ham sa

•June 25, 2017 • 2 Comments

हम् सा

ham sa

The two syllables connote three different levels of reality.

In the physical realm, they are the word for the swan – a bird that stands on water, yet remains above it, pure. The swan is symbolic of the liberated man or woman, living in  the world, but not of it.

On the dimension of subtle reality, they refer to the sound of the in-breath – hum – and the out-breath – sa. The sustainer of our life in this world, the unseen yet felt reality that is the centre of our existence, our breath, is conveyed by these two sounds.

On the most subtle level, it is the sound of the universe, coming into being and dying every moment. The stars that explode, and the planets that form from the debris as it cools. The bird that twitters, the bird that goes to sleep as darkness settles in. The day that shines refulgent, the night when everything quietens, darkens. The coming into being, in birth, the ceasing to be, in death.

The rhythms of the universe and the rhythms of our lives are meant to be lived in synchronicity. It is then that we live the truth, dharma. Then, the rhythms of our lives  give shape to the physical universe, in all we think, speak, do. It is a shape that is in tune with the nature of things, not in violent struggle against it, as is the case with much of the modern world, its ambitions, its machinery, its projects that destroy this beautiful earth.

ham sa, a quiet sound in the still waters of the heart, our connection with the realities beyond the seen, and the realities that we see everyday, in one, unceasing thread.







the darkness of the prison house

•June 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

بجھا جو روز-ا-زنداں تو دل یہ سمجھا ہے
کے تیری مانگ ستاروں سے بھر گئی ہوگی

چمک اٹھے ہیں سلاسل تو ہم نے جانا ہے
کے اب سحر تیرے رخ پر بکھر گئی ہوگی


bujha jo rauzan-e-zindaan to dil ye samjha hai
ke teri maang sitaaron se bhar gayi hogi

chamak uthe hain salaasil to ham ne jaana hai
ke ab sahar tere rukh par bikhar gai hogi

as my prison house becomes dark, i realise
that the parting of your hair would be lit up by the stars

and when my chains become visible again, i know
that the light of dawn would have illuminated your face

– faiz ahmed faiz

An immense delicateness that perhaps only Faiz is capable of is embodied in these lines. It is the delicateness of that deeply intimate relationship with the beloved, both earthly and divine, where there is no space for the crudity, coarseness, roughness of the world. In the slightest wavering of attention, this deep relatedness is broken. But while it lasts, it connects one to the rhythms of creation, and to the heart of all reality.

Like a quintessential Sufi, Faiz sees his darkness only in contrast to the beauty of the beloved. The prison house is dark because the stars light up the world of the beloved. Sorrow is sorrow because it is the absence of beauty. And therefore, it is a reminiscence of beauty. And hence, the spiritual significance of visaal, the grief of separation, as a reminder of the beauty of the beloved in a brutalised world.

When one’s chains become visible again, one knows the refulgence with which the face of the beloved would shine in the first rays of dawn. One is enslaved, but only because real freedom lies in communion with the beloved.

As often, Faiz is no stranger to oneness with nature. The light of the stars, silvery and dispelling of darkness, and the first rays of dawn, bringing new life, are precious reminders of the pristine beauty of the Real.

Earthly love, spiritual communion, and the purity of nature unspoilt come together in these lines, expressing the best there is in the Urdu language and in the mystical streams of Islam.






The vanquisher of death

•June 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

ॐ त्रियम्बकं यजामहे
सुगंधिं पुष्टिवर्धनं
उर्वारुकमिव बँधनां
मृत्योर्मुक्षीय मा:मृतात

om triyambakam yajaamahe
sugandhim pushtivardhanam
urvarukamiva bandhanaam
mrityormukshiya ma-mritaat

o three-eyed one, i honour you
the fragrant one
the strength-giver

as a fruit falls from its tree
may i fall away from my bondage
free from death
into immortality

– Mahamrityunjaya mantra, Rig Veda 7.59.12


Shiva – mrityunjaya, vanquisher of death – is evoked by one on the quest of freedom from the clutches of the sufferings of this world.

Not a person, not a myth, but an energy that is fierce, yet transcendent of all that there is. He ignites, he burns, he destroys all that is not the essence of our being, leaving alone the truth in its pristine glory. He is the lord of the mystics, the deity of those who aspire to break the bonds of this earth.

What would it be like if Shiva was, to us, not a mere myth, a belief, an image, but a living presence in our consciousness?

The question cannot be answered, for Shiva is above all, a mystery.

The mystery is not unveiled by ideas, but by the archaic chants of the Sanskrit language, which, as if rising from beyond the beginning of time, carry the fragrance of eternity, and evoke the vanquisher of death with power, for all those willing to listen without ego.




