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YOGIRAJ SHRI SHANKAR MAHARAJ
ACTIVITIES AT NAGAR - 1
DR NAGESH R. DHANESHWAR
When in Nagar he is known to have stayed often with Sardar Mirikar of Miri State (now merged into Indian Union) near Nagar. Sardar Mirikar was one of his disciples but little is known about his activities there. Maharaj had two main disciples in Nagar proper, Dr Nagesh R. Dhaneshwar and Major Ganesh Abhyankar. Unfortunately there is no information about the mutual interaction of these two families. This chapter is about Dr Dhaneshwar. He is the only one among the disciples of Maharj whose complete biography, written by his son, is available
The story of Dr Dhaneshwar shows how a predestined Guru plans and shapes the entire life of his disciple and the story of how a Guru can lead a willing and hard working disciple to great heights, a story of the bonds from earlier births continuing in this lifetime and the power of divine grace.
Dr Nagesh Dhaneshwar (known as Appa in his near circles) was the son of Ramchandra Dhaneshwar, a teacher in the American Mission School at Nagar. Appa was born on November 8, 1899. He was named `Nagesh' due to an unusual incident. His grandfather, a court clerk, was transferred to another town and was travelling there with his family that included his infant son, in a bullock cart (the common rural transport vehicle of those times). They camped under a banyan tree for the afternoon break keeping the basket in which the infant was sleeping at some distance under the tree. A while later they were horrified to see a strange sight. A cobra had coiled near the basket with the sleeping infant and had opened his raised hood rocking it as if to shield the infant's face from the sun. After some time the cobra left. This kind of incident is considered to be a divine grace from Lord Shiva and hence the infant was named Nagesh, which literally means the master of the cobras and is one of the names of Lord Shiva.
APPA MEETS FAKIR
Appa had his school education in Nagar. During the school days, Appa used to go daily with his friend Rangari for evening strolls along the Savedi road in Nagar. Both of them used to sit under an Audumber tree on the banks of a stream. Audumber tree is associated with the presence of Lord Dattatreya. They used to pass their time reciting religious compositions like Vishnusahastranam (Thousand names of Lord Vishnu). One evening, when the recitation of Vishnusahastranam was going on, a well-built tall fakir (a Muslim sanyasi) with bright aura suddenly appeared from the Audumber tree. The two boys were speechless. The fakir smiled and asked, "Do you want to see Maruti?" (Maruti, also known as Hanuman, is the ape-god and a devotee of Shri Rama). When Appa nodded, the fakir looked up in the tree and said loudly, “Come Maharaj, come.”
And a huge ape, who was actually Maruti or Hanuman of Ramayana fame, descended from the tree. The fakir then asked them to do namaskar (obeisance) to Maruti. Both prostrated before Maruti and in a moment Maruti jumped up and vanished into the tree. They went home with a deep desire to meet the fakir again.
The fakir continued visiting them daily for about a month and sat near them under that tree. They developed a friendship with the fakir who used to talk to them about various matters and taught them different kinds of tantric techniques. One day he taught Appa a siddhi. When Appa mastered it he patted him on the back and said it was known as Ramkathi (Rama's stick). When Rama's name was taken, the boys suddenly remembered Maruti. When called by the fakir, Maruti again appeared there in a huge form. After exposing to them a glimpse of the supernatural the fakir left and they did not see him there again. Many years later Appa realised that the fakir was actually Shri Shankar Maharaj in one of his several forms.
APPA MEETS SHANKAR MAHARAJ
Appa had a natural attraction towards the field of medicine. Even while he was studying in school, he studied Ayurveda (the Indian system of medicine) from his neighbour Dr Kadekar, an expert Ayurvedic doctor. After passing his matriculation examination in 1918, Appa joined college and finally passed his medical degree exam in 1927 from Grant Medical College Bombay. His professors Dr Vajifdar and Dr Novice were very much impressed with Appa. Appa had demonstrated the power of yoga to Dr Novice and also cured Dr Vajifdar’s son by Ayurvedic treatment from a form of dysentery incurable by allopathy. Declining their offer for further postgraduate studies, Appa decided to return to Nagar and serve people.
