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YOGIRAJ SHRI SHANKAR MAHARAJ
ACTIVITIES IN PUNE - 6
Reader may recall that Maharaj had expressed the desire to take Samadhi in 1930 itself, but had postponed it by seventeen years at the request of Dr. Dhaneshwar. A few months earlier to his samadhi he had chosen the present site for his samadhi. The site was located in a farmland owned by one Mr. Malpani at about a kilometre distance from Padmavati temple. Maharaj had obtained an assurance from Mr. Malpani, the owner of the land to give him three gunthas of land (1 acre=40 gunthas). Today the area is crowded with buildings and shops. Pune-Satara road is now a concreted road with heavy traffic. But even in 1947, the place was a jungle with danger of dacoits and wild animals. In fact all the land south of Swargate was like that. The Pune-Satara road was an untarred kutcha road.
In 1946 Maharaj accompanied by a group of devotees went by car to Padmavati temple and thence to the farmland owned by Mr. Malpani who also accompanied. He stood at the present location of the samadhi quietly and after some time said, “What a nice place! It is near Dnyaneshwar Maharaj, near Padmavati and away from town. I have decided to have my samadhi here.” Everyone was shocked. Then Maharaj left for Bombay.
He returned from Bombay to Mama Dhekne's house. This was now the year 1947. One day he told Raosaheb who was among the devotees who had gathered there, “Rau, these clothes have become old. They must be discarded.” Everybody realised, all being from a spiritual circle that he was referring to his body and not real clothes. He then asked them to gather there after four days and that he would make khichadi for them. Then he left for the house of another disciple, Mr. Buva Wandekar.
That day Wandekar had performed Satyanarayan Puja on Maharaj's instructions. He had also prepared meals for about hundred invitees. As is the custom, anyone can come to the puja and offer flowers to the deity. They are given part of the food offerings as "prasad". Meals are generally offered to invitees but in India nobody is formal about the invitation formalities. Because of Maharaj's presence the attendance swelled enormously. Some people even stayed over for meals. Wandekar was nervous at the flood of people staying behind for meals. But Maharaj signalled him not to worry and go ahead with serving. About twelve hundred persons took meals that day with the food sufficient for only about hundred persons. Wandekar was relieved and surprised. Maharaj asked whether everybody had eaten and whether he was satisfied. Wandekar did the only thing he could do. He threw himself at his feet.
After meals Maharaj suddenly got up and asked Yavatkar, another devotee,
“Take me double seat on your cycle and leave me near Kaka Halwai Datta temple (situated couple of hundred metres from Mama Dhekne’s house). And look, this coat of mine has become old. I must get a new one.” Yavatkar did not understand the implication of these remarks. He said,
“Oh yes Maharaj, let us do so.” And he really took measurements. Later, he was explained what Maharaj had meant.
Four days later, all gathered at Mama Dhekne's house as instructed by Maharaj. Khichadi was being cooked in a large pot. Maharaj was stirring it. He was refusing all help. When khichadi was ready it was distributed in cups made of leaves (Drona). All were instructed to eat it there itself. Then Maharaj said,
“Dnyaneshwari is not to be read. One must live by it. This world has been saved only by the advice of saints and Dnyaneshwari. He who fills his life with Dnyaneshwari will surely have a happy life. I have nothing more to say.”
And with that he bid good-bye to those who had gathered, except Dr. Dhaneshwar, Appa Gosavi, Dnyananath, Mehendale couple, Mama and Mami Dhekne. He caressed the faces and bodies of all of them and said,
“For yogis and liberated persons, samadhi should be taken at an auspicious time. Such a time is coming on Vaishakh Shuddha Ashtami. I am going to deposit this material body in the ground that day.”
He was referring to the eighth day in the bright fortnight of the second lunar month, which occurs sometime in April. To reduce the impact of this revelation on the group, he added,
"At least that is what I feel. I shall let you know when it is finally decided.”
He then bid farewell to the group.
