The bird’s favorite songs you do not hear
For their most flamboyant music takes place
When their wings are stretched
Above the trees. And they are smoking the opium
Of pure freedom. It is healthy for the prisoner
To have faith
That one day he will again move about
Wherever he wants
Feel the wondrous grit of life
Find all wounds, debts stamped,
I once asked a bird:
“How is that you fly
In the gravity of darkness?”
“Love lifts me.”
(Hafiz of Shiraz)
Here it is a very beautiful hymn by the great Sufi poet Hafiz, from Shiraz, in Persia. My Satguru Kirpal Singh Ji used to say that two crazy ones will have so much to say about any one matter. It means so many contradictions, controversies and egoistic expressions. But a thousand sages, if they are asked, regarding any one subject, will all give more or less the same answer, even if expressed in their own language and style. Therefore if we read the teaching of all the great mystics of any tradition, we find that they all agree about some essential and fundamental teachings.
One of the main themes of all the realized Masters, is in fact, “love”. Obviously the love that the ordinary people recognize, is the physical love, the sensual love, the one that happens between two human beings. Yes this form of love is important for the human being, because through it he may have a taste of what may be the unconditional love, the selfless, the dispassionate and platonic love, which, is not born in the body or dies in it, but happens in the spirit, and is directed towards the Supreme Spirit that is our Origin. When the human being develops a total, spasmodic, dominating love for the Spring of Life, then all the fragile loves, the temporal, unfaithful and illusory ones fly away towards the unsubstantial nothing.
Then we understand that the friendship towards humans, the love for the husband or wife of one’s life, for one’s children, even when authentic and true, is nothing but a pale reflection of the divine love that one may develop for God or one’s Master, instrument of the Divine. It is that Divine love that has to find a channel through which it can express itself, through which it may flow and come to us.
Yes, for sure, in some period or moment we may feel a direct love for our intimate essence, a spontaneous pull upwards, in which we are filled with longing, yearning, and dominating passion for that inexhaustible spring of life in us. But life is long and complex, and there may be long periods in which we may feel completely cut away or far away from all of this. If in these periods (that sometimes may last for years) we do not have a Master in human form who’s expression of grace, and who, through His example and contagious love, infuse in us hope, courage and spiritual influence, how will we be able to survive so much aridity?
So love for the Divine is fundamental, but we must admit that it is extremely difficult to realize and keep it. To be able to go on the spiritual journey is of paramount importance, the inspiration, the example, and transmission that comes from somebody who has cultivated this great love for the all of life and has become His direct channel of distribution.
On the other hand it is not by chance that the great Maulana Rumi used to say that half an hour spent in the company of a saint is worth much more than fifty years of continuous efforts on our own. Why? Because on our own we will never be able to develop that spiritual power that suddenly uplifts the consciousness, while in the Master’s presence, if the right attitude is there, it suddenly happens.
Therefore on this occasion we are examining a hymn of the great Sufi Master Hafiz. First of all who was Hafiz? He lived in Iran, in the city of Shiraz where He became a renowned Master. If you happen to go to Shiraz you will find a big mausoleum dedicated to this particular Master. He became a disciple of Muhammad Attar, who also lived in Shiraz. It is said that there was a long association among the two which lasted forty years. Attar was also a poet who inspired his disciple to imitate him in this quality. He told him he had to write a poem every day, and when they met he should read it to him. Yes - in fact they met every day for forty years. Every good disciple that has the good luck to live near the Master would like by any means to have his precious darshan and he would never let a day go by without going to the Master and meditating with Him and having some glances of love divine.
But how many will be able to have that perseverance, the clear consciousness as to be able to meet the Master’s eyes without feeling unease. By and by, a true and special disciple like Hafiz could do this. Would they not be able to do this, those disciples who want only to take something from the Master and never be ready to give anything back, those who are dishonest, unfaithful, and only want to take advantage of His infinite goodness. Would they not be able to do it, those who walk with one foot in two shoes and, besides having the relation with the Master, are dominated by dogmas and absurd doctrines — manipulators and falsifiers of the religion in which they are born, or of any other religion.
