"The Lord to him manifested Himself. such was Dhanna's good fortune."
The Bhakti movement in India was at its peak in the 14th and 15th centuries. Several men of God who belonged by birth to poor families and the so-called low castes earned spiritual heights and thus gained fame far and wide. Many more from such lower state of society emulated them in pursuit of the divine ideal. Dhanna was also one such devotee of God. Guru Arjan Dev has said that Dhanna heard of the fame of Namdev, saw for himself the spiritual grandeur of Kabir, learnt of the uplifted spiritual and moral position of Ravidas and experienced Sain's mystical oneness with the Lord. All this inspired in Dhanna's heart a deep felt urge to realize God.
Bhagat Dhanna was born in a poor Jat (farmer) family in 1415 AD in the village of Dhuan in the Tonk region of Rajputana. He was one of such devotees as remain ever absorbed in God even when they are physically occupied in various jobs to earn their livelihood. It was this deep devotion of Dhanna that ultimately enabled him to have a glimpse of the Timeless Lord even in a stone. Dhanna was a simple-hearted ,and noble person, and he took seriously the advice of a Brahmin to consider the stone, Lord Himself. He was asked by the Brahmin to offer the stone (or the Lord in the stone) sacramental food. When Dhanna found that the Lord in the Act. stone was not accepting the food offered by him, he declared that he himself would not touch the food and remain on fast as long as the Lord did not accept his offer. Bhai Gurdas has narrated (Varan, X.1 3) the entire episode in a beautiful verse.
Brahmin used to worship idols
And Dhanna went out to graze cows;
When Dhanna saw this all
He put queries to Brahmin who said: '
We who serves the Lord Gets fulfilled all desires of his heart;
Dhanna made supplication to him:
'Give me one (Idol) if it pleases thee
Brahmin wrapped a stone in cloth
And gave it to Dhanna to get rid of him,
Dhanna first bathed the stone,
Then offered food and butter-milk;
He prayed with folded hands, and
Prostrated to persuade it accept the offer;
I will not eat a morsel-
Food I relish not if Thou art annoyed.'
God appeared before the Dhanna,
Accepted the offering he made;
Innocent love of Dhanna
Thus united him into the Lord.
A hymn by Guru Arjan Dev included in the Guru Granth Sahib on page 487 narrates the same incident. The concluding two verses of this hymn are as follows;
Listening to such happenings,
the poor Jat Dhanna too in devotion engaged.
The Lord to him manifested Himself--
Such was Dhanna's good fortune. SGGS-488
The determination and commitment of the innocent and pious Dhanna made even the Lord yield, and He had to take the form of Thakur, drink and eat what Dhanna had offered Him. Thus did Dhanna's unwavering determination win, and in consequence of this achievement he felt deeply committed to God. How easy it has been to win the pleasure of God with one's innocence and simple piety. The following verse from the Sikh Scripture aptly applies to Dhanna;
In innocent spontaneous devotion
comes meeting with the Lord. SGGS-324
There are three hymns of Dhanna in the Sikh Scripture under Asa and Dhanasari measures. In his hymns included at page 487, he says : "O man, you have wasted several lives in duality from God. Body, wealth and material gains are ephemeral. The poisonous effect of covetousness and indulgence in passions have separated man from the Creator-Lord. It is a matter of deep regret that human mind still feels attracted towards such sinful passions. He is so engrossed in realizing material comfort and gains that he fails to experience the importance of Naam-simran (Recitation of holy name). Thus, a man must endeavour to gather the wealth of Divine Name because only such a wealth can help in his spiritual amelioration." In the other hymn (page 488), he exhorts human beings to have unwavering faith in and devotion to God because only these feelings can become a medium for their union with God. Dhanna expresses his unbounded faith in God with the help of some examples. He tells us that God is omniscient. He brings up the smallest insects even inside the rocks. He provides nourishment to the embryo in the mother's womb. Whatsoever happens in this universe is in His will. Man should, therefore, have no fear. He must have love for and awe of God. He is our nourisher, our Patron Father. That is why Dhanna offers prayer (aarti) in eulogy of the Lord and at the same time requests Him that a householder has numerous needs to be fulfilled ; he prays to God for the fulfilment of these needs. He demands a house to live in, a wife to perpetuate the lineage, a mare of good breed to ride on, and pulses, ghee, flour, salt, pepper, etc. to fill one's belly. A hymn by Dhanna under Dhanasari measure on this subject reads as under:
Lord! Thy servant am I in affliction.
Those that to Thee are devoted,
Thou their objectives dost fulfil (Pause)
I beg for lentils, flour and some ghee,
Whereby may my heart be delighted.
Seek I also shoes and good clothing,
And grain grown over well-ploughed Land.
A cow and a buffalo in milk I seek,
As also a good Arab mare.
Thy Servant Dhanna then begs also for a wife,
a good house keeper. SGGS-695
No man of God other than Dhanna or Kabir has ever supplicated to God with such emphasis for the fulfilment of his material needs. They are fully justified in saying that one can't concentrate on God with empty stomach because the fire of hunger adversely affects both the body and soul. In case one feels unable to satiate one's hunger with food morning and evening even after a day of hard labour, Kabir in such a situation is prepared even to give back to God the rosary he uses for remembrance of His Name.
