Chander M. Bhat 
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Rediscovering Bhagawanji

by Chander M. Bhat

Saints and sages all over the world claim to have hadGopinath Ji a divine experience, which they say is too rich for words. Such God-intoxicated persons are called mystics in the technical sense of the word. As William James has rightly pointed out, ineffability is one of the main characteristics of mystic experience. It has been very aptly said, “The history of a country is, to a great extent, the history of its great men and women………” One of the outstanding figures of 20th century in Kashmir is Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji.

Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji, born at Banamohalla in Kashmir, was such a great soul who sang the glory of the divine in the prime of his youth. He was born on 3rd July 1898 AD in one of the most esteemed Bhan families of the Kashmiri Pandit community. Right from his boyhood he showed some extraordinary signs to do something extraordinary. As per his biographers this great soul left the worldly attachments at the age of 39 and practiced intense saadhanaa. During this period he was so intensely engaged in saadhanaa that at times he would not eat till days together. As per his biographers, this great soul had passed 8th standard and it was often seen that at times he would quote some English sentences. He could also read Hindi and Sanskrit. He was also well versed in Urdu and Persian. Bhagawaan Ji had also visited different shrines in and around Srinagar and had learnt different Sanskrit verses by heart. He would recite these verses while visiting to different shrines. His daily routine started with morning pooja, which was common in every Kashmiri Pandit home. After taking a cup of tea at 9 a.m. he would continue the pooja and at times it lasted for about 12 to 20 hours. During pooja he would fill his chillum and start smoking.

Bhagawaanji was a born celibate and remained a celibate throughout his life. In advanced years of his life, he performed some miracles and people thronged to visit his holy person. By and by he was known in every nook and corner of Kashmir. It was during the last years of his life that Bhagawaanji was fully discovered and many personalities from outside Kashmir also started to visit him.

After the Mahasamadhi of this great soul in the year 1968, a group of persons who were daily visitors of Bhagawaanji at Chandpora (Srinagar) and devoted to him started an Ashrama in the premises of Durga Mandir at Kharyar, Srinagar, which in later years expanded its activities. After the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir Valley, one such ashram was established each at Jammu and Delhi. Some biographies of this great soul were published and message of Bhagawaanji spread like incense.

Jagadguru Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji was ‘discovered’ during the middle of the last century. Today, a century later, there is a call to draw up an agenda for rediscovering Bhagawaanji. Why ‘rediscovering’? Did we lose sight of Bhagawaanji somewhere along the hundred-year long route that we have now to discover him again?

No, that certainly is not the case. We did not lose Bhagawaanji, but after discovering him we probably did not, or could not, give much time and energy to getting to know him well enough. The persistent, uneasy feeling that colossal significance haunts one and value of Bhagawaanji’s place in the unfolding history of the world is yet to be discovered. Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji is known and yet unknown, understood and yet largely misunderstood, adored and yet not followed.

The attempts to rediscover giant personalities like Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji need to be made from time to time. These personalities seem to grow with time, although it is really our own understanding that grows, reveling greater and deeper meaning. Those who lived during Bhagawaanji’s time and knew him at close quarters had, of course, every opportunity to rediscover him.

An attempt needs to be made to draft a possible agenda to rediscover Bhagawaanji today. This possible agenda will be only possible by working for the draft most honestly and accurately, which in other sense is called ‘true service’ at the feet of Bhagawaan Ji.

There were two brothers, one was married, and other was a bachelor. They owned a farm and shared its produce fifty-fifty. The soil was fertile and they reaped a rich harvest every year. All went well for a few years. Then something extraordinary happened.

The married brother began to wake up with a start from his sleep at night and think, ‘it is not fair. My brother isn’t married. He needs to save much more for the future than me; a married man with a wife and five kids. I have all the security in the world. But what security has my poor brother? Who will look after him in his old age? My kids will care for me when I am old. My brother’s need is greater than mine.’ With that the married man would leave his bed, steal over to his brother’s granary and pour there a sackful of his own share of grain.

Now the bachelor brother too began to get these nightly attacks. He would wake up from his sleep and think, ‘It’s too bad that I should accept an equal share of the farm’s produce as my brother who has a family to maintain. I am single and my needs are minimal. He has got to support his wife and children. He deserves a larger share.’ So this brother would get up, take a sackful of grain from his stock and empty it stealthily into his brother’s granary.

Once it so happened that they got out of the bed at the same time and ran into each other, each carries a grain-filled sack on his back!

Years later, when the townsfolk wanted to build a temple (the story of the two brothers, who had passed away, had leaked out by then) they chose the spot where the two brothers had met that night. ‘This is the holiest of all places in this town,’ the elders said, and a temple was constructed there.

This story can serve as a good starting point for our discussion. Yes, service is indeed a holy act and the place where service is done is a holy place. Above all, only a holy person can give true service.

Five point programme needs to be drafted for rediscovering Bhagawaanji, which are discussed as under:

The persons who lived during the Bhagawaanji’s times can work as catalyst in doing the research work on the life and teaching of this great soul of Kashmir. Since majority of these people who were closely associated with Bhagawaanji by one way or the other are scattered all over India, they need to be identified by way of advertising in the Ashrama Patrika or through Koshur Samachar. The feedback from these persons will be based on the questionnaire to be published with the advertisement. This feedback from the persons associated with Bhagwaanji at Kashami will be an authentic material and the same could be published in a bookform. This needs an immediate action, as majority of these people will be in old age. Thus by obtaining the information from these people will help us in recording the material which has not been published till date.

Several factors influence the attempts to assess the achievements and significance of World Teachers. Emotion is one of them. Emotions play a major role in the way devotees and admirers assess the Teacher. An emotional assessment may be music to the ears of those who are on the same wavelength, but it usually leaves others cold. Another factor influencing the assessment of World Teachers is social relevance. Pragmatists assess a personality on the basis of its relevance to individuals and society. Such assessments naturally need periodic updating, changing with time. Another factor, which also needs to be updated constantly, is the historical perspective.

Formation of study circles in respect of life and teachings of Bhagwaanji among the school going children is another factor, which needs attention. These study circles leaves a permanent impact on the undeveloped brains and they in turn can make their personality in coming years. These study circles can highlight the life and teachings of the great masters in the world and will be a boon in shaping the future of our offspring.

A masterplan should be drafted for starting a research journal on different activities of the Ashram and on the life and teachings of Bhagwaanji. One such attempt has been made by the Delhi Ashram by publishing a bi-monthly journal “Prakash”. But the standard of this journal does not suffice the goal as the articles on the history and culture of Kashmir are being published in the said journal. This journal should exclusively be printed on different themes of ashram and Bhagawaanji. One column should be kept exclusively for the research articles contributed by the people who lived in Bhagawaanji’s times.

Lastly let me quote Swami Vivekananda, “Perfect sincerity, holiness, gigantic intellect and an all conquering will; let only a handful of men work with these, and the whole world will be revolutionized.”


NOTES AND REFERENCES

  1. Jagadguru Bhagawaan Gopinathji by Sh. S.N. Fotedar, 1991 edition.
  2. Kashmiri Pandits: A Cultural Heritage by Prof S. Bhat, 1995 edition
  3. The Four Holy Abodes of God by Swami Sadashivananda, 1981 edition
  4. Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (8 Volumes), Vol:III, 1989
  5. Patrika Vol IX (Special), No: 1
       
 

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