Bhagat Ravidas
(1378-1529 AD)

"When I am in my ego, then You are not with me. Now that You are with me, there is no egotism within me"


Let us now pay a visit to town with new discipline. On Aang345 of SGGS ji, this town called Begumpura, is described as being beautiful;

Begumpura, 'the city without sorrow', is the name of the town.
There is no suffering or anxiety there.
There are no troubles or taxes on commodities there.
There is no fear, blemish or downfall there. ||1||
Now, I have found this most excellent city.
There is lasting peace and safety there, O Siblings of Destiny. ||1||Pause||
God's Kingdom is steady, stable and eternal.
There is no second or third status; all are equal there.
That city is populous and eternally famous.
Those who live there are wealthy and contented. ||2||
They stroll about freely, just as they please.
They know the Mansion of the Lord's Presence, and no one blocks their way.
Says Ravi Das, the emancipated shoe-maker:
whoever is a citizen there, is a friend of mine. ||3||2||


This unique concept was the vision of Bhagat Ravidas, an important personality in the Bhagati movement in the 14th century. Behind the vision of the city, as described above by him, are reflected all those horrifying and hateful forces which he had to face all his life, because of his birth in a so-called low caste. Ravidas was born in 1378AD to a cobbler couple (father Ramu, also called by many: Mann Das and mother Dhurbinia, alias Karama Devi) of Kahi, an important religious centre of Hindusim. Because of his birth in this caste considered low in the Hindu caste hierarchy, even this loving devotee of God was looked down upon. It will not be an exaggeration to say that caste barriers do not limit persons with high spiritual status. The thoughts & deeds of such devotees of God are unique. Their birth into this world is always in keeping with some superior design of the Divine. Whatever such people do is never inspired by a selfish motive. Such seems to have been the object of Bhagat Ravidas' birth also. He came into this world with a message of love for mankind, and he remained ever active to create among humans the feelings of equality and equity. He travelled quite widely to propogate these ideals among the masses. Along with other metaphysical tenets preached by him, he also gave mankind the message that it should kindle the lamp of knowledge and then plunge deep into the Divine love.

Your Name is the light applied to this lamp, which enlightens and illuminates the entire world. ||2||
Says Ravi Das, Your Name is my Aartee, my lamp-lit worship-service. The True Name, Sat Naam, is the food which I offer to You. ||4||3||


Once, a Brahmin was about to set out for Haridwar to have a ritual purificatory bath there. Bhagat Ravidas approached him with a two-pese (small Indian coin) that he had saved from his righteous earnings and requested him that he may offer this coin to mother Ganges only when she stretches out her hands seeking the offer. The Brahmin took it as a joke, but still he accepted the coin and left for Haridwar. It is said that as the Brahmin was having his bath, mother Ganges stretched out her hands and sought the offering her devotee Ravidas had sent. The Brahmin was wonderstruck, but still he put the coin on her hands. Mother Ganges was immensely pleased on receiving an offering from her devotee, and in return she gave for Ravidas, a golden bangle to the Brahmin who was tempted by this beautiful and costly object. On his return he did not give the bangle to Ravidas, but instead gave it to a King and earned considerable wealth in lieu of it. The Kings' wife was pleased beyond words on receiving such a wonderous gift. Still she requested her husband that he should order the Brahmin to bring another similar bangle for her so that she has at least a pair of such bangles. The King ordered the Brahmin to bring one more bangle of the same quality and beauty.
The Brahmin now found himself in a tight corner. When he could not think of a way out, he at last went to Ravidas. He admitted his deceit and narrated the whole incident to him. He further told Ravidas ji that his life could only be spared if Ravidas helps him get another bangle for the queen. He fell prostrate before Ravidas and made a humble request with folded hands that he should be kind enough to help him out and thus ave his life. Ravidas asked him to have patience, and then asked him to look into the bowl which was full of water used to dip the leather in to make it soft, in the shoe-making process. The Brahmin looked intently into the bowl. He saw the Ganges flowing therein and many, many such bangles also lying on the bottom. The Brahmin was puzzled. Ravidas told him to put his hands into the bowl and take out a bangle to fulfil his need. Thus, he came to know the spiritual position of Ravidas. Those were the intellectually blind and ego-ridden who looked upon him as a low-caste man. Guru Ram Das has also said about the spiritual greatness of Ravidas ji that people from all four varnas (castes) fell on his feet because of his spiritual attainment. An extract from this hymn is given below:

