The Sant Tradition had been influenced by three religious trends namely the Vaishnava bhakti, the Hatha yoga of the Nath yogis and by Sufi philosphy. The essential similarity between the Bhakti tradition and the Sant tradition was the concept of love used by both the cults. But at the same time there were essential differences between the two. Unlike the Bhakti tradition the followers of Sant tradition did not express their love for any avatar but they expressed their devotion for the supreme Lord. At the same time the path undertaken by the followers of Sant Tradition was one of suffering and was not as easy as the one propagated by Bhakti tradition.
It is true that the Sant tradition and the Bhakti tradition had differences with each other but the Bhakti tradition had a lot of influence during the early stages of development of the Sant tradition. The influence of Nath tradition is mostly traced within the Sant tradition with regard to the terminologies used by Kabir. Rather it can be said that the influence of the Nath tradition was not as much prominent as that of the Bhakti cult. The followers of the Sant tradition were monotheists in nature but for them the Lord whom they worshipped was not anthropo¬morphic in nature. They on the other hand understood the manifestation of the Almighty through all His creations. They believed that the true abode of the Lord was human heart and the best way to reach close to the Almighty was true meditation in the name of divine. The followers of the Sant tradition rejected all kinds of external rituals and celebrations. The Sant tradition gave a lot of importance to the concept of guru. They said that guru might be a human person or He may be the Almighty Himself. It was also their belief that true salvation comes only with the union with the Lord. They also refuted the concept of caste system, asceticism and also spurned both the Hindu and the Muslim notions because they felt that those traditions were completely futile.
The followers of the Sant tradition had expressed their teachings not in the language of Sanskrit but in a language which was used by those to whom they taught the Sant philosophy. During that time in northern India a language came to be used which was known as the Siidhukkari language. This language was a combination of the dialect of Delhi, old Rajasthani, Persian, Apabh-ramsa and Punjabi. Most of the saints of the Nirguana Sampradaya came from the lower strata of the society and were uneducated and illiterate. As a result all their teachings were only oral utterances and were written down only after a long period of time.
The first saint of the Sant tradition was Namdev and he was followed by Raidas. Kabir had taken the Sant tradition to a much complicated status and had contributed to the philosophies of the Nirguna Sampradaya to a large extent.
It was this Sant tradition that influenced Guru Nanak to build his own philosophy which later came to be known as the Sikh philosophy. But at the same time it cannot be said that Nanak's philosophy was a repetition of the Sant tradition rather it was formed by Nanak's own insight. Thus Sikh philosophy of Nanak had been largely influenced by the contemporary Sant tradition of northern India.
(Last Updated on : 24-03-2015)