examinations are held to measure achievement and award marks and honours. You must ask to be examined so that your progress may be recorded.
(Sadhana: The Inward Path. p.190)
Often when I was bowed down by the troubles I would sit quietly and remembered Baba's words to me "THRIMAHNAT KARAGATOBAHUT DOOR JA SAKTA HAI" (If you try a little you will travel far)
CONTACTS AND PRESENCES
He had come to me in many forms, tangible and intangible. Sweet smell, good feeling, beauty of shapes and colours - in all these the senses had contacted and recognised Him. Like a fool often I blurted before him:
"Baba I made many mistakes today".
He would smile and say:
"I know, I know".
I would check and scold: "Fool, why do you keep limiting him to a Form. He is not".
Though in the early years I never gave a thought to it, slowly it occurred that Baba had become a presence in my life. I had to turn my mind to him and he was there. The Presence assumed for me the ninety-nine attributes of Allah, mentioned in the Quran as "the most beautiful Names (Asma-e-Hasna). The one that appeared very often was the name of Mercy-AL-RAHIM.
Experiences of these Presences led me to believe slowly of his all pervading nature. Of these three could be related here.
Once he took from me a telegram with the news of my mother's serious illness. She had gone into coma, and my sister had asked me to return immediately from Prasanthinilayam. In darshan line he gave me permission to leave.
"Yes, she's mother - Go - Can give prasad also. (All in Hindi)
He had not returned that telegram. I found it on the window-sill of my room, when I returned from darshan. The promised prasad also was sent invisibly as a new lease of life for an old lady who was declared to be dying. Miracle? Yes, in the language of common man. But behind it was reflected the magnificent glory of the divine attributes of AL-MOHAEE (one who gives life) and AL-MUQTADAR (one who has power).
In the second instance he had given a similar Prasad to my husband. While in Doha, he had undergone an ineffective major operation to take out a "dead" gall bladder. He was to be operated a second time.
Once more I went to Baba seeking permission and prasad. Once more he promised to help.
His prasad was that the second operation did not take place. Could a person with hypertension, defective heart, obesity and now a "dead" gall bladder live long. But Baba's promise of a long life has held good to this day - 1993.
In my own life I saw his unseen contact working as divine attributes. And I experienced him as AL-WALIU (The friend), AL BARU (The Benefactor) I have also known him as AL QABIZU (One who closes) and AL-KHBIRU (The Alert).
The third proof was more subtle. It had been my habit to spend sometime in reciting the divine Names each evening. One day, being tired I decided not to do it. I had a string of jasmine hung around Baba's picture. Like all beautiful things, over the years, I had associated its sweet fragrance with Baba. "Forgive me today, Baba. I'm tired" I murmured and lay down to sleep. Within minutes I became aware that the room was filled with very strong perfume of fresh jasmine. I looked at the string of flowers, could this handful exhude such strong smell. "Not possible" I was assured. Occasionally when I had done the same thing the fragrance wafted only around the shrine. This was different. Its presence persisted. The subtle pervasiveness haunted me. It was not an illusion. The place was saturated with a Form unseen. Also I was reminded of another incident. On a Ramzan night I was unable to recite the Name until the call for prayer was heard in a distant. Soon the whole air was filled with the sound of Allah-ho-Akbar. Each particle from a tiny stone to stars was reciting the testimony.
That moment revived by the perfume, which had become a commanding entity. I sat up, washed, and recited my usual prayers. Before I could finish it the presence had floated away from my room.
The spiritual significance of perfume can be traced back to the holy Prophet. In the world of archetypal manifestation the fragrances are synonymous with the perfumes of existence (Ibnul Arabi Fuses, p.122-23). The common muslim knows them as the divine attributes, aspects or Names.
I had no chance to ask Baba on this point, but my master Ibnul-Arabi explained its significance. Briefly they are summoned up as follows:
I) The contact and presences are mentioned in the Quranic passage.
Turn wheresoever you may there is the presence of Allah".
II) Ibnul Arabi mentions five-fundamental presences in Fusus. They are actually contemplative states conceived as divine presences. They are not a metaphysical doctrine.
