Of the three living generations of my family, I can confidently say that not a single person has read the Holy Quran in its entirety. Leaving the family history aside, I attempted to read it a couple different times with no real progress. So when I lived on my own in Connecticut, my time was primarily spent at work and then at bookstores, seeking timeless wisdom.
I was convinced that there must be something that encompasses the eternal message that is timeless, time-tested and yet timely for today’s world. Most importantly, I was in search for something that my heart could innately acknowledge as truth. I believed that if each of us had a spark of Spirit within our being, then it should take no effort for truth to recognize Truth.
My heart’s first sighting of Truth was through the Bhagavad Gita. I carried it with me everywhere, much like a child carries his favorite teddy bear. When I was away from home, it served as my shield and armor, my source of strength, my book of instructions, my most reliable friend, and my trusted confidant.
In the face of adversity, I would reread the Gita, much like my mother who reread the Anant Akado when my father was recovering from a major heart attack and when my brother underwent spinal surgery. It wasn’t long before Shri Krishna’s words became the sole source of guaranteed comfort, love, and protection.
As work in the office intensified, I relied more and more on the practice of my faith and simultaneously my search for truth. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I attended Khane and prayed for strength, stability, and sanity. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, I read and reread the words of Shri Krishna…
“Know thou, O Prince of Pandu, that there was never a time when I, nor thou, nor any of these princes of earth was not, nor shall there ever come a time, hereafter when any of us shall cease to be.” – Part II The Inner Doctrine
“Therefore, O Prince of Pandu, arise and fight! being willing to take whatever bitideth thee – be it pain or pleasure; loss or gain; victory or defeat; thine only concern being whether thou has done thy best – prepare thou for the fray. That is your plain Duty!” – Part II The Inner Doctrine
“Knoweth thou this, O Prince, that whenever the world declineth in virtue and righteousness; and vice and injustice mount the throne – then cometh I, the Lord, and revisit my world in visible form, and mingleth as a man with men, and by my influence and teachings do I destroy the evil and injustice, and restablish virtue and righteousness. Many times have I thus appeared; many times hereafter I shall come again.” – Part IV Spiritual Knowledge
“He who is able to pierce my disguise and knoweth me in my Essence, when he quitteth his mortal frame, is released from rebirth in worlds, but is granted the joy of dwelling with Me.” – Part IV Spiritual Knowledge
“The unenlightened, seeing Me in human form, and being ignorant of My true nature as Supreme Lord of All, disregard me, and hold me in but small esteem.” – Part IX The Kingly Knowledge
After several readings of the Bhagavad Gita, I began to wonder where Shri Krishna is in today’s world and if I would recognize him. Faith was holding my hand and urging me forward while fear of deviating from my family’s heritage was holding me back. Quietly, but relentlessly, I continued on.
Just as I was given my Bhagavad Gita by a spiritual mentor, when I was ready for the next teaching, I had another spiritual mentor enter my life who urged me to read Pir-Pandiyat Jawanmardi (translated: Counsels of Chivalry) by Imam Mustansiribillah II, the 33rd Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. When this spiritual mentor asked me to explain who Shri Krishna was in an email, I replied:
“In his spiritual nature, Shri Krishna is the Almighty, the Supreme Spirit who comes to the aid of Arjuna on the battlefield in his human form as a charioteer. Through poetic means, Krishna guides Arjuna through the necessary lessons he must master. Now that I have read about 75% of the Pir-Pandiyat, I’m starting to see how one could see the two texts in the same light. So if we take the parallel examples to the next step, we discover that today’s Shri Krishna is Shah Karim…!”
In that moment, my inner self, or inner Yogi, expanded to join forces with my Khane-going outer Ismaili identity (see Four Quadrants map from Elijah Ignatieff below) and established flow to further my soul’s learning. Today, as my outer Ismaili-self reads the words “Consider not who said [it], rather, look at what he said,” from our Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, (Reza Shah-Kazemi, Justice and Remembrance, p. 4), my inner Yogi reads the words as if they were uttered by my beloved Shri Krishna.
My personal journey from Shri Krishna to Shah Karim created a place for my soul among the souls of my forefathers. I, too, have sighted what they had seen in their own time: The Present Living Imam’s ancestry traces back to not only Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib and Prophet Mohammad, but also Prophet Adam and my very own Shri Krishna, and thus, all of these names were recited in our previous Du’a during the time of our 48th Imam, Sultan Mohammad Shah.
The elder brother of Imam Sultan Mohammad Shah also reminded us of this forgotten truth:
“It suffices to know that in every epoch or a (millennial) period of time there is, and always was a manifestation of God, from the time of Adam, and even before Adam, and till the time of the Final Prophet. It is present even now in the world, as it was said to you.” – Pir Shihab al-Din Shah al-Husayni, The True Meaning of Religion, translated by W. Ivanow.
To my surprise, my search for a legacy of timeless truth had gracefully led me back home, to the Shia Ismaili Tariqah of Islam, through which I bow in reverence to the Absolute for His continued divine guidance in every age and time. Hai Zinda.