BY SHIRAZ A. PRADHAN
Author’s note: The Ginan Ek Shabda Suno Mere Bhai by Pir Shams is a summary of the initial step of Ismaili Spirituality. An MP3 of the Ginan rendered by Mohammad (Mac) Virjee of Vancouver accompanies this short commentary and translation. Virjee’s recitation in a reflective tempo invokes the recollection of the higher truths. I sincerely thank him for making it available for this piece, and to Shabir Dhanani, also of Vancouver, who helped in coordinating the whole effort.
Please listen to the Ginan by clicking below:
COMMENTARY AND TRANSLATION
The Mystical quest, the quest for Absolute Reality, in Ismailism, as in other Faiths, begins with the initial stage which is commonly known as the Awakening. In his Firman on Usul-e-Din, Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah explains this very simply:
“When you are sitting idle you must think who is the creator and what is the creation. Have you to ever thought about such things? If someone asks you, ‘do you know where you have come from’, then you will say that ‘I am my father’s son’ or perhaps you may be able to go a back a few generations. An intelligent person may be able to trace his ancestry to Hazrat Adam and there it would end. You must think where did Adam come from? Who sent Adam? Whoever is a Sufi amongst you will follow this trend of thought.”
Busy with our daily lives, we are unaware of the echoes of that other world, the spiritual world, which are continually reaching our subconscious but are unable to cross over to our conscious mind. Modern psychology accepts that human consciousness is limited. We can be aware of only a few things at a time. This limited consciousness that we have is occupied by material world. Unless effort is made to create space in the conscious mind for amplification of the messages from the spiritual universe, they remain weak. It is for this reason that Imam Sultan Mohammad Shah says in his Firman: “In your heart is a heap of fireworks, if you do not light it, how will you get Light (Roshni) in your heart?”
Pirs in their Ginans have given the same message:
Uth jag man mora, tu kahe ko sota hay?
Mankha janam ratan hay, so kahe ku khota hay?
Awaken my heart, why are you in this slumber of ignorance?
Your human birth is a diamond, so why are you wasting it?
In the spiritual quest, this shift in the vision from the material to the spiritual comes about in various stages and forms. Prince Gautam, before he became Enlightened, was continually aware of the wretchedness of the human state; the echoes of the Spiritual Universe were well amplified in his heart. In others, this amplification requires conscious effort which if undertaken is rewarded with divine help (mystical writings of all religions show that God’s love is continually pouring down to quench the thirst of all souls that open their receptacles to receive this grace and help; the only question is have we the space in our consciousness for receiving this grace?).
A reflective and awakened soul gradually begins to grasp the fact that the world she is born in, her relations, and the material things she is so attached to are transitory. One of the Ginans states:
Mal khajina bauhataj bhariya
Usme nahi kutch tera
Much wealth and belongings you have accumulated,
Yet nothing from it is truly yours
At this point the awakened soul develops a disturbing sense of not belonging to this world; that this world is not her true home. This is the flowering of the “Stranger Consciousness” in the heart, which plays a large role in Ismaili Spiritualism. In later articles, I intend to develop this theme based on various other Ginans. Suffice it to say that the development of this “Stranger Consciousness” gives rise to another equally powerful theme, that of Qiyamat. In Ismaili Spiritualism, Qiyamat, which is ordinarily understood as the Day of Judgment, assumes a slightly broader meaning as an event that marks the rise of consciousness from lower to higher stage. So the progress of the seeker, or the mystic goes from Qiyamat to Qiyamat to the highest stage of mystical Union.
One of the fundamental characteristics of the “Stranger Consciousness” is that it marks the re-orientation of the soul in the universe. When she realizes that she does not belong and is not of this world, that her true home (asal makan) is the spiritual world, she becomes unhappy in her surroundings. A new sense of direction flowers in the heart. She seeks a way to her origin. A quest to return to asal makan now arises in her heart. This marks the beginning of her journey to the “Country of the Beloved”.
Mystical branches of other religions also have such themes. The life of Christian St. Catherine of Genoa  and the record of her Awakening is shown in this excerpt:
“She received in her heart the wound of unmeasured Love of God, with so clear a vision of her own misery and her faults, and of the goodness of God, that she almost fell upon the ground. And by these sensations of infinite love, and of the offenses that had been done against this most sweet God, she was so greatly drawn by purifying affection away from the poor things of this world that she was almost beside herself, and for this she cried inwardly with ardent love: No more world, no more sin. And at this point if she had possessed a thousand worlds, she would have thrown all of them away…”
One beautiful and satisfying fact of the Spiritual Quest is that: In as much as you have sought Him, you have found Him.
The thesis of this powerful statement is that the minute we make the effort to make strong the echoes of spiritual world in our hearts, love of God blankets us, and we have already found Him. Such is God’s grace that no seeker is left thirsty.
In the light of the above, the re-orientation of jiv, soul in world, its consciousness of the echoes of the spiritual world, and its migration towards the “Country of the Beloved” mark important milestones in its Spiritual Journey.
