Saturday, February 02, 2013

Awwal, akhar

When I was reading the Gita for the first time a couple of years ago, this passage (Chapter 8, Verse 5) stunned me. Krishna says:

अन्तकाले च मामेव स्मरन्मुक्त्वा कलेवरम्
यः प्रयाति स मद्भावं याति नास्त्यत्र संशयः

anta-kāle ca māmeva smaranmuktvā kalevaram
yah prayāti sa mad-bhāvam yāti nāstyatra samsayah

And whoever, at the end of his life, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.

So, essentially, on your dying breath, you had to remember Krishna. Ok. It sounded doable. Obviously, there was a catch: the pun notwithstanding, what was it? And thus, we fell through the yawning chasm between bookspeak/theory and the actual doing. A lifetime – no, several lifetimes of Krishna Consciousness don’t apparently prepare you adequately for ‘smaranam’ at the ‘anta-kala’. “Me alone”, the god-man says, “mameva”. Pure awareness.

I am a smidgen more aware of the difficulties of awareness now. When you go to sleep, see if you can be aware of the last breath as you pass into sleep. Once my head touches the pillow, I go to sleep fairly quickly but I understand the romance of pillow thoughts. Mine are diverse. Pleasant things, mostly. Often a prayer, sometimes a flower, a story or a fantasy. All very nice, but what is needed is single-mindedness.

And we must go to Khwaja Ghulam Farid for that.

meda ishq vi toon
meda yaar vi toon
meda deen vi toon,
iman vi toon

you are my love and also my friend*
you are my belief and also my faith

meda jism vi toon
medi rooh vi toon
meda qalb vi toon

you are my body
you are my soul
you are my heart

Then he lists exhaustively: you are my ka'bah qibla, mosque, pulpit, the holy pages and the Koran, my duty, responsibility, pilgrimage, alms, fast and also my call to prayer…

meri zohd, ibadat, taqat, taqwa, ilm vi toon irfan vi toon
my asceticism, worship, power, virtue, learning and knowing

zikr and fikr
my remembrance, my contemplation

aas umeed te khattiyan wattiyan, ve te takiya raat taman vi toon
hope, wishes, gains, losses are you, and the night's contemplation is also you

He goes on, but I always linger a moment here. Takiya raat taman vi toon… the translation calls it ‘the night's contemplation’… it's possible I understand it imperfectly but is ‘you’ the all consuming focus of Farid’s pillow thoughts as well? Why not? After all, ‘you’ are also the tilak on my forehead, sindoor in the parting of my hair, my coquetry, my fortune, my henna, mascara, collyrium, rouge, tobacco and my betel-leaf.

Mera andar bahar
Mera awwal akhar
My inner, my outer, my beginning and my end….

I think Farid would’ve thought of ‘You’ on his last breath, don’t you?

*I’ve used the Coke Studio translation of this poem as basis, though I’ve altered a couple of phrases here and there. The original is here at the song Rabba Sacheya.

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