The movement of Vallabha as conceived and propagated by him was a purely spiritual one it was a special Revelation of God given to the people of Indian under the extremely difficult conditions of life that has arisen in the land owing to the advent of the Kali Yuga, the Dark Age. The presence of the Moslem power was only one more sign of the same and added to the validity of this New Dispensation. So far as Vallabha and some of his great followers were concerned, the Way of Bhakti revealed through him was meant as much for the Hindus as for the Moslems. It transcended the bounds of caste, race, and sex. It was universal in its scope and made no distinctions between man and man.
In it we see Hinduism in one of its highest and noblest forms.
According to Vallabha, it was Bhakti Marga at its highest,
So conscious was he of the predominant part played by the grace of God in it that he called it Pusti Marga, the Way of Grace, as distinguished from Bhakti Marga, the Way of Devotion.
The way of Life and Salvation preached by Shri Vallabhacharya is known as Pushti Marga. This is the most original part of his teaching, showing his religious genius at its best. It is the way of Bhakti Marga, the way of devotion taught by the Bhagawad-Gita, the Bhagavata and the Vaishnava Saints and Acharyas.
It differs, however, in some important respects from the teaching of the preceding Acharyas, and has several distinguishing features of its own. The word Pusti, which means fatness or strength, is derived from the word poshana i.e. Nourishment, used first by the Bhagavata with reference to God's grace.
The idea underlying it is that the soul of man has become weak and lean owing to sin, and consequently it is in dire need of God's grace which along can give it life and growth. It emphasizes thus the grace of God even more than Bhakti, which after all has its source in the heart of man.
According to Vallabha, the origin, development and perfection of Bhakti, are dependent almost wholly, if not altogether, on God.
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The Pusti-Marga of Vallabha is, thus, based on the absolute dependence on the part of man on God and His grace.
Faith in God and in His Dispensation, full trust in Him accompanied by total surrender and dedication to Him-these are essential for progress in this Way of Grace.
This means the extinction of the self as an entity independent of God with all its selfishness manifested in its I-ness and Mine-ness, and the substitution of God in the place of the little self. The self then remains only as the servant of God whose sole pleasure in everything it does is to do the will of God or to give Him joy.
As a result of this, its intellect, senses, body and everything else become consecrated. Even one’s relations and property are dedicated to God, or they are looked upon as belonging to God without the soul having any proprietary rights over them.
When such a state is realized the soul becomes free from the Samsara, the world of its own creation, a kind of Maya, and sees Jagat in its true character as but a manifestation of God. Such a soul is freed from Avidya or nescience.
The Bhakti that such a soul offers to God is no longer of the kind which seeks its fulfillment in something else at some future date.
It is real Seva, service of God, which is the means as well as the end in itself. It has no other aim but to give pleasure to God in the present moment.
It is Siddha-Bhakti, Bhakti which is an end in itself, as contrasted with Sadhna-Bhakti which is a means to an end.
In the Pusti-Marga, the soul enters the inner world of God, seeing Him face to face and serving Him in very possible manner, which alone is its true heaven. It has nothing to do with social conventions or Scriptural injunctions, which belong to a world, which has reality only so long as the soul is not ushered into the immediate presence of God.
The Bhakti-Marga of some of the preceding Acharyas, wherein room is found for both karma and Jnana, is, according to Vallabha, the way of Pusti-Maryada, a path wherein both Grace and Law are conjoined together.
Even Jnana, knowledge, spoken of so highly by some of the Scriptures, is after all an outward thing in comparison with this Seva, immediate service of God. It is true that often the souls which begin their spiritual life with Sadhana Bhakti may come in the end to attain the pure Pusti or Shuddha Pusti, provided they persevere on the path and go on surrendering themselves more and more to God.
The truest type of Bhakti, in Valabha’s opinion, is the one known as Prema-Laxana Bhakti, the Bhakti which has love for its chief characteristic.
In it there is nothing conventional or mechanical, nothing ritualistic or obligatory. It is a spontaneous flow of the heart corresponding to the spontaneous grace of God. With the rise of such love in one’s heart, one’s desire for anything else but God, disappears of its own accord. This is why such Love is spoken of as Raga Vinasha, destruction of desire of any kind. The mind becomes then absorbed in God, and the Seva of God on the part of such a soul, although it may be outward, is an internal thing, for which reason it is defined as Chetastatpravanama the absorption in him.
