Sunday, January 21, 2018





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 to which he attempts to touch and view through his poetry.

 Undoubtedly,  many couplets of Ghalib reveal the core message of Vedanta / Upanishads .I 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 a subject for wide research. It is also a well known fact that Ghalib was highly influenced by the Persian poet Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil ( 1642-1720 ). Bedil was a Sufi poet of Indian School or what is known as ‘Sabk  e Hindi’ . He had done wide study of ancient Indian philosophers and the Influence of Buddhist philosopher *Nagarjuna is evident in the Persian poetry of Bedil. Bedil was also influenced by the Advait philosophy of Adi Shankara.  This appears to be the reason for the influence of  Vedanta upon Mirza Ghalib’s poetry. Did Ghalib read **Dara Shikoh's Persian translation of Upanishads ? I can't comment for I have no authentic source to fall back upon. Dara Shikoh 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 Vashishtha translated into Persian .In his foreword to Sirr e Akbar, Dara wrote:-

" 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 seek to know the nature of the cosmos when he says :-


 “ Sabz o Gul kahaan se Aaye hain

Abr Kya cheez hai havaa  kyaa Hai ……..(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 anguish and restlessness of a relentless seeker  of the truth.  Ghalib  also  made  attempts to  unravel reality through mundane worldly  experiences . Even as a lover , he seeks to know nature of  reality . I quote :-


Ye pari chehra log kaise hain,

Ghamza o ishva o adha kyaa hai ?.......(Ghalib)  


(What are these  faces that look like fairies ?

How does one describe their tempting  and  seductive  demeanour  ?)

Dr Gopi Chand Narang ,the well known scholar and authority on Ghalib  writes this  :-

“ Ghalib was highly influenced by Persian poetry of Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil ( 1642-1720 ). Bedil was a lover of Upanishads and had with him a Persian translation of “Yog Vashishtha” that he read and  that influenced his thought ."

 Yog Vashistha consists of about 29000 verses .‌Yoga Vashistha consists of six Books .Within these  six books  are stories told by sage Vashistha in the form of a dialogue  with  Sri Rama . These books unfold the major Yogic and Hindu philosophical and religious themes .According to Yoga Vashistha , 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 ( company of the realized ones). The philosophy of Yoga Vashistha says that   true happiness resides in our own nature. And our true nature is beyond pain and pleasure. The 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 universe , human mind , Maaya , Brahman and the principles of non-duality.

It may not be out of place to mention that Sultan Zain ul Abdin 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 ‘Yog Vashishtha ‘ and explained these to the liberal and tolerant Sultan that Kashmir ever saw. Like  Nagarjuna and  Adi Shankara  ,  Ghalib and      Bedil   were engaged in resolving  the  mystery of the  reality .


As sample , I put forth a few couplets of Ghalib with relevant selection from Upanishads / Adi Shankara's verses.

“Jab Ki Tum Bin Koyi nahin Mojood

Phir Yeh Hangaama aey Khuda Kyaa hai ?”……..( 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 bhi tamaashaai nairang e tamanna
Matlab nahin kuchh Iss se ke matlab 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 become sinful. By virtuous actions, he becomes virtuous; and by evil actions evil.”
………..(Brihadaranyaka Upanishad)


“Nashwa-o-nooma hai asal sey Ghalib farooh ko
Khaamoshi hi sey nikley hai jo baat chaahiye .”………( 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 khwaab hai zubaan ijaad
Karay hai khamushi Ahvaale be Khudaaan Paida……( 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.”…….( Adi Sankara .. ‘Vivekachudamani’’ )

( 4)

“Mohabbat mein Nahin hai fark jeenay or marnay kaa
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 zehan tamanaa e tamaasha
Jaae ke assad rang e chaman baakhtani hai”……( 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 .)
………………………( Taittriya Upnishad )

This is  how close Ghalib comes to the concept of “Turiya “ a state of “ pure consciousness” .

”Hum wahaan hain jahan sse hamko bhi
Kuchh hamaari khabar nahin Aatee”………..( Ghalib )

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)


“Hasti ke mat fareb mein aa jaaiyo ‘assad’
Aalam tamaam halqaa-e-daam-e-khayaal hai”………( Ghalib )

Meaning …….

( Get not trapped by the deception of this existence O ! “Assad “,
This visible world in its entirety ,
belongs to the realm of imagination only.)

