|May 22, 1999 |
Iowa City, IA: Virendrabhai's home
Great devotees of the past and those of today might not have any materialistic riches, but, as history testifies, even the most affluent of kings went to them for peace. The common thread that these devotees share is their inner qualities.
One such devotee is Eknath (c. 1534-1600). Eknath and his devoted wife, Girijabai, indiscriminately served food to all in their humble home, including lower caste devotees - and once, even to thieves! Eknath's text on the Shrimad Bhagavat (in vernacular Marathi) is called the Eknathi Bhagavatam. Eknath also recompiled Gnyaneshwari Gita, the renowned commentary on the Bhagavat Gita by Sant Gnyaneshwar.*
Along with other pilgrims, Eknath once traveled by foot from the Ganga (Ganges) River to the Rameshwar temple to offer water to the moorti (image) of Rameshwar Bhagwan. Toward the end of the journey, the group came across a donkey that appeared to be dying of thirst. Though Eknath had traveled a great distance for the purpose of offering the holy water to Rameshwar Bhagwan, he prayed to Rameshwar Bhagwan and received the intuition that even the donkey's soul belongs to God and is in great need of the water. The other pilgrims ridiculed Eknath's decision to quench the donkey's thirst, as they felt that after traveling so far, he would not receive poonya (fruit of good deeds) for a proper offering. When Eknath finally reached the moorti of Rameshwar Bhagwan, though empty-handed, he offered his inner prayers. An omnipotent voice answered that Rameshwar Bhagwan's thirst had already been quenched when Eknath gave the water to the donkey.
*Namdev (c. 1269-1295, born in Pandharpur** and renowned for his abhangas or short devotional poems), Sant Gnyaneshwar (c. 1275-1296), Eknath, Tukaram (c. 1609-1649), Swami Ramdas (c. 1608-1681; renowned as the guru of Shivaji, the Maharaja of Maharashtra) amongst other great saints of Maharashtra revived devotion in the region and throughout India.
**Pandharpur is the home of the renowned Vithoba/Vitthala mandir of Krishna Bhagwan and Rukminiji in Maharashtra.