Mirza Ghalib and message of Vedanta and Upanishads

Avtar Krishen Mota
Ghalib’s world is vast and one can’t fit him into any one category of issues or subjects. In Ghazals, he carries, not only a unique intensity of emotions but also a perfection of form and a deep feeling for the beauty of the world. Very consciously, he feels himself a part of the cosmos which he attempts to touch and view through his poetry.
Undoubtedly, many couplets of Ghalib reveal the core message of Vedanta / Upanishads. We have no source to verify if Ghalib had ever learnt Sanskrit or read Upanishads in Persian translation. How he came so close to the core philosophy of Vedanta / Upanishads? This is an enthusing mystery that can be the subject for a serious research. It is also a well-known fact that Ghalib was highly influenced by the Persian poet Mirza Abdul QadirBedil (1642-1720). Bedil was a Sufi poet of the Indian School known as ‘Sabk e Hindi’. He had done deep study of the ancient Indian philosophy and the Influence of Buddhist philosopher *Nagarjuna is evident in the Persian poetry of Bedil. Bedil was also influenced by the Advait philosophy of AdiShankara. This appears to be the reason for the influence of Vedanta upon MirzaGhalib’s poetry. Did Ghalib read Dara Shikoh’s Persian translation of the Upanishads? We can’t comment for we have no authentic source to fall back upon. DaraShikoh was a lover of Upanishads and had 52 Upanishads translated into Persian just two years before he was executed. His translation,’ Sirr-e-Akbar’ (The Greatest Mystery ) was completed in 1657.He also got Bhagavad-Gita and the Yoga Vasishtha translated into Persian. In his foreword to Sirr e Akbar, Dara writes this :-
” Happy is he, who having abandoned the prejudices of vile selfishness, sincerely and with the grace of God, renouncing all partiality, shall study and comprehend this translation titled ‘The Greatest Secret ‘ [Sirr-i-Akbar], knowing it to be a translation of the words of God. He shall become imperishable, fearless, unsolicitous, and eternally liberated.”
As a poet of humanity, Ghalib is free from all narrow inhibitions of sect, segment or religion. He is frank, straight and unambiguous to say that his love is also sensuous even if erected on a foundation of idealism and self-surrender. His poetry leaves your mind free but creates its passage through your heart. The inquisitive mind of Ghalib seeks to know the nature of the cosmos when he says:-
” Sabz o Gulkahaan se Aayehain
AbrKyacheezhaihavaakyaaHai ……..(Ghalib )
(Where from have these
Flowers and greenery come?
What are these clouds all about?
What is the secret of the air )
Ghalib’s creativity is enigmatic that has the anguish and restlessness of a relentless seeker of truth. Ghalib also made attempts to unravel reality through mundane worldly experiences. Even as a lover, he seeks to know the nature of reality. I quote:-
“Ye parichehra log kaisehain,
Ghamza o ishva o adhakyaahai ?”…….(Ghalib)
(What are these faces that look like fairies?
How does one describe their tempting and seductive demeanour ?)
DrGopi Chand Narang, the well-known scholar and authority on Ghalib writes this :-
” Ghalib was highly influenced by the Persian poetry of Mirza Abdul QadirBedil ( 1642-1720 ). Bedil was a lover of Upanishads and had with him a Persian translation of “YogVasistha” that he read and that influenced his thought .”
YogVashistha consists of six books and about 29000 verses. Within these six books are stories told by sage Vasistha in the form of a dialogue with Sri Rama. These books unfold the major Yogic and Hindu philosophical and religious themes. According to Yoga Vasistha, happiness visits a human being should he sincerely work for it. His action or effort must always be in four components. These components of effort are, Samo (quietude of mind), Vichara ( spirit of Enquiry), Santosha ( contentment ) and Satsang (the company of the realized ones). The philosophy of Yoga Vasistha says that true happiness resides in our nature. And our true nature is beyond pain and pleasure. Pain and pleasure are reactions that arise from our cravings and bind our consciousness. These Verses have a philosophical foundation similar to those found in Advaita Vedanta. It is a treatise on the universe, the human mind, Maaya, Brahman and the principles of non-duality.
It may not be out of place to mention that Sultan ZainulAbdin of Kashmir, fondly known as Budshah was also a lover of Yoga Vashistha. It was Sanskrit scholar and his court historian Srivara who read passages from ‘YogVashishtha ‘ and explained these to the liberal and tolerant Sultan that Kashmir ever saw. Like Nagarjuna and AdiShankara, Ghalib and Bedil were engaged in resolving the mystery of reality.
