Throat Singing

Raga Durga

Women and Sannyasa: Two Anecdotes

The below excerpts are from Sri Harshaji’s talk at a private gathering in Berlin last month - Aileen

We started talking about Tīvra-Madhya Shaktipāta, and then Shen-Gong and Fa-Shen and now seem to have gotten into discussing women and sannyāsa! Anyway, I frankly have no personal opinion on this topic, as it does not mean much to me, one way or another, but can provide two tales, which can be considered as anecdotal evidences.

One of my dear friends told me about an accomplished Yoginī named Srī Chanḍikānanda Bhāratī from āndhra deśa. Reportedly an expert at kāyākalpa, she had received sannyāsa from none other than H H Srī Saccidānanda Shivābhinava Nṛsiṃha Bhāratī and was a sannyāsinī in the traditional sense, sporting a daṇḍa in her hand. She kept the daṇḍa away during those three days of the month but performed her anuṣṭhāna as any other daṇḍī sannyāsin would do. She was an adept in Mantra śāstra and Yogic discipline.

It is said that she initially lived in Sringeī but it caused the usual commotion and politics on account of a woman living within an orthodox maṭha of celibate monks. As per her Guru’s instruction, she left the maṭha, and spent much time in caves in Guntur perfecting her upāsanā. She then proceeded to the north and spent several decades in the Himalayas, and finally appeared in Bengal with a broken bone, owing to her unfinished karma. She somehow was brought back to āndhra deśa and spent the full period of a caturmāsya in my friend’s residence. Her siddhis were evident from the many things that occurred in her presence. She is known to have discarded her body at some point, after her goal of exhausting karma was met. So this is the tale I’ve heard about a lady initiated into sannyāsa by none other than the great pontiff of Sringerī. I must also mention, for the sake of completeness, that when I once conversed on this topic with the current pontiff of the maṭha, the response was a dismissive smile; but that really should not negate the possibility of this incident having occurred as neither Yoga nor Tantra are areas of expertise or even interest for the current ācārya, unlike his predecessors.

And the second person I remember is someone we called Bhairavī Amma, the most influential woman teacher in my life after Suri Mami. She was a disciple of our Guru Nambudiri Appa (Srī Chinmudrānandanātha), and obviously her name was not Bhairavī, she had so assumed that title on account of her practices. She spoke no South Indian languages, conversed in chaste Hindi, English and Sanskrit and appeared to be familiar with Bengali. While we called our Guru Nambudari 'Appa', she was called Bhairavī 'Amma', and that probably indicated how she was related to our Guru. Our Guru spoke very less verbally, and most of his instructions came through wordless speech. But Amma was a great communicator and often acted as his medium of instruction. She appeared to be about seventy or eighty by the time I got acquainted with her, seemingly older by several decades than our Guru, who in actuality was older than her by god knows what number! Her diet was strange - peanuts, banana, water with lemon and ginger and another fruit I did not really recognize at that point. If my trainer ever heard of it, he would probably think she was on an Atkins diet! Her chosen deity was Chinnamastā, who she unfailingly referred to as Pracaṇḍa Chaṇḍikā and held a worldview close to Trika and Spanda, but not exactly the same.

She would randomly show up at the residence of a former Chief Justice of India, who was also devoted (albeit not a disciple) to our Guru and stay in his home for a week or two. She taught me very many things, in fact more things verbally than my Guru such as several forms of Prāṇāyāma, certain secretive aspects that form the crux of śākta yoga, several prayogas for Bagalāmukhī, Chinnamastā and Vajravārāhī. She was extremely well-versed in Buddhist Mahāmudrā and displayed a very vocal inclination towards the Shentong view. She had studied under several Dzogchen teachers that included accomplished students of Khenpo Ngawang Palzang and Gyurme Pema Namgyal. She was indeed my first Buddhist teacher for Mahāmudrā though rDzogchen is my currently preferred school for various reasons. She had lived in Nepal for quite a while and had been closely acquainted with Dhana Shamsher Ranaji (who was a disciple of our Guru for sometime), and was instrumental in my accessing several manuscripts belonging to our Sampradāya from Nepal. One of my students who visited Nepal last year tells me that the priest in the temple of Guhyeśvarī recognizes her.

Anyway, she told me that she had been initiated into sannyāsa by the pontiff of Sumeru maṭha (I assume this is the same as the one in Kashi) along with daṇḍa etc., and had performed several cāturmāsya vratas before discarding the daṇḍa and entering the avadhūtāśrama, typical of Krama Diksha. Her remark was, ‘I have lost my muṇḍa (hinting at a certain practice of extreme nature associated with Chinnamastā), what use I have for a daṇḍa?’ I have no reason to disbelieve her narration and do think she was indeed given sannyāsa the traditional way.

Dzogchen: Attainments of Fruition at Death

- Tulku Thondup

Generally, life is a chain of births and deaths since every moment of life is the birth of a new moment and the death of a preceding moment. But conventionally, birth relates to the beginning of life and death to its end. As we have already taken birth in this life, the important thing for us to deal with is death. According to Buddhism, even for an unrealized person, if one can deal properly with the circumstances of the time of death, one’s next rebirth results in a pleasant life since everything functions through interdependent causation. A person who is an accomplished Dzogpa Chenpo trainee may attain the accomplishments at the time of death, in the intermediate state, or in the next rebirth. Accomplished Dzogpa Chenpo meditators are the most important amazing adepts of Tibet, for they die displaying the wondrous signs of achievement of enlightenment. They display numerous signs of attainments as a result of the training they have been pursuing.

Kunkhyen Jigmed Lingpa summarizes the significance of the signs divided into two categories:

As a result of the speed of attaining liberation, there are two types of (attainment at death).
(a) In (Dzogpa Chenpo), in order to attain the cessation of sorrow, the primordial nature, and the city of sacred peace, one exhausts the contaminated (elements of the mortal) body. The result is called the Fully Enlightened One (Samyaksambuddha).
(b) Death with display of five signs: the lights, sounds, images of peaceful and wrathful deities in bones, gDung (various colors which are indestructible; the white ones are the size of a pea, and the colored ones vary in size from a pea to a mustard seed. Ring-bSrel are white, destructible and vary in size from a sesame seed to an atom), and earth temblings. It is called the attainment of Manifesting Enlightenment (mNgon-ParSangs-rGyas-Pa, Abhibuddha).

Jigmed Tenpa’s Nyima explains the distinctions between the basis and the result:

If one does not recognize the single luminous innate mind, that is the basis of delusion. If one realizes and stabilizes it, that is the state of liberation. The first case is the basis and the second is the result. The Omniscient One (Long-chen Rabjam) has rejected the interpretation that they are the same. For the basis, a complete luminous absorption arises at each time of death, but by not realizing it, one returns to the delusory movements (Yo-Lang) of apprehended and apprehender. When one reaches the result, as one attains one’s own true essence, one will not return to delusion. So that is the difference between the basis and the result.

The most exceptional sign of Dzogpa Chenpo at death is the dissolving or transforming of the mortal body. As stated before, there are two main forms of dissolution of the mortal body:

(a) The attainment of the dissolution of the atoms or the most subtle particles (total dissolution) of the mortal body, popularly known as the attainment of Rainbow Body (’Ja-Lus), through training in Thregchod (Cutting Through)
(b) the attainment of the Light Body (A’od-Lus) or the Great Transformation (‘Pho-Ba Ch’en-Po) through training in Thodgal (Direct Approach).

Longchen Rabjam distinguishes these two attainments:

The cessation (or dissolution) of the elements at the time of perfection (of the attainment of) the meaning of primordial purity (Ka-Dag) (through the training of) Thregchod, and the exhaustion of elements by perfecting the spontaneous accomplishment (through the training of) Thodgal are similar in just having purified the internal and external gross elements. But in Thregchod, at the very instant of dissolving the partless particles, one attains liberation in the primordial purity, and there is no manifestation of Light Body. In Thodgal, with (the attainment of) Light Body one accomplishes the Great Transformation. So their difference lies in whether or not they have the Light Body in the attainment of liberation in the state of primordial purity.

Some Dzogpa Chenpo tantras, however, distinguish four forms of dissolution. The Nyida Khajor tantra says:

(a) The way of death of the Dakinis
(b) The way of death of the knowledge-holders
(c) Self-consuming like a fire, and
Invisible like space

In all of them, they exhaust their mortal elements of the body and become invisible and do not take any elemental form. This is what the supreme yogis enjoy.

Kunkhyen Jigmed Lingpa elaborates on the four ways of dissolution:

In the supreme way (of death), one dissolves one’s mortal body (in two ways): In Thregchod, one dissolves (the body as it is called) like space and like the way of death of the Dakinis. In the Thodgal, one dissolves (the body as it is called) like fire and like the way of death of a knowledge-holder. These are the four ways of dying for an accomplished Dzogpa Chenpo yogi.

First: Having purified (down to) the subtlest defilements of air/energy and mind which obscure the ultimate sphere, one attains the exhaustion of (phenomena into) the inner ultimat sphere (Nang-dByings), and thereby the external body dissolves into atoms [total dissolution]. At that very moment, the suchness of (one’s) intrinsic awareness, which was based in the (mortal) body, unites with the natural ultimate sphere (Rang-bZhin Ch’os-Kyi dByings), as the space in a vase merges with the outer space when the vase is broken. Then, having united the ultimate sphere and the intrinsic awareness in the (state of) equalness purity without separation, one becomes enlightened.

Second: It is the union of the body, the basis, and the intrinsic awareness, the based. The atoms of the body (of Dzogpa Chenpo adepts) are present (in one moment) but (in the next moment) they dissolve into the invisible (nature). At that very moment the intrinsic awareness dissolves into the ultimate sphere without return, like an arrow shot by a skilled archer. It is similar to the way that Dakinis or beings who have been born by miraculous birth die, their bodies (suddenly) becoming invisible. As stated before, it is the same as the manner in which Pang Sangye Gonpo, a direct disciple of Vairochana, died at Tragmar Gon of Tod Khung-rong and in which three followers of their lineage died in a single snake year, one after another, at Wa Senge Trag.

