LESSON 3: SHABRI AND NAVDHA BHAKTI
Thakur Ranjit Singh
In lesson three we speak about one devotee of Lord Ram, Shabri, who despite being a simpleton and considered light-minded (with “loose nut”, pagli), she had unwavering devotion in Ram. Shabri is loved so much by Ram that he visits her place and even eats fruits already half eaten by her (juutha bair). It shows that one need not have full knowledge of rituals or understanding of mantras or so called proper ways, or armed with all proper materials of worship. One’s non-deceitful and unwavering devotion (shradha) in Lord overrides all showmanship of mantras and rituals.
|Ram -Shabri Mila- this meeting has so much significance for us Hindus to learn from. The first lesson is to be very simple, you need not be rich, but be a good person, full of devotion - GOD WILL THEN WALK TO YOUR PLACE.|
That is a lesson to all that God does not need big ceremonies, expensive set-ups, huge Mandirs, big Brahmin/Pundit and loud music. Shabri’s episode is a lesson to all people. Ram tells her that He only recognises one’s devotion. Despite caste (jaati), kinship (paanti), lineage (kull), religiousness (dharm), reputation (barahaai), wealth (dhan), physical strength of family (bal), accomplishment and ability (gunn, chaturai), a man lacking in devotion is of no more worth than cloud without water.
Hence this is a direct message to our rich and mighty and influential people in society who think they are more equal than the others. They are always seen wearing garlands at the stage as they can buy their way with money. We need donors to run organisations, but one does not buy devotion with wealth. That does not mean they are the real devotees like poor rustic villager, Shabri. Those who perceive themselves of higher caste (especially Brahmans) or those at higher level in hierarchy in community, without devotion and selfless feeling for others - they are no worth than barren soil, and are useless in the eyes of God.
|Ram imparting nine commandments for Hindus to Shabri. The underlying message is to have devotion in God, have respect for elders and people who love God and his ways (sant) and love God through you love for fellow beings and all living creatures.|
Bhagwan Ram then narrats and explains Navdha Bhakti – The Nine Steps of Devotion. They are:
1) Pratham Bhagati Santan kar sangaa
The first step to devotion (Bhakti) is to keep company (fellowship) of the saints (Satsang). Note saints are NOT necessarily Brahmins, Pundits Swamis or Babas living in Mandirs. They are anybody with good character and good and righteous deeds. (FIJI PUNDIT will explain this in other posting-difference between a sant and asant)
2) Doosri rati mam kathaa prasangaa
The second step is to enjoy listening to (fondness of) legends/lectures pertaining to the Lord.
3) Guru pankaj seva, teesri bhakti amaan
Selfless service to the Guru’s (perceptor’s) lotus feet without any pride is the third step. Remember, PARENTS are the first Guru.
4) Chouthi Bhagati mam gun gaan, karai kapat tajee gaan
The fourth step is to earnestly sing praises of the Lord’s virtues with a heart clear of guile, deceit or hypocrisy. Our people need shed off trickery.
5) Mantra jaap mam dridh Visvaasaa, Pancham, bhajan jo Ved Prakaasaa
Chanting God’s Name with steadfast (unwavering) faith is the fifth step as the Vedas reveal.
6) Chattha dasa seela birati bahu karmaa, nirat nirantara sajjan dharma
The sixth, is to practice self-control, good character, detachment from manifold activities and always following the duties as good religious person. This simply means is that all you need to love your God is to love your fellow beings, and have compassion.
7) Saatvam sam mohi main jag dekhaa, motey sant adhik kar lekhaa
The seventh step is to perceive the world as God Himself and regard the saints higher than the Lord. One should be compassionate to others, humans and even animals, see God in all living beings. As I said, saints are not with saffron cloth and big beards with big tikka. They need not be pundits or Brahmins.
8) Aathvam jathaa laabh santoshaa, sapneu nahin, dekhai par doshaa
The eighth, is remaining contented with whatever he gets and not detecting faults of others. Being content or “Santosh” is a virtues rarely found in many.
9) Navam saral sab san chhal heena, mam bharos heenya harash na deenaa
In this state, one has full faith in the Lord, and becomes (child-like) simple with no hypocrisy or deceit. The devotee has strong faith in the Lord with neither too much happiness and expression of praise, nor depression. One needs to maintain calm emotions.
|Shabri's offer of "jhutha bair" and acceptance of that by Ram shows the love God has for those who have devotion and unwavering love for God and good ways to God. We need to learn from the lessons taught by Ramayan.|
This lesson needs to be clearly imparted to the audience. We have halls full of so called devotees, but many lacking good character as explained in Navdha Bhakti. You still find many, full of deceit, hypocrisy, being two-faced, deceiving friends and relatives, full of tension or depression, being discontented with life, feeling jealous of others, being cruel to others, showing devotion to dead statues but mistreating living human beings, lacking self-control, having no respect for parents and passing oneself as religious without having qualities of being a good person.
I personally know such people, and this shakes my faith in religion and our ways of prayers. I even know some such people who have put up Ramayan path for Ram Naumi at their place or Mandir. They have been singing Ramayan, being part of a Mandali or Mandir for many decades, yet their hollow and deceitful character have not changed to follow good ways taught by Ramayan. No personal improvement are noted in their personality. They are hypocrite number one. I would rather befriend one who does not go to Mandir, does not sing Ramayan, does not belong to a Mandir, but still is a good human being and is a truthful and trustworthy person who respects the elders and parents, treats others with compassion. We are so short of people who can walk their talk in Hinduism. Tell them to read and understand Navdha Bhakti, and see how God visits and uneducated lowly ranked, of very low caste woman who lacked all knowledge about prayers of rituals, but had non-deceitful and unwavering DEVOTION in God. We need more Shabris who are real Ram Bhakt and not ponga (deceitful) bhakts masquerading as religious people but in reality are hurtful to their fellow beings. If the hat fits you, put it on.
I hope you will learn from this episode of Ramayan told by FIJI PUNDIT. You do not have to indulge in rituals and any showmanship or display of wealth to reach God. Be simple, but devoted and a nice person, like Shabri, and God will walk to your place.
[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a blogger, a media scholar and a person who has been singing Ramayan since he started reading Hindi over five decades ago. He is former Secretary of Nasinu Branch of Sanatan Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji. He advocates Ramayan pracharaks and those conducting discourse to also preach about the relevance of Ramayan to modern man.)