The Life of Bulleh Shah
By: J.R. Puri and T.R. Shangari
Mysterious is the turn of time. The man who had been refused by the mullahs to be buried after his death in the
community graveyard because of his unorthodox views, today enjoys worldwide reverence and recognition. The tomb of Bulleh Shah in Qasur and the area around it is today the only place free of collective refuse, and the
privileged of the city pay handsomely to be buried in the proximity of the man they had once rejected. "This radical change has been possible because people have been impressed in the course of time by the holy way
of Bullah's life and the efficacy of his teachings.
"The greatest Sufi poet of the Punjab was Mir Bulleh Shah Qadiri Shatari. " Because of his pure life and high spiritual attainments, he is
equally popular among all communities. Scholars and dervishes have called him "The Sheikh of Both the Worlds," "The man of God," "The Knower of Spiritual Grace" and by other equally
edifying titles. Considered as the greatest mystic poet of the Punjab, his compositions have been regarded as "the pinnacle of Sufi literature." His admirers compare his writings and philosophy to those of
Rumi and Shams-i-Tabriz. At present, he is held in equally great esteem in Northern India and Pakistan.
Bulleh Shah's real name was Abdullah Shah. From Abdullah Shah it changed to Bullah Shah or Bul1
Shah. "Out of affection some call him Baba Bulleh Shah, Sain Bulleh Shah and some others mer Bullah. "The 40th Knot" gives evidence of his t] name. "Invoking the name of God, now pray to Hi the Lord
pervades everywhere Abdullah exists more."
There is some difference of opinion among research scholars about the time of his birth and death. Majority, however, believes that he lived from 1680
1758. Even about his birthplace there is some controversy. Some researchers hold the view that he was born in the village Uch Gilaniyan in Bahawalpur St (Pakistan). They believe that Bulleh Shah remained
in this village up to the age of six months, when parents were residing here, but who shifted to village Malakwal (Tehsil Sahiwal, Dist. Multan) for sc reason. They had not been in Malakwal for a long time when the
owner of village Pandoke felt the need (preacher for the village mosque. On the recommendations of the people of Malakwal, he approached Bu Shah's father, Shah Mohammed Dervish, took to Pandoke where he performed the
duties not only of the preacher but also of the village teacher for children.
All researchers agree on the point that the ancestors' village of Bulleh Shah's parents was Uch Gilaniyan, it is from there
that they shifted first to Malakwal
later to Pandoke. However, some researchers hold view that Bulleh Shah's birth took place after his parents had shifted to Pandoke. Today it is known as Pandoke
Bhatian. It is about 14 miles southeast of Qasur and is quite well-known. In fact, Bulleh Shah's contribution to make it famous is considerable. It is said that from among the ancestors of Bulleh Shah, Sayeed
Jallalluddin Bukhari came to Multan from Surakh-Bukhara three hundred years earlier. Here he got initiated from Hazarat Sheikh Ghaus Bahauddin Zakriya of Multan, and here eventually he settled down. Bulleh Shah's
grandfather, Sayyiad Abdur Razzaq, descended from the same line. Thus Bulleh Shah's family, being of Sayyiad caste, was related to prophet Mohammed on the one hand and on the other hand with Sufi thought and mystic
traditions, for centuries.
Bulleh Shah's father, Shah Mohammed Dervish, was well-versed in Arabic, Persian and the holy Qura'n. He was a noble soul with spiritual leanings. It is said that out of the
whole family, Bulleh Shah's sister had the greatest love for him, who, like her brother, remained celibate all her life, and spent much of her time in meditation. Both, brother and sister, had been greatly influenced by
the high moral character of their father who, out of respect for him, had been given the title "Dervish. " The tomb of Bulleh Shah's father still exists in Pandoke Bhatian. Every year an urs is performed at
the tomb and Bulleh Shah's kafis are sung there. In this way a tribute is paid to both, father and son, and it has assumed the form of a tradition to perpetuate theirmemory.
Bulleh Shah's childhood was
spent under the care of his father at Pandoke. He received his early education, like that of other children, from his father. Later, for higher education he was sent to Qasur, which was a well-known educational center
those days. In Qasur there were eminent teachers such as Hazarat Ghulam Murtaza and Maulana Mohiyuddin. Their fame had spread far and wide. Bulleh Shah too became a pupil of Hazarat Ghulam Murtaza. With his native
intelligence and moral inclination, he gained much from his contact with his teacher.
