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A Journey into

Soulscape

Moin Qazi

Notion Press

5 Muthu Kalathy Street, Triplicane,

Chennai - 600 005

First Published by Notion Press 2014

Copyright © Moin Qazi 2014

All Right Reserved.

ISBN: 978-93-83808-46-5

This book has been published in good faith that the work of the author is original. All efforts have been taken to make the material error-free. However, the author and the publisher disclaim the responsibility.

No part of this book may be used, reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

A Christian Confederate Soldier’s Prayer

(A note said to have been found on a CSA casualty at the Devil’s Den, Gettysburg)

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.

I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health, that I might do greater things.

I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy.

I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.

I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.

I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for but got everything I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am, among all people, most richly blessed.

***

Until you have done something for humanity you should be ashamed to die

- Horace Mann

Let me say, at the risk of seeming ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by great feeling of love

- Che Guevara

He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.

- Samuel Johnson

There is no passion to be found playing small in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living

- Nelson Mandela

In loving memory of

my sister –Gazala–the bravest

and noblest of us all

Moin Qazi has doctorates in Economics and English literature and has spent more than three decades in the development sector working in poverty alleviation projects .He was a Visiting Fellow at the University of Manchester. He has also served on deputation to the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome and Ministry of Rural Development Government of Malaysia .He has authored four collections of poems for which he was awarded an Honorary DLitt at World Congress of Poets held at Istanbul. At college he was awarded the UNESCO World Politics Essay Gold Medal and the Gandhi Centenary Essay Gold Medal. He has contributed articles to Indian and foreign publications including The Times of India, Statesman, Indian Express, The Economic Times, The Hindu, Mainstream, Third World Features (Malaysia), SIDA Rapport (Sweden), Depth News (Philippines), Far Eastern Economic Review and Asia week (Hong Kong)

Contents

Title

Copyright

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Introduction

A Search For Man

The Greatest Art

Art of Living

The Dying Art of Service

The Finitude of the Human Mind

Art Of Happiness

Bliss Of Contentment

A Beacon For Guidance

A Journey Of Self-Discovery

Charity: The Noblest Virtue

Art Of Friendship

Mission Of Poetry

Compassion: The Marrow of Civilization

Adapting To A Changing World

Death : The Greatest Leveller

Human Values: Candles Of Civilization

Spiritual Sounds From Mystics And Troubadours

Sweet Are The Uses Of Adversity

The Art Of Forgiveness

Heroes Of Human Civilization

Moral Dilemma Of Man

Relevance of Philosophy

Hypocrisy Of Modern Man

The Power Of Solitude

The Price Of Development

Social Responsibility : A New Business Ethic

Freedom : The Most Precious Human Right

Truths To Live By

Radiance Of Mysticism

Acknowledgements

I would like to express my profound gratitude to the immediate circle of my family which made life richer through unstinting support, love, self–sacrifice and encouragement.

To my sister Gazala, to whom this book is dedicated, for her marvelous ideas, prescient mind, levelheadedness and inspiring conversations. She lives through every word of the book.

To my parents, Khaleda and Justice Mujibuddin Qazi, who inhabited my intellectual and moral universe with lots of love, ideas, inspiration and philosophies. They instilled rigorous discipline and embedded in me values which have made my life so much richer. They were anchors of strength and I can never thank them enough.

To my grandfather, Kazi Syed Karimuddin, an eminent parlia-mentarian and lawyer, who I was fortunate to live with for the first fifteen years of my life. He endowed me with tremendous insights that have illumined the dark and misty nooks in the corridors of my mind.

To my uncle, Qazi Syed Shahabuddin, for his unfailing calm, love and conscientiousness. He offered me comfort and support in my hours of need and always held out his hand to encourage me along. It was great to have him by my side

To my wife, Nahid, and sons, Salman and Wasim, who supported me with patience and endurance, in spite of all the time it took me away from them. They ungrudgingly tolerated my persistent absence from their lives. Without their support, the book would not exist.

