DARA’s fight agaisnt religious orthodoxy;
Dara’s next book on Islamic Sufism is the Hasanat ul-‘Arifin or ‘The Aphorisms of the Gnostics’. It consists of the sayings of 107 Sufis of various spiritual orders. Explaining the objective behind writing the book, Dara says in his introduction:
I was enamoured of studying books on the ways of the men of the Path and had in my mind nothing save the understanding of the Unity of God; and before this, in a state of ecstasy and enthusiasm, I had uttered some words pertaining to sublime knowledge, because of which certain bigoted and narrow-minded people accused me of heresy and apostasy. It was then that I realised the importance of compiling the aphorisms of great believers in the Unity of God and the sayings of saints who have, hitherto, acquired knowledge of Reality, so that these may serve as an argument against those who are really imposters.
In the Hasanat ul-‘Arifin, Dara bitterly criticises those self-styled ‘ulama who, ignoring the inner dimension of the faith, focus simply on external rituals. His critique is directed against mindless ritualism emptied of inner spiritual content, and he challenges the claims of the ‘ulama who would readily trade their faith for worldly gain. Thus, he says:
May the world be free from the noise of the Mulla
And none should pay any heed to their fatwas.
As for those ‘ulama who claim to be religious authorities but have actually little or no understanding at all of the true spirit of religion, Dara writes that, ‘As a matter of fact, these are ignoramuses to themselves and learned to the ignorant’, and adds the following couplet:
Every prophet and saint suffered afflictions and torments,
Due to the vicious and ignominious conduct of the mulla.
Orthodoxy extracted its revenge on the inclusive spirit of DARA and used his sufi teachings and books as a proof of heresy and gace his brother Aurangzeb the justification to murder him
Dara on Sufism;
Dara was a Sufi of the Qadiri tareeqa an wrote extensively about Sufism. The Safinat ul-Auliya, a biography of several leading Sufi saints, was Dara’s first work, composed in 1640 C.E., when he was just 25 years of age. Here he stresses the importance of the Sufi pirs or guides, because, he believes, one can attain knowledge of the mystical path only through the assistance of a spiritual master. In Dara’s words, ‘God never leaves his people without saints to guide them. [.] Therefore, next to the prophets, there are no other persons than the saints nearer in the presence of God, the Almighty’. The true saint is a ‘perfect guide’ (pir-i kamil), for, ‘No one is more compassionate and magnanimous, erudite and practical, humble and polite, heroic and charitable than the members of this hierarchy of the saints’.
The Safinat ul-Auliya is Dara’s second biography of various Sufi saints. Unlike the Sakinat ul-Auliya, which deals with Sufis of various orders, this book discusses only the Qadri Sufis of India. Dara himself was a Qadri, and as he puts it, ‘Nothing attracts me more than this Qadri order, which has fulfilled my spiritual aspirations’. The Qadri order, one of the most popular and widespread of all the Sufi silsilahs, traces its origins to the Prophet through the twelfth century Sufi and Islamic scholar of great renown, Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani of Baghdad. The Sakinat ul-Auliya was completed in 1642 C.E., when Dara was 28 years old, three years after his first meeting with the Qadri Sufi Miyan Mir. In the same year, Dara came into contact with another leading Qadri saint, Mulla Shah Badakshani (d. 1642 C.E.), who, like Miyan Mir, exercised a particularly powerful influence on Dara, which is readily apparent in his description of the practices of the Qadris in the Sakinat ul-Auliya.
Two short, yet important, works of Dara on the various stages and practices associated with the Sufi path are the Tariqat ul-Haqiqat and the Risala-i Haq Numa.
