STUDY OF PAGLA KANAI’S MYSTICISM: A CRITICAL APPROACH This paper seeks to focus on the study of Pagla Kanai’s mysticism, attempting to study his mysticism in terms of Pagla Kanai’s works and principles he followed in his life, poetic practice, songs and activities as an ascetic. Kanai hailed from Jhenidah, then a subdivision of the greater district of Jessore. Jessore and Kushtia have traditionally been known as the central province of mystic thought in Bangladesh. Many folk-poets and mystic devotees, like Lalon Shah (1772-1890), Dudu Shah (18411911), Panju Shah (1851-1914), Zaharaddi Shah, Edu Biswas, Gagan Harkara (1840?-1910?), Goshai Ramlal (1846-1894), were born in this region. Their songs upheld a type of nonsectarian and mystic religion by way of oral tradition from generation to generation. And this adoration for mystic lifestyle and songs seem to construct Kanai’s mind – a mind with full of questions regarding life, world, body, self and creation that possibly tended Kanai to become a mystic. Kanai appears to inject into his songs a certain celebration of the freedom of body, soul and language. Most of the songs reveal the theme of love, equality and humanity. His songs are varied in thematic approach and his lifestyle seems to be influenced by a number of tenets. But the examples drawn from his life and songs Kanai seems to have created his own notion of life, world, body, self and creation and this study will try to understand the process in which Kanai looks at things that tend him to appear a mystic. Mysticism a term eluding clear-cut definition denotes a variety from individual to individual and from one religion to another. Even it may be non-religious in its nature and scope. Nevertheless, there are some general categories underlying various systems prevailing in the world from time immemorial. Mysticism suggests that somehow all things are one and share a holy, divine and single entity [Encyclopaedia of Religion, vol.10: 245-48]. It imbibes a belief that there is underlying unity behind all diverse things. This sense of cosmic totality is to be felt in a special state of consciousness that transcends day-to day reality. Again, the experience of this underlying unifying principle is private, incommunicable, nontheoretical and very often transient. Says Capra: “Absolute knowledge is thus an entirely non-intellectual experience of reality, an experience arising in a non-ordinary state of consciousness (1983:37)”. Comments Happold: “it is possible for a man, if he so desires and is prepared to make the necessary effort, to identify himself with his true self and so with the Divine Ground, which is of the same or like nature” (1977: 20). The mystics will go farther and assert that to find out his true self and identify himself with it is the main purpose of man’s earthly life. This will enable him to have an intuitive knowledge of the Divine Source, which is only another name for Truth. In nature mysticism, the subject feels himself merged with a universal self and finally no subject-object dichotomy exists between him and the other world. In religious mysticism, this sense of cosmic totality is identified as the God or Supreme Being, the creator the ultimate and the absolute (Radhakrishnan 1982:249). Kanai’s songs record the process of mystical unification. As an outcome of this process, the poet realizes the absolute unity behind all things. ‡hRb †m Nivwg m‡½ †d‡i ivÎw`wb, L¨v‡Y nq ‡m Rb¥`vZv L¨v‡Y Rbbx \ (Islam, 1997: 221) Translation: The builder that is of the shed Moves all day and night along This while he turns the father, mother that while. Besides, Kanai accepts the value of both body and soul because both are necessary for the unification with self. He declaresGK N‡ii `yB Nivwg Ki‡Z‡Q UvbvUvwb, Kvi ev KZB ej, n¯—c` bvB Nivwgi †eu‡a‡Q †eu‡a‡Q wbg©j ... Translation: Two makers of the single house on a tug of war, Who’s had what strength, Makers don’t have physical appearance but have wrought a flawless thing. ... ... ... ... ... .... ... They both dwell in unified state in that house This song implies that there are two binding forces living in the body which acts as the physical form of the unification. Here he does not speak of just his soul, but of the self that is common to him and to all. It refers