I / (ii)

The rich Heritage

In the religious thought of modern India, the period from the middle of the fourteenth to the middle of the fifteenth century is one of outstanding importance. It is an era in which an attempt was made to reorient religion and to present it in its simplest form, the form of True Faith, Universal Love and Single-minded Devotion, as against the rigours of priestly ritualism and fanaticism leading to intolerance and bigotry.

Among the Great Teachers of the period, we have figures like Ramananda with His principal disciples drawn from various walks of life (Raja Pipa, Ravi Das the cobbler, Saina the barber, Kabir the weaver, Dhanna the jat, Narhari, Sukha Padmavati, Sursura and his wife, etc.); Vallabhacharya, the famous exponent of the Krishna cult; Chaitanya Mahaprabhu of Nadia in Bengal with His characteristic stress on Hari Bol or chanting of the Lord’s name; Namdev, the calico printer in Maharashtra; and the Great Kabir and Nanak in the North.

None of Them laid much stress on idol worship and observance of outer religious forms and symbols. Self-purity, Love and Inner Yearning were Their constant themes. 

Namdev said:

Love for Him Who filleth my heart shall never be sundered; Nama applied his heart to the True Name. As the Love between a child and his mother, so is my soul imbued in God.

Kabir likewise said:

It is needless to ask of a Saint the caste to which He belongs; the barber has sought God, the washerman and the carpenter; even Ravi Das was a seeker after God. The Rishi Swapacha was a tanner by caste. Hindus and Muslims alike have achieved that End, where remains no mark of distinction.

Again He proclaimed:

It is not by fasting and repeating the prayers and the creed, that one goeth to heaven; the Inner Veil of the temple of Mecca is in man’s heart, if the Truth be known.

So spoke Guru Nanak:

Abide in the pure amidst the impurity of the world; thus shalt thou find the way to religion.

This movement, however, attained its highest heights in the hands of Kabir (1398–1518) and Nanak (1469–1539). Both of Whom lived almost at the same time, for the two were contemporaries for a pretty long time. Both of Them rose above the fetters of the world and transcended religious barriers and so were acclaimed alike both by Hindus and Muslims. Their teachings mainly centred around God and man and the relationship between the two. Both of Them were exponents of the Surat Shabd Yoga, Yoga of the Sound Current or communion with the Holy Word, and Their writings extol this as the crown of life. If we were to study the essential core of any of the religious teachings in its pristine purity and truth, as it appeared in the original sayings of the Masters, in what They Themselves actually practised and in what They gave to Their chosen disciples – the Gurumukhs or the apostles – we cannot fail to get an insight into the reality that They were, one and all, in one form or another, votaries of the transcendental seeing and hearing, no matter at what level; though to the laymen, They gave Their subtle thoughts in the form of parables only, as otherwise they would not hear and much less understand Their subtle teachings.

Such world teachers serve as beacon-lights in the stormy sea of life and try to save humanity from floundering in the quicksands of time. Children of Light as They are, They come to dispel the darkness of the soul and are naturally called Guru – the dispeller of darkness – darkness born of ignorance of the true values of life. They have unbounded Love for all religions and religious heads and have equal respect for all scriptures. Theirs is a Universal Fold that takes, in one long sweep, the entire humanity with all its variegated patterns and colours, and steeps them equally in the Love of God.

Kabir tells us in this context:

All our sages are worthy of veneration, but my devotion is for One Who has mastered the Word.

He further tells us that He, with His Divine Message, incarnated from age to age for the benefit of the people. He appeared in all the four Yugas or cycles of time: first as Sat Sukrit, then as Maninder, and again as Karunamai, and finally as Kabir in Kali Yuga, the present phase of time.

Guru Nanak also ceaselessly tells us of the great importance and supreme efficacy of the method of Surat Shabd Yoga as the means of salvation:

Like a lotus standing aloft out of the muddy pool, or like a royal swan that flies high and dry out of water, so doth one by communion with the Word cross unscathed the fearsome sea of life.

This, in brief, is the grand message coming down to us from the dawn of creation and chanting out the Path godwards. All the Indian Saints and many Christian mystics practised the Inner Science and contacted individual souls with the saving life-line within.1

*Time and again as people forget the reality, God’s Grace materialises itself in a human body, called a Saint, to guide the erring humanity in the time-honoured Eternal Way. It is the privilege and the prerogative that the Most High confers, and this authority is passed on according to His behests. The wind bloweth where it listeth and no one can lay down or predict any rules of succession, place or time.

This rich heritage goes from eye to eye and refuses to be bound to time-honoured gaddis, the so-called sanctified seats and sacred places, nor does it depend on human sanctions of a temporal or clerical character. (* This section is adjusted to the First Edition of 1960; Editor’s Note 2011.) Guru Nanak, with His seat at Kartarpur, passed on His Spiritual Heritage to Bhai Lehna, Who, as Guru Angad, shifted to Khadur Sahib, while His successor, Guru Amar Das was obliged to transfer His seat to Goindwal. With Guru Ram Das, Amritsar came into being, and later on became the headquarters of Guru Arjan.

Thus we see that places as such have no speciality about them. They owe their Sanctity to the Sanctifying Influence of the Saints Who pass Their time at one place or another.

All is holy where devotion kneels.

It is not the places that grace men, but men the places.


Explanation: 1) For fuller details in this connection, the reader is referred to the book 'Naam or Word' by the same author, a study that gives a full account of the teachings of the Masters in all ages.