The Behavioural Aspect of Bhagat Ravidasbani
Dr Dharampal Singal
Bhagat Ravidas was a spiritual person, fully devoted to God, a harbinger of social and cultural progress and the one who lived a life of purity. Working hard to earn his living, performing all the chores of life, he was the foremost visitor of the spiritual realm. Beside this there was another field in which Bhagat Ravidas took great interest – the multi-faceted responsibilities of daily life which he discharged, regarding it as divinely designed for him, but remaining unaffected as a lotus in water, paying due heed even to small matters, and to care for the humble and those who groaned in pain. He lifted people above the considerations of high and low, big and small, of high lineage and low birth, poor and rich, Hindu and Muslim, Brahmin and Shudra, etc. and exhorted them to be conscious of their household responsibilities, the demand of their vocations, the performance of daily routine, and leading them to the path of righteousness, benevolence, and true karam-yoga, up to the end of their lives and then to be mingled with the ocean, that is Rama.
He believed in living as a successful householder, stressed the need of honest earning, truthfulness, humility, to keep away from the effect of five vices like kama, krodha, lobha, moha and ahankara, to work with one’s hands to earn a living, to do manual service, not to fall prey to anger and to inculcate the spirit of humility, compassion, kindness and benevolence and to bear in mind the wisdom –
Nama kahe Tilochana, much te Ram samhal;
hath pao kar kam sabh, cheet niranjan nal –
Bhagat Namdeo tells Bhagat Tirlochan to recite Namas’s Name;
Work with your hands and feet but keep your mind attuned to Him.
He was a saint imbued with a high intellect and discerning power. Guru Ravidas did not believe in renouncing the world and fleeing to jungles to meditate; he liked to serve not only God but His creation also, performing all cumbersome worldly duties. It is for this reason that he continued to do his ancestral work of making shoes and even after having been separated from the family by his parents, he built a thatched hut behind the large house and spent a life of full contentment, met saintly and righteous people, served them and meditated. Had anyone else been placed in these circumstances, he would have left home and gone to the jungles or taken refuge at some place of pilgrimage, or lived by begging alms. Of course, Bhagat Ravidas had taken birth only to exert for the welfare of the poor and needy and to show them a new path, to advise them even on small matters concerning daily life and to practice a life of austerity. This is the reason that he studied the unhappy life, especially those of the poor, exploited and depressed people, and being sensitive to their difficulties and suffering, he adopted a course of mitigating their hardship. In Anant Das’s words ‘Jati pati da nahi adhikaar, Ram bhajai so utreh paar’ (Caste has no meaning; it is the recitation of His Name that leads to salvation) and ‘Bhagat bina sabhi jag sooda’ (Without devotion, the entire world is Shudra’. He gave his sublime message to more than half the population of suffering people and he handed them the brahamstra (divine weapon) of ‘Kal kewal Naam adhaar’ (Only His Name can save one in this Dark Age). The depressed and humble ones felt a ray of hope and found the initiative to move ahead confidently and mould their lives in accordance with the noble teachings of becoming ‘Ram-mayee’ (godly). Pointing to this alone, Swami Dhruvadas in his Bhagatnamavli spells out these virtues recognizing Pipa, Dhanna, Ravidas and Kabir as saints who attained the highest spiritual level:
Rama Nand Angad sobhu Hari Vyas aru cheet.
Eik eik ke naam te sabh jag hoyea puneet.
Jin jin bhagtan preet ko, ta ke bas bhaye aan.
Jagat vidit Pipa, Dhanna ar Raidas Kabir.
Mahadhir, drirh eikras, bharey bhakat gambir.
Ramanand, Angad Sobhu, Hari Vyas and Cheet.
All the world got purified by their names.
God was won over by them with their love.
Well known Pipa, Dhanna, Raidas and Kabir
Devotees of great courage, full of devotion.
In order to make daily life livable, easy, comfortable and clean, we find some hints in Bhagat Ravidasbani which we would collect here and see in what way he favoured a life of purity. Because of these virtues, the Gurus praised Bhagat Ravidas highly. Guru Ram Das says –
Ravidas chamar ustati karai, Hari bhagat nimakh ik gaye.
Patit jat ootam bhaya chaar varn paye pag aiye.
Ravidas, the cobbler, praised God, ever sang His praises.
From low caste he rose so high that the people of
all the four castes bowed before him to touch his feet.
Great devotee Dhanna calls him a Bhagat who has renounced maya (worldly comfort), who worked with his hands to earn his living and serving others and perceiving God in the company of the righteous ones.
Ravidas dhuvanta dhor neet tin tyagi maya.
Pargat hoeya sadh sang Hari darsan paiya.
Ravi Das, who carried the carcasses of dead animals, had forsaken the love of maya (worldly comforts).
He was acclaimed, being in the company of the righteous, as having attained God.
So far we have appreciated his miraculous form only while his approach to real life has not been taken note of. His practical life is a very important part of his teachings imparted through his hymns. Sri Guru Granth Sahib says that the dust of such saintly persons’ feet should be kissed. All our doubts are dispelled by their grace:
Ooa ausar kai hau bal jayee.
Aath pehar apna Prabhu simran wadbhagi Hari payee. 1 rahau
Bhalo Kabir das dasan kau ootam sain jan nayee.
Ooch te ooch Namdeo samdarsi Ravidas Thakur ban aiyee.
Jio pind tan dhan sadhan ka ehu man sant renayee.
Sant pratap bharam sabh nasai Nanak milai Gusayee. 2.5.18 (SGGS, M.5, 1207-8)
I sacrifice myself unto that opportunity (of thinking of those)
Who recite His Name all twenty four hours;
They are fortunate ones, who have attained Him. Pause.
Kabir, the good one, servant of servants,
And Sain, the barber, of very high state
Namdeo, of highest attainment, who views everyone alike
And then Ravidas, who has become attuned to God.
My life, my body, my possessions all belong to His saints
With the grace of the saints, all our doubts are dispelled.