There is a strong historical evidence to show that Bulleh Shah was an eminent scholar of Arabic and Persian. From his
own compositions we can find many references to Islamic thought and mystic literature. Later, when he attained mystic realization, his erudition and learning acquired a new significance. But Bulleh Shah had to pass
through a hard struggle before he could attain the inner knowledge. This attainment was possible only through his contact with his Murshid or Master, Inayat Shah. The study of scriptures and other holy books had only
aroused his interest and curiosity about spiritual realization. His longing for union with the Lord reached its consummation only after he met a perfect Master in the person of Shah Inayat Qadiri.
Shah was a well-known Qadiri Sufi of his time. From the historical point of view the Qadiri Sufis can be traced back to the Sufi Saint Abdul Qadri Jilani of Bagdad. Jilani is also known by the names Pir Dastgir and
Piran-i-Pir. Bulleh Shah himself has also given a hint that his "Master of Masters" was born in Bagdad but his own Master belonged to Lahore:
My Master of Masters hailed from Bagdad,
but my Master belongs to the throne of Lahore.
It is all the same. For He himself is the kite
and He himself is the string.
Two collections of Sheikh Abdul-Qadir Jilani's sermons, al Fathal Rabbani, comprising 62 and the Futuh al-Ghaib, containing 78 of them, are well known
to Islamic readers. In one of the sermons, he strongly denounced his contemporaries for their materialistic way of life. In another sermon he said, "Good and evil were two fruits emerging from two branches of a
single tree. One of the branches yielded sweet fruit and the other bitter; it would be wise, therefore, for people to move to areas where the sweet fruits were to be found." Also, " A jihad fought against
self-will was, to Sheikh Abdul-Qadir far superior to that waged with the sword. Through this struggle the idolatory of the self and the worshi p of created things ( the hidden shirk) could be vanquished. Sheikh Jilani
"advised his audience that seekers of God had to be indifferent towards even the life hereafter and to cultivate pleasure only in the thought of annihilation and abiding poverty in this life. "4
In India the
influence of the Sufi Qadiri thought was, felt after three centuries in 1432 through the person of Mohammed Ghaus, a Sufi dervish. Mohammed Ghaus first settled in Bahawalpur, but later his teachings reached far
The Sufi saint of Punjab, Mian Mir (1550-1635 A. D.) was also connected with the Qadiri tradition. It is well-known that Guru Ram Das got the foundation of Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar laid by Mian Mir. The
story is also current that at the time of the Mughul emperor Jahangir's persecution of the fifth Guru, Shri Arjun Dev, Mian Mir sought the approval of Guru Arjun Dev to raze the town of Delhi to the ground if he so
permitted. The Guru replied that he could also do it, but under all conditions one must live in the will of God. It is obvious from this that there was great love between Mian Mir and the Gurus, and that he was held in
great esteem by them.
The date of birth of Inayat Shah Qadiri (died 1728 A.D.) is not known. But, from one of his own hand-written manuscripts, it is evident that he was enjoying good health in 1699 A.D. He was an
eminent Sufi saint of the Qadiri tradition and is said to be a scholarly author. He wrote a number of Persian books on mysticism, from among which Dastur-ul-Amal, Islah-ul-Amal, Lataif-i-Ghaibya, and Ishartul Talibin
are particularly well-known. In Dastur-ul-Amal he has made a mention of seven spiritual stages. The ancient Hindu rishis considered passing through these stages as necessary for God-realization.
Inayat Shah lived in
Lahore, so he was called Inayat Shah Lahori. He belonged to the Arain caste and earned his living through agriculture or gardening. He
also lived in Qasur for some time, but due to the animosity of the ruler of Qasur
he shifted to Lahore, where he remained till the end of his life. His tomb is also situated near Lahore. In Bang-i-Auliya-i-Hind we find the following reference about him:
From the tribe of gardeners was brother Shah Inayat,
He received honor from Shah Raza Wali Allah.
He earned his living in the small town of Qasur Pathana.
The ruler Husein Khan of this town was his arch enemy.
