Contribution of Saintly Poets for Universal Brotherhood
Shreedevi Hiremath
Lecturer in English, Guru Nanak First Grade College, Bidar, Karnataka.
Ph. 8105778801, email:

Which is the land where the people of whole world and of different religion dwell with equal rights?
Which is the land where Mandir, Masjid, Church and other places of all the religions are given equal importance?
Which nation has been teaching whole world both tolerance and universal acceptance?
"That is incredible INDIA".

This itself proves India as an ideal nation in moving towards Universal Brotherhood. Indian history replete with blue blood. Her literature contains noble works embellished with great thoughts, spiritual philosophy and universalism by the great poets, authors and speakers. Now I would like to consider such noble men who advocated their philosophy of Universal brotherhood and were called 'Vishwa Manavas', Universal Men.

History of 12th c. reveals innumerable Sharanas who preached and followed the principle of universalism. The most eminent of them was Basaveshwara who had the power of binding the society into one harmonious unit without communal feelings. He rejected the elaborate ritualism and strict caste system of orthodox Hinduism who favored the wealthy and emphasized direct mystical experience available to all through deep devotion to God. He preached that there is only one God. Surrendering oneself completely to Him in devotion and compassion is the root of all religions. Basavanna treated all living beings with kindness and lived for the welfare of all. True devotion and virtuous conduct should be given greater importance than outward religious formalities. When Basaveshwara came to Kalyan the then ruling king Bijjala appointed him as the prime-minister of Bijjala Empire. Then basavanna chalked out in his mind a programme for spiritual awakening. He formed a new spiritual institution on a democratic foundation and that was called Anubhava Mantapa. All men and women of all caste could become members. Piety and good character alone were required of anyone who came to Anubhava Mantapa. Everybody was to take up some work or the other for livelihood. He preached the rights and duties of the people even in such times of ignorance and unawareness of 12th century. He tried to eradicate caste system by arranging a marriage between untouchable bride-groom and a Brahmin bride, in those dark days. Basavanna is the first man to form a parliament by forming Anubhava MantapaHe said that all people should have equal opportunities for religious life. Birth, profession, social status, position or sex should make no difference. One should not beg. Everyone should set right the crookedness of one's mind. His preaching and teaching are universal, go beyond all boundaries of belief system. He was a great humanitarian who believed in the doctrine 'Work is Worship'. The key aspect of his preaching is monotheistic concept of God. His teachings were not just words in speeches or books. They were practiced in daily life by all the members of the Anubhava Mantapa. He preached his principles through his vachanas as-
"Deva loka martya loka vembudu berilla kaniro,
Satya nudiyuvude deva loka,
Mitya nudiyuvude martya loka,
Acharave swarga anacharave naraka,
Kudala sangama deva."

Meaning; heaven and hell are not elsewhere, speaking truth is heaven uttering lies is man's world. Righteous conduct is heaven unrighteous conduct is hell. Say 'sir' sweet and soft, there you find heaven, say 'you feller' vulgar and rough, that leads you to hell.
"Ullavaru shivalayava maduvaru, na enu madali badavanayya…….."

Meaning; people who have money build temples
What can I, a poor man do?
My legs are pillars
My body is the temple
My head is the golden tower
Please listen O Kudala sangama deva
The static has an end but the dynamic has none.

Allama Prabhu
Allama Prabhu is another mystic-saint and a poet of Kannada language in the 12th C. He is the patron saint, the undisputed spiritual authority. He achieved Shunyapitha i.e. achievement of nothingness or the mystical zero. He too preached the unification of human soul with God through his vachanas, without any religious disparities. His poetic style has been described as mystic and cryptic, rich in paradoxes and inversions.

Kanaka Dasa
We even have many Dasas in 16th C. Kannada literature like KanakaDasa. Taking birth in low caste family Kanakadasa became Haridasa. His Harikeerthanas are of a superior class even from literary angle. They reflect his ripe experience in life, rich wisdom, equanimity and love for freedom. He is a prominent representative of the tradition of saint-singers of Karnataka. In one of his keertanas he describes caste very beautifully.
'Kula kula vendu hodedadadiri kulada nele yenadaru ballira? '
Thus he asks where your caste is and what is its base? And says when it is unanswerable then do not fight in the name of caste.

A popular poet called Sarvajnya or "the one who knows all" was a famous Kannada poet from 16th Century, a few years before the decline of the Vijaya Nagara Empire. He was born as the son of Basavarasa, a shaiva Brahmin in the district of Dharvar. His real name was Pushpadatta. He defied his parents during his childhood and led the life of a nomad, chanting his verses and preaching about the Supreme Being. As he gained abundant of knowledge he was called as sarvajnya. He was of the opinion that there is no difference between the light of the low caste people and the high caste people. He stated that, 'Deva nolidatane jata sarvajnya'; those whom God loved were the high caste people. He preached that caste and creed are mere words and that only a guru could provide solution to the problems in a man's life. He is known for his tripadis or three line poems. Sarvajnya is reputed for having written two thousand poems on the topic of religion, idolatory, sophistry, astrology and Kannada culture. His tripadis are relevant even in the contemporary world.