During the next ten days or so, Maharaj had broken all contact with the world other than the usual group who continued to visit him. Not a word was spoken. Nor did he leave Mama Dhekne's house. On the Saptami day, that is the day before the samadhi, he told Mami,
“Give me just a cup of tea. No cigarettes also. Spread a small mattress and keep a cushion inside the shelf. I am going to take bath and sit there. I don't want to speak a word nor meet anyone. The door should not be opened.” And he did accordingly.
Mama and Mami were sitting the whole night in front of the shelf keeping watch. At four o'clock in the morning voice came from inside the shelf,
“Make further arrangements. Take care of this material body. This flame of Dnyanadeo is now leaving it.”
Bapu was on Parvati hill for his daily spiritual routine. As soon as he came to know about Maharaj leaving the body, he rushed down, went to Maharshi Vinod with Raosaheb. Maharshi Vinod already had sensed it. The trio went to take a last look at Maharaj at Dhekne's house. Maharshi had taken a long copper wire with him. He took Maharaj's head in his lap, held one end of the copper wire at the heart of the body and other in his own ears. Shortly he started uttering words, which Raosaheb noted down as the message from Maharaj in verse form. I have made a humble attempt to paraphrase it into prose but I apologise for the imperfection.
“The flame that is Shankar was lighted for a short time. It did not matter whether it became steady, increased or extinguished. The objectives of Naths have been brought to people by bringing the thumb-size spark of his soul into the body (i.e. by his taking birth on this earth). In the early hours of morning he has returned to where Chauranginath and Gorakshanath are present showering blessings on his children who were touched by good fortune. An exalted life created auspicious clouds causing a surge of the five Pranas through the seven Chakras and the root of all karmas was washed away with the opening of the Sahasrar Chakra in those who were touched by good fortune. The sound of Aum was inspired in the hearts and Gorakshanath and Dnyaneshwar Maharaj showered blessings of happiness over all. Let us attain equanimity with the use of priceless meditation, speak the subtle meanings of the Shrutis and sway intoxicated by devotion. Let us dissolve all inequalities in devotion, bury dwaita (dualism) into Adwaita and let the body brighten by the light of knowledge. These are the prayers for the three worlds.”
(Note: The verse uses the word “Vaishnavi” in which the inequalities are to be dissolved. The term “devotion” used above is by association of the path of devotion with Lord Vishnu. Similarly I have used the term Adwaita for the word “Shambhavi” used in the poem also by association. Actually "Shambhavi" has been used for the “Shabari” Mantras, a gift of Machchindranath to the Nath sect. Readers should note that the path of devotion is a Dwaita path because the devotee, even after being one with the form of God, desires to remain separate from Him because he needs Him as an object for devotion.)
Word spread that Maharaj had left the body. It was Monday, April 28th 1947. People gathered to have a last sight of the body. The body was taken next day in procession by the predetermined route to the place near Padmavati indicated by Maharaj. Ground was being dug at the indicated place. However some trouble arose. The elder Mr. Malpani (who had promised the site for the samadhi) was no more. His sons were quibbling over giving away the land and wanted to shift the location. Finally, some people decided to call Malimaharaj, a local saint from Padmavati. Malimaharaj came with his disciples. But by that time somebody had called local police also and an enquiry was going on.
Malimaharaj came and touched the body. Immediately the body started looking like Hanuman. Malimaharaj exclaimed, “Have you taken this form to show people the path of devotion?” (Hanuman was a steadfast devotee of Shri Rama)
He then called the policeman, made him sit by his side and all his group began singing loudly praises of Lord Shiva, “Bm Bm Bholenath”. The mood changed. At about five o'clock in the evening the body was kept in the ground in a stone casket and in no time only a mound of earth covered with garlands was all that could be seen. Everybody returned from that lonely jungle except Mr. Baburao Rudra.
At the time when the material body of Maharaj was taken to the present site at Dhankavadi for final repose, Mr. Nerlekar (See Ch VIII) and his friends had hired a tonga and gone there. He describes that after the body was laid inside the stone casket and covered, sandalwood was burnt on the top.