From there Inayat Shah came to the city of Lahore;
Two miles to the south of the city he made his habitation.
It is at this place that we find his tomb.
In 1141 he departed from this world.
It is said that even before coming in contact with Inayat Shah, Bulleh Shah used to do some spiritual
practice, and had acquired certain miraculous powers. When Bulleb Shah, the seeker, passed near the small field of Inayat Shah, he saw fruit laden trees on both sides of the road. Inayat Shah himself was engaged in
planting onion seedlings. It occurred to Bulleh Shah to test Inayat Shah of his spiritual power. Invoking the name of God, Bullah looked at the trees, and the fruit started falling on the ground. Inayat Shah looked back
and saw that unripe fruit was falling from the trees without any reason. He immediately realized that it was due to the mischief played by the young man passing by. He looked towards Bulleh Shah and said, "Well,
young man, why have you brought down the unripe fruit from the trees?" This is what Bulleh Shah wanted, to find an opportunity to talk to Inayat Shah. He went up to him and said, "Sir, I neither climbed up the
trees, nor did I throw any stones at the fruit, how could I tear it from the trees ?" Inayat Shah cast a full glance at Bulleh Shah and said, "0, you are not only a thief, you are also being clever! "
Inayat's glance was so penetrating that it touched Bullah's heart and he instantly fell at his feet. Inayat Shah asked him his name and the purpose for coming to him. Bullah replied, "Sir, my name is Bullah and I
wish to know how I can realize God." Inayat Shah said, "Why do you look down? Get up and look at me." As soon as Bullah raised his head and looked at Inayat Shah, the Master again cast at him a full
glance, laden with love, shaking him all through. He said "0 Bullah, what problem is there in finding God ? It only needs to be uprooted from here and planted there." This was enough for Bulleh Shah. He got
what he had wished for .
Inayat Shah had poured the essence of spirituality in these few words. He conveyed to Bulleh Shah that the secret of spiritual progress lay in detaching one's mind from the world outside and
attaching it to God within. In Bang-i-Auliya-i-Hindthis instance has been describedas below:
"In the city of Qasur Pathana it happened to
a man of God, a descendent of prophet Mohammed, the grandson of Pir Jilani, that he achieved greatness from Hazrat Shah Inayat whose tomb lies in Lahore, south of the city. Bulleh Shah said to himelf, "I must
get my Master after testing him. I must fully satisfy myself, I must drink water after straining it." In his intense search for his Master he first looked towards Lahore, then he came there and took his residence,
where the garden of Shah Inayat was situated. There he saw a mango on a tree at that time, he looked at it, invoked the name of God, and the mango fell on the ground. Shah lnayat gave a call to him and said,
"Listen, you wayfarer, you have stolen my mango. Give it back to me." Bulleh Shah replied, "I did not climb up the tree; your mangoes are far from my reach. It is with the wind that the mango broke from
the branch and came into my lap. Invoking the name of God, you got the mango. You have committed a theft. " Bulleh Shah realized the spiritual power and knowledge of Inayat Shah. He fell at his feet, was graced by
initiation from the Master and attained the secret knowledge."
Bulleh Shah's meeting with the Master, getting initiation from
him and being deeply impressed has been described by a scholar in these words :
"Bulleh Shah had all those virtues in him which Shah
Inayat was looking for in a disciple. He opened his inner treasure and placed it before him. .-.He got the vision, he became oblivious of his surroundings, and in that state of rapture he proclaimed the gift of his
inner grace in the manner of Mansur. "
Bulleh Shah started to pass his time in a state of strange ecstasy. In the company of his
Master and with the practice of the path he had been shown, Bulleh Shah's spiritual condition started changing day by day. His kafi, "Whatever color I am dyed in " makes it clear how great was the effect of
his Master on him. In it he mentions that his inner eye had been opened, all his doubts had been removed, and he had been blessed with the light of Realization. Through the grace of his Master he had the vision of the
Lord within and that for him no difference existed between his Master and the Lord.
