To be human

You wake up. You wash. You eat. You go to work. You return. You have company. You sleep. And life goes on like that. One day after another. One life after another, one generation after another, one nation, one civilisation, they all come and go.

What is the meaning of it all?

Perhaps there is more to life that a human being may attain. Perhaps we have a particular place in creation. Perhaps we have something that animals and plants do not. And that gives us a place on a station above them – a station where there is both power and responsibility.

Could it be that the accomplishment of this uniquely human station in all of creation begins, not in the outer world, but in the most intimate space within us – our consciousness? An altered perception of ourselves and of the world is probably where it all has to start. And a central element of that radical alteration in consciousness is a sense of ecstasy – an ecstasy that depends on nothing in creation. Not on security, not on relationships.

It is an ecstasy that is truly independent of the world one lives in. It is in the world but not of the world, as the Hindu would say.

Perhaps it is some of that ecstasy that Nusrat becomes an instrument of in his hypnotic performances like this one. The sheer intensity of being aware of a special reality flows through his entire oeuvre. The fire in his eyes is there for all who want to see.

Perhaps it is this ecstasy, quiet yet deeply intense, that lived in the medieval Sufi masters of South Asia. Intuitively, ordinary people of all religions recognised them as the true successors of the Prophet of Islam and flocked to them, rather than to the orthodoxy. The music, the trances, the healings, the feeding the poor – they all followed that moment of recognition. Seven and eight hundred years after their death, their shrines continue to be perceived as holding that special power which enables communion with God.

Even more intimately than the shrines, what links us to these medieval masters are their songs, which give us a glimpse into that extraordinary state of consciousness that must have given birth to them. It is the state of consciousness which, as Khusrow says, would take away ‘chaap tilak’ – both self-image and the masks we wear to preserve it – by a mere meeting of glances – ‘naina milai ke’.

Through energetic, repetitive singing and through clapping as the chief instrument, these songs slowly build up a trance-like rhythm that is an invitation into ecstasy. It is in these songs, written in the common man’s language but by uncommon men, that perhaps we can find nourishment for our own journeys, however desolate and long-drawn they may seem.

“Lo! We offered the trust unto the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it. And man assumed it.” – Quran, 33:72.

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~ by tdcatss on August 10, 2014.

One Response to “To be human”

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