Ravi Das, the leather-worker, praised the Lord, and sang the Kirtan of His Praises each and every instant.
Although he was of low social status, he was exalted and elevated, and people of all four castes came and bowed at his feet. ||2||


Writing about him, Kabir ji has also said that Ravidas was 'the most saintly among saints'
In so far as the humility of Bhagat Ravidas is concerned, everybody who came in contact with him was impressed by this virtue of his. He was so softhearted that he would change the whole environment with his polite and respectful words even for an opponent. Mira Bai, one of his disciples, says of him:
'He who is fortunate enough to meet the Guru like Ravidas will never distract his attention from Divine Name'. It was the result of his devotion and love that he left deep impression on everybody and came to be called a great personage.
There is another anecdote related about the detached nature, temperance and contentment of Ravidas, A brief account of the event is given here. Once a gentleman left Paras (invaluable touch stone) with Ravidas so that he could make use of it to get rid of his poverty. The gentleman, after sometime again called on his way back. He was surprised to find no material change in Ravidas' economic position. With the intention of reminding Ravidas that he had Paras with him, the gentleman asked him to return the invaluable Paras to him. Ravidas calmly replied hat he could pick it up where he had left it. He felt rather non-plussed that Ravidas didn't make Any endeavours to improve his economic position despite the fact that he was well aware of the value and characteristics of Paras.
Bhagat Ravidas knew what was going on in the visitor's mind and with a view to satisfy his curiosity he told him that it behoves man to engage himself in honest labour to make both ends meet. However, if he wants to gather wealth, he should gather the wealth of Divine Name instead of Gold and Silver. It is the wealth of Name, which would help a person in this world and the afterlife too. In his quest for material comforts, man goes astray from the true aim of life, i.e. devotion to the Lord. Ravidas advises him that without Hari's Name, all else is falsehood. Therefore, one should discard ego and devote themself to God whereby alone they can make their life beyond death secure and pleasant. All other deedsexcept remembrance of His Name are futile of course, it is therefore essential for a person to do some work to earn for their livelihood.
If we look at the life-pattern of animals, we shall find that the animals give us nectar-like-milk even if they are fed on very poor fodder. Thus, they are altruistic towards us and this service helps them in the future. On the other hand, God has blessed man with consciousness. He is conscious of everything, and has the resources to obtian and taste viands of 36 kinds. He eats and drinks so well, but if he still does not cultivate the Divine love in his heart, this implis that he is not the acme, but the lowest among lowly animals. The spirit of greatness within him seems to have vanished. Therefore, remembrance of the Lord along with daily routine, is a must for everyone. Bhagat Ravidas ji remembered Him in a variety of ways, thereby showing his deep devotion, immense love and complete satisfaction in Him.
A total of 40 hymns; set to 16 different musical measures, of Ravidas are included in SGGS ji. These hymns address themselves to the theme of love for the Divine, mankind's intimate and essential relationship with Him, and deep devotion to Him. According to Bhagat Ravidas, realistaion of the Divine is possible only through loving devotion and all else is mere pretension or futile exercise. A few excerpts, as given below, from Ravidas' hymns are an ample guide for man on his way to spitiual progression:

You are me, and I am You-what is the difference between us?
We are like gold and the bracelet, or water and the waves. ||1||
If I did not commit any sins, O Infinite Lord,
how would You have acquired the name, 'Redeemer of sinners'? ||1||Pause||

When I am in my ego, then You are not with me. Now that You are with me, there is no egotism within me.
I am joined in true love with You, Lord.
I am joined with You, and I have broken with all others. ||3||

Without the Name of the Lord, all ostentatious displays are useless. ||1||Pause||

O Love, who else but You could do such a thing?
O Patron of the poor, Lord of the World, You have put the canopy of Your Grace over my head. ||1||Pause||
Only You can grant Mercy to that person whose touch pollutes the world.
You exalt and elevate the lowly, O my Lord of the Universe; You are not afraid of anyone. ||1||

Bhagat Ravidas paid no concern to caste, hierarchy, untouchability, etc. and instead considered each being a particle of the Divine and the difference between the two is like between gold and ornaments made of gold or water and the wave. Thus he advised all mankind to seek union with the Creator-Lord.
He lived to a ripe old age of 151 years, and died in 1529 AD at Chittor, in Rajasthan. An umbrella-like tomb in his memory still stands there. It was Ravidas' firm faith in the Lord that he was able to ultimately achieve oneness with the Lord. His teachings, as a pious message, still enjoy a place of eminence since they are an excellent guide for human beings to move ahead on the way to God-realisation.