The effect of his master was so profound that but for his Master nothing else mattered for him. He became strangely selfless and
impervious to affairs of the world. Prof. Purn Singh has described an interesting incidence of this phase of Bulleh Shah's life in his book The Spirit of Oriental Poetry. One day he saw a young girl whose
husband was expected to come home, and in whose preparation she was putting plaits in her hair. A strange desire arose in his mind. He also dressed himself like that woman, put the same type of plaits in his
hair, and went in this guise to meet his Master. For the worldly people such an act would look ridiculous, but it shows not only the great love for his Master but also his unconcern with public opinion and his
desire to sacrifice himself for his beloved. In the manner of true lovers he shed his mescaline pride and assumed the form of a helpless women who renounces her ego and surrenders herself completely to her lord.
Whatever questions or doubts Bulleh Shah had in his mind before he met his Master, were all drowned in the experience of inner light. When he had made up his mind to come to Inayat Shah, people had dissuaded him
from doing so, saying, "You are a great scholar, a master of miraculous powers and a descendent of prophet Mohammed. Does it seem right to you to go to an ordinary gardener of low caste and become his disciple? Is
it not shameful?" But his Master was true to his name. HE showered such grace on Bulleh Shah that a single glance of his made him saturated with spiritual light. In ecstatic gratitude Bullah proclaimed:
"O Bullah, if you seek the pleasure of a garden in spring, go and become a
servant of the Arain."
Bulleh Shah held the hem of his Master's cloak so firmly that he never let it go from his hand for the rest of his life. All of Bulleh Shah's compositions are suffused with love and gratitude for his Master. In this love he identified his Master with the Lord. He has addressed Shah Inayat with such words as guide, as one who unites people with God, besides calling him spouse, husband, Lord, friend, and beloved.
1. He listens to my tale of woe;
Shah lnayat guides me and takes me across.
2 a. Shah Inayat is my Master, who has come to grace me.
All my wrangles and strife's are over.
Who can now delude me ?
b. Bullah has fallen in love with the Lord.
He has given his life and body as earnest.
His Lord and Master is Shah Inayat
who has captivated his heart.
c. He pervades in everyone.
Shah lnayat himself showed it, And then alone I could see.
3 a. Inayat will come to my nuptial couch;
I am in great delight.
b. My friends have come to congratulate me.
Shah Inayat, my Lord, has fulfilled my hopes.
c. I left my parents to take your shelter,
O my beloved King Inayat!
Now honor this bond of love,
for I am entirely in your hands.
Pray, walk into my courtyard !
d. Come Love, fold me in your arms,
Why this estrangement ? Says Bullah:
Ever since I found Shah Inayat, The Lord has taken abode in me.
e. Bulleh Shah has no caste ;
He has found Shah Inayat.
He calls his Master the Lord of the soul and the philosopher's
stone, which can turn iron into gold.
O Bullah, my Lord Inayat knows God,
He is the Master of my heart.
I am iron, he is the philosopher's stone.
"The Master is an adept in swimming, he can take across an inept and helpless woman."
Bullah also calls him the one
who can embellish t soul with spiritual apparel and jewelry and transform widow into a bride.
O Bullah, the Lord brought me to the door of Inayat,
Who embellished me with clothes green and red.
For a distinguished scholar, who
belonged to the line of prophet Mohammed, to accept an ordinary vegetable grower as his Master was a very extraordinary event in the social conditions of Bulleh Shah's times. It was like an explosion which shook the
prevailing social structure. Bullah had to suffer the taunts and ridicule not only of men of his religion, clan and caste, but also of all members of his family. He says :
1. 0, what has love done to me?
People hurl at me taunts and rebukes.
2. For the sake of my true friend,
I have to bear the reproaches of people.
3. To admonish Bullah came his sisters and sisters-in-law,
"Why have you brought disgrace to the prophet
and to the progeny of Ali?
Listen to our advice, 0 Bullah, and leave the hem of the Arain's skirt.
Bullah preached fearlessly that the guidance of a Master was indispensable for spiritual realization, and the caste of the Master did not at all
matter in this pursuit. Even if he belonged to the lowest caste, his help would still remain indispensable. Thus, he proclaimed at the top of his voice that pride in being a Sayyiad would land one in hell, and the one
who held the skirt of a Master like Inayat Shah would enjoy the pleasures of heaven.
Let anyone, who calls me a Sayyiad,
be punished with tortures of hell,
And let him revel in the pleasures of heaven,
who labels me an Arain.
If you seek the pleasures of the spring season,
become a slave of the Arain.