APPA MEETS SHRI SHANKAR MAHARAJ
En route to Nagar, one had to change trains at Daund. The stationmaster of Daund knew Appa well. When he saw Appa he suggested that he should halt at Daund for the night and meet a yogi visiting his house. The yogi was Shri Shankar Maharaj. Appa had never heard of Shri Shankar Maharaj before but agreed to stay over. He had however doubts about the genuineness of this yogi since he knew there were many frauds going around as yogis. He entered the stationmaster's house with these doubts in his mind.
He found there an ordinary looking person sitting on a mattress reclining against a cushion. He was wearing only a dhoti, full shirt and a loose coat. His hands were longer than normal and feet appeared deformed. He sported a beard. Hair was uncombed. His big eyes looked like those of a drunkard. The expression on his face was that of a half-witted person. At first sight, he was not at all impressive. But Appa liked his laughter. It appeared vaguely familiar. As he was trying to remember where he had heard it before, the stationmaster introduced him to Maharaj. "Maharaj, this is Dr. Dhaneshwar. He is returning home with a degree in medicine."
To Appa’s surprise Maharaj said, "I know him. I know him since very long." Then he asked Appa whether he had forgotten Ramkathi. Appa immediately recalled his boyhood incident, the vision of Maruti, and the Ramkathi siddhi taught by a fakir. But why the effulgent able-bodied fakir was having a deformed form? And the name Shankar for a fakir? (Fakir is a Muslim saint. Shankar is a Hindu name). With these thoughts Appa did namaskar (obeisance with folded hands) to Maharaj.
Maharaj lovingly drew him close and asked him questions about medicine and yoga. It was as if Maharaj was testing his knowledge about the workings of a human body and gave him many useful tips on the subject. They were talking late into the night. Maharaj gifted him the power to see the workings of the body. Appa used this technique later in difficult cases. In those days there were no diagnostic equipments apart from a stethoscope and even the X-ray techniques were not advanced.
Appa returned to Nagar with the intention of establishing a dispensary but he did not have sufficient funds. He was wondering about how to go about it for nearly a month when Maharaj visited their home. Appa's father welcomed him. Appa was surprised to see that his father knew Maharaj.
Seeing the financial problem in setting up a dispensary Maharaj helped Appa by collecting a thousand rupees (a lot of money in those days) from his devotees. One of the devotees provided a place for the dispensary. At the time of its inauguration Maharaj advised that Medical practice was not a business. It was a service for the people. There should be no discrimination made between the rich and the poor. There should not be greed for money or for amassing wealth.
Appa faithfully followed this advice; he practiced medicine as a service to people. He never amassed wealth, even if this meant financial strain for his family. He used to charge one rupee for consultation and two annas (twelve paise of today; sixteen annas made a rupee.) per day for medicine; his visit fee was just one rupee. This fee was much less than what others charged in those days but even then many people would default on payments. He used to give medicine free to the poor and sometimes if need arose, pay from his own pocket for the medicines. During the Second World War, imported medicines were in short supply. Appa used his vast knowledge of Ayurveda to cure people with locally available drugs. He also used to teach medicine and surgery in the Ayurvedic College in Nagar.
Maharaj visited Appa frequently. But Appa used to get annoyed at the eccentric behaviour of Maharaj. Once Maharaj threw some important articles in Appa’s room here and there. Appa was quick-tempered and also under tension due to some personal worries. He became very angry and pushed Maharaj out. Maharaj fell down the stairs. But instead of feeling concerned he slammed the door shut. As a result of the outburst Appa himself fell down unconscious.
When he recovered consciousness, he found his head was on somebody's lap and that person was gently fondling him and caressing his head with the love of a mother. For a moment he did think it was his mother but remembered she had passed away many years earlier. Then he opened his eyes and saw that it was Maharaj whom he had just pushed down the stairs. At that moment, he suddenly understood the real nature of Maharaj and his love. He realised that a Guru's love is deeper than even mother's. A mother may have an expectation or hope that the son would look after her in old age, but a Guru does not want anything from his disciple. Once he accepts you he sees you through thick and thin. From that moment Appa surrendered to Maharaj completely.
Maharaj visited Nagar often. He had many disciples there, which included, besides Appa and his father, Mr. Shrotri, Mr. Parkhe and Mr. Karkhanis (all lawyers by profession), Janubhau Mirikar (Sardar Mirikar's brother) and Capt. Sheikh Hussein a Muslim gentleman. But he used to live either with Mirikar or with Dhaneshwar family. When Maharaj was around they all used to gather in the hall in Appa's house. But Maharaj did not permit Appa to be present there during his dispensary hours. He said that duty had the first priority. But after he returned from work and had taken his meals, both of them used to sit for hours during the night, often without a word being spoken.