to the self that pervades the whole creation. This idea of unity underlying diversity is universally accepted by the mystics and is the very foundation of mysticism. Reality, to the mystics, is one and indivisible. Sense perception is not altogether excluded but undergoes a ... ... `yBR‡b‡Z GK wgj‡b †mB N‡i‡Z iq| (Islam, 1997: 218) transformation. The film of familiarity is removed to reveal the breathtaking pristine beauty which is one aspect of the One. In a sense, it is a modified form of mysticism because in its purer form mysticism has hardly anything to do with the senses. This mode of mystic search conforms to the ideal and practice of sufism which implies a tremendous influence on Kanai’s works. The philosophy of Sufi is a mystic creed that appeared under the influence of Islam but contained a very unique practice, that is to say, their creed was based on the foundation of love, an ascetic love, a love between the creator and the created. Two lines from Jalaluddin Rumi, a widely known Sufi and poet, can best summarise the fundamental idea of that creed. The mosque that is built in the hearts of the saints Is the place of worship for all, for God dwells there. (As quoted in Islam, 1997: 234) So we have to of pay an attentive with a look view into to the origin and development Sufi-ism analysing Kanai’s mysticism and at the same time try to measure the amount of influence that this ascetic creed had on Kanai’s songs. Muslim philosophers are of different opinions regarding the source of the sufis. The synonym of the Arabic word ‘tasauuf’ is sufi-ism. The following three are the most mentioned views – (i) Sufism is a special way to know God and to get him education and ideals. throug the Islamic ways of life, (ii) Sufism is derived from non-Islamic sources and reentered in Islam. (opposite notion of the first one). (iii) Sufism is derived from Islam, but it turns into a special trend being influenced by outer ones [Synthesis of (i) and (ii)]. (Hossain, M.Iqbal: 2001: 93) Mainly in the time of Hazrat Mohammad (Sm), sufism is originated. After the ofat (death) of Mohammad (sm), there arose a new ecstasy of hard religious austerity and spiritualism among the Sahabees(companions of the holy prophet). After the Sahabees, the cult of Sufism was observed mainly at the time of Abbasian Caliph Al-Mamun (Death. 833 AD). This time Hazrat Maruf Karkhi was one of the best devotees of Sufism. He maintained, the Sufi should bear the following three postulates –God in thought, God in home, and God in work. According to Karkhi, if one is to qualify as a man, one has to accept the conscience of divine reality. (Rahman: 1982:107). Kanai is found influenced by this concept as he admonishes the unaware people in one of his songs: I‡i Avjv ej c‡š’ P‡jv mij †`‡j, jvf Kwievi Av‡k f‡e Avmj †LvIqvB‡j, wK Reve w`ev gnvR‡bi wnmv‡ei Kv‡j (Bmjvg: 1997: 293) Translation: O’ sing the name of Allah and go your way in simple faith If you lose your capital in the hope of profit, What to account for before the mastermind when time comes The belief that everything reveals the presence of God leads mystics to their loves in all things. Nicholson observes about the Muslim mystics or Sufis: In proportion as the Sufi loves God, he sees God in all creatures, and goes forth to them in acts of charity … The Moslem Legends of the Saints abounds in tales of pity shown to animals (including the despised dogs, birds and even insects) (1979:108). According to a great Muslim mystic Bayezid, God’s love endows a man with three qualities: “a bounty like that of the sea, a sympathy like that of the sun, and a humility like that of the earth (Nicholson: 1979:111)”. Again, it is this very self that is It conterminous is the with what Kanai self calls which ‘God’ or ‘mahajan’. transcendental provokes everything to merge with other things: cvMjv KvbvB Kq G †`‡ni g‡a¨ Av‡Q Av‡iK gnvRb Av‡Q jvûZ P›`ª B›`ª¸wj mKj Zviv GKB Zv‡ii Zvi \ (Islam, 1997: 41) Translation: Pagla Kanai says, Another mastermind is there in the body There is lahut chandra and all others that are wires in the same fabric. The word lahut has a direct assciation wth the sufi practice. It refers to the last step of the Sufis practice: nasut, malakut, jabrut, and lahut. According to the Muslim Sufis, it is