1. Absolute Manifestation known as Haquiqat-ekul (total Reality) is observed in Avatar/Logos.
2. Achieved Manifestation (objective world).
3. Relative non-manifestations - supra formal existence.
4. Subtle forms.
5. Total presence - which englobes the first four.
It is true to note that the 5th is identified with the perfect. Man as he is termed in Fusus.
III) Ibnul Arabi also relates the importance of Names/aspects/or attributes as forms of presences.
Adam, through the breath of the compassionate was given the intuitive knowledge of recognizing the divine presence as Names in the objects.
"I have fashioned him and breathed into him My spirit (XV:29)
That each created object enshrines one aspect clearly indicates God's relationship to man. This hidden point of contact is God's grace to his creation. It is also a gift of beauty, - for "to him belong all beautiful Names".
Baba stresses the point: "All forms are mine. All Names are mine"
IV. The moment of contact, the feeling of conversation is called by the wise prayer.
Ibnul Arabi States: "Prayer is the secret call exchanged between God and the adorer (devotee) and whosoever invokes God finds himself in the presence of God". (Fuses, P.128).
Very often even the ritual prayer's significance is lost. It becomes an empty act, a habit. No longer one feels the intensity of the Prophet's statement that one should pray as if one is before God.
It also is to be remembered that these contacts are not merely individual. They form a group activity in which the whole cosmos participates. One good example is in the ritual prayer's passage of testimony where peace on all good people is invoked. Furthermore the Quran draws attention to the constant change in the universe and reminds one of the Presence: "Behold in these things / There are signs for people who believe" (VI:99).
The contact in the Quranic language "expands the heart".
Remember then depth of Baba's remark:
"I AM IN YOUR HEART".
After these experiences and perceptions I stopped to look to Baba as a Form, as one does not look to Ka'aba or the Quran as a Form, mere external contours of an image. Like theirs His form became a symbol of a spirit that out of sheer limitation of a language the people call Allah. The best contact of Him therefore is in the spiritual centre of man, also known in the mystic imagery as "the Heart".
THE LIGHT IS ONE
When I emerged from the darkness of myself into the surging ocean of light, it was arranged by Baba that it should be done by degrees, or else my heart would have burst.
The first level was the heaven of Names. They steadied me. They gave me strength. I went on reciting them daily till I was intoxicated. In them I found the secret of his singularity and duality. He was the first (Al Awwal) and the last (Al-Akhir).
He opens (Al Bisa't) and also closes (Al Qabizu). The one Essence is reflected in many manifestations. Baba gives the analogy of light that is mirrored in pots of different shapes. "God is the light of heaven and earth," asserts the Quran also. The human mind surviving on illusion moves away from the essence and takes the external to be real. This was my sin. This was also the sin of the people to who prophet Noah was sent. They converted the Names into Forms and saw the Form, the limited, changeable as God.
Baba and Moulana Rumi use the analogy of light to warn against the fallacy of multiplicity. "Lamps are many but God is one" (Baba, Prasanthinilayam - Quotation for the Day, 1-9-1987).
During the second phase I was made to see the relationship between the form and the formless, the Essence and its emanation as many. It was basic to the satisfaction of my hardened mind. The name was given to me instead of the human form. But the paradox in attributes allowed no truce to my soul.
I was informed to "see no paradox, see them as complementary." Again I was made to sit before Ibnul Arabi. Using his terminology the explanation given was as follows. "There are two ways of envisaging Divine Nature. One is the Formless (al tanzih) or transcendence the other is immanence (al-tashbih). The two perspectives are in reality complementary and the theological errors to maintain one to the exclusion of the other. The exoterist who insists uniquely on the Division transcendence slanders God and his messengers." (Fusus. P.32)
The statement shook me to the roots. All my life seemed wasted for I had only believed in the transcendence of God.
Baba confirmed Ibnul Arabi; "Niraakara and Sakaara are just two ways in which the Divine Manifests itself. (What is Truth). The unseen becomes the basis for the seen and God is perceived as "transcendental and immanent," (Baba). Therein is the clue to the infinite Vast (Allah-ho-Akbar).