As sample, I put forth a few couplets of Ghalib with a relevant selection from Upanishads / AdiShankara’s verses.
“Jab Ki Tum Bin KoyinahinMojood
PhirYehHangaamaaeyKhudaKyaahai ?”……..(Ghalib)
(When nothing here exists without you,
Then wherefore all this tumult.0 Lord?)
“God/truth alone exists as the substratum and this entire world is merely an appearance. It stands immutable and alone in all high glory and divinity as pure existence consciousness pervading the entire universe”………. (Shvetashavatra Upanishad)
“Huun me bhitamaashaainairang e tamanna
MatlabnahinkuchhIss se kematlab hi bar aave”..(Ghalib)
( I am wanting to see,
the outcome of my yearning.
My desires may come to fruition
But it is not predictable.
I should better act as a witness to my own doing.)
“Act he must. As he acts so does he become? The doer of good becomes good. The doer of sinful actions becomes sinful. By virtuous actions, he becomes virtuous; and by evil actions evil.”………..(Brihadaranyaka Upanishad)
Khaamoshi hi seynikleyhaijobaatchaahiye .”…(Ghalib )
Meaning ..
” Leaves and branches grow due to water and nutrition from roots , So does the much needed and real expression emerge from silence and not from words or speech ”
“Basaan e sabza rag e khwaabhaizubaanijaad
KarayhaikhamushiAhvaale be KhudaaanPaida”.(Ghalib)
(Dreams too speak to us like leaves of grass , those who are aware know only the speech of soundless silence .)
“The causal and the resultant conditions, the non-apprehension and misapprehension of reality, do not exist in Turiya. Silence is awareness, it is the Atman, the Self.”…..(Mundaka Upanishad)
“That which clearly manifests Itself in the waking, dream, and dream-less sleepstates; which is inwardly perceived in the mind, in various forms, as an unbrokenseries of ‘I’ impressions; which is the witness of the ego, ‘Buddhi’ (intellect), etc.which are of diverse forms and modifications; and which shines as the eternal existence-knowledge-bliss absolute, know through this Atman, thy own self, within thy heart.”( AdiSankara . ‘Vivekachudamani” )
( 4)
“MohabbatmeinNahinhaifarkjeenay or marnaykaa
Useeko dekh key jitay hain jis kaafir pe dum niklay”……….(Ghalib)
Meaning …
( Life or death make no difference to a lover,
As lover, I live merely by looking at my beloved whose very sight is the cause of my demise.)
“Whosoever, living substance or animals and objects in the world are living on each other…like parasites…. All are honey and nectar of and for each other.”……(Brihadaranyaka Upanishad)
“Hai Saadagi e zehantamanaa e tamaasha
Jaae ke assad rang e chaman baakhtanihai”…(Ghalib)
(The desire to be known and noticed ,
What Innocence , Assad !
Even the garden’s bloom is transitory and destined to vanish.)
(What do you seek in this transitory world ?
Seek to know him from whom all beings are born;
In whom ,
Being born, They live ;
And to whom they return at death,
He is Brahman .) ………………(TaittriyaUpnishad )
This is how close Ghalib comes to the concept of “Turiya” a state of ” pure consciousness” .
“Hum wahaanhainjahanssehamkobhi
Meaning …
(I am at that stage from where, even I get no news of my own self)
“Not inwardly cognitive, nor outwardly cognitive, not both-wise cognitive, not a cognition-mass, not cognitive, not non-cognitive, unseen, with which there can be no dealing, ungraspable, having no distinctive mark,non-thinkable, that cannot be designated, the essence of assurance, of which is the state of being one with the Self the cessation of development, tranquil, benign, without a second, such they think is the fourth. He is the self (Atman). He should be discerned.”… (Mandukya Upanishad)
Upanishads say that sorrow mostly comes by attachment to sense objects and in detachment lies the continuous / unaltered state of happiness. For this , the mind needs to be trained first for undertaking that journey of detachment to arrive at unaltered state of happiness.
” He who knows the bliss of that Brahman , from whence all speech , with the mind , turns away unable to reach it , he fears nothing .”……… (Taittrya Upnishad)
“Juz naam nahin soorat e aalam mujhe manzoor
Juz vaham nahin hasti e ashiya meray aagay”(Ghalib)
Meaning …
(Whatever i see is nothing more than a name for me ,
The forms of this world that I see ,
Nothing more than an illusion for me.)