Jnanesvar and Nivritti Nath
Saint Jñāneśvar became famous all over India as one of greatest saints of Maharashtra, and as one of most illustrous yogis of Nath Sampradaya. His life was full of drammatical events, and there exist a lot stories about miraculous deeds he performed. His brother Nivṛttināth, became widely known mostly as being his guru who initiated him in yoga and into the tradition of the Natha sampradaya.
Saint Jñāneśvar was born at about 1275 A.D. at a village Apegaon near Paithan (old Pratishthan) in Maharashtra. He complited his commentary on the Bhagavat Gitā, Bhavarthadipika, popularly known as ‘Jñāneśvari’ at age 16 years in year 1290A.D., at place called Alandi, situated near from Poona. There only six years later, he has taken jinda samādhi (was burried in the ground, while he still was alive), by his own will at the age of 21 years in1296 A.D.
He was born in Brahmin family of state Maharashtra at the end of thirteenth century. Social life at that time was not so much easy as it nowdays, being regulated by many old customs and restrictions, and life story of his parents was tragical and full of sorrow. Name of his father was Vithalpant, and mother’s name was Rukminibai Kulkarni. They were living in vilage called Apegaon situated on bank of river Godavri in Maharashtra.
His father Vittalpanth was the only one son of a village-accountant Govindapanth by name. In accordance with tradition existing in Brahmins families, he was tought sanskrit and holly scriptures from very yong age, and aquired good knowledge of both. From his chilhood he was not much interested in world matters, but ruther inclined towards religious life and ascetism. He was liking to spent lot of time in companiy of sadhus and wondering yogis, and he was very found of piligrimages to holly plases.
Once when Vittalpanth was on piligrimage, he stopped for rest at Hanuman temple in village called Alandi. There he meet a brahman Sidhopant by name, who after making enquiries about his caste and family, found him to be suitable candidate for marrige of his young dougter Rukminibai. He made purposal to Vittalpanth’s family, but Vittalapanth declained it, by saing that he is not ready for it and have no intention to be married yet. However later he expressed his agreement for marrige, after he saw in a dream, that Deitey ordered him to do it.
After marriage was concluded, he settled with his new wife in his parental house in Apegaon. Very soon after it, both of his purents has died, and he becamed head of family. Vittalapanth was not ready for it at all, becouse of his non interest in practical matters, and soon young couple was unable even to get enough food to feed themselves. After they spent some time in such conditions and situation not improved, they have to move to Rukminibai father’s house at Alandi. To live in house of wife’s parents traditionaly was considered as matter of disgrace in India, and this step was not easy for Vithalpant. He became now much abset with his family life, and saw no any way to improve the sitation. They still have no children, so he decided that it not to much late for him to renounce family life for which he found he was unfit, and start life of sanyasi. One day he said that he going to take bath in river, but he not reuturned back to the house. Instead he run to Varanasi intending to become sadhu. There he became disciple of saint Ramanandswami and was given new name Chaitanyashram. He didn’t told to his guru that he was married person beforebeing scared that if he would know it, he would never accept him as disciple.
In accordance with tradition, a person who has unresolved family responcibilities, can’t take sanyasa. As a consequence of done by Vithalpant, his wife Rukminibai was condemned to suffer for life long, becouse she neither has children, nor she was able to enter into new marrige in accordance with social laws existed at that time. She actualy became a widdow, having alive husband, but was unable to do anything.
After some time, it happened that Ramanandswami started for piligrimage to Rameshwaram, place sitated in southern India and having one of the twelve Jyoti Shiva-Lingas. On his way he was passing through Alandi, and he has stopped there for rest. Treveling sadhus were always desired guests everywhere in India, and soon all vilagers came one by one to have sight of distinguished saint. When Rukminibai aproached him, he blessed her by saing that she should have many children. After listening this, she started cry bitterly on his feet unable to say anything. After Ramanandswami came to know about her situation, he realised that person whom he made his disciple, was no one else but husband of this poor woomen. He became greatly distresed about mistake he has made by accepting Vithalpanth as his disciple.