It is contrasted thus sharply from Puja, worship, which belongs to the old Dispensation, wherein Scriptural authority still holds some away. Such Seva is also called Manasi Seva, for it is of the mind and the heart, something which is entirely internal. It is but an outward expression, manifestation of the love of the inner mind.
In the teaching and church of Vallabha, this Seva is centered round the image of Sri Krishna, which is not merely a symbol but God Himself. This seems to be a special characteristic of this movement, perhaps more so than that of any other. The image called Sri Murti becomes the Deity Himself to the eye of faith of the devotee, but this belief is fortified by the philosophic teaching of Vallabha known as Brahmavada. It is only in regard to this matter that Vallabha or some of his followers have followed the pantheistic implications of his monistic system. According to this philosophy, while the clay or the metal of which the Image is made, is itself a form or an incarnation of God, to however limited an extent it be, it becomes more so, and in a higher sense, by the idea imposed on it. Some of the followers of Vallabha even go to the length of saying that it is the faith of the believer in the Image as God Himself which is God. The Prema and Seva that are offered to the Image day by day go on adding to its divine character if at all there were room for such addition. This is the doctrine of the Real Presence as it is understood among the Roman and Anglo-Catholics, carried to its full development, with this difference, however, that there is no priestly mediation necessary in order to induce that presence in the material object. The faith of the believer here is all sufficient for the purpose.
This Prema or the Love for God grows in course of time in the soul and passes through certain well-defined stages. As we have seen it is but a reflex action of the grace of God on the soul. God has manifested Himself now in His true Ananda-form, which, with all His beauty and charm, takes hold of the soul more and more. God begins to live Himself in the soul, and with the tide of the Divine Life and Joy in it, there is an ebb of its own life which it had lived apart from God hitherto. The center of life in such a soul is no more itself, but God Himself.
This love grows in course of time to such an extent that it takes the form of asakti, intense attachment. There is a passionate, burning desire for God and a proportionate detachment from all that is not God. Even the nearest and the dearest relations of one are now dear only for the sake of God, and if they do not conform to the devotee’s ideal for them, he becomes indifferent to them. They are no more his. Rather they become hindrances and are as such to be renounced if there is no other remedy. God must now be all in all for the devotee.
This stage of love is followed by what is called vyasana, which means addiction. The devotee becomes an inebriate of the experience of God. He cannot live without it even for a single moment. This experience fills his mind and heart to such an extent that the world, not only in its samsaric form, but even in its true form, ceases to exist for him. The devotee now reaches a world or a plane of existence where only God and himself exist, and if there are others, they are God’s elect ones like himself. Vyasana has been also defined as asakticombined with nirodha. This latter term has been defined in Vallabha’s Church in a manner peculiar to itself. It means oblivion of even one’s own self apart from God. Not only is the world in its Jagata form, but even one’s own self, is transcended. There is thus a kind of destruction of the soul, atma-nivritti, and God is loved absolutely for His own sake, and the soul is loved as it is in God.
The climax of this stage is reached in what is called Sarvaatmabhva. The devotee now has the heart and spirit of God Himself, and he experiences God’s own delight in himself and in all things. The light and joy of God pass through him upon all things and he, living in this light, sees and experiences all things as God Himself does. The soul has now become one with God, not in the sense of the monist of Shankara’s school, but in that in which the lover becomes absolutely united with his beloved. It is a perfect union in and of love. It is absorption in God, but of a kind in which there is room for an eternal rhythm of separation and union.
The ideal types of Bhaktas, according to Vallabha, are the Gopis, and Nanda and Yasoda, the foster-parents of Sri Krishna. In them Bhakti is realized in Dasya, Sakhya and Vatsalya types. God is loved in terms of human relationships at their deepest and best. Rather these relationships are realized as they are in their original form in the mind of God. The Bhakta, owing to this Bhakti of his, is translated into the ideal world of God, which is Heaven itself. This is the real Kingdom of God, or better still, His own House hold and family.
