Immense Achievements of Shri Vallabh
Shri Vallabh was a visionary of his age. He founded a sect that dealt with the issues of his times - real issues - such as conversion to Islam by force as well argument, destruction of Hindu places of worship & learning, untouchability, women's rights - etc
Conversion - Islam converted by force as well as by philosophical argument.
Shri Vallabh contended that if you can convert, so can I ! While the muslim governor in Mathura was forcefully converting people at Vishram ghat, one of the holiest places in Mathura, Shri Vallabh counteracted that and set up ways to convert people in Delhi ! When questioned, Shri Vallabh boldly stated that if you can convert, so can I ! Equal rights must be accorded to all citizens. The than ruler of Delhi had to contend that forceful conversion was not ethical and instructed his people to stop such practices in Mathura. This was a major coup at a time when the march of islam by the sword was decimating the rest of the world.
Islam's philosophical argument - that there is only one God and it was the only religion to preach it - was also nullified by Shri Vallabh.
He quoted ancient Vedic verses to prove that Hinduism was the oldest religion to preach the monotheism and offered a far more comprehensive answer than islam. All other monotheistic philosophies - islam, christianity, judaism, Kavaladvita of Shankara, etc do not explain the "negative aspect" of the universe in a constructive or convincing way. The three Abrahamic religions of the west explain it as the work of the Satan - literally the adversary to God. But, if God is truly omnipotent, how can there be an adversary to that absolute power ? And, how can that adversary survive for so long ?!? If God is omnipresent, how can there be hell ? If God exists everywhere and at all times, there can never be a place without that God - not even hell ! Their version of God sits very uneasily with the inadequacies of the world and does not square up the idea that their version of God is a vengeful God, requiring people to convert or be condemned !
Philosophies of Shankara, Ramanuja and Madhava do not blame God for the evil in the world and claim it to be the work of Maya, an assistant to God, thereby absolving God of all responsibilities for evil in the world. But, how can an omnipresent, omnipotent God absolve Himself of such a major responsibility and remain silent while others suffer ?!?
Shri Vallabh comes up with a new and wonderful answer - Lila. The adequacies and inadequacies of the universe are His divine play !!!! God is omnipotent and omnipresent. There is nothing in the universe except GOD - nothing - everything you see, smell, feel, touch, know, not know - ALL of it is GOD !!! Universe is a playful manifestation of the Lord ! In a play, inevitably there will be good and bad, happy and sad. Traditionally, there are nine rasas - emotions - that make up a balanced play. God's universe is made up of all nine and more ! As everything is GOD, there is no suffering and no sufferer. Its just a play ! There is no war, no peace, no flood, no drought, its all part of the divine play. If we, associate our selves intensely and singularly with the characters in the play, we will suffer the pain and pleasure as if they were our own. (Most Bollywood and soap opera followers can sympathise with this !) But, if like good actors, we see all of this as stage direction, we will enjoy each performance and will do our best to follow the script rather than fight it !
Shri Vallabh's Shudhadvita is more monotheistic than all other monotheistic religions of the world. This helped stem the flow of philosophical conversion away from Hinduism.
Absolute faith in GOD !
Confident in the absolute power of God, and in the absolute protection of God, he founded his first temple within a day's march from Agra, on a top of a mountain, with a tall spire and toped by a flag. There is a story that says he was initially in favour of a low key structure, designed like a house to avoid the unwanted attentions of the muslim armies roaming around north Indian planes at that time. But, God intervened and insisted that there should be definite and loud statement of FAITH, shouted from the not just the roof tops, but mountaintop ! God has promised his protection to those who believe in Him and no one needs to be afraid. If you have faith in God, He will have faith in you ! This was one of the most boldest statements of faith Shri Vallabh could have made.
Countless times, Shri Vallabh encountered untouchability and countless times he spoke out against it. He insisted, that you should be like the Ganges - so pure that having touched you, the person touching you should become pure. Surely, the person who is capable to converting your status is greater than you ! If you become impure by touching someone, why can't they become pure by touching you ? You should be such a vaishnav that by coming in your contact, that person becomes a vaishnav. That is the truest test of a vaishnav - not how segregated they can live from the rest of the society !
Shri Vallabh insisted that everyone, including women had the inherent right to worship and attain God. How can you say that a soul is male or female ? Just because the outer covering is gender based, that does not affect the inner soul ! It is the soul that has the right to God's grace, body is but a vehicle ! What difference does the shape or colour of the vehicle make to the driver ? The driver is independent of it ! We look at the make / model of the car and judge the driver accordingly, whereas Shri Vallabh would judge the driver and ignore the car altogether ! We live in a world where we are overly concerned about the outer trappings, that we often ignore the inner reality.
Formulating a personal, one-to-one relationship with God.
Shri Vallabh insisted, right till the end, that what matters is your relationship with God. Nothing else - no amount of money, prestige, knowledge, power will endure if you have no real or lasting relationship with God. This relationship is only based on love - your intense love for God. God already loves you. That will never change ! What we need to do is love God for God's sake and not with an ulterior motive of money, fame, fortune etc.
Shri Vallabh also insisted on realising God in one's own life, in one's own home. Seva was suppose to be centred in your own home, to your own svarup of God. The temple / haveli / places of pilgrimages are secondary to this. He wanted people to concentrate on a personal experience of God and spirituality. God was to be part of your daily life, not something you did once a week or a group activity to be indulged in for social purposes.
Shri Vallabh was a brave, revolutionary visionary. He maintained his independence, financial and intellectual, to the end. He did not approach kings and wealthy men for money, though many would have gladly offered it, had he asked. He did not become part of someone else's religious setup, though many requested him to become the head of their institutions. Shri Vallabh wanted his ideas to be accessible to the commonest man and wanted them to make an immediate difference in their lives. For this reason, he walked, bare foot, throughout India, several times, reaching the commonest of the common man, bringing GOD into their lives. Through the 84 Vaishnav's vartas, one can see his common-sense advise and open mindedness.
Shri Vallabh needs to be understood in the context of time, culture, politics and other realities of his time.
Let us be brave enough to do this.
Bhagwat Shah ©
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