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The eyes have it

Thousands of young HT readers will begin their wonder years in college soon. Here is a look at India's spiritual learning curve.

delhi Updated: Jun 06, 2007 13:55 IST

Thousands of young HT readers will begin their wonder years in college soon. Here is a look at India's spiritual learning curve.

Abide With Me
Sung on board the sinking Titanic in 1912, this hymn is a regular in many school songbooks across India since Independence because it was Bapu's favourite English song. We play it every year for him on January 29 before the Last Post as the concluding ritual of the Beating Retreat ceremony at Vijay Chowk, New Delhi.

It is an immensely personal song for many modern Indians: five star generals and war heroes with big moustaches are not ashamed to be seen wiping their eyes in that twilight hush, when the bells ring in quiet carillon between verses from the corners of South and North Blocks.

Abide with me, fast falls the eventide
The darkness deepens,
Lord, with me abide
When other helpers fail and comfort fees
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out lift's little day Earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away Change and decay in all around Isee; O Thou Who changest not, abide with me.

Gur Gobind Singh
Deh Shiva var mohe ehe Shubh karman se kab hun na taroon
Na daroon jab chaahe ladoon
Nischai kar apni jeet karoon.

Lord, grant me these boons: Let me never shun a right task
Let me be fearless when I fight Give me faith that I shall win.

Something think about, this was written by Amir Khusro in the 13th century of the last millennium, for heaven's sake - and it's just one from a whole genre of tearful wedding songs when a bride leaves her home.
Kaahe ko biyaahi bides, re, lakhi babul more,
Kaahe ko biyaahi bides
Bhayiyon ko diye babul mehle do-mehle,
Hum ko diya pardes, re, lakhi babul
Hum to hain babul tere khoonte ki gayyan,
Jid haanke hank jaayen, re, lakhi babul
Hum to hain babul tere bele ki kaliyan,
Ghar ghar maangi jaayen, re lakhi babul

Hum to hain babul tere pinjre ki chidiyaan,
Bhor bhaye ud jaayen, re, lakhi babul
Taagon bhari maine gudiyan jo chhodeen
Chhoota sahelin ka saath, re lakhi babul

Kothe tale se palakiya jo nikli,
Beeran ne khaayi pachhad, re, lakhi babul
Doli ka parda uthakar jo dekha,
Aaya piya ka des, re, lakhi babul moray. Kaahe ko biyaahi bides, re, lakhi baabul more.

Why did you part me from yourself, dear father, why? You've given two-storey-high houses to my brothers, And to me, a foreign land? Why dear father, why? We (daughters) are just cows tied to your peg, Which will move on to wherever you drive us, dear father.

We are just flower buds in your garden, And are asked for in every home, dear father.
We are just birds in your cage, Which will fly off when it's dawn again, dear father I've left at home my alcoves full of dolls.

And parted from my friends, too, dear father. When my palanquin passed beneath the terrace, My brother fainted away, dear father As I part the curtain on the palanquin, I see we've reached my husband's house, dear father Why did you send me away, dear father, why?

Barsaat Ki Raat
This verse appeared most famously in the gawwali
Yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq in the film Barsaat ki Raat. In fact it is a devotional song cast by Khusro as a love lyric. Bahut kathin hai dagar panghat ki Kaise main bhar laon madhua se matki?Paniya bharan ko main jo gayi thi Daud jhapat mein matki patki
Bahut kathin hai dagar panghat ki
Khusro Nijam ke bal bal jaiyye
Laaj rakho more ghoonghat pat ki
Bahut kathin hai dagar panghat ki.

The path to the Well is so difficult, How shall I fill my pot? When I did go there, My pot broke in the furore. Khusro gives you his whole life, Nijam, Safeguard my veil (spiritual safety).

To Nizamuddin
Har gaum rast rahe, din-e-wa gibla gahe
Man gibla rast hardam, bar samt kajkullahe
Sansar har ko puje, kul ko jagat sarahe,
Makke mein koi dhundhe,
Kashi ko koi Jaaye;
Guiyyan, main apne pi ke paiyyan padhun na kahe?
Har gaum rast rahe, din-e-wa gibla gahe.
Every sect has a faith, a pole (qibla), to which it turns, I have turned my face towards the tilted cap (of Nizamuddin).

The whole world worships something or the other,
Some seek it in Mecca and others in Kashi; Why, O wise ones, should I not fall at my Beloved's feet?
Every sect has a faith, a pole, to which it turns.

