Excerpts from the book ‘Ignited Minds‘ Written By A.P.J. Abdul Kalamji
In September 2001, I visited the Dargah Sharif of Sufi mystic Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, better known as Gharib Nawaz, at Ajmer. Here, in AD 1256, at the age of 114, the saint entered his cell to pray in seclusion for six days, at the end of which he passed away. As I went round the dargah, I was struck by the beauty of all that the shrine symbolized. Eight hundred years ago, a saint travelled from Arabia, passing through many lands before reaching Ajmer. Here he brought together different communities who lived peacefully around his shrine.
The teachings and message of Khwaja Gharib Nawaz have been of an exceptional character. His simple teachings penetrated even a stony heart; his affectionate look could silence the fiercest enemy; he brought the message of universal love and peace. Chishti sufis who succeeded him continued the tradition set by him. They were truly the pioneers in national integration.
The teachings of Khwaja Sahib have been recorded in several books. For him, one who possesses the magnanimity of the river, the kindness of the sun and humility of the earth is closest to God. Khwaja Sahib said that the noblest character is possessed by one who is graceful in poverty, content in hunger, cheerful in grief and friendly in hostility. According to this great saint, the surest way to avoid the punishment of hell is to feed the hungry, to redress the aggrieved and to help the distressed. Khwaja Sahib gave a role model of Aarif, one who considers death as his friend, comfort as his enemy and always remembers God. An Aarif fears, respects and possesses shyness.
Why can’t we conduct ourselves as Aarifs? I wondered. Before any action, ask yourself this question: ‘Is what I am about to say or do going to bring me peace?’ As Dyer says, if the answer is yes, proceed wholeheartedly with it and you will be allowing yourself the wisdom of your highest self. If the answer is no, be cautious of your ego that is at work. The ego promotes turmoil because it separates you from everyone, including God. At Khwaja Sahib’s shrine I could listen to the voice that only wants you to be at peace with yourself.
Ajmer is located in the picturesque Aravalli range. Besides the Dargah Sharif it has the holy lake of Pushkar. These two holy places symbolize, as it were, the abiding amity between the two major religions of India. Ajmer presents a model of a peaceful society. I performed namaz as a thanksgiving for this amity. The scene reminded me of the similar location of two other religious centres, Nagore Dargah and Velankanni church.
On 2 October 2001 I visited Amritanandamayee’s Amrita Institute of Computer Technology near Kollam in Kerala with Prof. N. Balakrishnan of the IISc. and G. Madhavan Nair, Director, VSSC. I addressed about 1,000 young students, teachers, brahmacharis and swamis. The topic I selected was ‘Multi Dimensions of Knowledge Products.’ I found in the students a high level of receptivity to new ideas. In their questions, they showed interest not only in technological development but also in adhering to an honest way of life. After the interaction with the students I met Amma. It was a remarkable experience.
How can one take oneself closer to God was the message she was giving to the people. I wondered at the extraordinary effort that had gone into setting up an institution which could build hospitals, set up management schools of high calibre, and provide housing schemes for the economically weaker sections of society. My query led to a discussion with Amma and the other sanyasis. Though the institution imparts education in all major disciplines of knowledge and creates engineers, medical doctors, management graduates and science research scholars, they are still circumscribed by their individual specialization. Amma suddenly said, ‘Something is missing. How to connect?’
What she was referring to was bringing together these capabilities for a joint purpose.