Universal Religion vis-à-vis Ethnic Identity
- Guru Granth Sahib Perspective
Dr Shashi Bala
The message of Guru Granth Sahib is universal, dynamic and deeply humanistic and is not confined to the boundaries of space and time. It provides solace and bliss to the whole humanity due to its cosmopolitan spirit, interfaith dialogue and emphasis on world-affirmation with deep concern for spiritual transformation of man. Though the Holy Scripture gives reflection of the contemporary conditions of the medieval Indian society yet the eternal spiritual philosophy and moral values provide perennial solution to the emerging problems of human life.
In the present times, we are passing through a phase of utter chaos and confusion due to the increasing disharmony in human relations both at the microscopic as well as at the macroscopic levels. The advancement of science and technology and the development of global telecommunication system have brought the world closer to such an extent that the behavior of an individual vis-à-vis nation affects the whole world. A mere glance at the present scenario all over the world reveals that religious intolerance is the main cause of maximum violence and massacre of innocent human beings. Does it not seem paradoxical that on the one hand we are making advancement towards materialism under the western influence and on the other, we are becoming oblivious of our spiritual needs? The underlying cause is unawareness of the ethical and spiritual values which leads to conflict between good and evil, virtue and vice, self-sacrifice and self-acquisition, religious tolerance and fanaticism, religious co-existence and fundamentalism. We are living in a pluralistic society which is an amalgamation of different linguistic, cultural, religious, ethnic and regional groups. Recently, the emerging trends towards the ideology of totalitarianism have become a challenge for peaceful and harmonious co-existence of different communities. The pertinent question arises, where lies the crisis? What is its cause and where do we find the solution to this crisis?
This paper is an exclusive study of the modern challenge of universalism on the one hand and issue of ethnic identity on the other. It will highlight first, the Sikh concept of universal religion; second the idea of ethnic identity; and finally what type of guidance is provided in the Holy Scripture to resolve the concept of universal religion vis-à-vis the issue of ethnic identity.
The history of religions reveals the fact that the origin of various religions owes to spiritual struggles of man. In order to create a harmonious atmosphere and to resolve the issue of religious intolerance, many attempts have been made in the history of religious thought. Recently a new trend of thought under the epithet ‘religious pluralism’ has emerged to create peaceful relations between different religions and it indicates a form of society in which minority groups retain independent traditions. The expression of religious pluralism is manifest in diverse ways: first, no claim of exclusive authority but recognition of some level of truth and value in other religions; second, promotion of unity, co-operation, or improved understanding between different religions, or denominations within the same religion in the form of ecumenism; and third as a harmonious co-existence between adherents of different religions or religious denominations in the form of religious tolerance. The objective of religious pluralism is to preserve the uniqueness of different religious notions and to bring about a harmonious co-existence among the different religious denominations.
Universal religion, in some cases, may be defined as a transition from the structure of ethnic religion that takes place keeping in view a fundamental change in human existence and its message is directed towards the need in the depth of human existence itself and it makes a universal offer of redemption in contrast to the existing situation of unredeemed man. In this way, it ‘spread out beyond the areas of their historical origin and ethnic setting and diffuse among many different peoples regardless of race, culture, language and other peculiarities.’1 No systematic conception of Universal Religion through discursive understanding is possible because it is ‘neither the product of ratiocination or discursive understanding nor an amalgam of the vital elements of different religions produced eclectically but is the recognition of the basic truths of all religious faiths. 2
The Sikh religion, one of the major religions of the world, is a revealed religion and is neither an offshoot of any faith nor a syncretism of different conflicting faiths. Guru Nanak enunciates the concept of One God, rejects the doctrine of incarnation, idol worship, and formalism of ritualistic ceremonies by stressing on the contemplation of God and service of humanity. The all-pervasiveness of God integrates the spiritual and the temporal and presents a non-dichotomous, holistic and integral view of cosmos. This oneness of God is not an abstract unity but it implies the sanctification of all relative existence.3 The theological implication of the concept of One God is explicit in the form of universal brotherhood providing opportunity for the development of every soul irrespective of caste, creed and birth.4
Generally, religion serves three types of functions viz. meaning function, identity or belonging function and structural function. So far as the meaning function of religion is concerned, it provides a world-view of cosmos and the meaning of phenomenal occurrences. Meaning involves both concept (idea) and demand (imperative) that means it incorporates both affective and cognitive dimensions. In other words, it must be ‘presented to the prospective believer in such a way that the person seems to be held by the belief rather than voluntarily holding the beliefs’.5 Guru Nanak’s revelation as stated in his own words in Raga Majh ki Var6 is a sort of moral command to undertake a certain course of action to make people realize the meaning of God’s existence in human life and in the world of experience or in other words, the recognition of God’s presence in one’s daily experience as the source of all things. This type of inter-subjective character of Sikh mystical experience takes into consideration not only the persons but also the total setting of life as well as its activities. It is not confined to the limits of structure of thought but tries to understand the meaningful in man.7 In this way, a spiritual dialogue has been initiated with its emphasis on man’s life and his deeds. This spiritual dialogue takes place as the religious experience in the form of prayer, contemplation, faith and ways of searching for the Absolute. Besides, an attitude of concern, respect and hospitality towards persons of other faiths as well as for the spiritual evolution of man is expressed in the Holy Scripture.