The perspective of a true Master who has gone all the way on the mystic path and those from the institutionalized religions — expert manipulators of the popular credulity and ignorance of the masses —is diametrically opposite. The Master concentrates on the essential, which is the practice of the inner meditation, the singing of the holy hymns composed by the Master, the selfless service of any kind to the Master’s cause, developing love for Him and our divine essence, the formation of man. The Master has no dogmas by which He might confuse us. He will not fill up our head with strange beliefs on the beyond. He will not make an inviolable and unquestionable map of the inner worlds. He will not frighten us with the terror of hell, nor will He delude us with promise of an amazing astral paradise. Moreover He will not tell us absurd stories about the founder of the religion in which He or we may be born, to place Him above all others and make us believe we be superior to all others. The Master is one who has seen the Truth/Reality with His own eyes and He has understood very well how things are. He has clearly seen that all the religions are a heap of theological debris and dogmas which make it impossible for one to have the direct perception of Reality that is possible only when we are able to free our mind from all those so called wastes. The direct perception of Reality that comes only when we are able to completely free our mind from all schemes, from all beliefs, from all social and cultural habits, from all thoughts, and we are able to reach the no-mind, absence of thought, the supreme quietness, and the deepest peace. Then the Truth will reveal to us, in our own way, completely original and personal — a unique experience, which will only be ours and can not be reproduced by anyone.
To show you what I am talking about I want to tell you about a story that Sant Ajaib Singh narrated the first time He came here to our Ashram in 1980, during His first Satsang. He knew very well what kind of people were listening to Him so He wanted to make clear the difference in following a religion and a living Master.
The story tells us about two seekers after Truth that went to ask for Initiation from Sheikh Shibli (a Sufi Saint from India). The Master made them sit in a room and told them to go to Him one at a time. The one that was mostly impregnated with beliefs and dogmas of the Islamic faith went in, and the Master suddenly understood what kind of person stood in front of Him, thus he said to him,
“Well, dear one, sit down, what are you looking for and what do you want from me?”
The seeker said he wanted to become his disciple and follow the Islamic faith. Then the Master told him,
“If you want to become my disciple then you have to repeat, ‘There is only one God, Allah, and Sheikh Shibli is His Prophet.”
When that person heard such an affirmation he was suddenly caught by anxiety and fear of betraying his own religion which says that Yes - there is only one God, Allah, but His own Prophet is and ever will be Mohammed. Consequently this Shibli can’t be any other than a false one who idolizes himself. So taken up by panic he said,
“I repent, I repent.”
Soon after, Shibli Ji also said,
“I repent, I repent.”
Then He asked the seeker,
“Why do you repent?”
He said he repented for going to a man who was swearing, by saying he was the Prophet of Allah when such a title is only to be given to Mohammed. Then he asked Shibli Ji,
“Why do you repent?”
Shibli Ji said,
“I repent because I was going to put the immense wealth of Initiation in an immature and inappropriate person.”
It must be said that that poor fellow left the Master’s presence with an upturned and angry mind. After this meeting he went on talking against the Sheikh and making for himself a very heavy karma, which can not but fall sooner or later on the head of whosoever criticizes a true servant of God.
One should never and for no reason criticize a Mahatma, a Great Soul, because the punishment which we will incur, sooner or later, will be extremely severe: our life could become a real disaster. If we are not able to follow the teachings of a Master and we find ourselves in disagreement with His sayings on any matter, it is better to say that it is no longer our story, and go back to our original religion safe with the big flock, but without criticizing in an irreverent way whatever the Master says. An ordinary person can never understand the depth of thought and Truth of a Master. It would be like the drop that wants to measure the ocean, like a candle that wants to question the light of the sun, like a new born baby that wants to understand the why and where of his parents doings. It is simply impossible! Therefore, if our limitations do not allow us to accept the teachings of a living Master, better to stay in our official religion and be happy with that.
