|| sri sai satcharitra ||
|| chapter thirty - two ||
|| in quest of guru and god ||
|| Sri Ganeshaya Namaha || Sri Saraswatye Namaha ||
|| Sri Venkateshaya Namaha || Sri Sai Nathaya Namaha ||
|| Sri Sadgurubhyo Namaha ||
In this chapter, Hemad Pant tells us about how Baba met His Guru and through him God, Mrs. Gokhale and other matters.
THE BANYAN TREE:
This samsara has been compared, at various times by various persons, to the Ashvattha (banyan) tree. The Katha Upanishad says
Oorvdha moolaha avaak shaakaha, yeshaha ashvattaha sanatanaha|
tat yeva shukram tad brahma, tat yeva amrutam uchyate||
tasmin lokaaha shritaaha sarve| tat vu na atyeti kashchana|| yetat vai tat||
Kath Upanishad, Book II, Valli 6, Sl.1
(Yama said): There is that ancient Asvattha tree whose root is upwards and branches are down. That indeed is pure. That is Brahman and that alone is called Immortal. Upon that all the worlds depend and no one goes beyond that. This is verily That.
Asvattha tree, the tree of Samsara extends from the Avyakta down to the immovable. This has its root in Brahman. From Brahman only the whole universe proceeds. Just as the tree can be cut down by an axe, so also, the tree of Samsara can be cut down by the axe of non-attachment or sword of Atman-Jnana, knowledge of the Self.
In Bhagavad-Gita, Sri Krishna says:
Oordhwamoolam adhahshaakham ashwattham praahuravyayam|
Cchandaamsi yasya parnaani yastam veda sa vedavit||
They say that the peepul Tree, which has its roots upward and the branches downward, and of which the Vedas are the leaves, is imperishable. He who realizes it is knower of the Vedas.
In the next five slokas, Sri Krishna further says that the branches of that tree, extending down-wards and upwards, are strengthened by the qualities and have sense-objects as their shoots. And the roots, which are followed by actions, spread down-wards in the human world. Its form is not perceived here in that way; or its end, or beginning, or continuance. After felling this Peepul (banyan) tree whose roots are well developed, with the strong sword of detachment, that State has to be sought for, going where they do not return again: I take refuge in that Primeval Person Himself, from whom has ensued the eternal Manifestation. The wise ones who are free from pride and non-discrimination, who have conquered the evil of association, (Hatred and love arising from association with foes and friends) who are ever devoted to spirituality, completely free from desires, free from the dualities called happiness and sorrow, reach that undecaying State. Neither the sun nor the moon nor fire illumines That. That is My supreme Abode, reaching which they do not return.
To cut this tree of samsara, and to gain that sharp sword called detachment with which this tree can be cut, the guiding hand of a guru is essential. However learned one can be, however deep the study of Vedas and Vedantas be, one cannot go through this jungle without the guiding beacon of a guru. For the guru to successfully guide, the devotee must have complete faith and patience in the guru. If this faith is not there, we will be going round and round in the jungle, without ever coming out of it.
The same philosophy Baba expounds in this chapter in the form of a story from His own life. By following this story sincerely, we will be bestowed with faith, devotion and salvation. Let us listen to Baba.
Once, four of us were studying religious scriptures and other books. Being thus enlightened, we began to discuss the nature of Brahman. One of us said that we should raise Self by the Self, and should not depend on others. To this the second said that he who controls his mind is blessed. We should be free from thoughts and ideas and there is nothing in the world without us. The third one replied that the phenomenon (world) is always changing, the formless is eternal. So, we should discriminate between the Unreal and the Real. To this the fourth one (Baba Himself) urged that the bookish knowledge alone is worthless and added, ‘Let us do our prescribed duty and surrender our body, mind and five pranas (life) at the Guru’s feet. Guru is God, all pervading. To get this conviction, strong unbounded faith is necessary.’