Stage by stage, a brick structure was built at the site followed by a wall, then a tin roof. Baburao served there for many years until a trust took over. The trust is progressively developing it into a full-fledged temple. But it is unfortunate that trusts are formed when trust vanishes. Earlier one could go and touch the samadhi and the statue. Today there is a barrier between the devotees and the samadhi and one cannot touch the statue. This is said to be as per the rules set by the Charity Commissioner.
What dies is only the body and not the soul. Yogis, even after they leave the body, are capable of appearing in human form or through the medium of others to continue their work of gracing the public. We have already come across several instances of Maharaj communicating with devotees through the medium of other person's bodies. We shall presently see more of this aspect of Maharaj in the next chapter.
ACTIVITIES AFTER SAMADHI
Readers must have noted that Maharaj could take different appearances to suit the occasion. He appeared as a tall fakir to Dr. Dhaneshwar when he was a boy and to Major Abhyankar at Ganagapur. To the participants in the festivities at Mehendalewada he transformed into Lord Shiva and he became Hanuman for Mr. Kulkarni. After samadhi he appeared to Nana Pandit through the medium of different persons including Nana’s sister-in-law. This use of the bodies of an individual as a medium was however for a short time as and when needed. While such short-term transmigration by Siddhas has been often reported, the remarkable phenomenon in the case of Maharaj is the use of Mr. Dinesh Kulkarni as a medium since about 1955, initially for short periods but later almost continuously almost continuously. This has resulted in the new generation who had never been in contact with Maharaj before samadhi, considering him as the original Shri Shankar Maharaj. Mr. Kulkarni was a teacher and came from a religious and devout family. He himself was a devotee of Maharaj. Many devotees including Shri Shivaji Maharaj, a disciple of Maharaj, has confirmed this use of Kulkarni as a medium by Maharaj. (It is reported now that Maharaj stopped using him as a medium since some years and Mr. Kulkarni lives later in Nashik, is no more). There are also instances when Maharaj appeared before a devotee in his original form.
Rest of this chapter presents events describing the interaction of various devotees with Maharaj mostly after the samadhi, some of them through the medium of Mr. Dinesh Kulkarni. In the later case Maharaj is mentioned as Maharaj (DK).
He was one of the five children of his parents. Extremely weak at birth he hardly had any strength in his limbs. Because of this physical debility, he could not go to school beyond a couple of years. By the age of six he had lost both parents and by the age of twelve all other relatives. For survival he somehow crawled eight kilometres to the samadhi temple of a saint named Chupchupmaharaj where he lived on whatever food he received in alms. He had become so bent in the body due to weakness that he could not stand erect. A few days later a miracle happened. That day Shri Shankar Maharaj entered the temple and glanced at the boy crouched in the corner. He said, “Why are you sleeping like this? Get up.” Then he caught him by his arm and made him stand. At that time Shri Pantmaharaj of Balekundri also made his appearance. Shri Pantmaharaj was an accomplished yogi from Lord Dattatreya tradition. Maharaj and Shri Pantmaharaj sandwiched the boy hard between them. From that time onwards the boy became physically erect and normal. In a couple of years Maharaj trained him spiritually but without direct contact between them. However the boy had achieved oneness with his Guru to such an extent that he used to say that he and Shri Shankar Maharaj were not different. He was by that time known as Shivaji Maharaj.
