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Bulle Shah?s message of unity

One can't help but recall him when religion is misused for politics, writes Renuka Narayanan.

india Updated: May 03, 2006 12:04 IST

Some of us may have overdosed on Bulle Shah’s Sufi spin by now, but you can’t help recalling him when religion is misused yet again for politics like in this week’s bad news, by the Taliban and the LeT.

Bulle Shah (1680-1735) was born in the last lap of Aurangzeb’s harsh reign, who died in 1707 leaving Hind in every kind of mess, especially communal. As a child, Bulle Shah alarmed his teachers by falling into a trance looking at Alif, the first letter of the alphabet: he said he beheld all the splendour of the Creator in its pure upstanding line. It reminds us of the Bhagvad Gita, Chapter Ten, where the Lord says that of alphabets, He is A and the Bible: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord” (Revelation 1:8).

Bulle Shah upset his Syed family again by abandoning his privileged existence and electing to follow his guru, Inayat Qadiri, who was a humble arain, a market gardener. The Punjabi heart was flooded with the bittersweet beauty of the ballad of Heer Ranjha and adopting the imagery of the doomed lovers, Bulle Shah of himself as Heer pining for Ranjha (God).

Again, we think of Radha-Krishna’s maadhurya bhakti and Adi Shankara’s Advaita  concept in which the individual soul (Jivatma) longs to unite with its Source, the Paramatma. This “Unity” of Advaita is the Wahdat of Sufi tradition. That’s how Bulle Shah sang, “Saiyyonhun sajjan mein paiyo/Har-har de vichh samaiyo” (O Friends, I have found the Beloved/He pervades each one of us). Such voices remind us to stay affectionately connected to each other despite every provocation to the contrary.