As we have already said, Dhanna had firm and unswerving faith in the omnipotence of God. Dhanna says that man must have full faith in Him. It will be of interest to relate here an incident to reiterate such a faith. It is said that Prophet Moses had deep love for God, and he used to climb up the Mount and converse with God. Once, two gentlemen met Moses. One of those gentlemen ever remained engaged in Divine remembrance and spent his life in righteous and honest manner. The other fellow was given to wine, women and such other vices of passion. Because of such habits he had either no time or inclination towards singing eulogies of God. Both of these said to Moses that he has been meeting and conversing with God quite often and that he has been deeply in love with Him. He should therefore enquire from God in their behalf, whether they would be able to swim across the world ocean. Moses acceded to their request and agreed to put this question to God and also to report back the answer that God gave to their question. However, in their heart of hearts both of them seemed to know the answer. The person given to devotion and righteous labour was fully satisfied that the answer would be in his favour. On the other hand he who was given to wine and women also knew the answer fully well himself. Still both of them waited for answer from Moses.
At last Moses met them after a few days and told them that he had put their question to God. Both expressed equal keenness to know the answer God gave him. Moses told that as he asked God if person with noble deeds would go to heaven, He made no reply. When Moses sought the same information about the other man, God told him that a few days ago a heavily loaded camel was going on its way, and it was in excitement. God further told that he saw its mischief (wickedness), got hold of a needle and made the camel pass through its eye. That made the camel quite calm. That is what God said in reply to that question and nothing more.
Moses told them that on hearing such a vague answer he began to reflect. He wondered how could such a huge beast pass through the eye of such a small needle. But God had told him only this much and spoke nothing beyond that. On hearing this, the devout person asked Moses that he was right when he wondered as to how can such a huge camel pass through the eye of a needle : it seems obviously impossible. Listening to this the other fellow made an instant reply saying that this can be. Nothing is impossible for God. He can do whatsoever He wishes none can stop Him. Camel is a small thing, and He can, if He so desires, pass a huge mountain through the eye of the needle. This is my firm faith. On hearing this, Moses and the other fellow came to their senses- if He is God, He is capable of doing anything He wishes. We know of the indescribable power of God but still seem to disbelieve it. And this man given to the vices of wine and women knows nothing about Him but still has such a firm faith in His omnipotence. He believes that God is capable of doing anything. This incident made them aware that each and everybody can win acceptance in the Divine court provided he or she has deep faith in Him. God will not be far away then.
From the information provided in the preceding pages about Dhanna, it becomes clear that Dhanna was a dear son of God who can ask his Father without any hesitation and with a sort of claim for the f ulfilment of his needs. In fact he knows how to get even the greatest of his needs fulfilled that is perhaps the reason which prompts Mira Bai to say that Dhanna can grow the corn without sowing the seed. We come across some very significant references at several places to the effect that the bhagats are the dearest sons of God. It is also perhaps because of the unique miracles and deep faith of such men of God that Guru Arjan says that such devotees (Bhagats) have made the Lord a family man because they are His loving children. Guru Arjan Dev's verse on this subject runs as follows:
Blessed is the birth of the servant of God,
Who the Lord, Rewarder of deeds,
With progeny has furnished.
Along with him all assembled groups attain liberation,
As saith Nanak: the Supreme Being,
Perfection incarnate, has he realized SGGS-532
The life of ignorant Jat Dhanna (as he him self describes himself as such) was decorated with the flowers of piety, discourses of love, nobility of truth, commitment of faith and the service of the Lord rendered with heart. He lived a life of 60 years and died in 1475 A.D. Some historians believe that Dhanna and Guru Nanak Dev met each other at Dhhan during the latter's first preaching odyssey, but the years do not seem to support this contention. It is now a historically accepted fact that Guru Nanak's first odyssey began in 1501 AD whereas Dhanna breathed his last in 1475.
Mankind can easily achieve the aim of God-realization provided it follows the footprints of Dhanna. The life of Dhanna is a clear example in this context, and it serves as a good and worthy guide. Dhanna has been the pride of India's religious history because of his unique spiritual merit.
Here are examples of his bani included in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji:
Aasaa, The Word Of Devotee Dhanna Jee:
One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru:
I wandered through countless incarnations, but mind, body and wealth never remain stable.
Attached to, and stained by the poisons of sexual desire and greed, the mind has forgotten the jewel of the Lord. ||1||Pause||
The poisonous fruit seems sweet to the demented mind, which does not know the difference between good and evil.
Turning away from virtue, his love for other things increases, and he weaves again the web of birth and death. ||1||
He does not know the way to the Lord, who dwells within his heart; burning in the trap, he is caught by the noose of death.
Gathering the poisonous fruits, he fills his mind with them, and he forgets God, the Supreme Being, from his mind. ||2||
The Guru has given the wealth of spiritual wisdom; practicing meditation, the mind becomes one with Him.
Embracing loving devotional worship for the Lord, I have come to know peace; satisfied and satiated, I have been liberated. ||3||
One who is filled with the Divine Light, recognizes the undeceivable Lord God.
Dhanna has obtained the Lord, the Sustainer of the World, as his wealth; meeting the humble Saints, he merges in the Lord. ||4||1||
O Lord of the world, this is Your lamp-lit worship service.
You are the Arranger of the affairs of those humble beings who perform Your devotional worship service. ||1||Pause||
Lentils, flour and ghee - these things, I beg of You.
My mind shall ever be pleased.
Shoes, fine clothes, and grain of seven kinds - I beg of You. ||1||
A milk cow, and a water buffalo, I beg of You,
and a fine Turkestani horse.
A good wife to care for my home
- Your humble servant Dhanna begs for these things, Lord. ||2||4||