Param Sant Tulsi Sahib (1763 - 1843)
Tulsi's earlier name was Dakhani Baba, meaning, "Saint from the South."
It occurs to me that the whole archetypal Prince Siddhartha-like story of Tulsi Sahib belonging to the royal lineage of the Peshwas, running away the day before what would have been his coronation, etc.... might simply be viewed as apocryphal accounts composed and believed by others decades or even centuries after-the-fact without necessarily there being any actual historically verifiable basis for such beliefs. The same can be said of a connection between Tulsi Sahib and a mythic character by the name of Ratnagar Rao, alleged to be a successor of Guru Gobind Singh. Still have not found a single historic reference to anyone by the name of Sant Ratnagar Rao living in ANY century. On the Guru Gobind Singh-Ratnagar Rao connection -- the theory that Gobind Singh lived much longer than the history books record and could have appointed a successor such as Ratnagar Rao: "Agam Prasad Mathur and S. D. Maheshwari, however, do not accept this heterodox proposition--primarily on the grounds that it is 'not historically true,' [*NOTE: Agam Prasad Mathur, op. cit., page 24. *] because the 1708 date for Gobind Singh's death is accurate." (David Lane)
(A few have a belief that there was a guru by the name of Ratnagar Rao who was a successor of Guru Gobind Singh and that eventually he initiated Tulsi Sahib. If there were such a connection to the Ten Sikh Gurus, that would be fine with me. If there was a Sant Ratnagar Rao that once lived somewhere, at some time in the past - wonderful. I would gladly post his shabds on the web. So far however, I'm not seeing evidence for any direct historic connection between Sant Tulsi Sahib and Guru Gobind Singh, and thus far, nobody has been able to provide any evidence for the existance of a Sant by the name of Ratnagar Rao as a historic person.)
Sant Das Maheshwari in the book, Param Sant Tulsi Sahib: "Tulsi Saheb, too, has not written anything by way of himself introducing himself and his family. It is said that he was born in the Peshwa family in the city of Poona." OK --- where is it that, "IT IS SAID"??? Apparently the whole basis for that story came not from Tulsi himself but what others eventually said about him or came to believe after his death, in other words, the lore and legend that developed around Tulsi many years later. Sant Das Maheshwari: "There is a book entitled 'Surat Bilas' in which mention has been made of many miracles performed by Tulsi Saheb during the days of his travels, like curing the sick, reviving the dead, restoring vision to the blind, giving wealth to the poor and blessing the issueless with a son. People quite often associate such stories with the life history of Mahatmas with a view to enhancing their status." Despite that statement, S.D. Maheshwari then proceeds to quote the very same hailographical book of 'Surat Bilas' as a source about the alleged life and times of Tulsi Sahib during his younger (apocryphal?) Peshwa days. I would say, unless there are other historical documents confirming some actual Peshwa connection, then those stories are not reliable at all, have no basis is fact whatsoever.
The only evidence we have for Tulsi Sahib's past associations and possible guru connections is provided in the form of the internal evidence of the books Tulsi authored: Shabdavali; Ratan Sagar, Ghat Ramayan and Padma Sagar, and that the same approach which is used by Nag Hammadi scholars to analyse the textual, theological or spiritual influences upon the authors of Gnostic gospels should also be applied to the writings of Tulsi Sahib! In other words, we can learn much about Tulsi's influences and past affiliations by closely examining what writings he quoted from, what gurus he mentioned and mentioned most frequently, what groups he was most critical of, the mystical terminology he used, and what guru, spiritual path or School of Mysticism matches or most closely resembles Tulsi's.
In my view, the internal evidence, the clues directly provided by Tulsi in the books he authored, suggests the following: Tulsi Sahib thought of himself as the reincarnation of Tulsi DAS, author of an earlier version of the Ramayana. Tulsi Sahib said in a past life he wrote the Ramayana and that the purpose of his book Ghat Ramayana in his new incarnation was to openly reveal the esoteric secrets hidden in the earlier Ramayana. If Tulsi Sahib was Tulsi Das in a past life, I suppose then we could say that according to Tulsi Sahib, the initiating guru of Tulsi Sahib was the initiating guru of Tulsi DAS. Mystery solved. Whatever we might make of this past life claim however, I believe there is internal evidence supplied in his writings suggesting Tulsi's SAHIB had very real Sant Mat influences and guru associations during his incarnation as Sant Tulsi Sahib of Hathras.
