Who Was Mansur Al-Hallaj?
Summary: Most spiritual paths across the world talk about devotion or bhakti as the quickest way to explore interiority. This is because for most people, the most intense experience within themselves is emotion. Many people from other cultures came to Indian subcontinent, drawn by what was happening here. Mansur Al Hallaj is one such example, who came from Persia and spent many years in India with a teacher. But why was he persecuted when he returned to Persia?
article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org
Sadhguru On Mansur Al-Hallaj, The Sufi Mystic
Sadhguru: When it comes to the science of approaching the interiority, for ages, most spiritual paths in the world have talked about devotion or bhakti. Bhakti is the quickest way because for most people, the most intense experience within themselves is emotion.
Even today, though people think they are intellectual, emotion is still the most intense aspect within them. Most people do not know a true sense of intensity in their physical body. Some people know intensity in their mind. Very few know intensity of their life energies. But everyone knows some intensity in emotion. Even if their love or compassion is not intense, at least when they get angry, it is intense. With some emotion, they are able to become intense. Because of this, there has been a lot of emphasis on bhakti.
Society has always persecuted people when they showed any kind of spiritual madness.
In India, the bhakti movement spread across the geography of the subcontinent. There are many beautiful examples, such as Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Akka Mahadevi and Mirabai, who were carried to great heights by generating a flood of emotion within themselves.
And many people from other cultures came to the subcontinent, drawn by what was happening here. One of the early Sufis, Mansur Al Hallaj is one such example. He lived in Persia around the tenth century AD. During his travels, he came to Gujarat in India and spent many years with a teacher there. He met some genuine, wild yogis from the bhakti movement who were in a completely different state of bliss. Then he travelled up into Punjab where he most likely encountered many more.
When Mansur returned to Persia, he wanted to share this experience. He went wearing only a loincloth – typical yogi stuff! And he said, “Ana ‘l-Ḥaqq”, which has the same meaning as the Sanskrit, “Aham Brahmasmi” – “I am God. I am the Ultimate Truth.”
People thought he was crazy – one thing was the loincloth, and another thing was claiming to be God. But he wouldn’t stop. He sang and danced madly on the street.
He went to Mecca and set up a small deity of his own – perhaps he consecrated it in some way. And many people started going there instead. That’s not something anyone would live through, and he was killed in a horrible way.
As part of the torture, they actually peeled off his skin, alive, and buried him up to his waist. An order was given that anyone who passes by that street must throw a stone at him. Mansur’s dear friend, Shebli, was going that way, and he had to throw something. But he did not have the heart to throw a stone, so he threw a flower at him.
When this happened, Mansur burst out into poetry: “Of all the things, those stones don’t hurt me because they are thrown by the ignorant. You threw this flower. This has hurt me so deeply because you know, and still you have thrown something at me.”
Society has always persecuted people when they showed any kind of spiritual madness. Societies have always been apprehensive of devotees because they do not go by any logic. Devotees by themselves are absolutely beautiful, but they will not fit into social situations because if you want to be a devotee, you have to have a certain level of madness in you. It is a very beautiful madness but it is still madness.
If you are out of your mind, you will be perfectly sane, you will become like a Mansur – something which is beyond most people’s understanding.
If some madness does not happen, then nothing new is happening. If something new has to happen, logical thinking has to go. Does that mean you will become insane? No! Normally, what we call as madness is insanity. Insanity happens not because logical thinking has gone. The logic is still there, but has become unreasonable. An insane person thinks his logic is perfect. As far as he is concerned, it is others who are not logical. He will not allow room for anyone else’s talk. When you start thinking, “Everyone is wrong, only I am right,” that’s the first sign of insanity.
Insanity is not beyond logic, it is just skewed logic. Enlightenment is beyond logic – there is no logic there. When there is nothing, then everything flows through you. Everything is within your grasp.
Generally, one expression in English to describe an insane person is, he is out of his mind. If you were out of your mind, how would you be insane? Insanity is always of the mind. You can be insane only if you are in the mind. If you are out of your mind, you will be perfectly sane, you will become like a Mansur – something which is beyond most people’s understanding.
When people around you don’t understand what you are doing, there will be persecution in society. If you keep your mind, emotion or body in some kind of madness, immediately you will become socially incompatible. This is why putting the energy as the leading edge is most important. When it comes to your energy, there is no social interaction. So whatever kind of madness your energy is in, still you can keep your mind, emotion and body socially compatible.
So if you have to go beyond the barriers of what is considered normal and still be socially compatible, it is very important that all four – the body, mind, emotion and energy are cultivated. Only then can people be utterly and madly blissful, and still be perfectly efficient and capable with everything they are doing – which is most needed in today’s world.
If your energy is going crazy but your mind is steady, you can be totally drunk and crazy within yourself, but outwardly very sane and good. This is the best way to conduct spiritual process in today’s world.