Ode to the Unknown God, by Ravidas
Vani (hymn, mystic poem) of Sant Ravidas from the book, “The Life and Works of Raidas”, by Winand M. Callewaert, Manohar Publications, New Delhi
“Brother, how can you tell me where God [Ram (1)] is, when you have not come close to Him who is the true God [Ram]? All the world is misled, speaking of a ‘Ram’, who is not this Ram. Karma and Akarma (2), Compassionate, Keshav: these are only names of the Creator.
“Through the ‘Ram’ which all the world knows, one is lost in delusion, brother.
Of their own accord none understands — with whom can one go and speak?
“He who is never touched by greed in spirit, body or soul, he who is untouched by the material world, whose Name is the Complete, who has no place anywhere — why do you not teach about Him?
“Raidas says, through this I am udas (3) — Brother, who is the Creator? Treat intuitive wisdom and the Creator as if one — that is the abode of the True Ram.”
Notes and Commentary by James Bean
(1) “Ram” is a name of God often used by the classic Sants of India to refer to the Formless true God (Sat Ram, Sat Naam). Ram is a sacred name to be chanted and sung, as well as to be repeated silently within one’s self “with the tongue of thought” (ajapa japa or simran) during meditation practice.
There are however several different usages of the word Ram in Indian religion and mythology. Sant Dariya Sahib once said: “Consider the four meanings of Ram. The first Ram is our inner self. Parashu-ram is said to be the second one. The third one lived in Dasharath’s home. The fourth Ram is the Primeval Sat Purush (God). Call Him (Sat Purush), Ram or call Him Naam, Ram and Naam are one. Both are mutually indistinguishable; Satguru’s Sound Current reveals this wisdom.”
Ravidas: “All the world is misled, speaking of a ‘Ram’, who is not this Ram.” How “Gnostic” of Ravidas to have said this. For Ravidas and the Sants, the True God is a God of All-Love and Compassion, Formless, Pure Spirit, not a “smaller” god of war “created in our image”, an angry tribal god or demiurge (kal) involved in the drama of “the world”. For Ravidas and the classic Sants of India, the True God (Ram) is a God of Grace and Spirit beyond “Law” or karma.
The God of Grace
busts into worlds
of time and space
to give moksha,
to liberate souls.
(2) “Akarma”: the one whose nature is non-action, the opposite of karma (action) on the physical plane;
(3) “Udas”: one who follows the path of renunciation. Guru Nanak’s definition of ‘udas’ was “to make use of all things in this world and not deem them one’s own, but only God’s property, and ever to possess a desire to meet Him is udas”.
Ravidas said, “Through the ‘Ram’ which all the world knows, one is lost in delusion, brother. Of their own accord none understands — with whom can one go and speak?” This reminds me of a verse from the Gospel of Thomas: “I shall choose you, one from a thousand and two from ten thousand, and they will stand as a single one.” That also reminds of lyrics from the Black Sabbath song “It’s Alright”: “Told you once about your friends and neighbours, they were always seeking but they’ll never find it, it’s alright, yes it’s alright.” Perhaps for many it’s alright living a life that does not include the spiritual dimension and they hopefully will reincarnate again and progress someday, will meet again in another dream, but for the one who is awake, life is about experiencing something more, right now. They are not waiting for reincarnations, raptures or the afterlife. They seek to know Ultimate Reality here and now.
Ravidas said: “He who is never touched by greed in spirit, body or soul, he who is untouched by the material world, whose Name is the Complete, who has no place anywhere — why do you not teach about Him?” Even as the Hubble Space Telescope had to be above the turbulence and distortion of earth’s atmosphere in order to see clearly into the cosmos, so too the mystic needs to rise above body-consciousness and mind to know that other realm we also are part of as spiritual beings. The German mystic Meister Eckhart put it this way: “If the soul is to see God, then it must see no temporal thing, for as long as the soul is conscious of time or space, or of an idea, it cannot know God.” The awareness or attention of the soul (surat) must become untethered and free from the temporal world of the five senses, mental images and memories during meditation practice in order to experience that other realm of spirit that we inhabit. Not many are willing to take the time to do this and enter into the silence and stillness beyond the physical, dream, and mental states. It’s easier for most to attempt to physicalize or materialize god on the physical plane, build temple-idols made of wood and stone, or build mental creations, theological abstractions, trying in vain to squeeze eternity into the realms of mind and matter we are more familiar with and quite attached to. These little dolls and temporal boxes aren’t really big enough to contain the Formless, Timeless, Infinite God, the Ocean of Spirit. Mystic souls like Ravidas want to focus on the Missing Reality that hardly anyone notices or talks about, saying:
“Treat Intuitive Wisdom and the Creator as if one — that is the Abode of the True Ram.” This is the Abode of the True God (Sat Raam). According to the footnote by the translator Winand M. Callewaert, the term for “Intuitive Wisdom” is “KEVAL”, a Sanskrit word also meaning a pure, whole, absolute state free from limitation. This state of Intuitive Wisdom which is free from error is attained in samadhi (deep meditation). The usage here by Sant Ravidas of the term Keval for the Supreme State whereby the Self and Supreme Being may truly be known reminds me of another mystic word used by the Masters, and one directly related to keval: Kaivalya (Kai-val-ya) meaning “Oneness” and “Pure Consciousness”. Kaivalya is also another term for Sat Lok or Sach Khand, the True Eternal Realm of Spirit beyond space and time, the True Abode of the soul, our true home, though concealed to physical eyes and ears made of “star-stuff” of this material universe.