Third: The way of dissolving the intrinsic awareness after purifying he defilements of the air/energy and mind, as well as the ultimate sphere, the place where one attains liberation, are the same (as in the previous two cases). But (in this case), as the inner elements are exhausted, the physical mortal body dissolves into a light body (A’od-Phung). It is as when the fuel of a fire is burned, there is no more fuel for the fire to continue. For example, two disciples of Kyergom Zhigpo attained light bodies and disappeared into the sky in the cave of Dotshen.

Fourth: One dissolves his mortal body - created by the maturation (of karma and habituation) - into the light body and becomes visible to other beings in order to lead them to the doctrine. It is as when the knowledge-holders progress from one stage to another, they travel through the sky to other Buddha-fields with sounds and lights and serve the needs of others. And it is like Chetsun Senge Wang-chug, the lord of yogis, whose mortal body dissolved into light body with lights and sounds in the sky at Oyug Chikong.

The bodies of Dzogpa Chenpo meditators who still have residues of karmic maturations do not dissolve at death, and there are some whose accomplishments are fully perfected, but who, instead of dissolving their mortal bodies, leave them with gDung and Ringsel (relics) as objects of devotion for devotees. Also, some adepts leave their bodies with or without any sings because of various circumstances or purposes. Sogpo Tentar says:

Even if (a Dzogpa Chenpo adept) possesses the capacity to dissolve (the mortal body) through (his realization of the) view and meditation, he does not exhaust his Karmic energies (of remaining in the mortal form) but accepts (the responsibility of) the wheel of activities for the sake of the doctrine and beings. Even in their order to help beings with (the remains of their) gDung and Ring-sel, they (attain the accomplishment) in the manner of the state of Knowledge-holder with residues. This is like Jigmed Thrinle Odzer Palbar (1745-1821), the lord of the sages and the master of hundred Buddha families, and the illusory manifestation of the primordial Buddha Samantabhadra for the perception of the disciples.

Note: It is most common for us to interpret the term Dākinī to mean harmful spirits, but it means something else in the current Buddhist context. It normally refers to the feminine aspect of Enlightenment in Mantrayāna. In practice, this term also refers to enlightened women adepts who are also consorts (Karmamudrā) of adepts or Siddhas. A Dākinī represents various things at various levels. At the subtle most level, she represents the greatest insights regarding the phenomena and mind. In the next aspect, she symbolizes the pure wisdom-nature of the mind. At a grosser level, she is a deity or Yidam propitiated through rituals. At the outer most level, she is a woman who is a practitioner, a teacher, a consort to a Siddha or all of them. Similar to our concept of seeing all women as Shakti, there is the practice by Tantric Buddhists to see all women as sacred manifestations of the Dākinī. Of course, it is pointed out by several experts that the wrathful spirits (usually traveling in the sky) known as maleficent to Hindu Tantras were later adopted by the Buddhists and their image transformed to represent an altogether different concept. The wrathfulness of the earlier Dākinī was replaced by a more sensual and playful image, and this is true even within Hindu Tantra in several other cases. A typical Buddhist example is that of Vajrayoginī who exhibits both the older and later transformed aspects of the Dākinī. There is also a distinction made between laukika and lokottara categories of the Dākinī, the maleficent ones exclusively belonging to the former category. Then there is also an influence of the Iranian Peri on the formulation of the Tibetan Dākinī. Anyway, coming back to the topic, Dākinī here refers only to the feminine aspect of Enlightenment or to a female adept representing such an attainment - Harsha


Khagendramaṇidarpaṇa is a medieval work in Kannada on Viṣaśāstra (Toxicology), dealing with various kinds of poisons and their treatment. The author of this work is a Jaina Mantravādin named Maṅgarāja, known to have lived during the reign of King Harihara (1336-1357). The verses are in Haḻagannaḍa, employing various vṛttas such as utpalamālā, śārdūla, campaka, sragdhārā, mattebha, mandākrānta, mālinī, mallikāmālā, śaśikāntā, maṇiraṅga, lalita, rathoddhata and then anuṣṭup when dealing with highly Sanskritized verses. This work is similar in nature to works like Nārayaṇa’s Tantrasārasaṅgraha, the medieval Revatī Tantra, and the various Samhitās attributed to Kaśyapa dealing famously with the Pañcākṣara mantra of Garuḍa. However, Maṅgarāja’s work is also unique in many respects.

The first chapter starts with an invocation of Pārśvanātha, clearly establishing the author as of Jaina faith. He starts by categorizing poisons into three categories: sthāvara, jaṅgama and kṛtrima. He then proceeds to discuss dravyasaṅgraha, the process of collecting herbs to treat various poisons.

In the next chapter, he discusses twenty-five kinds of sthāvara viṣa and the symptoms caused by each of those forms. He lists the below mantra as as Sakalaviṣahara (capable of removing all kinds of poisons):

OM namo bhagavate pārśvanāthāya sthāvarajaṅgamakṛtrimaviṣa saṃhārāya haṃ jhaṃ jhiṃ kṣiṃ haṃsa pārśvanātha devatājñā viṣahara mallinātha devatājñā tribhuvana garuḍājñā śrīdhara devatājñā śīghraṃ nirviṣaṃ kuru huṃ phaṭ svāhā |

The next mantra listed is of Svacchanda Bhairavī:

OM namo bhagavati svacchanda bhairavī mahābhairavī kālakūṭa viṣaṃ sphoṭaya pātaya khaṇḍaya avadhāraya nābhiviṣaṃ hālāhalaviṣaṃ kṛtrimaviṣaṃ śaṅkāviṣaṃ upaghātaviṣaṃ sthāvaraviṣaṃ jaṅgamaviṣaṃ kālacañcucāparayūtaja sumantu cenna naḻanakhacandra jaya OM kālāya mahākālāya kālagarbha viṣadevi amṛtagarbhadevi OM kṣāṃ kṣīṃ kṣūṃ kṣāṃ kṣūṃ OM huṃ phaṭ svāhā nāsti viṣa svāhā |

The other mantra listed is of Amṛtadhārā, which is obviously a form of the famous Sudhādevī Mantra of Srīkula:

OM amṛte amṛtodbhave amṛtavarṣiṇi idamamṛtaṃ srāvaya saṃ klīṃ blūṃ drāṃ drīṃ drāvaya haṃ jhiṃ kṣiṃ haṃsa svāhā |

The final mantra listed in this chapter is of Oḍḍāmaresvara, a corrupted form of a ṣaiva mantra:

OM namo bhagavate oḍḍāmareśvarāya kuñcitavṛtta jaṭādharāya OM abhamahāyuto obi haṭhālevarsassuvinaya nakhātayukhāyinemayikhāya śrīrāmeśvarāya drāṃ hrūṃ hrāṃ harahara viṣaṃ svāhā |

He then discusses various herbs and concoctions to treat poisons of different kinds. Some of the poisonings discussed include those caused by hemp, bottle gourd, Cedrus Deodara, mercury, sulfur, pepper, asafoetida, sesame etc.

Like the vernacular śābara mantras, there are some interesting mantras in old Kannada prescribed for treating poisons caused due to thorns of certain kinds. These resemble śābara mantras and even end in words such as 'guruprasāda'.

OM namo bhagavate haranamuḻḻādoḍenu hariya muḻḻādoḍenu iṃdrana muḻḻādoḍenu candrana muḻḻādoḍenu rāhu muḻḻādoḍenu viṣanāgana bennamuḻḻādoḍenu kītaḍe bātaḍe vajrada koḍaliyalu oṃbattavaḍeya hoyve OM juṃbāḻu guruprasāda |

OM namo bhagavate asiyāyuṣaṃ namaḥ pāṃḍavarayvaruṃ saṃdhise baṃdhise baṭṭeyalu vībaḍalu muṃtāgi pogutte iṃdugeṃba haṃdiyaṃ koṃdu mūṃda billaṃ saṃdhisi muḷna maṇtravanāru ballaruyeṃdare rakāṭi vīraneṃba kūsaṃballa pañcadhāreya muḻḻu posadhāreya muḻḻu kāreya muḻḻu tivuru muḻḻu nālkudhāreya muḻḻu viṣa pariharisi śarīraśūleya keḍuguṃ guruprasāda |

This is followed by a brief discussion on treating poisonous injuries caused by weapons.

Maṅgarāja now discusses the topic of jaṅgama viṣa, starting with an elaboration on eight families of snakes and their correspondence to the four elements (bhūtacatuṣṭaya). Some of the specifics discussed are the names of these families, their color, inhabitancy, symptoms of a bite, a discussion on tithi, vāra, śakuna etc. Three mantras are discussed as saṅgraha mantras, of which one involves the alphabet, presumably of Sanskrit. The other two Mantras are:

OM hrīṃ vaḥ |
hrāṃ vaṃ kṣaṃ yaṃ |

The same section also discusses the mantra of Garuḍa:

kṣipa OM svāhā |

Two other mantras listed are:

OM āṃ hrīṃ hrīṃ simapa lakṣmi svāhā |
ṭhaḥ palakṣmī |

It seems to us that the word here is most probably pakṣi, which is printed as lakṣmī in most of the available manuscripts.

The next chapter goes on to discuss the various rituals performed to the victim of poisoning, and this again involves various mantras.

Some kind of nyāsa is performed with the below mantras in the body of the victim:

hrāṃ hrīṃ hrūṃ hraiṃ hrauṃ hraḥ |
OM namo arahattāṇaṃ hrāṃ śīrṣaṃ rakṣa rakṣa svāhā |

The mantra prescribed for Digbandhana is:

āṃ īṃ ūṃ aiṃ auṃ aṃ aḥ kṣāṃ kṣīṃ kṣūṃ kṣaiṃ kṣauṃ kṣaḥ |

Reciting the below mantra, one visualizes a fortress of gold around the victim:

ha hā hi hī hu hū hṛ hṝ he hai ho hau haṃ haḥ |
kṣa kṣā kṣi kṣī kṣu kṣū kṣṛ kṣṝ kṣe kṣai kṣo kṣau kṣaṃ kṣaḥ |

The patient is bathed reciting the Amṛta mantra described earlier.