Life of a Householder:
Instead of renouncing the world, Ravidas lived the life of a householder. He was a good householder and believed in the importance of family life. It is generally believed by his followers that he was a successful householder. Even while leading a family life he had imbibed the spirit of detachment and discharging all the responsibilities of a householder he remained absorbed in His worship. We find many pointers in folk tales about his repairing shoes, offering benedictory water from the pan for soaking shoes and living a life of contentment in his thatched hut. No definite information about the date or year of his birth, or even his parentage, is available. Dr. Dharam Pal Maini has written that his wife’s name was Lona. This is confirmed by Raidas Ramayan. His wife was born in the family of Ravidasis called chamkatias. Even today Ravidasis regard her as a goddess. The womenfolk pray to her for the welfare of their children. It is also believed that with the grace of this goddess, the sick children are cured. Therefore at the time of sickness this goddess is propitiated. This goddess worship became so popular that it may be behind the devotion and love of the people for Ravidas. Ravidas is stated to have been blessed by a son also, Vijayadas.
In the same way Acharya Prithvi Singh Azad (1) and Shri K.N. Upadhyaya (2) have written this. It is not confirmed from any other source. There is no indication of this in Bhagat Mala also. There is no mention of this in ‘Granth Ravidas Parchayee’(3) written by Anant Das. Rather he has written that whenever some saint or devotee came to Ravidas, he cooked food for them, like ‘ghari eik Hari katha sunayee, ta pachhai jivnar banayee’ (He related Harikatha (godly discourse) to them for a while and then prepared food for them. The word used here is not banwayee (got cooked) but banayee (cooked). Anant Das makes no mention of anyone in his hut.
It can be said with certainty that Ravidas was engaged in his ancestral profession of shoe making with his own hands. Thus he earned his living, shared it with others and recited His Name in all earnest. Anant Das states this in his book, Parchi:
Sidho cham mole le avai, takio panhi adhip banavai.
Tootai phatai jarva jorey, masqat karai kahoo na nihorey. 22
Aisa labh sehaj mahi hoyee, karam akarm na janai koyee.
Niarai mandir bhog lagavai, tahan na kouoo madhim avai.
Pooja archa adhik acharoo, janai bhagat riti byharoo.23
He bought leather directly from the market and made shoes.
Besides, he repaired the old shoes. He toiled hard with his own hands.
He complained to none. He did all this by remaining in a state of equipoise, irrespective of any other action or inaction.
Then he made offering of food and none went without it.
He did his worship with full devotion and he knew how a Bhagat should conduct himself.
In another research paper (4) about the same topic, I wrote, “The greatest aspect of his teaching was his stress on a householder’s life and to work by own hands, to serve others and to lead a contended life.”
Chamrata gath na janyee, log gathavai panhi
The cobbler didn’t know how to make a stitch, people came for having their shoes repaired.
He talks of making shoes himself, though in the spiritual sense, it is part of his bhagti sadhana (devotional practice). Similarly, in another hymn he mentions remembering His Name in his mind, to perceive him with his eyes, and to listen to the divine words with his ears, and to make his mind a black bee over the flower of His Name, and bear Him always in his mind, and keeping the nectar of His Name on his tongue. This is divine love – main to mol mehangi layee (I have paid a high price for this). These views have also been expressed very clearly in the parables.
Jihwa son Onkar jap, hathan son kar kaar.
Ram milhi ghar aiye kar, kahi Ravidas chamaar.
Recite Onkar with your tongue, work with your hands
God would come to your house, thus says Ravidas.
Nek kamayee jau kareh, griha taj ban nahi jahe.
Ravidas hamarey Ram Rai, grih mahi milai aye.
One who lives by honest earning, doesn’t leave
His house to go to meditate in the woods.
Ravidas says, God Himself comes to his place.
Opposed to Rituals:
One of the salient features of his devotion is that Ravidas is totally opposed to rituals. He regards God’s name above all when he says:
Satjug sat, teta jagi duapar poojachar.
Tino jug tino dirhai kali kewal Naam adhar.
Truth prevails totally in the Satyuga, yagyas are performed in the Treta, and in the Duapayuga emphasis is more on worship and similar conduct, But in the Kaliyuga, one can get across only by reciting His Name.)
One who does not recite His Name is like an ass which fills its belly and rolls on the ground:
Jo jan Ram Naam na uchrai,
Udar bhariai join gardabh letai.
So tan kanchan janiai, jih tan naam pargas.
Of pure gold is the body wherein
Does shine the light of His Name.
Everything except His Name is like dust, base, ritual, illusion and the treading of the beaten track; wasting life. He says:
Ram Naam bin je kau kariai, so sabh bharam kahayee. (Explained above)
He makes it clear that to sit in meditation, to make a show of knowledge, to go to live in caves, controlling the senses (unnaturally), yogic postures, refraining from eating, keeping awake, renouncing the world, reading the Vedas, shaving the head, getting entangled in useless rituals, drinking the water sued for washing feet, etc. are all illusory deeds. God is attained by truly opening oneself and not by making a show of oneself.
Bhekh liyo pai bhed na janyo,
imrit lae bikhai so sanyo.
Kaam krodh mai janam ganwaiyo,
Saadh sangat mil Ram na gaiyo
Tilak dio pai tapan na jayee,
mala pehar khaneri layee
Kahai Ravidas maram na paiyo,
dev niranjan satkar dhiaiyo.
Though joined the order of monks,
couldn’t have the true import.
Mistook nectar for poison and
Wasted life in passion and anger
Didn’t attain Ram with the righteous ones.
Though put the saffron mark, the heat didn’t go
Put rosary round the neck and counted prayers.
Says Ravidas if one knows the truth,
He recites His True Name with love.
Elsewhere also, he says:
Santo Bhagat na hoe re (57)
Dear saints, devotion is not done
Bhaga na hoye re na hoyee (135)
Yes, I am not sitting in devotion at all
Pandey Hari vich antar dahdha,
moond mundavai seva pooja
Bhram ka bandhan gahdha (161)
O priest, attaining Hari is quite difficult
Shaving head, being served and adored
Can’t take one out of tight bondage.