The mind echoed yet another common doubt. "What about the first principle? There is no God but God. Mohammad is the messenger? Mohammad (Peace be on him) is addressed as a Messenger and elsewhere is called a servant" (Al-Abd).
The given answer suggested it to be a common error. To the elite, whose heart are illumined, the messenger is not separate from the sender of the message. The three are but one. The word messenger is yet another of the infinite signs. As for the use of the word servant, the Sufis regarded it as an adorer, a devotee. Through him the One loves itself. As one, who loves who? So the word Mohammad (Peace be on him) is a perfect example of what a devotee should be. His simplicity, his total obedience to Allah, his dedication to duty are to be taken as ideal traits for those who claim to love God. How many can do it?
The third stage was a logical evolution of the previous one. It asserted that "To worship God in all forms is to Worship Allah (Ibnul Arabi: Fusus). We would create images in our own mind based upon our level. Therefore "Everyone is right in his belief." (Fusus)
When I come to Baba he said the same thing.
"All names and forms are certainly equal (SANDEH NIVARINI, p.23). Only steady faith is essential", he insisted.
The same note sounded through the Sufi lore, the same theme was sung by the groups of mystics all over the world, over centuries, in different languages. There was no need, even to know the language. The passion for the One overflowed the words. All else was forgotten. The One remained.
Finally I was sent to a group where even the semblance of duality was erased. They lived at a different level. They were the kernel of existence. The universal forces danced on their finger tips. And they were not hesitant to call themselves God. (They have lived the truth that there is no good or evil. Only God is.
With them I heard a queer story. One man once asked a Qalandar.
"Who is your Sheikh (Guru)?"
"God", was the answer.
"Who are you?"
(Al Hamdani Tamhidat)
Some of them are great names in spiritual history of Islam. A few can be mentioned here.
1. One such illustrious name is that of Mansoor, known by his tittle Anal Haq (I AM TRUTH) it is he who has said, "I saw my Lord with the eye of the Heart." I said: "Who are Thou?" He answered: "Thou".
2. To Abu Said "There is nothing other than God." (ASRAR: 319:8)
3. To Bhulle Shah of Punjab God becomes Rajah (King Master) "Rajah is in me and I am in Rajah. I do not exist; he himself exists he amuses himself. (KANOON-E-ISHQ) Vol. :II-KAFI: 109.
4. From the South, Bijapur rose the voice of Aminuddin A'la.
"God and Man are one" (Risala-e-Qurbiya)
5. Then came the voices of Attar and Shabistari from the distant past, beyond India. "In every form Thou manifest Thyself".
Sang Attar in (Jawahar-al-Zat) Shabistari's Garden of Mystery was filled with only One: "See one, say one". Perhaps it is not easy to become a devotee of God, let alone a lover of the divine. Many have been lost on the way, it demands hard labour of a lifetime, struggle and purification. Bhulle Shah of Punjab asserts that mergence in God (Fana-Fillah of Sufism) can be achieved only after many lives - one lifetime is not enough. He thus believes in reincarnation, a doctrine that is not openly accepted in muslim theology.
The eternity of the path has frightened me. How is it possible to traverse a great distance like that?
To Baba "mind" is the greatest obstacle in the path to God. The Sufis called it Nafs and tried to efface it. With his help, with a little determination it is possible. Once, holding my broken rosary, his gift, I asked Baba why was it broken.
"Your mind also is broken," he said.
I could not understand. Still, I wait for that day when. He will make it possible for the mind to dissolve completely. Till then I seek comfort in practicing. What is I called the Natural Religion and the Religion of Love. Not confined to theological frame work I call myself Momin a believer to who the book of wisdom addresses itself. Each individual soul, I believe, irrespective of its religion, is a Sufi, traversing the path of love, striving to return to its source. It is a return that is confirmed in the Quran and by Baba.
To him is the return of all. (XCVI:8)
Baba also assures:
"In this avatar the wickeds will not be destroyed. They will be transformed". These words touch upon the infinity of God that is called Ocean of Light.