Once Maharaj stayed in Nagar for nearly six months. During this period, Maharaj taught Appa all siddhis. But after mastering each he used to cast it aside as useless. Appa used to master in just a week the techniques for which others took years. He believed that having been born as a human being one must face one's problems as a human being without taking help of the supernatural siddhis.
Maharaj made Dr Dhaneshwar study Dnyaneshwari in depth. Intelligent that he was he used to take sometimes a day to understand the meaning of a single Ovi (i.e. a quartet). And then Maharaj used to analyse the Ovi and explain the meaning correctly. Step by step Appa progressed spiritually under the guidance of Maharaj who trained and tested his disciple thoroughly. Following story shows the ability of Appa, his analytical mind and his approach to attainment of the Supreme.
Test with icon
Appa had an icon of Balkrishna (Lord Krishna as a toddler baby) which he used to worship daily with usual rituals. With the worship done from heart, the icon started speaking to him. It would come down alive and eat the offerings kept as part of the worship. But then Appa's analytical mind had a doubt whether or not this was a mere imagination. He therefore decided to test the phenomenon. Upon his call Balkrishna removed the golden bangle from his hand and kept it into a dish before him. Appa was still not satisfied. He analysed the situation and after deep thinking came to the conclusion that this was the effect of his own strong willpower. He at once got up, took the icon, smashed it and threw the pieces out of the window. Surprisingly, Maharaj came at that moment, stood before him clapping, shouting, "Doctor's God is dead!” Appa confessed that with that his ego also was dead.
Appa’s marriage is another example of how a Guru plans and manages the affairs decades in advance.
Appa married in 1929 to Tara, daughter of Mr. Rambhau Pathak, a wealthy lawyer from Burhanpur. The following incident proves that Tara's marriage to Appa was pre-destined decades earlier by the Divine, even before her birth.
After the marriage, Maharaj remarked to Appa. “So, you are married to Babu's daughter.” Appa realised Maharaj referred to his father-in-law as Babu, a common pet name used for small boys. He asked Maharaj how he knew his father-in-law. Instead of telling him how, Maharaj asked him to show his photograph to Babu’s mother when he visited him.
In Burhanpur Appa showed Maharaj’s photograph to the old lady. She was surprised and asked how Appa knew the Baba (i.e. the saint) who had visited them many years ago. She then told him that when her son, Appa’s father-in-law was a boy, he was ill and on the verge of death, not responding to any medical treatment. As a final remedy she had prayed earnestly to God. Her prayers were answered.
Just at that time an elderly, bearded person entered the house and said that he had come because he felt somebody was ill in the house. She said that her son Babu was seriously ill. He comforted her and said he would try to do something about it. He saw Babu's pulse, took out a packet of some powder, mixed it in water and gave it to the boy. He moved his hands over Babu's body and said that he would be all right by the next day. When she asked him who he was and where he lived, he said, “I move around everywhere. If you want to know my name, you will know it from your grandson-in-law. Babu's daughter will be married in his house.” Appa then told her that the Baba's name was Shankar Maharaj. The event must have occurred in the year 1900 or thereabouts when Appa himself was probably a year or two of age.
Maharaj had told Tara that she would bear fourteen children. But the first two, both sons, died immediately after birth. When his second son also died Maharaj advised Appa to perform a Satyanarayan Puja. Everyone was annoyed because it was a mourning period during which no holy rituals are performed.
But respecting the wish of Maharaj Appa proceeded with the preparations even against the wishes of the family members. Maharaj himself performed the Puja (worship) and gave prasad (an item usually food offering, as grace of the deity worshipped) to Appa, saying that the next child would survive. This child was a son, born in January 1936. He was named Narayan, but Maharaj said that he will have a very difficult life and should be called by the name “Datta” to reduce the sufferings. Thus, the child was named Narayandatta.
Once, when Appa’s daughter was ill and in the throngs of death Narayandatta asked him why he did not do something to cure her. Appa became thoughtful. Next day onwards he started a daily Japa (continuous repetition of a name or mantra) early in the morning. After a week he stopped it saying that instructions have come to stop the Japa. Every being has to settle the account of Karma and has to go through the birth and death cycles, however short it may be. We should not interfere with it. The daughter passed away shortly afterwards.