not Rational love for God that sustains one’s belief, rather, it is the perception of an intuitive impulse that enlightens the seeker. Nicholson says- This Inner Light is its own evidence; he who sees it has real knowledge and nothing can increase or diminish his certainty. Hence the Sufis never weary of exposing the futility of a faith which supports itself of the intellectual proofs, external authority, self—interest or self-regard of any kind (1979:114). This is why Kanai utters: ‡PvL eywR‡j mjK †`wL ‡gj‡j c‡i Avuvavi nq, (Islam, 1997: 214) Translation: I see an overwhelming light when I close my eyes When I open them, it is all darkness. This means the poet has lost the arbitrary sense-perception capability and in its place he has gained a permanent affinity with the ray of light that represents the absolute self. It is interesting to notice the resemblance of Kanai’s concept with what a Muslim mystic Dhu’i-Nun express: O God, I never hearken to the voices of the beasts or the rustle of the trees, the splashing of waters or the song of birds, the whistling of the wind or the rumble of thunder, but I sense in them a testimony of Thy Unity, and a proof of Thy Incomparableness; that Thou art the All-prevailing, the All knowing (Arberry 1990:52). This transcendental self who is the mover of everything is to be intuitively perceived ‘Logic or sermon’ is not convincing. This is why Kanai tends to search for the absolute dwelling inside the mind: ‡Kvb †Kv‡Y‡Z emZevwo †Kvb †Kv‡Y‡Z Ni w`b _vwK‡Z I‡i gb †mB Rwg Rixd Ki Translation: Which corner lies thy home, where is the shed Search that land O my mind before the day end In fact, Mystics from all sects and religions show their distrust of reason and secondary source of knowledge, preferring direct communion with the ultimate reality. The Eastern mystics repeatedly insist on the argument that the ultimate reality can never be an object of reasoning or of demonstrable knowledge. An epitome of this concept finds an expression in Muslim Sufis like Jalal Uddin Rumi. Nadwi explains: Rumi prefers institution or spiritual cognition to the carnal intellect, which is particular, individual, discursive, and dependent on sense–perception. He holds the view that experiential awareness can gain knowledge pertaining to the terrestrial world only. On the other hand, the spiritual cognition emanating from the Universal Intellect is a lodestar for the human intellect the intellect of man should be guided by intuition in the same way as the former holds the reins of human frame (1976:342-43) In preferring intuition to reason Kanai, relies on ‘transcendental idealism’, according to which rational approach is not an adequate basis of knowledge and true knowledge is to be achieved only through intuition. Kanai suggests that contemplation of the external world is enough to give a man mystical knowledge about the self. Again, as everything is the manifestation of God, so Kanai says: D`vmxb cvwLi Rb¨ cÖvY Kuv‡` Avgvi Avwg †`Ljvg bv iƒc Zvi, cvwL gayi g‡Zv evK¨ Qovq †i, ï‡b Avgvi cÖvY we`‡i, (Islam, 1997: 116) The poet Kanai here craves for a bird, an object of the fleshy world, but by it he refers to the Absolute self or God. Mystic practice of this kind is to be found in the baul philosophy also but with some differences. Folklorist Anwarul Karim has explained that the bauls are lovers. They have much in common with the sufis but they are not detached from life like many of the sufis. If sexual rites are part in their ascetic practice, they are not merely sexists. They believe in reaching to a life beyond sensuality by wining over sexual drive. But bauls are not life oriented only. The most important thing in the baul ideology is to search the independent self of spiritual life. Yet this independent self whom the bauls have imagined as ‘unknown man’, ‘non-cacheable man’, ‘man in the mind’, who is the supreme essence for them, has been searched for by them in the uncovering of a new world inside their soul. This awareness is not against the material world, rather, Karim stresses ‘it probes into every pore of the material world. The baul craves for the establishment of spiritual self in man. Hence, he builds up his spiritual notion by assimilating the material life with the ideal’. (2002: 29-30) Hence, Baul