Nov 11 2011

Bulleh Shah – Repeating the name of the Beloved

Published by at 9:36 am under Poetry

Repeating the name of the Beloved
by Bulleh Shah

English version by J. R. Puri and T. R. Shangari

Repeating the name of the Beloved
I have become the Beloved myself.
Whom shall I call the Beloved now?

— from Bulleh Shah: The Love-Intoxicated Iconoclast (Mystics of the East series), by J. R. Puri / Tilaka Raja Puri

/ Photo by udeyismail /

Repeating the name of the Beloved
I have become the Beloved myself.

You’ll find variations of this notion in sacred poetry and mystic writings throughout the world. What does it mean? How does repeating the name of the Beloved make you become the Beloved?

Many Sufi traditions practice zikr, he remembrance of the name of God, often through all-night prayer circles that involve devoutly repeating the names and attributes of God. You’ll find similar practices in Hinduism and Buddhism with the recitations of divine names and word formulations through mantra and japa. In Catholicism, there is the repetition of the rosary. In Eastern Orthodox Christianity, there is the Jesus Prayer…

The purpose behind all of these practices is a gentle but persistent assault on the mind. By taking the name or words that most remind you of the Divine, and repeating it over and over again, with attention and devotion, a cleansing process starts to occur in the awareness. The mind, at first, likes the sense that it is ‘doing something good,’ focusing on sacred things; but it soon becomes impatient, wanting to return to its old fixations, its comfortable patterns and habitual ways of viewing the world. Continuing the practice of sacred repetition allows the mind no quarter, bringing it back again and again to focus on the Divine. Do this long enough, and the mind starts to see empty spaces in itself — a terrifying experience for the mind, since it normally expends great energy to hide its essentially empty nature behind constant activity and attachment. But continue the practice further still, deeply, and an amazing thing happens: The mind not only sees its emptiness, it sees THROUGH its emptiness to the radiance within. It recognizes that that shining presence was what was being named all along. And, since the mind has finally admitted that it has no solidity or boundary, that it has no essential reality in itself, it recognizes that there is no separation from that living radiance. The identity is finally understood to have always resided There, within the Beloved all along — you have “become the Beloved” yourself!

But, for the devotee, this leaves a dilemma of language: Recognizing the Beloved as one’s true self, the Self of all selves, who then shall you call the Beloved?

This is a verse worth… repeating.

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

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Bulleh Shah – Repeating the name of the Beloved”

  1. Franon 11 Nov 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Thanks much, such a timely poem for me right now. a new appreciation for silence as well.

  2. Janeon 12 Nov 2011 at 5:36 am

    This is very profound and beautiful…thankyou Ivan :))

  3. martinaon 12 Nov 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I loved this one! I also am grateful to you for suggesting the Stile Antico Song of Songs album. I got it, and also the Marian songs in Blue Heron. I feel like I am in heaven. I have loved Palestrina forever, and recently got a cd of songs at the St. Francis of Assisi chapel in San Francisco. I have been hanging onto it, playing it over and over, and now these other two albums, also, to keep me connected to the divine radiance. Thank you for helping me not scatter and lose that focus! Love to you, martina

  4. manjulaon 29 Dec 2011 at 1:43 am

    words fully fail… as silence grabs..why speak? why.. utter? the treasure gushing in..?

    that is the state of ultimate bliss felt in deepest of meditative state

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