The deity invoked for the purpose of treating the victim is the famous Jaina Goddess Padmāvatī.

OM hrīṃ namo.astu bhagavati padmāvati ehi saṃ vauṣaṭ |

OM hrīṃ namo.astu bhagavati padmāvati atra tiṣṭha ṭhaḥ |

OM hrīṃ namo.astu padmāvati sannihitā bhava vauṣaṭ |

OM hrīṃ namo.astu bhagavati padmāvati gandhādīn gṛhāṇa |

OM hrīṃ namo.astu bhagavati padmāvati svasthānaṃ gaccha |

The main mantra of the deity taught is as below:

OM hrīṃ namaḥ |

The dhyāna of Padmāvatī is described, which is similar to popular visualizations taught in works such as Bhairava Padmāvatī Kalpa.

This is followed by a procedure for prāṇapratiṣṭhā, and an invocation to the main deity Pārśvanātha through the main mantra:

OM namo bhagavate śrīpārśva tīrthaṅkarāya dharaṇendra padmāvatī sahitāya saṃsārasāgarottaraṇāya aṣṭalokapāla pūjitāya aṣṭavidhakarma nirmūlanakarāya rāja taskara krūrāri mārī samasta kṣudropadravān chindi jvara dāha santāpa akṣiroga kukṣiroga vraṇa sphoṭakādi sarvarogān chindi kṛtrimākṛtrima aṣṭakulasarpa aṣṭādaśa vṛṣkika aṣṭādaśa mūṣaka viṣān chindi sthāvara jaṅgama kṛtrima viṣān chindi devagraha bhūtagraha yakṣa rākṣasagraha sarvagraha pīḍān chindi śatasahasrakoṭi piṣāca rākṣasagraha kṛtopasargān chindi ekāhika dvyāhika sāmvatsarikādi nānā javaragrahān chindi āṃ hrīṃ kroṃ phaṭ svāhā hūṃ phaṭ svāhā |

Though Padmāvatī and Pārśvanātha are invoked due to the author’s allegiance to Jaina mata, the actual formula deployed for viṣanāśa is Garuḍa Pañcākṣara mantra. An elaborate dhyāna of Garuḍa is described and further instructions of the prayoga of the mantra. All this is standard fare source for which seems to chiefly Garuḍa Pañcākṣarī Kalpa of Kaśyapa.

There are numerous versions of Garuḍa mantras listed for different purposes.

OM kṣipa svāha daha paca stobhaya |

kṣipa OM svāhā stambhaya kṣi |

kṣipa OM svāhā saṃplāvaya |

svāhā OM kṣipa svāhā saṅkrama vraja | (?)

hāpa OM svāhā saṃkṣipa hā kṣipa hā |

Various other auxiliary gāruḍa mantras are also listed:

OM pakṣi ehi māye bheruṇḍa vijñāvijñā bhariyakaraṇḍe tantu mentu aghorāya hūṅkāra viṣaṃ nāśaya sthāvara jaṅgama kṛtrima akṛtrima viṣaṃ aṅgaja hūṃ phaṭ devadattasya viṣaṃ hara hūṃ phaṭ svāhā ||

OM survarṇarekhā kukkuṭavigraharūpiṇi svāhā |

OM namo bhagavati vṛddhagaruḍāya sarpaviṣanāśini chindi bhagavati vidye hara hūṃ phaṭ svāhā |

A mantra or removal poison, associated with Rāmacandra called śaradaṇḍana also finds mention:

OM kṣāṃ haḥ OM kṣāṃ kṣīṃ OM hūṃ OM haṃsaḥ saṃkṣobhaya hara nirviṣāya sthāvara jaṅgama bhujaṅga daṣṭasya viṣaṃ bhakṣaya triśūlena grahān bhedaya viṣaṃ nāśaya gaccha nirvartaya OM hrīṃ phaṭ svāhā |

Two forms of Amṛtasaṅjīvanī mantra are listed:

OM bhūrbhuvāya namaḥ OM kṣāṃ hūṃ haṃsaḥ OM hāṃ hūṃ haṃsaḥ OM saḥ haṃsaḥ amṛte amṛtavarṣiṇi candrāṃśuśītale iḍāṃśuśītale viṣaṃ saṃhara amṛtadhārāmukhe candramaṇḍala gaganacāriṇi jaṃ krīṃ hrīṃ hrīṃ hrūṃ hraiṃ hrāṃ hraḥ |

OM hūṃ hūṃ phaṭ phaṭ svāhā amṛte amṛtavarṣe pārśve somakṣobhitaśītale amukasya viṣahāriṇi saḥ hūṃ phaṭ nirviṣāpaya rakṣa svāhā |



Shubha Navaratri


मूलश्रीभैरवात्मत्रिविधपदमहादेवताभिः परीते
दिव्ये सिंहासनेन्द्रे स्थितमखिलकलाबोधकं देशिकेशम् |
तस्याङ्के सन्निषण्णामरुणरुचिचया रञ्जिताशावकाशां
देवीमानन्दपूर्णाममृतकरतलामाश्रयेऽभीष्टसिद्ध्यै ||

उद्यद्भानुसहस्रकोटिसदृशां हर्यक्षलक्षासनां
श्यामभिः कुलिशायुधाभिरभितः तार्क्ष्यासनाभिर्वृताम् |
कल्पान्तोदितचण्डभास्करदृशा निर्दग्धसर्वामयां
जीवान् साधु सुधाकरैः कलयतीं ध्यायेन्महाचण्डिकाम् ||

नीलेन्दीवरसन्निभाङ्गलतिकां पूर्णेन्दुबिम्बाननां
शङ्खारीषुशरासपाणिकमलां कण्ठीरवाध्यासिनीम् |
क्षामक्षोभविमोचनीं शिवसखीं दुर्गां भजे शूलिनीम् ||

दुर्गां शिवां शान्तिकरीं ब्रह्माणीं ब्रह्मणः प्रियाम् |
सर्वलोकप्रणेत्रीं च प्रणमामि सदाऽम्बिकाम् ||
मङ्गलां शोभनां शुद्धां निष्कलां परमां कलाम् |
विश्वेश्वरीं विश्ववन्द्यां चण्डिकां प्रणमाम्यहम् ||
सर्वदेवमयीं सर्वरोगदुःखभयापहाम् |
ब्रह्मेशविष्णुनमितां प्रणमामि सदाशिवाम् ||
विन्ध्यस्थां विन्ध्यनिलयां दिव्यस्थाननिवासिनीम् |
योगिनीं योगविद्यां च चण्डिकां प्रणमाम्यहम् ||
ईशानमातरं देवीमीश्वरीमीश्वरप्रियाम् |
प्रणतोऽस्मि सदा दुर्गां संसारार्णवतारिणीम् ||
इदं यः पठते नित्यं शृणुयाद्वापि भक्तितः |
स मुक्तः सर्वपापेभ्यो दुर्गालोके महीयते ||

mūlaśrībhairavātmatrividhapadamahādevatābhiḥ parīte
divye siṃhāsanendre sthitamakhilakalābodhakaṃ deśikeśam |
tasyāṅke sanniṣaṇṇāmaruṇarucicayā rañjitāśāvakāśāṃ
devīmānandapūrṇāmamṛtakaratalāmāśraye.abhīṣṭasiddhyai ||

udyadbhānusahasrakoṭisadṛśāṃ haryakṣalakṣāsanāṃ
śyāmabhiḥ kuliśāyudhābhirabhitaḥ tārkṣyāsanābhirvṛtām |
kalpāntoditacaṇḍabhāskaradṛśā nirdagdhasarvāmayāṃ
jīvān sādhu sudhākaraiḥ kalayatīṃ dhyāyenmahācaṇḍikām ||

nīlendīvarasannibhāṅgalatikāṃ pūrṇendubimbānanāṃ
śaṅkhārīṣuśarāsapāṇikamalāṃ kaṇṭhīravādhyāsinīm |
kṣāmakṣobhavimocanīṃ śivasakhīṃ durgāṃ bhaje śūlinīm ||

durgāṃ śivāṃ śāntikarīṃ brahmāṇīṃ brahmaṇaḥ priyām |
sarvalokapraṇetrīṃ ca praṇamāmi sadā.ambikām ||
maṅgalāṃ śobhanāṃ śuddhāṃ niṣkalāṃ paramāṃ kalām |
viśveśvarīṃ viśvavandyāṃ caṇḍikāṃ praṇamāmyaham ||
sarvadevamayīṃ sarvarogaduḥkhabhayāpahām |
brahmeśaviṣṇunamitāṃ praṇamāmi sadāśivām ||
vindhyasthāṃ vindhyanilayāṃ divyasthānanivāsinīm |
yoginīṃ yogavidyāṃ ca caṇḍikāṃ praṇamāmyaham ||
īśānamātaraṃ devīmīśvarīmīśvarapriyām |
praṇato.asmi sadā durgāṃ saṃsārārṇavatāriṇīm ||
idaṃ yaḥ paṭhate nityaṃ śṛṇuyādvāpi bhaktitaḥ |
sa muktaḥ sarvapāpebhyo durgāloke mahīyate ||

Sufism - The Real and Violent History

Last weekend, I was speaking at a university on the comparative aspects of Kashmir Shaivism and Dzogchen. I was having a leisurely chat with one of the visiting Lamas, who I have had the privilege to study with, and we ventured towards discussing ISIS and Islamic Terrorism. Suddenly, one of his students brought up the topic of Sufism and pointed us to this article.

Some Muslims have suggested to the Prime Minister of India that Sufism is the solution to all problems created by the adherents of Islam and nothing can be farther to truth than this! We have already written a piece expressing our utter distrust and disgust towards Sufism.

