Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Life in Transcription

Books are my passion, when I was at the 6th KIBF (Karachi International Book Fair) which concluded recently, it was just like finding oneself among friends, companions, teachers and guides.

It is often said that books change our perception, our way of thinking, our world view and hence the world around us. A book which is to be published in mid January 2010 “Promised Land: Thirteen Books” by Jay Parini is about those Thirteen Books that changed the way America is forever and helped to create the nation that it is.

Books are life and wisdom in transcription. The following passage from one of my favorite French Novelist Marcel Proust brilliantly describes what a Book means:

“In reality, every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have experienced in himself. And the recognition by the reader in his own self of what the book says is the proof of its veracity.”

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Life trilogy-Views of a Biologist, a Psychologist and a Sufi

A biologist says that Life is evolutionary exuberance; it is what happens when expanding populations of sensing, active organisms knock up against each other and work things out. Life is animals at play. It is a marvel of inventions for cooling and warming, collecting and dispersing, eating and evading, wooing and deceiving.

A psychologist says that Life means to contribute to the whole. Individuals are bound by a triple tie-to the earth on which one must live, to the human species with which one must interact, and to a sex. From these ties derive the three categories of problems of life.

A Sufi says that the point of Life is not to get anywhere; it is to notice that you are, in the moment of creation. The point of life is therefore to create-who and what you are and then to experience it.

When we look around we see Life much more according to the biologist’s view-eating, evading, wooing and deceiving and less according to Sufi's view of creating and procreating. Why?

Friday, 20 November 2009

The Curve of Memory

Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984)

Today is his 25th Death Anniversary

He was the man and the poet that captivated my imagination all my youth. His poetry casted a spell and showed me the path in utter serenity of love for humanity. Faiz not only raised Urdu poetry to new heights of perception and eloquence but also filled it with the sensibilities of human touch. As it is said there is no final view of things in Faiz; he is supremely aware of man’s vulnerability and yet he believes in the possibility of happiness.


Wearing necklaces of the hangman’s noose
The singers kept on singing
Tinkling the ankle-bells of their fetters
The dancers merrily jigged their dance.
We in neither one group, nor the other
Stood by the roadside
Watching enviously
And wept silent tears.
On returning home
The erstwhile red flowers
Had turned deathly pale
And where there was once a heart
Now there was only pain.
Round our necks hallucinations of a noose
And on our feet the dance of chains.
Then one day came Love
And like the others haltered and enchained
Dragged us into the same caravan

Translated by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Loneliness and two great Poets

FAIZ AHMED FAIZ (1911-1984)


There is someone at the door, dear heart!
Nay, there is none
Or might be a wanderer
He will go hence, plodding his weary way.
Night is done
And evaporates in thin air the starry mist.
In palaces quiver the sleeping lamps
Hanging by their chains of gold.
The solitary paths are sunk in despair
And the unfriendly dust
Has obliterated the foot prints
Fill the cups and drink to the lees
The bitter wine of loneliness.
Lock up your slumbers less doors, dear heart!
For, now no one will ever ever come here.

The above poem translated by Daud Kamal and is taken from his book “Selected Poems of Faiz in English”. On 20th November 2009 is Faiz’s 25th Death Anniversary.

ROBERT FROST (1874-1963)

Now Close the Windows

Now close the windows and hush all the fields:
If the trees must, let them silently toss;
No bird is singing now, and if there is,
Be it my loss.

It will be long ere the marshes resume,
It will be long ere the earliest bird:
So close the windows and not hear the wind,
But see all wind-stirred.

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Whisper of Evening Wind

A Poem

The crimson of the morning sun
Melts in the gold by the day
Me immersed in my wayward thoughts
You in your toiling day

Dawn to dusk
We wither and wither and sway
Counting the tasks
Beyond the grasps far and away

The gold of the dissolving day
Turning crimson to vanishing nay
Evening wind whispering slowly
Thou have lost another day

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Transformation:Good to Bad

Philip Zimbardo is Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. His famous ground breaking work Stanford Prison Experiment now has been published in a very detailed a researched volume titled THE LUCIFER EFFECT. His research is based on the notion that Certain circumstances makes people bad and evil and he conducts a mock prison, to check his thesis, and the results are startling. Following is a passage from Chapter ONE of his book:

“The Lucifer Effect is my attempt to understand the process of transformation at work when good or ordinary people do bad or evil things. We will deal with the fundamental question ‘What makes the people go wrong?’ But instead of resorting to a traditional religious dualism of good versus evil, of wholesome nature versus corrupting nature, we will look at the real people engaged in life’s daily tasks, enmeshed in doing their jobs, surviving within a turbulent crucible of human nature. We will seek to understand the nature of their character transformations when they are faced with powerful situational forces.