So deep and vast is this Ocean that both heaven and sky submerge in it. This little heart expands and become a receptable or the mighty ocean. It fulfils thus the divine statement through Prophetic lips; "My heaven and my earth could not contain Me but the heart of a devotee containeth ME".
RELIGION OF LOVE
There is only one Religion The Religion of Love... (BABA)
There is a religion, more ancient than remembered by human mind. Its central principle is "See One, Say one, know one' (Sabistari: Garden of Mystery). When I returned to the shores of worldly existence after the first submergence into the Ocean of light through Sufism, I realized that my limited mind was lost. No longer there was a desire for power or profit. The heart had expanded and other thoughts demanded priority. These were the thoughts of God.
With such on inner state it was difficult to adjust to the ways of the world where I had lived so long. I had become a stranger within the group of relatives and friends. It was their turn to ask questions. The one often repeated query was: "Do you consider Sai Baba God?"
"Yes" I would affirm.
They did not stone me to death. Nor did they crucify me like Mansoor. Only some turned their backs I let them go, a bit sadly though. And I remembered the Quranic injunction to the holy prophet.
So did also Lord Krishna consoled Arjuna on the eve of the battle. Each soul reaps its own harvest. Each returns to the Lord in its own time.
Others wanted an explanation. I tried to convinced them in their own terminology, pouring out from the knowledge given to me:
When a man transcends the lower mind that binds him to duality and multiplicity of the apparent in the world he merges into the cosmic mind, (fana fillah of Islamic theology). He becomes God. He may continue to exist as a form. He may not reveal his experience for socially he is not expected to. But behind his form. Only God / the cosmic mind works. This was the state of Bayazid Bistami whose exclamations proclaim "glory be to me - How resplendent is My majesty."
Due to wrong interpretation the meaning of Shahaat is explained to affirm duality of man and God. The holy testimony proclaims not only the potential divinity of man, not only the relationship between man and Allah but also the oneness of the two. Mohammed as a messenger becomes the first universal Prototype in Islam. Hence he himself has said. "He who has seen me has seen Allah".
The Islamic theology has given four basic aspects of logos or universal prototype.
At social and the theological levels they are also Baba's attributes.
1. Uncreated, or pre-existent aspect within other objects, including men. (Atma: As Baba calls it in Dasera Speech 1979).
2. Light that originally ends chaos and establishes order - Light also is a basic symbol of God in the Quran. (Buddhi level).
3. Active agent in the work of creation as well as the directing principle of the universe. (Mind in a Divine Man)
4. Prototypical human form - God's image, representing all the divine potentialities as an ideal. The Quran terminology, speaks of him as one into who the spirit of the compassionate was breathed. (The Body and Lasesser level).
I also referred for these people's benefit the immaculate concept of Baba. The only similar instance in the Quran is that of Lord Jesus Christ. Baba was conceived as a blue light (N. Kasturi: Eshwaramma, p. 20). He is therefore nothing but light. At least two times in Darshan line I saw him as Light compressed into a form.
But these are personal experiences which may mean nothing to others. Sometimes I draw attention to amazing likeness between the references of Baba and the holy Revelation. One such is the use of "I" when duality is dissolved in the vastness of love "I" becomes what an ordinary man calls Allah. The transformation is described by Bayazid Bistami:
"I slough off myself as a snake slough off its skin. Then I looked and behold I was He."
Very few are convinced when the explanation is over. Perhaps one in an assembly of a thousand seems to be interested. They leave the divine light and are happy to pursue the shadows. Perhaps time has not yet come for them. As for me, I thank of the chance Baba has given me I sing with Ibnul Arabal:
At Baba's feet I have learnt the meaning, tradition and practices of Islam. My mind has also found the true meaning of peace termed as The Quranic Firdous, and the flowing Kausar, the fountain of spirituality. I live in the knowledge that Sai, the infinite, the Everlasting is always with me.
It does not mean that the goal is reached the journey has ended. The mind has only located that niche which contains the lamp.