M A Khan, in his book ‘Islamic Jihad - A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery’, talks at length about the real and violent history of the Sufis and here are some excerpts from this book.

The Myth of Peaceful Conversion

Another lofty claim of mythic proportion being perpetuated about conversion to Islam is that a heterodox variety of Muslims, namely the Sufis, had propagated Islam through peaceful missionary activity. British historian Thomas Arnold (1864–1930)—desperate to alter the centuries-old European discourse of Islam as a violent faith—initiated this propaganda in the 1890s, which has been embraced by numerous Muslim and non-Muslim historians and scholars. As summarized by Peter Hardy, the following instances led Arnold to his conclusion: 1878, a settlement report for the Montgomery district in the Panjab quoted Lieutenant Elphistone as follows: ‘It [the town of Pakpattan] contains the tomb of the celebrated saint and martyr Baba Farid, who converted a great part of the Southern Punjab to Muhammadanism, and whose miracles entitle him to a most distinguished place among the pirs (Sufi saints) of that religion.’ The settlement report for the Jhang district makes similar claims for Shaykh Farid al- Din. In the Punjab Census report of 1881, Ibbeston adds the name of Bana al-Huq of Multan to that of Baba Fraid as the two saints to whom ‘the people of western plains very generally attribute their conversion.’ The Bombay Gazetteer for the Cutch, published in 1880, ascribes the conversion of the Cutchi Memons to witnessing the miracles of one Sayyid Yusu al-Din a descendent of Sayyid Abd al-Qadir Jilani. Elsewhere in the Bombay Presidency, Sayyid Muhammad Gesu Daraz is said to have converted Hindu weavers to Islam. In the North-Western Provinces, data in an Azamgarh settlement report, collected in 1868, included a tradition among Muslim zaminders of the district that "the teaching of some Moslem saint" had been responsible for their ancestor’s conversion to Islam. In Bada’un, Shaykh Jalal al-Din Tabrizi, who later went to Bengal, is said with one look to have converted a Hindu milkman. It was from this and much other material that Arnold reached his conclusion that vast number of Indian Muslims are descendent of converts in whose conversion force played no part and in which only the teaching and persuasion of peaceful missionaries were at work.

The major reference, on which Arnold based his conclusion that peaceful conversion by Sufis played major role in conversion to Islam, was a generic reference in the 1884 Bombay Gazetteer that Sufi saint Ma’bari Khandayat (Pir Ma’bari) came to the Deccan in about 1305 as a missionary and converted a large number of Jains to Islam. This document gives no specifics on the means Pir Ma’bari employed in his conversion; the same applies to other claims (these claims are often unsubstantiated and legendary in nature) cited above. However, older documentation on Pir Ma’bari by Muslim chroniclers, as studied by historian Richard Eaton, reveals the measures Pir Ma’bari had applied in converting the infidels. According to Muhammad Ibrahim Zubairi’s Rauzat al-Auliya (1825–26), Pir Ma’bari Khandayat came to the Deccan as a holy warrior:

‘During the period of Ala al-Din Khalaji (Alauddin Khilji, d. 1316), the Shah of Delhi, he (Pir Ma’bari) accompanied the camp of the army of Islam in the year A.H. 710 (A.D. 1310–11) when buried treasures of gold and silver came to the hands of Muslims and the victory of Islam was effected.

A hagiographic record adds:

(Pir Ma’bari) came here and waged Jihad against the rajas and rebels (of Bijapur). And with his iron bar, he broke the heads and necks of many rajas and drove them to the dust of defeat. Many idolaters, who by the will of God had guidance and blessings, repented from their unbelief and error, and by the hands of (Pir Ma’bari) came to Islam.

Another tradition says that Pir Ma’bari had expelled a group of Brahmins from their village in Bijapur. Muslim literatures portray Pir Ma’bari as a fierce wager of Jihad against the infidels wielding an iron bar. This gave him his last name, Khandayat—literally meaning blunted bar.

Eaton has particularly become an influential propagator of the paradigm that Islam was spread peacefully by the Sufis. He says that Islam came to areas, where Muslim powers could not reach, ‘with the appearance of anonymous, itinerant holy men whom the local population might associate with miraculous power.’ Eaton then goes on to describe a popular Muslim folk-story in Bengal that a Muslim pir with occult power appeared in a village, built a mosque, healed sick people with his miraculous power and his fame spread far and wide. Thereupon, hundreds of people came to visit him with ‘presents of rice, fruits and other delicious food, goat, chickens and fowls,’ which he never touched but distributed among the poor. ‘This humane quality of the Sufis,’ asserts Eaton, made the mosque a centre of Islam from where it reached far and wide.

One intriguing thing about Eaton is that his own research of the medieval literatures on Indian Sufis for his Ph.D. thesis, published in Sufis of Bijapur 1300–1700, failed to find any trace of peace in the views and actions of Sufis and in their method of conversion. He found that all the revered Sufis, particularly the earlier ones to arrive at Bijapur, were fierce Jihadis and persecutor of Hindus; an example, that of Pir Ma’bari, is cited above. His research outcome was so damning to his tendentious, love-stricken views about the Sufis that Muslims in India protested against his book leading to its ban in India. But Eaton would not stop spreading his fallacious and unfounded views about Sufis.

For a rational person, the stories of spiritual and occult power of Sufis are nothing but fantastical myths. Such legends, upon thorough research, have indeed been found, according to Prof. Muhammad Habib, to be "latter day fabrication" (see below). Concerning conversion, historical records and circumstantial evidence lend little support to the paradigm that Sufis made great contribution in converting the infidels to Islam peacefully. In India, no historical documents mention that the Sufis converted the Hindus and other infidels to Islam in large numbers through peaceful means. The great liberal Sufi scholar Amir Khasrau (fourteenth century) mentions in his chronicles many incidents of enslavement of the infidels by Muslim rulers in large numbers for their conversion, but makes no mention of any incidence of peaceful preaching by a Sufi saint that drew the Hindus to Islam in significant numbers. The ideology of Indian Sufis and their involvement in the conversion of the infidels will be dealt here in some detail.

Although some Sufis deviated completely from Islam, majority of them remained largely orthodox. Imam Ghazzali enabled Sufism triumph in Muslim societies in the twelfth century. He basically weaved the Islamic orthodoxy into the body of Sufism, expunging deviant ideas and rituals, which made Sufism more acceptable amongst Muslims. Therefore, it is the orthodox strain of Sufism that got acceptance in the Muslim society, thanks to Imam Ghazzali. The deviant beshariyah Sufis often suffered brutal persecution and even death. For example, Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq (d. 1388), an austere orthodox believer, records in his memoir that he had put Sufi Shaykh Ruknuddin of Delhi, who called himself a Mahdi (messiah) and ‘led people astray into mystic practices and perverted ideas by maintaining that he was Ruknuddin, the prophet of God.’ People killed Ruknuddin and some of his followers; they ‘tore him into pieces and broke his bones into fragments,’ records the Sultan.

When the central Asian Turks established direct Muslim rule in India (1206), Sufism, the Ghazzalian orthodox Sufism to be accurate, had gained wide acceptance in Muslim societies. Following the trail of Muslim invaders, Sufis poured into India in large number. The great Sufi saints of India—namely Nizamuddin Auliya, Amir Khasrau, Nasiruddin Chiragh, Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti and Jalaluddin et al.— held rather orthodox and intolerant views. They held the Ulema, the orthodox scholars of Islam, in great esteem and advised their disciples to follow their rulings in religious laws and social behavior. Influenced by the unorthodox, controversial doctrines and practices of famous Arab-Spanish Sufi ideologue Ibn Arabi (d. 1240), Moinuddin Chisti and Nizamuddin Auliya were the most unorthodox and liberal amongst India’s Sufis. Annoying the orthodox, they had adopted musical sessions (sama) and dancing (raqs) in their rituals. However, when it came to the real question of Islam, they never took a stand against classical orthodoxy; they always put the Ulema ahead of them in religious matters. To the question of whether dancing and playing of musical instruments, as had been adopted by Sufi dervishes, were permissible, Auliya said, ‘‘What is forbidden by Law (Sharia) is not acceptable.’’ On the question of whether the controversial Sufi devotional practices were permissible or not, he said, ‘‘Concerning this controversy at present, whatever the judge (orthodox Ulema) decrees will be upheld.

The Sufis of India had no contradiction with the Ulema; both had a common goal—the interest of Islam, but to be achieved through different methods. Auliya used to say, ‘What the Ulema seek to achieve through speech, we achieve by our behavior.’ Jamal Qiwamu’d-din, a long-time associate of Auliya, never saw him miss a single Sunnah of the Prophet. Other prominent Sufis held even more orthodox views. The great Sufi saint Nasiruddin Chiragh, for example, purged and purified deviant aspects of the Sufi practices. According to Prof. KA Nizami, he prohibited all deviant (from Sharia) rituals and practices that had entered the Sufi community, saying, ‘‘Whatever Allah and His Prophet have ordered, do it and whatever Allah and His Prophet have forbidden you against, you should not do.’’ Nizami adds: ‘He brought Sufi institution in harmony with Sunnah. Wherever there was a slightest clash, he proclaimed the supremacy of the Sharia Laws.’

Views of Sufis

In this section, the views of prominent Sufis, particularly of India, on infidels and the violent Islamic doctrines, such as Jihad, will be summarized in order to understand their mind and ideology. Ghazzali, the greatest Sufi ideologue, held rather orthodox and violent views on Jihad. He advised fellow Muslims that,

‘ must go on Jihad at least once a year... One may use a catapult against them when they are in a fortress, even if among them are women and children. One may set fire on them and/or drown them... One may cut down their trees... One must destroy their useful book (Bible, Torah etc.). Jihadists may take as booty whatever they decide...’