To my lovely nieces and nephews whose enthusiastic and unfaltering support runs silently through each of the pages.

I have been extremely fortunate over the years to have had so many friends who taught me so much and who have supported me through thick and thin .I cannot name them all, and I would hate to forget someone, but they know who they are. All these people have given me just about everything that is important in life and I cannot quite think how to thank them for it all. Thanks to them for always surrounding me with their warmth, love and understanding

Introduction

This book is largely a result of notes compiled during the course of my studies and readings that straddled a vast canvas of life; spiritualism, academics, journalism, law, philosophy and literature. It is not a discourse, but is truly a journey into the soul, and an initiation. The pages of this book are a strange mixture of analytic thought, mysticism, literature, eastern philosophies, western thought, religions, the sciences, psychology and the arts. This book surely has its own window. But the window invites you to open your own windows to look through the prism of every human being so that we know, understand and appreciate each other better. I have drawn from a vast range of sources that span continents and cultures. What emerges is a kaleidoscopic canvas of shimmering stars of wisdom. The blazing radiance exuded by this constellation is what keeps the darkness from overwhelming us.

The central conversations of our times are: about wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, legitimacy of gay culture, the debate about gender neutrality and the temptations of power. The world is getting smaller; individual voices are getting louder. Economic creeds have overturned governments and inflamed the world; the philosophers who were once the shining knights have run away from the battlefronts, overwhelmed by the sheer monstrosity of the problems .The poignant drama unfolding in the world and the spate of problems it has brought in its trail is too complex to be comprehended by philosophers who could once summon all the sciences and direct them according to their commands. The comprehension of the paradoxes and perplexities of life now seem to be beyond the ken of their minds. Facts have supplanted understanding and knowledge is no longer able to generate wisdom. Every school of thought has contrived its own language of clichés and jargons understandable only by its exclusive devotees who jealously guard the entry of any new initiate. The civilization is getting defined by new emblems and metaphors. The cultural denudation has confronted us with a new macabre reality. The dignity of Truth has been derogated while wealth has been enthroned in regal splendor even while poverty grows as perniciously as ever. The philosopher is no longer the king. The world no longer belongs to him. He has been traumatized by a fusillade of gyrating issues. The utopian society envisioned by the philosopher has at best become a mirage.

The real issue is that everyone has retreated to the world of doublespeak. The virtue of humility is being used by man as a facade for masking his greedy face. People are putting on the costume of rebellion and change, speaking what is called code words to appear credible, jumping on the bandwagon without any interest in its destination. We are at an important intersection. Human knowledge has become too great for the human mind; every science has begotten a dozen more, each subtler than the rest. But even after this knowledge explosion, all that remains is the scientific specialist who knows more and more about less and less, and the philosophical speculator who knows less and less about more and more. To use the words of John Lennon, The more I see, the less I know for sure.

The purpose of this book is to provide tools to discover the real face hidden behind the facade of civility. My voice is too small and powerless to cause even a tiny ripple in an ocean droning at great velocity. But I would love to tread in a small way the fiery path of George Bernard Shaw:

I am, and always have been, a revolutionary writer, because our laws make law impossible; our liberties destroy all freedom; our property is organized robbery; our morality is an impudent hypocrisy; our wisdom is administered by inexperienced or mal-experienced dupes, our power wielded by cowards and weaklings, and our honor false in all its points. I am an enemy of the existing order for good reasons.

I have always been profoundly influenced by some of the highly poignant and eloquent words of the legendary poet Sir Muhammad Iqbal:

Be not entangled in this world of days and nights; Thou hast another time and space as well.

***

Nations are born in the hearts of poets; they prosper and die in the hands of politicians.

***

-When truth doesn’t burn it remains philosophy, when it starts burning it becomes poetry.

We are faced with a constant struggle with the moral, material, social, cultural religious, spiritual and political complexities and oddities of an ever and rapidly changing society. The time is approaching when the esoteric knowledge and the maps of the unconscious, of the eastern mystics, accumulated over centuries, would deluge the west, which is now a spiritual desert. While the west has been developing its technological prowess, the mystics have developed a sophisticated type of inner technology, their practices a way of moving towards self-realization.

