by Prof. K. N. Dhar
Cultural heritage of a country borrows measured sustenance from the philosophy of life nurtured inch by inch, by its denizens from the time, man awoke to the consciousness of self and spirit. It may well be called the culmination of quest of man from finite mooring, to infinite dimensions. At the same time, this search of man for finding his feet on the spiritual plane, can in no way be the last word on this subject, since such pursuits are cumulative in character and content. This edifice comes into being brick by brick, hammered into proper shape by savants and saints from time to time. However, it calls for reinterpretation every day in and out, so that the erring human being, with all his frailities, in not derailed into the abyss of animality. Perhaps this is the veritable theme of the famous word of Lord Krsna in Gita "when vice prevails and virtue dwindles, I resurrect my own being for proffering refuge to the virtuous and annihilating vice completely; thus re-establishing human values in every age".
In our happy valley Lalleshwari most charitably projected such human values, so dear to Kashmiris from the dawn of history. An irrefutable proof of this attitude of concilliation instead of confrontation can be gleaned from the pages of Nilamata Purana wherein Lord Buddha has been acknowledged as an incarnation of God Avatara. Buddhism, to speak squarely, was essentially a revolt against Brahmanism, yet the catholic Brahmin with his proverbial forbearance did not use the same language or adopt the same attitude as the Buddhists had employed with respect to Brahmanism. The healthy approach of Kashmiri Brahmins was never negative in essence but purely positive. So, we can safely assert that Lalleshwari, a vigilant sentinel of Kashmiri culture displayed highest magnitude of courage and foresight in those not very auspicious times beckoning man not to discriminate on the basis of religious labels:-
It was actually the continuation of that Catholic attitude of mind displayed by Kashmiris from times immemorial.
However, time does not maintain a uniform tenor or temper. It is at times moody and capricious; and when the political map of Kashmir was redrawn in the fourteenth century by the induction of sultans over the Kashmir scene, this accomodation of head and heart received a jolt. Kashmiris became oblivious of their pristine past; present consequently got divorced from it, mutilating its brilliant face and its attendant decorum. During those unsavoury and all the more unpalatable times, Lalleshwari fortified to her marrow by the innate strength of her conviction, rose to the occasion and strove hard put to an end to this dismal era of persecution and vandalism. In this crusade her tools were not abjuration but affirmation; bitterness changed hands with sweet and more persuasive compromise. Having elected to tread this path of self-suffering, she became a model for millions of her country-men to abjure the mundance and propitiate the sublime. It was no less than a miracle by which the sufferings of the people lost their sting and they learnt to bear up with these with stoical resistance. They were exhorted to rise above the self and reach up to the super-self at which stage pleasure or pain have no relevance or meaning. Some say it was self-deceit, fleeing from the actual life, rather self-forget-fullness to feel shy of the stark realities of life. The most apt answer to this faulty assertion is provided by ever-awake Lalleshwari herself in these words:-
"Some may heap cavil on me, even some may curse me; They may say whatever they like to say. Some may worship me with the flowers of inherent cognition; yet I do not feel ruffled with this kind of impeachment or praise, since I am concerned with my own self and do not grudge what others have to say about me."
Muslim rule over Kashmir, for reasons obvious, sounded the knell for the use and propagation of sanskrit language. Bilhana, the famous lyricist of Kashmir had once boasted that, "In their household the Kashmiri women even speak sanskrit and prakrit as fluently as their mother-tongue." It was now an old wooden story. However, a bridge was to be built between the present and the past for which sanskrit had been a very potent instrument; but the general public had lost contact with it. Persian was the order of the day in its stead. So, Lalleshwari chose to speak to the people in their own idiom; hence Kashmiri became the vehicle of her message. In this way, she did not only make her message more intelligible and comprehensible to the masses, but also achieved the purpose of bridging the gulf between the past and the present. Present is an improved version of the past providing the base on which future can be built. In her time the friction between the past and the present was the loudest; hence, she like an expert alchemist, by her healing touch saved Kashmiri culture from being eroded and bruised. Her clarion call to assimilate human values in thoie dark days won for her the esteem and acclaim of Hindus and Muslims alike and the edge of ruthless proselytisation got blunted. It was no mean achievement on her part in uniting the lost children of one God, when every effort was being made to segregate them from each other. Her message was so universal and appealing that the tallest of Muslim Reshis of Kashmir Sheikh Noor -ud -Din Noorani made her his ideal and expressed what he owed to her in these words:-
"That Lalla of Padmpur (Pampur) was fortunate enough in gulping the ambrosial nectarine draughts; thereby she won our adoration as an incarnation of immortal Divinity. Benevolent God, grant me also such a boon."
Lalla's message couched in quartrains called 'Vaks' is very simple and straight bereft of any curves or terseness. It is actually an exhortation to man to indulge in self-cognition. It is a readymade manual on self- education and consequent self-consciousness.
"I felt fatigued by imessant self-search, thinking that no body could partake of that hidden perceptive knowledge; I, ultimately got immersed into it and could find admission to the Divine-bar; therein the goblets are full to the brim, but none possesses the nerve to drink these."
