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Bhagat Ramanand Ji

Bhagat Ramanand, was a Vaishnava Bhagat. Ramananda for the most part of his life lived in the holy city of Varanasi, and was a pioneer of the Bhakti movement, as well as a social reformer in Northern India. He was known for communicating in vernacular hindi, and accepting disciples of all castes.

Bhagat Ramanand is generally considered to have been born around AD 1400; some say that he was born in 1366 CE. Although there is disagreement on the exact date and place of birth, due to the few texts regarding his early life. The birthplace has been suggested to be Triveni Sangam Allahabad, Prayaga. He was born to an upper-caste Brahmin family, and his parents were probably named Sushila and Punyasadan Sharma. He was born to a Kanya Kubaj Brahmin family.

Renouncing and Spiritual Journey

Bhagat Ramanand is considered a pioneer of the Bhakti movement in the Indian subcontinent. He is also regarded as the bridge between the Bhakti movement of the South and North.

Bhagat Ramanand was spiritually inclined right from his childhood. Acharya Raghavanand who is also known as Dakshinayat Rishi (as he lived in Jagannath Puri which is always considered a southern city in hindu scriptures) included him in the Ramavat sect.

Raghavand was a great scholar of his time. He was follower of Vishishtadvaita Vedanata. Later on Acharya, whose background was Sadhu Varna Ashrama believed that not everyone was entitled to perform prayers. This viewpoint was not supported by Ramanand. There was a dispute between Ramananada and Ragvanand about this subject and Ramanand left Raghvanand.

Ramananda spent most of his life in Kashi (Banaras / Varanasi), where, as a mark of respect, people built a memorial that stands there to this day.

When Ramananda was a child, he studied the Hindu scriptures and showed great interest in spiritual thoughts. He received his early education in Kasi. A renowned philosopher and the prophet of the new Vaishnava religion, known for his downplaying the role of caste, Ramananda was particularly known for worshipping Lord Rama and his wife Goddess Sita. [1] Ramanuja and Ramananda both believed that the human soul is distinct from the Supreme Spirit and retains its identity and separate consciousness.

Bhagat Ramanand started preaching gosphel in Kashi and imbued many devotees with the spirit of Bhagati. Kabir is the most renowned amongst his disciples. Ravidas, Sain, Dhanna and Pipa are also believed to be his followers even though all of them were not his contemporaries.

Brahmins were the only community which had the birth right to perform various rituals and observances connected with religion due to the fast that they were the only ones who studied them. 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 and intense devotion to God.

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 and 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.

Contributions

Ramananda was an influential social reformer of Northern India. Ramananda played an important role in reviving a religious sect that provided a spiritual pathway to people of all castes.

Revolution Against Casteism

Ramananda realised that God can be worshiped by everyone because Lord Rama himself has never stopped the people of any caste from reaching Him. Instead, the Ramayan is full of stories about Shabri, Kevat, etc. who all were lower castes, but Rama gave them equal respect, the way he respected Brahmins. Ramananda believed that in spiritual pursuit, the caste system of India is redundant. He believed that to truly devote yourself to Lord Rama, one must forget one's caste identity and social status. Ramananda is quoted as saying, "Let no one ask a man's caste or with whom he eats. If a man is devoted to Hari, he becomes Hari's own." Ramananda had disciples of all castes.

He took a very radical approach to teaching and preaching through the inclusion of the poor and the people of low castes. After Ramananda's death, the members of the Ramanandi sect led a social revolution in the Ganges basin by recruiting women and members of low castes into their sect. In addition, Saint Ramananda was the driving force of the popularization of the devotion of Lord Rama.

Contribution towards hindi

Ramanandi sect also played a significant role in the development of Hindi literature, because Ramananda generally spoke and wrote in Hindi. The study of modern hindi literature as it is taught in the colleges of India today, generally starts with the telling of devotional stories and poems written by people whom the Vaisnavite bards claim were spiritual descendants of Ramananda. These men include the great saints Tulsi Das, Mira Bai, and Kabir.

Teachings

The institutional centrality of Ramananda has long been reflected in the 'guru parampara' that connects every Ramanandi through an unbroken succession of gurus with Ramanand himself and, eventually, Ramchandra.

Ramananda defined his own studies with his dedication and self-surrender to the Supreme Soul, 'Paramatma'. According to Saint Ramananda, Lord Rama was the Supreme Spirit and the human race was simply one large family, 'Vasudaiva Kutumbakam'. He was a skilled and impressive preacher, who drew large crowds wherever he traveled, yet most of Ramananda's poems and sayings were not preserved. The result is the lack of texts that modern scholars and historians can use to unearth the life of Ramananda.

Ramananda was a learned man. Many of the books which are supposed to have been written by him such as Sri Vaishnava, Matanbuj Bhaskar and Sri Ramarachan Padhti are still available. He is also said to have authored a commentary called AnandabhAShya. In Sri Vaishnava, Matanbuj Bhaskar, Vaishnav Ramananda gave his profound philosophy and declared everyone has right to take refuge of Rama, a person can take refuge of Shri Rama in any mood (either Shanta, or Dasya, or Sakhya, or Vatsalya or Kanta Bhava). He further writes relation between Param-Brahman Rama and individual soul (Jiva) is like that of two friends, or father (Ram) and son (Jiva), or Husband (Ram) and wife (Jiva), or master and servant, etc.

Vaishnavism and Ramanand Ji

After leaving Acharya, Ramanand Ji contributed tp Vaishvanism by reviving Bairagi Matt.

