Shanti Sadan and Self-Knowledge name
Vol.68 No.1 Winter 2017

Nazir on Love of God

This tavern has good wine, fine decanters and beautiful cups; but there is no Saqi (server of wine). I wish to set this tavern on fire and consume it to ashes.
Nazir

If life is passed in the midst of wealth, prosperity, mundane success, rest and comfort, excitement and pleasure, but without love, it has no value; it is no better than a crematorium, says Kabir, another poet-sage.

By love we do not mean the love of a Juliet or love for a geographical area called a country, or for a creed, meaningless by itself, but that object which possesses our soul by the intensity of its beauty and peace, inspiration, benevolence, and which desires to cover all with forgiveness and delight.

What really makes life worth while is not luxury, or architectural or decorative beauty, a lovely garden, shady bowers, or artificial springs of water gushing forth from rocks; unless there is love, all this is useless. It gives no satisfaction to the soul; it does not inspire the mind with noble ideas or charitable ambitions.

In this verse the poet Nazir, who has a strong spiritual bent of mind, denounces the life of pleasure and excitement, luxury and rest, without Saqi. In the Persian tradition ‘Saqi’ means a young and beautiful girl who is employed in a tavern to serve wine to the guests. This does not imply any amatory connection. Who is the Saqi in this world? It is first remembrance of God, then love of God, and finally absorption of the individual in the contemplation of God.

The meaning of ‘remembrance of God’ is profound. It is not just the remembrance of a Juliet by a Romeo or the remembrance of a beautiful sight seen near the Kedar mountain forty years ago in the course of a high pilgrimage. It means the idea that man is a detail of nature, that his body is a tiny part in the body of Virat (the physical universe), and his mind a little detail in Hiranyagarbha (the cosmic mind), and that his spirit is ever at one with the cosmic spirit, Brahman. When one is conscious of this fact and covers all, as the Isha Upanishad says, with God, then he is said to remember God.

Remembrance also means the goodwill of the detail for the whole; for by stretching our imagination we come to know that, unless the detail finds its due place in the whole, it is never at rest. As long as the soul is aware of its limitations, its separation from the whole, it is like a river that is cut off from the glacier and is slowly drying up, while its water, losing its brilliance and transparency, is becoming putrid and stagnant.

Remembrance is another word for surrendering the mind to God, the whole, the substratum of all phenomena. This is meant by the word ‘Saqi’ in this verse. In the Persian tradition there is only one object of real beauty worthy of love and of pursuit and companionship, and it is love of God. Without such a Saqi the wine in the tavern is worse than sour vinegar. It is not their luxury and comfort which lends value to objects; but it is the one whom we love most and with whom we can share the objects that makes them really valuable.

It may be asked why Nazir does not help himself to the wine and forget about Saqi. This is not the wine of the world. How can you forget the glacier from which the river originates and remember only the fractional part of it which you see as water?

According to modern psychology, unless our actions and ideas are inspired by real love of others, not in the romantic sense but in the psychic and ontological sense, our actions and our life are insipid; the dish of life will be without flavour.

Perhaps it will appear that Nazir is too strong in his denunciation of a home of luxury and comfort divorced from the love of God; but this is not so: he is laying down a most important principle. Without love of God our life is of no value; rest is no rest, comfort no comfort and sleep no sleep. If we have companions who are charming and graceful, pleasant and entertaining, their charm will soon fade into nothingness, unless these qualities issue from some shadow of infinitude abiding in the heart of the companions. Nazir is quite right in comparing life without love to a crematorium.

Swami Rama Tirtha has said: ‘What is the use of a marriage procession without the bridegroom; of what value is the harvest without the ears of grain?’ Unless our study, our experience of the world, our companionship and our friendship evoke in us deeper urges of immortal and eternal love, they are of no value at all.

While in the midst of the luxury of the Louvre, surrounded by marshals, generals and ambassadors, Napoleon, the conqueror of Europe, was really no better off than he was in his captivity in St Helena. Life in a poor hut with slender means of subsistence but crowned with love of God, mastery of the mind, and surrender of the heart and soul to the Creator and Lord of the universe, is far, far more restful than the life of Louis XIV in the Chateau de Versailles.

The poet Nazir has experienced a deep psychological truth in this verse, and he warns us that we ought not to care for material luxury and comfort and grandeur, but for the soul lit with divine remembrance, which is called the Saqi or the dispenser of wine.

Hari Prasad Shastri

 

 

 

A POEM BY NAZIR

 

Spring in this garden we call the world, is transient.
Enjoy it without attachment, for it lasts but a day.
O traveller, prepare to depart.
Your stay here is brief—it lasts but a day.

When they asked Hippocrates how long he had lived,
He wrung his hands and exclaimed,
‘I have lived but a day.’

O my friends, soon we shall part.
Our companionship is brief—it lasts but a day.

O tyrants, why do you inflict so much grief on the innocent?
Know you not that your power is transitory—it lasts but a day?

O Nazir, know well that your stay in the tomb will seem long,
But remember that this life is brief—it lasts but a day.

Translated by H.P.S.