Tulsi's spiritual path was classic Sant Mat -- the Sant tradition of India, and its spiritual practice known as Surat Shabd Yoga.
Tulsi Sahib: "Nanak, Dadu, Dariya Saheb, Mira Bai, Soor Das, Kabir and Nabbaji have all reached the Mystic Sky and have given out the secrets. Their souls have got across and merged there.
"Though their teachings are one and the same, their ways of teaching are different. Indeed, all Sants have proceeded along the same path. All of them ascended along the same Current of Shabd (inner Sound), and got across......
"What Sants have said about Sant Mat is what they saw with their own eyes. They have sung of it in the form of couplets and hymns.....Sants have spoken of the secrets of Shabd and the path on which Surat has to proceed......" ("Param Sant Tulsi Sahib", translated into English by S.D. Maheshwari, Agra, India)
Maheshwari: "Tulsi Sahib's works consist of Shabdavali; Ratan Sagar, Ghat Ramayan and a small unfinished book called Padma Sagar. Shabdavali is a collection of miscellaneous compositions set to different ragas (scales) of Indian classical music, and deals with various aspects of Sant Mat. Ghat Ramayan and Ratan Sagar have been written in the form of dialogues with disciples and seekers. Ghat Ramayan deals with the various religious doctrines prevalent at that time, and explains their meaning in the light of Sant Mat. Ratan Sagar deals with the mystery of creation, heaven and hell, Kal or the Negative Power, karmas, mind and death. It also sings the glory of perfect Saints and extols the value of their company and satsang. Lastly, it explains how Saints take care of the soul of the disciple when it leaves the body.
Tulsi said that he had "sat at the feet of Sants". He also said he had a guru, was initiated by a living Master into Shabd Yoga.
This is an interesting quote found in the book, Tulsi Sahib, Saint of Hathras, RS Book Department: "Although there is no direct indication on whom Tulsi Sahib's master may have been, there has been some pointed discussion on the question. Pandit Pandurang Sharma, a Marathi scholar, in the June 1931 issue of Vividh Gyan Vistar writes, "[Tulsi Sahib] was initiated by a guru in the town of Hathras, and under the instructions of his guru in the town of Hathras did intensive meditation." One wonders who the Unknown Guru might have been.
Tulsi quoted from the book Anurag Sagar, a Dharamdasi Kabir panthi text, a book ONLY used, ONLY recognised by the Dharamdasis, but rejected by all the other Kabir Panth groups. Tulsi referred to Sant Dharamdas as being "The Spiritual Successor" of Guru Kabir, also suggesting a Dharamdasi influence since the other Kabir Panth branches do not teach that Dharam Das was the primary successor or even a successor of Guru Kabir. In one of Tulsi's books there is a major dialogue between Tulsi and someone by the name of Pool Das of the "Kabir Panth" (Dharamdasis) about the real esoteric meaning of Kabir's teachings.
From the book, Tulsi Sahib, Saint of Hathras, RS Books: "Tulsi Sahib's works include words and expressions of Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian, the last being the court language. of the time in most of the royal courts in the South. These languages, along with Marathi, must have constituted a part of his education. But, besides these, he has freely used words of Braj, Avadhi, Rajasthani (Marwari), Gujrati, Punjabi and Maithili, which leads one to conclude that, like many other Saints, he must have traveled widely in V.P., Rajasthan, Gujrat, Punjab and Bihar. But his permanent abode was a hut in the small village of Jogia, situated on the outskirts of Hathras. He lived here until he passed away in 1843 at the age of 80."
