Baba Bulleh Shah — The Father of Punjabi Enlightenment!
I instantly fell in love with the journey, heart-rending struggles and final path to liberation of Bulleh Shah. Some of the most creative mysticism poetries were penned by him during the period when casteism was at its peak.
He belonged to the order of Syed who draw their lineage from the Prophet, while in later years he became a student of a low caste Gardner — looked down on by many. While witnessing his own struggles, he received hostility and reproach for his unorthodox methods. Intoxicated, he wrote:
Ve mahiya tere dekhan nu,
chuk charkha gali de vich Panwa,
Ve loka paane main kat di,
tang teriya yaad de panwa.
Oh darling, to get your glimpse,
I have placed the charkha in the lane outside the house,
People around think I am spinning the threads of cotton,
But I am actually spinning the thread of your memories.
His poetry delves deep into the nitty-gritty and nuances of a lover’s internal struggles.
What amazes me the most is his external condition at that time, even while he lived in abject poverty, he wrote some of the most joyous and liberating Kalams. This quality in his writings enables a seeker to look within and reflect upon his own materialistic preferences. The poetries overflow with love and exuberance and auto-tune the strings in a seeker’s own heart.
Charkha is one such Sufi Poetry that quenches the arid soul of a lover’s heart —
Charkhe di oo kar de ole,
yaad teri da tumba bole.
ve nimma nimma geet ched ke,
tand kat’di hullare khaanwaan
I put the charka aside in the shade ( as I don’t feel like spinning anymore)
The music of your memories rings in my heart. Humming along with the song slowly,
I am spinning gently, the joy when we meet.
Unfazed by his circumstances, carefree and carrying deep love in his heart, constantly craving for his beloved, he allowed us to witness his journey; gracefully crossing all the barriers, he simultaneously weaved poetry, but was never empathetic or surrendered in his attitude or viewpoints.
He wrote in joy, not with a trace of a willful surrender or acceptance, but with a feeling of effortless joy and peace in knowing his beloved.
His joy knew no bounds and the content of his experience never dared to cause commotions in his ecstatic states.
In Bang-i-Auliya-i-Hind one instance has been described as below:
“In the city of Qasur Pathana it happened to a man of God, a descendent of prophet Mohammed, the grandson of Pir Jilani, that he achieved greatness from Hazrat Shah Inayat whose tomb lies in Lahore, south of the city. Bulleh Shah said to himelf, “I must get my Master after testing him. I must fully satisfy myself, I must drink water after straining it.” In his intense search for his Master he first looked towards Lahore, then he came there and took his residence, where the garden of Shah Inayat was situated. There he saw a mango on a tree at that time, he looked at it, invoked the name of God, and the mango fell on the ground. Shah lnayat gave a call to him and said, “Listen, you wayfarer, you have stolen my mango. Give it back to me.” Bulleh Shah replied, “I did not climb up the tree; your mangoes are far from my reach. It is with the wind that the mango broke from the branch and came into my lap. Invoking the name of God, you got the mango. You have committed a theft. “ Bulleh Shah realized the spiritual power and knowledge of Inayat Shah. He fell at his feet, was graced by initiation from the Master and attained the secret knowledge.”
Bulleh Shah received a lot of criticism from people for serving Inayat Shah — an ordinary person of a low cast ‘Arain.’ Bulleh proclaims in immense gratitude:
“O Bullah, if you seek the pleasure of a garden in spring, go and become a servant of the Arain.”
The most astounding approach of Bulleh Shah to these rebukes and taunts is to weave poetries that turned the wheels of hatred to love. His retorts are carefully polished and dipped in the essence of oneness. This is why his Sufi poems are widely revered and placed on the same pedestal as that of Rumi and Hafiz, even today!
On one occasion, Bullah faltered giving in under the pressure of his family, eventually, he was asked by Inayat Shah to leave immediately and wander in separation.
Bulleh Shah couldn’t bear this piercing separation and was rendered useless to the world.
It is said that Bulleh Shah picked up Sarangi, and went on to learn dance, masquerading an appearance of a girl. He was asked to perform a dance in a memorial at a holy tomb, his master also attended the same. While all the other dancers were exhausted and stopped, Bulleh kept on dancing and in his lament voice, he sang many songs. Watching his doleful demeanour, Inayat Shah’s heart finally melted and he forgave Bullah. The world witnessed a heart-rending unison.
The underlying intention in Inayat Shah’s separation was his pure will to burn Bulleh’s worldly desires and impurities in the fire of repentance.
Now that Bulleh Shah was ripe, he received the wisdom to know Lord. The author of Qanun-i-Ishq says in this matter,
The Master pressed Bullah to his heart, took him along with him, and intoxicated him with the wine of union
Bulleh writes of the same,
Repeating the name of Ranjha
I have become Ranjha myself.
O call me ye all “Dhido-Ranjha,”
let no one call me Heer .
Ranjha is in me, I am in Ranjha,
no other thought exists in my mind.
I am not, He alone is.
He alone is amusing himself.
Established in this stage, Bulleh Shah dissolved the knots of duality with divine eyes and exuded the grace of his beloved. All sense of separation was gone, oneness pervaded and the ultimate distinction between friends and foe melted, nothing was a stranger for Bulleh Shah anymore. All was him.
I have got lost in the city of love,
I am being cleansed, withdrawing myself
from my head, hands and feet.
I have got rid of my ego,
and have attained my goal.
Thus it has all ended well.
O Bullah, the Lord pervades both the worlds;
None now appears a stranger to me.
Through times immemorial Bulleh Shah’s spark of divine love keeps on illuminating the veiled hearts of seekers. His life story and compositions are a powerhouse of divine understanding and purity as that of gold, which will light the path of all those lovers carrying truest intentions and an innate desire to see the Lord.
O beloved one:
If God were to be found by bathing and washing,
then God would be found by fish and frogs.
If God were to be found by roaming in jungle,
then God would be found by cows and buffaloes.
You are engaged in
needless battle with Satan
have you ever fought with your nafs?
— Baba Bulleh Shah
Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this, explore a few of my other published insights/analogies/stories.
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