While discussing in this way, we four learned men began to ramble through the woods in quest of God. The three wanted to make the search with their free and unaided intellect. On the way, a Vanjari (roaming trader) met us and asked us, ‘It is hot now, where and how far are you going?’ We replied, ‘To search the woods.’ He enquired, ‘On what quest are you bound?’ We gave him an ambiguous and evasive reply. On seeing us rambling aimlessly, he was moved and said, ‘Without knowing the woods fully, you should not wander at random. If you want to walk through forests and jungles, you should take a guide with you. Why do you exert yourselves unnecessarily in this hot noon sun? You may not tell me the secret of your quest. Still, you can sit down, eat food, drink water, take rest and then go. Be always patient at heart.’ Though he spoke tenderly, we rejected his request and marched on. We thought that we were self contained men and needed nobody’s help.
The woods were vast and trackless; the trees therein grew so close and tall that sun’s rays could not penetrate through them. So, we lost our way and wandered here and there, for a long time. Ultimately, through sheer good luck, we came back to the same place from where we started. The Vanjari saw us again and said, ‘By relying on your own cleverness, you missed your way. A guide is always necessary to show us the right way in small or great matters. And no quest can be successfully carried out on an empty stomach. Unless God wills it, no one meets us on the way. Do not discard offers of food; served food should not be thrust away. Offers of food should be regarded as auspicious signs of success.’ Saying this, he again offered us food and asked us to be calm and patient. Once again we did not like this good hospitality, rejected his offer and went away.
Without doing any quest and without taking any food, the three began to move out. They were very obstinate. I was hungry and thirsty. I was moved by the Vanjari’s extraordinary love. We thought ourselves very learned, yet we were quite strangers to pity and kindness. The Vanjari was illiterate, unqualified, and belonged to a low caste. Still, he had love in his heart and asked us to eat the food. In this way, he who loves others disinterestedly is really the enlightened one. And I thought that acceptance of his hospitality was the best beginning of getting knowledge. So very respectfully, I accepted the food he offered ate it and drank water.
Then lo! The Guru at once came and stood before us. He asked, ‘What was the dispute about?’ I told him everything that had happened. Then he said, ‘Would you like to come with me? I will show you what you want, but he alone, who believes in what I say, will be successful.’ The others did not agree to what he said and left him. I bowed to him reverently and accepted his dictum. Then he took Me to a well, tied My feet with a rope. He hung Me with My head downwards and feet upwards from a tree into the well. I was suspended three feet above the water. I could not reach the water with My hands and the water also could not go into My mouth. After suspending Me in this manner, he went away, no one knew where.
After 4 or 5 hours (10 or 12 Ghatakas) he returned and took Me out quickly. Then he asked Me how I fared. I replied, ‘In Bliss supreme I was. How can a fool like Me describe the joy I experienced?’ On hearing My reply, the Guru was very much pleased with Me, drew Me near him. He stroked My body with his hands and kept Me with him! He took care of Me as tenderly as a mother bird does of her young ones. He put Me into his school. How beautiful it was! There I forgot My parents. All My attachments were snapped and I was liberated easily. I thought that I should embrace his neck and remain staring at him always. If his image was not fixed in My pupils, I would prefer to be blind. Such was the school! No one who entered it once could return empty handed. My Guru became My all-in-all, My home, My property, mother, father and everything. All My senses left their places and concentrated in My eyes. My sight was centred on him. Thus was My Guru, the sole object of My meditation, and I was conscious of none else. While meditating him, My mind and intellect were stunned. I had thus to keep quiet and bow to him in silence.
[According to the Sufi tradition, the path or the journey to God realization consists of seven stages or ‘stations’. They are
1. Tawabat – repentence
2. Wara – abstinence
3. Zuhd – renunciation
4. Faqr – poverty
5. Sabr – patience
6. Tawakkul – faith or trust in God and
7. Rida – contentment.
These stages constitute the various ascetic and ethical disciplines of the Sufi, and the attainment of each station signals the uplift of the personality to a more integrated level. At each of these stations, 10,000 veils are said to be lifted. Allah is said to be veiled by 70,000 veils which hide from the aspirant his true spiritual identity, and these have to be unveiled through spiritual practices.
