Jul 16 2014
His Living Proof
by Abdul-Qader Bedil
English version by David and Sabrineh Fideler
The eternal mysteries,
following wisdom’s lead,
the human form
as their living proof.
As long as the drop
hadn’t emerged from the sea,
the depths of its splendor.
— from Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition, Translated by David Fideler / Translated by Sabrineh Fideler
/ Photo by alainf1 /
The “human form” in this poem is not so much a reference to human physical body as to human consciousness. Bedil is saying that humanity was created by God to be a living witness to Divinity. This is the “living proof.” He is not stating that the human body itself somehow proves the existence of the “eternal mysteries;” rather, it is through the witnessing consciousness of humanity that the Divine knows Itself in fullness. The poet makes this more clear with the metaphor of the second verse: It is only when the “drop” emerges from the “sea” that the “ocean” can envision “the depths of its own splendor.”
In other words, Bedil is giving us an answer to that fundamental spiritual question: Why does separation exist within the universe? If all is One, if everything fundamentally exists in God, why is there this devastating sense of separation and duality? The answer many mystical traditions give is that Eternal Unity divides mundane perception into the duality of seer and seen as a way to deepen the full knowledge of Being. Humanity, in this sense, has as its most important role that of witnessing Divinity. From this viewpoint, you could say that humanity becomes the eye of God. Human consciousness becomes a reflection of the Divine consciousness, a mirror in which the Eternal Unity can view Itself.
But there is an added twist to the common perception of duality. When one fulfills the role of witnessing God beyond the dizzying and sometimes heartbreaking multiplicities of the dualistic universe… the dualism fades away, revealing itself as having been an elaborate illusion. In truth, everything has always been One from start to finish. So we have a circular game of awareness: unity seeks self-knowledge through duality, but self-knowledge returns us to unity. The drop no matter how high it is flung into the air, eventually falls back into the embrace of the ocean and merges once more. Even high above the waves, the drop is water. And once returned to the ocean, it is still water (but no longer imagines itself to be a separate drop).
Abdul-Qader Bedil (also written Abd al-Qadir Bidil) is also respectfully referred to as Abu Al-ma’ani (“father of meaning”) Bedil.
There are conflicting reports of where Abdul-Qader Bedil was born. Some traditions give his birthplace as Azimabad in present day India, others say he is from Khwaja Rawash in the Kabul region of Afghanistan. There seems little debate, however, that his family originally came from Afghanistan and at some point moved to India as part of the Muslim Mughal court.
Abu Al-ma’ani Bedil wrote extensively — poetry, philosophy, wisdom stories, and riddles — and most of his writings remain with us today. He advocated religious tolerance and taught a doctrine of the Unity of Being (Wahdat al-Wujud) similar to Ibn Arabi.
Abu Al-ma’ani Bedil’s work has been hugely influential upon Persian Sufi thinkers and poets in Afghanistan, as well as a rich source of material for classical music in the area.
Just as he has two birthplaces, Abu Al-ma’ani Bedil also has two tombs, one in Delhi, India and one in Khwaja Rawash, Afghanistan.