" (Brahma satyam jagat mithya, jivo brahmaiva naparah)

( Adi Sankara from Vivekachudamani )

 "Brahman( the ultimate unchanging  reality )  is the only truth, the world is not real, and in the end there is no difference between Brahman  and individual 'Self' (Atman).”


“Jab tawaqqu hi uth gayii  Ghalib

Kyon kisi ka gila kare koyi.”……………(Ghalib )

Meaning …..

“When all expectations are  shed,” Ghalib”.

What for and why  should one have any  complaint against any person ?”

Ranjh uthanay se  bhi khushi hogi
Pehlay dil dard aashna keejiye” …….( Ghalib )


“In  sorrow   also , you shall find  contentment  

 Let you acquaint your  heart with throbbing  Compassion   first  “


 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.)

Upanishads say that this world is empirical reality ( Maaya ) and not absolute reality ( Brahman ) . But Brahman is the cause of this universe . The world thus is something like an unreal perception of the viewer . An illusion not because it does not exist, but because it is not what it appears to be all the time. From an absolute perspective, the material universe is a temporary creation. Upnishads assert that mind has the power to perceive the world as it is, as well as fabricate the world as it wants to perceive it. Mind is a means to see the world but it is prone to flaws. In this Ontological quest man has to make a serious attempt to realize the "true reality ( Brahman ) behind perceived reality ( Maaya )". That Brahman has no attributes or characteristics. German Philosopher ***Arthur Schopenhauer   in his book " Die Welt" ( in one specific   passage on Vedantic Concept of Maaya  )  writes :-

“It is Maya, the veil of deception, which blinds the eyes of mortals and makes them behold a world of which they cannot say that it is or that it is not: for it is like a dream; it is like the sunshine on the sand which the traveler from afar takes to be water; or the stray piece of rope he takes for a snake.”


" Brahman is the real , The universe is false .Atman ( real self ) Is Brahman , nothing else ."………….( Dr S.Radhakrishnan )

( Avtar Mota)



*Nagarjuna's 'Doctrine of Emptiness .'( Shunyata)' has been a profound influence all over the world over. Scholars have different opinions about his birthplace and background though most of them believe him to be from the southern part of the country. What have scholars to say about some clear references to Nagarjuna's Kashmir connection in Kalhana's Rajtarangini? I quote two verses:-

"And a Bodhisattva was in this country the sole supreme ruler of the land; he was illustrious Nagarjuna who dwelt in Sadarhadvana.”

(Verse 173 Taranga I  Rajatarangini )


"During this era, the power of the Buddhists whom the wise Bodhisattva Nagarjuna had protected predominated in the land .”

(Verse 177 Taranga I Rajatarangini )

It is pertinent to add that Kalhana calls him Bodhisattva; a  reverence and status that is generally granted to a person who is able to reach Nirvana but delays doing so through compassion for suffering beings. In this way, such illuminated souls move towards Buddhahood.And then Sadarhadvana is present-day Harwan area of Kashmir. A Kushana period Buddhist settlement and grand monastery have been excavated at Harwan. This ancient monastery played a pivotal role in the history of Buddhism as the 4th Buddhist council of the Mahayana (Sarvastivada) school of Buddhism was held sometime in the 1st or 2nd century CE, on the orders of the Kushana emperor Kanishka I.


**Dara Shikoh's translation of the Upanishads into Persian played a  very significant role in  attracting  the west to the wisdom of the Upanishads. It began with France..  In 1671, Francis Bernier, a French traveler, took  a copy of the  Persian translation to France and got it translated to French...................Bernier was briefly personal physician to prince Dara Shikoh (The eldest son of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan) , and after Dara Shikoh was killed ,he became physician to  Aurangzeb .He stayed in India for about 12 years .He met so many Persian and Sanskrit  scholars of India .While leaving India, he  took with him loads of  Sanskrit and Persian Manuscripts/ Books.........................Victor Cousin (1792-1867  ), the reputed  French Philosopher also wrote  that Vedanta and the philosophy of the Upanishads, is the highest philosophy that mankind has ever produced. ..............................Upanishads were  widely read in France by so many French philosophers of 20th century .This long list includes Jean Paul   Sartre ,Andre Malaraux   and Albert Camus .


 ***German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer ( 1788-1860 ) was among the greatest admirers of the Upanishads in the west.The Upanishads were translated from Persian into French and, later, Latin by Anquetil Duperron. Schopenhauer got hold of a Latin translation of a Persian translation of The Upanishads.Schopenhauer book "The World as Will and Representation" brings forth the message of Upanishads .  


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