The Score Magazine June 2017 issue - Page 45

SHREYA BOSE Lalon Fakir : The most prominent among those ascribing to the Baul tradition, Lalon was a man whose philosophy chose not to battle with questions of rebirth and the afterlife, but rather with divisions of community, castle, class and gender. His songs, which inspired the likes of Rabindranath Tagore, mock the reasons for disunity that human society seems to hold so dear. His beliefs are exemplified in words such as : “Everyone asks, "What religion does Lalon belong to in th is world?" Lalon answers, "What does religion look like?" I've never laid eyes upon it. Some use Malas (Hindu rosaries), others Tasbis (Muslim rosaries), and so people say they belong to different religion. But do you bear the sign of your religion when you come (to this world) or when you leave (this world)?” Ravidas : A poet-sant whose devotional songs are included in the Guru Granth Sahib, Ravidas’ work deals with the theme of dismantling boundaries fabricated by humans in the pursuit of union with greater truths. For instance, Surdas : The beauty of Surdas’ melody can almost be sensed through a mere reading of his words. Much like Meerabai, he offered his heart and mind in tribute to Murlimanohar through the composition of verses. His compositions extol the godly aspects and doings of Krishna, and in the plebeian words of the Braj Bhasha, he explored the celestial love of Radha- Krishna. He advocated for complete surrender and pure love for God manifested through the form of Krishna. It believed that he penned thousands of songs in his magnum opus ‘The Sur Sagar’ (Ocean of Melody) of which only about 8000 are extant. Ramananda : As central to the Bhakti tradition as Sant Kabir is to the heart of the Sufis, Ramananda is believed to have been born of a Brahmin family sometime in the 14th century. He became one of the pioneering figures of the Bhakti movement, and defied social norms by accepting disciples irrespective of caste, religion or gender (including Muslims). Traditional scholarship insists that his spiritual lineage passes through preachers of great merit such as Kabir, Ravidas and Bhagat Pipa (though this has been questioned later). Ramananda’s philosophy, drawn from the teachings of south Indian Vedanta philosopher Ramanuja looks towards a synthesis of Advaita Vedanta and Vaishnava bhakti. His message, however, has never compromised on its accessibility, as exemplified when he sings : “Wherever I go, I find only water and stones, This experience is such, that it defies all description. I have met the Lord, Who can cause me harm? Hari in everything, everything in Hari – But Brahman is in everything.” -Ramananda in Raag Basant, Adi Granth Throughout his life, he championed a direct connection with God, untainted by false knowledge (like belief in external, material or physical differences) and self proclaimed middlemen (priests). He decried the utility of any penance if the inner self did not acknowledge itself as one with Hari. For him who knows Hari and the sense of self, no other testimony is needed: the knower is absorbed. Ravidas, Translated by Winand Callewaert and Peter Friedlander The object of his worship often seems to be an entity similar to that venerated in the tradition of Nirguna bhakti, depicting a certain organic nature to the ideas binding the mystic mythologies of India. Consider the above list a drop in an ocean, but as goes the saying ‘little drops of water the mighty ocean make’. The historical and contemporary figures listed offer a glimpse into the richness of sentiment that motivated some of the greatest cults of compassion in human history. The noticeable similarity – of the oneness of all existence and the futility of worldly distractions, is striking and is reflected in almost every ascetic heritage in the sub-continent. Be assured, if you venture down this path, you might find yourself a whole lot happier with a whole lot less. The Score Magazine 43