About the protocol of the payment of jizyah in humiliation by a dhimmi, he wrote:

‘...the Jews, Christians and the Majians must pay the jizyah... On offering up the jizyah, the dhimmi must hang his head while the official takes hold of his beard and hits on the protuberant bone beneath his ear.’

He follows it up with prescribing a number of standard disabilities for dhimmis as enshrined in the Sharia and the Pact of Omar. He wrote:

‘They are not permitted to ostensibly display their wine or church bell... their houses may not be higher than the Muslim’s, no matter how low that is. The dhimmi may not ride an elegant horse r mule; he may ride a donkey only if the saddle is of wood. He may not walk on the good part of the road. They have to wear patches... and even in the public bath, they must hold their tongues...’

The prominent Indian Sufis did not leave behind a comprehensive commentary about their ideas of non- Muslims or on issues, like Jihad. However, their isolated comments on such issues, whenever opportunities arose, give a good deal of idea about their views on these subjects. In general, their views on the infidels and Jihad were of the mould of Ghazzali, the greatest Sufi master.

Nizamuddin Auliya (1238–1325), toeing the orthodox line, condemned the Hindus to the fire of hell, saying: ‘The unbelievers at the time of death will experience punishment. At that moment, they will profess belief (Islam) but it will not be reckoned to them as belief because it will not be faith in the Unseen... the faith of (an) unbeliever at death remains unacceptable.’ He asserted that ‘On the day of Resurrection when unbelievers will face punishment and affliction, they will embrace faith but faith will not benefit them... They will also go to Hell, despite the fact that they will go there as believers.’ In his khutba (sermon), Nizamuddin Auliya condemned the infidels as wicked, saying, ‘He (Allah) has created Paradise and Hell for believers and the infidels (respectively) in order to repay the wicked for what they have done.’

Auliya’s thought on Jihad against non-Muslims can be gleaned from his statement that Surah Fatihah, first chapter of the Quran, did not contain two of the ten cardinal articles of Islam, which were ‘‘warring with the unbelievers and observing the divine statutes...’’ He did not only believe in warring with the unbelievers or Jihad, he came to India with his followers to engage in it. He participated in a holy war commanded by Nasiruddin Qibacha in Multan. When Qibacha’s army was in distress facing defeat, Auliya rushed to him and gave him a magical arrow instructing: ‘‘Shoot this arrow at the direction of the infidel army.’ ...Qibacha did as he was told, and when daybreak came not one of the infidels was to be seen; they all had fled!’ When Qazi Mughisuddin inquired about the prospect of victory in the Jihad launched in South India under the command of Malik Kafur, the Auliya uttered in effusive confidence: ‘What is this victory? I am waiting for further victories.’ The Auliya used to accept large gifts sent by Sultan Alauddin from the spoils plundered in Jihad expeditions and proudly displayed those at his khanqah (lodge).

Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti (1141–1230), probably the second-greatest Sufi saint of India after Nizamuddin Auliya, demonstrated a deep-seated hatred toward Hindu religion and its practices. On his arrival near the Anasagar Lake at Ajmer, he saw many idol-temples and promised to raze them to the ground with the help of Allah and His Prophet. After settling down there, Khwaja’s followers used to bring every day a cow (sacred to Hindus) near a famous temple, where the king and Hindus prayed, slaughter it and cook kebab from its meat—clearly to show his contempt toward Hinduism. ‘In order to prove the majesty of Islam, he is said to have dried the two holy lakes of Anasagar and Pansela (holy to Hindus) by the heat of his spiritual power.’ Chisti also came to India with his disciples to fight Jihad against the infidels and participated in the treacherous holy war of Sultan Muhammad Ghauri in which the kind and chivalrous Hindu King Prithviraj Chauhan was defeated in Ajmer. In his Jihadi zeal, Chisti ascribed the credit for the victory to himself, saying: ‘We have seized Pithaura (Prithviraj) alive and handed him over to the army of Islam.’’

Amir Khasrau (1253–1325), Shaykh Nizamuddin Auliya’s exalted disciple, is lauded as the greatest liberal Sufi poet of medieval India. His coming to India, deem many modern historians, as a blessing for the subcontinent. He had the good fortune of working at the royal court of three successive sultans. Regarded as one of India’s greatest poets, he is also credited with being a great contributor to Indian classical music and the creator of Qawwali (Sufi devotional music). The invention of the Tabla (an Indian drum) is usually attributed to him.

There is little doubt about Amir Khasrau’s achievements in music and poetry. But when it came to the fallen infidels and their religion, his bigoted Islamic zeal was very much evident. In describing Muslim victories against the Hindu kings, he mocks their religious traditions, such as "tree" and "stone-idol" worship. Mocking the stone-idols, destroyed by Muslim warriors, he wrote: ‘Praise be to God for his exaltation of the religion of Muhammad. It is not to be doubted that stones are worshipped by the Gabrs (derogatory slang for idolaters), but as stones did no service to them, they only bore to heaven the futility of that worship.’

Amir Khasrau showed delight in describing the barbaric slaughter of Hindu captives by Muslim warriors. Describing Khizr Khan’s order to massacre 30,000 Hindus in the conquest of Chittor in 1303, he gloated: ‘Praise be to God! That he so ordered the massacre of all chiefs of Hind out of the pale of Islam, by his infidel-smiting swords... in the name of this Khalifa of God, that heterodoxy has no rights (in India).’ He took poetic delight in describing Malik Kafur’s destruction of a famous Hindu temple in South India and the grisly slaughter of the Hindus and their priests therein. In describing the slaughter, he wrote, ‘...the heads of brahmans and idolaters danced from their necks and fell to the ground at their feet, and blood flowed in torrents.’ In his bigoted delight at the miserable subjugation of Hindus and the barbarous triumph of Islam in India, he wrote:

The whole country, by means of the sword of our holy warriors, has become like a forest denuded of its thorns by fire? Islam is triumphant, idolatry is subdued. Had not the Law granted exemption from death by the payment of poll-tax, the very name of Hind, root and branch, would have been extinguished.

Amir Khasrau described many instances of barbaric cruelty, often of catastrophic proportions, inflicted by Muslim conquerors upon the Hindus. But nowhere did he show any sign of grief or remorse, but only gloating delight. While describing those acts of barbarism, he invariably expressed gratitude to Allah, and glory to Muhammad, for enabling the Muslim warriors achieve those glorious feats.

Another great Sufi saint to come to India was Shaykh Makhdum Jalal ad-Din bin Mohammed, popularly known as Hazrat Shah Jalal, who had settled in Sylhet, Bengal (discussed later). Apart from these highly revered Sufi saints, there were other great Sufi personalities, namely Shaykh Bahauddin Zakaria, Shaykh Nuruddin Mubarak Ghaznavi, Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi and Shaykh Shah Walliullah et al., who have often been condemned by some modern historians for their relatively orthodox views. For example, Shaykh Mubarak Ghaznavi—a great Islamic scholar and Sufi saint of the Suhrawardi order—had utter disrespect and violent hatred of non-Muslims (kafirs) and their religion, as he reminded the sultans that ‘‘Kings will not be able to discharge their duty of protecting the Faith unless they overthrow and uproot kufr and kafiri (infidelity), shirk (associating partners to God, polytheism) and the worship of idols, all for the sake of Allah and inspired by a sense of honor for protecting the din of the Prophet of God.’’ However, in case of an impossible situation, he advised, ‘‘...if total extirpation of idolatry is not possible owing to the firm roots of kufr and the large number of kafirs and mushriks, the kings should at least strive to disgrace, dishonor and defame the mushriks and idol-worshipping Hindus, who are the worst enemies of God and His Prophet.’’
Although condemned by modern historians, these Sufi saints were highly popular in their days, respected by the Ulema and especially in ruling circles, thereby wielding critical influence on the formulation of state-policies. Sufi masters Bahauddin Zakaria and Nuruddin Mubarak held the highest Islamic epithet— the Shaykh al-Islam, normally bestowed upon the most learned scholars of Islam. Without going into further detail of the views of those popular but more orthodox Sufis, let us now examine the role, Sufis played, in the propagation of Islam.

Sufis and the Propagation of Islam

Sufis have been credited with converting large masses of infidels to Islam through peaceful missionary activity. But this claim comes with little supporting evidence. Two points must be taken into consideration beforehand in this discussion. First, Sufis became an organized and accepted community in the thirteenth and early fourteenth century. By this time, the peoples of the Middle East, Persia, Egypt and North Africa had become largely Muslim. The Sufis could not have played significant roles in their conversion. In agreement, says Francis Robinson, Sufis played a leading part in ‘the remarkable spread of Islam from the thirteenth century onwards.’ Second, the Sufis almost invariably needed the power and terror of the sword to create the dominance of Islam first before their alleged peaceful mission of propagating Islam could proceed.

The attitude and mindset of the greatest Sufi saints of medieval India, discussed above, were hardly different from those of the orthodox, who advocated for the use of unconditional force in accordance with the Quran, the Sunnah and the Sharia for converting the infidels. The famous Sufis of India invariably supported violent Jihad for making Islam victorious. India’s greatest Sufi saints—Nizamuddin Auliya and Moinuddin Chisti—themselves came to India to participate in holy war against the infidels, which they both did. Auliya had also sent forth Shaykh Shah Jalal, the greatest Sufi saint of Bengal, with 360 disciples to take part in a holy war against King Gaur Govinda of Sylhet (see below). The renowned Sufis of Bijapur also came there as holy warriors for slaughtering the infidels and establishing Islamic rule (noted already).

Conversion by Sufis in Bengal

The claim that Sufis peacefully converted the non-Muslims to Islam in large numbers is not supported by historical records. Furthermore, most Sufis were intolerant, of violent Jihadi mindset, and even, were themselves Jihadis. While discussing these issues in a friendly conversation with two learned secular Bangladeshi scholars, they informed me that, at least in Bangladesh, Sufis had propagated Islam through peaceful means. This agrees with Nehemia Levtzion’s assertion that ‘Sufis were particularly important in achieving the almost total conversion in eastern Bengal.’

