Bhagat Ramanand ji
Bani registered in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji : One shabad in Raag Basant Page 1195
His other pieces of poetry & prose : Sri Rama-Charan-Padhi
Main Contributions : The main advocate of Bhagti movement which spread around the country
Main teachings : God does not reside in a particular place. He is everywhere. With the grace of Guru, God can be found within human heart. Bhagat Ramanand ji was born in year 1366 at Kashi(Banaras), India. His parents were Sri Bhure Karma ji and Mrs. Sushil ji. His childhood name was Rama Dutt. Since childhood he was religiously inclined. His parents sent him to an educated saint for his higher education. Due to his extra ordinary intelligence, he completed studying grammar, Purans, Shastras and other religious scriptures at the early age of 14-15 years. One day he was strolling with his teacher in a garden. He saw Swami Raghva Nand ji camping in that garden with his disciples. Ramanand ji went to Raghva Nand ji and bowed to him respectfully. Raghavnand ji came to know about his predestined spiritual potential and paid special attention to him and discussed many things with him. The teacher of Ramanand ji was also impressed deeply by Swami Raghva Nand ji. Finally, Ramanand ji became a disciple of Swami Raghva Nand ji. After religious instructions, Swami Raghva Nand ji changed name of Rama Dutt to Ramanand ji. Ramanand ji now stayed at the place of Swami Raghva Nand ji and enjoyed his company for a long time. He also got expertise in Yoga. Ramanand ji started going to pilgrimages after receiving the permission of his Guru. First of all he went to Badrika Ashram(Badri-Nath) and stayed there for some time, then he visited other Holy places and finally came to Kashi. Islam(Muslim) religion was also spreading at the same time in India. Ramanand ji used to discuss good points of every religion with other saints of different religions. Ramanand ji had experienced a vast canvas of life. He was opposed to the so called idea of not associating with untouchables and fanaticism in religion. This is the reason why he gave religious education to so many saints of low caste. These saints were, Baba Kabeer ji, Baba Ravidas ji, Baba Dhanna ji, and Baba sain Ji. He inspired them to be true till the last drop of their blood and meditate on God. As a result, these great personalities first meditated themselves and then they became the advocates of the great Bhagti movement in India. Before Ramanand Ji there were three styles of meditation to get mental peace. These were Karm-Kaand, Gian Marg, and Yog Darshan. Let us discuss these one by one:-
1. Karm-Kaand (Ritualism) : Involved performing different varieties of Yagyas (offering a gift) to please Gods and Goddesses by giving sacrifices, chanting of mantras, burning lamps and candles, incense and prayers, Ashtang(eight organs), animal sacrifices, bowing to the deities, giving donations, performing sacred rites, going to sacred places(pilgrimages) and bathing in the rivers for purification of soul etc.
2. Gian-Marg : When Karm-Kaand couldn’t satisfy the inner urge of human nature for mental peace, then Gian(knowledge) came into existence. In Gian Marg, argument, rationality, logic, method, and discussions also came into play. It resulted in the production of Six Shastras(scriptures)and Upanishads. During this time period, seeking spiritual knowledge was considered the means of achieving salvation. But achieving pure knowledge also couldn’t pacify human thirst for liberation of the soul and console the wandering mind. Bhai Gurdas ji has stated in his vaar 1st pauri 11 as :
Churning of the Vedas could not obtain peace for him and he started scorching one and all in the heat of is ego.