He has very strongly opposed rituals by which he comes out clearly as a great social reformer. Some other lines:
Bara-dambar haun kabhoo na janyo,
tum charnan chit mora.
Agun sagun dwai sam kar janyo,
Chahu dis darsan tora.
Can’t know anything by doing rituals
My mind is just in Thy lotus feet.
With or without Attributes,
He is the same, seen everywhere.
Kanras batras aur sabai ras, jhoothai moond ho.
Jab lag tel diya mhai bati, dekhat hi bujh jeho
The taste of ears, words or others
Are all falsehood, you fool.
So long as there is wick with oil
There shall be light in the lamp.
He explains the different paths beautifully – path of action, path of knowledge and the path of devotion – and tries to bring in cohesion. No explanation can be as simple as given in the following lines:
Phal karan phooli banraye. Phal lagaa tab phool bilaye.
Ginai karan karam abhyas. Gyan bhaya tih karmeh naas.
Ghrit karan dadh matai sayan. Jiwan mukat sada nirban.
Keh Ravidas param bairag. Hirday Ram ki na japas abhag (1167)
The flower blooms for the sake of fruit, when fruit grows, the flower withers.
One does many things for knowledge, knowledge attained, doing is destroyed
For the sake of butter, milk is churned, one verily becomes liberated in life itself.
Sayeth Ravidas for highest state of bairag, you don’t keep Him in mind, unlucky one.
Devotion in Practice:
Ravidas’s devotion is not merely a negative approach to tradition as he seems to reject many things, it is quite positive as well. He poses very simple and well chosen questions to people, which indicate the depth of his concern for true devotion. He says:
Sadho, kya sastran sun keena (100)
What did you do, O saints, by listening to Shastras?
What has been the use of such discourses you listened to if you did not give food to the hungry, did not give up lust and hypocrisy, did not give up greed, did not restrain yourself from talking ill of others? All service rendered has gone waste. Indulging in highway robbery you have looted others and filled your belly and become guilty. Caught in the guilt, you failed to keep Him in mind. This is ignorance. What is the use of your meditation if you have not offered food before partaking of it? You paid no attention to sing His praises. Life is immortal but man feels proud. How can he attain liberation without reciting His Name? So long as he doesn’t attach himself to Lord’s feet with reverence, shows no compassion to the people, he derives no benefit from the company of the righteous and loves Him, his reading of the Shastras and performing other rituals leads him nowhere. He shows the right path when he says –
Chit simran karau nain avilokano
srawan bani sujasu poor rakhou.
Man su madhukar karau
charan hirday dharaou
rasan amrit ram naam bhakhou.
Meri prieet gobind sio jinni ghatai.
Main to mol mehgi layee jia sattai. 1 rahau.
Sadh sangat bina bhao nahi upjain
bhav bin bhagat nahi hoye teri.
Kahai Ravidas ik benati Hari sio
paij rakhahu raja Ram meri.2. (SGGS, 694)
Keep Him in mind, see Him through the eyes,
listen to his praise through the ears.
Make thy mind a black bee,
keep the lotus feet in your heart,
and utter sweet nectar like words of Ram Naam.
My love for the Sustainer should be total
as I have got it at a very heavy price,
in return for my life. You can’t develop
such love without the company
of the righteous ones and
without such love
you cannot have devotion to Him.
Ravidas says that he is praying to
The Lord to ‘save my honour’.
Even after doing everything stated above, and imbibing the spirit of sacrifice for the sake of devotion obtained in return for life, if one thinks that no one can stand in the way of his attainment of salvation, he is mistaken. The significance of taking shelter (in Him) is above all else.
Way of Life:
From such a life full of devotion is found his concern for many aspects of daily life, like not being angry, being kind to the creatures, not inflicting pain on others, not talking ill of others, keeping away from the society of other men’s women (adultery), not being harsh to others, serving saints and joining the congregation of the righteous ones, doing good to others, not get entangled in Hindu-Muslim conflict, without creating the problems of sarguna-nirguna, etc. Without going into the details of all these aspects of life, a few excerpts are being given under these heads:
Don’t Get Angry:
Kehai Ravidas udas das mati
Parhar kop karahu jia daya. (SGGS, 658)
Ravidas kahai ja ke ridai, rahai rain din Ram.
Soye bhagat bhagwant sam, krodh na vyapai kaam.
In whose heart dwells Ram day and night, Ravidas
Such a devotee is like God, free of anger and passion
The Pain of Others:
So kat janai pir parayee. Ja ke antar dard na payee. (SGGS, 793)
One who hasn’t experienced pain can have no idea of another’s pain.
Talking Ill of Others:
Je uh athsath tirath nhavai. Je uh duadas sila pujavai.
Je uh koop tat devavai. Karai nind sabh birtha jabai.1
Sadh ka nindak kaisae tareh. Sarpar janhu narak hi pareh. Rahau.
Je uh grehan karai kulkhet. Arpai naar singar samet.
Sagli simrat srawani sunai. Kareh nind kavnai nahi gunai.2
Je uh anik Prasad karaveh. Bhoomi dan sobha mandap pavai.
Apna bigar birana sandhai. Karai nind uh joni handeh.3
Ninda kaha karhu sansara. Nindak ka pargat pahara.
Nindak sodh sadh bicharya.
Kahu Ravidas paapi narak sidharya.4
Even if he bathes at sixty eight holy places.
If he worships all the twelve stone idols.
If he donates wells with platforms.
If he talks ill of others, everything goes in vain.
How can one who talks ill of a saint get across?
Certainly he goes to hell; it should be borne in mind.
He may go to Kurukshetra at the time of eclipse
Donate his wife, her ornaments, and beauty aids
May hear the reading of all the Simarties
If he talks ill, all these efforts go in vain.
He may make all sorts of offerings of food
May donate land and be honoured in the gathering
May do good to others at the cost of his own good
But if he talks ill of others, he takes birth again and again
How can talking ill of others be accepted by others
Such a slanderer is easily recognized, no doubt.
The saintly ones give up this habit outright
The vilifiers surely go to hell, sayeth Ravidas.
