Mystic Mantra: Bhakti over intolerance

In India, Vedanta and Sufism came to share a common discipline

Tolerance is an oft-heard word these days. It is not a good word. We have to accept and respect one another. All religions are based on universal values of compassion, mercy, justice and love. For centuries, sages and mystics of various faiths have drawn and learnt from each other’s traditions.

Vedanta and Sufi philosophies had begun to interact before Sufism emerged on the Indian scene. In the 11th century, the Natha yogis travelled to Central Asia and Iran from Peshawar. The Sufis learnt breathing techniques from them to facilitate their meditations. Other wandering yogis and Sanskrit scholars impacted Sufi orders in Turkey, Syria, Egypt and Central Asia.

The Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang writes of Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples at Khorasan in Central Asia. Hindu scholars taught Indian sciences at the famed universities of Baghdad, where interfaith discussions were held with Muslim mystics. The Upanishads, containing the early expositions of pantheistic philosophy, inspired Sufi thought in many ways.

In India, Vedanta and Sufism came to share a common discipline in their spiritual pursuits. The interaction between Hindu and Muslim mystics became frequent and meaningful, and was reflected in every area of social life. The topics discussed in the jamaatkhana, or assembly hall, of Baba Farid at Ajodhan, fuelled the interests of yogis whose beliefs were founded on Hatha yoga.

Sufis borrowed principles of breath control and meditation from Hindu spiritualists. Baba Farid composed meditation prayers in Punjabi, many of which are still recited by devotees from the Chishti discipline. His verses had a deep impact on Guru Nanak and 134 of the Sufi poet’s hymns are included in Sikh holy scriptures. Hamiduddin Nagauri, a disciple of Khwaja Gharib Nawaz, adopted the life of a Rajasthani peasant. The Chishti Sufi adopted vegetarianism and spoke the local Hindavi dialect. No non-vegetarian food is distributed at his dargah in Nagaur.

The Sufis of Kashmir called themselves rishis, adopting local customs, integrating Islamic and Hindu mystic traditions. They remained dedicated servants of the people, irrespective of class and religious distinctions. The rishis generally remained celibate and chose to be vegetarian.

Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam.

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( Source : deccan chronicle )
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