Mental drill is preamble to self- consciousness. At that pinnacle of self- discipline mind gets tamed automatically effortlessly:-
"The steed of mind gallops through the sky, encompassing this whole universe. During the twinkling of an eye it can traverse millions of miles. He, who is proficient enough to put it on rails by controlling its reins, check its wayward demeanour by clipping its wings in the shape of mastering his own inhalation and exhalation can attain the stage of self- cognition."
Worship, in the words of Lalla connotes self- introspection. It has nothing to do with external paraphernalia:-
"Mind is the flower-seller and faith the flowers. Worship should be undertaken with the offerings of mental equipoise. Shiva is to be given a bath of tears. Incantations are to be recited in silence, without making a show of these. In this way only self-consciousness can be awakened from within."
According to Lalleshwari a realizer has to hammer out his mental attitude on these lines:-
"He, who considers his own self and others as alike, abjures distinction between 'I' and 'you', He, who treats days and nights alike; is undisturbed by pleasure or pain. He, whose mind is bereft of duality, whose heart beats for all alike; only such a realizer can perceive the highest of preceptors-Shiva."
But, that shiva is within the self of the realizer, as inseparable from it as the smell from the flower. Immanence is self and transcendence is super-self-shiva in the language of Kashmiri monistic Shaivacharyas:-
"Why do you beat your breast for nothing ? If you possess unwavering intelligence, you shall have to seek Him from within, Shiva is seated there and searching Him from outside will be of no avail. Do believe my word, baked with self- perception."
Withont beating about the bush, it can be safely asserted that Lalleshwari's forte was Kashmiri Shaivism. This concept of Kashmirian philosophy actually revolutionized the age-long attitudes of man, more so of the Brahmins. It advocates a caste-less society as also abhorrs Kitchen-puritanism. Hindu society ailing through its own defective approach, justified such a kind of major operation for instilling evergreen health into its rusty veins. Shaiva scholars of Kashmir diagnosed the disease rightly and prescribed such an elixir for its longevity which defied the time with its nihilistic redclaws. Had not this philosophy of life been at hand to the Kashmiris at that dismal hour of history, no Hindu worth the name, would have survived in the Land of 'Kashyapa', alien culture would have made an easy morsel of him. Lalla's Vaks, are actually a Kashmiri rendering of shiva sutras; When this philosophy was born, no such predicament was there, as was faced by Lalleshwari in her own times later on. At best, shaivas had to contend with the Buddhists, whose attitude was also home-spun and not foreign in any way; Hence, Lalla had to reclaim the lost faith of her brethren, provide a viable alternative to the enticements an alien faith was offering to the people at large; and at the same time, in performing this double duty, she had to be always cross-fingered, not invite the wrath of the rulers. It definitely goes to her credit that while discharging her mission, she did not make a single enemy out of the other camp. To crown all, her message did cut through the man-made barriers of religions, Hindus as well as Muslims became her votaries with equal gusto. Her appeal was humanistic and not sectarian. Her approach was of positive affirmation and not of negative abjuration; consequently it multiplied her friends. Her ingenuity in steering safe between the two antagonistic factions is unsurpassed. She was instrumental in replacing call to steel by call to human conscience, consequently changing sourness to sweetness:-
"We, human beings, did live in the past and we alone will be in the future also. From ancient times to the present, we have activised this world. Just like rising and setting of the sun, a usual routine, the immanent Shiva (jiva) will never be relieved of birth and death."
Lalleshwari did not preach any hard and fast religion, she even disdained ritual. She projected a way of life quite in harmony with our cultural traditions, in which a happy amalgam was made of what was good in Buddhism, Hinduism and even Islam;-
"That transcendental-self may assume the names of Shiva, Visnu, Buddha or Brahma; I am concerned only With their efficacy in cutting asunder my worldly affections, which might be accomplished by any one of these."
Therefore, it follows from this, that she was not dogmatic or rigid either. She welcomed the healthy wafts of wind coming from any direction whatsoever, anointing her body and soul with chaste Divinity. She always kept the windows of her mind open, rejecting what was mundane and assimilating the sublime:-
"The Super- Lord is supervising His shop with personal care. All the aspirants are eager to take away wares of their liking. Whatever, you would elect to buy, does not admit of any intermediary; It is to be earned by your own effort, since the shop is devoid of any hindrance and even a watch is not kept over it."
This is the acme of Lalla's message. Man has been exhorted to seek his own self front within, without any external aids. Self-effort is precursor of self- education finally culminating in self-consciousness - Shiva - as she calls it.
As long as the silvery bellows of the Vitasta maintain their rejuvenating rhythm, as long as the virgin snow on the Himalayan heights retains its unblemished splendour and stature, the exquisite 'Vaks' of Lalleshwari soaked to the full in the inherent values of Kashmiri culture and human understanding will go on, unimpeded of course, in providing dignity to man to recognize his own self and not to run after deluding shadows; since the culture of a land never dies, the message of Lalla portraying meaningfully the humanistic attitudes ingrained in our culture, will never grow stale. Its fragrance and flavour are evergreen.
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