Spiritual transformation or manifestation of the divine potentiality in human personality is the core of religion. The prerequisite condition is not only to possess any religion but to be religious. The true way of life consists in keeping the true name in heart, loving the true one and departing the filth of falsehood.8 True worship means sublimation of ego9, life of detachment, 10 practice of truth11, meditating on divine name12 through Guru and divine grace.13 Speaking about the ideal of universal religion, Swami Vivekananda says, ‘religion is realization, not talk nor doctrine, nor theories, however beautiful they may be. It is being and becoming, not hearing or acknowledging; it is the whole soul becoming changed into what it believes.’14
The underlying basis of this universal message is ethical conduct because external forms and mechanical performance of rites and rituals are of no avail. Only the bodily purification cannot produce the inner purification of mind.15True knowledge is the realization of God and is not to be found in the mere reading of books.16 The humanistic and universal aspect of religion makes no distinction between contemplative life and the social life. It stresses not only on the knowledge of truth but on the implementation of that knowledge in one’s own life.17 Man’s real freedom lies not in escapism from the hard realities of life but going through them in the spirit of detachment. That is why, the three cardinal precepts of Sikhism viz. nam-japna, kirat karna and vand chhakana are indicative of an active and virtuous life along with the inner spirit of ‘chardikala’ (spirit of optimism) and ‘sarbat da bhalla’ (welfare of humanity).
The identity of any religion may be defined as a total world view of a particular religion including its language, culture, customs, symbols, traditions and legends. The universal message of the Sikh Gurus, nonetheless, has also apprehended the notion of identity or a distinct type of community. We have clear evidence in the Sikh history that from the times of Guru Nanak, there was historical awareness and consciousness of being a distinct ethnic group with the desire to preserve their heritage. Guru Nanak has given a very coherent and consistent religious ideology, different pattern of behaviour as well as prescribed a way of life and adopted means to work that purpose effectively. A conscious and deliberate attempt was made by his successor Gurus by creating cohesive infrastructure for the community but the distinct Sikh identity was conferred by Guru Gobind Singh with the creation of khalsa and by the imposition of five symbols (keshas, kangha, kirpan, kachha and kara) which are indicative of the disciplined life of the individual as well as of the corporate identity of ethno-religious, ethno-social and ethno-political nature.
The study of the origin and development of Sikhism reveals the fact that Sikhism has passed through many critical phases. The confrontation with the Mughal Empire began during the period of the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev, who sacrificed his life and was the first martyr in the Sikh history. An organized and armed resistance to the Mughal Empire was made by the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind. The ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur sacrificed his life to avert the forcible conversions of Hindus to Islam. The tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, confronted the Mughal Empire and sacrificed his four sons. After the tenth Guru, it was his disciple Banda Singh Bahadur, who took the command and confronted the Mughal troops. However, history gives evidence that many attempts were made by the imperial troops to suppress and annihilate the Sikhs.18
The origin of identity-crisis of the Sikhs can be traced back to the Araya Samaj Movement, which attempted to absorb the Sikhs into the Hindu-fold. As a reaction, the Singh Sabha Movement arose in the late nineteenth century. The historical awareness and consciousness of being a distinct ethnic group with the desire to preserve their heritage are the products of this religio-cultural revolution of Sikhism. This identity-consciousness finds expression in two ways viz., the individual identity owing to distinct form and the corporate identity of an ethos on the political level.19
The quest for preservation of identity implies in an implicit form, the feeling of insecurity or fear of assimilation by those forces which are trying to assimilate the minority communities by using political power or other methods. In the course of Sikh history, we also find the emergence of certain religious movements within the folds of Sikhism which either disappeared completely due to their inability to keep pace with the basic tenets of Sikhism or have separated from the parent body to maintain their separate identity.20 However, these historical events impel us to understand the nature of crisis and to introspect its causes to seek guidance from the eternal Guru- Guru Granth Sahib.