The book is actually about setting out and travelling the paths of the heart, the mind and the imaginary. In a world so full of different viewpoints, how can we find peace in our shared humanity? This book takes you on a journey to discover the profound truths that bind us all together .I have tried to explore the universal ideas such as love, respect, truth and tolerance, and examined questions such as how men and women relate to each other. The spiritual quest is an interior journey, it is a psychic path. Very often priests, rabbis, imams, and shamans are just as consumed by worldly ambition as regular seekers of material possessions. But all this is generally seen as an abuse of a sacred ideal. These power struggles are not what religion is really about, but an unworthy distraction from the life of the spirit, which is conducted far from the madding crowd, unseen, silent and unobtrusive. Indeed, in many faiths, monks and mystics lock themselves away from the world, to contemplate on the mysteries of the cosmos. They shun away the clamour and strife of history which is regarded as incompatible with a truly religious life.

Life has meaning as Browning reminds us and to find its meaning is my meat and drink. We are like Mitya in The Brothers Karamazov one of those who don’t want millions, but an answer to their questions but the mart of daily economic strife keeps pulling us down from our philosophic perches. We keep reinforcing our ideals with Nietzsche’s words, He who has a why to live for can bear almost anyhow. To be a philosopher, emphasised Thoreau, is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live, according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. We may be sure that if we can but find wisdom, all things else will be added unto us. Seek ye first the good things of the mind, Bacon admonishes us, and the rest will either be supplied or its loss will not be felt. Truth may not make us rich, but it will certainly make us free. That is the capstone of our inherited wisdom.

It is futile to dream of a monistic life, adrift from the whirl of society. We have to work in a group because it helps us in testing and retesting our perspective. In this endless process there is a constant rejection of the dross, and a constant retention of whatever is pure and sound and fine.With age comes wisdom, and now I increasingly realise that reason must prevail over emotions. We have to make a few hard choices that may go against the grain of our conscience which has been shaped by the eternally held cherished values. People may give lots of advice -- that positive thinking and big dreams can help us accomplish great tasks. But one has to bow before the altar of destiny and realise that we have to navigate our ambitions within the realms of divine will. Each one of us has a moral compass that shows us the limits of our talents and abilities. I think that is a more accurate and authentic guide than the barometer of public advice. I have always been in solidarity with the wretched of the earth. We have already seen how ghastly the talk of the think positive mantra is. The American financial crisis is just one catastrophic example of this over fatigued philosophy.

One realization for each one of us is that religion is something so sublime that it can give meaning and context to our lives. At the same time it can be a cause of incessant strife and intolerance. There have been fierce warriors as well as great champions among devoted members of each religion. Both the patrons of war and peace and tolerance and intolerance belong to the same religions, and may remain true believers without being a contradiction. There has ever been an inscrutable mystery about the origin of man and the cosmos, and the enigma of life and death. The mystery is as baffling today in the space age as it ever was in the past millennia.

However spiritual their aspirations, religious people have to seek God or the sacred in the world. They feel they have a duty to bring their ideals to bear upon society. Even if they lock themselves away, they are inescapably men and women of their time and affected by what goes on outside the monastery, although they do not fully realize this. Wars, plagues, famines, strife, conflicts, economic recession, internal politics of their nations and the massive levels of public corruption will intrude upon their cloistered existence and qualify their religious vision. Everyone has to finally acknowledge the truth of Tagore’s wisdom and vision:

Leave this chanting and singing and telling of beads! Whom dost thou worship in this lonely dark corner of a temple with doors all shut? Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee!

He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground and where the path maker is breaking stones. He is with them in sun and in shower, and his garment is covered with dust. Put off thy holy mantle and even like him come down on the dusty soil!