The Sufis identify four levels of repentance by abstentation from 1. Kofr – unbelief 2. Fojur – lewdness 3. Immoral traits and finally 4 from everything other than God. The Sufi training, particularly in the Chishtiyya Order, often included a forty day retreat called as chillah, wherein the aspirant undertakes a forty day period of seclusion spent in fasting, meditation, recollection and devotional exercises to purify the soul. Each pir or guru would have his own method of initiating this spiritual experience, and would assist in finding a suitable secluded place or special dark space.
A variation of this chillah is the chilla-i-ma’kusa in which the aspirant is suspended in an inverted position while performing secluded prayers and meditation. The technique consisted of being hung upside down in a lonely place, such as a well, for a prescribed number of hours a day – over a period of days or even the full forty days. When the pir or the guru thought that the salik or the sishya was spiritually prepared, he would confer an experience of bliss through his own spiritual power known as baraka.
It is very likely that Baba was narrating a personal experience which is very similar to the traditional Sufi technique, although in His case, the time period was much shorter. After such an experience, the salik or sishya undergoes a transformation and his life changes thereafter. The salik or sishya then joins the school of the pir or the guru, where he was trained.]
There are other schools where you see an altogether different spectacle. The disciples go there to seek knowledge and spend their money, time and labour. Ultimately they have to repent. The Guru there boasts of his secret knowledge and his straight forwardness. He makes a show of his sacredness and holiness. He is not tender at heart. He speaks a lot and sings his own glory. But, his own words do not touch the hearts of the disciples and they are not convinced. As for as self realization is concerned, he has none. How can such schools be of any use to the disciples, and how can they be benefited? My master (Guru) was of a different type. By his grace, realization flashed upon Me of itself, without effort or study. I did not have to seek anything. Everything became clear to Me like broad daylight. The Guru alone knows how the topsy-turvy suspension, ‘with head down and feet up’ can give happiness!”
Among the four, one was a Karmatha (ritualistic), who only knew how to observe, and abstain from certain rites; the second was Jnani, who was puffed up with pride of knowledge; and the third was a Bhakta, who surrendered himself completely to God, believing that He was the sole Doer. When they were discussing and arguing, the question of God turned up. All the three depending on their unaided knowledge went in search of Him. The fourth one was Sai Himself - discrimination and dispassion incarnate. Some may ask, “Why did He mix with them and act foolishly?” He did this for the purpose of enlightening us, and setting us an example to follow. As He was an incarnation, He respected a low Vanjari, by accepting his food and showed His firm belief in the saying, “Food is Brahman (annam para brahmam)”. He showed us how those who rejected Vanjari’s hospitable offer suffered. He also showed us how it was impossible to get Jnana without a Guru.
The Taittiriya Upanishad says
Deva pitrukaaryaabhyaam na pramaditavyam |
matru devo bhava |
pitru devo bhava | aacharya devo bhava | Atithi devo bhava |
yaanya na vadyaani karmaani | taani sevitavyaani | no itaraani |
yaanyasmaakaha soocharitaraani | taani tvayopaasyani |
no itaraani || 2 ||
Tat.Up 11 anu.Sl.2
Never swerve from the duties to the gods and to the manes. May the mother be thy God. May the father be thy God. May the preceptor be thy God. May the guest be thy God. Let only those actions that are free from blemishes be done, and not others. Only those that are good acts to us should be performed by thee and not others.
By worshiping one’s father, mother, teacher and guests as veritable gods without regarding them as mere men, paying them due reverence and serving them with great respect will purify our minds. Unless this purification is done, self realization is not possible. The senses, the mind, or the intellect cannot take us to the self. Deductive or intuitive logic, such as perception and inference, or learning Vyakarana (grammar) will not help us in the matter. It is the grace of Guru alone which can take us to our destination. Out of the four Purusharthas - Dharma, Artha and Kama can be attained by our effort. The fourth, namely Moksha, can be attained only by the grace of a Sadguru.
