Lalla

image Lalla Ded. (Lalleshwari) (1320–1392) was a mystic of the Kashmiri Shaivite sect. She wrote many devotional and mystic poems, expressing her longing for the Divine. She remains an important cultural icon in Kashmir.

 

To learn the scriptures is easy,
to live them, hard.
The search for the Real
is no simple matter.

Deep in my looking,
the last words vanished.
Joyous and silent,
the waking that met me there.

- Lalla Ded

Biography of Lalla Ded

Lalla was a great saint and mystic from the Kashmir province of India. She lived in the 14th Century, which was a period of great religious upheaval and change. He home province of Kashmir had a tradition of fusing religious traditions. For example although Buddhism has almost disappeared it was still a significant influence on the different Hindu traditions. In the fourteenth century the people of Kashmir came under the influence of Islam. However the Islam which was brought by mystics such as Bulbul Shah was heavily influenced by Mahayana Buddhism and Upanishadic philosophy. Thus the people of Kashmir were sympathetic to the branch of mystic Islam that Lalla embodied.

Lalla was married at an early age but was badly treated by her mother in law. However despite her bad treatment and lack of food she acted with forbearance and equanimity. However this cruel upbringing encouraged her to enter the life of a renunciant and she found a guru called Sidh Srikanth.

 

Lalla excelled in spiritual practices and is said to have reached a lofty height of self realisation, ‘The abode of nectar’. However Lalla also wished to manifest and reveal the spiritual truths she had received. Therefore she took to the life of a wandering pilgrim, travelling around the county teaching those who were receptive.

During her life Lalla composed many hundreds of songs. Primarily these spoke of her great longing and love for her beloved Shiva. Indeed there are many similarities between her life and her near contemporary Mirabai. Her poems or Vakyas, formed an important part of Kashmiri language and culture and are still very much revered today.

In Lalla, we witness the devotion of a bhakti saint.

‘God does not want meditations and austerities
Through love alone canst though reach the Abode of Bliss.
Thou mayst be lost like salt in water
Still it is difficult for thee to know God.’

In Lalla we also feel the detachment of a Karma yogi. Like Krishna to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita; she urges her followers to work without attachment to the result:

Let them jeer or cheer me;
Let anybody say what he likes;
Let good persons worship me with flowers;
What can any one of them gain I being pure?

If the world talks ill of me
My heart shall harbour no ill-will:
If am a true worshipper of God
Can ashes leave a stain on a mirror?

Lalla was a great mystic but she could be critical of religious ceremonies and religious orthodoxy.  Her teachings and poems are thus reminiscent of Kabir, (although Kabir came later).

 

‘ Idol is of stone temple is of stone;
Above (temple) and below (idol) are one;
Which of them wilt thou worship O foolish Pandit?
Cause thou the union of mind with Soul.’

Lalla had a profound impact on both Hindu’s and Muslims her wisdom stemming from a profound self realization as Lalla says of herself:

When my mind was cleansed of impurities,
like a mirror of its dust and dirt,
I recognized the Self in me:
When I saw Him dwelling in me,
I realized that He was the Everything
and I was nothing.

 

I saw and found I am in everything
I saw God effulgent in everything.
After hearing and pausing see Siva
The House is His alone; Who am I, Lalla.

This period in which Lalla lived was an important time. It was one in which the divisions between religions were broken down. A saint like Lalla was able to appeal to the heart of the people. Her spiritual realisations cross caste and religious barriers and is still admired today.

By:Richard

 

 

Lalla Poems

 

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