Pushti Marg

Surdas

Surdas (1479-1586) was a Hindu devotional poet, singer, and a saint (sant), who followed the Shuddhadvaita school of Brahmavada. He was a desciple of Mahaprabhu Shri Vallabhacharya. He lived during reign of king Akbar (1542-1606).

Surdas spent most of his years in Vrindavan and created the epic literary work Sur Sagar, which originally contained 100,000 poems. Surdas was born blind, and yet the most influential poet of Braj Bhasha and the 'Bhakti movement' after Tulsidas.

Biography

What little knowledge that we have of Surdas's life comes from Ain-e-Akbari and Munshiat-e-Abul-Fazl, both written during Akbar's time.

Surdas was born blind and hence received harsh treatment from his family, and during his early childhood. One day at age 6, when he heard a group of devotional singers, passing by his home he simply followed them, and he left home forever. At age eighteen, Surdas met his future guru, the sant Sri Vallabhacharya on the banks of river Yamuna. Vallabhacharya took him under his tutelage and thus began Surdas's teaching in prevalent Bhakti Shuddha advaita (Non-dualism philosophy), as Vallabhacharya was the founder of the Pushti sect (Pushtimarg) in India.

Soon Surdas memorized the entire Shrimad Bhagvat and started reciting it to throngs of people, and immersed himself into deep devotion to Krishna. Subsequently he went on to write some of greatest works in Hindu philosophy and Bhakti literature, the "Sur Sagar" (Ocean of Melody), Sur Saravali and Sahitya Lahiri.

Surdas never married, and made a living by singing bhajans and giving discourses on religious subjects, and lived all this years in Braj.

Literary Works

While his poetry is loved by all who know it, there are at least two very different explanations of its origins. To some, the poet is believed to have been a disciple of the philosopher Vallabhacharya, and is believed to have composed one hundred thousand verses; the Lord Krishna is said to have completed the composition of another twenty-five thousand in his name. In this version of his life and works, it is believed that his collected poems, known as the "Sursagar" or "Ocean of Sur", were largely lost, leaving some 5000 surviving poems in current editions.

A different view of Sur's career appears in some recent scholarly publications. In this interpretation, the "ocean" of poetry attributed to the name "Surdas" continued to grow after the poet's death, with contributions honoring his name made by many anonymous poets of later centuries. All of these poems appear in countless different variations in manuscripts from different regions and different eras, with the differences resulting from the embellishments and elaborations made by many different singer-poets. Manuscripts are seen in this view as representing singers' repertoires, collected haphazardly by many devotees in different times and places. Some 1500 poems bearing his name appear in manuscripts dating within a century of the poet's death. Scholars find a core of some 400 poems appearing so widely distributed through this corpus that they may convincingly be said to have dated from his lifetime. In this scholarly perspective, the facts of his life, or of the "original" composition of any given verse, are simply unknowable. All we have for certain is a "Sur tradition", reflecting a vibrant and dynamic effort by many oral poets over a period of centuries.

Prolific composition through Inner Vision

Surdas was a very prolific composer. He is known for his "Sur Sagar" (Ocean of Melody). This magnum opus is said to originally contain 100,000 poems or songs; however, today only 8,000 have survived. These songs on the life and adventures of Krishna were dictated by him to an assistant, who had to write faster than the poet could dictate! Endowed with an inner vision, the poet dictates as if he is seeing the exploits of Krishna directly.

Impact

On Bhakti movement

The philosophy of Surdas is a reflection of the times. He was very much immersed in the Bhakti movement that was sweeping North India. This movement represented a grass roots spiritual empowerment of the masses. The corresponding spiritual movement of the masses happened in South India in the first millennium A.D.

On the status of Brij Bhasha

Surdas' poetry was a dialect of Hindi language, Brij Bhasha, which was till now considered to be a very plebeian language, as the prevalent literary languages were either Persian or Sanskrit. The works of Surdas immediately raised the status of Brij Bhasha from a crude language to that of a literary language of great repute.

Philosophy

Shuddhadvaita

Due to the training he received from his spiritual guru, Surdas was a proponent of the Shuddhadvaita school of Vaishnavism (also known as Pushti Marg). This philosophy is based upon the spiritual metaphor of the Radha-Krishna Rasleela (The celestial dance between Radha and Lord Krishna). It propagates the path of Grace of God rather than of merging in Him, which seems an extension of the belief of earlier saints like Kabir Das.

