Friday October 19, 2018

Manifestations of divine love: Finding the connection between Bhakti-Yoga and Sufism

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By Gaurav Sharma

Throughout the timeline of history, there have been innumerable conceptions of God. Every individual professes and pledges allegiance to the religion he/she has been subjected to socially and culturally, particularly during the formative years.

While most philosophical schools of thought emphasize a strict adherence to a set of strictures, rites and rituals in order to realize God, there are certain movements which cannot be bound by the designated ropes of cast, creed, and language.

While Sufism is labeled as an Islamic religion and Bhakti-Yoga considered a subdivision of Hinduism, both the movements possess certain intrinsic qualities that bear uncanny resemblance to each other and stand out as a testimony to the recalcitrant nature of love.

Classical Sufi scholars have defined Sufism as “a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God”. Bhakti-Yoga means “worship or adoration of God where love exists for the sake of love.”

While Sufis attach great importance to Dhikr–a practice of repeating God’s name, Bhaktas also, lay great stress on chanting the name of God–known as Japa in theological parlance, along with glorifying his pastimes.

Both the movements, through focus on direct communication and union with God, inextricably involve an aspect of mysticism based on loving devotion.

In Sufism, qawaali is the devotional form of music whereas Bhakti espouses sankirtan as the music that transcends all bounds and limitations.

The meditative practices of Singing, Dancing, Music, Swirling etc are described as both means and an end to achieve trance. While the term Hadhra is used to classify trance in Sufism, Bhaktas use the term Bhava to characterize the stupor of unalloyed love.

The idea of seclusion is prominent in the boundless crusades of both Sufism and Bhakti. While Khalwa is a retreat practiced by Sufis to concentrate on the divinity of the Almighty, Bhaktas follow a similar doctrine of Vairagya–detachment from the pleasures and pains of the material world–Maya.

One of the most important concepts of Sufism, Qutb– a man who is the perfect channel of grace from Allah to man is also reminiscent of the Bhakta’s father-figure called Guru– a teacher who dispels the darkness of the material world and transmits experiential knowledge to the student.

However, the confluence of the two great expeditions is at their very essence. The vital element of the Sufi belief as well as the Bhakta view, is the feature of Divine Love. Both of them propound love as the cause and the effect of Gnosis-  the knowledge of spiritual mysteries.

The Quran mentions:  “Say (O Muhammad) my prayer, my sacrifice, my life and my death belong to Allah; He has no partner and I am ordered to be among those who submit.”

The ultimate injunction of the Gita is similar. Krishna says, “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto me. Do not Fear.”

The fulcrum of spiritual life starts with the knowledge of the Rooh or Atma, both of which are ethereal in nature and hence capable of communion with Allah or Bhagwan.

Such knowledge can only be attained through purification of the Heart, something incapable of being achieved by the Intellect. This calls for moving beyond the dirt of Lower Self known as The Nafs in Sufi terminology and the tamas/rajas mode of nature in Vedic lingo.

As such Love of God cannot be constricted or restrained within the limiting leash of wordings and concepts. Differences exist only in the flickering minds of persons unable to fathom the light of love.

 

 

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  • Nitin

    Great piece… Beautifully written… What a great connect between two different schools of philosophy. At the very basic level of all religions, it is love that is ethereal.

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Mahabharata or Game of Thrones? Quite similar!

The world's largest poem, Mahabharata, written almost five-millenniums ago is too beyond words.

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Mahabharata and Game of Thrones have quite a lot similarities! Wikimedia commons
Mahabharata and Game of Thrones have quite a lot similarities! Wikimedia commons

A twisted world, beyond words; turns and twists, come to think of it, nothing new to us. Westeros is indeed a world that keeps us hooked to the screens. But for a person, who has primary knowledge about Indian mythology, these twists and turns won’t be a matter of surprise.

The world’s largest poem, Mahabharata, written almost five-millenniums ago is too beyond words. From honour, to bravery and battle, to plots and back-stabs, there are many scenarios in the Mahabharata that make Game of Thrones quite similar to it. Here’s how!

Jon Snow and the Mother of Dragons resemble Karna and Draupadi respectively. Wikimedia commons
Jon Snow and the Mother of Dragons resemble Karna and Draupadi respectively. Wikimedia Commons
1. Jon Snow and Karna, two men who are illegitimate sons from powerful families. Both turn out to have royal blood. Also, they both suffer misfortune throughout their lives. 
2. The arrogant, Joffrey Baratheon, doesn’t he remind you of Duryodhana? Two spoiled princes who were pampered throughout their lives. They have an ill temper and a so well-noted lack of manners.
3. Littlefinger, one of the most clever characters of the series holds a deep resemblance to the Mahabharata antagonist Shakuni. Both of them wish to wipe out clans and provoke war.
4. One of the initial reasons for GOT to get so famous was Cerci Baratheon and the idea of incest. However, other than that she is a clever woman. And more than that, she is a mother who wishes to protect her children whatever be the cost. Remember Gandhari?
5. The two most fierce women of these two stories, are undoubtedly Daenerys Targaryen and Draupadi. Strong willed, central protagonists, one was born out of a fire and the other one survived it.
Just like Mahabharata, GOT has worked on war extensively. Wikimedia commons
Just like Mahabharata, GOT has worked on war extensively. Wikimedia Commons
6. Aswathamma, a great and fierce warrior, extremely loyal but cursed. Not a dark character, but the circumstances force him to make all the wrong choices. Jamie Lannister is quite a bit of him.
7. Lord Vayrs and Shikandi, two eunuch characters, both proud of their identity and both received deceit in life.
8. Two younger siblings who have grown up in the shadow of their formidable elder ones. They both can glimpse into the future.
9. Two most dreadful people in both the epics, Kans and Tywin Lannister. Both of them are ruthless and do anything to manipulate the situation to their favour.
10. The final, and the most interesting similarity between the two epics. Two characters that are loved universally, look at things deeply and (as Sherlock would say) are masters of deduction. Tyrion and Lord Krishna resemble each other faintly. Just like the ‘cheer Haran’, Tyrion saved Sansa Stark’s honour from Joffrey.