Seeking the Beloved: Sufi Verses, in English

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Editor’s note: Sri Aurobindo writes in ‘The Future Poetry‘:

In the past . . . there have been hieratic and religious ways of approaching the truths of spirit which have produced some remarkable forms in art and literature. Sufi poetry, Vaishnava poetry are of this order, in more ancient times the symbolic and mystic way of the Vedic singers, while the unique revelatory utterance of the Upanishads stands by itself as a form of inspired thought which penetrates either direct or through strong unveiling images to the highest truths of self and soul and the largest seeing of the Eternal. 

~ CWSA, Vol. 26, p. 128

In our issue focusing on Life, Literature and Yoga, we are happy to feature English translations of a few verses by Shah Abdul Latif (1689 to 1752 CE), a renowned Sufi mystic and poet. Commonly known by the honorifics Lakhino LatifLatif GhotBhittai, and Bhit Jo Shah, he is widely considered to be the greatest poet of the Sindhi language.

Anju Makhija and Hari Dilgir translated his famous Sindhi poetry collection Shah Jo Risalo, which was published by Katha, New Delhi, in 2005, under the title ‘Seeking The Beloved: Shah Abdul Latif.’ This work was awarded the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award for Translation. We thank the translator Anju Makhija for giving us the permission to republish the following verses from the book.



I search for a mentor
combing infinity

limitless is he
endlessly I yearn
he evades me

the burden
of ego
none can cross the ocean

he is one
discard duality

save me
from duality

I’ll merge
I becomes you

cannot exist without
god’s secrets lurk in his creation

say the seers
if your self
you still see
what use are prayers?

if your self
you can forget
then go proclaim
god is great

* * *

Portrait of Shah Abdul Latif, source

* * *

if with the sun’s first rays
the eyes do not see the beloved

pull them out
feed them to the crows

somewhere something
these eyes have seen

exhilarated by love
these eyes cannot sleep

how they weep
more they see
the more they want

how they pine
for a glimpse of the divine

these eyes
crisscross paths
ever since they fell in love

now quarrelling
now making up

these eyes
brimming with tears
clashing like monsoon clouds
such a heavy downpour

what to do with these eyes?
they do not heed my advice
even in sleep I pay the price

wandering to hazardous locales
they endanger my life

what to do with these eyes?
falling in love
without asking me?
I am trapped
no retreat for me

hold a steady inward gaze
swim contrary to the world’s ways

choose to go upstream
while others float downstream

jealous is the beloved
when your gaze wanders

save yourself for him

if your body
is not finer than a needle

how will you find a place
in the beloved’s eyes


About the Translator:

Anju Makhija is a Sahitya Akademi award-winning poet, playwright, editor and translator. She has written three poetry collections: View from the Web, Pickling Season and Poems Grow with You; co-translated Freedom & Fissures and Seeking the Beloved – the mystical verse of Shah Abdul Latif; co-edited three anthologies related to women, Indo-English theatre and young readers.

Anju is the co-founder of the Pondicherry/Auroville Poetry Festival. Her most recent book is ‘Mumbai Traps: collected plays’. She is currently translating the work of 17th century Sufi poet, Sachal Sarmast. Her formal education includes a Master’s degree in Educational Media from Canada.


Sri Aurobindo’s Translations from Tamil

~ Design: Beloo Mehra

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