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The Nightingale & The Traveler: Love & Wisdom

Fragrance of Bhai Vir Singh

Tuesday
,
15
January
2019
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The Nightingale & The Traveler: Love & Wisdom

Fragrance of Bhai Vir Singh

Tuesday
,
15
January
2019
No items found.
⟵ Back to articles

The Nightingale & The Traveler: Love & Wisdom

Fragrance of Bhai Vir Singh

Tuesday
,
15
January
2019
No items found.

“Love and Wisdom” is about patriotism and the burning love for freedom. It is about seeking The Rose that never fades and never perishes.

Many have come into my life and have barely left a trace. Less than a handful have entered my cautious heart. These amazing beings have lifted my consciousness, enabling me to rise. It is as if fate had a hand in bringing us together. My life is richer because of them, I cherish their friendship.

And then there are relationships that defy time, space and logic. Such is my relationship with Bhai Vir Singh (1872-1957). I have never met him, yet there is a nearness so intense that I address him as “my Pita ji.” How did that happen? Well, it was through his writings. He enabled me to see Guru Nanak Sahib and I fell in love.

Pita ji now ebbs and flows in my consciousness. His writings open vistas within me, transporting me to another realm. What transpires while translating his works cannot be put into words. Some things are best left unsaid.

In translating his poem “The Nightingale and The Traveler,” I have taken many liberties. The purists will scream: “She has sinned. She must be excommunicated.” The lovers will say: “She has loved. We embrace her.”

I leave it in your hands to judge: Have I sinned or have I loved?

The Nightingale & The Traveler: Love & Wisdom  
 
 
1. The Nightingale
 
My luminous day has turned dark.
Deserted is the home of my love.
 
My garden, once full of life,
lies barren today.
 
No flowers,
No fruits,
No seeds,
No bees.
 
Gloom amplifies.
 
O, God!
Why this cruelty?
 
Trampled rosebushes,
Naked boughs,
Frayed vines,
Torn trees.
 
A cemetery.

The eyes of the trees are shut,
The doors of their souls closed.
 
Tall, they once stood.
Broken, they lie today.
 
Omnipresent beauty,
Sweet fragrance,
Perfect harmony…
All gone.
 
I scream ...
 
Who has stolen
the life of this beauty?
 
Brother Traveler…
Wait!
 
Tell me why
my beloved garden
lies desolate.
 
Where is my love?  

II.  The Traveler

Eons ago,
abundant flowers
lay at the feet of the trees.
 
The gardener reaped
the harvest of thy rose.
 
The flower sellers
and the perfumers thronged.
 
In the open market,
thy love was sold.
 
The glory of the garden
traveled to city streets.
 
Flowers were donned
in a thousand forms.
 
Delicate maidens
jeweled their ears.
 
Sinuous necks
were adorned in love garlands.
 
Veils of flowers
concealed blushing brides.
 
Lovers’ beds
were strewn with roses.
 
Sherbet was scented
with petals of thy rose.
 
The fragrance of thy rose
was locked in crystal glasses.
 
Thy rose, in decorated vases,
traveled from palace to palace.
 
Thy rose,
your rose, is gone.
 
Wings cannot take you to him.
Nor can he come to you.
 
Vain is your pain.
Vain is your longing.
 
But
where have you been
tormented young bird?
 
III.  The Nightingale
 
Spring was in splendor.
Foliage was chaste.
 
My eyes reflected
the love of my life.
 
I sang joyfully
and perched on him.
 
I flew in bliss
bough to bough.
 
Suddenly,
the wily gardener caught me.
 
Instantly,
I became a prisoner.
 
The prison walls
were strong and high.
Its iron bars
were bolted tight.
 
Pain entered my soul.
 
Removed from my beloved,
my soul darkened.
 
Torn from my ancestors,
Torn from my forest,
Torn from hills and dales,
Torn from the waterways.
 
Gone was my home,
Gone was my freedom,
Gone was my laughter,
Gone was my being.
 
This was fate’s
cruel hand at work.
 
I wonder:
Was it because I loved
that I lost my freedom?
 
In anguish,
I fluttered.
 
But
the prison walls
struck me down.
 
This was
Heaven’s answer
to my prayers.
 
I screamed,
“O, God!
Have mercy.
 
“Open this door!
Let me see the light.
 
“Let me see my love
just once more.”
 
IV.  
But the jailer
felt no compassion.
 
With his children,
he encircled my cage.
 
They clapped and laughed
at the sight of me.
 
“What a beautiful warbler!”
they screamed with delight.
 
I wailed:
“Does anyone know
the agony of a caged soul
whose freedom lies
in the will of another?
 
“It’s better to die
than to live caged.
 
“Cease my life!
Free my soul.”
 