All religions and all philosophies take a natural interest in the question of time. It is perhaps the experience of passing time that gives consciousness access to life’s first questions about life. Life is there, time is there and life passes away. The question of time shapes an awareness of death. The awareness of death is reflected in and reflects the essence of existence, its origins and future, and the meaning of destiny and hope. The three basic philosophical questions formulated by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant clearly relate the awareness of time to the existential quest: What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope for? The very last question embodies the others and has much to do with our times?

Educating the heart, the mind and the imagination in order to train ourselves to see better, hear better, perceive better and understand better is one of the requirements of the autonomy and freedom that lie at the heart of modernity, of advanced technologies and of the globalization of the means of communication . We lack in confidence. Confidence in ourselves, confidence in God, confidence in man, or confidence in the future. Fear, doubt, phobia and mistrust are imperceptibly colonizing our hearts and minds. We have to get back to some elementary truths. Simple, profound truths. We have to set out on a new journey, ask ourselves the same essential questions we have been taught to ask in our nursery age and look for meanings. Our parents had already resolved our dilemmas ,but we have messed up the whole simple issue by our arrogance our so perceived superior intelligence .We have to now travel inwards, and to relearn and restate the truth. We have to foster an attitude of intellectual modesty and humility. Every human being must realize that he needs to take stock of what he or she is, of his or her beliefs, certainties and contradictions, conviction and self-doubt and of the freedoms and prisons of both his and of those who surround him. We need to have a philosophy of introspection, a faith, morality or religion, the practice of initiation or self denial; in any case we have to make a choice. If we do not, life will someday force us to question our choice. Reality as Wallace Stevens has said, is a cliché from which we escape by metaphor.

The tragedies of history often goad people into the spiritual quest, in order to find some ultimate spiritual meaning in what often seems to be a succession of random, arbitrary and dispiriting incidents. There is a symbiotic relationship between history and religion. It is, as Buddha remarked, our perception that existence is awry .It forces us to find an alternative which will prevent us from falling into despair.

I have tried, through this collection of essays, to open the minds of people to a new view of humanity. Instead of sitting and lamenting over the way the world agonizes and antagonizes us , I decided to put my experiences to an exercise in spiritualism .Speaking out, I felt, would relieve me uncrate the load of agitated thoughts and emotions. I take refuge in the words of the legendary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz:

Speak, this brief hour is long enough

Before the death of body and tongue:

Speak, ‘cause the truth is not dead yet,

Speak, speak, whatever you must speak.

My parents were erudite scholars of classics and made it a habit to read out to their children anecdotes and passages from books and their meticulously compiled notes. My father was a legal luminary, riveting orator and a strong tempered individual with a quicksilver mien that kept me always on tenterhooks. My mother was an outstanding student of philosophy and classical languages, particularly Persian which has a goldmine of vintage wisdom. This combination made for a veritable feast for any hungry mind. The wisdom I gleaned under their mentorship and in their intellectual company provided abundant sustenance for both my spirit and soul. A vital link in the informal nursery we shared under the sage like shadow of our parents was my sister Gazala who was intrinsically endowed with rare talents and unique insights into the human psyche. She abandoned a brilliant career in medicine after she lost her kidneys and devoted herself to the task of stocking a library of books and notes of the best works in philosophy, literature, religion and spiritualism. The defining characteristic of this informal effort was the richness of resources on classical literature and philosophy gleaned through years of her travel with her parents. During these travels, part spiritual and part medical, she would interact with a vast array of scholars with whom she would always schedule long conversations whenever she had to travel to cities for her treatment. While battling her ailment, she sought hope in knowledge and wisdom. She built and bequeathed an abiding legacy which continues to illumine the dark and misty nooks in the minds of her siblings and cousins. Each of her collection is an heirloom that moves through our family tree. I found in this armoury of wisdom a much superior tool to cope with work life issues than all my academic books and years of learning at so many universities and great business schools.

