Contribution of Saintly Poets for Universal
Indiais a great land which has produced saints of true nature and philosophical poets. The universal message spread by them is of eternal importance and is for all time ,it tries to unite the humanity into one single family of God as ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ and teaches universal brotherhood irrespective of Nations, Caste Colour , Religion, Languages and Cultures etc.
The origin of Indian saintly poets could be traced back to two movements –Bhakti movement and Sufism. In medival India, the bhakti movement was started by enlightend saintly poets.They did not belong to any religious sect. They emphasized personal devotion and self surrender to God. They propagated the idea of brotherhood among people and upholded equality of all religions.The Bhakti poets aimed at propagating ‘Monotheism’. On the other hand, Sufism was a reformation movement started by muslim saints , who believed in social equality, preached universal brotherhood,propagated religious tolerance .The Humanitarian ideas of the Sufis had great impact on the masses. Their teachings led to the growth of unity and harmony between the Hindus and Muslims.
The Bhakti movement gathered force during eighth and ninth century A.D in South India. Though it began as a religious movement, it mostly sought social reformation and ultimately it was as much a social movement aiming at reforming the society by a broder outlook. Later, the movement rapidly spread in North India and thereby spread throughout the country, aided and augmented by a voluminous collection of songs and Literature. Some of the most prominent figures of the movement were the well known saintly poets Ramanand, Kabir dass,Tulsi dass, Rahim, Raskhan, MiraBai Surdass etc. Among the Saintly gurus we have Acharyas like Shankaracharya , Ramanujacharya , Basveshwaracharya, Vallabhacharya,Namdev Jnaneshwar, Nimbharkacharya, , Guru Nanak etc .All these saintly poets propagated the idea that true knowledge of the divine can be achieved only through selfless devotion. My paper will focus on the Bhakti Cult, Bhakti Saintly poets, who preached the masses in a simple language with the ideas of life, liberty and universal brotherhood.
The saintly poets and sufi saints taught devotion, and not rituals, is the path to salvation and god, and whatever they taught, they purely taught in the language of common people. This encouraged the growth of vernacular literature. Tulsi das, a saintly poet translated and simplified the Great epic Ramayana into Hindi as ‘Sree Ramcharitmanas’, which gave the message to the people of ideal living and Jnaneshwar wrote ‘Jnaneshwari’, a commentary in Marathi on the Bhagvad Gita and gave the universal message to the people.
These saintly poets highly influenced the lives of the people and brought a great change in their social, religious and cultural life. We can look at some of the basic tenets of this movement, which has universal significance and also contemporary relevance for universal brotherhood.
* Teaching the oneness of god , the bhaktas invariably emphasized the oneness and equality of all human beings regardless of caste, religion, and class. People thus began to question the caste system and the idea that some people were better than others.
* Simple living and high Thinking.
* The Bhakti cult discarded rituals and sacrifices as modes of worship and instead emphasized purity of heart and mind, humanism and devotion as the simple way to realize god.
* The Bhakti Movement was an egalitarian movement, which completely discarded the discriminations based on caste or creed. The saints of the Bhakti movement were staunch supporters of social unity and purity of Mind, Character and Soul.
* The Bhakti Movement also eliminated priestly domination as well as rituals.
* The Bhakti Saints preached in the simple language of the masses.
Notable Saintly Poets and their contribution
In the 9 cen AD, Shankaracharya was the pioneering soul, who blazed the path of devotion and spirituality. Who said that God and Individual Being are not two different entities but they are one. Thereby preached oneness of all human beings. Shankaracharya’s philosophy was not the same as that of the Bhakti saints, yet he paved the way for the Bhakti Movement because he rejected rituals in the quest for truth. He taught that God has no shape or form, no color, no attributes or qualities .God is in each one of us . Knowledge and Wisdom is the way to understand and know the Truth.
Ramanuja lived in south India in the 11 cen AD. He was a spiritual Guru and a great Philosopher. He travelled across India to preach the way to salvation is through Bhakti. Sri Ramanujacharya is regarded as the father of the ‘Sri Vaishnawa philosophy’. Ramanujacharya was instrumental in spreading the philosophy extensively throughout India. His philosophy is a refined Advaitham of Sri Adi Shankaracharya. His message to humanbeings was that all are equal in the eyes of God and that birth has nothing to do with spiritual attainment.
One of his greatest followers was Ramananda . Ramananda also preached the oneness of God and the equality of all human beings. He opposed the evils of the caste system and taught that Bhakti is the way to realize God.
One of the best known and greatest thinkers of the Bhakti Movement was Kabir. Kabir had no formal education. But this was made up by his contact with his Guru Ramananda and his own experiences. Due to this spiritual and holy encounter, we see high wisdom in the poems of kabir . Kabir’s poems express the most sophisticated ideas in a very simple language.
Kabir believed in one Supreme Being .He believed God was everywhere, in everything and people should show their love for God by loving all his creations. He never believed in the distinction between religions. Hindus and Muslims were equally entitled to love God. He attacked all orthodoxy –of both the Hindus and the Muslims and emphasized that love for God was basic to all religions. In saying so, Kabir struck at the root of the apparent differences between Hinduism and Islam and brought out the commonness among all religions.
Bhakti Movement in India could be rightly considered as the first wave of Renaissance. It was purely a Humanistic and Social Reform Movement, which aimed at uniting the society through wisdom brought out by the great sages, philosophers and saintly poets of India.
Buddhism is not an exception, which preceded the Bhakti Movement, Buddhist philosophy and teaching has always played a prominent role in maintaining universal Brotherhood. Indeed, Buddhist philosophy though a part and parcel of Hinduism, it had always been very vibrant in spreading the universal message across the world. A Buddhist principle knowingly or unknowingly has been practiced across the world.
"Regard the world as an empty trifle", says Buddha and his concept of ‘Nirvana’ has a special place in the history of mankind. Nirvana is a preparatory ‘Code of Virtue’ which shall spread peace and harmony in the world as much as peace and harmony are not possible in a world so impermanent and imperfect.
Buddha felt that what he was after was something the whole world was after in its heart of hearts. The concept of ‘Nirvana’ given by Buddha is a mystical and spiritual realization of the self.
Similarities between Bhakti and Sufi Teachings.
* The Bhakti and Sufi Movements commented on the negative attitudes present in Hinduism and Islam. At the same time they enriched their religions
* The pirs and santhas believed in the oneness of God .
* They believed in the equality of all people irrespective of caste ,class or creed.
* They both taught that the way to know God was by simple living and high Thinking, loving and serving one’s fellow being.
* They both believed in approaching God directly rather than through priests. Nor they believed in elaborate rituals.
To conclude, Peace is a gift of God beyond compare. Likewise it is the object of every person’s highest desire to attain. None of the lineaments which make up its unmistakable appearance can be ignored or excluded. We continue to live in a state of conflict, in a situation of great instability that has been many a times been threatened with complete rupture. Henceforth, it is this peace which originates from the heart of human person that transcends into universal Brotherhood and universal Peace.
This paper was presented in 9th Internatinal Writers Festival-India (An International Concference of Poets, Writers & Scholarsw) held at Nellore (Andhra Pradesh) on 9-10 November, 2013
(Published in Kafla Intercontinental - Jan-April 2014)