(This is one of my favourite bhajans, and one apparently listened to frequently by Mahatma Gandhi.)
Vaishnava jan to tene kahiye, je peed paraayee jaNe re
He is the true Vaishnava who knows and feels another’s suffering as his own.
Par dukkhe upkar kare toye, man abhiman na aaNe re
While he serves those who are suffering, he does not entertain pride in his mind about it.
SakaL lok maan sahune vande, nindaa na kare keni re
He respects everyone, and denounces nobody.
Vaach-kaachch-man nischal raakhe, dhan dhan janani teni re
He keeps his speech, deeds, and thoughts pure; blessed is his mother.
Sam-drushti ne trishNaa tyaagi, parastree jene maat re
Viewing all equally, he rids himself of covetousness, and reveres every woman as though she were his mother.
Jihvaa thake, asatya na bole, par-dhan nava jhaale haath re
His tongue would fail him if he were to attempt to speak an untruth. He does not covet another person’s wealth.
Moh-maayaa vyaape nahin jene, draDh vairagya jena manmaa re
Material attachments do not occupy his mind, it being deeply rooted in renunciation.
Raam-naam shu taaLE laagi, sakaL teerath tena tanmaa re
Every moment he is intent on reciting the name of Rama. All the holy places are ever present in his body.
VaNa lobhi ne kapat rahit chhe, kaam krodh nivaarya re
He has conquered greed, deceit, lust, and anger.
BhaNe Narsaiyyo tenu darshan karata, kuL ekoter tarya re
Says Narsi, the sight of such a Vaishnava saves a family through seventy-one generations.
About this bhajan
A beautiful Gujarati poem written by Narsi Metha, this bhajan attempts to describe all the qualities in a man of god, or “vaishnav”. Most striking is the chorus – he who understands and feels another’s suffering as his own and acts on this without any sense of ego. To such a man, helping others is not defined in his mind as “social work”. It is his Lord’s work.
I mentioned above that Gandhiji was fond of this bhajan. Seeing his life, his work, and his struggles, I find it hard to imagine that it is not him being described in these verses.