Beach 5: DEVOTEES OF THE LORD

Wave 2: Ten Gems of Superlative Devotion

Namdev. Kabir. Chaitanya. Purandara. Eknath. Tulsi. Bhattadri. Bhaskararaya. Thiagaraja Swami. Srila Prabhupada.

In the 14th century there lived a great saint by name Swami Ramananda. Drawing inspiration from the message of universal love preached by Sri Ramanuja-AcArya three centuries earlier, he changed the face of spiritual India by turning it in the direction of simple bhakti, away from ritual and caste-ridden rigidity. His most outstanding disciple was Kabir (1398 – 1518), India's greatest symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity. Kabir accompanied Ramananda on pilgrimages throughout India and in the process imbibed the revolutionary spirit of the master. Kabir’s lucid lyrics of devotion, for the first time composed in the local language, Hindi, rather than in elitist Sanskrit, reached the remotest villages throughout the country. He was a rebel against everything unspiritual and against all ritualistic norms in both Hinduism and Islam. He strongly advocated respect for, and the oneness of, all religions. Nobody knew of his parentage because he was picked up as a baby by his foster parent, a weaver by profession and a Muslim by faith. He preached the greatness of the name Ram, still remaining a Muslim. He taught nirguNa bhakti, i.e., the devotion of the Transcendental Absolute, without form, without attributes. His knowledge was not the outcome of any study of the scriptures, unlettered as he was, but it all arose from his own personal experience. He preached against all exclusiveness, privileges and priestcraft. He strongly condemned caste, circumcision and idolatry but simultaneously believed in rebirth and release from samsAra. He emphasized on God’s Grace as most essential for Illumination. As an experimentor with truth, he spent much of his time in prayer and contemplation. And when he spoke he spoke out his mind fearlessly. His songs reverberate with his spiritual experiences and visions. Most of his sayings were expressed in brief form and have the appearance of proverbs or folk wisdom, rather than deliberate compositions. For instance, to make the point that God is all-pervading, he asks: Tell me my friend, ‘Is the heart in the beloved or the beloved in the heart?’.

Kabir’s teachings may be summarised, if at all they can be, by saying that apart from God there is nothing animate or inanimate with a seprate existence. Every insignificant creature has its share of the Existence of the Absolute in itself. Man does not realise this because of his elusive nature and the deception (mAyA) caused by appearances. Once he frees himself from this mAyA he realises that he is in all and all are in him and there is nothing else but he. But this identity cannot be established by reasoning. One has to take recourse to sahaj and transcend the coarse mental process. The word sahaj means the state of diverting the senses from its morbidities to God. In the lake of sahaj, there are only waves of love. The soul then sports with the Lord in that lake. ‘The lock of error shuts the gate, open it with the key of Love’ says Kabir. With his tremendous popularity he could have easily established a sect himself, but he did not, (though his followers did, after his death) nor did he accept any sectarian thinking.

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THUS SPAKE THE DIVINE INTEGRATORS OF BHAKTI

 

April 11, '99 Copyright Ó V. Krishnamurthy