Some Characteristic Features of Pushti Marg
The most important characteristic of Vallabha’s movement is its emphasis on Bhakti, which is almost absolute. He called his way Pusti-Marga, the path of grace, rather than Bhakti-Marga, the path of emotion.
In the path of Bhakti the initiative for salvation lies with the individual soul, whereas in that of Pusti it remains with God.
According to Vallabha it is the grace of God rather than the devotion of the soul which is the beginning and the end of true religious life in every human being. When the human will of the individual plays a ‘part in one’s religious life in seeking and following means etc., the soul falls short of the true ideal of divine life. In Vallabha’s scheme of salvation Bhakti does play a large part, but it is Bhakti of the wholly spontaneous and disinterested kind, and it is both the means and the end at the same time. It is more than this.
It is the reflex action of the soul to Pusti, the grace of God, and as such it is entirely subordinate to the latter. According to this point of view God has the primacy of place in everything pertaining to ones’ religious life. Herein lies the beauty and glory of Vallabha’s teaching
The religious movement of Vallabha is perhaps the only one in the whole of history to the based altogether on the Grace of God. As such it ushers the soul into the immediate presence of God, a fact which is well signified by the term Brahma-Sambandha, relationship with God, which its initiation means. Vallabha is so anxious to keep this relationship as pure as possible that he would not allow anything, not even supernatural miracles, to intervene between God and the souls elected by Him for his devotion and service. There are a number of stories illustrating this, of which we shall give here the following:
“Ramdasjee used to serve the Lord with much love and devotion. In this service of his, he was most particular about the things offered to the Image, so much so that he used to fetch the water himself from the well required for the purpose of cooking food etc., for the Image. He used to do this in spite of the fact that he was a rich man. He spent away so much of is money in his service of God that he was faced with poverty. He then invested what little money was left in some business with the result that the tide of his fortune began to turn for the better. Now it so happened that this business, which was that of selling a particular kind of cloth, was not to the liking of the Lord. Hence one day, the Lord said to him: “Now you are serving me from the proceeds of the sale of this dirty cloth.” At this Ramdasjee was much grieved and going to the merchant with whom he was in partnership asked him to return his share of the money as he did not want to carry on the business any more. Much surprised at this the man said: “Why are you doing this when the business is so thriving?” To this Ramdasjee replied: “What can I do? I have to deal with a boy (meaning Krishna), and I must satisfy his whims.” The man then returned the money which belonged to him. Ramdasjee now began to spend money from his capital with the result that it was soon finished. He then began to buy the things necessary for the service of the Lord on credit, with the result that he was heavily in debt soon. The Creditor then threatened him with legal proceedings. This caused Ramdasjee so much pain that the Lord Himself went to the creditor as Ramdasjee and paid him all his dues.
Sometime after this Ramdasjee happened to pass by the shop of this merchant, when the latter calling him said: “Well, Sir, why don’t you buy things from me now that our account is cleared?” Being much surprised at this and not knowing what the merchant meant, he asked him to show him the account. When this was done, his surprise knew no bounds for he found that the entire sum was not only paid but there was his own signature. He now understood whose work this was, and returning home told his wife that he would now take some service. So anxious was he to secure a job as soon as possible that he did not hesitate to accept that of a policeman, although it was far below his station in life. It was now difficult for him to be as particular as he was before in regard to the service of the Lord. He came once to Shri Vallabhacharya in this new state of his, when the latter told him: “Ramdasjee, you are blessed indeed!” At this, the Vaishavas, who were present, were much surprised, for they had noticed the change in Ramdasjee, and not knowing its cause had attributed it to a lack of faith and zeal on his part. The Acharya then told them that he was blessed indeed, for he would not cause the Lord any trouble on his account.”
There are a number of stories of this kind in the history of this Church which, whatever be their truth, show how Vallabha and his followers looked upon what would have been considered glorious by the followers of most religions, as something to be shunned. Such an attitude towards miracles wrought by God to save. His devotees from difficulties and troubles, is one of the most striking things we have come across in our study of this movement.
In strict accordance with this attitude is another remarkable feature of this movement viz., that it eschews prayer altogether.
Prayer of any kind, even for spiritual life, is considered wrong, since in order to fulfill it God is required to take some pains.
