By Deepti Rupani
October 24, 2014
Sadhu Vaswani, His Life and Teachings
To many thousands around the world, Sadhu T.L. Vaswani is a name synonymous with reverence for all life. Indeed, he was the living embodiment of an unsullied love that knew no bounds, an all-embracing love that included all mankind, animals and all creation. He cared deeply about the birds of the air and the animals of the earth; and he protected them whenever and however he could.
Born on November 25, 1879, in Hyderabad Sind, Sadhu Vaswani's life was touched with a spark of divinity from a very early age. After a brilliant academic career culminating in the M.A. degree, his natural inclination lay in following the life of a faqir.
His noble message is embraced by many and his sacred Samadhi is located at the Sadhu Vaswani Mission in Pune. The Mission has many schools, colleges, hospitals to serve all of human kind and animal kind. The spiritual head of the Sadhu Vaswani Mission is Dada J.P. Vaswani. The mission is spread across India and the world in over 70 different locations.
Who is a Sufi?
Who is a Sufi? A Sufi is a friend of God, writes Sadhu Vaswani. It is said that Sadhu Vaswani was always at home when he spoke or wrote concerning the great Sufi mystics. It was as though he was one of them. His own life was one of detachment and dedication, of self-denial, service and silent sacrifice.
“Who are you?” Sadhu Vaswani was asked, one day. And he answered, “I am a Sufi! I worship Beauty, and Love is my sacrament of life. I adore the Lord as Blessed Beauty, as Immortal Love. Wheresoever Love appears, I bend in reverent worship. For there shines the very Light of God!”
Seeing the beauty of the One in the many, Sadhu Vaswani felt drawn towards all religions as he saw them as different paths to the One God. "There are so many" he said, "who can believe in only one thing at a time. I am so made as to rejoice in the many and behold the beauty of the One in the many. Hence my affinity to many religions. In all of them I see revelations of the One Spirit.”
The goal of life, according to the Sufi mystics, is union with God. And the very first step is repentance or Tauba. True repentance is a change of mind and heart. It is a gift of grace. When God or a God-man looks upon someone in grace, the soul within him is awakened. And he realises that the years spent in accumulating the wealth or honours of the earth were wasted in vain. Life is too short and no further time must be wasted in pursuing the vanities of the world. The awakened soul turns his back on worldly pleasures and longs for union with the One Beloved. He lives a life of self-control and self-denial, without which no progress may be made on the path.
Awakening comes in a variety of ways. But it is always a gift of grace. To Ibrahim, the king of Balkh, awakening came through dream in which he saw some angels of God looking for something on the roof of his palace.
“What are you seeking?” he asked them. And they answered, “We have lost a camel!” In sheer amazement the king exclaimed “Is it not foolish, O angels, to search for a camel on the roof of a palace?” Quietly, one of the angels remarked, “Is it not equally foolish, O king, to search for God in the midst of the pleasures of the palace?” The words went deep into the heart of the king and, when he awoke, he resolved to renounce the palace and set out as a fakir in quest of God.
Awakening came to Shibli, when he was in the king’s court. The king had distributed costly robes among his nobles. One of them, given to fits of sneezing, wiped his nose with the sleeves of his robe. When the matter came to the king’s notice, he dismissed the nobleman from the court, saying “Is this how you make use of the robe I gave you?”” The words brought awakening to Shibli’s heart. “The King of kings,” he said to himself, “has given me the precious robe of the human body: to what use have I put it all these years? If God takes me account, what answer shall I give?”
At the Shrine of Shah Abdul Latif
Sadhu Vaswani took time to pay homage to the great Sufi saints of Sindh. The account of his visit to the tomb of Shah Latif is described by Dada J.P. Vaswani who was with him at the time:
It was 1946. The storm clouds of partition and communal disharmony were gathering over the Indian subcontinent. Sadhu Vaswani was deeply grieved at the strife and tension that had replaced the brotherhood and amity between Hindus and Muslims. He had followers and admirers in both communities. To the Hindus, he was a Saint; to their Muslim brethren, he was a dervish.
During those troubled days, Sadhu Vaswani suddenly decided to pay a visit to the tomb of Shah Abdul Latif, the great poet of Sindh. He regarded Shah Latif as comparable to Shakespeare - a truly great poet with a timeless, universal message.
The shrine of Shah Latif is located at Bhit, some distance away from Hyderabad. Every Thursday night, the Muslim devotees refer to it as Jumeraat, the devout and faithful met at the tomb to keep vigil and sing the immortal songs of the poet-saint.
