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.

 

 

  • 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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Yoga: Physical and Mental Wellbeing during Pandemic

Yoga will help you live a peaceful and healthy life, which is a must during the lockdown

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Yoga wellbeing
Yoga keeps you physically, spirituallly and mentally active for your wellbeing. Hindu Council

By Vijai Singhal

In these times of complete lockdown due to Coronavirus we have to keep ourselves mentally and physically active for our own wellbeing. Yoga provides a complete science of physical, mental and spiritual practices that would help us to live a healthy, happy and meaningful life and in the end help to attain Moksha (मोक्ष), our ultimate goal in life. Yoga is a deep science of spirituality. The word Yoga is derived from its Sanskrit root “Yuj”, to unite – union with the Divine.

The four main aspects of Yoga are:

meditation wellbeing
The way of action, doing our duties with the spirit of renunciation. Pixabay

Karma yoga (कर्म योग)

The way of action, doing our duties with the spirit of renunciation. “Yogah karamasu koshalam” (Gita 2.50) (योग: कर्मसु कौशलम्) – Yoga is excellence in work. This verse advices us to perform our allocated duties with full dedication without any attachment to the fruits thereof. We will attain perfection. This non-attached work leads us to overcome our ego and helps realize our true self.

Bhakti yoga (भक्ति योग)

The path of devotion. It involves practice of maintaining an emotional loving relationship with our Ist devata (इस्टदेवता) our chosen idol of the Godhead. People worship in the temples or at homes, singing devotional songs in praises of the divine. It requires complete surrender to the will of the divine.

Dhyana yoga (ध्यान योग)

The path of meditation to develop one-pointed concentration of mind, culminating in enlightenment or union with the divine called Samadhi (समाधि). It is very difficult to control the mind. Shri Krishna says in Gita (6.35) through Abhyasa (अभ्यास) and Vairagya (वैराग्य) – i.e. through constant practice and detachment, you can achieve that.

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It is very difficult to control the mind in Dhyana Yoga. Pixabay

Sage Patanjali (c. 200 BCE)

Developed a detailed science of yoga. He prescribed Ashtanga Yoga, (अष्टाङ्ग योग) eight limbs of yoga for a morally disciplined and purposeful life. He defined the eight limbs as:

  1. Yama (यम)- (the precepts of Social Discipline) that includes: Ahimsa (अहिंसा) non-violence, Satya (सत्य) truthfulness, Asteya (अस्तेय)

    1. non-stealing, Brahmacharya (ब्रह्मचर्य) celibacy, and Aparigraha (अपरिग्रह) abstention from greed.

    2. Niyama (नियम)- (the precepts of Individual Discipline) that includes: Saucha (शौच) cleanliness, Santosha (सन्तोष) contentment, Tapas (तपस) austerity, Svadhyaya (स्वाध्याय) self-study, and Isvara-Pranidhana (ईश्वरप्रणिधान) surrender of the self to God.

    3. Asanas (आसन) set of physical exercises to keep our body healthy. Also known as Hath Yoga

    4. Pranayama (प्राणायाम) control of breath, the vital life-force.

    5. Pratyahara (प्रत्याहार) withdrawal of mind from sensory objects.

    6. Dharana (धारणा) concentration, introspection, focusing the mind on a subject.

    7. Dhyana (ध्यान) contemplation, reflection on whatever focused during dharana.

    8. Samadhi (समाधि) complete absorption in the object of contemplation.

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    Jñāna yoga (ज्ञान योग)

    The path of wisdom through reasoned knowledge about the self and the cosmos. The Jñāna yogi requires vairagya (वैराग्य) dispassion- ability to detach oneself from unreal and the temporary world and vivek (विवेक) discrimination – ability to discern between what is unreal and what is real and eternal, shad-sampat (शदसंपद) practicing of six virtues: control of mind, control of senses, renunciation of all motivation for rewards in this life and hereafter, endurance, faith, and focus, and mumukshutava (मुमुक्षुत्व)– a powerful desire to achieve liberation from suffering and the cycle of birth and death. (Hindu Council)

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Calls for Quran Test of Indonesian Presidential Candidates Faces Criticism By Muslim Scholars

The invitation that was sent to both presidential candidates asks them to read Al-Fatiha (the first surah in Quran) and then another surah that will be determined by the organizer.

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Indonesia, quran
A man reads the Koran at Istiqlal mosque in Jakarta, July 24, 2012. VOA

A recent call for a Quran test in Aceh province for Indonesian presidential candidates is facing strong criticism by Muslim scholars, who say the move would undermine racial unity.

On Saturday, the Council of Preachers Association in Aceh sent an invitation to both presidential candidates in the April 2019 vote — incumbent Joko Widodo and opponent Prabowo Subianto — to attend a Quran recitation test in the capital of Aceh province on January 15. The chairman of that council, Marsyuddin Ishak, told VOA that the test is important to reveal the true image of the presidential candidates as well as continue a tradition in their province, the only one that implement the Sharia-law in Indonesia.

Quran recitation is a requirement to compete in local elections in Aceh.

” Our leaders in here — the governor, the member of parliament and other councils — are all tested to read the Quran. The next president will be our leader too, so we want to know their capability in reading Quran as our local leaders in here,” said Marsyuddin.

Indonesia, quran
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, center right, walks and his running mate Ma’ruf Amin during a ceremony marking the kick off of the campaign period for next year’s election in Jakarta, Sept. 23, 2018. VOA

However, former president of Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Jakarta, Dr. Komaruddin Hidayat, told VOA that the test is unnecessary and exaggerates the importance of religion.

“I really regret it. Our lives must be based on a constitution. Understanding and learning more about our religion is important, but it doesn’t mean that we fail our live if we can’t read the Quran,” he said.

“Religion never became the standard to graduate from school or to get a job. I give you another example : if we want to test an airplane pilot, we test his knowledge on the airplane not about his ability to read the Quran. The same case with the presidential election.”

He adds that it’s better if any test was based on the candidates’ sensitivity to people of different religions and how will he fight for the rights of minorities.

Dr. Rumadi Ahmad, an official with the country’s largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama, told VOA that the Quran recitation test is a clear example of politicizing religion.

Quran
A worker looks checks printing paper for the Koran near the Sunan Ampel mosque in Surabaya, Indonesia East Java province, July 27, 2011. VOA

“This is an exaggeration of religion in politics. We don’t have to use the capability to read the Quran as an issue in the coming election. This is a clear tendency to politicize religion. It’s dangerous and will arouse hatred among people of various races and religions in the country,” said Rumadi.

Also Read: Earthquake Measuring 6.1 Strikes Indonesia

The invitation that was sent to both presidential candidates asks them to read Al-Fatiha (the first surah in Quran) and then another surah that will be determined by the organizer.

According to Marsyuddin Ishak, Joko Widodo’s team has replied to the invitation by saying that they will consider it and discuss it further. Prabowo has not replied. (VOA)

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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.