An interesting incident of this period in the life of Bulleh Shah presents a graphic picture of his ecstasy, generosity and fearlessness of
public opinion. It is said that as a result of disgust from people's attitude, Bulleh Shah purchased a few donkeys so that people should ridicule him. They started calling him "The man with donkeys." During
those days, a poor man's wife was abducted by a Muslim Chieftain. In despair, the husband went to Bulleh Shah, and asked for his help in recovering his beloved wife. After a few moments spent in thought, Bulleh Shah
told the man, "Go and see, my friend, if there is any music or dance going on somewhere near about." The man soon came back and reported that a group of eunuchs was dancing in the village nearby, accompanied
by a band of musicians. "That is good, " said Bulleh Shah. "Come now and sit on one of my donkeys, and we shall both go to watch the dance. " As soon as the saint arrived at the dance, he joined the
group and also started dancing. He got into
an ecstasy and asked the man, "Where does the Muslim Chieftain live ?" The man told him that he lived in a certain part of the city near the orchard of dates and
the grove of mangoes. Then Bulleh Shah called out withdirected attention :
There is a mango grove, it is said,
and an orchard of dates.
The owner of donkeys calls you,
Wake up, if you are asleep.
Sorrel is thus hulled in the mortar,
Sorrel is thus hulled, my friend!
The moment he uttered these words, the abducted woman ran out from the nearby garden and came to Bulleh Shah. Bulleh Shah stopped dancing and called to the husband, "Here is your beloved
wife, brother! Take her home and guard her well."
Then once more wrapped in ecstasy, he continued to dance to the bewitching music. The gossips lost no time in going to Bulleh Shah's father, an orthodox Muslim, and
told him all that had happened. Not only was his son now hiring out donkeys, but he had also started to dance with the eunuchs. Greatly distressed and enraged, the saint's father, with a rosary in one hand and a staff
in the other, hastened to the place where his son was dancing. " Ah! it is you, father" said Bulleh Shah as he heard his name called. He looked at his father intently and began to sing :
People have only chaplets but my father has a rosary.
The whole of his life he has toiled hard,
But has not been able to uproot a single hair.
Sorrel is thus hulled in the mortar .
Sorrel is thus hulled, my friend !
As the son, filled with spiritual ardor, gazed at his
father, the inner eye of the father was opened and he had a divine vision. With a serene and radiant smile on his face, .he joined his son in the ecstatic dancing and singing, and as he danced, he sang over and over
Blessed are the parents whose sons
are dyed in such divine color !
They bring salvation even to their parents.
Sorrel is thus hulled in the mortar.
Sorrel is thus hulled, my friend !
The beginning of love is fascinating, but its
path is difficult and its destination far. Even a small error or omission on the part of the lover can become a cause of great annoyance for the beloved. 'That creates a mountain of calamities for the lover. Such a
thing happened to Bulleh Shah, when his Master got annoyed with him for an omission on his part.
Some writers have attributed the reason for his Master's annoyance to Bulleh Shah's open criticism of rituals
and customs practiced by Muslims, and this was not to the liking of Inayat Shah. This reason, however , does not appear plausible, because criticism of external observance .is common to all Sufi saints, and it was not
unknown in the Qadiri tradition. They were certainly not the worshippers of this system.
The second reason given for the annoyance is quite different in nature. It is said that once Bulleh Shah invited his Master on
the marriage of one of his relatives, The Saint deputed one of his disciples to represent him at the function. This disciple belonged to the Arain caste and was poorly clad. Now, Bulleh Shah's family was proud of
belonging to the clan of Sayyiads. They did not give proper attention in receiving this poorly clad man. Even Bullah happened to make this omission. At least he should have shown proper respect to the representative of
his Master, But under the pressure of his family or the fear of public opinion, he did not give the guest due honor. When the disciple
returned from the marriage, the Saint asked him how the marriage was celebrated.
He told his Master the whole story , and complained that because of his low caste and tattered clothes, neither Bulleh Shah nor his family showed him due respect. The Saint replied, "How dare Bullah behave like
this ?" And then added, "What have we to get from this useless man ? We shall change the direction of the flow of water from his fields to yours !" He had only to utter these words to bring a calamity in
Bullah's life. As soon as the Master changed the direction of his grace, his spring turned into autumn. His inner visions vanished, leaving him dry and barren. Light changed into darkness and bliss into mourning. It was
a stunning blow to Bullah.
