Posted by: Duncan Chowdhury | July 3, 2009

Mystics of Bangladesh

I have been asked by my Guru, Brother Jarlath to say about my feelings on his book “Theology from the Mystics of Bangladesh”. “Gurur adesh shirodharjo” so I opted to share my feelings about this book, which though I have not read minutely but scanned almost of it.

Brother Jarlath knows me since the day when I first stepped into my school in the year 1967, I was 4 years old then. Since then he is my mentor and still happens to be. He was the Principal of St. Placid’s High School for many many years in Chittagong.

I am not a critic nor a writer, it is far beyond my capacity to appraise this book written by my guru, who has a profound knowledge in theology. It will be not out of the way to say that he has devoted his entire life in the quest of search of God. I am not a theologian and haven’t been in depth of this subject, however on the other hand it will not be wise to say that I do not understand the basics of this subject, at least to a minimum level.

It is quite unusual for the systematic theologians to venture in this unprecedented area. Being a member of EATWOT, the network of Third World Theologians, Brother Jarlath looks at theologies evolved in our own soil, rather then looking to the West. The indigeneous theology evolved in this region, like the Dalit Theology in India or the Ming Jung Theology developed in Korea, all speak about the people who are at the grass root, they all search for the divine deity, the salvation, through their own context. Brother Jarlath also looks into the mysticism, where the sages of our soil had been in the pursuit of the divine diety through their shadhana, in their own innovative ways.

I thank Brother Jarlath for his endeavor to look into new sphere of theology in our region. The book ‘Theology from the Mystics of Bangladesh’ is perhaps the first of its kind. Possibly, Brother Jarlath have taken a fresh look towards the work of these mystics, all were in search of the Divine, through their own lifestyle, through abstention, meditation, poems and songs. Some of them apparently seemed not or has been regarded as theologians generally, but the author had put up acceptable arguments as to why they couldn’t be regarded as theologians, why should their quest for the search of the divine should be ignored.

Theology is the quest for God, so it’s study should not be delimited within the framework of any single religion. The author have rightfully placed the Baul movement and Lalon Shah who brought this movement to its peak and drew the attention of the general mass. The Baul movement is a form of mysticism where the Hindu and Islamic trends converge, in the search of the diety, dissolving their own identity. Lalon gave up his jat, to attain the highest knowledge of spirituality. The four stages of Baul sadhana, the Baul, Darvesh, Shain and Fakir has been elaborated as the four stages of a Baul to attain the salvation. That is why Baul mysticism is more or less individualistic in nature, just like the mysticism of the Sufis.

Hasan Raja is another mystic devotee, hailed from Sunamgonj. Hasan Raja had converted fully to a life of prayer and renunciation. He gave his life of wantonness and pleasure and went into deep meditation, praying ardently to be able to see the Face of Allah. The author compares this with the conversion of St. Paul, and the event of the sea that changed the life of St. Augustine.

The author had also placed Rabindranath Tagore in the quest of search of God the infinite. Though Tagore belonged to the Hindu tradition, still they were ardent followers of the Brama Samaj, established by Raja Rammohon Roy. They worshiped only one God, which is termed as Unitarian. In that sense Tagore was a Unitarian. The author of the book has rightly pointed out the oneness of God as depicted in the Upanishads. The expression of this search of God was explicitly expressed in his book of Poems, the Gitanjali, which later accredited him with the Nobel Prize in 1913. The author pointed out the link of Tagore’s forefathers with the Phirali Shampraday. The Phirali Shampraday also was a mystic shampraday, based in Khulna. Tagore’s songs in Puja, was mostly devoted to the Supreme God, his search for the Diety.

Our Rebel Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, composed a great number of poems and songs, asking the divine mercy of God the Almighty, he mainly followed the Islamic traditions but also we find Hindu traditions and even Christ in his poems. Thus he was seeking justice to God through his works. Jibananda Das a poet of deep silence looked for tranquility in the nature of Bengal. Similarly Pollikobi Jashimuddin not only had embroidered the beauty of Bengal in his poems but also painted the plight of the struggle and tension between two ethic groups, the Muslim and the Hindu amongst the gypsies. According to the author the ethnic societies of this region, too in their own way had been involved in search of the divine down through the ages.

The author summarizes the book in the final chapter. All the efforts of these mystics culminate to the same road which leads to path of God the Almighty. In doing so, some the features of the sadhana emerges, such as God creates harmony and nature is the true reflection of this harmony. All workships are creation centered, human beings are keepers of the God’s Creation. Religion means Love and God is Love. Love is the bondage that ties the creation together and knowledge of God can reduce the differences and create this world a better place to live in.

Finally, I thank the author Brother Jarlath for the time and pain he had taken to write this book. The 139 references in the bibliography, tells us about the efforts he had undertaken to write this book. I fervently believe that others theologians too will follow his footsteps now to work more in this field of theology more in depth in the coming days.

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Responses

  1. Well done, Mr, Chowdhury. I devoted 45 years of my life studuyng, teaching and writing on mystical theology. I have also tried to put the teaching of mysticism into practice in my own life. I am therfore very much interested in reading the book of your master. I plan to collect a copy of the book when I come to visit Bangladesh next time.

    Thanking you,
    Dr. Abdur Rabb


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