There is still a long way to go. The straight path stretches far and the prayer, spreads its wings like a peacock till reaches finally that horizon, that peace where the divine itself welcomes the consciousness:
The Return of which the Quran speaks so often is doubly assured because the boon of Lord Sai that he bestowed long ago on this mind.
"Your mind is MINE".
SAI - AND HIS DEVOTEES
One looks up to a Form clad in Orange Robe and he becomes a living manifestation of Effulgence and therefore one calls Him God - No it is no longer a form to which prayers are offered but to the One without a second.
In the Quran many devotees are mentioned. Stories and prayers of these are upheld as ideal expression of love God, not even for their own contemporaries but for mankind.
Known chiefly as Messengers of God, they are also remembered as "friends" of the Almighty, "People of the foremost line," The most hoary figure among them is that of Hazart Adam. It is he who sires the human race and is the first for the ancient convenant that binds Sai to people now inhabiting earth. Spoken in the Quran as the image of Allah, inspired to knowledge by "the breath of the compassionate" Adam, nevertheless, also exhibits the most glaring faults of a devotee. He is called impatience and easily deluded. The fall of Adam marks the beginning of rationality and the mind of man. Therefore it is also known as an existence on a lower physical level. In the struggle of Adam and his children on earth is explained how devotees must uplift themselves to divine life-through prayer and sufferance. Forbearance becomes their badge of honour.
Hazart Nooh (Nooha) the devotee from the predeluvian era exemplifies the trust of a devotee in God when he is falsely accused, and rejected. In Noah's attitude of submission to insults is reflected the fact that a true devotee seeks no reward from even his Lord in fulfilling his duties.
Then comes Hazrat Ibrahim - Abraham of the semetic scriptures. He belongs to agricultural nomadic period. The Quran calls him "friend of God", especially due to his unwavering faith. He externalizes the fact that by this time mankind has overcome to a great extent the illusionary bewilderment of Adam. Like Adam, he has learnt intuitively to search and contact God within himself. For him God's guidance has been light. Hazrat Abraham is thus a pioneer of Sanathana Dharma in semetic tradition. The well-known incident where a raging fire has been turned into a garden around Hazart Abraham confirms how close and firm has been his contact with the inner Truth. His unshakable love of and obedience to God's injection is also witnessed in his sacrifice of his son, Ismail. Hazrat Ismail, thus becomes in Islam a symbol of trust in God and unquestioning obedience to father and God.
Hazrat Mosa represents an age of hardcore analysis, dependence on little mind and obstinacy. He as a devotee, is the giver of law and insists on discipline of mind. His code is different from the code of intuitive knowledge. Following his code even the poor in inner contact can find Good through taming the mind. He stands for traits of a modern devotee - reason, love of analysis, love of argument, paraphrmalia of an over grown mind - With modifications the Quran speaks of the code of Moses as Principles of Islam.
Like modern man he has the audacity to ask to see God and the answer he gets is "You cannot see Me", no man can approach God through reason alone.
Contrary to him is the serene figure of Lord Jesus Christ symbolizing the divine spirit and the life giving principles of Love. His life and crucifiction are a double edged weapon in the history of devotion. He on one hand, expresses the nearest possible relationship to God - that of the father and the son. On the other hand, his life shows how ill prepared the world of mankind is to receive the spirit of God. Seen as a devotee Lord Jesus Christ has made sacrifice and forgiveness a law of existence and a guiding light to those who wish to transcend human faults and foibles.
Similar is the case with Prophet Mohammad. In I glorifying him as a messenger of God the world does not observe him as a devotee.
First of all, as a decendent of Adam he inherits the spiritual heritage of man in whom the breath of the merciful is infused. As a man he is also the upholder of the divine convenent mentioned in connection with Adam. Thus Mohammad (Peace be on him) synthesizes and affirms all qualities of the grand line of Prophet-devotee that preceeds him. His humility and obedience is remarkable because he never lifts up his head to claim any power for himself. He shows a passion and a dedication to fulfil the duty of the messenger of God. Several references of his role as a devotee and a messenger are made in the Quran. As a lover par-excellence of God he is exhorted as one wrapped in black blanket, asked to pray to God atleast during the small hours of night. He therefore combines God-man on earth. All of them were aware of their divinity but played their role in cosmic drama.
