Ram Bhakti

· Dev Purandare

Since Ram has been a big topic in Indian circles over the last month, it seems only fitting to talk about the two contrasting views 15th-century bhakti movement poet Kabir has about him:

एक राम दशरथ का बेटा , एक राम घट घट में बैठा ! एक राम का सकल पसारा , एक राम है सबसे न्यारा !

My translation/ interpretation:

The first Ram – entry-level Ram is the son of King Dashrath – the mythological figure in which we get lost in discussing, never transcending, but rising above it; we get the second ‘Ram’ – the one who is present in every being, who we fail to see, rising above that; we get the third ‘Ram’ – the one who makes up the being and the non-being, embodies the chaos of the universe; and the fourth? The fourth is the rarest of them all, this is the Ram we must seek.

which is followed by the bhajan:

सकल हंस में राम विराजे (Ram embodies every being) राम बिना कोई धाम नहीं (There’s no destination but Ram) सब भरमंड में ज्योत का वासा (This light resides in the whole universe) राम को सुमिरो दूजा नहीं (Meditate on Ram, there is no other)

(The whole bhajan is here

My two favorite renditions of this bhajan are from Prahlad Singh Tipaniya:

and his student, Shabnam Virmani

At the same time, Kabir himself offers a contrast to this vision of Ram, the divine in all of us,

भला हुआ मोरी माला टूटी, (I am glad my prayer bead necklace broke) मैं तो राम भजन से छूटी (I got relieved from praying to Ram) मोरे सिर से टली बला… ।। (Avoided a big disaster)

माला जपु न कर जपूं (I will not pray with the prayer beads nor with my palms) और मुख से कहूँ न राम (nor will I utter Ram’s name in prayer) राम हमारा हमें जपे रे कबीरा (Kabir says, Ram should pray to me) हम पायों विश्राम (and I will get some rest)

This is one of my favorites. I have derived many meanings from this, which apply to many situations.

Kabir cafe has a great version of this:

Finally, if you understood Ram, you wouldn’t do any of this stuff you are doing in his name.