Development of the Bhagti Movement and Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
Dr. Kuldip Kaur
While going into the fundamental sources and causes for the rise of the Bhagti Movement, the scholars have come to different conclusions. Some have held it as a reaction to the foreign invasions (by Muslims) and their atrocious behaviour; some have ascribed it to Christians’ propagation of the faith, some think that it is the show of resentment by the depressed classes, their disappointment with the system and, and some others regard it as the social discontent and protest. It would, however, not be proper to accept any of these causes as the funadamental cause. It is a fact that every movement comes out of the circumstances prevailing at a particular time. It is the basic tenet of the Indian thought, formed as a result of thousand of years of spiritual quest. The spiritual trend among the Indian society owes its origin in the distant past, hidden under the mist of antiquity. This current has been flowing by itself throughout the ages. The flow has been in accordance with the surface of the land, and sometimes it appeared to be vanishing, but again expanding, or getting diffused but reappearing, assuming countless forms. It never ceased to flow. The word ‘Bhagati’ according to various dictionaries, means devotional love, worship, meditation, etc. According to Gita, it is the surrender of heart and mind. Prashar, Shandliya, Narad and Vallabhacharya have also defined it as devotional love along with worship and knowledge of the Supreme, in this order. It can be said in Acharya Ram Chandra Shukla’s words that combination of devotion and love is the real Bhagati. 2 From the psychological point of view, Bhagati should essentially combine both devotion and love. Those who did not keep this fact before them while considering the nature of Bhagati, have come to some conclusions which just remained a guessing game.
When was the concept of Bhagati born in the Indian religious thought and practice and why? For the proper explanation of this developmental series, we have to go into the entire religious literature, right from the Vedic age to the fifteenth-sixteenth centuries. The ancient form of Aryan worship is found in the Vedic literature. In the beginning of the Vedic faith, sacrificial fires and other intricate rituatls were in vogue which was called worship. Only actions were predominant in this, and no fine emotions and devotional aspect had yet developed. Next, in the Upanisads, the same type of worship begins to give place to knowledge, both at macro and micro levels. It left even lesser scope for devotional love. The sacrificial fires, and other rituals continued to enjoy prominence but in the advait-chintan of upanisds, even this vanished. In other words, right from the Rig Veda upto the upnisad age, in the religious literature of ancient times we find the development of ritualistic worship and gyan (knowledge), in that order. The devotional aspect has not yet entered the scene. According to Parshuram Chaturvedi, the Indian way of worship in the beginning of the Vedic age must have been ritual based.The devotees must be spending most of their time in deity-worship, ancestor-worship, and performance of sacrificial fires (yagya). 1
Reaching the Mahabharata age, their intellect had reached the peak. New ways and means were being devised. Selfishness, deceit and misconduct assuming the most dangerous form on the one hand, and on the other, Lord Krishna had incarnated and gave the exhortation of Gita. This ushered in an era of sublime thinking and devotion, combined in one. The development of the Bhagavat faith ows its origin to Gita. While in Mahabharata emphasis has been laid on pure worship, in Bhagavadgita self surrender is also stressed upon. Before six or seven centuries AD, voices had begun to be raised more vigorously against the traditional Vedic faith and rituals connected therewith and upanid philosophy. While there were only rituals in the Vedic faith, the Upanisads talked of Formless Brahm which could not fulfill the religious instincts of the people. New fatihs began to develop to meet the spiritual needs of the people. These can be divided into two parts: 1.
Parshu Ram Chaturvedi, Hindi Sahitya ka brihat itihas (Part IV),p.4 Nastic (Non believers) and astic (believers). Jainism and Budhism come under the ‘Nastic faiths’. The newly arisen puranic faith can be called ‘astik’. In Jainism and Budhism the wordly personalities, Mahavira and Budha were the leading lights.In the puranic dharma, Rama, Krishna, etc. were regarded as incarnations of Lord Vishnu. New religious texts and sutras were written, of which ‘Narad Bhagati Sutra’ and ‘Shandliya Bhagati Sutra’ were most important. They regarded devotional love as the only way of worship and gyan and karma were of little significance. To give the day to day worship a practical shape, the physical form of God was conceived and to depict the powers of the incarnations, Harivansh Puran, Vayu Puran and Vishnu Puran were written. In the fourth century AD, the Gupta emperors patronized this type of worship and gave a fillip to its propagation. In the sixth century AD, in North India, Sahaivs and the Budhists held the sway. Because of lack of government patronage to Bhagavat faith, it became almost lifeless but in the South it flourished and from the eigth to the fifteenth century, the south remained the centre of the religious learning and practices.