Though coming from a well-to-do family, Tara adjusted herself well in the poorer Dhaneshwar family. She was an earthly person. Beyond arranging food and hospitality for Maharaj and his disciples, she did not take much interest in her husband's spiritual affairs. She worried about completion of the children's education in view of the financial stringency because Appa could never amass wealth. When asked, Appa told her that their education would not suffer for lack of money and they would get higher education. And it turned out to be so. Datta passed his M.Sc. course and joined the National Chemical Laboratory in Pune as a scientist. The second son Shashi became an Electronics Engineer with postgraduate degree and the daughter Lata did her M.A. in Sanskrit. Tara passed away in 1973 after providing a solid support to the Dhaneshwar household for forty-four long years.
EVIDENCE OF NATH PANTH BACKGROUND
Visit to Vriddheshwar
Vriddheshwar situated about forty kilometres from Nagar, is a major centre for the Nath Panthis. This is the place where the nine Naths had performed the yajnya where, as the legend goes, Lord Shiva or Adinath himself presided. The fire for the yajnya, initially lit by Machchindranath, is still kept burning here over the years. The Vriddheshwar temple is located in a canyon between two hills. This region has many caves where great Siddhas, including many where Nath yogis did their tapas.
Once Maharaj took Appa around to these caves. In one cave he showed Appa the place where Gahininath used to sit for meditation. His disciples also used to sit around that place. By continued sitting, the stones were worn out to the body shape. Maharaj remarked that Appa was also among them. Appa was surprised at this statement and asked whether he could locate his place there. Maharaj asked him to go ahead and try. Appa sat on each stone and found the one, which fitted him perfectly. Maharaj asked Appa whether he was convinced about his being a Nath Panthi. He added that once a Master from Nath Panth initiates a person he never forsakes him. He remains in Nath Panth in all births.
Once Appa asked Maharaj, how a Siddha who had abandoned his body years ago could come in person when he has no body. Maharaj replied that they had the powers to make themselves appear in body. On further arguments Maharaj offered to invite Meenanath, one of the Navnaths to visit Appa’s home next day and advised him to make good preparations.
Appa got up early that morning and decorated the hall. He arranged some chairs too. All members of the house waited for Meenanath’s arrival. Exactly at nine o'clock Yogiraj Meenanath made his appearance. About seven feet tall, of strong build, fair skinned with bright eyes, covered with deerskin, he stooped and entered through the door. Maharaj respectfully greeted him and prayed to him to be seated. Appa also made namaskar. Maharaj then introduced Appa to Yogiraj Meenanath. Yogiraj seemed to be long familiar with this house. They sat and discussed matters about yoga for nearly half an hour. Appa's wife then brought saffron milk and made namaskar to Yogiraj who gave her also his blessings. After partaking of the milk he bid goodbye, started descending the stairs and right before Appa's eyes vanished while still on the steps. Maharaj slapped Appa on the back and said, “Are you convinced now that yogis can assume a body even after death?”
MAHARAJ POSTPONES SAMADHI
In 1930 Maharaj expressed his desire to take samadhi. The combination of the planetary positions excellent for samadhi was approaching and Maharaj wanted to make use of that. But at the request of Appa whom Maharaj had promised to teach all knowledge, Maharaj postponed the event by seventeen years when the planetary conditions would recur.
Seventeen years passed and the year 1947 arrived. Maharaj came to Nagar and reminded Appa about samadhi. He stayed with Appa for nearly a month and taught him whatever was left. He even offered to teach him the medicine practiced by Naths who were experts in that science. But Appa said that his present knowledge was sufficient to serve the public. Before leaving, Maharaj removed the diamond necklace from his neck and put it in Appa's neck, asking him to keep it as his memory. But Appa removed it and kept it at Maharaj's feet, saying, “I do not need these stones for remembering you. You know very well that you are always in my heart.” Maharaj smiled. He now knew that his disciple had withstood all tests.
Appa was in Nagar when Maharaj took samadhi in Pune. As soon as he received the telegram about it he left everything and rushed to Pune. The thought that the physical presence would not be there any more made him sad. It took some time before he overcame his grief. He began spending more and more of his time in the study of Dnyaneshwari.
