Saints and Mystics come to this world at different times and at different places, trying to impress upon us the same spiritual teachings. The words and analogies they use may be specific to the time they live and the local customs of the people they teach, but the underlying spiritual message of love and devotion for God is always the same. They teach us that the soul is part of God, but is separated from him by the veil of ego, which love alone can remove. The sole mission of saints is to enable humanity to attain the highest purpose of human life, which is to realize union with God within themselves.
Some the teachings of a saint are known only to those in the region of the saint's origin. The publication of The Mystics of the East series, of which Guru Ravidas is a part, originated with Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh Ji's wish to share the universal message of different saints with a wide range of seekers after spiritual truth.
This book presents the life and a summary of the teachings of Guru Ravidas, who rose to be hailed as one of the most prominent all well-loved saints of India. Different opinions about the facts of his life and dates of his birth and death have been discussed by the author not to enter into a controversy, but simply to present the life story of the saint as generally accepted by scholars. The book also includes numerous examples from Ravidas's own poetry, organized by topic.
Ravidas supported himself as a cobbler. Though he had many wealthy disciples, even icings and queens, he set an example of living on one's own honest earnings. His teachings, shown through his forthright and powerful poems and verses, reflect intense longing and a deep feeling of love for God. The appeal and beauty of his message, like that o all true mystics and saints, is that it comes from his own experience, not from book learning, and that those who put his teachings into practice can replicate his experiences and merge back into the Lord.
In this edition a minor revision of the original text, first published in 1982, has been undertaken. The language has been modernized and a glossary has been added. A bibliography is included, as well as an index of transliterations of the first lines of the Hindi verses for readers who might want to reference the Hindi original. In some of the poems explanatory phrases have been added to the translation. This material is placed in round brackets for ease of readability.
IT IS SAID THAT THE MERCIFUL Creator of the world never neglects his creation and continually sends his messengers to the world on missions of mercy to save his seekers and devotees. These messengers, carrying their message from the Almighty, come in the form of saints and mystics, impart the message of love and devotion for God, and take their disciples and devotees back to the Lord. Guru Ravidas belongs to this illustrious galaxy of saints and mystics who ever adorn the court of the Lord, although he appeared in this world in the family of a low-caste cobbler. His place of birth was situated in the outskirts of the city of Varanasi," a well-known stronghold of traditional priest-hood. It is significant to note that two distinguished saints, namely Sant Kabir and Guru Ravidas, appeared at around the same time and place, and both took birth in low-caste families (the former in a weaver's and the latter in a cobbler's family). It was probably because the ritual-oriented and caste-ridden society of Varanasi needed a powerful jolt and concentrated spiritual guidance in order to rid it of its religious dogmas and ritualistic practices. Like all perfect saints and mystics, both Kabir Sahib and Guru Ravidas came from the same Source and preached the same message. They clearly demonstrated that a person becomes great not by the family in which he is born, but by the spiritual work that he accomplishes.
The teachings of true saints are identical in essence, with only superficial differences in the language of presentation, which varies with the idiom and concepts of the place, the time and the situation. Sometimes the individualistic style of saints also may make a difference in the tone of their teachings. The latter is well illustrated in the teachings of the two contemporaneous saints, Kabir Sahib and Guru Ravidas. Notwithstanding the fact that both were equally opposed to mullahs and pundits and their rites, rituals and ceremonies, Kabir Sahib criticized the system in incisive language, whereas Guru Ravidas presented the same truth in a spirit of gentle persuasion and humble sub-mission. Probably the society of that time needed a two-front attack on its age-old ritualistic traditions and blind beliefs.
The tremendous impact made by these two saints on society is evident from the highly respectful references frequently made about them in the subsequent works of saints and devotees as well as by their large followings (among them kings and queens).
Like Kabir Sahib and many other mystics, Guru Ravidas was not an academic scholar. His knowledge was based on his profound inner experience. He conveyed his esoteric message in a simple, unassuming and straightforward manner.
Guru Ravidas was essentially a lover and devotee of God. His poems are surcharged with an intense longing and a deep feeling of love and devotion. They echo a sense of complete surrender and utter dedication to God. One requires a loving heart rather than an analytical mind to appreciate their appeal and beauty. The message contained in them is meant as a guide for actual practice in life rather than for mere intellectual exercise.
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