Yogis believe that in accordance with laws of karma, person whose social responsibilities are not accomplished, and who tries to escape them, becomes reason of troubles for those people who affected by it. As such he never can achive success in Sadhana, becouse his new bad karma continiously created by pain and sorrows of those who relay upon him. Being guru of a such person, also brings bad fate, becouse guru have to accept complete responsibility for misdeeds done by his disciple, and as result of it, he also becomes bound by his bad karma. Ramanandswami immidiatly realised all grimmity of the situation, therefore he canseled his journey to Rameshwaram on half way, and returned back to Varanasi. There he accused Vithalpanth for saying untruth for becoming his disciple, and told him that his taking Sanyasa have no effect duty this reason. He ordered him immidiatly return back to his wife and family life.
Vithalpanth has to obey order given by his guru, so he returned back to Alandi to his wife. There his return was very cold welcomed by ortodox Brahmin community of the village. By his becoming sadhu he stepped out of four casts existing in Indian society, and after his return, he with his wife was excomuicated from society and declared outcast, as panishment for done by him. Brachmans were scared that if they would pardon him, it may create precedent for future neglecting of traditions and their time-honored customs would be destroyed.
Since that moment pair was obliged to carry on pitaible existence. Blessing given by Guru came true, soon four children were borne to the them: three boys and one girl. Nivrutti who was botrn in 1273, was oldest of them, Dnyandeo the second son (who later became famous as Jñāneśvar) was born in 1275, and Sopan yongest from thre brothers in 1277. Last of all a girl was born in 1279 who was named Muktabai. When oldest of boys Nivrutti reached age of seven years, Vithalpanth attempted to perform ceremony of wearing him a sacred thread, as it was customary for children of Brachman caste. He aproached heads of Brachmins community of Alandi with petition to do this and argued that childred are not responsible for misdeeds done by their parents, so they should be accepted as brahmans and should be allowed to learn Vedas. His petition was rejected, and he was told that his children can’t be recognized as Brachmans, becouse their father is an outcast and there no exist any certain rule for doing this. Such dishonor for their children increased troubles of Vithalpanth and his wife, who were hoping that atleast their children would be pardoned and have better life then they were living.
Once, Vittalpanth with children went for piligrimage to Tryambakeshwar, a holly place where situated one of twelve Jyoti Lingas, and from where most holly river of Maharashtra Godavari starting. Road there was passing through hill area covered with dense jungles inhabited with many dangerous animals. When they were going around of Brahmagiri mountain, they were aproached by coming tiger. In those times it was usual practice that people were attaced by wild animals and killed, so in panics they scattered away trying to escape this dangerous creature. Nivritti became separated from them and finaly got lost in the jungle. After long searching for him they were unabnle to find him, so they have to go away from Tryambakeshwar without him.
Nivritti who was left alone, wondering around for some time anthil he found a Nath yogi living in cave situated on the Anjani mountain. That yogi was no one else but Gahininath , direct disciple of guru Goraksh Nath. Boy was warmly welcomed by him and they stayed together for some time. Gahininath liked the boy and after some time he accepted him as disciple and initiated him into secrets of Yoga. Yang boy Nivritti got his new name, and since that time he was called Nivrittinath as being member of Nath sect. After some time Nivrittinath returned to his family to comfort his parents and to complite his studies. Although boys were not allowed wear janeo (a sacred tread weared by Brahmans), and sturdy with other Brachmin children, they were studing vedas and sanscrit with their father who was knowing them well.
In India sinse long time existing tradition that people who dying at place called Prayag (modern Illahabad), situated at miting point of three rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Sarasvati, becoming purified by doing these from all sins they commited and directly entering Heavens.Vittalpanth and Rukminibai who lost their last hope, went there and drowned themselves at place where three rivers meet. They were hoping that after this, their childrewn would be pardoned becouse they not commited any sins and were suffering only duty them.
When this happened, Nivrittinath was ten years old, Jnanadev was eight years old and Sopan and Muktabai were six and four yars old. Four young children now becames orphans and grow up uncared by any one. They were sustaining their lives by begging from here and there. Tragedy of their lives was touching hearts of many people around, but still they were excomunicated from society and were looked upon as outcasts (here not belonging to any of cast).