One who has never experienced inner bliss and who has never had a glimpse of the divine glory of his Master within, his case is quite different. But the one who has enjoyed the wealth of
inner experience and who is suddenly deprived of this treasure, he alone knows the pangs of such a torture. In fact, the lord of spiritual wealth is the perfect Master, and there is nothing in the hands of the disciple.
Apparently, the disciple is himself seeking the Master, and with his own effort treads the path and progresses on it, as shown by the Master. But, in reality the disciple cannot search for the Master with his mind and
meager intellect, nor can he find the true path with his own power and cleverness. N or can he rise to spiritual realms with his own endeavor. Finding the true path and achieving spiritual progress are all gifts of the
Master's grace. Bulleh Shah has himself written, "The Guru does whatever he wills." But to realize this he had to suffer the annoyance of his Master and cross the frightening ocean of the fire of separation.
soon as his spiritual experiences were stopped, Bullah hastened to his Master, but the Master turned his back on him and asked him to leave the place. For one thing, the annoyance of his Master '. for another the
command not to see him! What greater torture could there be for a disciple ? Bullah was miserable. He began to burn in the fire of repentance, and his condition waslike that of a fish out of water .
compositions of Bullah, many references can be found of this heart-rending state of his mind. In many of his kafis there is a touch of his personal life. No one can say with certainty when these kafis were written. But
the descriptions in these poems bespeak of such a mental state. The pain of separation erupts in them like turbulent waves. "In poignancy of emotion, sincerity of feeling, ardor and longing, these kafis are
From the kafi given below it is evident; that the memory of the bliss of union with the beloved and the pain of separation from him are continuing to burn Bullah to ashes like a house on fire. He
cannot give up love, but in the separation of his beloved, he can find peace neither by day nor by night. He is not blessed with the sight of his beloved, but without seeing him, fire rages within his breast, and his
heart is breaking. It is hard to bear such a state of mind, but it is also impossible to relinquish love. So he hangs between life and death :
I have been pierced by the arrow of love,
what shall I do ?
I can neither live, nor can I die.
Listen ye to my ceaseless outpourings,
I have peace neither by night, nor by day.
I cannot do without my Beloved even for a moment.
I have been pierced by the arrow of love,
what shall I do ?
The fire of separation is unceasing !
Let someone take care of my love.
How can I be saved without seeing him?
I have been pierced by the arrow of love,
what shall I do ?
O Bullah, I am in dire trouble !
Let someone come to help me out.
How shall I endure such torture ?
I have been pierced by the arrow of love,
what shall I do ?
I can neither live, nor can I die.
In another kafi he describes his pain thus :
He left me, and himself he departed;
What fault was there in me ?
Neither at night nor in the day do I sleep in peace;
My eyes pour out tears !
Sharper than swords and spears are the arrows of love !
There is no one as cruel as love ;
This malady no physician can cure.
There is no peace, not for a moment,
So intense is the pain of separation !
O Bullah, if the Lord were to shower
His grace, My days would radically change !
He left me, and himself he departed.
What fault was there in me ?
As the period of separation became longer, Bullah's condition became worse. On the one hand~ there was the pain of separation, on the other, the
ridicule of people. He prostrates before the memory of his Master, and repeatedly entreats him to show his face to him at the earliest.
Why do you tarry , my Beloved ?
O Bullah, now narrate your love story.
He alone knows who has experienced love.
There are rebukes within, taunts without
Such is the comfort I have found in love !
My eyes have taken to the habit of weeping.
For one, it is death, for another, reproach from the world.
The pain of separation has tightly squeezed my life.
O Love, I have cried out my heart in anguish !
Bullah was full of repentance over his blunder. He was keenly desirous to be forgiven by his Master. In his mind he pleads to his Master to heal
his wound of separation, and to apply. balm to his heart by showing his face to him.
I suffer from the pain of my mad love.
Come, dear Ranjha, cast a glance at me,
and forgive me my faults.
From the throne of Hazara set out Ranjha,
the Master of artless Heer.
The bridegroom visits the homes of all others;
What is the flaw that vitiates Bullah?