An investigation of two greatest Sufi saints of Bengal outlined below will give us an inkling of the roles Sufis played in the proselytization and how peaceful it was. Two Jalaluddins, Shaykh Jalaluddin Tabrizi (d. 1226 or 1244) and Shaykh Shah Jalal (d. 1347), were the greatest Sufi saints of Bengal. Shaykh Jalaluddin Tabrizi came to Bengal after Bakhtiyar Khilji conquered Bengal defeating the Hindu King Lakshman Sena in 1205. He settled in Devtala near Pandua (Maldah, West Bengal). He is said to have "converted large number of Kafirs" to Islam but the method of his conversions is unknown. According to Syed Athar Abbas Rizvi, ‘a kafir (Hindu or Buddhist) had erected a large temple and a well (at Devtala). The Shaikh demolished the temple and constructed a takiya (khanqah)...’ This will give one a good deal of idea about the kind of means this great Sufi saint had employed in converting the kafirs to Islam.

Shaykh Shah Jalal, the other great Sufi saint of Bengal, had settled in Sylhet. He is regarded as a national hero by Bangladeshi Muslims. Shah Jalal and his disciples are credited with converting a large majority of Bengalis to Islam through truly peaceful means.

When Shah Jalal came to settle in Sylhet in East Bengal (now Bangladesh), it was ruled by a Hindu king, named Gaur Govinda. Before his arrival in Bengal, Sultan Shamsuddin Firuz Shah of Gaur had twice attacked Gaur Govinda; these campaigns were led by his nephew, Sikandar Khan Ghazi. On both occasions, the Muslim invaders were defeated. The third assault against Gaur Govinda was commanded by the sultan’s Chief General Nasiruddin. Shaykh Nizamuddin Auliya sent forth his illustrious disciple Shah Jalal with 360 followers to participate in this Jihad campaign. Shah Jalal reached Bengal with his followers and joined the Muslim army. In the fierce battle that ensued, King Gaur Govinda was defeated. According to traditional stories, the credit for the Muslim victory goes to Shah Jalal and his disciples.

As a general rule, every victory in Muslim campaigns brought a great many slaves, often tens to hundreds of thousand, who involuntarily became Muslim. Undoubtedly, on the very first day of Shah Jalal’s arrival in Sylhet, he helped conversion of a large number of kafirs by means of their enslavement at the point of the sword—a very peaceful means of propagating Islam indeed! Ibn Battutah, who paid a visit to Shah Jalal in Sylhet, records that his effort was instrumental in converting the infidels who embraced Islam there. But he gives no detail of the measures the Sufi saint employed in the conversion. One must take into consideration that Shah Jalal ‘came to India with 700 companions to take part in Jihad (holy war)’ and that he fought a bloody Jihad against King Gaur Govinda. These instances give a clear idea of the tools he had applied in converting the Hindus of Sylhet.

In another instance, Sufi saint Nur Qutb-i-Alam played a central role in making a high profile convert in Bengal. In 1414, Ganesha, a Hindu prince, revolted against Muslim rule and captured power in Bengal. The ascension of a Hindu to power created strong revulsion amongst both the Sufis and the Ulema. They repudiated his rule and enlisted help from Muslim rulers outside of Bengal. Responding to their call, Ibrahim Shah Sharqi invaded Bengal and defeated Ganesha. Nur Qutb-i-Alam, the leading Sufi master of Bengal, now stepped in to broker a truce. He forced Ganesha to abdicate and Ganesha’s twelve-year-old son Jadu was converted to Islam and placed on the throne under the name of Sultan Jalaluddin Muhammad. This conversion by a Sufi saint, call it peacefully or at the point of the sword, proved a boon for Islam. The Sufis (also the Ulema) trained the converted young sultan in Islam so well that he became a bloody converter of the infidels to Islam through extreme violence. There took place, says the Cambridge History of India, a wave of conversions in the reign of Jalaluddin Muhammad (1414–31). About Jalaluddin’s distinguished role in converting the Hindus of Bengal to Islam, Dr James Wise wrote in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of

Bengal (1894) that ‘the only condition he offered was the Koran or death... many Hindus fled to Kamrup and the jungles of Assam, but it is nevertheless possible that more Mohammedans were added to Islam during these seventeen years (1414–31) than in the next three hundred years.’

Prof. Ishtiaq Hussain Qureishi makes an interesting observation that the Sufis in Bengal played significant missionary role in converting the Hindus and Buddhists but on an "orthodox" line. This means that the Sufis of Bengal were doctrinally strict; therefore, doctrinal compromise and peaceful persuasion were unlikely part of their methods as orthodoxy demands the use of unconditional force in converting the infidels. Ishtiaq lends credence to the orthodoxy of Bengal Sufis in saying that ‘They established their khanaqahs and shrines at places (i.e., temples) which already had a reputation for sanctity before Islam.’ Ishtiaq wants to tell us that the establishment of their khanqahs at the place of former Hindu or Buddhist temples (after destroying them), a recurring phenomenon amongst Sufis everywhere, facilitated the conversion of the native infidels as Levtzion agreeingly put it, ‘(the Sufis) established their khanaqahs on the sites of Buddhist shrines, and (it) fitted well into the religious situation in Bengal.’

It is incredulous in the highest degree to suggest that the Hindus and Buddhists of Bengal loved it more that the Sufis destroyed their temples and build khanqahs thereon, to which the natives could easily connect. Indeed, India’s history is replete with instances that the Hindus and other non-Muslims always welcomed Muslims when settled among them peacefully, but revolted against them when attacked their religion. The unceasing rebellion and strife that Muslim invaders instigated amongst native Indians were as much political as it was for the invaders’ attacks on their religious institutions and culture—a fact, repeatedly affirmed by Jawaharlal Nehru in his writings. The reigns of liberal Akbar and Zainul Abedin (in Kashmir), who disbanded religious persecutions and allowed religious freedom, were most peaceful and prosperous. This proves that Indians never liked it when Muslims, be it the rulers or the Sufis, defiled their religious symbols. Moreover, the Buddhists, the dominant converts to Islam in Bengal, had earlier embraced Buddhism voluntarily leaving their former Hindu faith, because of the peaceful and non-violent nature of Buddhism. Muslims’ attack on their temples and shrines, and converting those to mosques and khanqahs had undoubtedly created amongst them a greater revulsion, not a favorable impression, toward Islam.

Horrifying Conversion by Sufis in Kashmir

Persian chronicles, Baharistan-i-Shahi and Tarikh-i- Kashmir (1620), give somewhat detailed accounts of the involvement of Sufi saints in the conversion of Hindus of Kashmir to Islam. The greatest Sufi to arrive in Kashmir was Amir Shamsud-Din Muhammad Iraqi. He formed a strong alliance with Malik Musa Raina, who became the administrator of Kashmir in 1501. Earlier Sultan Zainul Abedin (1423–74), the only tolerant and liberal Muslim ruler of Kashmir, had allowed religious freedom enabling the flourishing Hinduism, ‘which had been stamped out in the (earlier) reign of Sikandar the Iconoclast.’ With the patronage and authority of Malik Raina, records Baharistan-i-Shahi, ‘Amir Shamsud-Din Muhammad undertook wholesale destruction of all those idol-houses as well as total ruination of the very foundation of infidelity and disbelief. On the site of every idol-house he destroyed, he ordered the construction of a mosque for offering prayers after the Islamic manner.’ Tarikh-i-Kashmir, a historical account of Kashmir written by Haidar Malik Chadurah, who served in Sultan Yusuf Shah’s Court (1579–86), records: ‘Sheikh Shams-ud-Din reached Kashmir. He began destroying the places of worship and the temples of the Hindus and made an effort to achieve the objectives.’ A medieval chronicle, entitled Tohfat-ul-Ahbab, records that ‘on the instance of Shamsud-Din Iraqi, Musa Raina had issued orders that everyday 1,500 to 2,000 infidels be brought to the doorstep of Mir Shamsud-Din by his followers. They would remove their sacred thread (zunnar), administer Kelima (Muslim profession of faith) to them, circumcise them and make them eat beef.’ There they became Muslim. Tarikh-i-Hasan Khuiihami notes of the conversion of Hindus to Islam by Shamsud-Din Iraqi that ‘twenty-four thousand Hindu families were converted to Iraqi’s faith by force and compulsion (qahran wa jabran).’

Later on in 1519, Malik Kaji Chak rose to the rank of military commander under Sultan Muhammad Shah. And ‘one of the major commands of Amir Shamsud-Din Muhammad Iraqi carried out by him (Kaji Chak) was the massacre of the infidels and polytheists of this land,’ says Baharistan-i-Shahi. Many of those, converted to Islam by force during the reign of Malik Raina, later reverted to polytheism (Hinduism). A rumor was spread that these apostates ‘had placed a copy of the holy Quran under their haunches to make a seat to sit upon.’ Upon hearing this, the enraged Sufi saint protested to Malik Kaji Chak that,

‘This community of idolaters has, after embracing and submitting to the Islamic faith, now gone back to defiance and apostasy. If you find yourself unable to inflict punishment upon them in accordance with the provisions of Sharia (which is death for apostasy) and take disciplinary action against them, it will become necessary and incumbent upon me to proceed on a self- imposed exile.’

It must be noted that Shaykh Iraqi’s complaint does not mention the alleged disrespect of the Quran but simply emphasize the Hindus’ abandonment of Islam after accepting it. In order to appease the great Sufi saint, Kaji Chak ‘decided upon carrying out wholesale massacre of the infidels,’ notes Baharistan-i-Shahi. Their massacre was scheduled to be carried out on the holy festival day of Ashura (Muharram, 1518 CE) and ‘about seven to eight hundred infidels were put to death. Those killed were the leading personalities of the community of infidels at that time.’ Thereupon, ‘the entire community of infidels and polytheists in Kashmir was coerced into conversion to Islam at the point of the sword. This is one of the major achievements of Malik Kaji Chak,’ records Baharistan-i-Shahi. This horrifying action, of course, was order by the great Sufi saint.

