It is popularly believed that Sant Ravidas was born on the Maghi Purnima day in 1376. From childhood, he showed inclination for spiritual activities. He carried this zest of spirituality all this life and spearheaded the fight against discrimination based on caste and preached the idea of equality.
Sant Ravidas had for this guru both Ramananda and Kabir – the former was his preceptor in the early stages of his life and the latter after his spiritual initiation.
Guru Ravidasa had little formal education, but his verses reflect his command over many languages such as Hindi, Urdu, Persian and many other regional dialects of North India. As he started preaching, he encountered stiff resistance from the entrenched sections of society, which demanded him to prove his spiritual mettle through extraordinary feats. There are many legends about the miracles he performed, such as his assuming many forms simultaneously at a feast. Witnessing his high spiritual nature, his detractors realized their folly and begged his pardon.
Nabhadasa sang in his Bhaktamala
“So purifying is Guru Ravidasa that the dust of his holy feet is worshipped by all, Discarding the pride of castes and stations in life,
And his blameless words are efficacious
In cutting the knots of doubts.”
Sant Ravidasa rose to great heights of spiritual glory and preached his message of love of God to people of all castes and creeds. His disciples included King Pipa, the queen of Chittor and the famous Meera Bai, queen of Mewar, who emerged as a great saint in her own right. She made reverential references to her guru in her poems. She said, ‘When Ravidasa, the perfect master, was found, then I headed towards the source.”
A Poem of Ravidas
I have never known how to tan or sew
Though people come to me for shoes
I have not the needle to make the holes
Or even the tool to cut the thread.
Others stitch and knot, and tie themselves in knots
While I, who do not knot, break free.
I keep saying Ram and Ram, says Ravidas,
And death keeps his business to himself.
Teachings of Guru Ravidas
Guru Ravidasa was primarily a devotee of God, who spoke from his profound inner experience. His poems reflect deep devotion and complete dedication to God. To appreciate the true spirit of his poems, a loving heart rather than an analytical mind is required. His message was essentially meant for practice and not for mere intellectual appreciation.
Through the way of devotion, the intellect is imbued with Truth; doubts, entanglements and vices are cut away.
When I am in my ego, then You (Lord) are not with me. Now that You are with me, there is no egotism within me.
And this toddy tree you consider impure, since the sacred writings have branded it that way, but see that scriptures are written on its leaves.
So long as the inner experience is not realized, learning and reasoning are of no avail.
How can you maintain the distinction of high and low when all have risen from the same divine flame?
When the body becomes motionless, then all outer awareness is gone,
only the knower is known,
this is the blissful state of pure discrimination, says Ravidasa
In which realized the effulgent nature of the sahaj state.