Well, there came the turn of the second person who had gone to see Shibli Ji in order to receive from Him the inner contact and the spiritual transmission that happens during Initiation, when it is given by somebody who has been commissioned by his Master and God to do so. Sheikh Shibli Ji had been authorized by His Master to give Initiation.
He was an authentic Master of His time, and consequently he was a real Prophet of God. So when he found himself in front of the second seeker, he soon understood that he was ready — thus he told him,
“Dear son, sit down here and repeat: ‘There is only one God, Allah and Mohammed is His Prophet.”
When the person heard that sentence that so many times he had heard being said by the Mullahs, and which had, for him, lost all meaning, he started crying, and he went on weeping in an uncontrollable way. With much effort Shibli Ji was able to make him stop, and when he eventually quietened down He asked him,
”Why were you crying?”
He told him that he had heard that sentence so many times, and that he did not go to him to hear the same kind of stuff again, and that he was hoping to hear something different. So he got up to go away but the Sheikh stopped him and told Him,
“Dear son, it was only a test, in order to see how much you are a true seeker, free from stiff and rusty beliefs. Now I will give you the Holy Initiation, by which you will see that God is in me as well as I am in Him and we both are within you.”
Satguru Kirpal used to say that to be born in a temple may be a blessing, but to die in it is definitely unlucky. By this He meant that in the beginning we may well look into the religion we are born in, or any other, but to continue for all of our life in those doctrinal limitations and absurd dogmas is like being imprisoned all lifelong.
Every religion, to place themselves above all others would have to say: Our founder Master was born on a lotus in the middle of a pond, the other one had an immaculate fecundation, and the other one again, at his death, dissolved his body into nothingness. This one was born from a virgin (who already had some other children), etc. These are all tales that magnify one’s story endlessly and make the unaware ones believe that “We are the best of all! No one is better than us!”.
Now, if long ago, people that were often illiterate and unaware about how things really are, could believe such absurd things, that is fine, because in the past people used to believe in myths and legends, and the scientific truths were not understood. But, to continue to believe in such things in this time, is really surprising! How many graduates and well learned people could still believe in such stories, is really a mystery.
After spending twenty-five years in the company of two of the greatest living Masters of our time, I have been able to see that these beliefs are really the popular and non-essential parts of religion — that part which creates conflicts and no unity. That which is at the base of every religion, that which unites them and brings them close, is their mystical and esoteric side. It means the essential side. Basically, as far as this is concerned, they are all more or less looking for an inner contact with the all-pervading Spirit of God and through several meditation techniques want to create that deepest inner quietness to put out or extinguish the thinking process and step in a state of no mind, or absence of mind, therefore, Illumination.
While speaking about the life of Hafiz, we were saying he kept his Master Company for forty years and that daily he used to go to see him. Therefore anyone could come to the conclusion that their relationship was idyllic, and that between them there was never any tension — that Hafiz was always humble, respectful and submitted to the will and teaching of his Master. Well, thinking it could be thus, is the very childish belief of an inexperienced person, as conflicts must of necessity come in the relationship between a Master and his disciple.
If the disciple were so humble and free from the disgusting ego, just as disgusting as in the majority of people, then there could be little or no need to go in the company of a Master. Well, in the relation with a Master there is so much to learn, so much pruning is needed because the branches of our ego are so thick that they endlessly go in all possible directions. Therefore it is said that Mohammed Attar was a very stern and demanding person who often did not show any mercy towards Hafiz. Sometimes modern Masters have taken Hafiz as an example to show how difficult and complicated it may be to serve an authentic spiritual Master. If you go to a so called master who asks for payment for his spiritual work, then he will be very careful not to hurt your ego so that you won’t go away, in case he may lose his wages. But a true Master who does not care about your money will want to transform you from a heap of ego, into people of baffling humility and an incredible spiritual strength, which comes from the total surrender to the Divine. In this process the ego of the disciple is shattered, or as Hafiz used to say, “It is made into pieces, or made into dust.” Anyway, because of His greatness, Hafiz went every day to see his Master and allowed him to cause within him the change and the transformation whatever the cost. It is said that Hafiz broke his head at his Master’s door, day after day, for forty years.