Jam hai digan dore ha kankan, par triya galo jaan rey.
Huvai ras lubudh ramai so moorakh, man pachhtavai
One who commits the sin of adultery, is a fool
Who has to repent ultimately.
….. Par triya sang bhalo jo hovai, so rano ravan dekh rey. (59)
One who covets another’s wife is verily like Ravana.
Who is Chaste?
Jo lau pyara man nahi aiyee,
ka sawreh, sayngar banayee.
Soyee sati Ravidas bakhani
tan man sion piya rang samani. (57)
If her spouse is not in her mind
What is the use of all the make up
The chaste one is the one, Ravidas,
Who gives her body and soul to Him.
Don’t Use Harsh Words:
Moorakh mukh kaman hai, katak bachan bhao tir.
Sanchri marai kan mahi, saley sagaal sarir.36
A fool’s mouth is like a bow and harsh words an arrow.
When they enter the ears, the whole body feels the burn.
Ravidas moorakh samjhaye nahin uchrai bina vichar.
Haney prayee atma, jibha liya tarvar.
Ravidas advises the fool, think before you speak.
Else the other one is hurt by the sword of tongue
Katuk bachan nhi boliai, sabh ghat Hari kau baas
Eha gyan kau dwar hai, kahai Ravidas vichaar.
Don’t utter harsh words, God dwells in all hearts.
The door to knowledge, so does opine Ravidas.
Company of the Righteous:
Madhou sat sangati saran trumari.
Ham augan tum upkari. Rahau
Tum makhtool supped spaiyal
ham bapura jais kira.
Satsangat mil rahiay madhou,
jais madhup makhira.2
I seek the company of the saintly ones, O my Master.
I have no virtue whatsoever, thou art the real benefactor.
Thou art colourful silk thread, and I, a mere worm
May join the righteous ones, like a bee in a honeycomb. 2.
Ram bhagat santan kari sanga,
Raidas tarai nirmal man ganga.
Ramaini Ved tai Puraan, Puraan tai Bhagvat,
Bhagvat tai bhagat pargat ki nahi.
Bhakat tai prem, prem tai lachhna,
bina satsang nahi jaiye chini.1.
Sadh sangat poonji bhayee,
ho vasat layee nirmol.
Sehaj bal diya lad kar,
chalyo lehan piv mol (Sakhi)
Ganga paap harai taap,
aru kalpatroo dina door khovai.
Paap aru tap sab tuchh mati door kari,
ami drisht jab sant jovai.
Vishnu bhata jitai chi par dharat,
te man bach karam kari biswasa.
Sant dharni dhari kirat jag bistri
pranat jan charan Ravidas dasa. (134)
Meditating on Ram Nam in the company of saints.
Ravidas gets across, of pure mind like the Ganges.
Priceless wealth came by in the company of saints
Who blessed me with the treasure of all virtues
Which I had set out to buy from them.
The Ganges removes the sins, and Kalpatru, penury.
Sin and ills are all removed from the humble mind
When saints look at you with the nectar of their eyes
The devotees of God who worship Him in their mind
Their word, deed, and intent is trusted by all
The saints sustain the earth, are praised all over
Slave Ravidas seeks to touch their holy feet.
No Faith in Caste-System:
Kahai Ravidas jo japai Naam
Tis jati na janam na jon kaam.
Sayeth Ravidas, one who recites His Name
Has nothing to do with caste, class or birth
Krishna Karim Ram Hari Raghava
Jab lag ekai eik nahi pekhya.
Beid kateib quraan puraanan,
Sehaj eik nahi dekhya. (5)
Have not taken as one –
Krishna, Karim, Ram, Hari, Raghava
Nor the Vedas, the Quran, the Puranas are
Taken to mean the same thing.
Pehlai gyan ki kiya chandnia,
pichhai dia bujhayee.
Soon sehaj main dou tyagi,
Ram kaho na khudayee.
Lit the lamp of knowledge first, then put it out.
I have given up both the states of mind
Gone is the difference between Ram and Khuda.
Ab na kahi kaun batayoon
Ab ka keh deval dev samayoon.
Ka sio Ram kaho sun bhayee,
Ka sio Krishn Karima.
Ka sio beid kateib kahon ab,
Ka sio kahon lio mana. (156)
What can I say at this juncture
About Gods and the abode of Gods.
Whom should I call Rama, brother
Who should be called Krishna, Karima?
What can I say to anyone about scriptures
The Vedas and the books of the Occident
Can’t say anything, absorbed as I am.
Brahman bais, sood aru khatri
dom chandaar malech man soye
Hoye puneet, Bhagwant bhajan te,
aap tari tarey kul doye.
Brahmins, Vaisha, Shudra, Khatris,
the lowest ones all become pure
Only with His Name; can they
swim across (the ocean of births) and
help their ancestors attain salvation.
Sympathy for Those in Pain and Misery:
Jat dekhou tat dukh ki raasi.
Ajai na patyai nigam bhaye saakhi.
I come across all around, my Lord.
Even the study of the Vedas is of no avail.
Ehu jag dukh ke khetri,
ehu janat sab koye.
Gyani kateh Hari Naam te,
moorakh kateh roye. (Saakhi)
This world is the arena of misery, everyone knows.
The enlightened ones live reciting His Name
The fools spend their lives crying bitterly.
Yah sansaar saghan ban bikh kau
Ta main bahu dukh dwand byalayee
Tribidh sansar kavan bidhi tirobo
Je dridh naam na gahey rey.
Naam chhadiyo daande baisey,
Ta doona dukh sahey rey.
This world is the jungle of poison(ous trees)
There is a lot of misery and duality.
How can one swim across the ocean
Full of three elements (rajo, tamo, sato)
Without taking recourse to His Name?
Giving up the nectar of Naam, one lazes
And verily suffers double misery.
