The Sufi Mystic and the Punjabi Rock Musician (audio)

From time to time, I like to share insights from other traditions to broaden the scope of Metta Refuge.  I am quite fond of the Sufi mystics and poets, such as Rumi:

Rumi—Learn the Alchemy True Human Beings Know

Taking Care of Our Heart Donkey

This Being Human is a Guest House

Bulleh Shaw (Abdullah Shah)

Today, I want to share a poem from Bulleh Shah (1680 – 1757) (Punjabi: بلہے شاہ, ਬੁੱਲ੍ਹੇ ਸ਼ਾਹ), whose real name was Abdullah Shah.  He was a Punjabi Sufi poet, mystic, humanist, and philosopher.

As Wikipedia says of him:

“[Bulleh’s] poetry highlights his mystical spiritual voyage through the four stages of Sufism: Shariat (Path), Tariqat (Observance), Haqiqat (Truth) and Marfat (Union). The simplicity with which Bulleh Shah has been able to address the complex fundamental issues of life and humanity is a large part of his appeal. Thus, many people have put his kafis (a classical form of Sufi poetry) to music—from humble street-singers to renowned Sufi singers like the Waddali Brothers, Abida Parveen and Pathanay Khan, from the synthesized techno qawwali remixes of UK-based Asian artists to the rock band Junoon. Bulleh Shah’s popularity stretches uniformly across Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, to the point that much of the written material about this philosopher is from Hindu and Sikh authors.”

Here is the beautiful poem, “Bulleh, I Am Not Known.”  From the Buddhist standpoint, it can be seen as a poetic vision of “not-self” and Zen’s “only don’t know” wisdom.  But really, the words and vision speak for themselves!

Bulleh, I Am Not Known

Not a believer inside the mosque, am I
Nor a pagan disciple of false rites
Not the pure amongst the impure
Neither Moses, nor the Pharoh
Bulleh! to me, I am not known
Not in the holy Vedas, am I
Nor in opium, neither in wine
Not in the drunkard’s craze
Neither awake, nor in a sleeping daze
Bulleh! to me, I am not known
In happiness nor in sorrow, am I
Neither clean, nor a filthy mire
Not from water, nor from earth
Neither fire, nor from air, is my birth
Bulleh! to me, I am not known
Not an Arab, nor Lahori Neither Hindi,
nor Nagauri Hindu, Turk (Muslim), nor Peshawari
Nor do I live in Nadaun
Bulleh! to me, I am not known
Secrets of religion, I have not known
From Adam and Eve, I am not born
I am not the name I assume
Not in stillness, nor on the move
Bulleh! to me, I am not known
I am the first, I am the last
None other, have I ever known
I am the wisest of them all
Bulleh! do I stand alone?
Bulleh! to me, I am not known.

I discovered this Sufi poem by way of a great Hindi singer named Rabbi Shergill.  The song, and Shergill’s voice, were so compelling, I had to investigate, and thus discovered Bulleh Shah and his poetry.

You can listen to Shergill’s very soulful musical interpretation of the poem here:

(Below, are Shergill’s words to his song and their translation)

Rabbi Shergill

Bulla Ki Jaana

by Rabbi Shergill

Bulla ki jaana main kaun
Bulla, who knows who I am?

Bulla ki jaana main kaun
Bulla, who knows who I am?

Bulla ki jaana main kaun
Bulla, who knows who I am?

Bulla ki jaana main kaun
Bulla, who knows who I am?

Na mei moman vich masetan
Neither I am a believer (who stays) in a mosque

Na main vich kufar dian reetan
Nor do I indulge in actions of disbelief

Na main pakan vich paleetan
Nor am I the pure one amongst the impure

Na main andar bed kitaban
Neither I exist in books of Vedas

Na main rehnda phaang sharaban
Nor do I stay drunk

Na main rehnda mast kharaban
Nor do I remain stoned, rotting

Na main shadi na ghamnaki
Neither I am happy nor sad

Na mei vich paletan pakeen
Nor am I in the (argument of) Purity and Impurity

Na main aaabi na main khaki
Neither I am (made) of water nor of earth

Na main aatish na main paun
Nor am I fire nor air

(Chorus)
Bulla ki jana main kaun
Bulla, who knows who I am?
Bulla ki jana main kaun
Bulla, who knows who I am?
Bulla ki jana main kaun
Bulla, who knows who I am?
Bulla ki jana main kaun
Bulla, who knows who I am?

Na main arabi na lahori
Neither I am Arabic nor Lahori

Na main hindi shehar Nagaori
Nor am I (resident of) the Indian City Nagaori

Na hindu na turk pashauri
Nor Hindu nor Turk Peshaweri

Na main bhet mazhab de paya
Neither I found the secret of religion

Na main aadam hawwa jaya
Nor did understand Adam and Eve

Na koi apna naam dharaya
Nor did I create a name for myself

Avval aakhar aap nu jana
From beginning to end, I tried to understand myself

Na koi dooja hor pacchana
I did not come to know of anyone else

Mai ton na koi hor syana
I am not just another wise one

Bulle shah kharha hai kaun
Bulla Shah, who is this standing?

(Chorus)

Na main moosa na pharon
Neither I am Moses nor Pharoah

Na main jagan na vich saun
Neither I am awake nor asleep

Na main aatish na main paun
Neither I am fire nor Air

Na main rahnda vich Nadaun
Nor do I live among fools

Na main baitthan na vich bhaun
Neither I am sitting nor am I in a tornado

Bulle shah kharha hai kaun
Bulla Shah, who is this standing?

(Chorus)

Ooooooh…

Bulla ki jana main kaun
Bulla, who knows who I am?

Bulla ki jana main kaun
Bulla, who knows who I am?

Bulla ki jana main kaun
Bulla, who knows who I am?

Bulla ki jana main kaun
Bulla, who knows who I am?

♥♥♥

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About Steven Goodheart

"I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." Spinoza

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  1. Kabir-The Time Before Death-Poem and Music « Metta Refuge - 2010/05/27

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