How a visit to Baba Auliya’s shrine in Karachi made me feel human again
A sense of excitement ran through me as I set foot on the Pakistan's soil. I was participating in the Urs celebrations of Qalandar Baba Auliya, the grand master and founder of Silsila Azeemiyya, commemorated every year on January 27th. In particular, the topic for the International Spiritual Workshop, ‘Man and Human’, had gripped my attention, as I had not seen them as two different points of existence.
As I was driven through the streets of Karachi, my heart paced in anticipation of meeting the current patriarch of the Silsila, Khwaja Shamsuddin Azeemi, a renowned Sufi saint and spiritual scholar.
Setting foot into the festive yet spiritual atmosphere at the Surjani Township, it seemed to be charged by the energy and love of the benevolent saint, and I began reminiscing over his strive towards the enormous task of humanising mankind for over 60 years! Baba Auliya constantly reminded people of their true existence beyond their body, and brought their focus back to the surge of divine lights within them – their soul.
While completing the registration formalities, I remembered his message,
“By the will of God, may my passion be your passion.”
What was the passion he wished to instil in us, I wondered?
The annual platform aims to rebuild faith and dependency on the automated divine system ordained for the care of mankind. It attempts to save us from the clutches of the egoistic, independent and stressful life of loneliness. It urges the participants to leave their minds behind and operate through their hearts. Staunchly upholding gender equality, the scholar encouraged women like myself to recognise ourselves beyond the limited roles we are expected to play. He even stated the future of spirituality in this world lies in the hearts of women.
As I prepared myself to attend the intense full day workshop, I noticed each table, with six to eight participants, being led by a coordinator. It was a perfect demonstration of unity in diversity. People of various nationalities, socioeconomic statuses, and educational and religious backgrounds sat together and contemplated on their existence as individuals, as well as their impact on each other collectively as a society. The coordinators facilitated the exchange of views till we all came to a mutual consensus of our existence as souls, and agreed that love is the universal language that brings this world together.
Halfway through the day, I was ushered to the langar (communal meal). I saw this as another platform that brought everyone together. This was a practical lesson that the body and mind needs nothing more but a piece of bread as fodder to survive. The rest of what we need is the high and vibrant spiritual energy emanating from the hearts of people around us.
In sum, the workshop intends to regenerate each participant into an experience of humility, unity in diversity, acceptance and love. The workshop pushed me into deep contemplation throughout the night. The profound wisdom we encountered diluted boundaries between rich and poor, educated and illiterate, wise and ignorant, aware and unaware, and believers and non-believers, until we all came to the conclusion of our unified origin as a collective consciousness.
Oh, how beautiful it was to feel human again, in the real sense!
The drive to the mazaar (shrine) of Qalandar Baba Auliya the next morning was an uplifting experience on its own. The atmosphere echoed with prayers and songs of devotion. I observed stillness in the faces of those in a deep meditative trance. Eyes lost in ecstasy, no one appeared to be themselves. The light in everyone’s eyes seemed to take their existence to another dimension.
Everyone was treated equally and fairly throughout. No one was considered more accomplished, or branded a failure. The highlight of the eventful day was the address by Shamsuddin, our spiritual scholar. His message reverberated in the air.
“Hold on to the rope towards God Almighty tightly and together. Think, speak, act and live as the Prophets and men of God do. They lived in the care of God Almighty.
This body is only a garment of the soul. Unless you discover yourself, you can never discover God in your heart. One who dies without discovering his soul has not ended his life different from any other creature in this world. Man is created the vicegerent of God, and it is time we all took this responsibility bestowed upon us seriously by performing muraqaba (meditation), zikr (remembrance), and tafakkur (contemplation) on the clues left for us in this universe through God’s marvellous creations.”
Our hearts were collectively touched by the simplicity with which the profound message was delivered. I found an exuberant joy present in the entire gathering as we realised what we seek is within our own selves to begin with. The participants who showed up fragmented, returned as complete individuals. Voids ceased to exist, as a feeling of completeness took over hearts. Our differences melted, and oneness transpired.
The two days of this event – the highlight of the whole year for most of us – passed by in the blink of an eye. The mind thereafter only tries to replay the memory of the visit, knowing the saint has again brought us one step closer to the Divine, and to ourselves.
Words fall short. I only know it as Urs, a ceremony of reunion with the Divine and ourselves, and Silsila, an attempt to bead each one of our souls into a formidable and strong chain.
All photos: Anuradha Kamath
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