No Need to Retire to Jungles:
Bhagat Ravidas does not at all support the view that one should renounce the world and go to meditate in the jungles. Rather he likes such a person as sits at home and recites His Name discharging all the responsibilities of the household and exhorts everyone to have Kamadhenu (the heavenly cow which grants all boons), Parasmani (A philosophers stone which turns iron into gold on touch) and Kalapa tree (A heavenly tree which fulfill all the desires) at his place only. For one who cannot sit in devotion, it is better to flee to the wilds as such a place is the real abode of ghosts who are without His devotion.
Bhagat Ravidas exhorts people to shun five evils (Passion, anger, greed, attachment and ego) control and make them the means of strength to rise above the evils and make life worthwhile. He terms these as incurable ailments and cites the examples of deer, fish, black bee, wasp and elephant, which are afflicted only by one of these ills, and are doomed but who can save human beings who suffer from all the five diseases?
Mrig, meen, bhring, patang, kunchar eik dokh binas.
Panch dokh asaadh jamehi taki ketak aas.
(SGGS, 486). (Explained above)
This world is such a big ocean (of births) which cannot be swum across and on top of this is the big question mark of birth and death. Then this gang of five causes pain to man, even one’s son or daughter, friend and other members of the family cannot save one from these monsters. A look at all the ten directions would show that, death cannot be defied. How beautifully has this been described here!
Atir sansar, apaar bhau sagar,
ta main jaman maran sandeh bhari
Kam-bhram, krodh-bhram, lobh-bram,
chhed mo karas paari.
Panch sangi mil pirio prania,
jai na sako bairag bhaga (pada101)…
This worldly ocean is uncrossable
Wherein the fear of birth and death
Prevails in one’s mind throughout.
The illusions of passion, anger, greed,
Attachment; all these illusions
have to be ‘pierced (removed)
To get across this ocean.
These five gang together to
Overcome one not to develop
A detached view of life.
Kam krodh hanker nivarau,
trishna tygahu sant jana…
Destroy passion, anger, ego,
all the cravings, O saints.
Kahe Ravidas bhayee sital kaya,
jyon hau lagaun Guru charna (172)
Sayeth Ravidas, my body feels comfort
When I take hold of my Gurus’ feet.
Kapat dayambh par ninda booro,
Sant janam ko kilbikh kari.
…. Give up all hypocrisy, vilification, all the
trash of sins is destroyed in a saint’s life.
Jyon barikha rut boond udadat mahi
aiyee mili soyee jal kharau.
Ta parsang seep swati nachhat,
moti nipjat nir te nyarau..
Kahi Ravidas moh mad tyagai,
Ram charan man sant vicharai. (175)
Raindrops falling in the saline sea water become saline
And if a swati (if a rain drop falls in an open shell, in the fifteenth of the twenty seven nakshtras) it becomes a pearl.
Give up attachment and arrogance, Ravidas
As saintly people only think of the lotus feet of Rama.
Koop bhayo jaise dadra,
kachhu desh vides na boojh
Aise mera man bikhya bimohya,
kachhu arapar na soojh. (124)
Just as a frog in the well knows nothing
about his own country and other countries
In the same manner my mind is so much
caught in evil as not to know nothing
of this world and the other.
Bhagat Ravidas is laying emphasis here for one treading the spiritual path to get rid of evils of passion and other four base instincts; to give up ego, greed, attachment and anger. The famous words of Gurbani – ‘Haumai diragh rog hai daroo bhi is mahi’ (ego is a very serious disease and its cure too lies in it) suggest that thieves like ego keep looting the fort of body and if they are kept under control and put to meaningful use they cease to be foes and become friends. The illusory attachment which takes one away from God helps to bridge the distance and to have a glimpse of the precious treasure. He says:
Panchoo meri sakhi saheli, tin nidhi dayee dikhayee.
Ah man phool bhayo jag mahia, ulat aap mah samayee. (3)
The five are now my dear friends who have shown me the treasure.
Now my mind is in bloom.
He makes it very clear through another example that the goal of the river is to flow into the sea and mingle with its water; become one with it. The river, before reaching the sea, makes a loud noise, breaks its banks and dissipates itself, but when it merges with the sea, all din and noise dies down and it becomes a part of the calm and deep sea. In the same way when our mind mingles with the sea of Rama, all noise and arrogance dies down.
Jab lag nadi na samund samavai, tab lag badhai hankara.
Jab man milyo Ram sagar soon, tab yahu miti pukara. (4)
Till the river merges with the sea, it remains noisy.
When the mind merges with the ocean of Rama, it ceases to make noise.
Ends and Means:
Another important aspect of Bhagat Ravidas’s teachings which comes to the fore is his belief that not only the ends but means also are very important. The company of the righteous ones has been referred to repeatedly in our literature. Rahim has even gone to the extent of saying that when the water flowing through the channels in the streets joins the Ganges, it leaves behind its dirt and become pure like the Ganges; it becomes the Ganges but Bhagat Ravidas says the same thing in another way that wine remains wine and the water of the Ganges remains holy. If wine is prepared with the water of the Ganges, the saints won’t drink it because the wine is basically impure and it remains impure, even after getting mixed with the water of the Ganges. The saints have laid great emphasis on means and ends.
Sursari salal krit baruni re san jan karat nahi panang.
Sura apvitra natavar jal re sursari milat nahi hoe aanag.1. (SGGS, 1293)
Therefore, even if indirectly, Ravidas has exhorted that wine and other intoxicants are evil and should be given up even though they may have been prepared by using holy water.
Heaven and Hell:
Bhagat Ravidas, according to the belief held by Indians, believes in the concept of heaven and hell. In his hymns he mentions the fear of hell, and the way to get rid of it by following the teachings of the Guru and seeking shelter under the umbrella of God. He advises doing good deeds towards that end-
Hari so heera chhad kai kareh aan ki aas.
Te nar dozakh jehege sat bhakai Ravidas.
Giving up the diamond like Name of God, one pins hope on others.
Such people verily go to hell, sayeth Ravidas.
Antargat rachai nahi, bahar kathe Ujas
Te nar narak hi jehenge, sat bhakai Ravidas. 3
Not getting attuned to Him but making a show of it.
That’s a sure way to hell, verily says Ravidas.