Sant Kabir
A well known mystic poet of Hindi literature Sant Kabir who did not know in which caste he was born and who were his parents but he preached the doctrine of universal brotherhood. As Das, he was referred to as the servant of humanity and thus a servant of God. He played the vital role of the teacher and a social reformer through the medium of his dohas. Having a strong faith in the concept of oneness of God, he advocated the concept of "koi bole Ram Ram, koi bole khudai". The basic idea was to spread the message that whether you chant the name of Hindu God or Muslim God, the fact is that there is only one God who is the creator of this beautiful world.
In his dohas he says:
"ek hi pawan ek hi paani, ek jaati sansara,
Ek hi khaak gharch sab bhaande,
ek hi sirjanhara"
(Meaning -there is same air and there is same water for all human beings, there is only one caste in this world. As all the pots are made of the same dirt of the same creater.) in another doha he says-
"Jaat na pucho saadh ki, pucho saadk ka gyaan,
Moal karo talwar ki pari rahane do myan."
(Kabir Das says not to ask the caste of a saint, instead ask about his knowledge,
And try to know the value of sword but don't value the sheath)
Thus with his two line poems he preached about universalism.
The first great poet of modern kannada literature Pampa stated that caste is not a community in which one is born, the zeal is a caste, virtue is a caste, virility is a caste. One more important poet, Raghavanka stated that truth is high caste and falsehood is low caste.

Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore, a saintly poet educationist and a noble laureate, was born in 1861 in Calcutta. He received his education mostly at home as he refused to follow the beaten track of learning. He developed a taste for literature and understanding of human nature. He had strong faith in humanity, brotherhood of man and fatherhood of God. He combined eastern ideals with western service. His philosophy is firmly based on naturalism, humanism, idealism and internationalism. His aim in education was to bring in the concept of joy, freedom, creative self-expression, integration and co-ordination of all knowledge and to develop a sense of unity in the world and promote a well balanced harmonious and integrated personality of child. He started the world famous institution Shantiniketan in order to bring universalism among the pupils which later came to be known as Vishwabharati. His interest in man is as man. Also we cannot associate any creed or denomination with Tagore because he believed in Vishwa Manava, Universal Man. His poem 'where the mind is without fear' is a good example for his noble thoughts.

Swamy Vivekananda
When we peep into the history of 19th Century India, a great reformer and speaker, Swamy Vivekananda's name glitters like the pole star. He was a practical saint of modern India and wanted to revise its wisdom. He preached and practiced the principle of truth, honesty, sacrifice, brotherhood of man and realization of God. He was a world teacher and a great educationist. According to him the ultimate goal of human is to attain unity with the creator. He described God as supreme power having infinite existence, infinite knowledge and bliss. He was not known as a poet but his words and speeches are no lesser than any poems of great poets mentioned above.
Thus innumerable poets and writers have tried to galvanize the people to live with unity, to feel the whole universe as one home and people of whole world as members of one family. Kabir, Tukaram and many other were not graduates of Cambridge or Oxford University, they were not even educated but wisdom was with them. All the above mentioned noble men have believed in one principle and same philosophy that one need not have animosity in the name of caste and creed, rich and poor, and high and low. Work is worship, one need not believe in rituals and offerings to please God. Performing God's duty with sincerity pleases God. Kabir and Tukaram were not graduates of Cambridge or Oxford University, they were not even educated but wisdom was with them. Tagore's poem "work is worship" says that God is not there in the four walls of temple or church or mosque and not with the one who chants mantra counting the beads but he is there with the path maker, and the one who tills the land with sweat of one's brow. A great Hindi poet, Harivanshray Bachhan says in his great work 'Madhushala' -
"Musalman aur hindu hain do, ek magar unka pyaala'
Ek magar unka madiralay,ek magar unki hala,
Dono rahate ek nahi jab tak masjid -mandir mein jate'
Vair badhate masjid - mandir, mel karta madiralay (gnyan ka bhandhar)".
Religion and holy places build enemity but the knowledge unites people.
Universal brotherhood as understood in esoteric philosophy does not signify merely sentimental unity, or a simple political or social co-operation. Its meaning is comparatively wider and profounder than this. The sense inherent in the words in their widest tenor or purport is the spiritual brotherhood of all beings, particularly; the doctrine implies that all human beings are inseparably linked together, not merely by the bonds of emotional thoughts or feelings, but by very fabric of universe itself.
Today all nations are interdependent economically, socially, and religiously. The days of nationalism and universalism are wrapped in the pages of history, today they mean next to nothing in reality. Many laws have been enacted in many countries against discrimination on the grounds of race, color, or sex, but why is that they are partially successful? People's minds, society, the country, the whole world are corrupted with prejudices. The feeling of brotherhood must emenate from the heart, it cannot be imposed from outside. All should try to share joys and sorrows equally. All nations must believe in universal unity and happiness. As one of the prayer says - 'Sarve bhavantu sukhi naha, sarve santu niramaya'.
In ancient times the Vedas were written, they were the productions of the seers. They have laid foundation for the Indian philosophy and also preached Universalism. One example is cited, 'Asatoma sadgamaya, tamasonma jyotirgamaya, mrutyonma amruthamgamaya.
Let us come together, let us talk together, and let us live with one mind.


(Published in Kafla Intercontinental - Jan-April 2013)