V.
In captivity,
I realized
why men fight
for freedom’s sake.
 
Noble are they
who die in battle,
defending freedom
for you and me.
 
But
the life of
birds and bees
and fakirs and yogis
is at the mercy of others.
 
Even when betrayed
they smile.
 
Days elapsed.
 
My hope
never waned:
To be free
one day,
to see my love
once again.
 
Today,
The jailer’s child
left my door ajar.
 
Against
all odds,
I flew out.
 
Free at last,
I soared—
and rushed
to my love,
only to find
my garden in comatose state.
 
Brother Traveler:
My heart hemorrhages
and a thousand streams
spurt blood
listening to your narrative
about my beloved.  

VI.  The Traveler
Tragic is your tale.
I feel your grief.
 
But
no one can
lighten your pain.
 
However,
I’m mystified—
that you claim
this garden as yours.
 
The gardener,
with his bare hands
planted all.
 
He sowed,
He weeded,
He watered.
 
His praying eyes
watched over it
day and night.
 
By every law,
by human right,
it all belongs to him.
 
He is the true owner;
Blame him not.
 
Nor say another word,
for you have no claim.
 
You are caught
in an illusion:
You cannot have
what is not yours.
 
Renounce this
foolish fantasy.
 
Be wise,
forget your pain,
and start to sing.

There is still a song
in your tiny throat.
 
A song that heals
wounds of woe.
 
Why not sing
and heal yourself?  

VII.  The Nightingale

You’re wise
but
empty inside.
 
No pangs of love,
no wounds of life
have touched you.
 
Your heart is whole
You are free of pain.
 
But
let me tell you:
The pain of love
is colossal.
 
When love chooses
to pierce the heart,
no being can heal
this sweet ailment.
 
No song can soothe
the heat of this pain!
 
A true song
amplifies this pain.
 
All prescribed cures
intensify this pain.
 
Your words
are full of wisdom.
 
The fruits and flowers
are truly the gardeners.
 
But
can wisdom
give me back
what I’ve lost?
 
Can it take me to
the place where
my love and I
lived in harmony?
 
I lived in him.
He lived in me.
 
My life
and his life
were one.
 
They made a garden
out of my forest.
 
Then they plucked
my rose.
 
My fervent pleas
went unheeded.
 
My tender wings
could not battle.
 
The hand of might
removed my beloved
from his primal home.
 
Wise traveler,
you talk about justice,
you talk about right.
 
Let me tell you:
Might is right
on this earth.
 
Brother Traveler,
truly contemplate:
Who loves the rose?
 
The crafty gardener
or I?
 
Beneath his
seeding, weeding,
caring, watching
lies an ulterior motive.
 
You said:
“The gardener sold
my beloved rose
in the open market.”
 
Gold rolled
into his home
while suffering
descended on my rose.
 
Tell me:
Did the gardener feel any pain?
 
Nay!
His pain is only for his gold.
 
My heart is clean.
My love is pure.
 
His love held me
in my captivity.
 
I longed
to bathe in his nectar.
 
I longed
to sing his divine praise.
 
Love-bound, I returned,
flying over foreign lands
just for his sight,
just for his touch.
 
My life has been thrown
into a thousand fires.
 
I lost my home
planted by the Divine.
For a nest
in the garden of man.
 
Brother Traveler,
as a fledgling,
I learned
the laws of beauty.
 
I know
beauty is a rising joy
when we
surrender to it.
 
Deluded are those
who fault beauty.
 
The eye of their soul
wanes day by day.
 
If that eye
becomes bright,
if that eye
becomes chaste,
their soul would gleam
in eternal glances.
 
Glory in the soul.
The soul in glory.
 
Brother Traveler,
I know of a life
above this life.
 
A life of bliss
emanating from
the lips of my rose.
 
A sweet subtle feeling.
Unbalanced and balanced joy.
Unconscious and conscious love.
 
A soft reeling,
A slow breeze,
A heart of glory,
A life of peace.
 
Tell me:
Which is right?
Which is wrong?
 
Love seems frail.
Might seems strong.  
VIII. The Traveler
 
Your reasoning is noble.
 
But
who loves right
for its own sake?
 
Might reigns,
for
right asserts not.
 
Selfishness sways humanity.
Dearer to man is Self.
No one seems willing to love truth.

They’d rather close their eyes
and see not its intense light.
 
Beautiful bird,
you are so frail
you are so weak.
 
To cry for your rose
in this jungle of noise is vain.
 
The drums of ego
and desire beat loud.
 
Yet, deafening is
the voice of man.
 
In this tempest of noise,
who will listen to your
sweet, subtle voice?
 
Little bird:
If your voice was heard,
this world
would be a garden of roses.
Its dust
would shine as particles of gold.
 
None would hurt another,
each enlightened within.
 
Humanity bound
in love and service.
 