In the seventh century AD, Budhism developed and taransformed into Vajaryan or Sahejyan, in which Bhoga-sadhna (indulgence) held the sway. Gradually in Jiansim and Shaivism as also Bhagavad faith also some branches began to take form. By the eigth and nineth century, the Puranic faith had been propagated in the South and it was rapidly spreading throughout the country. But, oen by one, two obstacles came in its way. One was the ‘Pranai Pratishthan Andolan’ by Kumarul Bhatt about Vedic rituals and their revival and the second was the Advaitvad of Shankaraarcharya.In Advaitvad, postulating the one-ness of Brahma and Atma (Super soul and soul) Shankrachya questioned the basic tenet of Bhagati as it meant ignorance. At the same time Alavaras of the South did their best to propagate and develop the Bhagati movement and did not pay heed to the views held by Shankaracharya. Upto the tenth and eleventh century, Acharya Nathmuni organized the followers of Bhagati movement, compiled all their songs, arranged singing of devotional songs in the temples and discourses on the Vaishnav faith. This was a very important role that he played which infused a new life into the movement. Ramanuja was one of his succesors, who, rejecting the Advaitvad of Sankracharya, established the Vashisht Advaitvad, whereby accepting the Advait power of Brahma, he did not accept that the living being and Brahm were indistinct. He interpreted human being, Brahm, and salvation in his own original way, he threw light on new facets of Bhagati. Many other acharayas followed him who established many new philosophical schools and made the movement more broadbased. Shri Madhavacharya, the votary of Dvaitvad, rejected the Mayavad of Shankaracharya and preached the worship of Vishnu. The founder of Dvaitvad, Sri Nimbarkacharya, instead of worship of Lakshmi and Vishnu, propagated the worship of Radha and Krishna and the founder of Shudha Advaitvad Vallabhachyara supported the worship of child Krishna. On the other hand, in the tradition of Ramanujacharya, in the fourteenth century was born Ramananda. Under his leadership, in addition to the traditional preachers, caste-based feeling of low and high was given up, and a new force of the Saints emerged in India which laid emphasis on purity of mind, moral conduct and worship of the Omnipresent Ram. They broke the traditional bonds and began to preach in the local languages to inculcate yearning to worship Rama. 1
In the fifteenth-sixteenth century, the Bhagati movement began to spread throughout India enthusiastically. Acharya Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Chaitnya Samparda, Swami Hari Das’s ‘Sakhi Smprada, Shri Hit Harivansh’s Radha-Vallabh Samparda, etc. preached devotion to Lord Krishna, Dadu, Kabir and Guru Nanak developed a new form of Bhagati (devotional worship) in which the mixed form of God, Formless and Having form, was worshiped In the Indian Bhagati tradition, Kabir is considered to be votary of the Formless devotion and Tulsi Das is considered the devotee of Sarguna (Having form).
In the Punjab, the Sikh Gurus gave a great fillip to the Bhagati Movement; they not only initiated it but preached it vigorously. Their Bhagaati is not that of Ramanuj of ‘Lakshmi-Naryan’ type nor is it akin to Ramananda’s ‘Sita Ram’ type. It is also not like that of Valabhacharya’s ‘Bal Gopal’ nor Chaityna Maha Prabhu’s ‘Radha-Krishna’ devotion. This Bhagati is the worship of God, Formless and Sarguna (Having form). It is of the One who is all pervading. The True Supersoul is Supreme and Creator of the universe, He is fearless, He is not inimical to any one, He is free of the cycle of births and deaths, He is self-created and complete in Himself. He can be attained by the Grace of True Guide. In the Mool Mantra of Japuji, such a form of God has been described. (p.1) Regarding it as the base, the Gurmat Bhagati (devotion) begins. The Brahm of Gurmat is pervading everywhere, in both the Nirguna and Sarguna forms. He does not incarnate. That is why the Gurus, in their Bani, have rejected incarnation, worship of gods and goddesses and their images and have exhorted the Sikhs to get attuned to the True Name; when God is one, worship of any one else is just a hypocrisy. Guruji says – ‘Ekai kahiye Nanaka, dooja kahai koo” (P.1291). One who gropes in the dark because of confusion, his service or efforts, rituals, etc. all go in vain.
In order to attain salvation, if some people, ignoring the recitation of True Name, go to bathe at holy places, they all are groping in the dark; they have the dirt of ego on them. Guruji says–
Tirth nahaye na utras mael.
Karam Dharam sab haumai phail.
Lok pacharia gati nahin hoye
Naam bihoonai chalsi roye. (p.890-SGGS)
Real love is not experienced by outward activity and till the real love is born in mind, the ecstacy is not experienced. The emphasis has been laid on giving up the outward rituals –
‘Chhodi le pakhanda.
