"I am a sacrifice to You, O my True Guru.
You have cut through all my confusion and doubt."
Bhagat Ramanand was the Guru, or spiritual teacher, of Bhagat Kabir and a disciple of Raghavanada, a known preacher of the Ramanuja tradition started by Ramanuja, a Tamilian by birth & the founder of the Rama bhagati or devotion to Lord Rama. Ramanand was born in AD1366 under a tree. The followers of Ramanand hold this tree in as much reverence as they do his real mother, Sushil by name. He spent all the 101 years of his life at his birth-place Kashi, (Allahbad-Prayag, a holy city of Hindus, according to researchers) devoting every moment to the remembrance of Divine Name. He provided a new tone & tenor to the Bhagati movement. He saw that the contemporary society was drifting towards a particular direction under the influence of Lord Krishna's life as it was enacted in every village and town. Therefore he made successful endeavours to divert this mass tendency of the people, towards Rama-worship. Ramanand was above caste consideration, and therefore he initiated to his idealogy, people even from the so-called low castes. He also started several new trends in Vaishnava bhagati, the most important of which is that everybody has the right to worship God. As a result of this altruistic gesture on his part, the stream of Rama-Name flowed even up to the cottages of the poorest of the poor and the lowliest of the low. Consequently, the spiritual life of those so-called low people got elevated. In the society, which was then bound in the shackles of the caste-system, such utterances had revolutionary effects. As it was, Brahmins were the only community which had the birth right to perform various rituals & observances connected with religion. But the liberal attitude adopted on the part of Ramanand led the Vairagi (a renouncer) tradition to accept him as their prominent Acharya (Hindu religious teacher). In this way, a new sect among the Vairagis under the name of Ramadatt came into being. This sect stressed celibacy, physical prowess & intense devotion to God. Gradually, Ramanand drifted from Vaishnavism to the worship of One Formless Lord.
Ramanand had several disciples who guided mankind on the way to bhagati (worshipping). Bhagat Pipa was one of his prominent disciples. Pipa was a king who gave up his ego & came under the patronage to seek spiritual guidance. As a king, he served his subject to their utmost welfare. Bhagat Ramanand also wandered about in Pipa's kingdom for some time. On the basis of his first-hand knowledge, he testified that was as a good a saint as he was a ruler. In his regime, all subjects enjoyed peace, justice and material comforts irrespective of caste or class.
Ramanand has only one hymn included in SGGS ji under Basant measure. Outside the Sikh Scripture, two more compositions of Ramanand are extant. These works are said to be of high literary value. These are: Sri Vaisnav Matanbuj Bhaskar & Sri Ramacharan Padhati. His hymn in the SGGS ji reads:
Where should I go? My home is filled with bliss.
My consciousness does not go out wandering. My mind has become crippled. ||1||Pause||
One day, a desire welled up in my mind.
I ground up sandalwood, along with several fragrant oils.
I went to God's place, and worshipped Him there.
That God showed me the Guru, within my own mind. ||1||
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. ||2||
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. ||3||1||
The general meanings of the above hymn could be summed up as under:
· There is no need to decorate & worship a deity in the temple
· Bathing at pilgrimage centres does not wash off the dirt of dubiety & superstitions from one's mind. Nor can it obliterate the effects of bad deeds
· It is only after seeking shelter with the Guru that one becomes aware of the fact of Divine presence in each human heart and at every place
· The True & perfect Guru is so powerful that he can destroy the effects of billions of bad deeds.
These views of Ramanand were revolutionary and created in the minds of people the image of a vast, limitless & infinite God. His views persuaded the people towards a householder's life. They realised the futility of wandering in forests in search of God.
Ramanand breathed his last in Kashi, his birthplace, in 1467AD. A memorial has been erected in his honour at the Panjag Ghat of the Ganges.
Bhagat Ramanand provided the right direction for forthcoming bhagats & devotees with his pure and pious life and thought. He also gave proper guidance to many saints in all the 4 directions in India, and was thus called the Bridge connecting the North & South Bhagati movements. After him, more than a dozen of his disciples made a very significant contribution in the spread of this movement, four of these, gained the honour of having their hymns included in SGGS ji, Bhagats; Kabir, Ravidas, Pipa & Sain.
This quote of Bhagat Sain beautifully describes Bhagat Ramanand:
Raamaanand knows the devotional worship of the Lord.
He says that the Lord is all pervading, the embodiment of supreme joy. ||3||