Shivaji Maharaj first came to Pune in 1950 (i.e. about three years after Shri Shankar Maharaj took samadhi) at the request of his disciple Mr. Devkaran Sharma (known as Dadaji). One day he said to Dadaji,
“Come, I will show you my Guru's samadhi”. He almost dragged Dadaji to the samadhi of Shri Shankar Maharaj at Padmavati though he had been to Pune for the first time. In those days an ordinary tin shed covered the samadhi which Mr. Baburao Rudra used to guard and serve. Shivaji Maharaj then left Pune but returned after three years for a permanent stay. He used to take part in the daily maintenance of the samadhi. One day in 1959, while Mr. Baburao Rudra and Shivaji Maharaj were at the samadhi, somebody called loudly “Babya”. It was the same name and the same voice by which Shri Shankar Maharaj used to call Baburao twelve years ago. He ran to the samadhi and found a person sitting on it. That person shouted again, “What are you looking at? Where is my hunter?” Baburao realised it was his Shankar Maharaj speaking. Shivaji Maharaj also ran shouting “Ayee” (meaning mother), recognising in that person, the presence of his Guru Shri Shankar Maharaj whom he used to refer as “mother”. The person was Mr. Dinesh Kulkarni mentioned earlier. This recognition by Shivaji Maharaj, who was really a terror to the fraudulent persons, confirms this use of Kulkarni as a medium. Shivaji Maharaj then accompanied Maharaj (DK) in this new body for pilgrimage to several holy places like Pandharpur, Akkalkot, Ganagapur, Nashik, and Triambakeshwar.
The continuation of the appearances of Maharaj after samadhi either through the medium of Mr. Dinesh Kulkarni or otherwise makes the biography open ended with a very large number of episodes. A few selected episodes are given in the following.
B. L. SHELAR
Mr. B. L. Shelar, a public prosecutor and later a member of the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal has told of the following experience. Once some devotees of Shri Shankar Maharaj had gathered in Mr. Nana Pandit's house in Pune. Among them was an elderly person of about 50 years. It was believed that Shri Narasimha Saraswati used to use his body as a medium. It was about half past nine at night when Maharaj(DK) accompanied by Shivaji Maharaj entered and said,
“Where is my hunter? I am going to whip the rascal. He is making money using the name of God.”
Nobody knew to whom Maharaj (DK) was referring, but the above elderly person bowed to Maharaj (DK) and said, “Maharaj, I will not do so any more.” The person was a fraud. Maharaj (DK) then asked Nana to cover him (i.e. Maharaj) by a mattress. Nana covered him with one but Maharaj (DK) was not satisfied and asked for more. In the end Maharaj (DK) was covered by seven mattresses. He was then heard saying,
“Do you think I am dead? Why do you go here and there?” He was obviously referring to the frauds.
Maharaj had told Mr. Shelar earlier that he would get a post with a four-figure salary. This turned out to be true. He says that Maharaj used to be particular about performing one's duty. Once when he was posted at Nagpur, Maharaj (DK) came. Mr. Shelar asked him whether he might take casual leave to be in his company. Maharaj (DK) said,
“No, duty first.”
Mr. Shelar passed through spells of happiness as well as severe calamities. An important attitude Mr. Shelar developed by the grace of Maharaj was that of equanimity. He takes both the good and bad things in life as workings of the Divine will as advised in Gita and Dnyaneshwari. This is the strength one gets from a Guru.
Several years before samadhi Maharaj had stayed for about six months in Date Bungalow in Somwar Bazar in Malad West, a suburb of Bombay. Date family consisted of three brothers and two sisters, all spiritually oriented. Their father, a devotee of Swami Samarth of Akkalkot was a disciple of Balkrishna Maharaj a grand-disciple of Swami Samarth. One brother, Mr. Narendra (Nana) Date has been a catalyst to bring many persons on the spiritual path. The youngest brother Mr. Kavish Date has written an article about his experiences with both the pre-samadhi and post-samadhi (Mr. Dinesh Kulkarni as medium) appearances of Maharaj. During the six month stay (pre-samadhi) the elder brother Kishore (who was connected with the cinema industry) sometimes used to play cards with Maharaj. During these sessions Maharaj often told that Swami Samarth used to take care of him like a mother and even feed him milk. He had guided Maharaj to a spiritual perfection.