The question arises, is the notion of universal religion incompatible with the issue of identity? If we concentrate on the scriptural aspect, then there arises no problem as the universal message of the Scripture provides enough space for preservation of ethnic identity. Guru Nanak’s initiation of inter-faith dialogue, his comments on Pandits, Muslims and Yogis etc, Guru Arjan Dev’ inclusion of Bhagat Bani and conferring them an equal status, nonetheless, preserving their separate identity are clear evidence to support this thesis.
Stress on Unity not on Uniformity
The Sikh religion’s approach to unity does not mean uniformity but it recognizes the diversity underlying unity.21 Guru Nanak was fully aware of the prevalent religious traditions and their innumerable spiritual approaches22 but with his sagacious vision also observed the minute details of these modes of worship and also pointed out the intricacies in the behaviour of the adherents. His first concern was righteous conduct. To him the ideal of universal religion is to understand the unity behind the variation, to know that truth can be expressed in man ways. 23This oneness is the creative source of all and all owe their existence to One God Who manifests Himself in diverse ways and the different religions are the various manifestations of God with the same destination. There is one Light in the three worlds24 and the same Light shines within all the souls.25Guru Granth Sahib clearly states that the same consciousness dwells within all beings and none is without consciousness but as is the consciousness in man so is their way of life.26 In his discourses with the Yogis, Muslims and Brahmins, no doubt, he condemned their formal ways to worship and ritualistic practices but with the positive suggestion to rediscover the inner essence of their religion.
Possibility of Inter-faith Dialogue
The inter-faith dialogue, initiated by Guru Nanak, does not mean encounter among variant religious traditions rather is a sort of interaction pertaining to religious, social and cultural problems and issues forth in a spirit of fellowship. It is an expression of an inter-subjective attitude which does not mean denial of the identity of individual traditions through a synthesis of different approaches. The meaningful relationship with others is not possible without the presence of the wholly other. Nevertheless, there is a dimension of meaning in which persons encounter one another. It is an ethical dimension that specifies or determines the religious character of man. This type of personal interaction with others is possible only in society. In Guru Granth Sahib, we find this type of lively interactions with the other religious leaders. There is found no trace of malice, hatred, subordination, and degradation of others. Neither had the Gurus intended to convert them nor to impose their own ideology on them but talked to them in the spirit of reconciliation to create a harmonious relationship. This type of attitude is clearly visible in the beginning of the Sidh Gosht, when Guru Nanak hails the assembly of the Sidhas : ‘Siddha-sabha kari asani baithei sant- sabha jaikaro’.27 Here he offers salutations to the assembly of holy persons, with his firm conviction that the Eternal God is to be attained through the holy congregation.
Guru Nanak’s mission was not to make conversions but to bring back the followers of distinct religions to their original faith. He, no doubt, has offered a critical analysis of the contemporary religious thought and rejected their external paraphernalia but only to inculcate in them a spirit of deeper penetration in their own religion. According to Guru Nanak, to attain truth, it is necessary to be more than a Hindu or a Muslim and that is why after revelation, his first words were ‘there is no Hindu or a Musalman’ which indicate that the mere possession of religion was not necessary to be religious. He knows their beliefs and practices minutely and is communicating his own ideals to them in a manner to invoke them and to get response from their side- the response in the form of inner transformation. So the way of communication is not a sort of monologue but is an inter subjective experience with the intention to bring inward transformation in the respondent. According to S. Kapur Singh:
His (Guru Nanak’s) divine mission demands acceptance of genuine dialogue rather than conversion as the goal of transcending particularism—with a view to discover a universal concept, not synthesis or synthetic amalgam, but deeper penetration of one’s own religion in thought, devotion and action.28
The objective of interfaith dialogue in the Holy Scripture is neither subjugation, nor domination, nor conversion, nor degradation of other traditions. If we go through the total perspective of Gurbani, it becomes clear that the aim of the Gurus was not to abolish the identity or to merge them in some new form by conversion. What he actually meant was to make them aware of the real ideal and that was the knowledge of truth-being the ideal common to all religions. Truth is one and same for all, it cannot be many and man’s aim of life is to realize that truth to outgrow all types of limitations. To the Hindus, Muslims and the followers of other sects, Guru Nanak addressed in accordance with their respective terminology and told them to adhere to the essentials and to discard redundant and meaningless formalism. Addressing to the Brahmin, the predominant priestly class, Guru Nanak says that the real brahmin is only he who practices austerity, contemplation, self-control, righteous deeds and is contented and cultured.29 Similarly, to be called a true Muslim, he should have firm faith with conviction and should accept the Will of God by surrendering his ego.30 It is evident from the discussion of Guru Nanak with the yogis that he did not deprecate the actual motive of Yogic Cult, instead he exhorted them to shed off their perversions and express their meaning from a new angle.31The crux of Guru Nanak’s views becomes apparent, not only in his condemnation of external symbols, austere practices and life of renunciation but also in the ways he recommends for the same end in view.
