We live lives of quiet desperation. Alienated, fragmented and out of sync with our innerselves. Intensely lonely, we row through the river of life against the flow, losing our connect with the deeper current. Our oars thrash the water, but we don’t move forward. We feel stuck, stagnant and stifled. The routine saps us. There is a longing for something beyond the mundane. Even among the closest people, infinite distances exist. Our souls whose nature is connectedness do not feel engaged.
That’s where the poet walks in. No says the poet. Even in the midst of despair, hope can bloom. Our anguish can open our hearts to a deeper stream. For when we are broken, we are open. Resurrection follows demolition. The poet feels the ache of our loneliness. He knows the art of alchemising loneliness into solitude.
The power of poetry is immense. It broadens, deepens and softens us. Fills us with a deep and abiding compassion for all living beings. It humbles and humanizes us in a manner no scripture or shrine ever can. Great poetry is when the heart opens, we forget ourselves and the world pours in. Poems are not mere rhyming words – they are ropes let down to the drowning, fires for the cold and bread for the hungry. A single poem can change our lives.
Being a poet is a gift. The poet reads the ache in our eyes and fuels his poetry with it. He reaches out to us, heals us, not out of pity but simply because he cannot help himself. He cannot see us suffer. He embraces us with all our cracks and sins. He walks with us in our grief and sings to us in our joy. He restores and realigns us.
Like the wind, mountains and clouds, poets have an elemental presence. It feels good to be around a poet. They are gentle, magnanimous and incorrigibly romantic!
Being a poet is also a test. In this transactional world, they do not fit. Poets cannot be courtiers, courtjesters, psychophants or pamphleteers. They do not sell their souls for a fistful of silver. Loaves of office do not tempt them. Poets cannot grovel. They have gravitas. They are intrinsic and essential. And the essential is always rebellious. Poets are champions of the underdog, the voice of the voiceless.
Reviled and reclused, they sometimes retreat into a shell. But even from their shells, they chronicle our fate and fears, tumult and tears, with a quiet tenderness. This deep compassion and concerned consciousness is the turf, terrain and leitmotif of a poet. However, like martyrs they are usually ignored in their lifetimes and celebrated after their death – banners hoisted and festivals held at their tombs and graves.
I begin my book my serenading the Sufis as for centuries they have been magnificent friends to the human spirit. They are the greatest seekers, mystics, poets, guides and lovers that humankind has ever known. Sufis have a predilection for poetry. For them, poetry is a net thrown in the sea of His love. There is a mystical dimension to their poetry that heals and bestows. Like sunlight moving in a winter room, they burnish our hearts with their luminous grace.
Instead of a preaching mind, the Sufis have a chanting heart. They believe in a God who is compassionate. A God who does not cripple us with guilt or control us with fear. Sufis love God, simply because they love Him, totally and unconditionally-skin, sinews and soul.
In a galaxy cluster of conflict and confrontation, the Sufi poets are a milky way of fathomless love, sedating us with the depth and sweep of their undiscriminating compassion. On the Sufi path, we first learn the art of being alone in a crowd. Next, we fathom the crowd and noise inside us. That’s why the tone and resonance of all Sufi poetry is that of tranquility. There is no bitterness, hatred or anger in it. It resounds with the deep silence of the mountains and the eternal rest of the ocean floor. It has a meditative silence and the ‘no mind’ of Zen. In India we call this silence, ‘antarnad’ or the inner soundless sound.
Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th C, Sufi, mystic and poet was once asked as to why he always returned to silence in his poems. He answered, “The luminous one inside me has never uttered a word. That’s why!!”. When truly great spirits speak, the lesser ones must remain still and silent.
Sufis do not judge us. They love us. They believe that if we are continuously judging others, we will have no time to love them. They understand that the soul survives our skin and sins. For them being human is akin to being a caravanserai. Every traveller is to be welcomed, hosted and entertained with open arms. Rumi says,
“The dark thought,
the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door laughing
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”
Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi once told his avid disciples, ‘Poetry is the creaking of the gates of paradise’. One of them hastily remarked, ‘I do not like the sound of creaking gates’. And Mevlana answered, “You hear the doors when they are being closed, but I hear them when they are opening!!”.
I do hope that this collection of my poems will creak open the closed gates of your heart. I can do no more!!
May His grace always be with you.