Key to the understanding of Lal Ded

by R. N. Koul

INTRODUCTION

It is common knowledge that Lalla Ded (1320-1389) lived in the fourteenth century. This was the most unfavourable time for the cultivation of mystical powers lying dormant in our beings. The Happy Valley was passing through traumatic events of political and religious turmoil. Sandwiched between the two extremes of orthodox Brahmanism and aggressive Islam (due to some fanatics) there emerged a tradition or 'cult' engendered by Hindu mystics and Muslim sufis of the time. It was in reality the resurgence of an indigenous tradition of the unique Kashmiri psyche known for its tolerance, secularism, universal brotherhood and love, in short, of humanism. In this synthesis of cultures Lalla Ded was destined to play a leading role. Her special contribution to this synthetization was to give it a mystical content. She was closely followed by Sheikh- Noor-ud-din (1376-1438). Both, she in her vaakh and he in his srukh emphasized the importance of over-coming the senses and the wavering mind and concentrating on Sadhana (meditation) as a means to attain salvation, the merging of individual soul with the Universal Consciousness. It really meant the realizing of the Divine in one's own being. This tradition of mystic ecstasy was continued, enriched and strengthened by later mystic poets and poetesses like Rupa Bhawani, Parmanand (1791-1874), Shams Fakir (1834-1904), Abdul Ahad Zargar and a host of others.

The secret of Lalla Ded's perennial appeal lies in her power to translate into metaphors and symbols the longing of man to know ('the burthen and the mystery'), to feel, at least vicariously, one with the infinite, the supreme power that inheres in all things. Her outbursts are clothed in her verse-sayings so succinctly and yet so communicatively that these have continued to hold us as if under a spell. That charm and that appeal are like Keats's "magic casements" to make the Solider- Scholar Temple utter:

Thine is a- song that enslaveth me,
Son of an alien kin and clime.
Shiekh Noor-ud Din wrote:
The Lalla of padmanpur-
She drank her fill of divine nectar,
She was indeed an avatar of ours,
Oh God, grant me the self-same boon.
Shamas Fakir has this to say:
 Lalla merged her prana in the Transcendent.
While she went to bathe
At the sacred shrine of shurahyar bank,
With a leap into the water
She swam across to meet her God.
Lalla Ded's perennial appeal stems from the fact that she spoke in the idiom of the masses, the vernacular kashmiri and not in Sanskrit. She in fact, became the founder of modern Kashmiri, the Kashmiri that with slight changes down the years, continues to retain the infrastructure of Lalla's making.

But the essentiality of Lalla Ded's appeal lies in her mystical experience or anubhav clothed in nearly intelligible languages. Thoughshe did not give rise to any order as such and did not present any systematized philosophy, yet the direction of her sayings in unmistakable, an ethico-mystical message is inescapable. There is a method in her 'madness' or personal ecstasy. She lays down a moral code and prescribes rules for attaining spiritual salvation.

The present article is an attempt to explain, in as simple a manner as humanly possible, the technique Lalla Ded followed to reach her destination: discovering the Supreme residing in the depths of her own soul. She adopted the theory and practice of Trika 'Sastra' called Kashmir Shaivism, The technique has a physiological mystical content. It adopts the Laya Yoga though other yogas exist like Hatta Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Bakhti Yoga. In kashmiri the Laya Yoga is called the kundalini Yoga. According to this yoga there are six Cakras (Chakras) or centres of Cosmic power in the human body. The Kundalini Sakti is supposed to lie coiled round the svayambhu (the genital part) at the muladhara Cakra. This Sakti is roused through yogis exercises or mantras and brought up through the six circles to the highest centre, the Sahasrara, the abode of Siva. A kind of mystical bridge is established to help the Kundalini Shakti to reach this highest point. There exists a nadi (in the abstract) called Sushumna nadi which enables the practiser to reach this seat of Siva and enjoy the mystical taste of nectar oozing from Shashikala, Digit of the Moon. To understand it better one has to become more familiar with Kashmir Sahivism. Parmasiva is the highest metaphysical principle of this system. It has two aspects: one, the static, the eternal changeless and Pure Consciousness, two, the dynamic, the one in constant flux. The first is named Siva, the second Shakti, the two being one and the same. Man's spiritual goal is to establish identity of the two in his own being. This effort is obstructed by the power of the senses and the waywardness of the mind over our higher existence. The world is like a magnetic illusion and the bold ofthe senses is so strong that man lives many lives to seek their satisfaction. And the most formidable task for the seeker of the Infinite according to the Laya yoga is that he has to die (control his/her senses) and know the Supreme Self while alive. The mind can be controlled through the vital energy of consciousness centered in the body in the form of Susumna nadi, the uneven movement of prana and apana is brought to a uniform rhythm by breath control. The Susumna nadi extends from the muladhara at the base near the rectum right up to Sahasrara in the crown of the head along the spinal cord. It is through this subtle mystical corridor that Kundalini Sakti rises upwards to meet her consort Siva in that thousand-petalled lotus of Sahasrara Within these two extremes are six centres of energy cilled cakras or lotuses. These are:

1. Muladhar - at the base of the spinal cord.
2. Suadhishsthana - at the base of the reproductive organ
3. Manipur - in the region of the navel
4. Anahata - in the region of the heart
5. Visudha - near the throat
6. Ajna - between the two eyebrow
There are two other nadis running parallel to the Susmna. These are ida and pingla. Prana flows through the former while apana flows through the latter. The two breaths are kept in perfect balance through the practice of yoga. All the channels (nadis) join at the two eyebrows' junction; this point is called Triveni, symbolic confluence of Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati. The Rundalini Sakti which normally lies dormant is awakened by yogic exercises and it then cuts its way through the six cakras to meet 'her' consort Shiva in Sahasrara, Prana goes upwards while apana downwards. To attain spiritual goal, man has to control five pranas, ten indriyas and their controller, the wavering mind. This is done through abhyas or yoga practice. Prana rises at the heart and ends at a distance of twelve fingers from the nose. To attain absolute control, the mystic syllable OM is repeated with rise and fall of breath as it travels through - subtle channels another mantra is called hamsah. This mantra enables the yogis to concentrate. At each of these points there occurs a split second in which prana remains still. It is this interval which brings the seeker to the abode of Siva. The unstuck sound of anahata or OM coincides with hamsa. There is complete merger of man's soul with Universal Soul; then there is an ecstatic revelation that the two are in reality one:
Through the central channel of Susumna
I reached the sanctum sanctorum of my own soul
And lo! I beheld Siva and Sakti sealed in one.
Feeling ecstatic I reached the nectar-lake of the mystic moon
Apparently dead, I am now really alive.
The same anubhawa is expressed in another telling vaakh:
I held firm the reins of the horse, my mind,
I controlled well the pranas coursing through the ten nadis;
Then did the nectar of the mystic moon
Melt and flow, suffusing my whole being,
The mind thus curved,
My void merged with the void of pure consciousness.
Thus Lalla Ded, without rejecting the flesh altogether but accepting it only as a necessary evil, found her spiritual salvation within her own self.
I discovered the Lord
Within the walls of my own soul.
Note: The author has consulted many books written on Lalleshwari especially those of Jaya Lal Koul and Nil Kanth-Kotru.
 
Article reproduced from:
Patrika
Kashmiri Overseas Association
Lal Ded
Kashmiri Saints