Monday, September 14, 2015

The champion of Unity of Being (Unity in Sufism & Vedanta): 17th century Mughal Prince Dara Shikoh

An extract from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dara_Shikoh:
Dara Shikoh (Urdu: دارا شِكوه‎), (Persian: دارا شكوه ‎) M 28 October 1615 – 30 August 1659 [Julian]/9 September 1659 [Gregorian]) was the eldest son and the heir-apparent of the fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. His name دارا شكوه in Persian means "as magnificent as Dara". He was favoured as a successor by his father and his sister Princess Jahanara Begum Sahib, but was defeated by his younger brother Prince Muhiuddin (later the Emperor Aurangzeb) in a bitter struggle for the imperial throne.
The course of the history of the Indian subcontinent, had Dara prevailed over Aurangzeb, has been a matter of some conjecture among historians.

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Some extracts from http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pollock/sks/papers/Ganeri(migratingtexts).pdf ("MIGRATING TEXTS AND TRADITIONS: DĀRĀ SHUKOH AND THE TRANSMISSION OF THE UPANIṢADS TO ISLAM" by Jonardon Ganeri, article first published in Migrating Texts and Traditions , edited by William Sweet (University of Ottawa Press, 2009)):

It was in or around 1656 that the crown prince Dārā Shukoh, the eldest son of Shāh Jahān and the great grandson of Akbar, began to assemble a team of paṇḍit-translators to help him in his project of rendering into Persian three great Hindu texts: the Upaniṣads, the Bhagavadgītā, and the Yogavāsiṣṭha. This project would indeed prove to be of historic importance, for European scholars had Persian but not Sanskrit, and it would be through Anquetil-Duperron’s translation of the Persian into Latin that the Upaniṣads would bear upon nineteenth century European thought. This was the text that would be read by Schopenhauer, whose reading would in turn directly influence the early Wittgenstein; this was the text a copy of which was held by the poet William Blake, and which was studied by Schelling.
...
Dārā Shukoh called his Persian translation of fifty-two Upaniṣads Sirr-i Akbar, “The Great Secret”. What might that secret have been? In his remarkably informative “Preface” to the translation, Dārā Shukoh reveals a great deal about his thinking.
...
The unspoken assumption, of course, is that all religious texts have a common subject matter, whatever their varying stylistic merits or drawbacks might be. In the background, then, is what might be termed a religious cosmopolitanism, a belief that there is a common spiritual heritage to all humanity. This is a manifestation of the Sufi doctrine of waḥdat al-wujūd (‘Unity of Being’), which, as Muzaffar Azam has shown, contributed to the shape of Hindu-Muslim relations in northern India throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, from Akbar to ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti (Azam 2004: 91–8).

Suggesting that the Indians have tried to conceal their spiritual treasure from the Muslims, Dārā Shukoh then goes on to make a second legitimizing argument for the hospitality he shows towards the Upaniṣads in translating them into Persian: Then every difficulty and every sublime topic which he had desired or thought and had looked for and not found, he obtained from these essences of the most ancient books, and without doubt or suspicion, these books are first of all heavenly books in point of time, and the source and fountain-head of the ocean of Unity, in conformity with the holy Qur’ān and even a commentary thereon. (Hasrat 1982: 267).
...
His final legitimization of his project is, however, the most daring of all. He now claims that the Upaniṣads are actually mentioned in the Qur’ān, and designated as scriptural texts:

And it becomes clearly manifest that this verse is literally applicable to these ancient books: “Most surely it is an honoured Qur’ān; in a book that is protected. None shall touch it save the purified ones. A revelation by the Lord of the worlds (Qur’ān lvi 77–80).” It is evident to any person that this sentence is not applicable to the Psalms or the Book of Moses or to the Gospel, and by the word “revelation”, it is clear that it is not applicable to the Reserved Tablet; and whereas the Upanekhat, which are a secret to be concealed and are the essence of this book, and the verses of the holy Qur’ān are literally found therein, of a certainty, therefore, the hidden book is this most ancient book, and hereby things unknown became known and things incomprehensible became comprehensible to this faqīr. (Hasrat 1982: 267).

Dārā Shukoh concludes his “Preface” with a final definitive statement of what I have been calling his religious cosmopolitanism. The words of God, of which the Upaniṣads are a part, are available to all who are free of prejudice and bias:

Happy is he who having abandoned the prejudices of vile selfishness, sincerely and with the grace of God, renouncing all partiality, shall study and comprehend this translation entitled the Sirr-i-Akbar, knowing it to be a translation of the words of God, shall become imperishable, fearless, unsolicitous and eternally liberated. (Hasrat 1982: 267–8).

The final sentiment sounds as if it has been inspired by the Upaniṣads themselves, and perhaps we can hear just a slight influence of his Indian source on his own thinking, overt denials that any such thing is possible notwithstanding. For although Dārā Shukoh has gone to extreme lengths to argue that there is no spiritual wisdom in the Upaniṣads that is not already contained in the Qur’ān, if only allegorically, it would not be surprising if their distinctive rhetoric of immortal freedom and release were to have infused itself into Dārā’s own spiritual vision.

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Ravi: One of the mystics that Dara Shikoh followed was Sarmad Kashani.

Some extract from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarmad_Kashani: Muhammad Sa'id, mostly known as Sarmad Kashani or simply as Sarmad (Persian: سرمد کاشانی‎) (ca 1590 - 1661) was a Persian mystic, poet and saint who travelled to and made the Indian subcontinent his permanent home during the 17th century. Originally a Jew, he probably renounced his religion to adopt Islam.
...
The reputation as a poet and mystic he had acquired during the time the two travelled together, caused Mughal crown prince Dara Shikoh to invite Sarmad at his father's court. On this occasion, Sarmad so deeply impressed the royal heir that he vowed to become his disciple.
Sarmad had an excellent command of Persian, essential for his work as a merchant, and composed most of his work in this language. He produced a translation of the Torah in Persian.

Death

After the War of Succession with his brother Dara Shikoh, Aurangzeb (1658-1707) emerged victorious, killed his former adversary and ascended the imperial throne. He had Sarmad arrested and tried for heresy. Sarmad was put to death by beheading in 1661. His grave is located near the Jama Masjid in Delhi, India. Aurangzeb ordered his mullahs to ask Sarmad why he repeated only "There is no God", and ordered him to recite the second part,"but God". To that he replied that "I am still absorbed with the negative part. Why should I tell a lie?" Thus he sealed his death sentence. Ali Khan-Razi, Aurangzeb's court chronicler, was present at the execution. He relates some of the mystic's verses uttered at the execution stand:

"The Mullahs say Ahmed went to heaven, Sarmad says that heaven came down to Ahmed."

"There was an uproar and we opened our eyes from the eternal sleep. Saw that the night of wickedness endured, so we slept again."
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[I thank Wikipedia, Jonardon Ganeri and columbia.edu and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extracts from their website on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

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