One last devotee not mentioned by name in the Quran - must be remembered here. To the muslim world he is known as Hazrat Imam Hussain; grandson of Prophet Mohammad. In his martyadom, annually remembered during Moharram, in his sacrifice and sincerity of purpose two qualities of a devotee are distinguished. When a call comes from the Divine there shall not be even a moment of hesitation - Where the Divine is concerned there is no compromise. Surrender must be total, instantaneous. This relationship between God and Man - the mergence of man in divinity is beautifully described in Hazrat Imam Hussain's last prayer:
"O, my Lord I have given up all without exception out of my love for thee. And I have abandoned all my family and accepted the orphaning of my children in order to meet Thee. If out of love for Thee, my body is slashed into pieces, even then my heart will not bend to any one but Thee".
MOST BEAUTIFUL NAMES
The one Essence is manifested as numerous aspects with different Names (Wahat-ul-Wujud).
The wise believe that the One Reality is called by different Names. Barring to worship the Form, Islam, nevertheless, permits me to be emersed in the Name. The Quran avers "call him Allah or call him Rahaman it is as well. For, to Him belong the most beautiful of Names." These are envisaged as the ninety-nine aspects of one supreme Essence, thus magnifying the unity in diversity. Over centuries the loving hearts have chanted them and they are a part of Zikir, (Remembrerance).
Each morning and evening in sorrow and distress thinking of SAI; unable to contain flow of thought. I have visualised Him through these Names. In the activities around me, I have seen them as the manifestations of SAI, while he himself remains aloof the One without second. The loving title SAI is given to him specially in India. In Sufi Literature of Deccani dialect of Urdu, in Sindhi and Punjabi as well as in Hindi. He is often called by this Name. Shah Qadri, for example, in his Shaadi Nama (marriage song) questions "what is the meaning of chiksa, the traditional paste used in ceremony? On my friend be such with Sai that no difference is seen." Kabir, Bhulle Shah, Abdul Latif also have used SAI-a name for God. So also we find the name in Guru Granth Sahib.
The concept presented in this chapter is neither metaphysical nor a theological one. It is derived from the experience of common people like me. The names have sacred and according to the holy Book form a distinct sign of the Divine.
In the death and then giving life to William Cowen of America, we find SAI as one who takes away life but can regrant it also.
(AL-MUMEETYU and AL BADIU)
This is not the only one. Uncountable similar instances can be listed here where individuals are raised from the dead, by SAI - In the exclamation "All have been saved" during the Gulf War SAI is the protector (AL-HaFIZU). In the massive gathering where he presides as a Form, millionaires and specialists, famous men from all walks of life sit side by side. They belong to different religions. They come from different countries. Their intellectual level varies. With them also sit the poor, and the rejected even criminals and the thieves. They sit for hours waiting for a glance of him. One is reminded of the congregational prayers where HE is he Gatherer (AL JAMIU), the great (AL KABIRU) the powerful (ALQAHARU) THE KING OF MAJESTY AND GLORY (JALA JALAL-HU) and the master (AL-MALIKU). He knows them by name, can tell if needed the most minute details of their lives. As the Light (AL-NUR) in their heart has He not proved to be the Guide (AL-HADI) and THE WITNESS (AL-SHAHID)?
Darshan time anywhere is a miracle of the Allmighty. Discipline and silence are expected from everyone. One can record how many are uplifted, get their problems solved. SAI glides among the supplicant, the protector and the forgiver (AL-SALAAM AND AL WAHAB). As the giver of power, and one who grants boons. He shows himself to be unequaled (AL-RAQID AND AL BASITU). In the creation of splendid buildings, in the splendour of colour and balance in quick growth of a village, Puttaparty, into an international spiritual centre He is creator and artist (AL-RA BALMUSSAVIR).
When alone and addressed in the personal shrines he becomes a friend (AL-WALI) full of concern, guidance and wisdom (AL HAKIM and AL HALEEM). Whether He is called upon externally (AL-ZAHIR) or internally (AL BATIN). He responds to His foremost name - the compassionate (AL-RAHIM).
Yet it is observed that there is always about Him a majestic aloofness - solving millions of problems he remains detached (AL-SAMAD). Self sufficient (AL-HASEEB). One and only (AL-AHAD) for he transcends comprehension.
Here lies yet another manifestation for the divine unity: the creation and the creator as One of the which Baba has pointed out
The entire cosmos is governed by God.
Sitting in the lines, looking at the unparallel evidence of spiritual unity, the divine estury where the rivers flow into the Ocean, one prostrates and recites lines of the Quran, "Praise be to God, creator of World. Most gracious, Most compassionate, Master of the Day of judgement. You we worship and your, help we seek, show us the straight path. The way of those on whom you have bestowed. Your grace, those whose portion is not wrath and who go not astray". (I:I)
SAI BABA AND SUFI TRADITION
Remembered the words in the darkness of the dream (page 15 Chapter 4. A Different Education). That was two decades ago, when the restless mind, extinguished of all its efforts was sunk in an exhausted sleep. The voice that uttered them vibrated through the consciousness. It was gruff yet deep. The mind recognized it in two ways. It had heared this tone on painful occasions previously and now it was again the dream-echo of Bhagawan Baba's voice.
However, for a muslim mind the words created a shocking realisation. First, usually a muslim would pride on his or her faith in Allah, clinging to the Almighty in the external patterns of sorrows and joy. Clutching to the omnipresence of the Formless. First, it had feared sin and followed all the religious dictates - praying, five times daily, fasting, in Ramadan, whole heartedly giving charity. In times of loneliness it was this presence of the one and only that unfurled a landscape of Beauty pouring contentment and peace. Yet the voice informed that I did not know my religion. Second, and perhaps most Important, was my own complacency. Growth in that tradition, the mind thought that the knowledge of Allah was correctly given only to muslims and that they were a "chosen race". Rubbish! Third, knowledge of commentries and theological aspects, had made the intellect very strong and therefore perverted.
Yet the mind accepted the words as true - and a direction from the unknown. There was no other way. Either it had to reject DIVINE LOVE in Baba's form or educated itself more. So, it decided, against many wordly odds, to acquire more knowledge, new and fresh concepts of GOD-ALLAH.
That was twenty years ago. Prompted by the candle light within the mind turned to the study of Sufism - as the muslim would call it and took it to be the "religion" and "ME" as Baba of my dream. Though this period could never compensate for a life time's study and the unlimited divine knowledge would never be comprehended, it was a new alley into which the mind was ushered. Turning over the pages of books, thumbing volumes in the stackrooms of Osmania University's vast library the First assurance that came was the striking similarity of sufism and Baba's words. The languages may differ and so did the times and lands but points, the meanings and very often the symbolism of images were same.
Since then Baba as the invisible Imam had always guided this mind through the "Straight Path" - God's Love. Direction often came through books. When the mind was ready or uplifted to a certain level a volume would be put in the hands. Sometimes willingly, periodically with resentment, the eyes would have to read the contents, and without a fail, found suitable points. How egoistical a human being could be? The book, the manuscript was offered as a gift from the spiritual Teacher and it would be foolish to reject it. Soon the mind realised its waywardness.
The education was a relentless one. The mind was made to sit before many sufi teachers. The relearning of Sufism - my new religion would often mean treading down patterns of former likes and dislikes. Very often, in a dream the mind was given to understand the result of its efforts. As a remembrance two dreams would be related here. In one the mind saw a room littered with many things, including a jeep and poor Baba was crouched on a chair near the wall, waiting for His food. The mind recognised it to be the condition in the heart. In the second dream, something was being cooked for Baba but the heat in the fire was not enough so the objects in the frying pan were spoilt. This spoke of the insincere efforts in the form of heat of love. Thus, steadily, without breaking the belief in Formless Allah, the mind learnt some aspects of the Truth, its deeper dimensions, and why sufis were expected to be silent about it. They knew that the real Truth, which Baba was telling also. The truth, the path (religion) was there only mankind did not know. Ignorance? or Mental distortion? Many Sufis tried to tell it and were killed. Time was not yet riped for revelation.
Thus, to my mind, now SUFISM is the religion of LOVE between God and Man. It is as ancient as the spirit of mankind, though muslim theology has given it a name (sufism). Its existence is described by Ibu-ul-Arabi in his booklet Journey to the Lord of Powers. The Quran affirms also this fact:
The Sufi, the pure one, therefore is the spirit, unpolluted by externalities. As mentioned in the passage quoted in the book it does not refer to a form, but to an awareness that loves God alone. That is why it "Sees one and says One" (Sabistari: Secret Garden). Idris Shah in his book SUFI interprets similarly.
Male, female, religions, cultures, country in Sufism and Sai tradition are outward norms.
Nevertheless, it is incumbent that man must purify oneself to resume "the heart to heart" (Baba) relationship.
In Sufism the devotees will revert to hard monastic methods. Some of these are seen in Qunia, and the institution attached to Rumi's shrine in modern Turkey. Knowing the weak attitudes of modern man Baba has installed a similar programme: "The ceiling on Desire" where devotees are expected not to waste food, money, time, energy.
Sufism as well as Sai Tradition pay a lot of emphasis on the intuitive power in man and the heart as its seat. Thus, for a student of Sufism and for Baba it is the heart that reaches the goal (Baba: Prema Dhara). It is like visualising the whole scene in the sunlight. Light, therefore, for both Baba, the Quran and the Sufis is a symbol of Formless Truth (Allah: Atma). There are other common symbols used by Baba and the Sufis Ocean and waves, sugar used in various sweets, Light and lamps (bulbs).
Needless to say that the name SAI BABA has a universal significance and does not refer to an individual. Used by Indian Sant tradition and Sindhi Sufis, Bhauls of Bengal, and Hyderabads Shahs (Sufis) it refers to GOD. Baba, is a Turkish word that has been given to the mystics there in respect and love. In the same context Baba calls his physical body as "this form or this body or merely Swamiji" whereas the word "I" referes to as in the Quran the Divine (atmic) level of Him.
Finally, one can observe what the final goal of Sufism and Baba indicate for mankind. Here are Baba's words for human race:
Your duty is to abandon. Abandon all your plans, even the best ones. Abandon all the theories you cherish, the doctrines you hold dear, the systems of knowledge that you have cluttered in your brain, the references. You have accumulated, the pursuit of fame, fortune, scholarships, superiority. These are Material objectives. Enter into the objective world after becoming aware of Atma. Then you will realise that all is the play of the Atma.
(Baba - quoted in Phyllis Crystal's book Monkey Mind)
Once again the Sufi image of mergence (FANA-FiAllah) come to forefront in Mrs. Irene Tweedis description in "Daughter of Fire".
The vast, blue, ocean, without a ripple remains and one feels drowning, slowly but steadily, into its warm bliss, murmuring like the Sufi Junaid.
"Lead me O, Lord into the Ocean of your Unity".
Therefore, to this mind the sign of Sufi tradition and Sai Baba is ONE. Seen in two sayings: One can comprehend their basic unity in Sufi and Sai tradition:
a) There is only one caste, the caste of humanity
There is only one language, the language of the heart.
There is only one religion, the religion of Love
There is only one God, He is omnipresent.
Among the Sufis it forms the first (BABA) principle of their beings:
b) LA-ILLAHA-ILLA-ALLAH: GOD ALONE IS
If these two examples are too intellectual one can evoke two images at Darshan time to comprehend the Sai Tradition as a form of Sufism.
The first one is the absolute silence before Baba comes - it is like Sufism when the supplicator hears, waits for God the Divine in his own heart.
The second image is that of the chorus of praises in Baba's Presence - They are known as Bhajans - Yet looking deeper they only project that God is ONE - manifesting His majesty through million voices - saying through an image: GOD ALONE IS.
Fourth Print -1998
Copy right © 1994
The above-stated text is intended only for fact-finding reading.
No part of this book can be reproduced without permission from the author, Zeba Bashiruddin.
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