After an arduous journey, we reached Bhit on a Thursday night, when hundreds of the faithful had gathered together to observe vigil. All night, we sat with them, listening to the songs.
Deeply moved by the mystical experience, Sadhu Vaswani wrote in the Excelsior, the following words, “Allahu! Allahu! The music of the mystic chant I heard at the vigil at Bhit rings again, sings again in my ears, and in reverence I bow down to the poet-saint and ask, ‘He did so much for us. What have we done for him?’
In the morning, we went around the shrine and paid homage to the saint.
Recalling his visit to Bhit, Sadhu Vaswani wrote “No spot in Sindh can be more sacred than this Bhit in the desert, where stands the shrine of the poet-saint. And I dream of a day when men will come from East and West on a pilgrimage to this tomb as to a shrine of a world-sage and a world poet.”
It was indeed in the spirit of a pilgrim that the Master had undertaken the journey. Perhaps he knew, in his heart of hearts, that he would soon be leaving his beloved Sindh forever, never to return!
I bring to you today stories that are told by Sadhu Vaswani about Prophet Muhammad, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti and the Sufi Saint of Sindh—Sachal Sarmast.
Prophet Muhammad - The Path of Truth
Sadhu Vaswani often spoke of Prophet Muhammad in very high regard. He saw the Prophet as a torch-bearer and epitome of Truth.
One day, someone said to Sadhu Vaswani, “The way of Truth is not an easy one. It is keen as the edge of a razor! And whoso would tread this way must be prepared to bleed!”
And Sadhu Vaswani said, “True it is that the path of Truth is not a path of roses. The path of Truth is covered with flames.
“In the early stages of Prophet Muhammad’s ministry, he is disliked by the influential Quraish tribe. They send round word that Muhammad has become mad. Insults are heaped on the Prophet.
Children run after him and pelt stones on him. There was no jail in Mecca, else he would have been locked in prison.
“Abu Talib, Prophet Muhammad’s uncle, is an old man. He appeals to the Prophet, ‘Son of my brother! The Quraishites are the strongest tribe. They are against you. Why don’t you give up your role of a preacher? Why don’t you become a merchant again?’
“Then speaks Prophet Muhammad, words wherein lie hidden the fire of a true servant of God, who would not barter with the world, come what may! To his old, respected uncle, the Prophet says gently but firmly, ‘If you were to place the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left, I would not swerve from the Truth. God will teach me to stand by Truth or give me death!’
Such was the Prophet’s unwavering faith in God and his commitment to the Truth!
Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti
The great Sufi leader of the Chishti order, in the 12th century, was Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. The Khwaja was a remarkable man. They called him the spiritual king of India (Sultan-e Hind). He was born in Seistan. He travelled widely and was a wandering hermit. He was nearing fifty when he came to India. He chose to settle down in Ajmer where the Hindus were conservative in their outlook of life. Ajmer was then ruled by Rai Prithvi Raj. The priests asked the Raja to ban the Khwaja. His influence had travelled to the “lower classes” of Ajmer. The Raja sent an order of expulsion through Ram Deo, the head of the Hindu priests. Ram Deo proceeded to serve the order personally on the Khwaja. But on seeing the Khwaja, Ram Deo was so deeply impressed that he became a disciple and spent the years of his life in service of the Khwaja.
Of the many stories and sketches that Sadhu Vaswani penned, he wrote about the Sufi saint of Sindh—Sachal Sarmast. Born as Abdul Wahhab Farouqi, Sachal or Sachu, meaning the truthful one, were the nicknames of this great Sufi poet of Sindh. He passed on in 1829 AD in Darazan, Sindh, the village that has become a shrine to many. It is said that thousands gather here even today to get the blessings of Sachal to heal their hearts.
Sadhu Vaswani writes of Sachal:
The very heart of true mysticism is expressed in the following song of Sachal
The Beloved is within thee!
Go and search! You will find
The Beloved in the heart within!
He was a true fakir of God. Who is a fakir? The word in Arabic means poor. So, Sachal, having no worldly possessions, loved to think of himself as as “king among men”. “You see me”, he said, “in a Faqir’s garb. But if you will know my inner self, you will know that I am not a beggar, but a king amongst men.”
Sadhu Vaswani loved to think of Sachal as belonging to the “Brotherhood of the saints of God”. Sachal was at once a poet and a saint. Entire self-surrender to God is the secret of a true saint. Therefore, is he, a man of purity, humility and meekness. Sachal was a true saint and a true fakir. Sachal was also called “sarmast” or God-intoxicated. He lived and sang as an inspired man. They called him masta (intoxicated). Sachal would sing of God the Beloved, and enter, again and again, into the super-conscious. His companions called it masti or madness. Sachal would sing, tambura in his hand, then would dance in divine enthusiasm until he passed into ecstasy.