The idea behind this is that one’s faith in and devotion to God should be absolutely disinterested, and that it should mean nothing less than doing our best to serve the good pleasure of God. Faith in God, according to this movement, requires us to do God’s bidding and not God to do ours that much of prayer usually means. Besides, God Himself is to be the sole object of one’s devotion and nothing else. To Vallabha and his disciples, even those men and women, known in the history of Hindu religion as true and ideal devotees, do not show Bhakti at its best, because God had to work miracles for them in order to save them from difficult situations. This is well brought out in the following saying of one Matulalje, a lineal descendant of Vallabha, who lived in recent times.
“If a soul worshipped God but had its mind set on things of the world, the latter might be pleased with him, but not God. If one wants to please God, he should give up all worldly desires and serve Him alone. One must have full trust in God alone in order to please Him. Because of this the way of Bhakti is very difficult to follow. What is Bhakti ? People say that God saved Gajendra from death, but this is not Bhakti. God supplied Draupdi with about a thousand saris (upper cloth) to save her from disgrace on their removal one after another by Duryodhana and his companions in order to humiliate the Pandavas, but this is not Bhakti. God became the charioteer of Arjuna on the battlefield, but this is not Bhakti. Yasoda bound Krishna when he used to run away from home or eat clay, and he showed her the fourteen universes in his mouth, but this is not Bhakti. Again when Indra was wrathful and wanted to destroy all the people in the Vraja-land by a deluge of rain, the Gopas and the Gopis prayed Krishna to save them, and he protected them by holding Mt. Giriraja on one of his fingers: this too was not Bhakti. When Krishna, in his Rasa-Lila, disappeared from view, and the Gopis, full of the pangs of separation, went about seeking him from place to place that too was not Bhakti. So long as Bhakti is not altogether free from any worldly desires, it is not of the proper kind.”
On being asked what true Bhakti was, he said:
“Real and disinterested Bhakti is born only when the soul is free from the I ness and Mine ness: never otherwise. There should be absolutely no desire left in one’s mind. One should have only one desire, viz., to rest on the lotus-feet of God. No desire for oneself, and constant service and praise of God, no desire to have one’s salvation even, and the sole thought of pleasing God, the sure conviction that one is in this world only to serve God and to have no other but this, “all this pleases God.” And that is Bhakti.”
Another important feature of the movement is to keep the religious life of the devotee hidden as far as possible from others.
As has been said elsewhere in this book, a kind of godly hypocrisy, if such a term be allowed, is encouraged and even enjoined. The life of devotion is a secret between a soul and God which should not be divulged to others, especially those who are not prepared for it. This secret is to be kept not only from non-believers but even from such fellow-believers as may not have reached the proper stage to understand and appreciate the deeper things of God. There are several stories illustrating this feature, of which we give the following:
“Gokuldas was a wealthy man. Once upon a time he came to Gokula with a cheque for one hundred thousand Rs. He came along with several Vaishnavas, all of whom offered their gifts to Gosainjee (Vallabha’s son Vitthalnatha) on their being presented to him Gokuldas, however, did not offer anything, whereupon the others began to find fault with him saying that he was a miser. He heard these remarks with much equanimity. Meantime he had placed his cheque unobserved under the cushion of the seat of Gosainjee. This was seen by a personal attendant of the latter, and when the party had left he spoke of it to his master. After this the Vaishnavas remained in Gokula for several days, but none of them knew of the gift made by Gokuldas. On the other hand he allowed himself to be found fault with as one lacking in faith.”
In this we have a fine illustration of the practice of the precept “Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.” It goes even a step further since the man allows himself to be considered mean when he could have received much praise from his fellow-believers. There are a number of such stories in the literature of this movement.
