Jnaneshvar: the life and works tells the story of the life and career of jnaneshvar who emerges as one of the most brilliant poets’ sublime mystics and fascinating figures in all of medieval Indian history. At an age when most men have scarcely begun their life’s work jnaneshvar who lived form 1271 to 1296 a mere span of twenty five years had ended his but not before having built and everlasting monument to his memory in the written a masterpieces he left behind. In so few years he had established a legacy that was to revitalized his culture his language his religious tradition and make a place for himself as an enduring presence in the hearts of his country men for all time.
The reason for his enduring popularity in his own homeland becomes evident when one discovers his written works. Even in English translation the profundity of his thought the rich profusely of his imagery and the unmistakable style to his homespun wisdom at so tender as age distinguish his works as those of a unique genius. The complete works included here in translation are amrianubhav. The nectar of mystical experience haripatha sing the name of hari and changadev pasashti letter to changadev.
The story of the life of Jnaneshvar is necessarily sketchy as many of the existing accounts of his life written several centuries ago are highly imaginative wrote about their medieval saints as though they were celestial gods Tran located to earth to appear in human guise for the benefit of suffering humanity. The story of their lives was related as a series of miraculous events from beginning to end culminating in the saint’s supernatural epiphany and resurrection in his celestial habitat. It is oftentimes very difficult therefore to reconstruct from such accounts a real living feeling human being and to get a clear understanding of what that saint’s life was really like. The life of Jnaneshvar is no exception to this rule he is pictured in existing icons as though he were a porcelain doll and represented in literature ad a godlike being who flew about on brick walls caused bullocks to recite the Vedas and at the age of twenty five after having left his message for mortals released his body to return to his abode in Kailas his celestial mountain paradise.
Fortunately however there are enough facts preserved from the recorded recollection of his contemporaries and enough data available concerning the historical period in which he lived to piece together a likely story of the life and career of Jnaneshvar who emerges as one of the life and career of Jnaneshvar who emerges as one of the most brilliant poets sublime mystics and fascinating figures in all of medieval Indian history. At an age when most men have scarcely begun their life’s work Jnaneshvar who lived from 1271 to 1296 a mere span of twenty five years monument to his memory in the written masterpieces he left behind. In so few years he had established a his religious tradition and make a place for himself as an enduring presence in the hearts of his countrymen for all time.
Had the thirteenth century been blessed with no other luminary than Jnaneshvar still it would have been a glorious century for the literature of God knowledge but Jnaneshvar was not the only star in the world’s sky in that shining century. In Christina Europe at the same time as Jnaneshvar there lived a learned prior at Erfurt in Germany by the name of Johann Eckhart (1260-1327) who had directly known and experienced god in mystical vision and was embarrassing the officials gregation that he had done so. Eckhart known as Meiste Eckhart was undoubtedly the bright star in the European firmament of the thirteenth century and the Christian equivalent of Jnaneshvar in mystical knowledge. He was only eleven years older than Jnaneshvar and it is certainly possible that the revelation of unity which each of them experienced occurred around the same period (1288-1293). Like Jnaneshvar Eckhart was to inspire a mystical movement with succession of genuine mystics trailing after him and like Jnaneshvar he was to revolutionize and set the standard for a budding literary language. Also like Jnaneshvar he as to live misunderstood unappreciated and persecuted during his own lifetime.
The world of Islam also had its lamination the great Sufi mystic poets, Farid-uddin attar (d. 1230) Fakhr-uddin Iraqi (d.1289) and the incomparable Jalal-Uddin Rumi (d. 1273) but it was the Spanish arab muhi-uddin Ibn al- Arabi (1165-1240) who probably more than any other qualifies for the position of mystical influence which Jnaneshvar and Eckhart came to hold in their respective worlds. Jnaneshvar Eckhart and Ibn Arabi though born in widely divergent locations and religious traditions each experienced the revelation of cosmic unity and though one called that unity by the name of Shiva and another called it Gottheit and the other called it Haqq the unity they experienced was the same and their descriptions of it were identical.
However the writings of Eckhart and Ibn Arabi were the products of men well into their maturity Jnaneshvar was but a boy when he had concluded his Jnaneshvar was but a boy when he had concluded his life’s work. How we must wonder did such profound mystical knowledge and literary genius arise in this young casteless peasant boy orphaned and living in utter poverty on the banks of the Godavari river? How is it possible that a lad nineteen possible that a lad of nineteen possessed the vast learning and mature wisdom to write the Jnaneshvari and year late Amritanubhav? And why did he choose to end his life at the age of twenty five? Why did his sister abd two brother take their own lives shortly therafter? To these questions there will never be conclusive answers. But in piecing together the tale of Jnaneshvari life and times we may find a few clused which will enable us to draw out own conclusions.
It is tale I’ve chosen to tell in a somewhat unorthodox fashion weaving together the chronicles of historical fact with the kind of reserved drams usually reserved for fictional literature. I have taken this licence as a storyteller in order in imparts a sense of life and immediate drama to a tale which because of its many diverse elements and esoteric themes in the usual narrative style of the historian. And while I have taken stylistic licence I have conscientiously avoided taking licence with historical fact all events described herein licence with historical with the chronicles of historians and reliable contemporaries of Jnaneshvar.
It seems that up to now Jnaneshvar has not been adequately treated or appreciated in the west and so it is my hope that this book may serve to provide that appreciation by familiarizing western readers with this best loved poet saint of India and with some of his lesser known works which rightly deserve a prominent place among the world’s great masterpieces of mystical literature.
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