The way to escape the fires of hell has been suggested by Ravidas. He says –
Jan Ravidas Ram rang rata.
Iyon gur Prasad narak nahi jata.
The humble Ravidas, is absorbed in Him.
With the Guru’s grace, he has escaped hell.
Ravidas japai Ram Nama
Mohe jam sio nahi kama.
Ravidas recites His Name and
He has nothing to do with Hell.
Ja dekhyan ghin upjai, narak kund mah vaas.
Prem bhagat sou udhrai, pragat jan Ravidas.
Watching which is so hateful, the life in hell.
With devotional love one is saved, says Ravidas
Muwaan mukat baikunthai basa,
jivan ihan jas paya re
Salvation after death, abode in God’s place
During life one is honoured everywhere.
Belief in Transmigration:
Generally, Indians believe in heaven and hell, Lord Yama and passing through eighty-four lakh lives and the immortality of soul and its changing the body. Almost every saint, devotee and patriot expresses his desire that he should serve his spiritual guide in every birth and remain at his feet. He seeks salvation on one hand, and desires to serve his object of veneration in subsequent births. There is no contradiction in the two. The devotee seeks another birth only to attain God and when he attains salvation, another birth is not needed because he mingles with the Great Light; he and God become one. The meaning of salvation is precisely the same, that is, to mingle with the Lord after wandering through many lives. Bhagat Ravidas says in very clear terms:
Bahut janam bichhrai the madhou,
eh janam tumharai lekhai.
Kahi Ravidas aas nag jivaan
Chir bhyo darshan dekhai. (SGGS, 698)
Have been separated for many lives
Now this life is devoted to Thee, Lord.
Ravidas is now living in this hope
It is ages since a glimpse was had.
Anik bar jammai aru mariai phun ho bhmar n pari hai.
Patar navi khewatya Guru Rama, Naam let he tari hai.
Have already been born and died many a time, may not again be caught in swirling waters.
Now the Guru and Ram are the oarsmen of my boat and I will easily get across.
Karai nind bhau joni handhai.
A vilifier is born again and again
Kahai Ravidas sun keshwai, antahkaran vichar.
Tumhar bhagat ke karnai, phir hovai hau chamar.
Sayeth Ravidas, O Lord, listen to what is in my mind.
For the sake of your devotion, am I born as a chamar.
Fruit of Action:
We have discussed the theory of rebirth and transmigration as it exists in the Indian ethos according to which one is born again and again, reaps the fruit of one’s deeds of past births and tries to attain something worthwhile (through good deeds) for the future. According to the concept
Lekha mangai bania
(Guru Arjan, SGGS, p.1019)
The record keeper calls one to account.
We are engaged in rendering accounts and paying our dues and in the process we go on creating more assets and amassing wealth. This is called the theory of karma (deeds). Dr. Tilak Raj Shingari writes, ‘The saints have accepted the theory of fruit of the past deeds or transmigration of soul because, for the sake of attaining perfection, continuous efforts are needed and for reaping the fruit of countless deeds, one has to take births. It is not hard to understand that for committing a hundred murders one has to take birth again and again to suffer the punishment for it. In the same way a person treading the path of devotion takes it up again in the next life if he gives up devotion at some stage in one life. In Jain and Buddhist scriptures, three types of deeds are mentioned – kaik, vachik and mansik – and the effect of mansik deeds has been construed as very powerful. From the India point of view, deeds have been divided into three types – parabrahm karam, kriya karam and sanchit karam. 5
Though Bhagat Ravidas has not made any division of deeds, it is certain that he fully believed in the theory of karma according to which one has to be accountable for one’s deeds – the result of bad deeds is bad and that of god deeds is good. No one is given a relaxation in this behalf. He makes it clear:
Joyee joyee jorio soyee soyee phatyo.
Jhoothai banaj uth gayee hatyo. (SGGS, 1293)
Whatever is accumulated is all in vain.
False business results in closed shop.
Kahu Ravidas bhaiyo ja lekho.
Joyee joyee kino soyee soyee dekhyo
Sayeth Ravidas when one is made to render accounts
Whatever is entered there is required to be explained.
Nanv na liya augun keeya, is joban kai taaan bey.
Apni prayee gini na kayee, mandai karam Kaman bey.
Sahib lekha lesi, toon bhar desi, bhir parai tujh tanh bey.
Jan Ravidas kahai banjarya,
toon nirkhat chalya chhanh be.
Abki ber na sukrit kiyo,
bahjur na yahu gadh paye be. (31)
You have not recited His Name. You have done a bad thing because of your youthful neglect.
You failed to distinguish between your property and that of others, and indulged in evil ways.
But the Lord will call you to account, which you will have to render, and then you will surely be in trouble.
Humble Ravidas says, O trader, you have seen the money lender who will recover his dues.
You have not done a good deed this time; you will not get this human form. (31)
Here Bhagat Ravidas talks of the destruction of the consequences of past deeds with the grace of the Guru. Therefore this quote does not seem to be in accord with Ravidas’s belief that one has to be born again for reaping the fruit of past actions. With the grace of the saintly ones and by following the path shown by the Guru, certainly the bondage of karma is removed. Two examples are given here regarding this:
Putra kalatra ka karai ahankar. Thakur lekha maganhar. Pherai ka dukh sahai jio. Pachhai kisai pukarai jio. (SGGS, 1196)
You are proud of your son and wife. God will call you to account.
One has to suffer the result of one’s actions. Who can be called to help?
Loh ki naav pakhnan bojhi,
sukrit bhgat bihoona.
Lobh trang moh bhao galo,
man ceen bhao jal leena.
In the boat of steel have loaded stones; no good deed has been done, no devotion had.
In the waves of greed the fish of my mind is afloat unmindfully.
Tum deenanath dayal damodar,
konai hait bilambai.
Ravidas das sant charnanahi,
mohi alamban dijay.
Thou art the Master of the downtrodden, kind and compassionate,
Please don’t delay now to save me.
Ravidas prays at the feet of the saints
to seek their support.
