Sep 04 2009

Bulleh Shah – To Me, I Am Not Known

Published by at 9:41 am under Poetry

Bulleh! to me, I am not known
by Bulleh Shah

Not a believer inside the mosque, am I
Nor a pagan disciple of false rites
Not the pure amongst the impure
Neither Moses, nor the Pharaoh

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Not in the holy Vedas, am I
Nor in opium, neither in wine
Not in the drunkard`s intoxicated craze
Niether awake, nor in a sleeping daze

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

In happiness nor in sorrow, am I
Neither clean, nor a filthy mire
Not from water, nor from earth
Neither fire, nor from air, is my birth

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Not an Arab, nor Lahori
Neither Hindi, nor Nagauri
Hindu, Turk, nor Peshawari
Nor do I live in Nadaun

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Secrets of religion, I have not known
From Adam and Eve, I am not born
I am not the name I assume
Not in stillness, nor on the move

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

I am the first, I am the last
None other, have I ever known
I am the wisest of them all
Bulleh! do I stand alone?

Bulleh! to me, I am not known


/ Photo by austinevan /

Bulleh Shah has given us a riddle to unravel today.

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

Ask yourself, What or who is not known when he keeps saying that he is “not known”? How can he say to himself that he is not known?

The little self, the ego, the self of attributes with a place in the world, the self that answers to the name Bulleh (“I am not the name I assume”) — that self can’t know the deeper Self. Why? Because the True Self is far too immense. The True Self is “not a believer… nor a pagan.” The True Self is not involved “in happiness nor in sorrow.” The True Self is too big to be contained by those definitions; it permeates them and encompasses them, without being caught by them.

Not from water, nor from earth
Neither fire, nor from air, is my birth

The True Self is not hemmed in by beginnings and ending.

From Adam and Eve, I am not born

One’s True Self is eternal.

I am the first, I am the last

And utterly whole and all-encompasing, with nothing external.

None other, have I ever known

No surprise then that the little self that clings to definitions and boundaries cannot know the Self Bulleh speaks of. The great, flowing vastness one IS, well, it is perceived, but it is not ‘known.’

Bulleh! to me, I am not known

If you want to encounter the deepest mystery, look in the mirror.

Bulleh Shah, Bulleh Shah poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Bulleh Shah

Pakistan (1680 – 1758) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Mir Bulleh Shah Qadiri Shatari, often referred to simply as Bulleh Shah (a shortened form of Abdullah Shah) lived in what is today Pakistan. His family was very religious and had a long tradition of association with Sufis. Bulleh Shah’s father was especially known for his learning and devotion to God, raising both Bulleh Shah and his sister in a life of prayer and meditation.

Bulleh Shah himself became a respected scholar, but he longed for true inner realization. Against the objections of his peers, he became a disciple of Inayat Shah, a famous master of the Qadiri Sufi lineage, who ultimately guided his student to deep mystical awakening.

The nature of Bulleh Shah’s realization led to such a profound egolessness and non-concern for social convention that it has been the source of many popular comical stories — calling to mind stories of St. Francis or Ramakrishna. For example, one day Bulleh Shah saw a young woman eagerly waiting for her husband to return home. Seeing how, in her anticipation, she braided her hair, Bulleh Shah deeply identified with the devoted way she prepared herself for her beloved. So Bulleh Shah dressed himself as a woman and braided his own hair, before rushing to see his teacher, Inayat Shah.

Bulleh Shah is considered to be one of the greatest mystic poets of the Punjab region.

His tomb in the Qasur region of Pakistan is greatly revered today.

More poetry by Bulleh Shah

7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Bulleh Shah – To Me, I Am Not Known”

  1. maryann moonon 04 Sep 2009 at 11:21 am

    Dear Ivan, Were you aware last night of the loveliest
    Light – all through the night? I woke several times and
    was so very assured by the Light of the moon. I was
    reminded of The Great Creator saying, “come, let us
    introduce ourselves in love, and then let’s sit on the moon and swing our feet. Let’s sit in our bathrobes and celebrate
    the everlasting fire of our love.

    Thank you for this lovely poem.

  2. alan jacobson 04 Sep 2009 at 11:24 am

    Ivan your commentaries are brilliant, especially on this one, you have, in my opinion, a true understanding of the Mystical Path for modern man who wishes to escape from Samsara. You perform a wonderful service not only to the Spiritual Community but to the finest Poetry as well. Love and all best wishes, Alan

  3. Smita nirulaon 06 Sep 2009 at 3:19 am

    I think the line, “Bulle ki jaana main kaun?” means “Bulle who knows who I am?” Very often in Urdu poetry, the poet includes his name in the poem. This is not vastly different from what you have said, but, I think, it is different enough……….

  4. isabelon 06 Sep 2009 at 4:54 am

    Dear Ivan,
    Thanks for the commentary. The image in the mirror is such a strong one. What is it really but an image? Nothing is really there. And yet…….. When one looks, who looks? And what does one see? What ‘arises’? What quality? Is it the steady compassion that ‘encompasses’ all apparent qualities or is it better to stick with this notion of ‘ no thing’? So many rippling, pondering questions to sail on……. Thankyou Maryann moon for your lovely comment too so many subtle allusion in that.
    love and blessings to all on the poetry chaikhana

  5. [...] To Me, I Am Not Known [...]

  6. Pardeep Insanon 11 Nov 2009 at 10:06 am

    can u publish these poem in hindi..

  7. atiyaon 06 Dec 2009 at 1:13 am

    Do you have “bulla ki jaana maen koun ” in urdo translation, PLS