Mr. Dinesh Kulkarni used to live very near Date Bungalow. Kavish’s sister used to visit Mr. Kulkarni’s house during religious festivals. Maharaj used to be in Mr. Kulkarni's body occasionally in the beginning but later the occupation was almost continuous. Kavish met him through his sister. Kavish describes how, when his wife was in family way, she developed a chill and fever during heavy rains. Being a Sunday no doctor was available. Maharaj (DK) also was not around, having gone with his elder brother Kishore to one of his disciples in Andheri, another suburb of Bombay. His father instructed the servant to give her a cup of tea. But when the servant went in with the tea, she was well and up. When asked, she said that she had sat up because Maharaj (DK) had come and that she was now all right. In the evening Maharaj (DK) came and gave her a piece of sweet and a fruit. He instructed that the piece of sweet was to be eaten only by her and the fruit was to be distributed to others. Kavish asked his brother what Maharaj (DK) had been doing during the period. He said that at about three in the afternoon (the time Kavish's wife was ill), Maharaj (DK) was playing cards. Earlier, he had called for four cups of tea. During the game he went out and vomited. He then covered himself with a blanket and slept. He was having fever and chill. After sometime he was normal and they started for home. It was evident to all that Maharaj (DK) had taken up the illness of Kavish's wife on himself and cured it by his powers. Kavish also narrates how Maharaj cured his three-year-old son's hydrocele without operation.
Who got drunk?
Kavish narrates an interesting incident regarding his sister's son. His sister lives at Ghatkopar, an eastern suburb in Bombay. Maharaj (DK) used to attend the birthday of her son every year. On the third birthday many people had gathered at her house to meet Maharaj (DK). Among them were two respectable Government employees who had come in a jeep. After they were introduced to Maharaj (DK), he asked for a brandy bottle and two glasses. He then filled the glasses with brandy and drank one. He gave the other to the three-year-old boy who drank it fully and went around enjoying the fun of the celebration. The two gentlemen did not like Maharaj (DK) making a small boy drink brandy. They said good-bye and left in disgust. Maharaj (DK) asked those present to see that those two reach their homes safely. Actually, when they reached their homes, both were in a completely drunken state though it was Maharaj (DK) and the boy who had consumed the liquor. Next day their wives came enquiring whether their husbands had taken liquor on the previous day and were surprised when they were told the facts. Maharaj did not like snobbishness.
Mr. Shashi Bambardekar from Bombay has described one of his experiences as follows: He had gone to Nashik with Maharaj (DK) and a few other devotee friends. It was the day of Hanuman Jayanti i.e. birthday of Lord Hanuman. There was a Hanuman temple near Nashik railway station. Maharaj (DK) said to Shashi, “It is the birth time of Hanuman. Do you want to meet Him?” Shashi said yes. Maharaj (DK) then asked him to sit and close his eyes. He did so and Maharaj (DK) touched his head. This is how Shashi describes his experience.
“As soon as I felt the soft touch on my head I lost consciousness. I felt very light like a balloon floating in the air. The surroundings felt like an ocean of silky softness. I felt as if I was bobbing up and down in that ocean. My entire being was resonant with an exotic awakening, overflowing with joy I never experienced before. It was a blissful, out-of-the-world experience of being immersed in an ocean of energy.”
Maharaj (DK) touched him again and he was back in the normal world. Maharaj (DK) was standing beside Hanuman. Shashi immediately touched his feet praying for his grace always. And he was graced.
Mr. Koppikar’s is a strange story where Maharaj saved him from death and disaster even at a stage when he had not even heard of Maharaj.
Mr. Arun Koppikar's encounter with Maharaj was in 1987. Mr. Koppikar is an electrical-mechanical engineer. He used to work in a well-known engineering company in Bombay specialised in selling generators. He was working on a tender for supply of generators to a customer when one day he found that his work was misappropriated by one of his colleagues and passed on to a rival bidder. His complaint to the seniors was in vain and in disgust he resigned from the company. Mr. Koppikar comes from a very religious upright family. He could not stomach this injustice and one day in a fit of frustration he attempted suicide by jumping from a moving local train. But before even touching the ground some invisible hands caught him by the scruff of his neck; he heard somebody abusing him in choicest of abuses and reprimanded him saying that he has no right to take his own life. He came home a little shattered but did not try the feat again. One day he met Mr. Sabnis, an artist friend, who showed him his file of paintings that included a picture of Shri Shankar Maharaj. It immediately caught his attention and he asked whose picture it was. Mr. Sabnis not only told him but gave him a Xerox copy of the picture too.
