Hazrat Sai Roshan Ali Shah was a Sufi mystic who lived in what is now called Pakistan 1862-1932. His devotees were Muslim and Hindu. He believed in all Prophets and Ram of the Hindus as well. He crafted a path of devotion to the Formless Divine, and retained his identity as a Sufi. A Sufi is not any particular religious adherent: anyone who practices and evidences purity of thoughts, words and actions is a true mystic. Such practice is true humanness and reveals the inherent divinity within.
Hazrat Sai Roshan Ali Shah, 1862 – 1932
Sufi Mystic, Perfect Teacher (Murshid)
of Hyderabad, Sindh (Pakistan)
Hazrat Sai Roshan Ali Shah was born to Sai Qutab Ali Shah, who was also a Murshid, of the Jahaniyan lineage. The father had spent many long years in penances and spiritual austerities in the hills and had little interest in married life. He considered marriage a chain around his neck; he prayed to the Lord for relief from the bonds of married life. His wife died young, without issue. Years later, Sai Qutab Ali Shah’s father again asked him to get married and he declined. His father told him the following story: “Whilst I was in Darwat Hills engaged in spiritual practices, I saw in a vision a child asking me to get married. He threatened that in case I did not agree, he would burst out of my back. My associates there, too, in visions, saw a child peeping over my shoulders, sometimes from the left, sometimes from the right. That child was none other than you, and so I married and you are here.” Sai Qutab Ali Shah took the hint and married again at 40. Sai Roshan Ali Shah was born in 1862.
Sai Qutab Ali Shah paid particular attention to Sai Roshan’s early education and upbringing. Once, when he was about 20, Sai Roshan Ali Shah went to attend a fair in a nearby village. A woman fell in love with him. She said to him, “I love you very much”. Amused at it, Sai Roshan asked, “What is it in me that has attracted you?” Instantly she replied, “I love your hair”. And immediately Sai Roshan went to a barber’s shop and had his head shaved, put the piece of hair in a cloth and handed it to the woman, saying, “Here is the piece you admired and loved. Please keep it with you.” Then he quietly withdrew without caring any more about her.
Sai Qutab Ali Shah became his son’s spiritual teacher. After his initiation Sai Roshan accepted his father as preceptor his attitude and relationship was that of a seeker and preceptor (viz; talib and murshid; sishya and sadguru). Sai Roshan was highly devoted to his murshid, had deep regard for him and considered himself a non-entity before him. He learned and practised meticulously the spiritual techniques (tariquat) under the care of his perfect master (kamil murshid), composed many spiritual poems in his honour and gave hints of the discipleship (tariquat) followed by him.
Oneness of Divinity
In his spiritual poems (kalaam) Sai Roshan Ali Shah was to give rendition of the universal aspects of Divinity found in all faiths. He believed in the identity of the Prophets and all incarnations. Whilst he had great faith in the Prophet Mohammed, he had equal faith in Ram, also. He mentions that one attains the goal with realisation of Ram. For him, Ram represents the Formless, the Non-Dual:
Should you wish to be a yogi, Search and find at the right place, Peep within yourself, And enter the path of love, You will attain to Ram, Face to face there, O Roshan.
Imbibe and practice rightly, Precept of the Murshid within. Grasp firmly in mind Instructions of the wise. Do not train your eyes in sleep, lest life should be a waste. He who truly follows the precept Has lived rightly O Roshan, And has kept the promise with Ram.
Oneness of Truth
Roshan Ali Shah had the faith of Oneness of the Truth (Haq, Zaat, Atma, Brahm, etc), the Absolute and the Non Dual, which is beyond change (baqa). He taught that realisation of oneness is the true goal. It implies going beyond the phenomenal world here and hereafter , it is realisation of zaat, noumenon, the numinous itself. There is no mention of personal gods or multiplicity of gods in his lyrics. Nor is there any reference to rites and rituals of any kind in his lyrics. Here he expresses his craving and deep urge for realisation of the Truth, and advises seekers to strive for the true goal:
If you wish to be a yogi, Be free from any duality. Contemplate the Truth In your mind constantly. Cry for the Beloved In your every breath within Then you will be blessed within With the vision of your Beloved, O Roshan.
You have spent the day In pursuit of body needs, And went early to sleep And did not wake until sunrise You have been totally oblivious Of the purpose you took birth for, And you did not contemplate the Truth Within yourself, O Roshan.