Inclusion of Bhagat Bani
The Sikh scripture is perhaps the first scripture among the world scriptures which incorporates not only the compositions of other spiritual preceptors belonging to the different religious denominations but also preserves their separate identity, acknowledges their spiritual status and accords them an equal status. These spiritual preceptors emerged from the different regions and diverse religious traditions and belonged to different castes.32
The recognition of the separate identity and the reflections of their religious background are maintained in the Holy Scripture along with their conformity with the doctrinal themes. For instance, Bhagat Jaidev’s use of Vaishnava names of God such as Hari, Chakardhar, Govinda and Sheikh Farid’s adherence to Shariat’ day of judgement, fear of dozak, satan etc reveal their particular religious background. To preserve the identity of the compositions of the Bhagats, these have been denominated individually by their names such as Siri Raga Kabir Ji ka, Siri Raga Trilochan ka, Siri Raga Bani Bhagat Beni Ji ki and Raga Asa Bani Bhagatan Ki : Kabir Jiu, Namdev Jiu, Ravidas Jiu. The titles of the compositions of the Bhagats reveal a profound spirit of regard towards the Bhagats. The recognition of the spiritual attainments of these preceptors by the Gurus in their own hymns also reveals their acceptance of multiple approaches to the Absolute Being.
Creation of Khalsa
The distinct philosophy and a new way of the Khalsa was certainly a deviation from the prevalent Indian and Semitic traditions, nonetheless, the Sikh Gurus have preached the universal brotherhood of man based on the ideational foundation of the ontological principles of One God and oneness of mankind. It is clearly stated that the basic truths are not confined to any particular community but are applicable to all and no one can claim any special privilege by virtue of birth. This cosmopolitan spirit of the Holy Scripture is also seen in the concept of universal polity as is found in the daily prayer (ardas) of the Sikh religion and its two cardinal principles chardikala (spirit of optimism) and sarbat da bhalla (welfare of humanity). The perennial self-transcendence is an aspect of human existence and is an unending process which leads to the development of social, political, moral and intellectual consciousness.
The Sikh institutions such as the Gurdwaras, sangat and pangat are also paradigms of religious co-existence and are open to all irrespective of caste, creed and denomination. These serve as practical example of democratic, socialistic and universal approach of the Sikh religion based on the principle of equality, universality of human values as well as respect for other religious traditions and scriptures. They also indicate to a life of detachment, expansion of consciousness, elimination of fear and service for the welfare of humanity. There is no incompatibility between the universal aspect and the notion of distinct identity because the stress of the Sikh religion is on unity and not uniformity; it recognizes not only the co-existence but also the co-equality of different religious and ethnic groups and creates provision for interfaith dialogue among the different religious communities.
1. Gustav Mensching, Structures and Patterns of Religion, pp.52-56.
2. An attempt was made by Emperor Akbar to establish universal religion (Din-i-Ilahi) and by Hegel on the basis of certain fundamentals which flow from man’s consciousness of finitude. Cf. A.K.Mazumdar, ‘Universal Religion and Swami Vivekananda’ in Parliament of Religions (1963-64), Swami Vivekananda Centenary Committee, Calcutta, pp.219-20. Swami Vivekananda observes that truth is not confined to any particular faith but it lies in a certain mode of experiencing the One Reality. To him, the first maxim is‘Do not destroy—Break not, pull not anything down, but built—Do not injure, if you cannot render help’. The second maxim is ‘take man where he stands and from there give him a lift. Cf. Selections from the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, 1995, p. 164.