Let’s begin with a definition of evil. Mine is simple, psychologically based one: Evil consists in intentionally behaving in ways that harm, abuse, demean, dehumanize, or destroy innocent others—or using one’s authority and systemic power to encourage or permit others to do so on your behalf. In short ,it is knowing better but doing worse.”

Most of us hide behind egocentric biases that generate the illusions that we are special. Theses self serving protective shields allow us to believe that each of us is above average on any test of integrity. Too often we look at the stars through the thick lens of personal invulnerability when we should also look down to the slippery slope beneath our feet. Such egocentric biases are more commonly found in societies that foster independent orientations, such as Euro-American cultures, and less so in collectivist-oriented societies, such as Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Goal of Existence

The divergent opinion gives fillip to achieving new possibilities and exposes us towards the dimensions that are writ with variety and choices. The goal of existence is worship and worship is spiritual, temporal and spatial exuberance.

Worship is not ONLY a prayer performed in a mosque, a church, a temple, a synagogue etc….or in a lonely solitude of a home; it’s also not only a remembrance of the Beloved in dire times or in moments of fulfillment and bliss. Worship is loving the family, nation, and all forms of Life.

Worship is standing on a shore of a deep blue sea and admiring the beauty of a sunset, watching in awe the twinkling little stars, feeling the soft gentle and cool morning breeze and praising its sublimity, feeling insignificant but tall amid the majesty of the magnificent mountains.

Worship is respect for all and sundry, WORSHIP is finding the Grace of Creator through His Creation, touching the benevolence of Creator by holding a hand in need…

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Evil and error are not forms of reality

There such things as "sick souls"--souls that are unsound, evil,
are perverse-as opposed to "souls" that are "healthy"?

This was the question raised by BENEDETTO CROCE (1866-1954) an Italian Critic, Philosopher and best known author of Aesthetics of Twentieth century. He has some interesting insights about goodness and evil. Following is a passage from his book THE CONDUCT OF LIFE:

Evil and error are not "forms of reality," as people sometimes doggedly
assert, but nothing more nor less than the transition from one form of
reality to another, and from one form of the Spirit to another of its
forms--the Spirit, in its effort to attain the higher coming to regard
the lower as irrational, erroneous, evil. We have evidence of this in
the fact that wrong-doing is always attended by a consciousness of doing
wrong, by an effort, that is--it may be a faint one--to overcome evil;
and this effort constitutes the true definition of "good." In accepting
this point of view we are in no danger of slipping into a crass
optimism, or worse still, into brute determinism; for here we are
denying the reality of evil by making it implicit in the good, an
aspect, therefore, a constituent, of the good, as eternal as the good
itself; and the process we affirm is a process of liberation, of

Monday, 5 October 2009

An unlimited idea of freedom

“How much more there is to living! Instead of our drab slogging forth and back to the fishing boats, there’s a reason to life! We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly!”

This is from a book JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL written by the bestselling author Richard Bach. The simple story and the numerous beautiful photographs of seagulls that captivated me all my childhood and I learned a lesson or two about life and Meaning of Life from it.

The story is about a seagull and the decision it makes about his life, following is the most powerful passage of the book and the one around which the story revolves:

“Each of us is in truth an idea of the Great gull, an unlimited idea of freedom, and precision flying is a step towards expressing our real nature. Everything that limits us we have to put aside. That’s why all this high-speed practice, and low speed, and aerobatics…” “Your whole body, from wingtip to wingtip is nothing more than your thought itself, in a form you can see. Break the chains of your thoughts, and you break the chains of your body, too…”

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Every individual is an Experiment

This is part II of previous post WHY WE LIVE. This I have recollected from my journal but unfortunately I just lost the reference, but never the less the argument is there:

Every individual is an experiment on part of nature, a throw into the unknown; his only vocation should be to allow this throw to work itself out in his inner most being. Humanity is not something complete that must be maintained and protected, but a distant goal towards which we were marching. Moreover because darkness and light resides within each of us, becoming conscious of our own evil is our only hope in a world where our capacity for destruction is weighed against the soul’s capacity for compassion and regeneration.


