Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The departure of Bhakti Saints

I met an acquaintance last week who discussed when selected Bhakti Saints were born in North India. At one point, he informed me that some academics have a hard time believing that Sant Ravidas was the guru of Mirabai or that Sri Ramananda was the guru of Ravidas. Such a disagreement with popular notions may arise when the dates of a saint’s presence on earth do not overlap with that of his or her guru (assuming an average life span) in the sources that the historian has preferred to use. The thought did not leave me for a while. Can academics choose not to accept poems and books written by Bhakti Saints as trustworthy evidence and maintain their search for alternate sources?

While historians can spend their lifetime in comparing varied timelines, supporting their own hypotheses, and writing balanced arguments to demonstrate rationality, the viewpoint of the devotional and spiritually experienced is very different. They believe in the eternity of the soul and readily appreciate the power of yoga. Their greatest saints, out of their grace, can even provide a darshan and guidance to a disciple years after renouncing their own physical body. For the realized who have gained resemblance to Brahman, transcendence of time and material nature is never a big deal. They have more choices in the universe than we do. For this reason, while we can record when a Bhakti Saint was born on Earth, we can never specify when he or she departed.

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