Another important characteristic of this Church is that it discourages as much as possible the making of one’s living by one’s religious life. This is well illustrated by the following story:
“A Bengali, who lived in Vrandavana, maintained himself by the labour of his hands. Once Sri Gosainiee came to Vrandavana when this man became his disciple. The Vaishnavas of the place, now looking upon him as one of them, began to give him a higher wage that what he received formerly. The man thought this to be wrong inasmuch as it amounted to a sale of his religion. It is written in the Scriptures that the man who begs his bread in the name of God goes to hell, for which reason one should never make an exhibition of his religion in the course of his work or labour. Thinking thus, he used to wash off the mark of his faith on his work or labour. Thinking thus, he used to wash off the mark of his faith on his forehead and hide his necklace of Tulsi beads, before he went to work. He kept thus his faith secret. Once upon a time he forgot to wash the Tilaka (the sign on the forehead) and was leaving his home for work, when the Lord said to him: “Go after washing off your Tilak.” This made the man extremely happy. From that day the Lord used to speak with him daily, giving him much joy. This Bengali had received such favour with the Goswami.”
If the Lord wanted to accept money from any one, it would come of its own accord. A man’s mind becomes evil if he eats the food of evil men even though he himself may be a holy man. It is not that the food itself is evil, but because it has been bought by tainted money it becomes harmful. Owing to this one should save himself from evil food and evil company.”
“Champabhai of Gujarata worked as a sort of secretary to Sri Goswamin. He had so much faith in the Master that he saw no defect in him. Once upon a time Goswamin let with him for Gujarata, when on the way Raja Birbal met the party. As it was winter time, Birbal asked Champabhai why Sri Goswamin had chosen such a season to travel about. The later replied that it was due to his being heavily indebted. Hearing this Birbal said that he would gladly pay all his debts if that would prevent him from going to distant parts in the cold weather. Champabhai said this to Gosainjee, whereupon the latter said to himself: “Champabhai’s mind has become worldly: this is why he thinks I go because I am in need of money, whereas the real purpose of my visit is to save souls.” He then left the place at midnight without letting Birbal know anything about it. The next day he told Champabhai that he should undergo some penance, since he had committed a sin by attributing such a motive to him. He added that the Lord did not accept money from Princes, Prostitutes, Misers, Thieves and from all those who may have earned it by breach of trust or fraud or violence, and that, therefore he should never speak to anyone about it.
:Khushaldas, having earned much money took it all to Gosainjee. When he came, the latter was engaged in preparing himself for the worship of the Lord. On hearing from Khushaldas what he had come for, he remained silent for some time. Then he went into his private room for his worship. When he came out after finishing his worship, Khushaldas bowed down to him and offered the money which amounted to about three lacs of Rs. Gosainjee, however, told him that he could not accept the gift and asked him to take it back. At this the latter was much perturbed and requested the Goswamin to tell him what sin he had committed for him to be punished in this way. Gosainjee replied that it was through no fault of his that his gift was refused, but that it was the very nature of the thing offered which was the cause of the refusal. He added that when Khushaldas first told him about the offering he had brought, he was preparing for the divine service and that it caused distraction to his mind. He further said that if the mere idea of it was dangerous, much more so would the possession of such a big sum be, and that it was being refused on that account. Khushaldas then felt that he himself would suffer in the same way if he kept the money, and accordingly gave it away to others. He did not keep anything for himself. Such was his faith in Gosainjee.”
One wishes that the Church of Vallabha had continued to follow in the foot-steps of Vitthalnatha in regard to money as seen in these incidents. Unfortunately it has been far from particular as to where it derives its wealth from, with the inevitable result that it has deteriorated much in many ways.
One of the noblest features of all the movements of Bhakti-Marga, in India or outside, is the cultivation of love for one’s fellow-believers, irrespective of caste or race.
We must remember in this connection that it is only among the best of people, the saints of God, that true and deep love for all human beings can be found. Such people are always rare in any Church. The followers of most Vaishnava Sampradayas are noted for such love among themselves. There are several stories in the literature of this movement illustrating this trait, of which we shall make room for the following:
“Once upon a time when Gosainjee went to Gujarata, he initiated a man into the faith. This man was then given an Image which he worshipped in accordance with the practice of the Church. So hospitable was he that many Vaishnavas frequented his house as guests. Once he had a visit from several of them in the cold season. He gave to them all the covering and bedding he had in the house reserving nothing for himself, with the result that he could not sleep. He then began to pass his time in remembering the Lord. At this the Lord came out from the room in which the Image was and told him that He himself was unable to sleep and that He was quaking with cold. The man replied to the Lord that He would not have been able to sleep if the Vaishnavas who had been his guests had lacked bedding and covering, and that he himself would love to suffer any punishment for the sin of keeping the Lord from sleep. Hearing this Lord laughed and said: “Your devotion is so great that your name is enough to expiate the guilt of others. How is it possible then for you to have any guilt for doing such an act as this? I am pleased with you and shall grant you any boon you may ask for.” To this he replied: “My prayer is that my love for my fellow believers may increase day by day, because it is owing to this love that you have condescended to speak to me to-day.” The Lord said Amen to this. From that day the Lord used to speak to him daily.”
