KERALA PILGRIMAGE

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RABIA WAITED FOR THE RIGHT MOMENT

 Dada J P Vaswani

 Rabia, the great Sufi mystic, lived a remarkable life. Throughout her life, her Love for God, poverty and self-denial were her constant companions. She did not possess much more than a broken jug, a rush mat and a brick which she used as a pillow. She spent all night in prayer and contemplation, chiding herself if she slept because it took her away from her active love of God.

 As her fame grew, she had many disciples. Farid-ud-din Attar, who has recorded her life, tells us that she held discussions with many renowned religious people of her time. Though she had many offers of marriage, she declined as she had no time in her life for anything other than God.

 Her concept of Divine Love was truly elevating. She was the first to introduce the idea that God should be loved for God’s own sake, not out of fear – as was the practice among some earlier seekers. Thus she prayed, ‘O, Allah!  If I worship you for fear of hell, burn me in hell, and if I worship you in hope of paradise, exclude me from paradise. But if I worship you for your own sake, grudge me not your everlasting beauty.’

 One day, Rabia was passing through a street on her way to the marketplace where she went every day, to share the truths she had sought and attained through her prayers and reflections. And for many days she had been watching a well-known mystic, Hassan, sitting before the door of the mosque and praying to God with intense devotion. ‘God, open the door! Please open the door! Let me in!’

 On that day, Rabia could take it  no more. Hassan let out  a heart-rending wail, tears rolling down his cheeks. He was repeatedly shouting, ‘Open the door! Let me in! Why don’t you listen? Why don’t you hear my prayers?’

 Every day, Rabia had laughed quietly to herself whenever she had heard Hassan uttering his plaint. But today was too much. Hassan was weeping his heart out. She went up to him, shook him up and said, ‘Stop all this nonsense! The door is open – in fact you are already in!’

 Hassan looked at Rabia, and that moment became a moment of revelation for him. Looking into Rabia’s eyes, he bowed down, touch her feet and said, ‘You came in time; otherwise I would have spent my whole life just calling God in vain! For years I have been doing this – where have you been all these years! Why did you not come earlier to take me out of my misery? I know you pass this street every day. You must have seen my crying and praying. And yet you did not come to me until now!’

 Rabia said to Hassan, ‘Yes, but truth can only be said at a certain moment, in a certain space, in a certain context. I was waiting for the right moment, the ripe moment. Today it has arrived; hence I came to you. Yesterday if I had told you, you would have felt irritated; you may have even become angry. You may have reacted thus, “You have disturbed my prayer!” – and it is not right to disturb anybody’s prayer.’

 Rabia said, ‘I had wanted to tell you this long time back, but I had to wait for the right moment. It did not come till now

 

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KERALA PILGRIMAGE

One day all the disciples went to their master' and said, "Master, Master, we all are going on a pilgrimage.

Master: Why you want to go on a pilgrimage trip?

Disciples: So that we can improve our devotion.

Master: OK. Then do me a favour. Please take this karela (bitter gourd) along with you and wherever you go and whichever temple you visit, place it in the alter of the Deity, take the blessings and bring it back.

So, not only the disciples but the Karela also went on pilgrimage, temple to temple. And finally when they came back, the Master said, "cook that karela and serve it to me." The disciples cooked it and served it to the master. After having the first bite, the master said, “Surprising"!

Disciples: What's so surprising?

Master: Even after the pilgrimage the karela is still bitter. How come?

Disciples: But that's the very nature of the Karela, Master.

Master: That's what I am saying. Unless you change your nature, pilgrimage will not make any difference. So, you and I, if we do not change ourselves no teacher or guru can make a difference in our lives.