One day, he suddenly felt that he should frame the picture. He framed it in a metal frame and kept it in his room. To his surprise, Koppikar started getting messages from the picture asking him to do this and that. He also noticed that people were now treating him with respect. He changed jobs. He was guided into taking up his current job (at the time he narrated me the story) of the marketing manager in a company selling standby power supplies for computers. His life began to be guided by Maharaj. Married and having a son and two daughters he goes completely by whatever instructions he gets and believes that whatever happens is the handiwork of Maharaj. He has met Maharaj through the medium of both Mr. Dinesh Kulkarni and a physically deformed boy now known as Balappamaharaj living in Pune. (The same boy who met Mr. V. K. Kulkarni at Borivli. See Chapter VII). Mr. Koppikar met the latter at Bhusaval. After giving him confirmation that he was really Shankar Maharaj, Mr. Koppikar, a chain smoker, was made to give up smoking altogether.
Three years ago Maharaj instructed Mr. Koppikar to arrange a get-together of the surviving persons who used to be in the company of Maharaj before samadhi. He carried out this instruction very efficiently in Bombay. Mr. Koppikar has many stories to tell about his experiences but for want of space have not been included here. What is important to note is Maharaj imparts his benediction in many and unimaginable ways.
SAVED IN FAR-AWAY LAND
The following incident was narrated to me by Mr. Datta Abhyankar. This incident occurred in early 1995 or may be a little earlier, nearly five decades after samadhi.
In February 1995, one Mr. Bhattacharya, an executive in a French company having their branch office at Pedder Road in Bombay, was at the Beirut Airport for booking his onward journey to Qatar, Baghdad etc. in the Middle East. He saw an old man in shabby dress, phlegm running from nose, standing there watching him. He was wondering how such a simpleton type of person was allowed at the airport at all. Mr. Bhattacharya had not seen or even heard of Maharaj so far. He purchased his ticket and was leaving when the old man called him and told him that he knew he was going to such and such places. For a moment, Mr. Bhattacharya thought the old man was a spy. The old man then took out a black string from his pocket and tied it on Mr. Bhattacharya's arm telling him not to remove it. Mr. Bhattacharya continued his journey wondering about the incident. Some time before the plane was to land, it went out of control. Everybody had given up hopes when suddenly the plane stabilised and landed vertically down in a field. The passengers were rushed out. Ten minutes after the last passenger came out and was well away the plane exploded. Nobody could explain what exactly happened that saved the passengers.
Towards the end of April Mr. Bhattacharya returned and reported back to his Bombay office. His colleagues offered him drinks for celebrating his safe return. But what had happened was that after the encounter with the old man, his desire for alcohol vanished. In fact he had become annoyed with the airhostess in the plane who, in the line of her duty, was offering drinks. In the office also he surprised everybody by refusing drinks. He put his hand in the pocket for cigarette and found the packet empty. He told his colleagues that he was going down for cigarettes. When he went to the cigarette shop, he found the same old man standing nearby. Mr. Bhattacharya went to him and asked him in Hindi who he was. He said, “Were you not saved? Give me back my string. I am known as Shankar Maharaj. My samadhi is in Pune. Go there and ask the trustees for the address of Mr. D. G. Abhyankar and meet him.” Mr. Bhattacharya did so and narrated the above story to Mr. Abhyankar.
Mr. Kanhere's experiences
Mr. Kanhere (Ch XII) was advised by Maharaj not to visit his samadhi on the anniversary day and if he visited on other days then not to ever enter the sanctum sanctorum of the samadhi. But Mr. Kanhere did not obey these instructions and had to suffer. It happened like this.
