Friday, November 13, 2009

Chapter 2: The Current Scene

Revered Usha Bahenji was born on 30th of July, 1925. The political scene at present was not particularly comforting. The British were ruling India since long. Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and other national leaders did intense propaganda and satyagraha against British Rule. In Punjab initially Lala Hardyal and later Lala Lajpat Rai, Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev were working towards independence. The common people of Punjab had not yet forgotten the carnage at Jallianwala Bagh.
The Gandhian Era

The era was considered to be overly Gandhian. The ideals of non-cooperation and non-violence which he upheld were admired by everyone. They were confronted at some places but due to the absence of any other alternative, Mahatma Gandhi became the leader of both moderates and extremists in the political arena.

Shri Manmohanji (Ushaji's father) was a staunch nationalist. Burning foreign goods, opposing and non-cooperating with the British Sarkar was deeply-rooted in him. With the passage of time this mindset had a certain impact on Bahenji's life.

In the social scene there was a sense of antagonism against some conventional norms but now an increased aversion could be seen due to the influence of western civilization. Several dignitaries had joined hands with the British for their self-interest. Those well-versed in the English language began to weigh Hindu social customs, religion, customs and tradition on the scale of reasoning. This sparked off some social and religious movements.


The Brahmo Samaj

The Brahmo Samaj was involved in doing away with social malpractices and stopping Hindus from converting to Christianity. Its founders raised the slogan, 'Head towards the Vedas' and termed other religions to be baseless and hypocritical.

There was propaganda of Prarthana Samaj in Maharashtra, which payed attention to the backward classes. The Dayal Singh Trust spread this concept in Punjab.


Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa & Vivekananada

The Ramakrishna Movement had begun in Bengal. Shri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa considered all religions as genuine. He believed in idol worship as the means of leading to the all powerful Supreme Being. Practicing sadhna of tantric, vaishnava and advaita, he soon became renowned as Paramhansa.

Shri Vivekananda adopted his teachings. He argued, that how could a certain religion which can not wipe a widow's tears and is unable to provide food to an orphan, be worthy of acceptance? The state of nirvikalpa samadhi of Paramhansaji was imbibed by Swami Brahmananda (Rakhal) and Nagji.This religion also aimed at reforming society.

The theosophical society was formed by western scholars particularly impressed by Indian culture. A German lady had laid its foundation. Its followers professed to achieve knowledge of God by spiritual ecstacy, direct intuition or special individual relations. They believed in the concept of previous birth and karma and were inspired by sankhya philosophy and the Upanishads.

Mrs Annie Besant

Mrs.Annie Besant abandoned Christianity and became well-versed with Indian culture. The founder of this society Madame Blavatski's strength was occult and not spirituality. But Annie Besant became a Hindu and under her this movement led to a awakening in India. She lay the foundation of Central Hindu College affiliated to the Banaras Hindu University.

Indian culture and religion had such a great influence in all spheres that even on opposition, religious sentiments intensified.The bhakti wave was at its crest in the 15th century.

Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

Nimbarkacharya Maharaj had contributed in his own way to make religious devotion easily accessible for us. Shri Ramanujacharya had brought about invaluable change by propagating religion in the south.Mahaprabhu Vallabhacharya spread Krishna worship in entire India and most of his followers were from Gujarat and Rajasthan. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, chief exponent of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Movement in eastern India, surfaced with Krishna worship in Bengal. Several saints like Tulsidas and Kabir were born to propagate religion. To worship in the Vrindavana Rasa were Haridasji, Harivanshji and Goswami Vithalnthji. Surdasji plus the astha-chaap poets, Roopji, Sanatanji and Jeev Goswamiji composed several works on Krishna.


Saint Tukaram

The Alvars or Tamil Bhakti saints, had already begun the mass bhakti movement in the south. Devotees are certainly aware of Andal a 10th century Tamil poet revered as the only woman Alvar (saint) of Vaishnavism (a cult devoted to Lord Vishnu). Lord Vithalnath enraptured great saints like Tukaram and Eknath in Mahrashstra. Mira a bhakti poet-saint and Rajput princess whose disdain for her royal husband was more than matched by her love for Krishna, impacted the entire world. In the north Shri Guru Nanakji and other gurus called upon devotees to engage in worship through the word of God (Naam-japna).


Hindu Saint Poet Sant Surdas

The series of bhaktas-saints came to Vraja and began propagating religious devotion. Several religious texts were composed. Jayadeva's, 'Gita Govinda' written in perfect and flawless classical Sanskrit was the climax of romantic love poetry. At this end, the poetry of Chandidas, Shri Billavmangalji's 'Shri Krishna-Krishna Amrit' and Vidyapati's poems were truly inspiring. On the other front ashta-chaap and bhakti poets Surdas and Nand Das worked on widespread development of Krishna worship.


Swami Shri Haridas

Shri Vyasdevacharyaji's, Swami Haridasji and Harvanshji's compilation of padas became available. Shri Druvdasji and his uncle Vrindavandasji and several devotees wrote their experiences and published them. Shri Roopji, Jeevji, Prabodha Nand Saraswati and Vishwanath Chakravarti created many religious texts. In the meantime compositions like Shri Krishna-Krishnamrit, Sur Sagar, Shri Radha-Sudhanidi, Vrindavan Shatak plus Lalit-Madhav were penned and published.




Hanuman Prasad Poddar & Shri Radha Baba

Vrindavan remained the centre of all these sampradayas and consequently its importance escalated. Society was impressed by the gushing bhakti wave and voluminous repertoire of poetry.The next generation of bhaktas had Swami Ramteerth, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Vivekanandji, Udiya Baba, Gwariya Baba, Anandamayi Ma, Hari Baba, Gangeshwar Anandji, Sharnanandji, Hanuman Prasadji Poddar and Chakradhar Baba. The essence of that bhakti era invaded our hearts and is steeping us in the bhakti bhava even as of today.



Bhaktimati Usha Bahenji

Several great saints remained hidden from the public eye because of their unaffected simple lifestyle. Those with a pure heart were influenced by their persona. Ushaji was one such saint also affected by the current scene but her disposition was independent. The sacredness apparent in her devotional practices, experiences and conduct enflamed the desire of the individuated soul of union with God. Her religious devotion did not violate the shastras but was free from the restraints and reasoning of the scriptures.

Those whom God accepts because of his loving tenderness come into contact with such saintly personages. Bhava was sacrosanct for Ushaji. Bhava is understood as loving flowing towards the Lord and by binding the mind to the Lord, we may ideally achieve nirodha or salvation.

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