3. eyku ipqw eyks ky hm bwirk qU myrw gur hweI ] Guru Granth Sahib, p. 611.
4. eyko pvxu mwtI sB eykw sB eykw joiq sbweIAw ]
sB iekw joiq vrqY iBin iBin n rleI iksY dI rlweIAw ] Ibid., p. 96.
5. Keith A. Roberts, Religion in Sociological Perspective, The Dorsey Press, U.S.A, 1984, pp. 56-60.
6. hau FwFI vykwru kwrY lwieAw ] rwiq idhY kY vwr Durhu PurmwieAw ]
FwFI scY mhil Ksim bulwieAw ] scI isPiq swlwh kpVw pwieAw ]
scw AMimRq nwmu Bojnu AwieAw ] gurmqI KwDw rij iqin suKu pwieAw ]
FwFI kry pswau sbdu vjwieAw ] nwnk scu swlwih pUrw pwieAw ] Guru Granth Sahib, p. 150.
7. mn qUM joiq srUpu hY Awpxw mUlu pCwxu ] mn hir jI qyrY nwil hY gurmqI rMgu mwxu ] mUlu pCwxih qW shu jwxih mrx jIvx kI soJI hoeI ] Ibid., p. 441.
8. scu qw pru jwxIAY jw irdY scw hoie ] kUV kI mlu auqrY qnu kry hCw Doie ]
scu qw pru jwxIAY jw sic Dry ipAwru ] Ibid., p. 468.
9. haumY krq ByKI nhI jwinAw ] gurmuiK Bgiq ivrly mnu mwinAw ] hau hau krq nhI scu pweIAY ] haumY jwie prm pdu pweIAY ] Ibid.,p.226.
10. jb Awsw AMdysw qb hI ikau kir eyku khY ] Awsw BIqir rhY inrwsw qau nwnk eyku imlY ] ien ibiD swgru qrIAY ] jIviqAw ieau mrIAY ] Ibid.,p.877.
11. scu imlY scu aUpjY sc mih swic smwie ] Ibid., p. 18.
12. jp qp sMjm krm n jwnw nwmu jpI pRB qyrw ]
guru prmysru nwnk ByitE swcY sbid inbyrw ] Ibid., p. 878.
13. krim imlY qw pweIAY ivxu krmY pwieAw n jwie ] Ibid., p.29.
14. Selections from the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, p. 174.
15. jpu qpu sMjmu swDIAY qIriQ kIcY vwsu ]
puMn dwn cMigAweIAw ibnu swcy ikAw qwsu ]
jyhw rwDy qyhw luxY ibnu gux jnmu ivxwsu ] Guru Granth Sahib, p. 56.
16. piV piV gfI ldIAih piV piV BrIAih swQ ]
piV piV byVI pweIAY piV piV gfIAih Kwq ]
pVIAih jyqy brs brs pVIAih jyqy mws ] pVIAY jyqI Awrjw pVIAih jyqy sws ]
nwnk lyKY iek gl horu haumY JKxw JwK ] Ibid., p. 467.
17. See my book, Relevance of Guru Granth Sahib in the Modern Context, Singh Brothers, Amritsar, 2006, p. 49.
18. H.R.Gupta, History of the Sikhs, Vol.ii, New Delhi, 1978, pp.39-40.
19. See my article, ‘Religion and Culture: The Sikh Perspective’ in Journal of Sikh Studies, Vol. xxiv, No.2, 2000, p. 157.
20. ‘There are several instances such as the Udasis, the Meenas, the Dheermaliaas, the Raam Raayyas, the Suthra Shaahees, the Dewaanaas, the Mehman Shaahees, the Gulaab Daasses etc. There is also found deviational tendency among some Missionary Movementa as the Nirmalas, the Sewa Panthis, the Nirankaris, the Namdharis and the Radhasoamis. These missions, though deem themselves to be Sikhs, yet their assertion about their separate identity is apparent.’ Prof. Pritam Singh, ‘The Deviational Tendency of Sikh Missions’ in Journal of Sikh Studies, vol.iii, No. i, Feb.1976, pp.6-7.
