Lalon Fokir, the great mystic Baul poet, philosopher and a social reformer, is known to the people from home and abroad for his timeless songs.
Lalon songs, which are regarded as Bangla classic, have gained huge popularity among people from all walks of life not only because of their sweet musical quality and spontaneity but also for the profound philosophy that they describe. Lalon composed numerous songs and poems orally as he could not read or write. And he used his songs as the means of expressing his thoughts and realizations while he tried to change his contemporary society.
Lalon envisioned a society where all religions and beliefs would stay in harmony while he rejected all distinctions of caste and creed that divided human beings and created conflicts among them. He clearly observed that in spite of all the distinctions that different religions have, the people following them have the same goal, that is, to attain the nearness of God. The Muslims want to go to the paradise after their death as well as the Hindus. Despite the fact, they divide themselves and stay apart from each other only because their method of worship is different. Lalon regrets this division between Hindus and Muslims in his famous song in this way:
"ফকিরি করবি খ্যাপা কোন রাগে/ আছে হিন্দু মুসলমান দুই ভাগে/ ভেস্তের আশায় মোমিন গন,/ হিন্দুরা দেয় স্বর্গেতে মন/ ভেস্ত স্বর্গ ফাটক সমান/ কার বা তা ভাল লাগে।"
Lalon Fakir criticized the follies of his contemporary society by means of his songs. He tried to focus on the absurdity of the caste system and ‘untouchability’ that Hindu people maintained very strictly during his time. His social critiques find a poignant expression in this song:
"সত্য কাজে কেউ নয় রাজি/সবই দেখি তানানানা/জাত গেল জাত গেল বলে/এ কি আজব কারখানা"
It is said that despite asking him and entreating him to speak about his own caste or religion, nobody could ever know anything from him in this connection. While giving a biographical account of Lalon Fokir, Sudhir Chakraborty writes, “Kangal Harinath knew him (Lalon), Mir Mosharrof Hossain was familiar with him; he frequented the houseboat of the Tagores; famous writer Jaladhar Sen saw him face to face and listened to his song a number of times, but none has ever been able to know anything from Lalon about his religion, caste or linage.”
Lalon believed that caste system is a false dogma men have embraced. So, in the following song Lalon logically turns down the idea of creating discriminations among people in the names of castes or religions:
"সব লোকে কয় লালন কি জাত সংসারে/লালন বলে জাতের কি রুপ/আমি দেখলাম না এই নজরে/কেউ মালা কেউ তসবি গলে/তাই তো রে জাত ভিন্ন বলে/যাওয়া কিংবা আসার বেলায় /জাতের চিহ্ন রয় কারে।"
Moreover, Lalon Shai was a mystic poet. In a number of songs, Lalon expresses his mystical philosophy and in some other songs we get the accounts of his mystic experiences. In one of his songs Lalon expresses his mystical experiences in this way:
"অনেক ভাগ্যের ফলে সেই চাঁদ কেউ দেখিতে পায়/অমাবস্যা নাই সে চাঁদে দ্বি-দলে তার কিরণ উদয় /বিন্দু মাঝে সিন্ধু-বারি/মাঝখানে তার স্বর্ণগিরি/অধর চাঁদের শূন্যপুরী/ সেহি তো তিল প্রমাণ জায়গায়।"
Lalon, in his pursuit of attaining spiritual objective, waited for the desired moment of illumination to come patiently like a bird called ‘Chatak’, which does not drink water until it rains:
“চাতক প্রায় অহর্নিশি/ চেয়ে আছে কালো শশী”
He compares his mystic experience and the short moments of illumination with the flash of thunder that vanishes in the clouds within a moment and we cannot find its trace any more:
"মেঘের বিদ্যুৎ মেঘে যেমন/লুকালে না পায় অন্বেষণ।/কালারে হারায়ে তেমন/ঐ রূপ হেরি এ দর্পণে।।"
In another song he says that it is like a lamp lit in a dark house (human soul) where there is no difference of day or night; and this is the place he sails towards in order to meet his beloved Creator:
"আঁধার ঘরে জলছে বাতি/দিবা রাতি নাই সেখানে/মনের মানুষ যেখানে"
After that, in another place of the same song he indicates that the very thing that debars human beings from accomplishing their spiritual goal (the nearness of God) is their worldly desires. Lalon sees that many people are failing in their spiritual pursuit because of their unruly sensuality and wrong doings and as they don’t have a spiritual mentor. So he says:
"যেতে পথে কাম নদীতে/পাড়ি দিতে ত্রিবিনে/কত ধনীর ভাড়া যাচ্ছে মারা /পড়ে নদীর তোর তুফানে/ মনের মানুষ যেখানে।"
Next, in the lines below Lalon says that the master key to the ultimate prosperity and wellbeing of our self that we are striving for is nowhere but within ourselves. And Murshid (spiritual teacher) can show us the right path to reach our spiritual goal.
