Yogis & Sufis: where all ends meet

by Prof Surinder Bhatnagar

Sab santan ki aik jat, aik jamat, – all saints have the same community and the same origin, so goes an Hindi saying. They make a single brotherhood- a brotherhood of lost individuals, lost to the world and given to God. A community of free individuals, with no belongings. Lost to the world, does not mean that he is inactive and passive. No, it is his working in the world that is different. The key to their living is detachment. He is independent of all isms, concepts and dogmas; in this sense Yogi or Sufi is post- modern, to whom, freedom means a self experience, earned through perfect detachment from all the allurements of the world. But the detachment does not mean, leading a mechanical life. It is a life of perfect love, perfect involvement due to their faith in the unity of existence.

The Gita describes the state of detachment as Nishkam karma. Not to be lived objectively, but to feel perfect oneness and unity, with no division of subject-object, matter-mind, body- soul. For God is infinity both in his phenomenal and in his nominal aspect. One may give the nameless-one existence, the name Allah, or Ishwar or God or X, or Y. It matters same. He is not bound by the names. So long as it means freedom, so long as he is infinity. The soul has broken all bonds. Some feel free to move, others stay at one place still others move and stay all at their will. Enjoying full freedom. To them there exists no rule to follow, still they follow the rules of society to avoid confrontation with anybody.

The phonetic alteration of J and Y is common in the words. In Sanskrit language the letter Y, root Yaj and Yuj mean union. The word yogi is derived from the root Yuj which means one who is joined or united with his own unqualified self. The state of union is described by fana baqa in Sufi terminology. Meher Baba says when God is infinity and attributeless, He is beyond both good and bad and also beyond any measure of human mind. In the measure of man He measures. In the measure of God, He is infinitely free of all qualified existence actions, even creation.

Their being – the self, is not located high in heaven above or in the sea below. Their kingdom of heaven is within them as Jesus said. Or as said in the Gita by Lord Krishna- Ishwarah sarva bhutanam hrid-desherjuna tishthati. They have no belongings and, therefore, make no stations.

Hazrat Moinuddin Chisti, the patron saint of Ajmer for 20 years kept travelling with his Pir-o-murshid Hazrat Khwaja Usman. He stayed away from the common residing places of the people, living often in grave yards while he made his journey toward Ajmer. Detached, they continuously move -Paribrajaka. Sadguru Totapuri, the master of Shree Ramakrishna would not stay at one place for more than three days. But this is not a rule for them. A Sufi or a yogi is not bound by any rule except the prayer to God. He is absolutely free. A Sufi does not require a shrine to sit and meditate. Neither a Yogi an ashram to rest. Their resting place is within them. When at Ajmer, Hazrat Moinuddin Chisti made his first stay at Bajrangarh a beautiful hillside near Anasagar Lake. But when the priest of the temple objected he preferred to leave the place and occupied the more modest place in the town, where he resides today.

Meher Baba, who himself was initiated in the self state by five perfect masters of the time, once wrote to Niranjan Singh (Principal, Khalsa College, Delhi), “The winning post is God, Baba wants you to remain independent even of your own present state of unhappiness and watch it with pride, as one of your achievements in the journey towards the goal’.

A yogi, therefore, does not bother about the present state of affairs, for it is just a ripple in and of the timeless state of ocean. A passing thing. Thus, key to the living is detachment. Whatever act he does, is neither good nor bad. The sense of good or bad, right and wrong is human. The attributeless God is neither good nor bad, the right or wrong. But when in creation, he follows the law – Swadharma of his human existence.

He does not teach, for he knows the art of life is the art of living, it can only be lived. There cannot be a master prescription for all the things good and bad. Meher Baba said ‘there is nothing like good or bad. One may say that there are degrees of goodness and the greatest good is God or someone else may say that there are degrees of badness and the worst is good’. After all He alone exists. God is defined not as good God and bad God. He is defined as Sata –the one which exists in oneness in truth.

The book of teaching is the book of life itself. It can only be lived in the constant presence of a Guru or the master. A mantra is always specific to the individual. Spiritual books make general guidance. I and my friend Amia Kumar Hazra went to Avatar Meher Baba, in 1959. While Baba asked me to marry, he refused the same permission to Amio, although many sincere requests were made by his mother. The problem with books is that they too need a mater’s presence to understand. Idries Shah says “Some of the teaching is useful at ordinary level; some will become plain as the disciple progresses. Some of it is cryptic, so that its understanding will come at the right moment, and some is for the purpose of being interpreted by the teacher.”

Since inner secrets are beyond the reach of man, only Masters, Murshids and Apostles remain the human hope (Holy Quran). Their constant presence is ensured by the God. In the Old Testament, God made a covenant with David “that He will never lack a man to sit upon his thrown.” It means that there will always be a man occupying the throne. These are Man of God’s similitude, born in human flesh- the Perfect Masters and the God –Man.

Jug Surya (in his book “Mind Matters”) laments at the semitization of Indian Psyche, and makes a case for high ground Hinduism. There might be someone else who will plead for “a high ground Islam”. The real remedy lies in the opening all religions to all. Hindus may be willing as there are already thousands of them, of all political shades, making visits to dargahs of all Sufi saints. But it needs a perfect surgery and isms be replaced by God. In the east there is greater intimacy between humans and God. Says Shri Shri Ravishankar, ‘God is not to be sought high in heavens, which are ones own state of imagination, but right within Single identity. Single journey, Single experience of being, calibrated to decimals on path’. It is a journey of man, which Meher Baba as the realization of one’s own divinity.\

A Sufi is neither Hindu nor Muslim; so is a Yogi. There are no isms. All isms bind. They are blind to reason. They give one a false identity. The Yoga means union with your own self, which one will have to discover for oneself. A scientist discovers by denial, a Sufi or Yogi discovers by affirmation and faith.

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Journalist, South Asian Analyst
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