In the Durbar of our beloved Baba, many personalities make their presence and play their part. Astrologers, princes, noblemen, ordinary and poor men, Sannyasins, yogis, singers come for Baba’s darshan. Jugglers, Gondhalis (who sing devotional songs), the blind, the lame, Nath panthis, dancers come and get blessed by Baba. Like them, the Vanjari also played an important part. We will now see what Mrs. Gokhale will do.
MRS GOKAHALE’S STORY:
Baba never fasted Himself. He did not allow others also to fast. The mind of a person, who fasts, is never at ease. With an unsteady mind how can one attain one’s Paramartha (goal of life)? As the Vanjari said, “No quest can be successfully carried out on an empty stomach!” The soul has to be appeased first. It is only when the stomach is full that the eyes can see God, the tongue can describe the greatness of God and the ears can listen to what the tongue is extolling. It is only when all the sense organs get their proper nutrition, can we practice devotion and sadhanas. Neither fasting nor overeating is good. Moderation in diet is wholesome, both to the body and the mind.
Mrs Gokhale came to Shirdi to get Baba’s darshan and blessing. She brought with her a letter of introduction from a devotee of Baba, Mrs Kashibai Kanitkar to Dada Kelkar. She came with a determination to sit at Baba’s feet and observe fast for three days. A day before she arrived in Shirdi, Baba had told Dada Kelkar that He would not allow Dada’s children to fast during Shimga (festival of Holi) and if they had to fast, why was He there?
With this background, when Mrs Gokhale came next day with Dada Kelkar and sat near Baba’s feet, Baba said, “Why fast? Go to Dadabhat’s house, prepare pooran polis (wheat rolls with gram flour and jaggery), feed his children and yourself.” It was the period of Shimga holidays and Mrs Kelkar was undergoing her monthly periods. There was nobody to cook in Dadabhat’s house and the children were without food. Baba’s advice was thus very timely and Mrs Gokhale implemented it. She went to Dadabhat’s house, prepared pooran polis, fed everyone in the house and herself. What a beautiful story and how divine is its meaning!
Baba narrates another story from His boyhood days as follows:
“When I was young, I went to Beedgaum in search of livelihood. There I did some embroidery work. I worked hard and spared no pains. The employer was very much pleased with Me. There were three other boys who worked with Me. The first one got Rs.50/-, the second got Rs.100/- and the third got Rs.150/-. I was given twice the sum of all the three amounts, namely Rs.600/-. After seeing My cleverness, the employer loved Me, praised Me and honoured Me with a full dress- turban for the head, shell for the body etc. I kept this dress intact without using it. I thought that what a man gives does not last long, and is always imperfect. What My Sarkar (God) gives, lasts till the end of time. No other gift from any man can be compared to what He gives. My Sarkar says, ‘Take, take’. Everybody comes to Me and says, ‘Give, give.’ Nobody listens carefully to what I say. My Sarkar’s treasury (spiritual wealth) is full, it is overflowing. I say, ‘Dig out and take away this wealth in cartloads. Every blessed son of a mother should fill himself with this wealth’. The skill of My Fakir, the Leela of My Bhagwan and the aptitude of My Sarkar is quite unique. What is there for Me? This Body will mix with earth, breath with air. This moment of time won’t come again. I go somewhere, sit somewhere. This cruel Maya troubles Me much, still I always feel anxious for My men. He who does something (spiritual endeavour) will reap its benefit and he who remembers these words of Mine will get invaluable happiness.” Before we end this chapter, let us prostrate once again at the divine feet of our beloved Baba and pray that His treasury should be kept open always for us. Om Sri Sadguru Sainath Maharaj Ki Jai!!
With this, the thirty second chapter, called as In quest of Guru and God, is complete. In the next chapter, Hemad Pant tells us about how Baba cured Scorpion Sting and plague cases, the Jamner Miracle, Narayan Rao’s sickness, Balabuva Sutar, Appasaheb Kulkarni, Haribhau Karnik and other matters.
|| Sri Sadguru Sainathaarpanamasthu || Shubham Bhavatu ||
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti