In Pursuit Of Spirituality | 2018-10-12 |


In Pursuit Of Spirituality

Sariful Islam     12 October, 2018 12:00 AM printer

In Pursuit Of Spirituality

Songs are usually meant of entertainment, but they can also be used for some special purposes. There are some exceptional types of songs which are used for prayer. Then, in the ancient ages, Buddhist saints and poets composed some devotional songs and poems, i.e., Charyapada, Vaishnab Podabali,Mangal Kabbyo etc. to conceal their religious thoughts and obscure mystic experiences in them. Baul songs, traditional songs of rural Bangla that probably originated after the post Chytonnyo era, are a kind of song that are entertaining, and at the same time illuminating. In other words, these songs are also primarily meant for amusement, but people can learn a lot from them as well. Bauls pour out their feelings in their songs but never bother to write them down on papers, as this is essentially an oral tradition. It is said that Lalon Fakir (1774 -1890) is the greatest of all bauls who have composed the verses of Bengali spiritual songs of this tradition. Although when sung, his songs entertain us, the paramount value of his songs actually lie in the expression of his universal truths, his mystic experiences, his emphasis on humanity and the quest for spiritual achievement. Just a few days later people of this country will observe the 128th death anniversary of Fakir Lalon Shah. Ahead of his death anniversary, ‘morning tea’ pays tribute to him by discussing his songs.    

Many of his songs manifest his belief that the highest purpose of human life is to know oneself, whereby he can know God. And one cannot attain this without embracing the virtues like honesty, truthfulness and simple way of life. In simple words, Lalon described the necessity of embracing the path of virtues in one’s life. He says: “সে রূপ দেখবি যদি নিরবধি/সরল হয়ে থাক।”  In another song he sings: “সত্য বল সুপথে চল/ওরে আমার মন।/সত্য সুপথ না চিনিলে/পাবিনে মানুষের দরশন।।”

On the other hand, it is equally important for one who has been in the pursuit of attaining the nearness of God to avoid resorting to any kind of unjust means for gaining the worldly success or pleasures, which will surely debase a person and spoil all his achievements. He says in another stanza of the same song: “পরের দ্রব্য পরের নারী হরণ করোনা/পারে যেতে পারবে না।”

But at the same time, in order to know oneself and his relationship with his Creator, in order to see the divine spark in one’s mind, one needs self-restraint, long devotion, extra-ordinary patience and sacrifice. In some of his songs, Lalon compares the pursuit of such devotee with the habit of Chatak bird, that waits long period of time in hope of rainfall, but the thirsty bird does not drink a single drop of water from any other sources. It keeps gazing at the clouds and waits to drink the drop of rain only when it rains: “চাতক পাখির এমনি ধারা/অন্য বারি খায় না তারা।/প্রান থাকিতে জ্যান্তে মরা/ ঐ রূপ ডালে বসে ডাক।।”


However, Fakir Lalon’s mystic philosophy is deeply connected with humanity and service to humanity. What mystic pursuits Lalon talks about in his songs cannot be achieved without rendering service to one’s fellow beings. Lalon says that by serving your fellow human beings, you can achieve priceless reward (divine reward) even in this world: “সহজ মানুষ ভজে দেখ না রে মন দিব্যজ্ঞানে।/ পাবি রে অমূল্যনিধি বর্তমানে।।”

According to him, man’s life turns meaningless and futile if he cuts off his relationships with the mankind. And it is not possible for anyone to please our Creator or attain His nearness without loving and serving human beings. In one song Lalon says that men’s relations with each other are so intimate that they are like Alok Lota (parasitic creepers). He says that through the service of men, men can turn themselves into the best ones. On the other hand, by abjuring men, one will lose his roots: “মানুষ ছাড়া ক্ষ্যাপা রে তুই মূল হারাবি।।/মানুষ ভজলে সোনার মানুষ হবি।”

Similarly, in another line of the same song he nicely says that a man belongs to God. So if one serves man, he will reach the ultimate purpose of life (earn the pleasure of God): “মানুষ ছাড়া মন আমার, পড়বি রে তুই শুন্যকার/ লালন বলে মানুষ-আকার ভজলে তরবি ॥”

On the other hand, a number of Lalon’s songs hint that man can turn himself into a centre of supreme power through the purification of one’s self. Such a man of pure character can achieve anything good he desires:“সর্ব সাধন সিদ্ধ হয় তার/ মানুষ গুরু নিষ্ঠা যার।”


But one need not essentially go on pilgrimages to distant places or wander about to attain such a spiritual power. What he regards as essential and more important for man to achieve spirituality is the patience to look inside oneself and try to know oneself. Unless one knows who he is, purifies his character and serves his fellow human beings, all the knowledge one might have gathered by wandering about will lack its efficacy. The knowledge of God can be found even in this human body, which Lalon calls ‘Adi Mecca’, or primary form of Mecca city (the holy birthplace of our prophet): “আছে আদি মক্কা এই মানব দেহে/দেখ না রে মন চেয়ে।/দেশ-দেশান্তর দৌড়ে কেন/মরছ রে হাঁপিয়ে।।”   

He emphasizes that it is quite useless to wander about from one holy place to another in search of God, without looking into and taking care of one’s own mind. It is futile to do all other arrangements unless one can dive into one’s own mind and takes proper control over it. He regrets his useless wandering in such a pursuit in the following words: “লালন ফকির আসলে মিথ্যে/ ঘুরে বেড়ায় তীর্থে তীর্থে/ সই হলনা একমন দিতে/ আসলেতে প’ল কম...।” 

Lalon Fakir never revealed his religious identity, even not to his closest associates. He expressed an all-embracing viewpoint towards the whole mankind, rejecting the distinctions of castes, creeds and religions that divide them into groups. In many of his songs he has blatantly criticized the hypocrisy of men who create unpleasant discrimination among themselves in the name of religion. But at the same time, he was not against the teachings of religion. Many of his songs will even encourage you to be more devoted to your own religion. For instance, he devoted a good many of his songs singing the importance of following the religious norms and the footsteps of prophet Muhammad (PBUH). In a song he expresses his realizations in the following way:

“দ্বীনের ডঙ্কা বাজে এবার, শহর মক্কা মদিনে।/আয় গো যাই নবীর দ্বীনে।”


In the same song, he has said that fasting and prayer are the two important practices or explicit paths (of attaining the nearness of God) while a hidden path of reaching the goal is Vakti (devotion):“রোজা আর নামাজ, ব্যাক্ত এহি কাজ /গুপ্তপথ মিলে ভক্তির সন্ধানে ।।”

Again he has devoted another song to describe the importance of embracing the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which can enlighten people and guide them through the right way of life. So he metaphorically calls upon all to become the passengers of the Prophet’s boat, which is the safest one and will never drown in storm:

“পারে কে যাবি নবীর নৌকাতে আয়।/ রূপকাষ্ঠের নৌকাখানি নাই ডুবার ভয়।।”

In the song Lalon says that those who do not believe in prophet are the disbelievers in this world: “নবী না মানে যারা/মোয়াহেদ কাফের তারা এই দুনিয়ায়।”

In a song, Lalon calls upon his tongue to utter the name of God. He asks his mind to leave all the greed of worldly things, and remember the Day of Judgment instead: “মওলা বলে ডাক রসনা/গেল দিন ছাড় বিষয় বাসনা।।” 

But he rejected the quarrels between Hindu and Muslims on their distinctions of religious beliefs by saying that people uselessly keep quarreling among them on such silly matters, which is detrimental to their spiritual growths. He says that men have divided themselves as Hindus and Muslims. Muslims yearn for heaven, while Hindus for paradise, though ‘Behesto’ (Muslim term for heaven) and ‘Shorgo’ (Hindu term for heaven) do not refer to a different place: “ফকিরি করবি খ্যাপা কোন রাগে/ আছে হিন্দু মোসোলমান দুই ভাগে।/ ভেস্তের আশায় মোমিনগন/ হিন্দুরা দেয় স্বর্গেতে মন/ভেস্ত স্বর্গ ফাটক সমান / কার বা তা ভালো লাগে....”


Many of Lalon’s verses are his critique on the frivolities and superstitions of men in the society. During his time, the caste distinctions and the quarrel between Hindus and Muslims were acute in the society. Such hypocrisy and hollowness of society utterly shocked Lalon. He expressed his frustration over such absurd chaos in a song saying that none is interested in genuine deeds while hypocrisy dominates everywhere. And men shrink from men owing to their caste distinctions: “সত্য কাজে কেউ নয় রাজি/ সবই দেখি তা না না না/ জাত গেলো জাত গেলো বলে/ এ কি আজব কারখানা।”

However, in today’s intellectual world, there are so many theories and debates centering the issues like whether God exists or not, how this world was created, what actually the purpose of human beings is and so on. But Lalon Shai simply expressed his philosophy and mystic experiences in his songs, pointing out that it is completely useless to resort to such fallacious debates on the issues of spiritual affairs. He believed that simple faith, not debate, is the easiest means of attaining the knowledge of God. So he says: “বহুতর্কে দিন বয়ে যায়/বিশ্বাসে ধন নিকটে পায়।/সিরাজ সাঁই ডেকে বলে লালনকে/কুতর্কের দোকান খুলিস নে আর।।” 

Fakir Lalon’s spiritual songs gained wide popularity in the later part of nineteenth century when these songs were regarded as a major source of spiritual knowledge in this region. Perhaps in the beginning his verses were not appreciated for the expression of Lalon’s inner pursuits, but with the passage of time people have come to realize their underlying meaning and significance. And now Lalon’s songs have been enlisted by UNESCO as 43rd intangible human heritage of the world. The appeal of his song has not faded a bit, albeit more than a century has passed after his death. So it is expected that the popularity of his verses will soar higher and higher in future and keep illuminating people.