This (Hindu-Muslim) gay Sufi couple was a devoted and loyal pair who wrote spiritual verse under the name 'Shah Hussain'. They reportedly sent in their poetry to Guru Gobind Sigh when they heard he was compiling the Guru Granth Sahib, but were rejected as too scandalous a source.
Rabba mere augun chitt na dharin
Augun haari ko gun nahi andaro fazal karin
Duniyawalian nu duniya da maana nangaan nu nang loi
Na assi nang na duniyawale saanu hass di jani kani
Kahe Hussain fakir Sain da sadi Dhaddhe naal bani

O God, do not mind my faults, There is nothing worthy in this unworthy one, Pity me. To the worldly, their worldly pride; to fakirs, the wrap of renunciation; I am neither a recluse, nor worldly. Let little people laugh at me! Says Shah Hussain, God's fakir: my friend is the Awesome One.

KL Saigal
Kundan Lal Saigal lost his voice as a young boy due to an illness. His mother took him to a revered Sufi at Jammu who advised him to regularly do zikr (chant God's Name).

Saigal did so and was cured. This gift imbued his voice with a spiritual quality that impacted powerfully on listeners. The composition below, full of Sufi metaphor, is attributed to him.

Hari bin koi kaam na aayo
Is jhoothi maya ke kaaran Hira janam ganvayo
Maya sagi na man saga
Saga na yeh sansar
Lal das is jiva ka
Sada visarjan haan
Sab sneh hi sneh karat hain

Inhi ke haath bikayo
Chhut gaya jab kanth se dora
Ral mil phunk lagayo.

There is nothing that belongs to us except God's Name. We squander this precious birth for illusory gain, (but) neither illusion, nor this heart, nor this creation belongs to us.

Lal Das renounces it all forever; though false friends besiege us, cast them away. When the rope slips off the neck (on the day of liberation from earthly bondage) then may we rejoice.

Bulle Shah

Bindraban mei gau charaave Lanka char ke naad bajaave Makke da ban haaji aave Vah vah rang vataaida Hun ki thi aap chhapacida?

In Vrindavan, you were the Cowherd, In Lanka, you rang your victory, In Mecca, you became the Pilgrim: You appear in such wondrous ways, Why do you hide Yourself now?

Isha Upanishad1:6
Yas tu sarvani bhutani aatmani evaanupashyati,
Sarvabhuteshu chaatmaanaam tato na vijugupsate

If one sees all beings in oneself and oneself in all beings, How can one fee1 revulsion for the other?

Ras Khan
Syed Ibrahim Khan, the medieval Krishnabhakt and author of the Rachnavali
Prem Hari ko roop hai, tyon Hari prem saroop, ek hoi due yon lesain jyon suraj aru dhoop.
Love is the very form of God, as God is Love itself.
The two are One, like sun and sunshine.

Lalota Vistara (Life of the Buddha):
The Buddha's disciple, once asked a young woman for a drink of water. She said No, being of a 'low' caste. And Ananda replied: "I ask not for caste but for water".

The Matanga girl's heart leapt joyfully and she gave Ananda to drink. Ananda thanked her and went away; but she followed him at a distance.

Having heard that Ananda was a disciple of Gautama Sakyamuni, the girl went to the Blessed One and cried: "O Lord help me and let me live where Ananda, your disciple dwells, so that I may see him and serve him, for I love Ananda."
The Blessed One said gently, "Pakati, you have not understood your own sentiments. It is not Ananda you love, it is his kindness."

The Sufi Learns A Lesson
Qutub-Ul-Aqtab (chief of the great saints) Khwaja Bakhtiar Ka'aki was a dignified 12th century scholar and saint.

Like his teacher Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chishti, he was a Husaini Syed and descendant of Imam Husain. He lived and died in Delhi. His tomb is in Mehrauli and still a place of pilgrimage (Bapu went there, too, to pray).

Bhaktiyar Ka'aki renounced all worldly things and remained busy in prayer and meditation. His family lived in extreme penury because of his piety.

One day the wife of Sharafuddin the grocer taunted the Sufi's wife, "If we didn't lend you money, your children would die of hunger".
The saint asked his wife to stop borrowing and told her to look in an alcove in his room. She found it full of ka'ak (a kind of bread) and from this he is known as Ka'aki. Amir Khusro once asked Hazrat Nizamuddin about this name.

The saint said that on one occasion when his disciples shivered in the wind and longed for hot ka'ak, Bhaktiyar miraculously produced them out of the waters of the Shams-i-Hauz water tank in Mehrauli.

Ka'aki travelled extensively and witnessed many strange incidents. He writes that on a certain day, he was sitting with Qazi Hamiduddin Nagori by the bank of a river when a big scorpion crept by fast.

They followed the scorpion, which reached a tree and killed a big snake.

There slept a man nearby. They found that he was lying in a drunk stupor and stayed there by him, wondering why God had bestowed.

His mercy upon a smner "We heard a bodiless Voice say: 'If We take pity only on the pious, who would help the poor?' After the man woke up we told him the story He was ashamed and in a short time he rose to become a great and wise saint."