After the death of his wife Appa came to live in Pune with his elder son Narayandatta in 1973. Next day itself he told his son that he was going to be with him for six years. In January 1974 Appa suffered from anaemia and was hospitalised. He told his son that he was going to recover, because Maharaj had set some task for him. The task was to guide some people in Pune. Appa resumed his medical practice. He used to charge fees in the beginning but after couple of months he stopped charging. When asked, he said that he was not free to do as he liked but follow whatever Maharaj instructs. Maharaj watched him constantly and did not let him accumulate money. He said that even at Nagar, he used to ask him every fortnight to clear the balance and distribute the money to the poor. Once a friend credited some amount in his account without his knowledge. But Maharaj came to know about it and became angry. He at once distributed the money.
Maharaj had told him that while he lived with his son in Pune, the medical practice was no longer a means of support for him. It was his son’s responsibility to support him and he was doing it well. Maharaj also asked him to give the medicines free as part of his service to the Almighty.
After some illness Appa or Dr Dhaneshwar left his body on January 13th 1980 in Pune. When the word of Appa's death spread people flocked to his house and then to the cremation ground. Thus ended the material life of a great Siddha-yogi and companion of Maharaj for many lifetimes.
ACTIVITIES AT NAGAR - 2
MAJOR GANESH ABHYANKAR AND HIS SON DATTATREYA
Major Ganesh Abhyankar and his son Dattatreya were from Nagar and were blessed by their association with Maharaj. Shri Dattatreya Abhyankar later moved to Pune. The information given in the following was narrated to me by Mr. Dattatreya Abhyankar himself during the two meetings I had with him in September 1995. His friends and relatives called him Anna. Anna was close to Maharaj from a very young age and was one of the few persons of that generation who was living. I am grateful to Mr. V. M. Pandit (better known as Nana) for introducing me to Anna. He accompanied me to Anna’s house but we could not meet him as he was away. Anna passed away almost a year after our first meeting.
His story is again a story of an ardent devotee and a loving Guru who condones all the wayward behaviour of his disciple and leads him along the spiritual path. The stories below are more or less as Anna narrated them.
FIRST MEETING WITH MAHARAJ
Major Ganesh Abhyankar was a Major in the British army posted in Nagar. That day in 1935, the Major had returned from office and was taking off his uniform when a very old man came and said,
“Datta of Ganagapur has sent me. Can I come in?”
He was referring to Lord Dattatreya whose second avatar Shri Narasimha Saraswati (1378-1458 A.D.) had lived for many years in Ganagapur near Gulbarga, now in Karnataka state. The Major said, “Yes" and the old man entered.
The visitor was looking extremely old. He was wearing a white coat, a clean dhoti and shoes. On entering, he sat on the sofa with legs up and still wearing shoes. Then he said,
“What! You Bhadvya? You let me in because I mentioned Ganagapur isn't it? You have not recognised me! In 1914 (First World War) you and your troops were stuck at Buxor and supplies were cut off. For a month you people survived on rations and then on grass. When that was also over, you managed to send a message to Jagadguru
Shankaracharya asking his advice about what they can eat under these circumstances without violating religious laws. Shankaracharya had informed you that a soldier fights for his country and not for religion; therefore you may kill one of the mules and eat it. But your men had decided not to do so and to fight to death. Then one day, when the enemy watch was lax, your troops had dug a hole in the fort wall, managed to escape under enemy fire and joined the British troops some distance away. When you were relaxing in the British camp, you looked at your trousers. You saw that the legs of the trousers had virtually turned into a sieve by bullets but your legs were not hit. You used to regularly read Gurucharitra and other books even when you were on the battlefield. That is why I intercepted the bullets.” (Note: “Bhadvya” is a common abuse word in Marathi. It literally means a pimp but is rarely used with that meaning).
The old man then showed his legs, which had bullet marks on them. The Major then at once prostrated before him and touched his feet.
MAHARAJ CALLS FOR MAJOR’S SON DATTA
The old man introduced himself as Shankar Maharaj. He then asked,
“Where is your boy named Datta? Have you forgotten why he was named Datta? How can an army man afford to forget?”