As has been said already, one of the most notable features of Vallabha’s movement is an almost total disregard for ritualistic works. It has not, however, broken with the Varnashrama Dharma which it looks upon more as a social than a religious system. Because of this it does conform to the rules and conventions of society or rather the Caste-system, giving rise, thus, to tension in various degrees in the life of the disciples. There are two definite schools of opinion in the Church, one holding that no rituals whatsoever should be practiced and the other allowing some conformity to them. Happily these have continued to remain together in the Church and no sub-sect has arisen on this matter. It seems these schools of opinion are a later growth, but the tension spoken of above has been felt in the movement from its early days. In the following story we have an example of the way in which it was felt and resolved in the life of a disciple. It stands thus.
A Brahmin, well-versed in Scriptural lore, was much given to performing ritualistic works enjoined by the Scriptures. Once he came to Gokula and became a disciple of Gosainjee. He heard from the latter the characteristics of souls born of God, one of them being the performance, of ritualistic duties and works with a view to hide from people one’s inner devotion. Apart from this such works were in no sense obligatory on true devotees. Hearing this he resolved to give up his love for works. He returned home bringing with him an Image which he worshipped with true devotion. He maintained himself by begging and devoted most of his time to the worship of God. Once being late in arranging his place for his worship, he began to sweep the house with haste. While doing this the string with which the broom was bound snapped, and as he did not want to be late for his worship, he just took off his sacred thread and bound the broom with it. At this God laughed and said to him: “Now I am truly pleased with thee. Thou knowest that a Brahmin goes to hell if he does not perform the works enjoined in the Vedas, and yet thou art prepared to go there for My sake. I am indeed much pleased with thee. Thou mayest ask for any boon thou likes, and shall grant it.” To this the Brahmin folding his hands replied: “My Lord, I do not want anything. I only want that you should speak and talk with me always.” God then asked him to put on his sacred thread again, whereupon the Brahmin replied: “What have I to do with such things now?” Upon this God said that it was necessary for him to do so in order that the people of the world may not be unnecessarily offended. The Brahmin then put on the thread and continued his worship. The Lord used to talk to him every day and gave him His fellowship.”
A noteworthy characteristic of Vallabha’s Church is that there is no place in it for Sadhus or Sannyasis. It simply does not believe in Sadhus or Swamis. According to Vallabha, in this Dark Age only one kind of Sannyasa is proper, viz., that of Bhakti. He himself took it at the end of his life and it was only a prelude to his passing away.
One of the glories of all the Vaishnava Churches in India is their universality. The Gospel proclaimed by them is meant for all, irrespective of race or sex or creed. In their eyes all human beings are eligible for salvation.
The Bhakti movements in India did not hesitate to admit the Non-Aryans and even the Moslems into their fold. He is said to have had one or two Moslem disciples. His son Vitthalnatha continued the practice of admitting Moslems into the Church, one of whom deserves special mention.
The name of this Moslem disciple was Ras Khan. He has been thought by some to be a Pathan and by others a Syed. It is certain that he came from a noble family intimately associated with the Mogul Court. He is said to have been born in the latter half of the sixteenth century, being thus a contemporary of Vitthalnatha. He was, besides, a poet of real merit. It has been said of him that he was a lover of Beauty from his childhood, and without a doubt he loved Nature as only true poets do. This love of his increased with years. He had also a gift for friendship. In his early youth he formed a friendship with a Hindu of his age which engrossed his entire mind and became an obsession. In course of time, hearing from a Vaishnava about Sri Krishna, Ras Khan came to be smitten by a love for Krishna which was deep and profound. He was filled with a passionate desire to have the Darshana of Krishna, in His temple on Mt. Giri, a thing which he was not allowed to do on account of his being a Moslem. He gave up food and drink, and began to seek God here and there in order that he might find Him. For three days he went about like a mad man, crying out aloud for God. This was unbearable to God, and accordingly on the fourth day when Vitthalnatha went to Him in the morning, He said to him:
“A spiritual soul of non-Aryan origin has been sitting on the bank of Govindkund for three days without food. When I appeared to him, he ran to touch me, but I came away from him since you have not accepted him as your disciple. I shall accept him when you give him my name.”