"মুরশিদের মেহেরে মোহর/যার খুলেছে সেই তা জানে/বলছে লালন ঘর ছেড়ে ধন/ খুঁজিস কেন বনে বনে।"
Apart from talking about the way to achieve the nearness of God, Lalon, in his songs, has also upheld the idea that human beings are the most dignified creations of God and he has manifested the supremacy of human beings. He asserts that human life is the most precious gift that God has ever bestowed upon any of His creations. This is why Lalon says:
"এমন মানব জনম আর কি হবে/ মন যা কর, ত্বরায় কর এই ভবে/অনন্ত রুপ সৃষ্টি করলেন সাঁই,/শুনি মানব রূপের উত্তম কিছুই নাই।"
In the same song he exposes that our Creator has a special purpose behind creating human beings, which is the declaration of the supremacy and greatness of Creator through humans’ worship of Him:
"এই মানুষে হবে মাধুর্য্য ভজন,/ তাইতে মানব রূপ গঠলেন নিরঞ্জন"
Lalon’s songs also articulate his beliefs that unless one has faith in human beings, one will surely lose the principal purpose of his life and existence.
"মানুষ ছাড়া ক্ষ্যাপা রে তুই মুল হারাবি/ মানুষ ভজলে সোনার মানুষ হবি।"
Furthermore, in another song, Lalon says that it is through rendering service to one’s fellow human beings that one can attain the nearness of Almighty God. He describes his realizations in this way:
"সহজ মানুষ ভজে দেখনারে মন দিব্যজ্ঞানে/পাবি রে অমূল্য নিধি বর্তমানে/ভজ মানুষের চরণ দু'টি/নিত্য বস্তু হবে খাঁটি।/মরিলে সব হবে মাটি/ত্বরায় এই ভেদ লও জেনে। "
However Lalon Fokir has emphasized on the necessity of leading a life of honesty and integrity. He ascertains that these things are inevitable qualities and without them, man cannot understand the philosophy of his life. In one of his popular songs, we find his instructions in simple words:
"সত্য বল সুপথে চল/ওরে আমার মন।/সত্য সুপথ না চিনিলে/পাবিনে মানুষের দরশন।"
Hence, Lalon warns that wrong-doings will spoil a man by causing his spiritual death and failing him in his spiritual pursuit. He believed that if one conducts an unjust act, he cannot escape the punishment for his misconduct:
"পরের দ্রব্য পরের নারী হরণ করোনা/পারে যেতে পারবে না।/যতবার করিবে হরণ/ততোবার হবে জনম তোমার"
To conclude, through his songs Lalon Fokir urged people to get united as human beings, forgetting all the distinctions of caste, creed and class.
Lalon’s beautiful songs inspired and influenced many great poets, social and religious thinkers including Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, and Allen Ginsberg. Lalon died about 127 years back, but Lalon’s spiritual teaching, his philosophy and the social critiques that we find in his songs are still relevant and very important to our life and contemporary society. It is to say that while our modern time is characterized by spiritual dilemma and confusion, Lalon’s songs may help us understand the purpose of our life and show us the way to salvation.