Tuesday, April 12, 2016



Thakur Ranjit Singh

In lesson three we speak about one devotee of Lord Ram, Shabri. Despite being a simpleton and considered light-minded (with “loose nut”, pagli), she had unwavering devotion in Ram. Bhagwan so much loved her selfless, firm and simple faith and devotion, that He walked to her place. He even tastefully ate half eaten wild berries (jhutha bair).It shows that one need not possess knowledge of rituals, understanding of mantras or so called proper ways.  One’s non-deceitful and steadfast devotion (shradha) in Lord overrides all materialistic riches, mantras and rituals.

Ram -Shabri Mila- this meeting has so much significance for us Hindus, WITH MANY LESSONS. The first lesson is to be very simple, you need not be rich, but be a good person. That means being spiritual, without necessity of being religious. GOD WILL THEN WALK TO YOUR PLACE.
That is a lesson to all of us 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 (badhaai), wealth (dhan), physical strength of family (bal), accomplishment and ability (gunn, chaturai), a man lacking in devotion is worth no more than cloud without fain. 

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 and have "bought" God with their riches. No one can buy their way into God's kingdom. We need donors to run organisations, but one does not buy devotion with wealth. The real devotee was a poor, lowly caste, half-witted rustic villager like Shabri. Those who perceive themselves of higher caste (especially Brahmans) or those at higher financial level or in hierarchy in community, without devotion and selfless feeling for others are like barren soil, not worthy of any crop and useless in the eyes of God.

Ram imparting nine commandments for Hindus to Shabri. The underlying message is to have faith in God, have respect for elders and people who love God and his ways (sant) and love God by loving your fellow beings.

Bhagwan Ram then narrates and explains Navdha Bhakti – The Nine Steps of Devotion. I translate here so Pracharaks can explain to the modern generation in English.


1) Pratham Bhakti 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. 

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/ teacher) 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  God loves simplicity and only understands the language of 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.

The meaning and lessons here need to be clearly imparted to the audience. We have halls full of so called devotees, but many do not possess good character as explained in Navdha Bhakti. You still find many, full of deceit, hypocrisy, being two-faced, are thieves, full of tension or depression, being discontented with life, feeling jealous of others, being cruel to others, 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. Some have organised 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.

In many Hindus of modern-times, no personal improvement are noted in their personality, despite years of Ram Naumi and Ramayan.  I would rather befriend one who does not go to Mandir, does not sing Ramayan, does not belong to a Mandir or Mandali, but still is a good human being (spiritual without being religious) and a truthful and trustworthy person who respects  elders and parents and treats others with compassion.

We are so short of people who can walk their talk in Hinduism. They need to read and understand Navdha Bhakti, and see how God visits an uneducated lowly ranked, of very low caste woman who lacked all knowledge about prayers of rituals, but had non-deceitful and unwavering faith n God. We need more Shabris who are real Ram Bhakt and not ponga (deceitful) bhakts masquerading as religious people.

Lessons from Ram-Shabri Milan to modern man is to shed all showmanship, your richness and big-ness in whatever form, and be nice to your fellow beings, and just be a good person to reach God. You do not reach God through donations to Mandirs and Mandalis alone. One cannot bribe God or buy your way into God's heart. 

The lesson here is not to indulge in rituals,showmanship or display of wealth to reach God. Be simple, but devoted and a nice person, with faith and compassion, 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 advocates Ramayan pracharaks and those conducting discourse to also preach about the relevance of Ramayan to modern man in a language they understand. E-mail : thakurji@xtra.co.nz]


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