My parents infused in me the belief in the power of destiny and, over the years, it has become an ingrained conviction for me that a Supreme Being presides over this amphitheatre of men and nations. They thought about many things over the years, but one thing they kept returning to was culture and social change, and how one might help create the other the world around filled them with remorse but they showed grit and tenacity and eternal vigilance. In one of the poems of the poet to whom I keep going back for guidance, Sir Muhammad Iqbal, there is an exhortation to a praying person that even though his prayers might not change his destiny, it can change his spiritual attitude by bringing him into touch with the Absolute Reality:

Your prayer is that your destiny be changed

My prayer is that you yourself be changed

We have always been reminded by our teachers that fortune favours the brave. If we want to see the power of this old lesson, we must live out our lives in the spirit that glows through Jack London’s resonant Credo:

I would rather be ashes than dust!

I would rather that my spark should burn out

in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.

I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom

of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.

The function of man is to live, not to exist.

I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.

I shall use my time.

I have learnt from my readings over the years as also from personal experiences that one can be modern while at the same time remaining rooted to one’s traditions. I can laugh at and understand the attraction of the western world yet stay true to my own inheritance .I know the newest, trashiest films but also keep in touch with the wizened Imam. I am moved as much by the magical lyrics of Keats as by the serene cadences of the Quran. I have been enlightened as much by the profundity of western thought as by the resonance of eastern wisdom. I have been enchanted as much by the melody of western music as by the symphony of spiritual sounds of mystics. I am as sensitive to the sublime questions of faith and morality as to the utterly practical and mundane and quotidian questions of daily economic survival.

With a vast corpus of wisdom I have picked up from the books on my shelves, I keep mulling over the words of again my favorite poet Faiz:

… this is not the morning we’d fought for,

In whose eager quest, all comrades

Had set out, hoping that somewhere

In the wilderness of the sky

Would emerge the ultimate destination of stars …

The Quranic Verse of Light has always symbolized for me the immanence of the Lord and reading and rereading it has unleashed my power of imagination. It has inspired epic poems, profound thought and philosophies, arts and great cultural innovations. Each metaphor in the verse has produced a trajectory of its own, leading the believers to explore new heights of imagination. The light that God casts in our bosom is the key to letting our imagination soar like a parachute:

God is the Light of the heavens and the earth;

The likeness of His Light is like a niche in which is a lamp

The lamp in a glass

The glass like a shimmering star

Kindled from a Blessed Tree,

An olive, neither of the East nor of the West

Its oil almost aglow, though untouched by fire

Light upon light

(The Holy Quran)

Moin Qazi

f

A Search For Man

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

—Rumi

The happiness of the drop is to die in the river.

—Abu Hamid al-Ghazali

When you realize the difference between the container and the content, you will have knowledge

— Idries Shah, Book of the Book

I will not serve God like a labourer, in expectation of my wages.

Rabia- el-Adawia

The great 13th century mystic Jalaluddin Rumi once came across a wizened and old man who was frantically searching something in broad daylight with the help of a lantern. Rumi felt he must enquire about this crazy man’s dilemma Could I help you? he asked him in a sympathetic tone. I am fed up with this pack of savage men around me. They have made life wretched and miserable. I am totally disenchanted and heartbroken. I am in search of someone who is true to his conscience and lives by those eternal values which we all have cherished for ages, replied the old man, his voice quavering in rage. Rumi was not the least ruffled by the venerable man’s dilemma .A wizened sage with vast metaphysical powers, he tried to calm him: let me tell you that your search will be in vain. It is like trying to locate a needle in a haystack. What you are searching for will never come your way. I can understand the wrench in your heart. Rumi was himself convinced that virtuous living had become a rarity and human values had lost their sanctity. He commiserated with the poor old man in his distress.

Rumi’s famous verse goes like this:

Sufi, why are you standing before the door?

What are you looking for?

I am looking, my friend,

For what is impossible to find:

I am looking for a man.

Look in our own heart, says the Sufi for the kingdom of God is within you. He who truly knows himself knows God, for the heart is a mirror in which every divine quality is reflected. But just as a steel mirror when coated with rust loses its power of reflexion, so the inward spiritual sense, which Suficalls the eye of the heart, is blind to the celestial glory until the dark obstruction of the phenomenal self, with all its sensual contaminations, has been wholly cleared away. The clearance, if it is to be done effectively, must be the work of God, though it demands a certain inward co-operation on the part of man. Whosoever shall strive for Our sake, We will guide him into Our ways (Quran. 29, .69). Action is false and vain, if it is thought to proceed from one’s self, but the enlightened mystic regards God as the real agent in every act, and therefore takes no credit for his good works nor desires to be recompensed for them.