About eight years earlier the Major had made a pilgrimage to Ganagapur and had performed a Saptaha. A Saptaha is reading of the sacred book Gurucharitra highly venerated by Dattatreya worshippers. It is the biography of the two avatars of Lord Dattatreya: Shri Shripad Shrivallabh and Shri Narasimha Saraswati written in verse by Saraswati Gangadhar. The book has fifty-two chapters. The reading of the entire book has to be finished in seven days, certain prescribed number of chapters every day. When one undertakes a Saptaha he has to observe certain discipline. One restriction is that every morning, once the reader takes bath and sits for reading he should not get up until those many chapters are finished. It means continuous reading aloud for two to three hours daily. There are other restrictions on diet, sleep and sex and general behaviour. A performance of Saptaha is known to give much spiritual uplift.
It is customary for all pilgrims to Ganagapur to beg for food in five Brahmin houses and eat that food. This is called madhukari. All local Brahmins cook food specifically for donating it this way. The food is fresh and of good quality, for it is believed that Lord Dattatreya himself comes for the alms. In Hindu culture donating food, clothes etc. are a prescribed part of proper religious behaviour (Dharma). Donation of food is supposed to be the best among all donations. That day, after the Saptaha, when Major had gone for madhukari, he had met a fakir who asked him for food. Major had given his own madhukari to the fakir. The fakir had then told him,
“Your wife is pregnant. When the son is born, name him Dattatreya.” Maharaj was referring to that son. He said in Hindi,
“I have come to meet him.” Datta, short for Dattatreya, (whom we are calling Anna here) was then seven years old.
Major immediately took a liking to Maharaj. Maharaj began visiting him often. The Major was a complete teetotaler in spite of being an Army officer, but he used to maintain a full liquor cabinet only for Maharaj.
DATTA ACCOMPANIES MAHARAJ ON TRIPS
Maharaj rarely remained in one place for long. He used to move from devotee to devotee, place to place. In many of his wanderings he used to take young Datta also along. Datta, a child that he was, used to talk roughly with him. He used to tell Maharaj.
“You are a drunkard. Get out.”
In the streets, Maharaj used to pass remarks to people including ladies passing by. Because of his lisping speech even blessings used to sound like curse words and people used to get annoyed, which embarrassed Datta. When Datta protested, Maharaj used to tell him,
“Shut up. You don't understand my language.”
Later Anna realised the reasons for the lisp. Maharaj had an unusually long tongue. He could touch the vertex of his head with it. It had a Shivalinga on it and a mark of 10 as is seen on a cobra hood.
Anna was very dear to Maharaj. He used to take him to many holy places, especially those connected with Lord Dattatreya. Maharaj had a large number of disciples and devotees in Nagar who gladly provided transport for these trips. One of the memorable visits was to Mahur (about four hours road journey from Nagpur) in Kinwat Taluka, Nanded District in Marathwada. It is said that Lord Dattatreya sleeps at Mahur, bathes at Benares and asks for alms at Kolhapur 500 kilometres away and takes his meals at noon at Panchaleshwar, going over to these distances by yogic powers.
DATTA VISITS GIRNAR
Another memorable trip was the visit to Mount Girnar. Mount Girnar is near Junagad in Gujarat State. It is a place of pilgrimage for Jains and Hindus. Steps have been provided for climbing up the path. Ashrams (shelters) have been established along the route where pilgrims can rest and refresh themselves. Girnar is a place very dear to worshippers of Lord Dattatreya including Nath Panthis.
One day Maharaj took Datta to Girnar. He had asked one of the devotees to provide transport up to feet of the Girnar Mountain. They reached there at about half past midnight. The small boy was unable to climb the mountain, so Maharaj took him on his shoulders. Imagine the yogic powers of Maharaj, though himself deformed in the body, taking a seven year old boy on shoulders up a steep hill about three thousand feet high with thousands of steps.
When they reached to the top, some sadhus (monks or saints) in their usual attire holding a stick in one hand and kamandalu (a vessel made of wood or gourd used by sadhus to carry water) in another came to meet him. Chillums (tobacco pipes) were taken out and offered to Maharaj. Datta was surprised to see Maharaj smoking the entire chillum in one long breath.
Maharaj took him to the Dattatreya point on the mountain. Two huge tigers came out to meet Maharaj. Datta hid in the nearby Ashram of the sadhus and started watching. He saw the tigers playing like pups with Maharaj. Maharaj told Datta that even wild creatures forget their nature in those surroundings and he need not fear. But Datta refused to come near. The tigers went away after playing for some time.
