Ecospirituality and Place

By Dileep Kumar Kaul

August 2010

Our self attains meaning in the meaning of a place. It has a spiritual dimension as well. The meaning of place and the meaning of the self are two different entities in the beginning. As the place attachment develops and becomes stronger, the meaning of place and meaning of self begin to merge. When a particular place becomes an important part of our self identity, this merger of self and place is known as self identity. At this point the places play a role in the personal emotion and self regulation. The experience and cognitions in places form the place identity. The intensity of these experiences and cognitions cuts across religious barriers which may sometimes lead to a self that may be termed blasphemous in a particular religious set up.

Kashmir has got such a spiritual energy that spiritual seekers irrespective of caste creed and religion have chosen it a place for their pursuits. But those who have lived here have broken rigid barriers of the faiths they belonged to and chosen their own paths for spiritual attainment. There is a large number of such saints in Kashmir who may be termed Sufis to keep them in a Muslim sphere. But their spiritual strength has been such that they have expressed such things in their poetry which hardly anybody would dare to express. The famous poet and spiritual Waza Mahmud has condemned the restrictions of Islamic law in very clear terms:

Hali Mansur Chhum banyomut yath tane.

Tali pyath Chham sharahuchi talwar me.

(my existence has met the fate of Mansur. The sword of Islamic law is hanging on my head.).

This is clearly the craving for the spiritual freedom and Islamic law puts a restriction that one cannot go outside its barriers.

The greatest name among such spiritual  personalities is Abdul Ahad Zargar. He too  had to face strong opposition for his fearlessness and the expression of strong sense of freedom. It is comfortable to put him within the sphere of “Sufism”, but he was not the man to be included among some simple head as Sufism. His attitude was ecospiritual, which exhibited a strong sense of faith in human power. God was not an alienated entity for him. Like Mansoor he was one with god and thus true to the tradition of Kashmiri saints. His poem “Kafir sapdith Korum yakrar” (After being an infidel I confessed) was termed blasphemous and venomous. But it is a poem that dismantles all dualisms and challenges the whole civilizational paradigm, all relations, compartmentalized conceptions of divinity and whatever separates man from man. In this poem every word that separates humans from each other is challenged. Zargar’s oneness with divinity is such that he has the courage to say,

Meiy lod adam meiy dyutus jaan

Meiy zaav Muhammad meiy von Koran

Mei nish non drav malikul jabar.

Kafar sapdith korum yakrar.

(I made adam and I gave him life. I gave birth to Muhammad and I uttered the Quran. With me was revealed consoler the god. After being an infidel I confessed).

See the courage! He says the divine message of Quran was uttered by him. In Islamic ethics haram and halaal are two words for legitimate and illegitimate. Ahad zargar says,

Par Haramas takbeer sui div niyaaz

Yeti nu aasi kabilay tati par nemaaz

Sui imam karizyan yas tyok tu zunnar

Kafar sapdith Korum yakraar.

(say there is only one god (takbeer) to what is illegitimate(Haram). Where there is no kabila say your prayers there. Make him your spiritual master who has got a dotted forehead and a sacred thread on.

This is ecospiritual outlook. In ecospirituality we understand that divine life extends to all reality, and the cosmos is an integral part of God’s self revelation. In ecospirituality, we explore our relationship with the whole cosmos with god in the center as creator of the cosmos. That is the point where there is no haram and halal and no barrier between the seeker and the supreme deity. In other words when somebody attains divinity all the barriers go of for him. This is a totally non dualistic approach. From here springs the ecological outlook. In ecology everything in this world is associated with everything else. With Ahad zargar also we can say “allaho akbar” with what is haraam. Two utterly unassociated things are held in the same breath by him and that is the level of his spiritual attainment. That is  non dualism.

However this ecospiritual outlook is seen in other poets also who too were termed infidels. One of them is Abdul Ahad Azad. Though he was an atheist but his spirituality cannot be denied. His ecospiritual attitude is conspicuous in his this verse,

Swarguchi dodu kolu zaenith tu maenith vondu myon chchuny mashiravan lo

Sendi, rambi aras vethi vernagas gangai tu jamunaye.

(after due thought my heart does not forget the milk streams of heaven i.e swarg. These milk streams are the river Indus, rambi ara , Vitasta, Verinag, Ganga and Jamuna)

See the ecological unity of all the rivers and the unity of cultural streams they represent. And he is not using the word jannat for heaven, he is using swarg which is from, if we don’t say hindu tradition, from the spiritual tradition of India which is incomplete without Kashmir. This gives “Azad” his place identity, the identity of the dweller of Kashmir which belongs to Indian tradition.

Ahad Zargar also exhibits such place identity. He is so much associated with Indian spiritual thought that it can easily be said that he had converted to Hinduism as is said about Lalded on the basis of some fake verses that she had converted to Islam. But verses of Ahad Zargar are not fake. He lived in our times and many of us may have seen him. But saying about him as he had accepted Hinduism will be to belittle him as a spiritual personality. He is deeply rooted in the tradition of Kashmiri saints who accepted any school of thought for their spiritual attainment. Like any other saint his ethics was his own which had deep influence of Hindu spirituality. See one of his poems,

Dame sutyi gati gav gash isbbat.

Pamposhi manzu gayi paedu kaaynaath.

According to the Puranas, Brahma is self born from  lotus flower which grew from the navel of Vishnu at the beginning of the universe. Ahad Zargar turns to this puranic allusion to explain the creation and says that this universe was born out of a lotus.

This puranic allusion is made clear in another verse,

Samah Saru manzu Phol Neelofur.

Brahmah tami manzu  drav johar

Jamah adu aav zaato sifaat

Pamposhi manzu gayi paedu kaaynaath.

( In the ocean of ether the blue lotus blossomed. From that was born Brahma the self created. Then pure God came into being)

His extent of purity transcends all dualisms. All dualisms are impure to him. He says,

Safri mahmudas dovnus tan

Kufru islamu nish shruch gav me man.

Vuchch ahad zargaran don kuni zaath.

Pamposhi manzu gayi paedu kaaynaath.

( I was made to go on the spiritual journey. My self was made pure of kufr and Islam. Ahad zargar saw both of them as same. The universe was born out of a lotus.)

For him infidelity and Islam are of the same creed because both of them are conflicting elements. So he says he is neither a kafir nor a muslim. When the seeker merges with the creator what is the need for these compartmentalizations! This expression is really daring but usual for a saint like him who had transcended these worldly elements. But the power of man and his association with the tradition of the place he belongs to is best expressed in his poetry. If we put him under Sufism and other such things his real existence as a rebel against all spiritual restrictions and an important exponent of the spirituality of Kashmir is hampered. Ahad Zargar and the saints like him give meaning to Kashmir and if we forget them we are not doing justice to our place Kashmir.

These days Kashmir is being identified with stone throwing Hartals, and deaths. If such things identify a place it is bound to be a political playground where personalities like Ahad Zargar have no relevance. There will be nobody to own him because nobody will like to own an infidel. Ahad Zargar is not a person but a phenomenon that gives meaning to Kashmir and takes forward kashmiri spiritual tradition. Past twenty years have seen all out attempts to eradicate this tradition. At least we can remember this tradition.

*(The author is a poet and a proflic writer).