We have a similar story of the Greek philosopher, Diogenes, who used to walk around in daytime carrying a lighted lantern. When asked the reason, he would say, I am searching an honest man. To avoid all material provisions, Diogenes lived in a tub. He had a wooden bowl from which to drink, but he broke that on seeing a boy drink from his cupped hands. Hearing of his fame for virtue and simplicity, one day the great king Alexander decided to visit him.

Alexander came and stood opposite him and said, I am Alexander the great king. And I, said he, am Diogenes the cynic. When someone was extolling the good fortune and splendour a person had experienced in sharing the suite of Alexander, Diogenes wryly remarked, Not so, but rather ill fortune – for he breakfasts and dines when Alexander thinks fit.

Alexander stood opposite him and asked, Are you not afraid of me? Why, what are you, said Diogenes, a good thing or a bad? Alexander replied, A good thing. Whereupon Diogenes said, Who, then, is afraid of the good? At another time Diogenes was sunning himself when Alexander stood over him and said, Ask of me any boon you like, and, I shall grant it. To which he replied, Stand out of my light.

Alexander is reported to have said, Had I not been Alexander, I should have liked to be Diogenes. As it turned out, both Diogenes and Alexander died on the same day in 323 B.C. Alexander was 33 and Diogenes was 90.

Diogenes is the subject of numerous apocryphal stories, one of which depicts his behaviour upon being sold into slavery. He declared that his trade was that of governing men and was appointed tutor to his master’s sons. Tradition ascribes to him the famous search for an honest man conducted in broad daylight with a lighted lantern. Almost certainly forced into exile from Sinope with his father, he had probably already adopted his life of asceticism (Greek askesis, training) when he reached Athens. Referred to by Aristotle as a familiar figure there, Diogenes began practicing extreme anti-conventionalism. He made it his mission to deface the currency, perhaps meaning to put false coin out of circulation. That is, he sought to expose the falsity of most conventional standards and beliefs and to call men back to a simple, natural life.

For Diogenes, the simple life meant not only disregard of luxury but also disregard of laws and customs of organized, and therefore conventional, communities. The family was viewed as an unnatural institution to be replaced by a natural state in which men and women would be promiscuous and children would be the common concern of all. Though Diogenes himself lived in poverty, slept in public buildings, and begged his food, he did not insist that all men should live in the same way but merely intended to show that happiness and independence were possible even under reduced circumstances.

The program for life advocated by Diogenes began with self-sufficiency, or the ability to possess within oneself all that one needs for happiness. A second principle, shamelessness, signified the necessary disregard for those conventions, holding that actions harmless in themselves may not be performed in every situation. To these Diogenes added outspokenness, an uncompromising zeal for exposing vice and conceit and stirring men to reform. Finally, moral excellence is to be obtained by methodical training, or asceticism.

Throughout the passage of history, we find human civilization threatened time and again by the rise of the satanic spirit in man which would rub off, albeit temporarily, the angelic element in him. But there were always bands of honest and selfless men whose spiritual flame kept the candle of civilization burning. They were endowed with abundance of wisdom which helped them distinguish the eternal verities of life from its passing fads.

The wise Rumi gave his verdict in an age when society had still not sunk to the abysmal depths of moral decay that we witness today. The rapid erosion of human character, the degeneration of moral values and the narrowing orbit of spirituality have sapped the society of its most precious element — the moral fibre. There could be no greater tragedy for man than the thinning away of this marrow of human civilization. Even a great scientist like Einstein has emphasised: the moral imperative is not a matter for church and religion alone, but the most precious traditional possession of all mankind.

Fairness and honesty no longer remains a beacon for man in his journey of life. Even as