way of worship has its own form of mysticism. This includes the body as an active component to the search of the Supreme Being. Karim’s opinion is that Bauls divide their life in two phases in context of their worship. One of them is physical in nature and the other is spiritual. To a baul the body is significant for the fulfillment of human life. Body is the container of life, the container of the basic content that creates life. This basic content is called ‘Sain’ which is the supreme goal of a baul’s ascetic search. In this way bauls try to reach beyond body through the rituals of the body. (2002: 226-7) The physical rituals of the baul creed by which they try to achieve the mystic experience of the absolute self have influenced Pagla Kanai to a great extent. Many of his songs record the instances of physiological theory of worship. Kanai sings: c~wY©gvi †hv‡M‡Z †Rvqvi Ki‡Q Ujgj mvgvj K‡i †eu‡a †i‡Lv gb-cvwbi evÜvi Translation: The full tide at the full moon is lurking Protect well the breakwater of mind-stream The baul mystic worship is a mixed outcome of various creeds. It combines in its body the practices from such religious and ritualistic sects as Tantric, sahajia, and Vaishnava along with Sufism. Professor Dimock asserts: ...the bauls are fitting hybrids; the vaisnava, sahajia and Sufi strains yield beauty, sympathy and strength. From the Vaisnavas, and from the Sufi comes the baul vision of the warmth and humanness and love of God. Accordingly, Kanai’s songs record plenty of such references. In the following song the mystic search for the Vaisnava god Hari is evident: nvq wK gRvi †`vKvb †c‡Z‡Q wbZvB ‡Zviv †KD †`L‡Z hvwe fvB ‡cÖgi‡m †f‡R‡Q Szwi ‡h †L‡j †m Szi‡Q ZvB \ Kv‡b Kv‡b †`vKvb fiv nwibvg g‡bvniv ZvwcZ cÖvY kxZj Kiv myav cvev hZ LvB ... ... ... m¤§y‡L mvRvb gvj `i‡Z Qy‡Z bvB egvj ‡`vKvbx Ggwb mvgvj, LuyR‡j nv‡Z nv‡Z cvB \ Translation: Oh what an amazing shop Nitai has set Will anyone of you go and see it The jhuri is fried in the sauce of love He who has tasted it is sobbing. The name of Hari fills both the ears You’ll have soothing liqour as much you wish ... ... ... Materials are arranged beforehand not to touch So alert is the keeper, pass them at a single search. The implication of love is present in the song. On this point the Vaisnava and the Sufi concept of love have merged and thus enabled a creation of Kanai’s own notion of mystic experience by virtue of love. Although Pagla Kanai deals with mysticism in his songs to a considerable extent, that does not seem to be of much influence in directing his religious life. In his songs on the one hand Kanai expresses the true Islamic ways of meditation that shariat suggests; again in his songs he records the hidden mystery of Sufism through the process of mystic mode and gesture. There is seen the names of Allah, Peer, Paigambar, Murshid in many of his songs, and again the names of Niranjan in Buddhism and Vishnu, Rama, Ravan, Bolai, Gora of Hindu religion are to be found in his verses also. So when Anisuzzaman says, “ Kanai was a baul poet. As the bauls remain beyond the chalk-mark of sect and religion, Kanai too in that sense lived beyond the codified world of Islam (Anisuzzaman: 1964:208),” I feel supporting Dr. Zaman. There is a hearsay that after the death of Kanai an alem who believed in shariat refused lead the janaja (The ritual performed before the burial of the dead) of Kanai (Meherul Eslam: 62). Though the title Pagla is associated with the name of Kanai, he was not a kshyapa, baul or an escapist from general people in the sense that Upendranath Bhattacharya defined as the nature of a baul. It is reasonable that he was a little capricious like the bauls. But bauls as Lalon, Gagan Harkara, Madan baul always kept away from the general folk. Kanai could not do that because he had to sing in front of an audience and had to accept invitation from them. He had to receive money from them to maintain his family. So Pagla Kanai was not like those bauls who were apathetic to family life. It can be said that Pagla Kanai was both a baul and a Kaviyal and even a sufi too. And it is for this reason he was above any singular religious identity though people knew him a follower of a particular religion.
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