Jnaneshwar : a Sant who is credited with first non-Sanskrit commentary of Srimadbhagwada Gita

The lives of Sadhus and Sants become living testimony of God. Religion and philosophical thoughts and even spiritual discipline remain dry intellectual exercise till we come across someone who can attest to the truths experientially. The greatness of dharmic tradition is most visible in the lineage of pious and Sadhus and Sants throughout the ages. Bhakti texts claim that the contribution of Sants in establishing of Dharmic values surpasses even that of Avatars! How? It says, Sadhu-Sants though their complete devotion attain all qualities of God; but they possess on quality more that their God; it is that of Puraskara or power of recommending to God for bestowing grace on devotees! This is something that God can’t do. Thus Bhaktamaal (Garland of Devotees), the most exalted text of Bhakti school puts down a principle that Sadhu-Sants should be considered as the Guru of one’s own Guru. In India innumerable popular stories are part of our rich tradition that becomes vehicle for imparting moral and spiritual truths to generations; and this collection of stories is ever expanding. This is a part of our spiritual heritage that spreads to Iran-Iraq in West and to Cambodia in the East. In this column we shall share some inspiring anecdotes of Sadhu and Sants whose lives encapsulate the essence of perennial wisdom of Dharma.


was born on Sharvana Krishna Ashtami which is celebrated as appearance of Bhagwan Sri Krishna. Sri Jnaneshwar’s elder brother (and his Guru) Sri Nivruttinath, younger brother and youngest sister were God realized of highest order. Such closely knit is their Yogic Sadhana (discipline) and teaching that it is impossible to study any one’s life in isolation. Their life was devoted to contemplation of God and service of all beings. It is near impossible to find such a pious family given to God and it is also true that few Sants have faced such adversities all through their life. It looks for certain that they accepted all such tribulations to educate us how to devote oneself completely to God and remain poised in adverse conditions. Jnaneshwar or Jnandev is credited with first non-Sanskrit commentary of Srimadbhagwada Gita, Jnaneshwari, which opened the floodgate of spiritual knowledge, devotion and yogic practices for the masses. He was the uncrowned leader of Sants like Namadeva, Gora Kumbhar, Chokha Mela, etc. called him the fountainhead of Sants of India.

Sant Jnaneshwar’s father Sri and mother Rukhmini Bai were saintly people. Vitthal Pant was an ascetic and recluse by nature. After some years of marriage he left home one day for and took Samnyasa there. By a strange leela of God, his Guru while on pilgrimage to Rameshwaram met his wife and blessed her to beget child. Rukhmini bai told the Swami of the improbability of his blessing and recounted whole story to him. Returning Kashi he asked Vitthal Pant of pre Samnyasa life and told him to return home and follow Grihastha ashrama dharma.

Pant followed his Guru’s order and after some years he was blessed with three sons Nivruttinath, Jnanadeva, Sopannath and a daughter Muktabai. The Varna-Ashrama dharma rules don’t allow a Samnyasin to return back to Grihastha ashrama. This is considered as a great sacrilege as it brings disgrace to both Samnyasa and Grihastha Ashrama. Shashtra says that even looking at face of such a person incurs sin. The pious Brahman society shunned Vitthal Pant and his family. This social boycott made their life very difficult. They could not get alms or any other support for survival. Food and even water became a luxury. Sri Vitthal pant spent his time in contemplation and Rukhmini Bai’s day passed in serving her husband. The family bore the most severe of punishments as will of God. When Nivruttinath entered 7th year, the time of his Yajnopavitam arrived. Brahmans refused them the right to Munj-ceremony citing Dharma-Shashtra rules. Vitthal Pant went to Brahmagiri Tryambakeshwar Parikrama with family for atonements. Here he met Sant Gahininath, an eminent Nath Sampradaya Acharya, who took Nivruttinath in to Nath order. They returned to Alandi, but Brahman society refused to accept their children in Varnasharma fold.

The Shastras enjoin very hard punishment for such transgressions. Today Dharmic Sanatana people selectively choose rules of conduct even they are rarely followed in letter and spirit. Vitthal Pant’s issue went to many scholars but they could only find Dehanta Praayashcchitta (leaving mortal body) as punishment. The pious couple accepted this punishment and took Jal Samadhi in Triveni confluence at Prayaga.

Jnaneshwar Ji wanted to wear the Yajnopavita (sacred thread) to fulfill wishes of his parents, who had sacrificed their lives for acceptance of their children into Dharmic fold. The Brahman community became sympathetic to their plight and sent them to Brahman Sabha of Paithan to get a Shuddhi patra after which they could be admitted in the Varnashrama fold. The saintly brothers and sister reached Paithan, Brahman Sabha heard their case as per Shastric injunction decided that children cannot be purified unless they would live a pious, celibate life devoid of any trace of pride. The children should see every creature as manifestation of God and shall contemplate nothing but God. It is noteworthy that in Anushashana Parva of the Mahabahrata we come across all these injunctions for children who are born out marriages defying Varna-Ashrama rules. These Children were glad for this stern decision as if they got what they were seeking for. Almost as if they wanted to establish the sanctity of Varna–ashrama dharma in the society.

A most rigorous discipline followed, but the close relationship with beloved God, contemplation of His virtues and nectar of His sweet names filled their lives with divine fragrance. Their life was completely immersed in God and their momentary association sparked fire of knowledge and love for God.

Sri Jnaneshwar surprises all modern scholars who are accustomed to see Dharmic universe from class-caste conflict and materialist view point. His whole writing is totally free from bitterness. There is no resentment against Brahman society or ‘tyrannical Shastras’. It appears that he has attained that high state where he was in total harmony with Risis of ancient time. Numerous miraculous incidences are chronicled about their lives. His fame and teaching spread to every nook and corner of India.
Sri Jnaneshwar took pilgrimage to Ujjain, Prayag, Kashi, Ayodhya, Gaya, Gokul-Vrindavan, other with famed tirthas along with Sant Namadev, who enjoyed special grace of Lord Vitthal. At the age of 21 years, 3 months and 5 days on Margashirsha Krishna Trayodashi day, he took Sanjeevan Samadhi at Alandi. Within a year his brothers and sister left their mortal bodies.

Here is English translation of Pasaydan by Swami Kripananda. This prayer of Sant Jnaneshwar to the Universal Spirit gives us a peek into his sublime and exalted state:

·         May the Self of the universe be pleased with this sacrifice of words and bestow His grace on me.
·         May the sinners no longer commit evil deeds, may their desire to do good increase, and may all beings live in harmony with one another.
·         May the darkness of sin disappear, may the world  see the rising of the sun of righteousness, and may the desires of all creatures be satisfied
·         May everyone keep the company of saints devoted to God, who will shower their blessings on them
·         Saints are walking gardens filled with wish-fulfilling trees, and they are living villages of wish-fulfilling gems. Their words are like oceans of nectar.
·         They are moons without blemish and suns without heat. May these saints be the friends of all people.
·         May all beings in all the worlds be filled with joy, and may they worship God forever.
·         May all those for whom this book is their very life be blessed with success in this world and the next.
·         Then, Nivrittinath, the great Master said that this blessing will be granted. This brought great joy  to Jnaneshwar.

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