Such works by Bhagat Ravidas ji include:

The company I keep is wretched and low, and I am anxious day and night;
my actions are crooked, and I am of lowly birth. ||1||
O Lord, Master of the earth, Life of the soul,
please do not forget me! I am Your humble servant. ||1||Pause||
Take away my pains, and bless Your humble servant with Your Sublime Love.
I shall not leave Your Feet, even though my body may perish. ||2||
Says Ravi Daas, I seek the protection of Your Sanctuary;
please, meet Your humble servant - do not delay! ||3||1||
Baygumpura, 'the city without sorrow', is the name of the town.
There is no suffering or anxiety there.
There are no troubles or taxes on commodities there.
There is no fear, blemish or downfall there. ||1||
Now, I have found this most excellent city.
There is lasting peace and safety there, O Siblings of Destiny. ||1||Pause||
God's Kingdom is steady, stable and eternal.
There is no second or third status; all are equal there.
That city is populous and eternally famous.
Those who live there are wealthy and contented. ||2||
They stroll about freely, just as they please.
They know the Mansion of the Lord's Presence, and no one blocks their way.
Says Ravi Daas, the emancipated shoe-maker:
whoever is a citizen there, is a friend of mine. ||3||2||

One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru:
Gauree Bairaagan, Ravi Daas Jee:
The path to God is very treacherous and mountainous, and all I have is this worthless ox.
I offer this one prayer to the Lord, to preserve my capital. ||1||
Is there any merchant of the Lord to join me? My cargo is loaded, and now I am leaving. ||1||Pause||
I am the merchant of the Lord; I deal in spiritual wisdom.
I have loaded the Wealth of the Lord's Name; the world has loaded poison. ||2||
O you who know this world and the world beyond: write whatever nonsense you please about me.
The club of the Messenger of Death shall not strike me, since I have cast off all entanglements. ||3||
Love of this world is like the pale, temporary color of the safflower.
The color of my Lord's Love, however, is permanent, like the dye of the madder plant. So says Ravi Daas, the tanner. ||4||1||


Gauree Poorbee, Ravi Daas Jee:
One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru:
The frog in the deep well knows nothing of its own country or other lands;
just so, my mind, infatuated with corruption, understands nothing about this world or the next. ||1||
O Lord of all worlds: reveal to me, even for an instant, the Blessed Vision of Your Darshan. ||1||Pause||
My intellect is polluted; I cannot understand Your state, O Lord.
Take pity on me, dispel my doubts, and teach me true wisdom. ||2||
Even the great Yogis cannot describe Your Glorious Virtues; they are beyond words.
I am dedicated to Your loving devotional worship, says Ravi Daas the tanner. ||3||1||

Gauree Bairaagan:
One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru:
In the Golden Age of Sat Yuga, was Truth; in the Silver Age of Trayta Yuga, charitable feasts; in the Brass Age of Dwaapar Yuga, there was worship.
In those three ages, people held to these three ways. But in the Iron Age of Kali Yuga, the Name of the Lord is your only Support. ||1||
How can I swim across?
No one has explained to me,
so that I might understand how I can escape reincarnation. ||1||Pause||
So many forms of religion have been described; the whole world is practicing them.
What actions will bring emancipation, and total perfection? ||2||
One may distinguish between good and evil actions, and listen to the Vedas and the Puraanas,
but doubt still persists. Skepticism continually dwells in the heart, so who can eradicate egotistical pride? ||3||
Outwardly, he washes with water, but deep within, his heart is tarnished by all sorts of vices.
So how can he become pure? His method of purification is like that of an elephant, covering himself with dust right after his bath! ||4||
With the rising of the sun, the night is brought to its end; the whole world knows this.
It is believed that with the touch of the Philosopher's Stone, copper is immediately transformed into gold. ||5||
When one meets the Supreme Philosopher's Stone, the Guru, if such pre-ordained destiny is written on one's forehead,
then the soul blends with the Supreme Soul, and the stubborn doors are opened wide. ||6||
Through the way of devotion, the intellect is imbued with Truth; doubts, entanglements and vices are cut away.
The mind is restrained, and one attains joy, contemplating the One Lord, who is both with and without qualities. ||7||
I have tried many methods, but by turning it away, the noose of doubt is not turned away.
Love and devotion have not welled up within me, and so Ravi Daas is sad and depressed. ||8||1|


 

 

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