3. Yog Darshan : Yog Darshan came into being when Karam Kaand and Gian Marg couldn’t satisfy the human mind. It rather increased lust for Maya(wealth) and material gains. Yog is based on the principle ”Yogus Chit Vidi Nirod(Go against the dreams of mind)”. If the mind demands food, then starve it. If it wants cold atmosphere, then put it into a warm environment. If it demands warmth, put it under a constant stream of cold water. Go against the wish of the mind and suppress it. If the mind does not want to leave the materialistic world then force it to leave the home, family and every attachment to children and relatives. It was dependant on trying to stabilize and pacify the mind through yoga. The chief advocate of this doctrine are yogi’s like Mashandar, Gorakh, Loharipa, Bharthari including 84 Sidhs. The fifth Nanak, Guru Arjun Dev ji has described in detail about the above mentioned Karam Kaand in Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji in Raag Sorath on page 641 in the form of an Ashtpadi. Guru ji has clearly showed us a way to liberate from the attachment of maya. On page 641 it states as :
They read scriptures, and contemplate the Vedas; they practice the inner cleansing techniques of Yoga, and control of the breath. But they cannot escape from the company of the five passions; they are increasingly bound to egotism. O Beloved, this is not the way to meet the Lord; I have performed these rituals so many times. I have collapsed, exhausted, at the Door of my Lord Master; I pray that He may grant me a discerning intellect. One may remain silent and use his hands as begging bowls, and wander naked in the forest. He may make pilgrimages to river banks and sacred shrines all over the world, but his sense of duality will not leave him. His mind's desires may lead him to go and dwell at sacred places of pilgrimage, and offer his head to be sawn off; but this will not cause the filth of his mind to depart, even though he may make thousands of efforts. He may give gifts of all sorts - gold, women, horses and elephants. He may make offerings of corn, clothes and land in abundance, but this will not lead him to the Lord's Door. He may remain devoted to worship and adoration, bowing his forehead to the floor, practicing the six religious rituals. He indulges in egotism and pride, and falls into entanglements, but he does not meet the Lord by these devices. He practices the eighty-four postures of Yoga, and acquires the supernatural powers of the Siddhas, but he gets tired of practicing these. He lives a long life, but is reincarnated again and again; he has not met with the Lord. He may enjoy princely pleasures, and regal pomp and ceremony, and issue unchallenged commands. He may lie on beautiful beds, perfumed with sandalwood oil, but this will led him only to the gates of the most horrible hell. Singing the Kirtan of the Lord's Praises in the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy, is the highest of all actions. Says Nanak, he alone obtains it, who is pre-destined to receive it. Your slave is intoxicated with this Love of Yours. The Destroyer of the pains of the poor has become merciful to me, and this mind is imbued with the Praises of the Lord, Har, Har. || 2nd Pause
How can the wandering mind be stopped ? Satguru ji has explained this in the last lines of the shabad. The real pleasure , eternal truth and bliss can be achieved only by singing the praise of the Lord in a congregation(Sangat). Only then can one get liberation from the constant deviation of mind. Swami Ramanand ji was a very thoughtful and broad minded personality. He considered the entire humanity as the offspring of one God and gave it freedom to meditate. The faithful followers of Vaishnavism opposed him alot but they couldn’t stand before him as his Guru Swami Raghavnand was very pleased with his pious actions and meditation. He even allowed him to start his own separate institution. So a separate institution headed by Swami Ramanand ji came into existence at Panch-Ganga(Kashi, Banaras). His students are known as Rama Nandi, Ramvat or Vairagi. His leading thought was that if a person is born in a low caste and he meditates on God’s name daily, he is much better than a Brahmin(high caste), who believes in Karam Kaand and does not meditate. Swami Ramanand ji brought name and fame not only to Bhagti movement but he also revealed the place of meditation of Kapil Muni ji who was the author of Shankh Shastra. The vast vision and broad concept of his ideology is clear from the shabad which is preserved by Great Guru Arjun Dev ji in Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji on page 1195. The summary of this shabad runs as follows : “O brother! Now where should I go, when Almighty God has gracefully adorned and dwelt in my heart. With his blessings, all of my scattered thoughts have come to an end. Now my mind does not wander around any more. It is disabled now. “Before this state of mind, the idea of going to Thakur Duara (Temple) and worshipping God there came to my mind. I collected all the necessary articles (Chandan, Atar) for the worship. After collecting all the items, a sudden and drastic change overwhelmed me with the grace of God. The voice of my conscience moved through my heart asking me,’ Does Almighty God live in a Thakur Dwarah. At the same time, my Guru showed me that God was residing in my heart. Now it doesn’t matter where I go, Thakur Dwarah or religious place; I see only stones or water in one form or the other. As God is everywhere, So there is no particular place or an idol where God can be worshipped. I have explored all the religions and books. I should go to the temples only if God in not present here where I am right now. God is omnipresent. O My great Guru! I can sacrifice my life for you. You have cleared all my doubts and illusions. I Ramanand meditate and recite the Naam of that God who destroys millions of sins and evils.” Such was the divine sight with which he was blessed with. His written shabad shows the spiritual status attained by him. As stated on page 1195 :
Where should I go ? My home is filled with bliss. My consciousness does not go out wandering. My mind has become crippled. One day, a desire welled up in my mind. I ground up sandalwood, along with several fragrant oil I went to God's place, and worshipped Him there. That God showed me the Guru, within my own mind. Wherever I go, I find water and stones. You are totally pervading and permeating in all. I have searched through all the Vedas and the Puraanas. I would go there, only if the Lord were not here. I am a sacrifice to You, O my True Guru. You have cut through all my confusion and doubt. Raamaanand's Lord and Master is the All-pervading Lord God. The Word of the Guru's Shabad eradicates the karma of millions of past actions.
After seeing the vision of omnipresent God, preaching the omnipotence of Almighty, inspiring others to worship the oneness of God, Swami Ramanand ji left for his heavenly abode in the year 1467 after reaching the age of 101 years at his birth place Kashi. His memorial is built on the bank of a river Gange at Panchghat. As stated on page 695 :
Raamaanand knows the devotional worship of the Lord. He says that the Lord is all-pervading, the embodiment of supreme joy.