After staying in the Ashram for three days Maharaj told Datta that he had some work up the mountain and will be back in couple of minutes. He left him in the care of Shantihari, the Mahant (Chief) of the Ashram. The couple of minutes turned into eight days before Maharaj returned. He had instructed Shantihari not to give Datta any food except milk, nuts and some morning prasad i.e. part of offerings during the daily worship of Lord Dattatreya. Whenever he asked for food he was told in Hindi,
"Avadhut has told not to give you food. Let Avadhut come.”
The sadhus used to refer to Maharaj as Avadhut. Thus Datta was made to fast for eight days without his realising it. Reader should understand that these are the processes sometimes used to prepare a disciple for spiritual path.
After eight days of starvation for Datta, Maharaj came and said teasingly to him,
“So you were telling tales about me to your father at Nagar.” Datta became angry.
“You have cheated my father.” he said.
A Five Course Banquet
At about 2.30 A.M. in the morning Maharaj asked Datta,
“Are you really hungry? Come. I will give you a banquet with five delicacies.”
He took Datta on his shoulders and descended the mountain. On reaching below he called somebody. An Ambassador car was ready waiting for Maharaj. An old man had come to receive them. Datta asked the old man how he knew they were coming. Did he get a phone call? The old man said,
“My child, you are ignorant. You don't know anything.”
He then took them to a palatial house. There they were served on silver platters with meals consisting of five kinds of preparations as promised by Maharaj. Maharaj said,
“Bhadvya, let me see how much you can eat.”
He asked Datta to eat one preparation at a time, dip his hands in saffron water and then take the next. Datta began to eat but a strange thing happened. Whenever he was being served a preparation, the aroma would enter his nostrils and he felt satiated and could not eat. Maharaj started abusing Datta when he saw the boy was not eating. Datta told Maharaj that he feels satiated by the aroma itself.
“Remain so always. Don't get involved in Maya (material things).” Maharaj said cryptically.
"I HOLD THE PEN"
Anna told that Maharaj had a few pet phrases like (1) Time is the factor (2) I do the work in my own time, your times are bogus. (3) Impossible is possible. (4) It’s my will. (5) What is Government before me? (6) I hold the pen. Anna narrated the following incident in the context of the last remark.
During the British days there used to be a wine shop named E. Burrito Co. in Bangalore owned by Mr. Burrito who was originally from Goa. In those days, i.e. in the forties, there used to be a lot of public agitations against the British as part of the freedom movement. Sometimes they resulted into riots. The British, in order to show that are not afraid of the agitators, had decreed that wine shops should not be closed even during riots and that severe action would be taken against those who disobeyed. During one of the rioting incidents, Mr. Burrito partially closed the doors to prevent stones thrown by the rioters from entering the shop and break the bottles. The authorities noted this and Mr. Burrito was charged with having sympathy with the Congress Party which inspired the agitations. As a punishment, not only was his shop closed, but his estate was also confiscated. Overnight Mr. Burrito lost everything and became a pauper. Now, some of his friends who were devotees of Shri Shankar Maharaj, requested him to do something about this injustice. Maharaj advised them to go to court against the British Government. Mr. Burrito had no money, however his friends collected funds and started the legal proceedings in which Mr. Burrito lost. Maharaj, when approached, again advised that they should go to high court, which also gave an unfavourable verdict. Maharaj then advised to go to Supreme Court, which also gave the verdict against Mr. Burrito who was now mad with anger. He shouted,
“I have become a pauper. Who is this drunkard you call Maharaj. He gets drunk and talks nonsense.” and he became unconscious. Maharaj said,
“This Shankar does not cheat anybody. All is not over yet.”
He then wrote on a paper his own judgement, gave it to Mr. Burrito and told him that when the judgement will be given he will have to come and make a bow to a stone.
Years passed. Maharaj took samadhi in April 1947. A few months later, in August 1947, India gained freedom. The new national Government wanted to undo the injustices done by the British. They reopened all the old court cases with political bias filed by the British Government. Burrito's case also came up in that process. The judgement was reversed. Burrito got back all that was confiscated and in addition one lakh of rupees (Rupees one hundred thousand) as compensation for the troubles he had gone through. The contents of the judgement were exactly as per the judgement written by Maharaj. When Burrito went to meet Maharaj, he found that he had already taken samadhi two years earlier. In repentance, Burrito visited the samadhi and hit his head until he was bleeding.
Maharaj used to say, “I am a creator. I have not come to take anything from you. If you want to give anything, let it be your love. I am hungry for your love.”