Sunday, 27 September 2009

Why We Live

The greatest Sufi Master Sheikh Muhammad Mohiuddin Ibn ul Arabi (1165-1240) commonly known as Ibn Arabi said "meaning of Life is nothing but Life itself". In my journal where I write reminisces I wrote following after reading a Book “Good and Evil” by Richard Taylor. The following point of view so effectively resonates with greatest Sufi master’s remarks, but then Sheikhs remarks are always elusive. This is one point of view; I would come up with others’ also, as this remark always fascinated me to look for its all possible dimensions and meanings.

The point of any living thing's life is, evidently, nothing but life itself. If the builders of a great and flourishing ancient civilization could somehow return now to see archaeologists unearthing the trivial remnants of what they had once accomplished with such effort-see the fragments of pots and vases, a few broken statues, and such token of another age and greatness-they could indeed ask themselves what the point it all was, if this is all it finally came to. Yet, it did not seem so to them then, for it was just the building, and not what was finally built, that gave their life meaning. This is surely the way to look at all of life-at one's own life, and each day and moment it contains; of the life of a nation; of the species; of the life of the world; and of everything that breathes. Even the glow worms, whose cycles of existence over the millions of years seem so pointless when looked at by us, will seem entirely different to us if we can somehow try to view from within. Their endless activity, which gets nowhere, is just what it is their will to purse. This is its whole justification and meaning. Nor would it be any salvation to the birds that span the globe every year back and forth, to have a home made for them in a cage with plenty of food and protection, so that they would not have to migrate any more. It would be their condemnation, for it is the doing that counts for them, and not what they hope to win by it. You no sooner drew your first breath than you responded to the will that was in you to live. You no more ask whether it will be worthwhile, or whether anything of significance will come of it, than the worm and the birds. The point of living is simply to be living, in the manner that it is your nature to be living.

You go through life building your castles, each of these beginning to fade into time as the next is begun; yet it would be a condemnation, and one that would in no way be redeemed were you able to gaze upon the things you have done, even if these were beautiful and absolutely permanent, as they never are. What counts is that you should be able to begin a new task, a new castle, a new bubble. It counts only because it is there to be done and you have the will to do it.


Wednesday, 16 September 2009

When Life is Bitter

THE GREATEST MINDS AND IDEAS OF ALL TIME is compilation of Will Durant’s essays, compiled and edited by John Little. Following is a beautiful passage from this book on LIFE, RELATIONSHIPS and BOOKS which is worth reading and remembering:

This, then, is our Odyssey of books. Here is another world, containing the selected excellence of a hundred generations; not quite so fair and vital as this actual world of nature and human enterprise, but abounding nevertheless in unsuspected wisdom and beauty unexplored. Life is better than literature, friendship is sweeter than philosophy, and children reach into our hearts with profounder music than comes from any symphony, but even so these living delights offer no derogation to the modest and secondary pleasures of our books.

When life is bitter, or friendship slips away, or perhaps our children leave us for their own haunts and homes, we shall come and sit at the table with Shakespeare and Goethe, and laugh at the world of Rabelais, and see its autumn loveliness with John Keats. For these are friends who give us only their best, who never answers back and always wait our call. When we have walked with them awhile, and listened humbly to their speech, we shall be healed of our infirmities, and know the peace that comes of understanding.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Relationship is Existence

I have been keeping a journal for a long time, sometimes writing my reminisces, poetry, sketches of people whom I meet-drawing and writing about them, writing some words again and again without any reason or rhyme and noting lines and passages from the books which inspires during their reading. Following are two notes from my reading of J.KRISHNAMURTI, from whom I learned that truth is pathless territory and one cannot approach it by any path!

Relationship is the mirror in which you discover yourself. Without relationship you are not; to be is to be related; to be related is existence. You exist only in relationship; otherwise you do not exist; existence has no meaning. It is not because you think you are that you come into existence. You exist because you are related; and it is the lack of understanding of relationship that causes conflict.

Meditation is one of the greatest arts in life-perhaps the greatest and one cannot possibly learn it from anybody. That is the beauty of it. It has no technique and therefore no authority. When you learn about yourself, watch yourself, watch the way you walk, how you eat, what you say, the gossip, the hate, the jealously, if you are aware of all that in yourself, without any choice, that is part of meditation.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

If there is magic

LOREN EISELEY (1907-1977) naturalist, philosopher, poet was the man who showed us, how to love nature, not as a bystander or the observer but as a part of it, as one that is observed. How to love, even the small and insignificant, the big and the mighty, all as friends, nobody in this natural park was an enemy , as all were contributing towards a single and most sacred path, the path of Life, and protecting its uninterrupted glorious cycle.

LOREN EISELEY wrote several books, THE IMMENSE JOURNEY, THE FIREMAMENT OF TIME, THE NIGHT COUNTRY and THE LOST NOTE BOOKS are my most cherished treasure. I would like to share a passage from THE IMMENSE JOURNEY, Chapter, Flow of the River:

If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water. Its least stir even, as now in a rain pond on a flat roof opposite my office, is enough to bring me searching to the window. A wind ripple may be translating itself into life. I have a constant feeling that some time I may witness that momentous miracle on a city roof, see life vertiably and suddenly boiling out of a heap of rusted pipes and old telivision aerials. I marvel at how a sudden water beetle has come and is submarining there in a spatter of green algae. Thin vapors, rust, wet tar and sun are alembic remarkably like the mind; they throw off odorous shadows that threaten to take real shape when no one is looking.

Onec in a lifetime, perhaps, one escapes the actual confines of the flesh. Once in a lifetime, if one is lucky, one so merges with sunlight and air and running water that whole enos, the enos that mountains and deserts know, might pass in a single afternoon without discomfort. The mind has sunk away into its beginings among old roots and the obscure tricklings and moving that stir inanimate things.

No utilitarian philosophy explains a snow crystal, no doctrine of use or disuse. Water has merely leapt out of vapor and thin nothingness in the night sky to array itself in form. There is no logical reason for existence of a snowflake any more than there is for evolution. it is an apparition from that mysterious shadow world beyond nature, that final world which contains-if anything contains-the explanation of men and catsish and green leaves.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Equality in Diversity

M.Scott Peck , the psychiatrist, the legendary author of THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED also wrote a very significant book IN SEARCH OF STONES, which is sub-titled as "A pilgrimage of Faith, Reason and Discovery"

The Book is a complete reflection on spirituality, faith and inner quest. Here I would like to share a passage from this Book's Chapter PEACE:

We are all equal in sight of God. Beyond that, however, we are utterly unequal. we have different gifts and liabilities, different genes, different languages and cultures, different values and styles and thinking, different personal histories, different levels of competence, and so on, and so on. Indeed might be properly labeled "the unequal species." What most distinguishes us from all the creatures is our extraordinary diversity and the variability of our behavior. Equal? Just in the the moral sphere alone we range from the horribly demonic to the gloriously angelic.

The false notion of our equality propels us into the pretense of pseudo-community, and when the pretense fails, as it must for any intimacy or authenticity, then it propels us to attemt to achieve equality by force: the force of gentle persuasion followed by less and less gentle persuasion. We totally misinterpret our task. Society's task is not to establish equality. It is to develop systems that deal humanely with our unequality-systems that, within reason, celebrate and encourage diversity.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Diminutive Volume, Immense Book-2


In the fall of 1930, historian , philosopher and author of The Story of Civilization, Will Durant (1885-1981) found himself outside his New York home, raking leaves. A well dressed man approached Durant and told him in quite tone that, unless the revered teacher could give him a valid reason not to, he intended to kill himself. Durant offered the stranger several quick reasons to live, and the man turned and left, never to be seen again.

Haunted by his encounter with the despondent stranger, Durant contacted 100 liminaries in arts, politics, religion and sciences, challenging them to respond to the fundamental question:
Out of the hundred only few replied and they included; Theodore Dreiser, H.L.Mencken, Sinclair Lewis, John Erskine, Charles A. Beard, John Cowper Powys, M.K.Ghandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mary E.Woolley, Bertrand Russell, Count Hermann Keyserling and George Bernard Shaw.