The Ginan “Ek Shabda suno mere bhai…” capitulates these themes beautifully. In the Ginan, the soul, jiv speaks in the first person. ‘Listen to my discourse,’ it says, ‘I am on a path that is straight and pure.’ Then it asks piercing questions about her orientation, identity and her origin: ‘Whose daughter am I? Whose mother am I? Whose wife am I?’
The ‘situating’ answers come in the next stanza: ‘I am truth’s daughter.’ It cannot be any other way. A seeker after Truth cannot harbor untruth. ‘I am satisfaction’s mother.’ The reference to “satisfaction” (rida), opens up the question of the pre-requisites of the spiritual quest. Just as St. Catherine of Genoa’s immediate reaction to her brief contact with Higher Reality was ‘No more sin’, the need for purity of the heart is necessary in the spiritual quest. Not limited to this, the pre-requisites actually comprise:
From this point on let the translation of the Ginan follow:
Ek shabad suno mere bhai
Mei aavi sughad panthma……………….(1)
Listen to my word, my brother
I have come in to a pure and straight path
Kis ki beti, kiskun dhiya,
Tun kaun purush ghar nariya?……………….(2)
Whose daughter are you? Whose mother?
And whose wife are you or what man possesses you?
(Note — reference here to the soul’s origin, to the ‘essence’ of the self)
Sat ki beti, santoshkun dhiya
Mei sthual purush ghar nariya……………….(3)
Truth’s daughter, satisfaction’s mother
I am the wife of a gross or material body
Sthul purush mei suta maliya,
Mei balak maliya zulanta……………….(4)
My material body I have left sleeping
My child I have left in its cot
Dhudh kadhanta mei chule maliya
Mei aavi shah duwariya……………….(5)
Milk I have left boiling on the stove
Abandoning these material attachments,
I have come to my Lord’s door
Shah ke karan mei sab kuch chodiya,
Mei na janiya awar duwariya……………….(6)
For my Lord’s sake I have left everything,
I have not known anyone else’s door
And have not sought my salvation from aught.
Aavar chinta muje kis ki nahi,
Chinta hai mere jiv ki……………….(7)
I have no other care or worries
I am worried only about the salvation of my jiv (soul)
Jiv ke karan mai sab kuch chodiya,
Mei aavi sharan tamari ya……………….(8)
For my soul’s sake, I have forsaken all else,
I have come in submission to you
Sat ka sada, santosh ka nada,
Mei chint ki ghanth ghatai ya……………….(9)
Truth’s clothing, satisfaction’s belt,
I have tied a knot of your recollection, my Lord
Sat ka ghadula, santosh ki jari,
Mei dharam shinchan kari doriya……………….(10)
Truth’s pot, satisfaction’s pulley
I am a rope of that dips into well of faith
Bhane Pir Shams suno mere bhai,
Mei aavi kol karari ya……………….(11)
Pir Shams confirms my brother
I have come in devotion to the Lord per
our contract and agreement.
Date posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2013.
Date updated: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 (typo).
Copyright: Shiraz Pradhan/Simerg, 2013.
 Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill, E.P. Dutton, 1961, New York.
About the author: Shiraz Pradhan was born in Uganda in 1945 and graduated in Mechanical Engineering from University of East Africa in Nairobi. Shiraz moved to USA and joined Lehigh University’s Engineering Faculty for a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1971. While on his way home, for a vacation via London, Idi Amin declared the expulsion all Asians from Uganda and Shiraz was forced to complete his Masters Degree from London, UK, where he got involved in religious education of the newly uprooted Jamats from East Africa, with prominent figures such as Alwaez Jehangir and Alwaeza Malek Merchant, Dr. Rajput and Alwaez Dr. Abdul Hassam. This was a nascent and historic period involving debates on future remit and role of Ismailia Association and the direction of religious education in the West. A meeting with Alwaez Rai Kassamali of Pakistan kindled Shiraz’s interest in deeper study of Ismailism, and he began contributing regularly to Ilm, published by the Ismailia Association, UK.
Shiraz is an international engineering consultant and has contributed to several engineering textbooks and engineering publications and has been awarded patents. He has also been a speaker at the renowned Texas A & M Turbomachinery Symposium in Houston. In parallel, he continued his ties with religious education (RE), teaching RE classes in UK, Canada, USA and Japan and delivering special lectures on the extracts of his Ilm contributions, especially The Inner Journey, Die before you Die and Man in the Universe.
Shiraz is actively engaged in research and his interests now cover a broader spectrum of Islamic and Ismaili thoughts and studies of other religions. He is concluding the script of a full-length play of the 10th Century trial of the Sufi Saint Mansur al-Hallaj in Baghdad based on historical facts. This trial was a cause célèbre in Islam which shook the foundations of the Abbasid Empire and resulted in the death by decapitation of this upright and pious Muslim. The other areas of his interest include the synthesis of the Khoja Ginanic tradition with the broader Ismaili philosophy and theology, the preservation of its gayki (singing) tradition, the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Early Christianity and the Vedanta.
Other articles by the same author on this website:
1. “Die Before You Die” – Journey Towards the Nur
2. The Inward Odyssey in Two Key Ismaili Ginans, “Brahma Prakash” and “Sakhi Mahapada”
3. An Explanation of the Ismaili Ginan “Kesri Sinha Sarup Bhulayo” (most recent)
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