Foremost amongst the Ashta-chaap

Eight Disciples of the Master-Teacher Vallabhacharya are called the Ashta-chaap, meaning, eight reprints (of the Master). Surdas is considered to be the foremost among them.

Compositions

प्रभू मोरे अवगुण चित न धरो ।

समदरसी है नाम तिहारो चाहे तो पार करो ॥

एक लोहा पूजा में राखत एक घर बधिक परो ।

पारस गुण अवगुण नहिं चितवत कंचन करत खरो ॥

एक नदिया एक नाल कहावत मैलो ही नीर भरो ।

जब दौ मिलकर एक बरन भई सुरसरी नाम परो ॥

एक जीव एक ब्रह्म कहावे सूर श्याम झगरो ।

अब की बेर मोंहे पार उतारो नहिं पन जात टरो ॥

prabhU more avaguN chit n dharo |

samadarasI hai naam tihaaro chaahe to paara karo ||

ek lohaa pUjaa meM raakhat ek ghar badhik paro |

paaras guN avaguN nahiM chitavata kaMcan karat kharo ||

ek nadiyaa ek naal kahaavat mailo hI neer bharo |

jab dou milakar ek baran bhaI surasarI naam paro ||

ek jIv ek brahma kahaave sUr shyaam jhagaro |

ab kI ber moMhe paar utaaro nahiM pan jaat Taro ||

Lord, heed not my faults!

You are known as he who sees as all equal,

at will you can take me across the ocean of existence.

One iron is used in worship, another in butcher's steel;

The philosopher's stone counts not merit or fault

but turns both to purest gold.

One is called "river", another a "rivulet" filled with murky water;

when they merge they become of one colour and are known

as "Sursari"(Ganges), river of gods.

The soul and the Supreme are given different names,

but all is one in Sur's Shyam.

This time, take me across, or give up your vow to be saviour!

अखियाँ हरि दर्शन की प्यासी ।

देखो चाहत कमल नयन को, निस दिन रहत उदासी ॥

केसर तिलक मोतिन की माला, वृंदावन के वासी ।

नेहा लगाए त्यागी गये तृण सम, डारि गये गल फाँसी ॥

काहु के मन की कोऊ का जाने, लोगन के मन हाँसी ।

सूरदास प्रभु तुम्हरे दरस बिन लेहों करवत कासी ॥

akhiyaa~M hari darshan kI pyaasI |

dekho chaahat kamala nayan ko, nis din rahat udaasI ||

kesar tilak motin kI maalaa, vrindaavan ke vaasI |

nehaa lagaae tyaagI gaye tRuN sam, Daari gaye gal phaa~MsI ||

kaahu ke man kI koU kaa jaane, logan ke man haa~MsI |

sUradaas prabhu tumhare daras bin lehoM karavat kaashI ||

Our eyes thirst for a vision of Hari;

They long to see the lotus-eyed one,

grieving for him day and night.

Wearing a saffron tilak and pearl garland

and dwelling in Vrindavan,

he gave us his love, then cast us aside like a blade of grass,

throwing a noose around our necks.

No one knows what is in another's mind,

there is laughter in people's hearts;

But Lord of Surdas, without a vision of you

we would give up our very lives.

Surdas in Guru Granth Sahib

Surdas is considered as a Bhagat in Sikhism and his works, 'Surdas bani' are inserted in the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhs. One of his composition are as follows:
ਛਾਡਿ  ਮਨ  ਹਰਿ  ਬਿਮੁਖਨ  ਕੋ  ਸੰਗੁ  ॥
shhaadd man har bimukhan ko sa(n)g ||
O mind, do not even associate with those who have turned their backs on the Lord.

Everything in Guru Granth Sahib has been compiled together to bring an understanding and a dialogue with the Eternal so that we may understand the 'True' essence of Ek Onkar (The One all existing forever continually creating Lord.). Bhagat Surdas Ji is an example of this very principle

Guru Arjan Dev - The fifth Guru of Sikhism also created a Shabad keeping in view the Soordas's poetry.

References

See also

External links

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