Mr. Kanhere used to visit the samadhi occasionally and sit outside (in those days a single room was built around the samadhi) singing bhajans. One day, after the singing was over he went to sactum sanctorm of the Samadhi, kept his hands on the stone and bent his head to touch it. At once some sort of current flowed through his body and he started trembling but he could not move away. Mr. Baburao Rudra, who was watching this thought that Mr. Kanhere was pretending as if Maharaj was entering his body with fraudulent intentions. He came, caught hold of Mr. Kanhere, and amidst blows drove him away. In those days, Mr. Kanhere was strong enough to hit back but was not in a mood to do so and quietly went away. Later Maharaj (DK) came there and scolded Baburao for his actions and also reprimanded Mr. Kanhere for not following his instructions not to enter the sanctum sanctorum.
The second instance is when Mr. Kanhere visited the samadhi on the anniversary day. Actually it was Shivaji Maharaj who forced him to do so and Mr. Kanhere being a softhearted person could not refuse. It is customary to serve Khichadi as "prasad" on this day to all visitors. Mr. Kanhere ate it and immediately suffered an attack of diarrhea while everybody else was unaffected. Mr. Kanhere then remembered the instructions given by Maharaj and decided never to do so again.
All good things must come to an end sometime or other. So we stop the account of experiences of disciples here. It has not been possible to name and mention every devotee and disciple having the experiences. The activities narrated so far pertain to the disciples in Pune, Nagar and Akluj and Bombay. Activities at Solapur could not be covered since only sketchy information is available about the devotees and disciples there, among whom are, Janardanswami, Late Mr. Omkarnath Bhasme, Mr. Rambhau Korad and Painter Kadlaskar. Mr. Bhasme served Maharaj with deep devotion and in turn received spiritual benefits but details are sketchy, except that Maharaj took an unusual service from him, that of carrying Maharaj piggyback from Solapur to Pandharpur. Maharaj has saved many from accidents and other disasters including death. Some people have been in close company of Maharaj but details are not available. The lesson we learn is the same. Maharaj only gave, helping people spiritually and otherwise and he still continues to do so.
Thus ends the narration of the experiences of various devotees/disciples of Yogiraj Shri Shankar Maharaj. They show how a Sadguru i.e. a True Guru like Maharaj guides and takes care of his devotees and disciples. How did they become his devotees?
There were some like Dr. Dhaneshwar and Major Abhyankar, his son Datta and Janardanswami (Solapur) whom Maharaj himself approached and initiated into his fold. Then there were those who came to Maharaj by the force of circumstances. Known examples are Mr. G. K. Pradhan, Raosaheb and Taisaheb Mehendale, Mr. V. K. Kulkarni, Mr. V. M. Pandit, Mamasaheb Dhekne, Yellubai Mane, Yogi Dnyananath and Baburao Rudra. Some went in search of him out of a desire for spiritual guidance. Khansaheb and Sir Chunilal Mehta are among these. Some went to him out of curiosity and stuck to him if impressed and if not then gave up. But a majority went to him out of personal interests. Most people seek solace from saints when they are no longer able to bear the sufferings in life or when their own efforts fail. There are also those who like to be in the company of saints in the hope that they can hear something spiritually useful or that contact with them might give them material benefits.
Maharaj gave his grace to all but the benefits he gave varied from person to person.
Raosaheb and Taisaheb Mehendale and Yellubai were well-to-do but mentally depressed due to personal circumstances. They obtained peace and spiritual benefits. At the same time Maharaj constructively used their material resources and talents to spread solace to the spiritually needy persons through discourses on Dnyaneshwari and other spiritual programs in Mehendalewada.
Dr Dhaneshwar, with his medical qualifications could have amassed wealth as most doctors do. But Maharaj never allowed him to amass wealth. Until the end he was made to keep only the bare minimum for his family needs.
