UNLEARN TO LEARN

By Anuradha Azeemi

I was reading through the chapter on animals and birds from the book Qalandar Consciousness authored by our beloved Murshid, Khwaja Shamsuddin Azeemi. This chapter put me on a reflective mode and many personal experiences flashed before my eyes. Through these reflections, I concluded that though man is indeed the finest of all creations of God, until he realizes this about himself, he would continue to be outshined by the exemplary examples of virtuous living set by the other species around him. Here is why:

The Black Bird

A black mass seemed to have launched itself behind the potted plants on the balcony of my home. On close observation I saw that it was a bird. It had tucked its head inside its wings and seemed to be in great pain and was dying. I did what I knew, prayed for it to heal and request my near and dear ones to do the same. If it were HIS will, HE would ensure the bird recovered. Having never reared birds, we set out to buy some bird food and placed a bowl of water. For a day or two we did not see the bird being proactive, but eventually there was some movement. Upon examination, there was someone else who seemed determined to get the bird on its wings and help it soar back up into the sky too. It was a bunch of pigeons; they visited the hurt bird everyday. They helped the bird eat, flap its wings and eventually in about 10 days time, the bird fully recovered and flew away with its friends.

This incident was a profound lesson for us humans I thought. In the wake of such hatred, violence and competition amongst us, do we not need to learn how to help each other flap wings, when one falls and breaks them? Whilst the common trend is that we humans often try to abandon the down fallen, the birds got together to uplift the broken amongst them and restored it to fly great heights with them. If only we humans remembered that until the last soul on this planet has not moved back to its place of origin, none of us can move forward to the next station. We all can only travel together as one convoy, from one plane of existence to another. And yet, all we try to do is walk ahead leaving the others behind.

The Police Dog

I was at the airport in the city of Moscow, Russia and was carrying heavy instruments. The scanning machines were too small for the bulky cartons. As the package could not be opened and repacked, the officials suggested it be cleared by a police dog. I was moved to a corner that somehow ended up being in full view of all the other passengers, who were now very curious to see what my fate would be at the hands of the dog. I could feel suspicion around me. The breed of dog was German shepherd, and it sported a brilliant fur coat in deep orange, brown and black colors and lay very silent, watching me. I am fond of dogs and hence kept admiring and complimenting its well-groomed looks in my mind. When the policeman who led it, summoned the dog to sniff my carton, it did, very meticulously and cleared it as safe. Onlookers started looking away as there was nothing sensational in the carton. Then suddenly instead of moving away with the policeman, the dog turned around and began to walk towards me and sniff me. I instantly saw heads turn in my direction and suspicion returned in the eyes of the onlookers and policemen. I witnessed a certain curiosity return in all, to see what the dog would find on me. But then the dog surprised everyone and me, by gently resting its head on my thigh with great love and I stroked it lightly with equal fondness. The onlookers smiled. The policeman was surprised and summoned for the dog, instructing it to immediately move away from me. He could not have a stern looking police dog categorized as friendly; people would stop fearing it.

I realized that the human race oscillates very easily between faith and lack of it in a split moment. While an animal just knows, with surety at one go who is trust worthy and not. We, despite spending decades in a trusted relationship suffer from lack of trust in an instant and let doubts seep in. We fear giving a benefit of doubt and are quick to assume and judge. Is it not true that the truest of the believers have turned non-believers in the rise of doubt? Oneness surely cannot thrive outside the circle of faith and trust.

The Ants

It was a beautiful escapade to Sri Lanka. The restaurant we opted for lunch was nestled on the seaside and had a raised wooden platform as floor. Just as we began to drag our chairs backwards to sit down, my daughter stopped us. When we looked in the direction she was pointing at, we noticed that there was an army of ants that we could have crushed under our feet. We all sat down to lunch, careful to not disturb them. Our eyes however, still followed the ants that worked meticulously, ignoring the presence of us, humans. We noticed that in a corner there was a large, tight circle of ants carrying something over their head. Our curiosity led us to inspect them closer. They were carrying a large chunk of food. The ants were struggling with the weight but seemed to be undeterred. Every step of the way, more ants joined hands and the circle grew tighter and larger to help the transport. All our eyes kept following the ants till they reached a tiny crack in the wooden floor of the restaurant. We could see that it was impossible to push the piece of food through the tiny crack. Just as we started wondering how they would manage to accomplish this feat, the ants poured themselves over the food particle, all at once. And then they all scattered and there was no trace of food. But, we were wrong; each ant was holding up a tiny spec of the food, hardly noticeable as it had been divided minutely and thus, they easily transported it into the crack in the floor. In a matter of seconds, they had completely vanished from sight.

A thought struck me as I watched them, we often see others, and ourselves carrying the burden of emotions and stress through this life, and yet walk away separately on our own paths. Some of us crumble under the weight of negativity and go into depths of darkness, experience depression, suicidal thoughts, take up sinful action as quick solutions etc. If only we could all stop for each other, break our stress and problems down to smaller chunks and help each other carry them to a point of resolve. Every task could be easily achieved by assuming collective responsibility. Has it not been the call of every Beloved of God that we remain united on this path?

The Cat

My mother is a cat lover and we lived with 25-30 cats in the house at times. It seemed that even our near and far neighborhood knew her passion for them and each time there was a litter that needed to be abandoned, we would find a basket of colorful kittens left by our gate. The cats and kittens with their voices changing at every age formed a beautiful choir together at lunch and dinner times. One day, one of the cats was run over by a vehicle. The cat had managed to walk to my mother and cried in pain. Though the veterinarian was summoned, he declared there was nothing much one could do for it. The doctor suggested that he try to ease out the dying cat by injecting an anesthetic medication. But the cat was fierce and would never let the doctor touch it even in that state of agony. My mother gently stroked the head of the cat and spoke to it in a soft motherly tone that it would be okay and that she would be with it till the end. She explained that the doctor was here to help it. The cat fixed its gaze on my mother and her soothing voice and let the doctor do his job. My mother sat along side till the cat crossed over from this world into the arms of God. A dying human being would never have surrendered with total faith like the cat did to my mother. It is true that today the most sparsely available value among mankind is faith and trust. We are all gripped by such suspicion that we have willingly made our lives an unimaginably tough journey. We have yet to master the art of complete surrender. It is this inability to surrender that becomes the primary cause of our growing ego that separates us from each other and God. Our suspicion and lack of trust keeps us suffering and we crumble under its pressure and fail to embrace love as animals do. Faith and trust can only thrive in absolute surrender.

Today’s times suggest that we have a lot to learn from other species and unlearn from our own kind. It is time we took charge and began introspecting how we can lead every creature in this Universe by example. Were we not created as Vicegerents of God HIMSELF? Is it not our duty then that every creature looks up to us for guidance instead of otherwise? Viceregency, is great responsibility and there is only one way we can live up to it, and that is by being living with each other and for each other. 

At this, I am reminded of this Hymn we sang in school,

No man is an island,

No man stands alone

Each man’s joy is joy to me

Each man’s grief is my own

We need one another

So I will defend

Each man as my brother

Each man as my friend…..

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