Gertrude Caroline Ederle, an American competition swimmer, Olympic champion, and former world record-holder became the first woman to swim across the English Channel on August 6, 1926. On Gertrude's first attempt to swim the English Channel on August 18, 1925 she was pulled out of the water after eight hours and forty-six minutes of swimming because her trainer thought she had collapsed because of the high waves and pulled her out of the water immediately with only seven more miles to go. During her second attempt when the weather got hostile, her trainer begged her to come out of the water, but all she could say was, "What for?" Later, when asked about the reason for her failed first attempt, she replied "I lost my focus".

Just as Gertrude Caroline Ederle had said, most of the problems faced by our country today relate to us being "Out of Focus". Just have a look around and you will find things falling apart in one way or another in every walk of life. This disorientation is leading us towards total extinction. The focus shift is not happening as almost every individual has created his/her own self-centered direction without aligning it towards a common objective. If one has to look at one single issue which has done irreversible damage to our society, its the polluting of our religion by the religious orthodoxy which inherently thrives on the exploitation of the ignorant masses.

To carry it forward, the absence of social scientists or the lack of spirituality in our lives has created human monsters who in the name of religion are butchering their fellow human beings more brutally than any beast around. Our prophet (PBUH) had no sect; we on the other hand have got around hundred different flavors of our religion. Our educational infrastructure has further contributed to the disillusionment of our youth who have started leaving this land failing to see any hope. They are taught the likes of William Shakespeare while ignoring the richness of applicability of our own cultural and spiritual heritage. The real irony is that while the west is trying to rediscover its identity by studying the richness of our Sufi spiritual teachings, we on the other hand are hooked up in a web of following the worst attributes of the west blindly. While Oxford University is offering doctorate Degrees to the researchers for their works on dissecting the works of Bulleh Shah, not even a single knowledge database exists in the land to which the great spiritual reformer belonged. Our tragedies are countless.

The likes of spiritual Sufi reformists like Bulleh Shah, a Punjabi Sufi poet, a humanist and philosopher, are ignored just because his poetry and philosophy questioned the religious orthodoxy. If history serves us right, he was even denied a funeral by the religious orthodoxy (clerics) of his time. His body was not even allowed to be buried in city’s main graveyard due to his sane voice against the clergy. Had we continued to carry forward his mission, the religious disharmony and the slaughter of humans we see today would not have eaten up our roots like plaque.

Bulleh Shah was born in 1680 in the small village of Uch, Punjab. He lived in the same period as the Sindhi Sufi poet Shah Abdul Latif Bhatai. His lifespan also overlapped with the Punjabi poet Waris Shah and the Sindhi Sufi poet Sachal Sarmast. Bulleh Shah practiced the Sufi tradition of Punjabi poetry. The quest of self-discovery was the essence of his teachings. While reciting Kafis, Bulleh Shah would go on dancing continuously, till he attained the stage of divine ecstasy. The poem by Bulleh Shah “Bulleya Ki jaana main Kaun” contains many lines acutely relevant to the present times. As he writes;

Bulleya to me, I am not known

Not a believer inside the mosque, am I

Nor a pagan disciple of false rites

Not the pure amongst the impure

Neither Moses, nor the Pharoh

And in the later verses he beautifully talks about his quest to understand the religion by not falsely disguising himself in the cosmetics of religious superiority.

Bulleya! to me, I am not known

Secrets of religion, I have not known

From Adam and Eve, I am not born

I am not the name I assume

Not in stillness, nor on the move

This is an excellent depiction of the relationship between Man and God. He has contemplated the origins of mankind using his own self as a metaphor. In his quest, he questions the emergence of humans on earth by concluding that one can never understand the laws of nature and one's place in this Universe.

But certainly there is hidden a bigger meaning for us to understand. Blindly following the religious doctrine without understanding the essence of our existence will lead us towards total anarchy; the picture of which is visible at every level of our society. What is needed above all is the drive and quest to unfold the meaning of our existence. Once we have achieved that level of understanding, the friction and the extremism in the society will vanish forever. If the west can learn from our spiritual reformers then why is it so difficult for our own people to dive into the sea of immense knowledge flowing just next to us.

 The writer is a PhD in Information Technology, alumni of King’s College London and a social activist. He has authored two books titled Understanding Telecommunications and Living in the Grave and several research papers.The writer prefers to avoid human interaction and finds peace & happiness being alone, in silence with his own self.