Blossoming in
the harmony of living
 
A paradise
this would be.
 
But
this is not paradise.
 
Find another way
to heal your pain.
 
Recuperate,
little bird
Recuperate!
 
May the Divine  
restore you again.
 
I say this with love:
True, you surrendered
to the beauty of the rose.
True, your love
is deep and pure.
True, your soul
mirrors the light of the rose…
 
But
 
Why did you not know
that one day,
the garden, the blossoms—
all would die.
 
Spring dies.
Autumn emerges.
 
Foliage falls.
Dust reigns.
 
Little bird,
Your rose was
destined to die.
 
The gardener merely toiled.
 
False was the
voice of spring
if it promised you eternity.
 
The dark day
that troubles you was inevitable.
 
Your love, your joy,
is coupled with spring.
Why blame anyone?
 
This lack of wisdom
makes you sorrowful.
 
Vain is your grief.
Vain is your longing.
 
IX. The Nightingale cries
 
O’ love! Dear love,
if death was inevitable,
why the promises?

Why this life?
Why has death ceased me not?

Futile is life
without you,
as futile as the sunlight
without the sun.

Existing without existing.
Living of the not living.

Why am I not dead?

Compassionate brother:
I am exhausted.
Take pity!
End my life.

Darkness spreads around me.
Emptiness seizes my soul.  
 
This moment, for me, is
the moment of all death.

My mind is dark,
the flame extinguished.

Brother Traveler:
Have mercy!
end my life.

X.   The Traveler

Gentle,
passionate bird
Gentle!
I’m grieved my words
have caused you pain.

It seems
I almost killed you.

You weep for the past
and now
you wish to die for no reason.

Know you not,
The wheel of change revolves;
It marches incessantly.  
 
No halting
No stopping.

Continuous is the march
of this divine caravan.

Spring blooms,
Autumn withers,
Spring re-emerges.

Time rolls,
Zephyr blows,
Buds materialize,
Leaves protrude.

Flora will dance,
Bees will hum,
Birds will sing.
 
Why cry now?
Why wish for death?

Wait a while.
Your sorrow will soon end.

XI.    The Nightingale

If beauty lasts not forever
then
what worth is beauty?  
 
If my garden sways not forever,
then
what worth is my garden?

Is all a play of time?

Time conceals my love
and reveals him at its will
and conceals him once again.

Is love my own
or is it time’s?

If time is supreme,
is my heart a puppet
in the hand of time?

Then
to thirst for love,
to live in love,
to hope in love,
to crumble in love,
to reunite in love,
is an illusion?

If the lightning flash of love
reveals itself
only to kill me
then where is love?

If all is changing
and there is nothing
except waiting, thirsting
for nothing to be…  
 
If this is the eternal law,
if I am just a passive ball
which destiny mocks,
then this life is too sad.

Let me tear my robe
and
wear the shroud of sadness.
Let me shatter my heart
for
to be sad is my calling.
XII.  The Traveler
 
Hush!
Beautiful bird
Hush!

The rose you love
still perfumes
your tender heart.

If you wish
to see undying glory.
If you long
eternity with your rose
then
turn your gaze within.

In this visible world of change,
your search is futile.  
 
Eternal Spring exists for those
who have entered within.

If you wish to dwell
in the timeless gaze of your love,
then
be at peace with yourself.

Let the flame of your heart
Burn slow and steady.
Let your mind become still
like a transparent lake.

Then journey
into the being
of your beloved,
your true abode.

Encounter
the eternal fountain
radiating within.

There blossoms your rose.
 
Where the hand of might
cannot strike.

Let your heart not quiver.  
Let your heart not falter.

Let your soul drink
from this eternal fountain.

All worlds are within;
This is ancient wisdom.

This is the law of beauty
that fledglings learn.

This is the law of true life;
A life above this life.

This is the life of bliss
emanating from
the lips of the rose.

The rose that blossoms within,
where eternal spring rolls.

As you have said:
Only there is
a sweet subtle feeling:
Unbalanced and balanced joy,
unconscious and conscious love.

A soft reeling,
A slow breeze,
A heart of glory,
A life of peace.

Within that
Golden Land,
there is neither
right nor wrong.  
 
Where
might is frail
and
love is strong.

Goodbye,
beautiful bird!
Goodbye.

Find your
beloved within.
Revised:

This Content has been made available for educational purposes only. SikhRI does not make any representation concerning the completeness of the Content. This Content is not intended to substitute research or a deeper understanding of the topic. SikhRI encourages readers to read multiple authors to gain a complete understanding of the topic.

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Creative Director

Inni Kaur is Creative Director at the Sikh Research Institute (SikhRI). She has served SikhRI in several capacities since 2010, including Chair of the Board, and most recently as CEO. 

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