Tulsidas (16th century), the author of the retelling, in immortal Hindi poetry, of Valmiki's Ramayana under the title Ram-charita-maanas, which has, in effect, replaced the original in North India. His is a household name and millions have been inducted into bhakti by his masterpiece. Enlightenment and initiation into spirituality came to him in a unique manner, when he was taunted by his own wife for his excessive infatuation for her. From then on he became the apostle of bhakti towards his favourite deity, Ram, for whose darsan he meditated for years. In spite of his exclusive devotion to Ram, he is known to have adored all the gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon. But Ram as the supreme manifestation of the Absolute Brahman, and Tulsi as the humblest devotee of Ram, reverberate through all his writings. He ranks next only to Vyasa and Valmiki in terms of extent of influence and its persistence over centuries.
Appayya Dikshidar, the mighty intellectual scholar-devotee-teacher of Advaita Vedanta, whose works number about 100 and who became for posterity the role model of an integrated life of Works, Devotion and Enlightenment; Eknath, who brought out the first authentic edition of Jnanesvari, whose own commentary in 18000 verses on the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavatam is a scripture by itself and who, though a brahmin himself set an example by not observing caste distinctions against which he preached vehemently; Rupa-Goswami, who wrote the monumental work Bhakti-rasaamrita-sindhu (The ocean of the nectar of the essence of Devotion) where the poetic sentiment and maadhura-bhakti (devotion by Love) were beautifully blended to establish once for all the school of bhedaabheda-vaada (the theory of smooth co-existence of difference and non-difference); and Meerabai, the royal, mystic poet-sionger saint of Rajasthan, the sweet melody of whose devotional songs echoed her absolute surrender to Lord Krishna ; and Swami Haridas, the spiritual preceptor of the celebrated Tansen, himself famous for his melodious songs of the Divine-- all of the 16th century.
Narayana Bhattadri, (16th and 17th century) author of Naaraayaneeyam, the inimitably faithful epitome in 1036 Sanskrit verses of the 18000 slokas of Srimad Bhagavatam, in such a masterly fashion that the epitome itself is considered as sacred a scripture as the original.In 1587 A.D. Bhattadri took the paralysis of his guru on himself and to get rid of his illness, he composed the Naaraayaneeyam before the idol of Krishna at Guruvayoor temple, where, on the 100th day of the composition, he was blessed by the Lord with a darsan and also a complete cure of his illness.
Tukaram, the celebrated Marathi singer of 4500 Abhangs all of which display a high order of spirituality; Swami Bodendra Saraswathi, the 58th Pontiff of the Kamakoti Sankaracharya Mutt and the author of the authoritative work, Naamaamrita-rasaayanam, which is a treatise on the efficacy of reciting the names of God for attaining Salvation; Samarth Ramdas, who at the age of 24, after twelve years of severe penance had the vision of Lord Rama, who popularized the thirteen syllabled mantra SRI RAMA JAYARAMA JAYA JAYA RAMA , who founded a distinct school of thought with the philosophy of activism and spirituality and who was the most revered guru of Shivaji -- all of the 16th century.
Sri Raghavendra, (of the 17th century), considered as a manifestation of the mythological Prahlada, is so overflowing with spiritual merit that he still lives in his 'jeeva-samaaadhi' as a kalpa-vriksha (wish-fulfilling tree) and a kaama-dhenu (wish-fulfilling cow) that bestows anything that one wants right at the moment of the wish.
February 4, 1999
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