Waves upon the seashore

•June 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचनः

with work alone is your concern
never with its fruits

– Bhagavad Gita 2.47.

He lived in deep sorrow. In sorrow breathing arose, in sorrow breathing died. It was as if one had seen a flower bloom, come to life, and die. In that sorrow, which arose from the depths of consciousness in response to outer reality, there was also pure being. A being that was alive, even as sorrow took birth, quivered, palpitated, died, and a new wave of sorrow emerged. As if waves upon waves crashed on the shore, a shore that merely watched with utmost serenity. A serenity that was tranquil, unaffected, yet intense to the point of explosion.

There wasn’t concern, investment, attachment, to what happened. But there was a looking afar, gazing at the stars, as if, knowing that glory lies only the in the truth, and not in the states of sorrow and joy which are as currents over an ocean.

He wondered if the verse from the Gita being chanted in his mind truly meant this, and this only. The tranquility of the man not attached to the world of happenings was perhaps what the ancients sang of in the most beautiful, most profound, most affective poem of all. In something written 2000 years ago, he felt he had found his spiritual home, and a glimpse at the answers to why he was here in this world.








•June 19, 2017 • Leave a Comment

 अग्निमीळे पुरोहितं यज्ञस्य देवमृत्तिजम् ।
होतारं रत्नधातरम् ॥१॥

om, agnim ide purohitam yajnasya devamrittijam
hotaaram ratnadhaataram

we praise the sacred fire, priest of the sacrifice, sustainer of the order of the gods
offerer of oblations to the gods, bestower of gifts to man

– Rig Veda 1.1
The first hymn of the first book of the Rig Veda, possibly the oldest text of humanity, invokes the most alive element of nature -fire, that which comes alive in death. Fire is life, for it is continually aflame. It crackles, gives warmth, illuminates. It is death, for it rises from death, from burning away the old, upon the ashes of destruction, signalling the end of that from which it arises.

It is also the inner fire, the flame, that quiet passion that burns within us, guiding, calling, deepening our vocation, our life in this world.

As one writes this, an incense stick burns at the other corner of the room, its tip aflame in golden, letting out vapours that bring an ancient scent to the house.

The fire within and the fire outside are the same.

A thousand years after the Rig Veda, the Shakyamuni Buddha, the Blessed One, would teach his disciples the truth of transcience, evoking the symbol of fire again. Once again, it was a fire that illuminated the inevitable dying away of all there is, but also a fire that liberated us from our bondage to all there is.

“O bhikkus, all is aflame.

The eye is aflame. The forms are aflame.

The ear is aflame. The sounds are aflame.

The tongue is aflame. The tastes are aflame.

The body is aflame. The sensations are aflame.”

– Adittapariyaya Sutta

The fire of transformation, the light amidst our darkness – the ancients lived with a deep reverence for this, remembering, acting, living, loving the fire of life.


The quiet waters of the heart

•March 30, 2017 • Leave a Comment

khaamosh sa afsaana
paani pe likha hota
na tumne kaha hota
na humne suna hota

Silence is where we meet, truly. In the incandescent depths of the heart, the quiet waters of a river flow. On that is written the story of our love. The meaning of our bond. The splendours that there are.

All else is sorrow. Meeting is sorrow, departing is sorrow. Attaining is sorrow, losing is sorrow. All that remains is His face.

In the intense reverberations of our meeting, all the waves of existence rise and fall. In every step, every moment, I meet you and hear your message for me. That is the destiny of the world. To be met by your fire, to be consumed in it, to be illuminated by it, to be reduced to ashes by it.

The night speaks in silences

•January 19, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The night calls us all to be still. To listen. The tremendous silence of the night washes over the cacophony of the day, cleanses the universe with its quiet beatitude, every night, without end.

This tremendous, purifying silence is the silence of the earth. It is the silence of the skies. It is the silence of the star, millions of light  years away, watching us from afar, sending its light and its life to us.

Tomorrow will be another day. Another horde of humanity will go about its daily business, with their minds ceaselessly chattering. This silence will be scarcely present. But only in this silence is the whole meaning of life. Disconnected from this silence, we run the race of life, not knowing where we came from, where we are headed, for what we are made. The silence takes us back to the source, the origin of all creation, the fountainhead of all the tremendous energy that runs through this world.

When our heart beats with the heartbeat of that creation, then our lives are in order. We live in order, we respect all creation, we never forget nature and her love. That is the only sane life.

That is the only life where the beauty of the seen, and the beauty of the unseen, come together. Where we, together with all the beings of the world, those visible to the eye and those that are not, praise existence, witness its beauties, wonder at its presence.

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