Importance of Satsang
Sai Roshan Ali Shah considered Satsang—holy association, or association with saints and sages—of prime importance on the spiritual path. He composed a number of lyrics emphasising the importance of the company of the holy and the good:
Nectar is offered in the company of saints, Surrender your mind at their feet, Remember God and attain purity. Fully merge yourself with love in the precept of perfect Master, March with your mind On this path, O Roshan.
Abandon faith in the material world, and join the company of Saints, Your sufferings accumulated over births Will vanish in an instant. Association with gracious saints Grants liberation from the cycle of death, He attains the Goal, O Roshan, Who is merged in this faith.
Necessity of Murshid or Guru
Sai Roshan Ali Shah firmly believed that seekers on the spiritual path must seek initiation under a spiritual master, murshid or satguru. The seeker must bear not merely high regard for his preceptor, he must totally surrender himself to his master, sacrifice his self before him and be truly in love with him. He must sincerely follow and adhere to the instructions of the master. Sai Roshan Ali Shah took initiation from his own father and made abundant references in his lyrics to the greatness of his master and to the instructions and directions he received from him and the benefits he derived from that. He says that his preceptor gave him secret instructions, he followed these, and that love arose in him, and divine mysteries were revealed to him and he attained the supreme realisation and bliss:
The holy murshid has taught me Lessons of the secret path, I sacrifice myself entirely at his feet Who has enlightened me about the secrets.
My concentration was fixed on the vision within, As I entered the grand abode of love, I saw the entire field within the self Under right guidance of the murshid.
If you wish to attain the goal, Follow the direction of the guru. By his unbounded grace, The murshid has suggested to you the path. Understand breath rightly within, And thus realise the Beloved. Attain the beloved in your mind, By your endeavours, O Roshan.
Satguru has revealed the secret And promoted such devotion within I have the vision constantly now. I have met the wonderful satguru, secrets are revealed now, I am blessed in every birth. Satguru has done good to me He has shown me the Nam within And has put my foolish mind on the right path. Satguru has kindled the light, The interior is cleansed, The Beloved has done all favours, Roshan is in love with Nam, all doubts and illusions have vanished, This has been the command of the Master.
Murshid and Disciples
Sai Roshan Ali Shah succeeded his father as Murshid. He was highly selective for granting initiation and accepting a person as his disciple. Once, a devotee requested Sai for initiation, but Sai refused. It was only after a long wait and repeated requests over four years, that Sai agreed to this request and initiated the devotee into the spiritual path. Though Sai had many devotees, he granted initiation to a very small number of disciples. He loved his disciples as his children. His devotees included both Muslims and Hindus.
Once a Hindu devotee brought him a basket of fruit. At that time his two grandsons were sitting on his lap. Also in the group of devotees in front of him, there was a boy of about 3-4 years, a son of a Hindu devotee. Sai Roshan Ali Shah took a fruit from the basket and gave it to the boy. Upon this, his eldest grandson cried out, “La, La! Who is he? While we are sitting here, he has been given a fruit first”. Sai said to him, “Like you, this child too is my progeny. You are progeny of my waist and he is a progeny of my sight (noor).”
He loved his devotees and wanted them to write to him frequently. He, too, wrote to them. Once Sai asked a disciple why he was slow in writing to him. The disciple replied that he remembered Sai very much but was slow in writing letters. Upon this Sai said to him, “Yes, my child, I too remember you. God has ordained, ‘Remember Me, and I shall remember you”.
Sai Hadi Baksh, the eldest son of Sai Roshan Ali Shah, had a clear premonition of the departure of his father some days prior to the event. In January of 1932, Sai Roshan Ali Shah had an attack of pneumonia. After 12 days he left his mortal frame. Sai was cheerful and quiet during his illness. There was a glow in his eyes. The shine on his forehead increased every day and it became very brilliant after he left his mortal frame.
It is commonly held that Sufism is an Islamic sect. The life and teaching of the saints in the Sufi Galaxy as populated by Hazrat Sai Roshan Ali Shah, by his Father (his preceptor) and his successors, rightly place Sufism in its correct perspective. In the words of Dada Sai “Sufi is he who enjoys the eternal bliss of oneness” (non duality). The word Sufi is not a monopoly of any particular caste or creed. It is of Arabic origin and can be attributed to anybody having the qualities of a Sufi. He who lives pure, eats pure and is pure in thought and deed is a real Sufi, whatever his caste or creed“.
This work recently appeared on narayanaoracle.com and is © Chris Parnell