In the west of the country, around the 13th Century, scores of saints took birth in the holy land of Maharashtra. Pandharpur became the epicentre of the bhakti movement started by these illustrious sons and daughters of the soil, many of whom were ordinary peasants. The child-saint of Alandi, Jnaneshwar and his siblings were orphans and outcastes, but their life was full of miraculous achievements, and culminated in Jnaneshwari – the gift of Gita written in the colloquial language for the benefit of the masses.
Namadeva, the son of a tailor made the Lord drink milk from his hands even when he was a little boy, while Gora Kumbhar, the potter, so lost himself in divine ecstasy that he once trampled his own child in a mound of clay (the child was eventually restored to him by the Lord Himself). Sawata Mali sang his abhangs while tending his garden, and Chokhamela who was an untouchable was so close to the Lord that when a priest slapped him for transgressing a social norm, he was aghast to find that the Lord’s cheek was swollen. It is said of Tukaram that he went away to Vaikuntha in a vimana of the Lord.
In the northern part of Bharatvarsh, Tulsidas retold the timeless story of Ram and Sita in his Ramcharitmanas, whereas Surdas preferred to become blind again after he beheld the vision of his ishtadevta, Lord Krishna just once. Another great devotee of Krishna, Meera gave us many bhajans that are soaked with devotional fervour and longing for union with her Lord.
In the same sacred geography, about a hundred years before the time of the Paramahansa, Baba Lokenath Brahmachari attained such a level of oneness with the universal spirit, that he chastised an untamed lion for wandering into his ashram’s premises, patted it affectionately, and sent it along its way back into the forest!
Madhvacharya (who propounded dvaita), Ramanujacharya (vishishtadvaita), Guru Raghavendra, Nammalvar, Kanakadasa, Purandaradasa, Basaveshwara, Akkamahadevi, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Akkalkot Maharaj, Sri Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswar Giri, Paramahansa Yogananda, Maheshwarnath Babaji, Bengali Baba, Swami Rama, Mahayogi Gambhirnath, Swami Sivananda Saraswati, Anandamayi Ma, Paramahansa Ram Mangal Das… One could go on and on; the list is endless.
Unfortunately, the current educational system of Bharatvarsh is western in its outlook, and worldly and phenomenal in what it imparts, leaving our children vulnerable to deculturation and narrow minded religious influences. I feel that we would be failing in our duty if we do not inculcate a sense of respect and a spirit of inquiry towards our spiritual heritage in our children, by teaching them life lessons from the experiences of the spiritual masters.
- Sankara Digvijaya: Madhav Vidyaranya
- Saints of Maharashtra: Savitribai Khanolkar
- Autobiography of a Yogi: Paramahansa Yogananda
- Yogis of India: Sivarupa
- Vivekananda A Biography: Swami Nikhilananda
- Bhakti Schools of Vedanta: Swami Tapasyananda
- India A Sacred Geography: Diana L. Eck
- Apprenticed to a HimalayanMaster: Sri M
- Living with the Himalayan Masters: Swami Rama