The poet Nazir was born in the year 1740 in a Moslem A family of very moderate means and of no particular distinction. He passed his boyhood in an obscure street in the city of Agra, and began to write verses while still young. He was taught Arabic and Persian and studied Moslem literature and theology. He became a schoolteacher and a priest, and was said to have been at one time tutor to the Peshwar family, who had once been rulers of a large part of India but were now prisoners under the Mogul rule. But Nazir was not a courtier, nor would he write verses to please an aristocrat.
It is said that he was a man of great charity. Once, when he was returning from the house of the Peshwar with his monthly salary, he met a man who pleaded poverty and asked for help to meet the wedding expenses of his daughter. Nazir only knew the man superficially, but he gave him his purse and lived in penury for the rest of the month.
Swami Rama Tirthaji, who drew my attention to this great poet, called him a universal bard. Though a staunch Moslem by faith, Nazir has sung the praises of Shri Krishna and his brother Bala Rama. He himself belonged to the Sufi creed.
Nazir died in the year 1820 at the age of eighty and was buried in a poor grave-yard. His fame as a poet has attracted many admirers to his grave, and every year a fair is held to pay homage to his memory. Swami Rama Tirtha used to keep a volume of Nazir’s poems by him and would read and sing them to his friends.
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O friends, how can I describe the confusion and restlessness of my heart ?
One day, suddenly my eyes began to shed tears in profusion. My soul was perplexed.
I thought : “ I must see the face of the Beloved of the World, who is adored by all. I desire to know His nature.”
The river of enquiry rose in flood ; my enthusiasm surged in high waves ;
my soul danced on the crests of those waves with zeal.
Suddenly my self-consciousness, patience and prudence took wings. I was left alone, helpless, poor and weak.
Seeking to find a solution to this soul-affecting problem, I wept bitterly.
The state of love led me to renunciation. I dyed my simple robe red as a mark of disinterestedness in the world.
Putting on a string of beads and rubbing ashes on my face, I became a fakir.
I was an avadhut, a yogi, a guru versed in spiritual , knowledge.
Taking up the wallet of His love, and the cup of my tears of anxiety, I put on the turban of humility.
As a yogi I went from wood to wood, and house to house, in search of the Friend.
I sought Him in the streets of the towns, in roads and lanes, determined to sacrifice all in quest of the beloved Friend.
My soul was a fire, my sighs its smoke. Crowds of people, vain and curious spectators, followed me.
I talked of the Friend with animation, and of Him alone.
I was unconscious of my head and feet. No thought of food and no desire for wine assailed me.
The Yoga took a strange form. If anyone came to me,
I asked ; “Tell me, dear companion, have you seen the Friend anywhere ? ”
If he spoke of the world, of blessings or of miracles, I paid no attention to him.
I said to my rosary : “ Now I am a yogi, tell me, where is my Friend ? ”
Sometimes, in perplexity, I laughed loudly ; sometimes, in despair, I cried bitterly.
The restlessness of my soul bound me in circles of incertitude.
Someone said : “ Bawaji, come here and rest ; sit down awhile.
Day and night you are wandering about aimlessly.
If you need fresh fruit, flowers or sweets, I will provide them for you.”
In reply I said neither ‘ Yes ’ nor ‘ No ’. I was unconscious of myself and of others.
I asked myself in suspense : “ Whither shall I go ? Where shall I look for my Friend ? Whom shall I ask ? ”
The river of the madness of enquiry was in flood.
Seaiching for Him, I happened to enter a mosque.
They were talking of the ritual prayer and fasts. Some were proud of their riches, others of their beards.
When I found there no mental certitude, I left in tears, my quest unsatisfied.
My heart said : “ Look in the college of the learned.
Perhaps there you will have a vision of that wondrous Charmer of the Heait.” I entered in.
Alas, alas ! the college was worse even than the mosque.
Books were open ; there was noise and gesticulation ;
the learned were debating the doctrines with pride and heat.
But the trend of their discussion was related to the objects of desire.
I departed in disappointment.
When I was in the house of learning, my heart was confused and perplexed.
Then it crossed my mind to visit the Hindu temple.
There I saw the idols and listened to the ringing of bells.
I cried : “ O, against what rock shall I dash my brains .
That enemy of the soul, the supreme infidel, the Sheikh, is nowhere to be found.”
A thought came to my mind : “ Let me go on pilgrimage ;
perhaps that Charmer of the Heart will be found in one of the sacred places.”
I saw many holy places and worshipped at many shrines, but I found no satisfaction anywhere.
In bewilderment I left those places. I withdrew my love from the towns and resorted to the forests.
From the depth of the forest I cried : “ O what shall
I do now ? How long in separation from my Love must my days be filled with sighs and tears of agony ?
Where shall I go ? In whom can I place my trust ?
“ It were better to drown myself or lacerate my body ; perhaps my Love will meet me when I have sacrificed my life.”
Many days I lived in deserted forests, moaning in deep grief. I was poor, helpless, lonely, a homeless traveller.
I struck my head against the rocks, and plunged in deep sorrow I wandered here and there.
Hungry, thirsty, with neither grain to appease my hunger, nor water to quench my thirst, without peace, I searched for my Love.
1 rolled on the hot sands of the desert, the eyes of my heart ever set on my Friend. It seemed as if my last breath were on my lips.
Every moment I passed in deep meditation thinking of my Love. I was helpless, but still He came not.
When this stale was attained, the Beloved, the indifferent One,
drawn to me by a thousand phases of restlessness, appeared beside my pillow.
He lifted my head and, clasping it tenderly to His breast, vouchsafed these words :
“ Come now, if still thou wishest to know Me, I shall reveal unto thee the mystery.
“ Listen, first we try our devotee ; we burn him with agonies of soul, persecute him, cause him tears and restlessness.
If we find him faithful and sincere, then we come to meet him and show our face to him.
“ Such a man, thus tested, is a true Yogi, an expert in meditation.”
When I heard the voice of the Friend, life returned to my body ; all pain and suffering were over.
The eyes of my soul were opened as I looked on the Face of the Beloved.
The veils of earth and heaven were torn asunder. In an instant all restlessness and confusion came to an end.
When my soul was thus set in this feeling of unity, the veil of duality vanished for ever ;
all doubts and suspicions fled away like drops of mercury in the sun.
Says Nazir : Since that day, whatever I look on anywhere,
it is He whom I see. Him have I understood ; Him have I known ; Him have I found.
Hindu, Moslem, Jew and Christian, all are followers of one and the same Reality