21. Avil Alh nUru aupwieAw kudriq ky sB bMdy ] eyk nUr qy sBu jgu aupijAw kaun Bly ko mMdy ]1]
logw Brim n BUlhu BweI ] Kwilku Klk Klk mih Kwilku pUir rihE sRb TWeI ]1]rhwau ]
mwtI eyk Anyk BWiq kir swjI swjnhwrY ] nw kCu poc mwtI ky BWfy nw kCu poc kuMBwrY ]2]
sB mih scw eyko soeI iqs kw kIAw sBu kCu hoeI ] hukmu pCwnY su eyko jwnY bMdw khIAYsoeI ]3]
Alhu AlKu n jweI liKAw guir guVu dInw mITw ] kih kbIr myrI sMkw nwsI srb inrMjnu fITw ]4]3] Guru Granth Sahib, pp. 1349-50.
22. AsMK jp AsMK Bwau ] AsMK pUjw AsMK qp qwau ] AsMK grMQ muiK vyd pwT ] AsMK jog min rhih audws ] AsMK Bgq gux igAwn vIcwr ] AsMK sqI AsMK dwqwr ] AsMK sUr muh BK swr ] AsMK moin ilv lwie qwr ] kudriq kvx khw vIcwru ] vwirAw n jwvw eyk vwr ] jo quDu BwvY sweI BlI kwr ] qU sdw slwmiq inrMkwr ] Guru Granth Sahib, pp. 3-4.
23. eyko Drmu idRVY scu koeI ] gurmiq pUrw juig juig soeI ] Ibid.,p.1188.
24. iqRBvx joiq DrI prmysir Avru n dUjw BweI hy ] Ibid.,p.1024.
25. sB mih joiq joiq hY soie ] iqs kY cwnix sB mih cwnxu hoie ] Ibid.,p.663.
26. eykw suriq jyqy hY jIA ] suriq ivhUxw koie n kIA ] jyhI suriq qyhw iqn rwhu ] lyKw ieko Awvhu jwhu ] Ibid., pp. 24-25.
27. isD sBw kir Awsix bYTy sMq sBw jYkwro ] iqsu AwgY rhrwis hmwrI swcw Apr Apwro ] msqku kwit DrI iqsu AwgY qnu mnu AwgY dyau ] nwnk sMqu imlY scu pweIAY shj Bwie jsu lyau ] Ibid.,p.938.
28. Dr. Madanjit Kaur & Dr. Piar Singh (Eds.), Guru Nanak’s Life and Thought, G.ND.U., Amritsar, 1991, p.100.
29. so bRhmxu jo ibMdY bRhmu ] jpu qpu sMjmu kmwvY krmu ] sIl sMqoK kw rKY Drmu ] bMDn qoVY hovY mukqu ] soeI bRhmxu pUjx jugqu ] Ibid.,p.1411
30. muslmwxu khwvxu musklu jw hoie qw muslmwxu khwvY ] Avil Aauil dInu kir imTw mskl mwnw mwlu muswvY] hoie musilmu dIn muhwxY mrx jIvx kw Brmu cukwvY ] rb kI rjwie mMny isr aupir krqw mMny Awpu gvwvY ] qau nwnk srb jIAw imhrMmiq hoie q muslmwxu khwvY ] Ibid.,p.141.
31. glI jogu n hoeI ] eyk idRsit kir smsir jwxY jogI khIAY soeI ] Ibid., p.730.
32. Sheikh Farid, the disciple of Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, was a Muslim Sufi who belonged to the Chishti Sufi Order; Bhagat Kabir was a weaver who belonged to the Sant tradition; Bhagat Jaidev, Bhagat Trilochan, Bhagat Surdas and Bhagat Ramanand were Brahmins; Bhagat Namdev was a calico-printer and the close associate of Sant Jnaneshwar; Bhagat Pipa, the supporter of advaita philosophy; Bhagat Dhanna, a Jat or cultivator; Bhagat Sain, a barber and Bhagat Ravidas, cobbler by profession were known as the disciples of Bhagat Ramanand. No historical evidence is available about the life of Bhagat Sadhna yet he is assumed to be the contemporary of Bhagat Namadev and Sant Jnaneshwar. Nothing is known about the life and caste of Bhagat Beni except the account about his disinclination towards the mundane affairs and involvement in solitude meditation.