The Bauls/Fakirs are a syncretic mystic sect that have a long history and particular significance in rural Bengal. Due to their long history throughout Bengal, their music has in recent years become considered ‘National Heritage’ and ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ in both India and Bangladesh.
This project is called “Manush” which in Bengali means “human”.
The Problem/Why we are doing this project?
Whether it’s due to western influence or post-colonial issues, could be debated. But somehow in these recent decades written education (and certificates from urban universities) seem to be considered more ‘legitimate’ than an Oral tradition and body of teachings. The original pedagogy of the Bauls/Fakirs is that of an Oral tradition, knowledge transmitted from ‘Guru-Shiysha’ (teacher-student) through music, and practices that focus on praxis or ‘experiential learning’. The term ‘Baul’ or ‘Fakir’ is a stage in the ‘Shadona’ process of spiritual enlightenment. I’ve myself have undertaken fieldwork and have been researching them for 2 years and my research colleague Avishek Ghosh has been researching them for over 7 years. We have both seen how their knowledge is being put to the side and how their songs are being exploited for profit and the kind of oppression that their community faces. This is why we want to join hands with the remaining Gurus and Mystics to revive this beautiful, loving and humanitarian tradition.
To support and revive the original Baul Philisophical Praxis and esoteric tradition. To cultivate and develop the understanding of the Baul esoteric goals and their contribution to humanity and nature.
This is a long term educational and community lead project, which is beginning right now by us:
- Creating a space for the guru – shiysho (teacher-student) experiential practice. Cultivate the oral tradition and a value for the Ashramic context of learning, which is being ‘devalued’ by institutionalised Academics/Elites of India. This will likely emerge through the creation of a spiritual community – a sovereign space that can act as a centre for the revival of the Baul/Fakir esoteric tradition.
- Revive the value and understanding of Shadona and the Baul/Fakir philosophical practice and it’s esoteric goals. We have archived and documented over 950 songs so far…and have another couple thousand to go! Our research has revealed that the KEY to reviving their tradition lies with their music. Understanding their music is the path to understanding their tradition. To understand their music you have to understand the discursive (guru-shiysho) nature of their performance and it’s process of ‘experiential’ praxis based learning. To understand this ‘experiential learning’ you need to work with the Gurus and Saints/Mystics that are practitioners of these stages of Shadhona and have attained the spiritual accomplishment (and therefore understand the meaning and practice of the songs within the different stages).
- Tantra is a science. The Baul/Fakir tradition is a yogic-tantric tradition. In western thought, the most akin to ‘Rasiana’ (yogi school) could be said to be Quantam science. This is why we think it’s appropriate for the project to be done with New Earth, as you are an organization championing Quantam science. Tantric practice and healing is based on Quantam principles. Tantra is an incredibly ancient tradition which uses symbols and sounds more than language.
- As a mystic tradition it focuses on ‘direct experience’ or ‘bhotoman’ that is geared towards the ‘cultivation of virtue’. The aim of Shadhona is ‘Samadhi’ or “Soul Consciousness” which is then brought down to the heart chakra to express “sahaja” knowledge taught out of compassion for the benefit of humanity.
- The mother practices of all yogic practices were the Naad yogis. This is another reason why the Baul/Fakir music is key in reviving their esoteric tradition. Because the Baul/Fakir musical practice involves Naad practice. The notes (sa, re, ga, ma, pa, da, ni, sa) are 7 tones that are tuned to the 7 chakras to activate the chakras through sound. The Naad practices are done at the higher stages of the Shadhona
The Baul/Fakir esoteric tradition is about discovering “Manush” or ‘Human Truth’ and human purpose and above all achieving a “state of pure love”. Shadhona is an unfolding process of the cultivation of virtue and the conquering and releasing of vices. (This will be more evident when I upload more documents about them and there beliefs and practices).
The path to reviving their esoteric tradition is through their music and through collaborating with the remaining living Saints/Mystics/Gurus to create this educational program. Due to the dynamic nature of Shadhona as a transformational process and to the fact that we will use the ‘transformational educational paradigm’ (outlined below) the methods in the project will be constantly changing as we unravel the mysteries of their music. We hope you will join us on the journey!
Overall implications for New Earth Institute
- Cultivating a community of ‘seekers’ that research/seek knowledge in response to essential questions. Primarily “What does it mean to be human” and “Why are we here? What is the purpose of Humanity on Earth”. The cultivation of ‘knowledge of humanity’ creates a paradigm where all people (regardless of formal qualifications, race and socio-economic background) can contribute. In Ghandi’s words “Science without Humanity is one of the great dangers to human virtue”. All of the research and knowledge that we discover can be directed towards the cultivation of a “Common Human Purpose” of trying to understand the purpose of humanity on earth. Or what Friere calls “The Human-World paradigm”. How can all this knowledge help us understand why we are here and what our purpose is?
- “The Paradigm of Transformational Education”. Transformation occurs generally through structural change and is classified overall when one being or phenomenon takes on a form or characteristics significantly different than ones previously inhabited. The paradigm of ‘transformational education’ exists through the following:
- A deep understanding of the transformational nature of reality. (Recognizing that Life is in a constant state of motion)
- “Practicable Solutions” (Friere) or sometimes termed “The Actual” (Turino). This means the solutions that we currently see to our world’s problems. Or the set of tasks/actions we undertake to address our reality, make changes in our lives and in society.
- “Unperceived practicable solutions” (Friere) or sometimes termed “The Possible” (Turino). This means the solutions personal and societal problems and various phenomenon that EXIST that we have not gained the knowledge, tools or experience to conjure, create or yet comprehend.
- It is the combination of points 1,2 and 3 that create the paradigm of ‘Transformational Education’
- Human Potential– Our core research interest is in unlocking ‘Human Potential’ as part of unlocking ‘the purpose of humanity’. Alongside the unlocking of human potential and human purpose is the addressing of structures and processes which restrict that. For this we draw on the concept in Medical Anthropology called “Structural Violence”. As oppose to ‘behavioural violence, there is no one person that is ‘responsible’ for Structural Violence, instead ‘Structural Violence’ are processes, systems and structures that are embedded in our society that cause harm and suffering to people, disadvantage them and lock them in situations and constraints that restrict their ability to achieve their ‘personal goals’.
- “Evolving Development Goals” (EDG) – This is an ‘applied social science’ concept/paradigm that I created for ‘applied research’. It means it’s a goal that is collaboratively created and constantly changing. Meaning, as a result of asking the essential questions in point 1, and using the transformational paradigm of point 2, and addressing human potential in point 3 we can come up with a concept of what ‘Development’ and ‘the goal of development’ BUT as we are using the transformational paradigm, as our knowledge changes, we change and our goals change. So our ‘Concept of Development’ evolves as we evolve’. This facilitates cooperation and ‘teamwork’ within the ‘transformational education’ paradigm. An added feature, is that by using EDGs you create unity whilst maintaining a very dynamic learning environment… there is no fixed agenda, whilst there is constantly efforts towards the creating of a common agenda… that changes as we change. And it also facilitates the goal of praxis based learning which is “development is not something we obtain, it’s something we become’.
 Siddique, J. 2013. The Fakirs of Nadia, West Bengal. Their Musics, Cultures and Developments. SOAS Dissertation Archive for MA in Music and Development.
Originally posted @ New Earth Institute