Sayyid Ali Hamdani was another famous Sufi saint, who had arrived in Kashmir earlier in 1371 or 1381. The first thing he did was to build his khanqah on the site of ‘a small temple which was demolished...’ Before his coming to Kashmir, the reigning Sultan Qutbud-Din paid little attention to enforcing religious laws. Muslims at all levels of the society, including the Qazis and theologians of those days, paid scant attention to things permitted or prohibited in Islam. The Muslim rulers, theologians and commoners had tolerantly and comfortably submerged themselves in Hindu tradition. Horrified by the un- Islamic practices of Kashmiri Muslims, Sayyid Hamdani forbade this laxity and tried to revive orthodoxy. Sultan Qutbud-Din tried to adopt the orthodox way of Islam in his personal life but ‘failed to propagate Islam in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of Amir Sayyid Ali Hamdani.’ Reluctant to live in a land dominated by the infidel culture, customs and religion, the Sufi saint left Kashmir in protest. Later on, his son Amir Sayyid Muhammad, another great Sufi saint of Kashmir, came during the reign of Sikandar the idol- breaker. The partnership of holy Sayyid Muhammad and Sikandar the Iconoclast succeeded in wiping out idolatry from Kashmir as discussed above. And ‘the credit of wiping out the vestiges of infidelity and heresy from the mirror of the conscience of the dwellers of these lands,’ goes to the holy Sufi saint Sayyid Muhammad, notes Baharistan-i-Shahi.

Conversions by Sufis in Gujarat

Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq (r. 1351–88) had appointed Furhut-ul- Mulk as the governor of Gujarat. Undertaking tolerant policies toward Hindus, notes Ferishtah, Furhut-ul- Mulk ‘encouraged the Hindu religion, and thus rather promoted than suppressed the worship of idols.’ As usual, this caused revulsion among ‘the learned (Sufis) and orthodox (Ulema) Mahomedans of Guzerat, fearing lest this conduct should be the means of eventually superseding the true faith (Islam) in those parts.’ They addressed the Delhi Sultan explaining the liberal Muslim governor’s political views and ‘the danger (it posed) to the true faith, if he were permitted to retain his government.’ After receiving the complaint, Sultan Firoz Shah ‘convened a meeting of the holy men (Sufi saints) at Dehly and in conjunction with them appointed Zuffur (Moozuffur Khan)’ as the viceroy of Gujarat.

This Moozuffur Khan—requested as well as chosen by the Sufi saints—soon ousted tolerant Furhut- ul-Mulk from Gujarat and unleashed brutal terror against Hindus, including their forced conversion and general destruction of their temples. In 1395, ‘He proceeded to Somnath, where having destroyed all the Hindoo temples which he found standing; he built mosques in their stead and left the learned men (Sufis) for the propagation of the faith and his officers to govern the country.’

This example once again proves that the Sufis were generally intolerant of any tolerance certain kind-hearted and liberal Muslim rulers accorded to non-Muslims. The question further arises: how did the Sufis, left behind by Moozuffur Khan in Somnath, propagate Islam among the terror-stricken Hindus after all their temples had been destroyed?

The Sufis of Gujarat and Delhi wanted the ouster of tolerant governor Furhut-ul-Mulk from Gujarat for not suppressing idol-worship (i.e., Hindu religion). It should, therefore, leave one with no doubt that the Sufis, left behind by Moozuffur Khan, meticulously worked in conjunction with the Muslim officers on enforcing the writ of Islamic laws and suppressing the Hindu religion. That means, the Sufis made it sure that the destroyed temples were not rebuilt and that the Hindu religion was not practised to ensure the suppression of idol-worship. Of course, they might have acted like Sufi saint Shamsud-Din Iraqi of Kashmir—whose followers, aided by Muslim soldiers—brought 1,500–2,000 infidels to his khanqah everyday and forcibly converted them to Islam.

The Real Truth about Sufis and Conversion

If Sufis were to play a major role in the propagation of Islam as popular notion goes, it must have happened in India; because, the Islamic conquest of India started in real earnest right at the time, when Sufism had become properly organized and widely accepted in Muslim societies for the first time. It has been noted that Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti came to Ajmer with Sultan Muhammad Ghauri’s army just when Muslim conquest was making a hold in Northern India. As accounted above, none of the greatest Indian Sufis had a mentality needed for the peaceful propagation of Islam. Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, Nizamuddin Auliya and Shaykh Shah Jalal came to engage in holy war in India and, indeed, participated in Jihadi wars involving slaughter and enslavement of the Hindus. Nizamuddin Auliya encouraged Sultan Alauddin’s barbaric holy wars, and expressed obvious delight at victories in his blood- letting Jihad campaigns, and delightfully accepted large gifts from his plundered booty.

These are only the stories of the most revered and tolerant Sufi saints of medieval India. All indications suggest that, instead of taking on a missionary profession for propagating Islam through peaceful means, the Sufis were invariably the spiritual and moral supporter of bloody holy wars that were waged by Muslim rulers. They were even prominent participants in them. In Kashmir, it is the Sufis, who inspired bloody Jihad that involved whole-sale destruction of Hindu temples and idols, slaughter of Hindus and their forced conversion to Islam. The mentality, attitude and actions of these illustrious Sufis saints of medieval India—whether in Ajmer, Bengal, Bijapur, Delhi or Kashmir—differed very little. Hence, the role Sufis played in conversion all over India may not have been very different from the one, they played in Kashmir.

It should be noted that the Muslim rulers of India were incessantly undertaking holy wars against the multitude of Hindus. Many of these wars involved mass slaughter of the vanquished and enslavement of tens to hundreds of thousands of women and children for their conversion to Islam. Not a single famous Sufi saint ever objected to this cruel and barbaric practice and means of converting the infidels en masse to Islam. No great Sufi saint of India ever made a statement, condemning these barbaric acts. They never asked the rulers to stop their barbaric expeditions and means of conversion on the pain of death. None of them ever said: ‘Do not capture the Hindus for conversion to Islam in this cruel manner. Leave the job to us. That’s our mission to be achieved thorough peaceful persuasion.’ Instead, they offered unstinted support, indeed encouragement; and even, eager participation, in those barbaric wars.

The instances of Sufis’ involvement in converting the Hindus in Kashmir, Gujarat and Bengal gives clear idea about the means they applied in perfect harmony with their deranged ideology and attitude toward non-Muslims and their creeds. In Kashmir, they were the ones to inspire the rulers to unleash brutality against the Hindus and their forced conversion. There is no evidence to support the claim that they converted non- Muslims through peaceful means in large numbers. If such conversions ever took place—those, at best, played a peripheral role in the overall conversion in medieval India. Their role elsewhere was, likely, even less prominent.

Muslim historians have left piles of documentation of the infidels being forced to convert in the battlefields and through enslavement in large numbers in the course of ceaseless Muslim expeditions to all corners of medieval India. Not a single document makes mention of an occasion, in which a Sufi converted the Hindus to Islam in significant numbers through nonviolent means.

Sultan Mahmud enslaved 500,000 Hindus in his first expedition to India, who instantly became incorporated into Islam. Shams Shiraj Afif records that Sultan Firoz Tughlaq converted a great number of Hindus to Islam by offering them relief from the oppressive and humiliating jizyah and other onerous taxes, which is also claimed by the sultan himself (discussed above). According to Afif, he had collected 180,000 Hindus boys as slaves; ‘Some of the slaves spent their time in reading and committing to memory the holy book, others in religious studies, others in copying books.’ Even during the rule of enlightened Akbar, who had prohibited enslavement and forced conversion, his not-so-illustrious General Abdulla Khan Uzbeg, who ruled Malwa for only about two years, had converted 500,000 infidels to Islam through enslavement. The forefathers of today’s Muslims of North West Provinces converted to Islam mostly during the reign of fanatic Aurangzeb in order to avoid persecution, attain privileged rights, and to be relieved of the burdensome discriminatory taxes.

In the midst of this dominant coercive mode of conversion, there exists few evidence or record that the Sufis made significant contributions to proselytization. Based on historical investigation of conversion in medieval India, noted Habib, ‘The Musalmans have no missionary labor to record... We find no trace of missionary movement for converting non-Muslims.’ He added that medieval Islam ‘failed to develop any missionary activity;’ and that, in India, ‘we have to confess frankly that no trace of a missionary movement for the conversion of the non-Muslims has yet been discovered.’ He further added: ‘Some cheap mystic books now current attribute conversions to Muslim mystics on the basis of miracles they performed... But all such books will be found on examination to be latter-day fabrication.’ Rizvi’s investigation on the Sufi mystics of medieval India also led him to conclude that ‘the early mystic records (Malfuzat & Maktubat) contain no mention of conversion of the people to Islam by these Saints.’ Nizamuddin Auliya was India’s greatest Sufi saint. But his biographical memoir Fawaid-ul-Fuad records the conversion of only two Hindu card-sellers by him.

In instances of large-scale conversion, in which Sufis were involved, their roles were to incite the rulers into unleashing violence and cruelty on non-Muslims leading up to those conversions. The evidence recounted above makes it overwhelmingly clear that the Sufi mystics took little interest or initiative in peaceful missionary activity. Indeed, they were opposed to such engagements. For example, when the zealous proselytizer, Sultan Muhammad Shah Tughlaq, wanted to employ the Sufis for missionary work, notes Mahdi Hussain, it faced strong opposition from the Sufi community. Whenever Sufis were involved in the conversion, their method was obviously not peaceful.

Moreover, most of the Indian Sufis, who came from Persia and the Middle East, did not speak Indian languages to transmit Islam’s messages to ordinary people effectively. They never learned the hated jahiliyah Indian languages, while masses of Indian natives were illiterate; they rarely learned Arabic or Persian. Finally, the Hindus of our time, particularly those of the lower caste, are much better able to judge the superior message of equality, peace and social justice, allegedly contained in Islam. Today, the message of Islam is reaching to every corner of India in well-expounded and clear language through so many easily accessible and innovative means. If it was the greatness of Islam’s message, which impressed tens of millions of Indian infidels to embrace Islam during the Muslim rule, the rate of their conversion to Islam should be greater today than at any previous time.


