There are some people who carry an unnatural wish for being a big name or a self-limiting belief of being more important and knowledgeable than they really are. So when such people evaluate any literary work they give irrelevant commentaries. This has happened with Sufi poetry also, especially with Lal “Vakhs”. Unfortunately, the mystic word, whether in terms of poet or non-poet, has terribly been misused and maligned, especially in the modern era. Delusions and psychotic episodes are not mystical experiences and conundrum is not intuition. The people who attempt to project themselves as mystics or mystical poets without smelling a bit of fragrance of any spiritual situation can be termed people of perverted taste.
There is a big galaxy of stars on the literary firmament of Sufi poetry in Kashmir history but Lal Ded is shining there like a bright moon and no star could overshadow her lofty stature for the last six centuries. She today as well, holds the same position in mystic poetry as before and her highest spiritual cadre and intuitional ability place her in all-time poetical heavyweight status in mystical poetry. I think Lal Ded has spoken differently than what Sufi poets normally said. I am of the opinion that ‘Lalism’ is a separate doctrine that is purely of Lal Ded, erected by her through her distinctive poetry.
I categorise the mystic poets into three cadres or we can name them three stages of the mystical journey.
Suppose we cook the rice. First, we rinse it in a strainer and then keep it in a pot and cover it with a lid. The pot containing the uncooked or raw rice is silent. No noise is there. It is the first stage. Then comes the next stage. We put this pot on a stove and simmer it. When it gains the heat it starts noising and bubbling; sometimes the pressure of steam pushes the lid violently out.
Then the rice starts to cook so the noise lessens till it turns silent. This is the third stage.
There is a very great difference between the silence of a pot in the first stage and the silence of the pot in the third stage. In the first stage, rice is uncooked and in the third stage, the pot carries cooked rice. So when any poet starts writing mystical poetry without having acquired any spiritual knowledge or revealed anything about spiritual mysteries, his or her position is at the first stage or to put it more appropriately, having no degree at all in mystical positions. The poetry of such people should be evaluated purely in terms of poetic standards and beauty.
Lal Ded shunned her worldly life to seek God and she was so engrossed in her seeking that she became ascetic. She went through hard mystic exercises and meditation and experienced tremendous hardships in the fervent seeking of her Lord that a situation came when she had to say:
Tsaalun Vozmal Te Trattay
Tsaalun Chuy Mandinyan Gattakaar
Tsaalun Chuy Paan-Panun Kaddun Grattay
Heyti Maali Santuush Vaati Paanay
(You’ve endured lightning and thunder in this path of seeking, so observe patience. Be patient, you may face darkness at noon. It is going through a grinding mill so you need patience on whatever befalls. Hope He will come to you so don’t be impatient.)
It is not easy to desire intimacy with your Lord, then you have to strive for it and next in this path, you will be tested. Then you will come to know what Lal Ded knew! The first step to establishing a relationship with your Lord is to be purely sincere in His seeking. Pray, meditate, and ponder over His creation. There are billions and billions and billions of signs to contemplate. Mystics say it is a rabbit hole. How far down do you wish to go? There you will go through such confusing situations and bizarre environments that you will find it difficult to extricate yourself. So you need a true and perfect guide while treading this path.
I’ve said it before also that most of our so-called intellectuals and critics are nourished in a literary well where their creative horizons couldn’t broaden and the sky seems to them so small that even brilliant stars go out of their sight. Their understanding is narrowed down to this limit where sky to them is nothing more than a round tray. Critical appreciation and evaluating honest attempts, reasonable observation and articulate analysis prove a great compliment to a bonafide writer. That’s why I am an admirer of an expert understanding the minute details of literature.
We have to admit that we are in short supply of those critics who have the potential, competence, and ability in analysing creative works reasonably. Prejudices, malice and little knowledge have decayed the brains of most of the critics, so their assessments cannot be relied on in determining the literature and its values. We have a very dearth of genuine critics here, so ignorant and frustrated people have taken over to judge the literature. Quoting English writers to present oneself as a person of great caliber and genius is a “fashion” here while ironically, ignorant about the writers of their own land!
“Rahne ko ghar nahi hai, sara jahan hamara”. (Means: We don’t have a place to live anywhere for ourselves, but lull ourselves into this false state of belief that the whole world belongs to us)
I agree, holding writers’ conferences is necessary to promote critical thinking. That can be an effective step to encourage academic research. It is very necessary to hold conferences and competitions to support the literature and address contemporary minds. Such types of gettogether or meetings encourage the habit of reading and reflection. But, ironically whenever any such party was hosted here only a selective group was taken to the picnics under the pretext of literary meetings.
Criticism by armchair analysts does not augur well. That is the criticism for the sake of criticism. Evaluation should be reasonable rather than a critic being swayed by prejudice, bias or false emotions.