Therefore what does he telling us in this beautiful hymn?
The bird’s favorite songs
You do not hear
For their most flamboyant music takes place
When their wings are stretched
Above the trees
And they are smoking the opium
Of pure freedom.
Higher and still higher the soul will fly whenever it will be able to free itself from the clutches of mind and matter and will go towards the land of the pure ones, which land is not, but resplendent space, where vibrates the seed of a new and true life. Where there is only Truth and there is not the least trace of falsity. What a pure freedom, in fact, a freedom which dazzles much more than opium or any other intoxicant may do, because we become free from all the covers that darken the brightness of the soul, the physical, astral and causal. These are the trees that we leave well behind (like Hafiz Ji says here), and the songs that the birds (the souls) emit, in the rarefied air of those heights, we mortals and materialists cannot hear because it happens in a dimension which is not ours.
Certainly, conditions altogether incomprehensible to the coarse humans who make their mind and consciousness burdened with alcohol, drugs and putrefied foods like meat of any kind. Meat begins to putrefy as soon as the animal is brutally killed. Moreover the cells of this poor creature will be full and saturated with the terror which she experiences while waiting to be killed.
Just imagine being on a truck which is taking you to the gallows, then to be waiting on a line to be butchered while you see in front of you those before you already being killed and cut into pieces, how would you feel? What kind of terror will take over your emotions and your mind, and how will your cells be in that state? Obvious, isn’t it?! They will be saturated with the poison of free radicals and of terror. And what will transmit (let us suppose) from their flesh to those who would eat it? I fully believe that all of their fear and terror will go into our own cells. They will be fed with terror which in the long run will make those who consume the meat very fearful people — just like, full of fear, our society, hyper-protected and hyper-insured. Pure paradox, irony. There is no society in the whole world that is so safe, protected, insured, well to do or wealthy, as in the west (Europe and United States), and still there is no other society in the whole world so full of fear and hypochondria, terrorized by every possible thing, frail, and full of obsessions of all kinds like the ones just mentioned. Did you ever ask why? I am positive that the kind of diet we were talking about earlier is the main cause, as no doubt ’’we are what we eat’’! Moreover the law of life wants that when something is pushed to the extremes (security, certainty), what we get is just the opposite i.e. the chaos.
If you have ever been in India, and you have been travelling by bus or by taxi, you may have seen how the Indians are fearless. But they are not reckless because they are crazy, they are such because their attitude towards life is less fearful. And they know how to dare. They are able to challenge the eventuality.
Those who are drivers are very poor people. I think they do not even have insurance, but anyway, they know how to dare — they are not fearful. This is just an example, but the general attitude of the Asiatic people is less inhibited, less fearful, just because they do not possess much, therefore they are not much possessed.
Consequently the aim of human life is to become capable of flying very high just like eagles, and not to drag along the ground like snakes or lizards, or to just be able to rise upwards a little bit like sparrows. No! The great souls, who are always precious and rare in this world are like a cuckoo bird who flies high, and who from time to time emits his melodious song which fills up all the valley! Sparrows there are plenty! eagles and cuckoo birds are really few.
It is healthy for the prisoner to have faith that
one day he will again move about wherever he wants,
feel the wondrous grit of life less structured.
Find all wounds, debts stamped canceled, paid.
Nevertheless, here Hafiz Ji transmits to us much and tells us about the sound attitude to have towards the happenings of life.
Faith and hope are certainly of much help in succeeding to transform the facts of life. Here we again go back to the eternal question about free will. Has man the capacity to interfere with the facts of life or, is it already all written (fixed). It is definitely wise to think that eventually everything will be fine and we will be free from all the troubles of life, all the impediments, all the wounds, debts etc., and we will be able to fly high everywhere, completely free from the clutches of Karma and life in general.