Bullah does not only describe the state of his suffering, but also hurls complaints at his
Master. On the one hand, he regrets his own lack of wisdom, on the other, he reproaches his Master, who, after piercing his heart with the arrow of love, has hidden himself and has never inquired after him.
Inflicting a wound you hid your face;
Who has taught you such thefts, my Love?
With your fancy you captivated my heart,
But then you never showed your face.
This cup of poison I have drunk myself ; Indeed I was unripe in wisdom!
He calls his Master "the beloved Thug of Lahore" and
complains that he has robbed him with his love, and made him useless for the world.
Never be taken in by its guiles ;
It gives not peace in forest or city.
When the traveler left after casting a glance,
Suddenly a noose was hung round my neck.
He then showed no concern for me.
Oh, I have met the "beloved Thug of Lahore" !
To be incessantly weeping in separation of his Master had become the usual routine
for Bullah. This separation of his had assumed the proportions of madness, and he started roaming in streets and lanes. The intense longing to see his Master produced a kind of fire within him, to extinguish which he
began to think out some plans. "I He knew that his Master was a lover of music. It is said that Bulleh put on the garb of a woman, got hold of a sarangi and went to the house of a dancing girl. He learnt
dancing from her and became an adept in it. He then took along with him a drummer and a harmonium player and went to the tomb of a holy man in whose memory an annual function was being celebrated. Shah Inayat had also
come to attend it. While all other dancers and singers got tired and sat down, Bullah, in ecstasy, continued to dance. His voice was extremely doleful and heart-rending. It is .said that Bullah sang many kafis on the
occasion. At last even Inayat Shah's heart melted. With a voice full of compassion he said, " Are you Bullah ?" Bullah ran and fell at his Master's feet and replied with his eyes full of tears, "Sir, I am
not Bullah put Bhulla. " I
The Master is never indifferent to his disciple. When he realized that the fire of repentance and separation had purified Bullah and turned him into pure gold, he forgave him his lapse
and pressed him to his heart.
The reason why the Master put Bulleh Shah to such a hard test -the torture of burning in the fire of separation and longing ~ was to make him fit to receive the invaluable wealth of the
Word of God. With this spiritual treasure he was not only to become rich himself, but also to make other seekers the recipients of this wealth.
When the fountain of the Master's grace started flowing once again, the
arid fields of Bullah began to revive, and the fragrance of the flowers of bliss spread all around. According to the author of Qanun-i-Ishq, the Master pressed Bullah to his heart, took him along with him, and
intoxicated him with the wine of union. Bullah's soul got dyed in the hue of his Master's soul, so that no distinction remained between the two. One of Bulleh Shah's kafis gives a graphic description of his state of
merging in the Master (Fana-fil-Sheikh) :
Repeating the name of Ranjha
I have become Ranjha myself.
O call me ye all "Dhido-Ranjha,"
let no one call me Heer .
Ranjha is in me, I am in Ranjha,
no other thought exists in my mind.
I am not, He alone is.
He alone is amusing himself.
The Master is one with the Lord. So, merging in the Master is transformed into merging in the Lord. This state is expressed by Bullah in the following
lines of two kafis :
1. You alone exist, I do not, O Beloved!
2. Repeating the name of the Beloved
I have become the Beloved myself.
Whom shall I call the Beloved now?
The same thought is conveyed by Jesus Christ in the Bible thus :
"At that day ye. shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you."
Arriving at this stage, the
illusion of duality disappears, and the glory of the Beloved is seen to pervade everywhere. Bulleh Shah declares that love for the Lord has so radically changed him that his individual self or ego has been totally
eliminated. He has now realized his true Self hidden behind the veil of the physical body. His identification with the Supreme Being has opened for him the floodgates of divine light. In this light no one has remained a
stranger. All have become His own.
I have got lost in the city of love,
I am being cleansed, withdrawing myself
from my head, hands and feet.
I have got rid of my ego,
and have attained my goal.
Thus it has all ended well.
O Bullah, the Lord pervades both the worlds;
None now appears a stranger to me.
In the transcendence of the finite to the Infinite; all disputes of religion, of good and evil, disappear. To Bullah now all began to appear as
virtuous; none seemed to him as evil or a stranger.
Remove duality and do away with all disputes;
The Hindus and Muslims are not other than He.