Naam laiye jahi taranda. (p.471)
The Gurmat devotion is not mere devotion, it is a noble combination of devotion and labour, there is no inactivity in it, rather it demands activity. One can attain God while doing one’s normal work. Therefore one is exhorted to do one’s work –
Uddam krediyan jio toon, khawandiyaan Sukh bhunch. Dhiyediayan toon Prabhu mil, Nanak utri chint. (P.22)
(You must work, earn and be happy. Remembering Him you meet Him. (This way) you will have no worry, says Nanak.)
Working to earn, reciting His Name and sharing one’s earnings (food, etc) with others are the basic principles. Compared to renunciation and detachment, earning one’s living as a householder has been stressed upon. Such a householder has been held to be a blessed one in relation to a Sanyasi or a Bairagi. One who has fixed one’s mind on Him, he, while doing the worldy jobs, attains salvation as a family man:
Nanak Satgur bhetiai poori hovai jugat.
Hasandyaan, khelandyaan, pehnandayan
Khavandyan, vichai hovai mukat. (p.522)
(Sayeth Nanak, when you meet the True Guide You attain
salvation even while laughing, playing, dressing and partaking food.)
The Gurus lifted up the devotional love (Bhagati way) from the narrow religious, communal, personal and spiritual concepts and accorded it the social and all-embracing form, transforming it completely. To afford real meaning to human equality, kirtan (devotional singing), sangat (congregation) and pangat (sitting together to partake food – community kitchen) were instituted. We see this movement at the peak during the time of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, when in the Punjab and the Punjabi literature, Bhagati assumed vibrant and struggleful form. The fire of independence had been killed in the minds of Indians, who were considered weak and helpless and in order to make them capable of defending themselves, the human family concept initiated by Guru Nanak and his succesors were given a more specific and lively form when at Anandpur Sahib, in 1699, the order of the Khalsa was founded by including in the order everyone irrespective of his caste, creed, region and faith. It was intended to do away with all such considerations. The Khalsa was organized to stand firm before the tyranny of the cruel rulers. Thus a society sans any sense of high and low was created.
Unlike the Yogic faith to leave the world, the Khalsa has to live as the lotus lives in muddy water (the dirt of the worldy affairs), aloof from all the surrounding filth. To form groups and go to the hills in quest of spirituality, to live in caves, do not help one attain Brahm Gyan but one has to seek Him within oneself. Guruji says-
Jog na bahir marhi masani jog na tadi layeeai.
Jog na des distantar bhavia, jog na tirath nhayeeai.
Anjan mahi niranjan rahiai, jog jugat iv payeeai.
(Explained above) p.730
The teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib show us the ‘way of life.’ It develops one’s personality internally and externally. It makes one aware of his duty to society and act accordingly. Earning one’s living, dwelling on His Nam, and sharing ones food with others are deeply engraved on the human mind by Gurbani in order to inculcate the spirit of human equality and universal fraternity by living in society. Keeping His Name is one’s inner or personal need but for repeating His Name and to attain HIM or his knowledge one need not leave the house and wander about in the forests. One should live in one’s own house and help others also to live like him, fully attuned to His Name, and to do good to others. A Brahm Gyanai (One who Knows HIM) should be large-hearted so as to rise above self without consideration of any caste, creed, or region, and serve the humanity. Guru Arjan Deve says –
Brahm gyani parupkar umaha (273)
(One Who Knows Him delights In doing good to others)
The Guru introduced the holding of congregation for the good of humanity. The people can sit together to listen to interpretation of Gurbani, discourses and devotional singing. In the congregation people from all over the country, nay world, come and sit together irrespective of any social status. They know about virtuous living and imbibe all that is best for humanity. Doing earnest labour for a living, sharing ones food with others are the best that one can show living in society, and practical shape seems to have been given to the noble thought expressed in Gurbani –
Ghal khaye kuchh hathon dei,
Nanak rah pachhanai sei. (p.1245)
(One should earn one’s living Share with others in need. This is the best way indeed.)
By leading one’s life in such a way, spirit of cooperation replaces selifishness and ego. The spirit of unity of mankind, equality, cooperation and fraternity is inculcated. Ultimately one sees for oneself what Guru ji says –
Sabhai sanjhiwal sadayan
Koi na dissai bahira jior.’
(All seem to be our own partners and none is an outsider in our eye)
‘Farida khaliq khalaq mahi khalaq wasai rab mahi
Manda kis noo akhiyai jaan tis bin koi nahi.
(Farid, the creator abides in the creation, And the creation abides in Him.)
Why should we call any one bad When none is without Him.
In this way, when one becomes fully aware, one can see the light of the Omnipresent God shining in every heart.