Hafiz Ji ensures us that it is possible, and that it is right and just to think this way and have this attitude, therefore, thinking in a positive way, and cultivating positive thinking since everything is born in thought.
In fact Hazur Kirpal used to say, “As you think so you become, and thus your reality becomes.” Therefore we can continuously mold our destiny, and this capacity to mold it is directly related to the capacity to control our mind and direct our thinking. Therefore the capacity of free will of a great man (when I say man, I mean the human being — man or woman) who has acquired a conscious control over his thoughts, is completely different from the capacity of those who are completely dominated by their thoughts and are unable to direct them in any way.
More meditation, more Simran, will bring more minute control over our thoughts, and consequently, we will have more free will. Therefore fatalism and free will are not the same for everyone. Everyone builds up either, according to the amount of self-control he/she is able to develop.
It is clear that when we have acquired this absolute faith in our Cosmic Friend, and a complete surrender to His ever wise will, our karmic debt will be completely eliminated, paid, and we will be free from this endless chain of cause and effect, action and reaction.
I asked once a bird,
“How is it that you fly in this gravity
Of darkness?” She responded,
“Love lifts me.”
Thus the ordinary man askes why some rare beings are able to rise above the troubles and the limits of life and become free souls? A legitimate question! I would say that it is right to wonder if it is at all possible to succeed. In fact if we look around, we find people who are completely, or partially, slaves of themselves and of the events of life. Disgraces, everywhere falsity, hypocrisy, and unfairness. The powerful who want to annihilate the weak ones, the rich ones who want to become richer and richer by sucking the blood of the poor people, and to use their power to make a social structure completely dominated by all those factors which they have under their control. They act as if they were good people. They present themselves as if they were the fighters for freedom — good souls involved in saving the nation and the world. But under this simulated appearance they are poisonous cobras, predatory animals, greedy ones — never getting enough power.
Thus, how is it possible that in the gravity of this world there may be a rare bird that is able to fly high? How did he succeed? It seems altogether impossible!
Nevertheless the answer given by the bird is clear and baffling. She says: If you think I have been so good as to succeed, you are certainly wrong. It has been the love which has surrounded me completely, has pervaded me from within by making me like a balloon inflated with oxygen. Then, and then only I have been able to fly. Nay, not at all, I did not fly (very important detail) I have been raised high! It has been the great longing for our Origin which allowed me to fly. First this love has taken possession of my heart and of my thoughts, then, after yearning in a spasmodic way, union with Truth/Reality, happened.
Thus love is the key to life. Master Isha (or Jesus, as we say in the west), used to say that God is love and that only by loving the all of life, with no distinctions, will we be able to know God. Isn’t it clear? If we have always known lakes, rivers and seas and we have never seen the fire, how will we understand this other element if anyone mentions it to us? The closest we can get to is to imagine hot water, but of the pure red flames and the tongues of fire, which rise again and again, and then fall down, we will have no idea at all.
So the love we have to develop must be a true love, respectful and selfless. A love which you can give with no reserve, which gives without ever asking anything in return, which allows us to sacrifice ourselves with joy, to help all the sentient beings to evolve and become free from the clutches of the empty life in which everyone lives. Only this way we will be raised high to the white peak of the Holy Mount of the Inviolable, beyond the border of the physical, astral and causal worlds.
In this hymn of the great Master Hafiz Ji we have been reading inspiring words and elevated considerations. He has inspired us in a positive way, full of faith and certitude that we will succeed — that it is possible to fly high to the maximum perfection if we allow the wings of love to take us over there. If we get rid of all of our materiality and egotist grossness we will become light, like a feather, and nothing will be able to prevent us from floating in the air.
All of this work begins and ends with meditation: So You come to the next retreat where you’ll have a good opportunity to find again a contact with whatever best is inside us.
Siri Wahe Guru.