Deem everyone virtuous, there are no thieves.
For, within every body He himself resides.
How the Trickster has put on a mask!
Saturated with the love of God, Bullah became the personification of compassion and forgiveness. He began to see the divine in every being, and distinctions of caste and religion,
friend and foe, ceased to have any meaning for him. The following incident of his life illustrates this sublime state of his mind in a beautiful way:
It is said I that "once Bulleh Shah was engaged in meditation
inside his chamber. It was the month of Ramzan. Some of his disciples were sitting outside eating carrots. After some time a group of orthodox Muslims who were keeping the fast happened to pass them. When they saw the
disciples sitting at a faqir's abode and violating the fast, they were enraged. " They shouted in an angry voice, " Are you not ashamed of eating in the month of Ramzan, and that also at the abode of a
faqir?" The disciples replied, "Brother believers, take your path. We are feeling hungry. That is why we are eating. "
The group of believers felt suspicious about their faith. So they asked, "Who
are you?" They replied, "We are Muslims. Don't the Muslims feel hungry?". The believers again commanded them to stop eating, but the disciples did not heed. The believers who were on horses, alighted.
They snatched the carrots from the hands of the disciples, and threw them away. They also gave a few blows to them. As they were about to leave, it struck them that the pir of these impious people must have been cast in
the same mould. So they turned back to ask him what kind of instruction he had given to his disciples. They went to his chamber and said, "Who are you?" Bullah who was meditating with his eyes closed, raised
his arms and moved his hands. They asked him again, "Why don't you speak? Who are you?" Bullah once again raised his arms. The riders taking him to be a mad man, went away. Soon after they left, the disciples
entered the chamber, raising a hue and cry that they had been beaten. Bullah told them that they must have done something to provoke the believers. The disciples denied to have done any such thing. Bullah said,
"What did they ask you?" The disciples replied, "They asked us who we were, and we said we were Muslims." Bullah retorted, "That's why you were beaten. You became something and you suffered. I
didn't become anything, and they said nothing to me."
To consider oneself something emanates from the sense of .ego. Such a person is still under the sway of maya, and has not had a vision of Truth so far. One
who has had such a vision comes to know his true Self and gets liberated from the bondage of caste, religion and country. There are numerous instances in the poems of Bulleh Shah, which show that the soul, like the
Lord, has no religion, no caste, no country. All these distinctions are born out of time and space, but the soul is unborn and timeless. It has neither a beginning, nor an end, nor is it bound by the limitations of
caste and religion. Bullah recognizes only the primeval relationship of soul with God :
I take myself to be the beginning and the end;
I do not recognize aught except the One.
Having realized the Truth within, Bulleh Shah became the embodiment of Truth himself. He
spent the rest of his life in disseminating the message of this Reality. Till the end of his sojourn in this transient world he was engaged in meditation of the Lord, and guided all those who came in contact with him,
on the same path. His magnetic personality, his pure living and his divine writings spread his fame far and wide. Many a seeker after Truth was attracted by his charm and derived much spiritual gain under his guidance.
The last years of his life he passed in Qasur, and here he died in 1758-1759. His t6mb can be seen in Qasur even today. It is mentioned in Bang-i-Auli-va-i-Hind :
When 1171 (Hijiri) had come to pass,
In Qasur his shrine was well raised.
Bulleh Shah was an evolved soul, a perfect faqir and a true lover. Through the love for his Master he realized the Lord. In his love one
finds poignancy, ardor and longing besides sincerity, sacrifice and renunciation. Under the canopy of love he made his offerings of caste and learning. His love for his Master never wavered for a moment despite the fire
of separation and longing through which he passed. His writings, as also his life, manifest transcendence of physical love ( of the Master) to divine love ( of the Lord). Indeed, this is. the path of all true mystics,
all true lovers of God.
Whosoever has attained union with the Lord has done so by traveling on this path, and whosoever will attain this union, will do so by becoming a traveler on this path of love. Bulleh Shah's
life and writings are replete with subtle secrets of the path. They do riot only strengthen the love of a true lover, but also encourage him to undergo the severest hardships for reaching the spiritual goal. The life
and compositions of Bulleh Shah will serve as a lighthouse for times immemorial to true seekers of spiritual realization.