He has explained this theory of karma in another way also. Stating the significance of His Name in this dark age, he says ‘Kal kewal Naam udhar’ (Only His Name is the support in this dark age, that is Kaliyuga). He poses a very good question that His Name is quite right but how can one attain it; not everyone can be blessed with it. The question is how to attain Naam so that the cycle of transmigration is broken and one attains salvation. Giving a reply to this, he says that the Divine is worshipped in many ways but the best form is which enables one to have a glimpse of the Creator pervading the world. He puts another question here as to what should one do which can enable one to attain everything. And in reply he says –
Karam akarm bichariai, sanka sun beid puran.
Talking of action or inaction, even a study of the Vedas and the Puranas does not dispel one’s doubts (which go on multiplying).
Again he raises a very important question that if doubts persist all the time in our mind who can remove our pride and lead us towards the path to attainment? We get entangled in outer rituals; we sprinkle the water of the Ganges but still vices continue to reside within us. The next question is that the world moves on just as the sun sheds its light to remove the darkness of the night, and when copper touches the philosopher’s stone it instantly turns into gold. In the same manner, in order to have light in the dark and blind night of rituals, one needs to seek the Guru’s shelter:
Param paras gur bhetiai poorab likhat lilat
Unman man man hi milai chhutkat bajar kapat.
When one meets the ‘param paras’ (Guru) as ordained before hand,
the mind is enlightened and the stone doors also are thrown open.
When the stone doors open, one hears the sound of Ram Naam and begins to advance ahead on the spiritual path. Then our mind, our devotion and our way of reciting His Name all become one, a truth and all doubts and bindings are snapped. And all the evils in our mind go away. At this stage one becomes unmindful of God’s nirguna or sarguna attributes. There is no other way than the one shown by Satguru. Ravidas says that he tried his best to get rid of doubts, I controlled my senses, but I couldn’t see the ‘light’ in any way nor was my doubt removed. This can be removed only by meeting the True Guide. Let’s have a full reading of this hymn:
Satyug sat, teta jagi, duapar poojachar.
Tino yug tino dirhai kali kewal Naam adhar.
Par kaise paibo re. Mo sau kou na kahai samjhai.
J ate awagavan bilai. Rahau.
Bahu bidi dharma nirupiai, karta disai sabh loye.
Kavan karam te chhootiai, jih sadhay sabh sidh hoye.2
Karam-akarm bichariai sanka sun beid puraan.
Sansa sad hirday basai kaun hirai abhimaan.3
Bahur udakpakhariai ght bhitar bibid bikar.
Sudh kavan par hoebo such kunchan bidhi biohar.
Ravi parkash rajni patha gati janat sabh sansar.
Paras mano tambo chhuai kanak hote nahi bar.5
Param paras gur bhetiai poorab likhat lilat.
Unman man hi milai chhutkat bajar kapat.6
Bhagat jugat mat sat kari, bhram bandhan katya bikar.
Soyee bas ras man milai, gun nirgun eik bichar.7
Anik jatan nigreh kiai tarn na tarai bhram phas.
Prem bhagat nahi upjain ta te Ravidas udas.
Satyuga was the time of practice of truth,
Treta was for yagya and Duapar for worship.
All the three yugas had their three ways
In this Kaliyuga, only His Name is of help.
How can I get across? No one comes to tell me
So that the cycle of births and deaths ends.
There are many ways, but He is seen everywhere.
What should one do to be liberated the sure way?
Action and inaction are deliberated and
One gets into doubts on listening to the Vedas and the Puranas.
Doubts dwell in the mind, none removes my ego.
One may cleanse the outer body; the inside is full of many evils
How can one be purified, though behave like an elephant
(An elephant after bathing, throw dust on its body with its trunk and thus the purpose of bathing is defeated. That is what we seem to be doing in our daily behaviour).
After night, the sun gives light to the world
And this is known to the entire world.
Copper turns into gold at once on touching ‘paras’ (the philosopher’s stone)
And if one meets the Guru, the great ‘paras’
As pre-ordained, and inscribed on the forehead.
The bliss so attained, fills the mind with ecstasy.
As the doors of hard stone get opened.
the truthful devotion dispels all the doubts
In equipoise, there is no formlessness or form.
Adopting countless means doesn’t dispel doubts
Without devotional love, Ravidas feels sad.
Thus we see that Ravidas addresses man and cautions man against evil deeds and the suffering on their account and taking birth again and again. Man thinks that he is befooling the world and under the garb of gentleness, he is indulging in evil, deceit, crookedness, fornication, hypocrisy, lust, passion and tries to put a cloak over the false values he has imbibed, but Guruji says that Dharamraj, who is appointed to judge his actions, is keeping notes of all his doings. Final judgment would be on the basis of good and bad deeds. Therefore he inspires us to lead a truthful, simple, calm, and honest life free of cunning and lust. One who imbibes these qualities in daily life, has all his actions drive him in the same direction of ideal life and our society can be an association of good and virtuous people. The question of the next birth and being born and dying again and again comes to an end.
Some Authentic Definitions:
Medieval society during Ravidas’s times is called the ‘Blind Age’ or the ‘Dark Age’ because there was political instability, discrimination, deception and loot; great injustice was being done even in the field of religion and culture. Even the saintly orders of the time had taken to rituals and hypocrisy, and pretense of spiritual powers, etc, and had become a tool in the hands of the exploitative ruling class. Jogis, sages, gurus, pirs, faqirs, sadhus and saints were greatly revered in our society but so many sects of fake holy men had also emerged who practiced caste distinction, made a show of their spirituality, and miracles. Keeping in mind these religious leaders, Bhagat Ravidas gave some definitions for the guidance of humanity:
Baran seht jo japai naam.
So jogi kewal nekam.
Parchai Ram ravai jau koyee.
Paras parsiai dubidha na hoyee (SGGS, 1167)
A true jogi recites His Name wholeheartedly, he is one whose devotion is without the desire of a reward, is unselfish, who stays absorbed in Him, always thinks of Him, as any metal touching ‘paras’ turns into gold, there is no doubt about this. In the same way, a jogi, well versed in singing His praises and inspiring others to do so, is a true jogi.