When Jnandeo became twelve years old, he once more aproached the Brahmins community of Alandi with petition for himself and his brothers to be accepted as Brachmins and wear janeu. He was answered that he should go to city Paitan where most learned brahmans were living, and present his matter there. If he would bring from them a writen letter allowing him to be pardoned, they would do it. When he went to Paitan, and aplay there, he got categorical refuse and was unable to secure such letter. However he was told that in accordance with sacred scriptures exist only one way for them to be pardoned and live respectefuly in Brahmins community of Paitan. For this they should remain Brachmacharis life long and never enter into marrige and have children.
There exist legend then when children aproached Brahmans in Paitan, they to prove that they are Brachmans started recite sacred chants from vedas they were knowing very well. They were interrupted by brachmans and told that they have no rite to repeat these sacred chants because they are not real brachmans, on what Jnanadev replied, that anybody may recite the Vedas, this not privelege of brahmins only, even buffalo may do it. After it he put his hand on the back of the buffalo stating near by, and the buffalo started correctly prononce the Vedas, from the place where Jnanadev had left. After this happened Brahmins presented here became aware that these boys who can perform such miracle were not usual persons, but even then they were not ready to accept them as members of local Brahmin community and allow them to perform the ceremony of wearing sacred thread. The buffalo was declared sacred and there still exist his samadhi at the place called Ale near Pune where he died.
For some time the boys were staying at Paithan were they were teaching the Gita to the simple people. Shortly after, when Jnanadev was still twelve years old and Nivrutinath who was in his fortheen, Jnanadev was initiated into Natha Order by his brother, who then ordered him to write commentary on Gita in Marathi. At that time Brahmans were keeping monopoly on spiritual knowleje, which was not accessible to simple people, becouse most of secred books were written in Samskrit, languge known only mebers of Brahman’s caste. Therefore brothers desided to make knowledge accesible to all people, and Marathi was languige widly known by everybody in Maharashtra.
Now both brothers were sadhu of Nath sect, and soon after it the boys moved to Nevasa, a (town) village in Nagar (Ahmednagar ) district to start new chapter in their life. At the same day when boys entered into Nevasa man called Sacchitananda has died a few hours ago and was about to be burned on the cremation ground. His wife Soudamini wanted to commit Sati i.e. burn herself alive on funeral fire of her husband. When she before doing it came to take last blessings from yong sadhus who just came to the vilage, first whom she meet was Jnanadev. He being not aware of grimmity situation blessed her with words "Akhand Saubhagyavati Bhava", what means ‘may you never became widow’. When later he was told what just has happened, he brought her husband back to life, by power of his praer and yogic powers. That man later became his faithful devoty known under name Sacchitananda-baba.
There Jnanadev has began write his famous Jnaneshwari Gita with commentary on it called Bhavarthadeepika. He complited it in year 1290, after passing two and half years. Legend says that he not actualy write it down, but it was man brought by him back to life, Sacchinanand Pava who actualy put it on paper. Jnanadev used daily to give discourses on few verses of Gita, to group of devoties, which were word by word written down by his faithful follover.
Saint Jnaneshvar and Namdev
At that time mutual frandship was developed between Jnanadev and other prominent Maharashtrian Saint Namdev, who was member of Varkari movement. Varkari Sampradaya also called Vari to Pandharpur, was religious movement of the follovers of presiding daiety of Pandharpur Lord Vithoba, who is considered to be the manifistation of Bhagvasn Krishna. His peculiarity is that he wearing crown with Shivling on it in such way making unated Shaiva and Vaishnava traditions. Follovers of this movent were taking life-long wow to visit Pandharpur atlist once in a year, at time of one of two Ekadashis (11th day by lunar calendar) in Ashadh lunar month (which falls somewhere in July-August) and Kartik (which falls somewhere in October-November) takes place, better on both of them. Saint Namdev was well-known member of this movement, who became widely famous after he performed miracle when Lord Vithoba had eaten the food offered by him when he was still a young boy. It is under his influence that Jnanesvar inclined to Bhakti movement joined to Varkari Sampradaya and soon after it became its prominent member. After he was told to do so by his Guru Nivrittinath, he wrote for sake of devoties one more book called Amritanubhava consisting from 800 verses and revealing his personal spiritual expirience. Varkari Sampradaya exist till present days, and keep both books composed by Jnanasvar as holy texts of their sect.
