THE LIGHT THE BREATH OF LIFE
I don’t know where the night before I was and what stopping-place it was that in all directions, it was the dance of the victims; the night before.
That’s an ordinary attempt to translate the extraordinary Persian couplet of Amir Khusro.
Namidaanam che manzil bood shab jaaye ke man boodam
Ba har soo raqs bismil bood shab jaaye ke man boodam
Where exactly he was and what exactly it was that he witnessed. He hinted only this that he witnessed, the dance, in all directions, of the victims. Then, who is the Shikari, the Gamesman, of these victims? And, who are the game, the victims? Why are they called the victims? The poet has conveniently left all the answers for us to imagine and speculate; for us to flutter the wings and struggle to fly on the wings of, what else but, imagination and reach as high as possible and still try and make out what he had seen that night that lifted him to that point of ecstasy, that he could not help but write these mysteriously beautiful lines.
Does he capture the vision, a total panoramic vision, of all the Universes, and the planets, like electrons in an atom, revolving round the nucleus, in each of these Universes? The Earth, revolving on its axis, is also moving round the Sun. The planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, are all moving round the Sun, as well. The Moon is moving round the Earth. And, in all other Universes the same dance the same way, he sees.
He sees Life, in all forms and shapes, engaged in the same dance.
The heart, a universe in itself, is beating in and out the drops of blood. They are dancing, up along the veins and down through the arteries, to the tune and beats of the throbbing heart. The lungs, busy in their own dance, are sucking in, the breath of life, and pushing it out again to make way for the life’s next instalment. The brain, the centre of all kinds of nerves and vibes, is directing countless dances.
Innumerable bodies, of men and women, of animals, of birds, of insects, are managing to dance to the tunes of the heart, of the lungs and of the brain.
This is not all. Add to this the totality of Plant Life. Life dances there as well. The plants and trees suck water from beneath the Mother Earth and the dancing liquid takes the course of multitudinous tributaries until it reaches the very top. From the top, they suck air; two different airs in two different ways at two different times, of the day and of the night, to provide the breath of life for themselves and for all the other living beings, thus orchestrating and choreographing and also dancing at the same time the Dance of Life.
All, all these beautiful steps, the charming movements and the entrancing postures of this beautiful dance and the beautiful dancers are but game to dance at the behest of the baton in the hands of the Great Hunter. The marvel is: the Hunter and the hunted love the game and the hunted falls in love with the Hunter all the way, well down to the finish!
To complete the flight, he arrives at the Houseless House in which the Hunter Himself heads the Assemblage and the Lamp, that bathes in Light, all and entire, is the Prophet!
Khuda khud Meer-e-majlis bood andar lamakaa’n ‘Khusro’
Mohammad shamm-e-mehfil bood shab jaaye ke man boodam
This Houseless House is his own body. The Meer-e-Majlis occupies the seat of the soul. Majlis, that is, life, is going on. Isn’t then the very breath of life is the Light of the Lamp? The breath goes and comes back, goes and comes back. Then, the breath goes and doesn’t come back. The Majlis is draped in darkness. The Light is out. Meer-e-majlis terminates the Majlis. The soul departs when there is no breath.
If the Prophet is the very breath of life, not just of human life but of the animal life and of the plant life, and indeed of life in all shapes and sizes, then, Khusro must have realised the Prophet as a Universal Entity, as Rahmat-ill-il-‘aalameen which is just another epithet of God Himself who happens to be the Hunter and the Meer-e-Majlis.
What better ‘rahmat’, better kindness, better mercy and gift of God to all the Universes and to Life in all forms, all shapes and sizes, than the very breath of Life!
To this day, qawwals sing this composition in sama’-mehfils to cast a spell of trance in which a certain level of bliss and ecstasy is experienced well beyond the boundaries of sects, creeds and religions.