Maharishi Mehi in his spiritual discourse, The Philosophy of Liberation, states that “the individual self, the part of God which dwells in the body, is concealed. Direct knowledge ….is not experienced because of the concealments of the four Realms of Qualified Lower Nature: Gross [physical], Subtle [astral], Causal [akashic] and Supra-Causal [universal mind].”
“The realm of creation in which we live is the Gross Realm. Above the Gross is the Subtle Realm; above the Subtle is the Causal; above the Causal is the Supra-Causal, and above the Supra-Causal is Kaivalya, the realm of Oneness (Pure Conscious Realm). The existence of these four realms is as fixed as the Pole star. Thus, there are five spheres of creation including the Gross Realm. Kaivalya is of Pure Consciousness and the other four realms are Non-Conscious, but coexisting with the conscious.” (Philosophy of Liberation) Note: the top part of Kaivalya in some systems of Sant Mat cosmology is called “Radhaswami”, “Anami” or “Anadi”. Maharishi Mehi called it “The Soundless State”, a State beyond Light and Sound.
The Spiritual Journey and Meditation Practice According to Sant Ravidas
From the Book, Guru Ravidas — Life and Teachings
Regarding the Holy Name or Names, one may wonder what they are, how they are obtained, when and how they are repeated, and with what result.
The Holy Names are the sacred utterable words, imparted by the Satguru. These Names are so surcharged with power by the Satguru that through the practice of repeating these spoken Holy Names one can come in contact with the true Naam (the Unutterable Word, Logos, or the Unstruck Divine Music).
This repetition of the Holy Names must be carried on at all times. Apart from one’s normal sitting hours (for meditation), even when one is walking or doing odd jobs with one’s hands and feet, one must continue the repetition by the inner tongue, namely, the mind. With some maturity in this practice of repetition, it becomes so much ingrained in the practitioner that it automatically goes on all the time.
The repetition is to be carried on internally by the mind with one-pointed attention. It is the most potent means to cleanse the mind of its impurities, and with the mind being cleansed, the lustrous Internal Light and the Unstruck Divine Music appear, which ultimately lead the aspirant to God, the Almighty, the Light of all lights and the Source of all bliss.
Verses of Sant Ravidas from the Adi Granth and the Vanis of Ravidas
Jap Raam Naam kahi gavaiga
“After repetition, when thou shalt sing the Lord’s Name,
Then thou shalt enter from duality into non-duality.
The Bliss that lies in contacting this Nectar,
In what words shalt thou sing its praise?
Only by the grace of the Guru
is this inner experience attained.”
Simran, Remembering God’s Name
“He who remembereth God’s Name,
Having sought the company of a Saint;
His miseries are averted,
Thus doth Ravidas proclaim.
“My (inner) tongue is constantly preoccupied with repeating God’s
And my hands are constantly engaged in doing my work.
Thus have I become carefree,
God will take care of me, sayeth Ravidas.
“The threefold miseries of the world
Fleeth away from him
Who carries on repetition of the True Name,
Fixing his attention within, 0 Ravidas.
“Steeped in meditation with one-pointed attention,
Practice devotion to God, 0 Ravidas.
Let the automatic repetition be continued within,
Reverberating the True Naam.
“When the soul (surat)
mergeth into the Sound (Shabd)
and becometh one with it,
Then one obtaineth the supreme Bliss.
The lamp burneth inside, 0 Ravidas,
And Divine Bliss ariseth within.
“Have mercy on me, 0 Lord.
With every breath I repeat Thy Name,
My mind will be delighted only on meeting Thee.
Thou art merciful, gracious
and the Ocean of Compassion,
Thou art the Lord and the companion of the poor.
Grant me Thy shelter night and day,
Let me not wander about anywhere else,
0 my Lord.
Only by Thy grace can vanity and pride be removed,
And the Nectar of the alchemy of God’s Name
Such an intellect I beg of Thee, 0 Merciful One,
That it may not go anywhere else leaving Thy Holy Feet.
Ravidas hath taken refuge in Thy Holy Feet,
Take him to Thy heart considering him Thine own.
“Seeing the Beloved,
Brightness prevaileth within the temple
of my mind.
From a humble hut, I have now acquired the ninefold treasures,
Lord, the Creator, hath showered His grace.
I have obtained my Beloved,
separated for myriads of births,
The entanglement of life after life is over.”
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