All are one!
So great was Sachal’s love for all and so deep his humility that he never called anyone his disciple. He felt happy to find that Hindus and Muslims came and sat together in the “Fellowship Meetings”. “Blessed,” he would say, “blessed is he who listens to the Bani- the Word of Inspiration.”
In his time, there was a conflict between Sachal and the mullahs of Islam. Sachal was a mystic and aspired to build his life in love. The mullahs could not outgrow “creeds”. Sachal said, “Creeds I cannot accept. My place is not among the orthodox nor the heretics.” Sachal saw the underlying unity of the Hindu and the Muslim. He says in a poem:
Hindus and Muslims Are all emanations
of the One Name - Alif!
All peoples and races have issued out of the One. In this faith of his Heart was the secret of Sachal’s life. Sachal regarded national and creedal differences as accidents of time.
The mullahs complained against Sachal to the Mir - the ruler of Khairpur. But the mullahs could not prevail against the poet-mystic. The ruler was Sachal’s friend and disciple. Sachal realised that the worst enemies of religion were they of its own household. He says in one of his poems, “Not until these temples and mosques, which are the haunts of sectarianism, are renounced, may one hope that man will walk the Way of Truth.”
As a true Sufi, Sachal had a heart which embraced all men and all religions as manifestations of the One Eternal God. Sachal sings in his poems, of the Devi and the Guru Granth Sahib. Rich, indeed, was Sachal’s reverence for Guru Nanak. Sachal named his dear disciple Yusuf as “Nanak Yusuf”. At Sachal’s feet sat Muslim and Hindu disciples, to sing of the One Beloved, adored by seers and dervishes of Islam, and the Hindu faith.
Abul Fazl, who too was a Sindhi and who served as a minister in Akbar’s cabinet, wrote for a Hindu temple in Kashmir, the following beautiful lines. I quote them as they echo the very essence of Sachal’s teaching of the unity of all races and religions.
O God! In every temple
I see the worshippers that seek Thee.
And in every tongue I hear
Thy servants who sing Thy Name!
Islam and the Hindu Faith
Do both feel after Thee!
Thou art One!
And Thou hath no equal!
Millions are the Names of the One. The noblest is Love. The most ancient is Love. The teaching of the sages, prophets and saints, the guru-upadesh of all the truly great ones, is Love. The witness of the Holy Spirit in the Heart, in the lives of Krishna and Jesus, of Nanak and Kabir -in the lives of the holy ones of humanity - is Love.
The essence of Religion, Sachal said, is love, not sectarian strife. He asked his disciples not to quarrel about creeds. He said that he offered his loving salutations to all, that in all he beheld the One Beloved. In Rama and in Rahim, he saw the One. Sachal added, “I see the one in Ravana too! In Krishna and in Kansa, I see the Eternal Love!”
Some Muslims came to Sachal, one day, and said, “A Hindu in a village is become a Muslim. Why won’t you rejoice?” Sachal smiled and said, “Ah! my friends, if, indeed, a mullah had become a true Muslim, by being transformed in the fire of devotion, it would have been a matter of joy!”
“Be absorbed each moment,” Sachal says, “in the white radiance of the Beloved!” Be absorbed, and you will know that the Master is but one, that in every picture, the King hath entered Himself. Yes, in every picture - every race and religion, every prophet and saint, every scripture and song - is the Shining One revealed. In the Quran and the Gita is the One, Sachal says, in Isa and Ahmed is the One. Yes, in Ravana and Hanuman is still the One. The Beloved hath entered into every picture - into all!
Over and over again, Sachal says, “Be not imprisoned in the jail of ‘I’ and ‘me’. He who has transcended self - he verily hath attained the Highest. He has become Perfect!” Such a one, Sachal says, “knows no difference between the Hindu and Muslim. For Allah is the Lord of all and in all shines the One Picture Divine!”
The central thought of the message of Sachal to the modern man, I interpret in a few words thus:
Awake this very hour today!
Awaken to the City of Light~
Be not in love with sin.
Think no evil of any man.
Strive not for greatness, wealth, applause.
Strive for truth, purity and courage.
And as a brother among thy brothers be
Listen to the lonely song
Of the poor and forlorn,
And learn to share with them what you possess,
And bear witness to the One - the Shining One!
Based in Hyderabad, India, Deepti Rupani is associated with the Sadhu Vaswani Mission. For details about the Mission, see www.sadhuvaswani.org