Brahmins were the only community which had the birth right to perform various rituals and 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 and intense devotion to God. Gradually, Ramanand drifted from Vaishnavism to the worship of One Formless Lord.

Ramanand was above caste consideration, and therefore he initiated to his idealogy people from the low castes; he believed everybody should worship God regardless of caste.

Disciples of Ramananda

Ramananda's disciples include:

Bhavananda
Dhanna Bhagat
Kabir
Nabha
Naraharyanda
Pipa Bairagi (Of Rajputana Clan)
Ravidas
Sain
Sukhanada
Ranka
Tulsidas (not the author of Ramcharitmanas)
Anantananda
Vitthal Kulkarni (Father of Dnyaneshwar, who is founder of the Varkari movement)(Sant Dnyaneshwar, son of Vitthal Kulkarni as per wikipedia lived in the 2nd half of 13th century whereas Ramanandji lived in the 14th century, so it is unlikely that Vitthal Kulkarni could have been his disciple.)

Kabirpanthi claims that In Real Kabirdas is Disciple of Ramanad ji, But the original Knowledge(About God) to ramanad is Given by Kabir.

By legend, Kabir originally hesitated to ask Ramanand to adopt him as his disciple due to the rigid caste system of the Hindus. Ramananda stayed in his cottage all day and only left it at about 3 o'clock in the morning to go down to the Ganges River to have a bath and perform his rites. Kabir had a knowledge of Ramananda's daily habits and so he waited one night for Ramananda by lying on the steps of Panchganga ghat. When Ramananda accidentally stepped on Kabir on his way to bathe, he uttered "Utho! Ram ko Ram bolo!" (Rise up! Say Ram to Ram!). This became, for Kabir, the sacred mantra. Ramananda later gave him formal Diksha. Kabir grew among the ranks of important religious reformers in India.

Bani of Bhagat Ramanand in Adi Granth Sahib

ਰਾਮਾਨੰਦ ਜੀ ਘਰੁ ੧
Raamaanand Jee, First House:

ੴ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥
One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru:

ਕਤ ਜਾਈਐ ਰੇ ਘਰ ਲਾਗੋ ਰੰਗੁ ॥
Where should I go? My home is filled with bliss.

ਮੇਰਾ ਚਿਤੁ ਨ ਚਲੈ ਮਨੁ ਭਇਓ ਪੰਗੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
My consciousness does not go out wandering. My mind has become crippled. ||1||Pause||

ਏਕ ਦਿਵਸ ਮਨ ਭਈ ਉਮੰਗ ॥
One day, a desire welled up in my mind.

ਘਸਿ ਚੰਦਨ ਚੋਆ ਬਹੁ ਸੁਗੰਧ ॥
I ground up sandalwood, along with several fragrant oils.

ਪੂਜਨ ਚਾਲੀ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਠਾਇ ॥
I went to Brahman's (God's) place (Temple), and worshipped Him there.

ਸੋ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਬਤਾਇਓ ਗੁਰ ਮਨ ਹੀ ਮਾਹਿ ॥੧॥
That God showed me the Guru, within my own mind. ||1||

ਜਹਾ ਜਾਈਐ ਤਹ ਜਲ ਪਖਾਨ ॥
Wherever I go, I find water and stones.

ਤੂ ਪੂਰਿ ਰਹਿਓ ਹੈ ਸਭ ਸਮਾਨ ॥
You are totally pervading and permeating in all.

ਬੇਦ ਪੁਰਾਨ ਸਭ ਦੇਖੇ ਜੋਇ ॥
I have searched through all the Vedas and the Puraanas.

ਊਹਾਂ ਤਉ ਜਾਈਐ ਜਉ ਈਹਾਂ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥੨॥
I would go there, only if the Lord were not here. ||2||

ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਮੈ ਬਲਿਹਾਰੀ ਤੋਰ ॥
I am a sacrifice to You, O my True Guru.

ਜਿਨਿ ਸਕਲ ਬਿਕਲ ਭ੍ਰਮ ਕਾਟੇ ਮੋਰ ॥
You have cut through all my confusion and doubt.

ਰਾਮਾਨੰਦ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਰਮਤ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ॥
Raamaanand's Lord and Master is the All-pervading Brahman (God).

ਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਕਾਟੈ ਕੋਟਿ ਕਰਮ ॥੩॥੧॥
The Word of the Guru's Shabad eradicates the karma of millions of past actions. ||3||1||

(SGGS, 1195)

Key Points in Shabad:

1. Complete wisdom of himself(Current state of soul) (ਮੇਰਾ ਚਿਤੁ ਨ ਚਲੈ ਮਨੁ ਭਇਓ ਪੰਗੁ)
2. Clear with concept of Brahman ( ਪੂਜਨ ਚਾਲੀ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਠਾਇ ॥ ਸੋ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਬਤਾਇਓ ਗੁਰ ਮਨ ਹੀ ਮਾਹਿ ॥੧॥ / ਰਾਮਾਨੰਦ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਰਮਤ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ॥ )
3. Unwilling to go to temples, complaining about waters and stones in temples (ਜਹਾ ਜਾਈਝ ਤਹ ਜਲ ਪਖਾਨ ॥)
4. Function of Gur Shabad(ਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਕਾਟੈ ਕੋਟਿ ਕਰਮ ॥੩॥੧॥) - It cuts whole actions (Past or present, Good or Bad), Gurmukhs have nothing to do with Karma (Once attained).

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