The text goes on to discuss the thirty stages (manazil) on the Sufi path, the first of which is detachment from the materialistic world and the last of which is realisation of the Truth. Broadly the same theme is discussed in the Risala-i Haq Numa, where the seeker (salik) is shown as starting from the Alam-i Nasut or ‘The Physical Plane’, and, passing through various stages, finally reaching the Alam-i Lahut or ‘the Plane of Absolute Truth’. Some of the physical exercises employed by the Sufis that are described in the Risala-i Haq Numa are shown by Dara to be similar to those used by the Hindu Tantriks and Yogis. These include astral healing and concentration on the centres of meditation in the heart and brain. Further, he suggests that the four planes through which the Sufi seeker’s journey takes him-Nasut , Jabrut, Malakut and Lahut-correspond to the Hindu concept of the Avasthanam or the four ‘states’ of Jagrat, Swapna, Shushpati and Turiya.
Dara established close and cordial relations with mystics from various backgrounds. Among these were several jogis and sadhus, about some of whom Dara also wrote. One such sadhu was Baba Lal, follower of the renowned Sufi-Bhakti saint Kabir and founder of a small monotheistic order named after him as the Baba Lalis. Many of the teachings of this sect can be traced to a distinct Sufi influence. A summary of these teachings is to be found in Dara’s Makalama Baba Lal wa Dara Shikoh, which consists of seven long conversations between the Baba and Dara held in Lahore in 1653 C.E.. These seven discourses were composed originally in Hindawi, and were later translated into Persian by Dara’s chief secretary, Rai Chandar Bhan. As in the case of Dara’s translation of the Yoga Vasishta, this text focuses particularly on certain similarities in the teachings of Hindu and Muslim mystics.
DARA as a poet:
One of the most intriguing works of Dara’s is his collection of poems, the Diwan, also known as the Iksir-i ‘Azam. Some of the verses from the Diwan, given below, suggest the train of Dara’s mystical thought:
On Monotheism [tauhid]
Look where you can, All is He,
God’s face is ever face to face.
Whatever you behold except Him is the object of your fancy,
Things other than He have an existence like a mirage.
The existence of God is like a boundless ocean,
People are like forms and waves in its water.
Though I do not consider myself separate from Him,
Yet I do not consider myself God.
Whatever relation the drop bears with the ocean,
That I hold true in my belief, and nothing beyond.
We have not seen an atom separate from the Sun,
Every drop of water is the sea in itself.
With what name should one call the Truth?
Every name that exists is one of God’s names.
On Divine Love ;
O Thou, from whose very name rains Love abundant!
And from your message rains Love!
Whoever passes through Your street realises
That indeed from the very door to the terrace of Your house rains l love!
On the Mystical Path
Turn to none except God,
The rosary and the sacred thread are but only a means to an end.
All this piety is conceit and hypocrisy,
How can it be worthy of our Beloved?.
Kingship is easy, acquaint yourself with poverty,
Why should a drop become a pearl when it can transform itself into an ocean?.
Hands soiled with gold begin to stink,
How awful is the plight of the soul soiled with gold!
Day and night you hear of people dying,
You, too, have to die. How strange is your behaviour!.
The more a traveller is unencumbered,
The less he feels worried on his journey.
You, too, are a traveller in this world,
Take this as certain, if you are wakeful.
Drive egoism away from you,
For, like conceit and arrogance, it is also a burden.
So long as you live in this world, be independent,
The Qadri has warned you!
Whoever recognised this, carried the day,
He who lost himself, found Him.
And he who sought Him not within his own self,
Passed away, carrying his quest along with him.
The Qadri found his Beloved within his own self,
Being himself of good disposition, he won the favour of the Good.
To whatever object you may turn your face, He is in view,
Are you blind, for why do you assign Him to yourself?
Dara On The Religious Systems of the Hindus
Among the most noteworthy distinguished Sufi poet that Dara Shikoh was attracted to was Sarmad, a truly remarkable man who was beheaded by Aurangzeb. Indeed, Dara Shikoh seems to have been in the middle of the entire literary, spiritual, and intellectual movement that was to propel Lahore as a centre of a liberal tradition not known in the subcontinent before. His spirit still pervades the way we think, a sort of detached tolerance to every point of view. The execution of Dara by his brother Aurangzeb led to this tradition being badly dented.