Sant Dnyaneshwar was a philosopher and an influential poet who is considered the greatest Saint of the Bhakti movement in Maharashtra, India. He wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita in Marati, the vernacular language of the common people. At this time during the 13th century, religious scripts were written more formally in sanskrit. Dnyaneshwar’s teachings were lyrical poems that were easy to recite and sing. The lessons were easier to remember. This is why he is often described as, “the light on the meaning of inner wisdom.”
His work, Dnyaneshwari, gave simple lessons for everyday life and did not discriminate against wealth or caste. Some say his poems are more like lullabies. He was devoted to Lord Vitthal, a Hindu deity. He wrote with an emphasis on yoga, a belief in the oneness of Vishnu and Shiva, and non-dualistic Advaita Vedanta philosophy.
At this time in history, yoga was more about mediation than the movements we know today. Dnyaneshwar gave us one of the first written accounts of proper yoga practice. A yogi has to be disciplined and hold the mind in a place of solitude. You must practice having a controlled mind. He writes, “make the mind one-pointed.” Let go of expectations. Give the body a clean area and a firm seat. It’s also important to have good posture; a proper mudra.
Advaita Vedanta is a philosophy or a spiritual pathway more so than a religion, based on the idea that the self is the same as the highest metaphysical reality. You can strive for spiritual liberation through knowledge in this life.
At the young age of twenty one, having completed his life’s work, he took samadhi, eternal mediation. He closed himself off from the world and meditated for hundreds of years. It is said that 400 years later, a saint as visited by Dnyashwar in a dream, saying that something was bothering him. The saint broke into his tomb to find a tree root growing through his neck. According to the story, his body was not breathing but it was still warm to the touch.
There is so much more to the story of Dnyaneshwar, and I’m afraid this is an oversimplification. If you want to learn more about Dnyashwar, his work is available in English and here is a link to a biography.
On my tour of Maharashtra, we stopped at a Temple of Dnyaneshwar on our route from Shirdi to Arangabad. A peaceful and serene place. Removing my shoes on the dusty earth, I left them behind as I climbed the steps into the cool tiled temple floor in a large room with peach walls.
I received darshan, a view of the holy image of the deity in the temple, bowing with respect. I was blessed with ashes on the third eye, the eye of wisdom, my forehead. In front of me were two young girls dressed in gorgeous sarees, and making offerings. I was grateful for the opportunity to follow their lead.
Through the back of the temple was a great bronzed statue of Dnyashwar reciting his teachings, and his scribe writing down his words.
Later in the trip, we visited another Dnyaneshwar site, Dnyaneshwar Maharaj Samadhi Mandir in Alandi, a holy place near Pune.
I dipped my feet in the blessed waters of the Indrayani river. This beloved river is associated with Dnyaneshwar and Sant Tukaram who might be getting his own blog post in the future.
I dipped my malas in the water for good luck. I noticed a woman behind me, preparing flesh flower offerings and I purchased one from her. Marigolds and herbs placed in a tin foil dish. A wad of cotton is burning in the middle.
I set an intention and pushed it into the water, but it didn’t move very far. Some young boys swimming in the river pushed it into the current for me, and I watched it drift away until I couldn’t make it out on the horizon any longer. The flame among the flowers was still burning like a light on my own inner wisdom.