So muni man ki dubidha khaye.
Bin duarai trail ok samaye.
Man ka subhao sabh koyee karai.
Karta hoye so anbhai rahai. (SGGS, 1167)
A sage is one who destroys double-mindedness, and is free of all duality and without begging from any one, he departs to his heavenly abode, that is, he perceives Him only pervading the three worlds.
But the question arises that everyone does as is his wont. Would he be a sage in that case?
No, only that one is a sage who is fearless and remains unbent before any greed or desire and ever attuned to Him, is united with Him.
The greatness of a Guru is described everywhere in Bhagat Ravidasbani and a person without a Guru has been regarded as an evil one. But he talks of the Kaliyuga in two hymns. Like Tulsi Das describing the evils of Kaliyuga, he talks of the darkness prevailing all around. About the external show off he expresses his belief that only a perfect Guru can show the right way.
Santo kulpakhi bhagati hovaisi
kalijug main nipakh birla nibhaisi.
Jin pichhan harsi man hulsio,
bin pichhan milta murjhasi.1
Apswarath pramodi dadhyande,
parmarth na didhasi.
Bis biswas banjh sat jaisai,
Hari karan kyo rasi.2
Bhavbhaga hiradi nahi aasi,
vishya lagi sukh pasi.
Keh Ravidas poora Gur pavai,
svang ka svang dukhasi.2 (19)
Very rarely one finds a true saint in this dark age
All others are prejudiced ones, one way or other.
Meeting a true one, one experiences joy in mind
And meeting others, one experiences despair.
Very few are without selfishness; benevolent ones.
No faith and no truth, they make a show of devotion.
With sense of love and devotion, evil grips the mind.
If perfect Guru is found, says Ravidas, truth is found
And the pretenders deal with pretenders causing pain.
He believes that a person without the guidance of a Guru goes to hell.
Ravidasbani specifically mentions a sadhu:
Sadhu ki jao lehu ote, terai mitai pap sabh koti kote.
In the shelter of a sadhu, millions of sins are destroyed.
One who vilifies a sadhu is regarded as a great sinner who goes to veritable hell, he says. Of all his contemporaries, the Shaivs, Sakats and Vaishnavs saints, jogis, celibates and those who had renounced the world, he had come in contact with Guru Ramanand’s sect, Vaishnav. Therefore he has sung greatly in praise of the Vaishnav saints and he has regarded the Vaishnav cult as the ideal of Sant Samaj. Spotless character, compassion, a sense of equality and benevolence are the second name of Vaishnav. Taking these meanings in relation to a person, we perceive that he does not take meat or drink wine and imbibes all the above virtues and he is a true Vaishnav. It is a faith which instills all the virtues in a person to serve humanity, and we honour such a person greatly as he makes life on this earth full of warmth and generosity. Viewed in this way, we find that the Vaishnav faith, of all the other faiths not only of India but the entire world, seems to be more meaningful, significant and worthy of veneration without even a little doubt. (6) Sant Narsi, defining a saint, says:
Vaishnava janm te tainai kahiai jo pir prayee jainai rey.
A true Vaishnava is one who feels pain at the pain of others.
One who knows about the others’ pain, is a saint who is nonviolent, believes in equality and leads a high ideal life. If such a person is born in a family, his lineage becomes a blessed one, the village in which he is born is blessed, and no one can equal such a saint, not even a king or a warrior. Only such great personages become successful, as they are liberated themselves and liberate others also.
Jih kul sadhu baisno hoye.
Baran abaran rank nahi isar,
bimal bas jainiai jag soye.
Brahman bais, sood aru khatri,
dome chndar malechh man soye.
Hoye puneet Bhagwant bhajan te,
aap tarai tarei kul doye.
Dhann su gaon, dhann so thao,
dhann punit kutamb sabh loye.
Jin pya saar ras tajai aan ras hoye
ras magan darai bikh khoye.
Pandi soor chhatrapati raja
bhagat brabar aur na koye.
Jaise puran paat rahaijal sameep,
Bhani Ravidas janmai jag oye. (Explained earlier). (SGGS, 858)
Such Vaishnava saints are a trove of nectar. Just as the Ganges removes sins, the moon removes heat, Kalpatru throws away poverty, in the same way all sins and ills and lack of intellect are removed when such a holy soul looks at us kindly with his eyes full of nectar (of His Name). This ambrosial spirit is imbibed by the Vaishnav saints and therefore, repose full trust in them by word and by deed and by intent. This earth is sustained because of these Vaishnav Saints, their renown has spread all over, and the slave Ravidas bows before them humbly:
Ganga harai sasi taap,
aru kalptra dinta door khovai.
Paap aru taap sabh tucjhhj mati door kari,
ami dristh sabh saint jovai.
Vishan Bhagat jitai chit par dharat,
te man back karam kar biswasa.
Sant dharni dhari kirat jag bistari,
Prnat jan charan Ravidas Dasa.3. (134)
In this way we see that Bhagat Ravidas’s life is perfect in all respects, his experience is vast, his own belief and practice thereof have no gap and his message is for all, especially for the weak and down trodden. His teaching is unique from this point of view that he aims at liberating the have nots and raising them to spiritual heights.
Guru Ravidas, National Book Trust, New Delhi 1975, p.16
Guru Ravidas: Life and Teachings, Radha Swami Satisang, Beas, 1982, pp. 14-15)
The granth Bhagat Ratnavali was written in 1645, which provides authentic evidence. Refer to the editor, Dr. B.P. Sharma, Vishwa Bharati Prakashan, Chandigarh, 1982.
2-3 March 1985 – A paper read at Chandigarh on. (Vilakhan Pratibha de swami Bhagat Ravidas, p. 11)
Sant Mat vichar, p.151, the writers have written, as per usage, the words ‘prarabdh’ for ‘pralabadh’ and ‘kriyaman’ for ‘kiraiman’. Baldev Upadhyaya, Vaishnava Sampardye ka Sahitya aur Sidhant