Despite their uniqueness as individuals and the very different lives they led a consistent thread runs through their viewpoints, revealing a commonality among humans beings who not only seek meaning in life but who actually achieve it.

The book ends under a note “A personal Confession” by the author:

“This then, I should say is the road to significance: join a whole, ands work for it with all your body and mind. The meaning of life lies in the chances it gives us to produce, or to contribute to, something greater than ourselves. It needs not be a family; that, so to speak, is the direct and broadest road which Nature in her blind wisdom has provided for even the simplest soul. It may be any group that can call out all the latent nobility of the individual, and give him a cause to work for that shall not be shattered by his death. It may be some revolutionary association which a man or a woman gives devotion unstintingly. It may occasionally be some work of beauty that absorbs the soul in its making, and becomes boon to many generations. But in every case it must, if it will give a life meaning, lift the individual out of himself, and make him a cooperating part of a vaster scheme. The secret of significance and content is to have a task which consumes all one’s energies, and makes human life a little richer than before”

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Diminutive Volume, Immense Book-1


This trivial volume of less then hundred pages is an immense book, written by one of the finest fiction writer Hermann Hesse (1877-1963). This work first published in 1956, is one of best from this Nobel Laureate. Hermann Hesse was born in Claw to missionary parents and remains one of the great literary figures of the German-speaking world. His novels such as Glass Bead Game, Steppenwolf, Siddartha and Demain won him a place among leading contemporary writers' and thinkers'.

The Journey to the East, is an allegorical novel in which the narrator travels through Time and Space in search of the ultimate Truth. This pilgrimage to the East is symbolic of a state of mind, and, although the journey is across an imaginary land, it also embraces Europe, and takes place in the twentieth century but in the Middle Ages and Renaissance as well. The people who have been part of the League are include both real and fictitious-Plato, Pythagoras, Don Quixote and Baudelaire.

The Novel opens with following passage:

"As it has been my destiny to take part in a great experience, and having had the good fortune to belong to the League and allowed to share in that unique journey, the wonder of which blazed like a meteor and afterwards sank into oblivion-even falling into disrepute-I have now decided to attemt a short description of this incredible journey. No man since the days of Hugo and mad Roland has ventured upon such a journey, until our own remarkable times; the troubled, confused, yet so fruitful period following the Great War."

Saturday, 15 August 2009


Why things have to wait, like they wait. Why they wait for a time to unleash and reveal, what they reveal. The mysterious ways of nature in which it enfolds at times and on an apt occasion unfolds that. Whatever our aspirations or desires might be, however strong our actions and thoughts might be. The appropriateness of unfolding is beyond energy of our actions, thoughts and plans. But this shouldn't be discouraging, as we lack the comprehension of the complete picture that is elusive. The phenomenon of revealing is like sprouting a plant out of seed. We can sow a seed, but then have to wait for those things some visible and others invisible, that are beyond our control to work together and play there role and help us to see the seed taking the shape that it takes.
This is a lesson from nature, that individual endeavors how great they might be need the collective efforts to be useful. This is why the growth of individuals is also dependent on many other factors, outside that individual. All these are invisible hands of God, manifested in form of our parents, teachers, books, friends, siblings and peers.

Waiting is the ageing process of things to find the best possible, from the available and when that is achieved it pairs up with our efforts and reveal, what they reveal.

The space between two words is also classic example of collective effort and waiting. No word is legible unless there is waiting (space between them) and pairing from the next unknown word that comes to compliment and complete an idea, an expression and an action.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

ABC of Anger, Beauty and Compassion

According to a tradition of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) :

Allah, the Exalted, is beautiful, and He loves beauty.

What is Beauty?

Beauty in aesthetics means a balance.When we achieve Balance things look, feel and reflect Beauty. Our actions, thoughts, reactions, desires and speech are beautiful when it retains Balance.
Things become un-balanced when we are not compassionate, we are angry or violent. We become angry and violent when we are fearful, lonely and not empowered. A little compassion, a little detachment, a little benevolence, a little grace, a little show of kindness can work miracles and can bring equilibrium and poise in a situation that has become disproportionate, ugly and un balanced.

When we find somebody in need of a help to Balance his Life, his affairs, his attitude, we must provide that little orientation that balances, so they become beautiful.

Allah the Exalted is Beautiful and Loves Beauty, so we must
also act as the Beloved acts.

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