This was in other words a command to Vitthalnatha to make Ras Khan a disciple, which was done soon by giving him initiation into the Church. After this he was allowed to enter the temples belonging to the faith.
Ras Khan, who was a true devotee and a Bhakta, consecrated himself entirely to the service of Krishna. Being a poet he devoted all his gifts to the singing of the praise and glory of God. He composed a number of beautiful songs describing his deep experiences of God’s love, grace and beauty. Many of these songs are brought together in the form of two small books called Ras Khan Sujana and Prema Vatika.
It was in this way that the doors of Vallabha’s Church were opened to the Moslems. It is worthy of note that Vitthalnatha had some disciples even among the Untouchables. This is evident from the following story:
“Once upon a time Gosainjee and his party, while returning from Gujarata to Vrajaland, lost their way. They then found a Balai (a man belonging to an untouchable community) and asked him to show them the way, which the man willingly consented to do, especially as he had to go in the same direction. At noon the party rested for their meal etc., when they gave the Balai some food to eat. As soon as the man ate this food, his mind became pure and he saw God in Gosinjee. He then requested the latter to make him his disciple. Gosainjee, taking pity on him, gave him the Name. The party soon after came to the village where the Balai lived. The man then brought his wife to Gosainjee and got her initiated in to the faith by him. She partook of the holy food which made her mind pure. The influence of this was even greater in her case than in his, for while returning home she was so overwhelmed by the feeling of separation from God that she fainted. The man brought her back in this condition to Gosainjee who soon brought her to her senses. Then both the husband and the wife went with the party to Gokula. They walked at a little distance from others so that they may not touch them. On reaching the river Yamuna, the party crossed over to other side in a ferry, but the two Balais remained on this side as no boat would take them over. They then felt their separation from Vitthalnatha so much that they both had fever and they fainted. Gosainjee on coming to know of this sent some people to fetch them. This was done accordingly, the Balais remaining unconscious all the time. Then Gosainjee touched them with his feet and they both came to their senses. They prayed him to do something in their behalf so that they might have his darshan every day. Gosinjee then gave them his wooden sandals and asked them to worship them. He also told them that they would have his darshan in the sandals whenever they desired it. They were asked, besides, to offer to the sandals milk and fruit and to go and live in a quiet place. They did this and Gosainjee manifested himself to them every day twice, in the morning and in the evening. Their faith and devotion grew so much that they are said to have performed a miracle, which led to the conversion and initiation in to the new faith of a number of Brahmins and a Prince.”
According to the accounts given in the book The Stories of Two Hundred and Fifty two Vaishnavas, in Vitthalnatha’s own time, several Bhis are said to have been converted to the new faith owing to the efforts of Chacha Harivamsa. It would seem, therefore, that in those early days this branch of Vaishnavism, along with others, did not hesitate to carry its redemptive message even to the Aboriginals, the Moslems and the Untouchables. But this phase of it did not last long. As the Church grew in wealth, prestige and respectability, it fell in a line with the strictly orthodox Varnashramite Hinduism, and no more converts came from the classes mentioned above. This is just what has happened to most of the forward movements within the pale of Hinduism. The same phenomenon is visible elsewhere too. Dynamic movements in course of time are inevitably swallowed up by the large amount of inertia residing always in humanity and they in their turn give place to others having a more vital program.
Most of the stories given above are taken from The Stories of Two Hundred Fifty-two Vaishnavas. The first is taken from The Stories of Eighty-four Vaishnavas. They are extremely valuable, nevertheless, to the students of religious movements, as showing the drift and tendency of the faiths and Churches they represent.
Author : Abha Shahra Shyama