Saint Jnaneshvar and Chang Dev
There exist few legends related to this period of his life. In accordance with one of them there was living a famous saint Chang Dev by name at place called Vateshwar, who by using his yogic powers was able to extend his live for a thousand and four hundred years. Being a yogi, he was very powerful in comparing to other people, and duty this reason he was behavoring as arrogant person demonstrating everywhere his powers. He used to travel with pomp, sitting on a tiger with a serpent as whip, and accompanied by big crowd of his follovers. News about appearence of other powerful yogi reached him, so he decided to pay a visit to Jnanadev to check his powers. He reached place where last lived, as usualy riding on a tiger with a serpent as whip. When he reached near by, Jnanadev moved wall on which he was sitting, as if it was horse to welcome Chang Dev. Chang Dev was able to control living beings only, but now he saw that Jnanadev had much greater powers than he has, and was able to control even matter. Prior to this moment he used to humilete others, and for first time in his long life, in front of him was more powerfull yogi than he was. All magical powers of Chang Dev stoped to work at place of Jnanadev, and he was even unuble to pick up his snake from place he put it. He was humilatred by happenied, so he have to accept his defeat. He quietly stepped down from the tiger, made prostrations to Jnanadev and accepted him as his Guru.
Mukta, a mere girl of fourteen, gave instructions to Chang Dev, an old man of a thousand and four hundred years. She said, "O Chang Dev! Listen. If you want to attain salvation, the first step is sincere devotion. Devotion will bring Vairagya. Vairagya will lead to Jnana. Therefore your aim should be Jnana and your first foot must be on devotion".
Another legend says that Jnanadev had full control over the elements. When there was no vessel to prepare food, his sister prepared bread on his back.
After some time Nivritti, Jnanadev, Sopan and Muktabai, accompanied by Namdev and few other devotes like Narhari Sonar, Chokha-Mela, Savata Mali, went on a pilgrimage to holy places of India. They visited Pandharpur, Prabhasa, Prayag, Dwaraka, Girnar, Ayodhya, Mathura, Vrindavan, Hardwar, Varanasi, Kanchi, Ujjain, Tirupathi, Rameswaram, Madurai, Gokaran, and few more places. At compliting of travel when they arrived at Alandi, Jnanadev who was 21 one years old at that time, expressed his desire to to leave his body by taking sanjivani or jinda samadhi and enter into thomb while he was still alive. This was not much unusual practice amongs Natha yogis at that time, so soon all necessary preparation were made for it, under guidances of Nivrittinath. Final day was chosen which fell on thirteenth day of the dark half of Kartik month, which happened about the end of October 1296. For last time Jnanadev embrased those whom he loved, preparing to live forever, and with tears on his eyes entered into the cave he was about to be burried in. He sat in yogic posture and door was sealed by stones forever.
Some saying that he left his physical body, through opening in the scoll (brachma-randha), but there exist popular belive that he still sitting alive in his samadhi no touched by time. His tomb presently place of pilgrimage and visited by many peole through the year. It is belived that if one reads the Gita written by him, while sitting near of his Samadhi, all his doubts are cleared. His influence on spiritual life of Maharashtra is very big even today, he and Mukund Rai who lived about a hundred years earlier to him, considered to be founders of the Bhakti movement of Maharashtra.
Within a year and a half after Jnanadev left them, his brothers and sister also departed from this material world. Sopandev took his samadhi on the bank of the river Karha at place called Saswad situated near Pune. When Nivruttinath with Muktabai were on piligrimage along Tapi river, they were caught by terrible storm in which the sister disapeared forever. Soon after this happened, Nivruttinath who now left alone, took samadhi at sourse of holy river Godavri at Triambakeshwar.