Mama Dhekne and Mr. Rudra were poor and remained so with their own personal and family problems in addition. Maharaj did not give them wealth. He gave them spirituality, peace and his love. They were content and happy in what they had and even happier in Maharaj's company. They never asked Maharaj for more. He was as much at home with their tattered furnishings as with the soft cushions of Mehendalewada.
Mr. Pradhan and Mr. Asher prospered in their business but by their own acumen. With their faith and devotion to Maharaj they prospered in the spiritual path also. In their case the two activities did not clash. Mr. Pradhan’s talents were used for bringing spirituality to common man through books. His two novels have done more for spreading the importance of spiritual life than a hundred dry preachings. Perhaps Mr. Kulkarni and Mr. Shelar were the only two disciples who prospered to some extent materially but not to affluence.
Maharaj gave vision of Lord Vishnu to Sir Chunilal who was a Vaishnav while to some others, (e.g. people attending Shivaratri celebrations at Mehendalewada) he gave a vision of Lord Shiva and of Lord Hanuman. For the sake of Mrs. Asher, who had deep faith in Maharaj, he himself took the form of Lord Shiva and got worshipped by her. On Mr. Pradhan’s request he gave the vision of Lord Krishna telling Gita on the Kurukshetra battlefield of the Mahabharata war between the Pandavas and Kauravas.
Maharaj kept unwanted, undeserving persons away. Maharaj had told Mr. V. K. Kulkarni, “Many persons come to me. I decide the level to which each one belongs. A dog may be of imported pedigree, but his place is at the door.”
Maharaj handled everybody according to his makeup and according to what was good for them. Maharaj once said, “When an idol is made the most important thing is the stone. Some stones are hard and require more hammering, some are soft and require less hammering.”
Everybody loved Maharaj. Even today, more than five decades after the samadhi, some of the devotees whom I met are in emotional tears whenever a topic involving Maharaj comes up in discussions. The same persons do not shed any tear at the memory of even their parents. Maharaj only gave. He had no expectations from anybody except love and devotion. We have already read about the miracles Maharaj performed to help his devotees.
It may be realized from the past chapters that Maharaj was close to Navnaths, especially to Gahininath, Chauranginath and Meenanath. For the sake of Dr Dhaneshwar he arranged Yogi Meenanath’s visit his home.
Maharaj never preached or gave sermons. He himself could not speak clearly but he spread the spiritual message (of Dnyaneshwari) through his disciples like Taisaheb Mehendale. Wherever Maharaj went, he organised festivals or programs of Kirtans, Bhajans, discourses etc. through his devotees in order to turn people’s attention towards God. Maharaj used to give advice, if asked.
Maharaj never encouraged anybody to take up spiritual path at the cost of one's worldly duties. For example, he never allowed Dr Dhaneshwar to leave his dispensary during his consultancy hours for participating in the group that gathered around him at Nagar. He said, "Duty first". He encouraged people to carry out their worldly duties and simultaneously progress spiritually. He also said, “You must not give up efforts. If you have to appear for an exam then it is you who have to prepare for it.” Even if a Guru gives guidance and strength it is only the disciple’s own spiritual efforts (Sadhana) that make him progress.
Maharaj was an Avadhut or Auliya i.e. a Siddhayogi. Like many of his contemporary Auliyas, like Saibaba of Shirdi, Swami Samarth of Akkalkot and Gajanan Maharaj of Shegaon, Shri Shankar Maharaj also, in true spirit of a Nath Panthi and a Siddhayogi, did not observe any caste or religion bias towards anybody. This is quite evident from the experience of Mrs Maniben Asher who wanted to worship Lord Shiva. For her benefit Maharaj himself took the form of Lord Shiva but for the form of his consort Parvati he chose the low caste sweeper woman. Maharaj went anywhere, ate anywhere and had followers from all strata of society as the reader may have seen from his biography. We have seen how the Supreme Power does look after the welfare of the earth and its creatures through saints like Maharaj. As long as these great saints are born to guide humanity we can keep profound hope in its future.
Offered at the feet of my Guru Shri Shankar Maharaj.
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