Tulsi liked Sufi mystics. Sufi themes can be found in his writings, what I call the tradition of 'the lover and the Beloved'. He probably did hang out in Rajasthan for a time, home of the Dadu Panthis. In any case, he was rather fond of quoting Sant Dadu Dayal's mystic poetry. And Bihar was home to a very influential and towering figure in Sant Mat history by the name of Sant Dariya Sahib. According to Maheshwari, Tulsi mentions the name Dariya Sahib NINE TIMES in his work known as the Ghat Ramayana. For a number of years, both Tulsi and Dariya were alive at the same time. Tulsi Sahib and Sant Dariya's spiritual successors in Bihar were also contemporaries, which has caused me to seriously speculate that perhaps one of those gurus was the initiating guru of Tulsi Sahib. For the record, the names of Sant Dariya Sahib's sucessor-gurus were Guna Das and Teka Das.
There are many parallels between Tulsi and Dariya. Both believed they were Sant Mat gurus in their past lives, Daria as the reincarnation of Kabir; Tulsi Sahib as the reincarnation of Tulsi Das. Both seemed to be reformist voices speaking out against corruption and the growing ritualism of the older Kabir Panth and other Panths, seeking to reaffirm the esoteric teachings, mystical experiences of inner Light and Sound, and the spirituality of the Sant Tradition. Both liked quoting the Anurag Sagar, a holy book composed and used by the Dharamdasi branch of Kabir Panth, and shared much of the same vocabulary, imagery, and specific understanding of the inner regions. Both in fact seemed to represent the same Sant Mat "School of Thought", what Professor Mark Juergensmeyer called "Esoteric Santism." Juergensmeyer was actually the first one to connect Tulsi Sahib to the Dharamdasis (the People of the Anurag Sagar), an earlier generation of Esoteric Kabirian Santism, though apparently on a spiritual decline during those days, at least according to both Dariya Sahib and Tulsi Sahib.
NOTE: See, The Sants, edited by Karine Schomer and W.H. McLeod, as well as the book, Radhasoami Reality, by Mark Juergensmeyer, for thorough discussions about Dharamdas, the Dharamdasis of Kabir Panth, the Anurag Sagar, Dariya Sahib, and possible connections to Tulsi Sahib. See pages 24 through 29 of the book, Radhasoami Reality, Online at Google Books -- The Origins of Esoteric Santism:
I still find little direct resemblance between Tulsi Sahib's teachings and style with those of Guru Gobind Singh. As with my earlier posts, I continue to find the TEACHNGS or "Mat" of Sant Tulsi Sahib to MOST RESEMBLE that of Dariya Sahib of Bihar, also with a heavy influence of the esoteric teachings to be found in the Anurag Sagar and similar works studied in the branch of Kabir Panth known as the Dharamdasis (the followers of Kabir and Sant Dharamdas). I continue to suspect that Dariya's guru lineage interfaces with the Dharamdasis somewhere along the way, and that either Tulsi has a connection to Dariya's group, or that both independently have a similar parallel relationship or history that ultimately goes back to Dharamdasi gurus in the Kabir line of Masters. This conclusion is mostly based on reading the writings of all three that have appeared in English thus far: the works of Dariya, works of Tulsi, and Dharamdasi books.
Maheshari in Param Sant Tulsi Sahib: "Tulsi Saheb used to go often to places quite far from Hathras wrapping his body in a blanket and with a stick in hand. He usually used to remain in a state of withdrawal, and in that very state, an incessant flow of utterances concerning the secrets of higher regions used to emanate from his mouth like a babbling stream. Ghat Ramayan, Shabdavali (collection of hymns) and Ratan Sagar are well known works of Tulsi Saheb. Another book which he wrote but remained unfinished is Padam Sagar. All these books were written after Tulsi Sahib's coming to Hathras.......
"Near the above mentioned banyan tree, a stupendous two-storeyed building had been constructed later on by Tulsi Saheb's devotees, which is still there and in which he stayed till he left his mortal coil. In this very building there is a place marked, where Tulsi Saheb used to sit whilst initiating people in Sant Mat. There is also a hemispherical cave where he used to practise Bhajan." ("Param Sant Tulsi Saheb", S.D. Maheshwari, Agra)
Cool that Tulsi Sahab was once known as Dakhani Baba and meditated in a cave. I know of some Babas who are alive in 2009 and that, like Tulsi Sahib, also meditate in caves. :)
In the Love, Light and Sound of the Beloved,