सञ्चरदधरसुधामधुरध्वनिमुखरितमोहनवंशम् |
वलितदृगञ्चलचञ्चलमौलिकपोलविलोलवतंसम् ||
रासे हरिमिह विहितविलासम् |
स्मरति मनो मम कृतपरिहासम् ||

चन्द्रकचारुमयूरशिखण्डकमण्डलवलयितकेशम् |
प्रचुरपुरन्दरधनुरनुरञ्जितमेदुरमुदिरसुवेशम् ||
रासे हरिमिह विहितविलासम् |
स्मरति मनो मम कृतपरिहासम् ||

गोपकदम्बनितम्बवतीमुखचुम्बनलम्भितलोभम् |
बन्धुजीवमधुराधरपल्लवमुल्लसितस्मितशोभम् ||
रासे हरिमिह विहितविलासम् |
स्मरति मनो मम कृतपरिहासम् ||

विपुलपुलकभुजपल्लववलयितबल्लवयुवतिसहस्रम् |
करचरणोरसि मणिगणभूषणकिरणविभिन्नतमिस्रम् ||
रासे हरिमिह विहितविलासम् |
स्मरति मनो मम कृतपरिहासम् ||

जलदपटलवलदिन्दुविनिन्दकचन्दनतिलकललाटम् |
पीनपयोधरपरिसरमर्दननिर्दयहृदयकवाटम् ||
रासे हरिमिह विहितविलासम् |
स्मरति मनो मम कृतपरिहासम् ||

मणिमयमकरमनोहरकुण्डलमण्डितगण्डमुदारम् |
पीतवसनमनुगतमुनिमनुजसुरासुरवरपरिवारम् ||
रासे हरिमिह विहितविलासम् |
स्मरति मनो मम कृतपरिहासम् ||

विशदकदम्बतले मिलितं कलिकलुषभयं शमयन्तम् |
मामपि किमपि तरङ्ग़दनङ्ग़दृशा मनसा रमयन्तम् ||
रासे हरिमिह विहितविलासम् |
स्मरति मनो मम कृतपरिहासम् ||

श्रीजयदेवभणितमतिसुन्दरमोहनमधुरिपुरूपम् |
हरिचरणस्मरणं प्रति सम्प्रति पुण्यवतामनुरूपम् ||
रासे हरिमिह विहितविलासम् |
स्मरति मनो मम कृतपरिहासम् ||

sañcaradadharasudhāmadhuradhvanimukharitamohanavaṃśam |
valitadṛgañcalacañcalamaulikapolavilolavataṃsam ||
rāse harimiha vihitavilāsam |
smarati mano mama kṛtaparihāsam ||

candrakacārumayūraśikhaṇḍakamaṇḍalavalayitakeśam |
pracurapurandaradhanuranurañjitameduramudirasuveśam ||
rāse harimiha vihitavilāsam |
smarati mano mama kṛtaparihāsam ||

gopakadambanitambavatīmukhacumbanalambhitalobham |
bandhujīvamadhurādharapallavamullasitasmitaśobham ||
rāse harimiha vihitavilāsam |
smarati mano mama kṛtaparihāsam ||

vipulapulakabhujapallavavalayitaballavayuvatisahasram |
karacaraṇorasi maṇigaṇabhūṣaṇakiraṇavibhinnatamisram ||
rāse harimiha vihitavilāsam |
smarati mano mama kṛtaparihāsam ||

jaladapaṭalavaladinduvinindakacandanatilakalalāṭam |
pīnapayodharaparisaramardananirdayahṛdayakavāṭam ||
rāse harimiha vihitavilāsam |
smarati mano mama kṛtaparihāsam ||

maṇimayamakaramanoharakuṇḍalamaṇḍitagaṇḍamudāram |
pītavasanamanugatamunimanujasurāsuravaraparivāram ||
rāse harimiha vihitavilāsam |
smarati mano mama kṛtaparihāsam ||

viśadakadambatale militaṃ kalikaluṣabhayaṃ śamayantam |
māmapi kimapi taraṅGadanaṅGadṛśā manasā ramayantam ||
rāse harimiha vihitavilāsam |
smarati mano mama kṛtaparihāsam ||

śrījayadevabhaṇitamatisundaramohanamadhuripurūpam |
haricaraṇasmaraṇaṃ prati samprati puṇyavatāmanurūpam ||
rāse harimiha vihitavilāsam |
smarati mano mama kṛtaparihāsam ||

Examining the Guru

These days, it is the unfortunate truth that a lot of deceit happens in the name of Spirituality, especially Tantra. The seat of Guru is oft abused by those in pursuit of money, fame, pleasures etc. A true Guru should not only have a strong footing of the study of the Shastras under a Sampradayavit Guru, but also should have validated the truth of those Shastras by his experience through Upasana. Alternatively, his experiences from rigorous Sadhana should be interpreted through the perceptive lens of the Shastras. It is easy to note that neither is true with Charlatans who pose as Gurus and bring disrepute to Tantra. But the fault of those who undergo abuse from such ‘Gurus’ lies not merely with the charlatan but also with the victims who surrender to him blindly. Every Tantra stresses on the need for the Guru to be examined critically by the disciple, before accepting and surrendering to him. And this requires for the student to have already done his ground work to be able to evaluate the teacher.

Below is an excerpt from Patrul Rinpoche’s ‘Words of My Perfect Teacher’ (translated by Padmakara Foundation) which eloquently explains the stand of Buddhist Tantra on this topic.

In the sandalwood forests of the Malaya mountains, when an ordinary tree falls, its wood is gradually impregnated with the sweet perfume of the sandal. After some years that ordinary wood comes to smell as sweet as the sandal trees around it. In just the same way, if you live and study with a perfect teacher full of good qualities, you will be permeated by the perfume of those qualities and in everything you do you will come to resemble him.

As times have degenerated, nowadays it is difficult to find a teacher who has every one of the qualities described in the precious Tantras. However, it is indispensable that the teacher we follow should possess at least the following qualities.

He should be pure, never having contravened any of the commitments or prohibitons related to the three types of vow - the external vows of the Pratimoksha, the inner vows of the Bodhisattva and the secret vows of the Mantrayana. He should be learned, and not lacking in knowledge of the Tantras, Sutras and Shastras. Towards the vast multitude of beings, his heart should be so suffused with compassion that he loves each one. He should be well-versed in ritual practices outwardly, and inwardly, of the four sections of Tantras. By putting into practice the meaning of the teachings, he should have actualized in himself all the extraordinary achievements of riddance and realization. He should be generous, his language should be pleasant, he should teach each individual according to that person’s needs and he should act in conformity with what he teaches.

More particularly, for teachings on the profound essence of the Mantra Vajrayana pith-instructions, the kind of master upon whom one should rely is as follows. As set out in the precious Tantras, he should have been brought to maturity by a stream of ripening empowerments flowing down to him through a continuos unbroken lineage. He should not have transgressed the samayas and vows to which he committed himself at the time of empowerment. Now having many disturbing negative emotions and thoughts, he should be calm and disciplined. He should have mastered the meaning of the ground, path and result Tantras of the secret Mantra Vajrayana. He should have attained all signs of success in the approach and accomplishment phases of the practice, such as seeing visions of the yidam. The well-being of others should be his sole concern, his heart full of compassion. He should be skilled at caring for his disciples and should use appropriate method for each of them. Having fulfilled all his teacher’s commands, he should hold the blessings of the lineage.

On the other hand, there are certain kinds of teachers we should avoid.

Teachers like a millstone made of wood - These teachers have no trace of the qualities arising from study, reflection and meditation. Thinking that as the sublime son or nephew of such and such Lama, they and their descendants must be superior to anyone else. Even if they have studied, reflected and meditated a little, they did so not with any pure intention of working for future lives but for more mundane reasons - like preventing the priestly fiefs of which they are the incumbents, from falling into decay. As for training disciples, they are about as well suited to fulfilling their proper function as a millstone made of wood.

Teachers like the frog that lived in a well - Teachers of this kind lack any special qualities that might distinguish them from ordinary people. But other people put them up on a pedestal in blind faith, without examining them at all. Puffed up with pride by the profits and honors they receive, they are themselves quite unaware of the true qualities of great teachers. They are like the frog that lived in a well.

Mad Guides - These are teachers who have very little knowledge, having made the effort to follow a learned master and train in the Sutras and Tantras. Their strong negative emotions together with their weak mindfulness make them lax in their vows and samayas. Though of lower mentality than ordinary people, they ape the Siddhas and behave as if their actions were higher than the sky. Such teachers are called mad guides, and lead anyone who follows them down wrong paths.

Blind guides - In particular, a teacher whose qualities are in no way superior to your own and who lack Bodhichitta will never be able to open your eyes to what should and should not be done. Teachers like this are called blind guides.

The Great Master of Oddiyana warns:

Not to examine the teacher
Is like drinking poison;
Not to examine the disciple
Is like leaping from a precipice.

You place your trust in your spiritual teacher for all your future lives. It is he who will teach you what to do and what not to do. If you encounter a false spiritual teacher without examining him properly, you will be throwing away the possibility a person with faith has to accumulate merits for a whole lifetime, and the freedoms and advantages of the human existence you have now obtained will be wasted. It is like being killed by a venomous serpent coiled beneath a tree that you approached, thinking what you saw was just the tree’s cool shadow.

By not examining a teacher with great care
The faithful waste their gathered merit.
Like taking for the shadow of a tree a vicious snake,
Beguiled, they lose the freedom they at last had found.

After examining him carefully and making an unmistaken assessment, from the moment you find that a teacher has all the positive qualities mentioned you should never cease to consider him to be the Buddha in person.