Bauliana: Agnosticism, ‘Religion’ and Spiritualism
Today’s The Daily Star Heritage Page features a broadsheet with terrific images of the Lalon Festival in Seuria, Kushtia.
Had this been left as a pictorial report it would have spared those of us who take Fakir Lalon Shah and the sprit of Bauliana as a part of our living and life style, a lot happier, but sadly as often happens: distortions, ignorance and sheer tokenistic patronization by the so-called literate middle class of urban segment of Dhaka that the reporter of the piece represents, saddens us no end.
To begin the reports says
“The three-day long Lalon Smaran Utshob (memorial festival), carrying the spiritual saga of Baul king Lalon's shrine”
– is the first middle class utopian sin of the vilest kind.
Fakir Lalon Shah was not a Baul, and this liberal agnostic monotheistic life style go back thousand of years.
For more details click here to read Fakir Lalon Shah where I argue:
‘Even before we start discussing the Baul’s, a word of caution here: contrary to popular misconceptions, synonymity with Lalon Shah, and inference of him being a Baul ‘guru’ borders on middle class fascination for tokenistically tagging philosophical quests of the marginal, to a particular human ‘avatar’ over a period in time. The truth is Baul’s existed hundreds of years before Lalon Shah not only in Bengal, indeed similar lifestyle and expressions can be identified in other parts of the world’
Then the report says:
“Folk song is the main base of Lalon's music. This genre fuses two streams of spiritual thought---Sufist Islam and Baishnav--- the Krishna cult. The common trait of both these cults is 'mystic thought', which denotes an 'own self' as the centre of the thought. In course of time, this was turned into a culture named 'Baul culture'.
If folk songs are the ‘main base’ of Lalon’s music – what then is the ‘base’ of Folk songs? Did it just drop off from the mighty heaven? Little has this reporter done any research on music, if he had done so, he would have known before making such a pathetic statement in a ‘national newspaper’ that all ‘country music’ (I desist from using the politically incorrect term ‘folk’) in Bengal have their roots in the rich Indian classical music tradition’s.
Because those were times while composing there was no such thing as a recording industry – the only way to preserve them was solely on relying and fusing them around on various raags and raagnis.
As for ‘Baul culture’ – for a people who do not believe in anything more than the sky as a roof over his head, there can be no culture – much as there is no culture among birds and beasts in nature.
The reports says much to our chagrin:
“In the seventeenth century the Baul culture was not given its due. The Baul was regarded as a mad person. On the other hand it was a band matter according to religious discipline. No branch of religion, including Shariat and Shastro, permit this culture. Even when a Baul dies, a debate arises on observing the religious service for him. Thus when Lalon died he was buried without religious ceremony at his thatched house at Churia. To date no religious occasion is observed at Lalon's graveyard.”
Again I would request readers to click here and read ‘The Myth behind ‘Affected by the WIND’ where I argue
“This deliberation on breathing is thus essential in our real understanding of the word Baul, for ‘affected by the wind’ it may mean from in Sanskrit (some say Persian) variant Batul, the underlying tragedy is the term has most rudely and deliberately concocted as ‘going mad’. The lampoon-isation as if, it is the lifestyle of a bunch of lunatics with some insinuations even implying this, as the aftereffect of all the ‘wind’ consumed in chillums (bongs) full of ganja or marijuana, with the word Batil or ‘wasted’ only a continuation of Batul.”
The human body for Bauliana practitioners as such is a vessel for us that houses the omnipotent Soul. Once the Soul has left - it hardly matters how the vessel is disposed off. There were no arguments about how Fakir Lalon Shah's mortal remains were to be disposed off. He wanted it buried and there was to be no 'religious rites' performed period.
Bauliana is actually an offshoot from Buddhism and I refer to D.P.Baruah’s article in Daily Star where he writes:
” The final disappearance of Buddhism in ancient Bangladesh is mainly attributed to the degeneration of Buddhism into obscure Tantric cults and also emergence of religious and social conservatism in the subsequent Sena Rule. At that declining stage of Buddhism, the Senas supporting the Brahminical doctrines came from south India and destroyed the social structure founded on equality of all people in the Pala Age. A sizeable number of Buddhist monks fled to Nepal and Tibet with their manuscripts and religious books while some others continued their existence here under various camouflages.”
The Buddhist Pala’s ruled Bengal from 750 to 1161 AD and it was possibly that the subsequent genocide on Buddhist monks left them no choice but to go underground and reverse their roles and the Baul school of agnostic monotheism was born. Buddhism speaks about Man ‘the essential creature’ and on the question of gOD prefers to remain silent.
Stripped off their right to practice their way of life (not religion) monks are said to have discarded their saffron robe, grew their hair and beards to disguise their looks, and in matter of the one gOD of man, began singing the praise of gOD’s of all religion – the Shonatoni, the Muslim, the Baishnab – and all fused in together is what we have today – Bauliana – a salute to the great GOD in each man.
Make no mistake – Bauliana is no religion and its practitioners are not ‘religious’ , but ‘spiritual beings’.
With that jAH bAULIANA to all.