OVERSEEING WORLD AFFAIRS
Spiritually elevated persons like saints have a choice to go on their death to higher spiritual planes from where they need not come down to the earth plane to be reborn. But many saints are very compassionate. Though they have a choice of going to the highest plane and be completely liberated, they choose to remain on lower planes to guide people and give them a direction. Anna narrated an experience that corroborates this.
Sometime in 1942 or 1943, Maharaj came to Anna's house in Nagar. He was accompanied by a boy yogi (who was later known as Bal Maharaj and is in the Himalayas). His father the Major was not in town. Maharaj sat with the boy in a closed room and asked not to be disturbed for four days. However, in spite of the instructions, Anna opened the door at teatime in the evening, to serve them tea. To his consternation he found them sitting stiff in a lifeless pose. Anna called a doctor who declared them dead. Anna then called Rao Bahadur Navale, a family friend and devotee of Maharaj, who advised to hold on. Maharaj woke up on the fifth day and immediately asked for tea. Anna was terribly angry with Maharaj and asked him to get out. Just then his father came and asked Anna to keep quiet. Anna told his father. “Dada, first ask these people to get out of the house.” Major was angry with Anna and said, “You bloody fool, shut up” and enquired what the matter was.
Maharaj told the Major that he and the boy had gone to attend an urgent meeting in London at the Town Hall. Crores of people (1 crore is ten million; the term is also used to express a very large number) had attended the meeting. When the Major said that he had been to that Town Hall and it cannot accommodate crores of people, the boy explained that the meeting was around the Town Hall on another (spiritual) plane. All spiritual powers had gathered there to decide about the Second World War going on at that time. They were all waiting for the chairman to come. Chairman was Shri Shankar Maharaj. The meeting was informed that a powerful weapon was being developed and the meeting was to decide where the weapon was to be dropped in order to stop the war. The discussions went on for four days. Ultimately they left the decision to the Chairman who suggested that since Japan has been committing atrocities on mankind, it should be dropped on Japan. The suggestion that the weapons should be dropped at certain times at certain places was accepted by the spiritual powers. This was about two years before the two atom bombs were dropped on Japan, which ended the war. Anna said that his father had noted this incident in his diary.
“It is I who will destroy Japan and it is I who will save it." Maharaj said.
To believe or not
My first impression when I heard the above story was that Anna had narrated to me a fantasy fit for the Puranas. At that time I had not read the account by Yogi Dnyananath about how the Divine works for the welfare of the world through the great Nath and other saints. Shortly afterwards I also came across a review (ref Bibliography) of the biography of Shri Aurobindo of Pondicherry by Nirodabaradan, his personal secretary, in which a similar report of divine intervention is mentioned. During the Second World War the Divine Power was taking steps against the destructive demoniacal actions of Hitler-Tojo-Mussolini axis, through Aurobindo and Mataji. Nirodabaradan has given instances of how the attacks by German troops on England were prevented. Even before Hitler raided Poland, Aurobindo had sensed the rise of the dark evil powers and instead of remaining a mute witness or critic to the war, he had donated funds to fight the war saying, “This war is being fought for upholding the human culture and the highest cultural, social and spiritual values and for the good of humanity.” Mataji had told Nirodabardan, “Things have been decided much earlier, even before your and my birth. Our work is going on accordingly for years. Do not believe your narrow mind and get confused. This struggle is of Divine against evil powers. Leave everything to God.”
The above incidents narrated by Anna as well as the statements by Mataji may appear to be weird to materialists who try to fit all phenomena within the laws of physics. However, science does not answer every question. It does not explain for example why only some people have a born liking for a particular subject e.g. music, art, mathematics, literature etc.; why spirits appear to certain persons only, why some people are spiritual minded since childhood. Thus if Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette of Lourdes in France it is because of her own spiritual make-up and one cannot expect everybody at Lourdes to have a similar vision, not even the local priests who disbelieved her in the first place. In the same fashion not everybody is in a position to realise the role played by the Divine in the welfare of the world. But a few incidents like above, however rare, do show that it does.
Mr. Pitre’s experience
Let us return to the remark made by Maharaj that, “It is I who will destroy Japan and it is I who will save it.” In this context Anna narrated the following incident.
Mr. Pitre, a sales executive in a well-known Indian company was posted in Japan. One day he saw some Japanese youths wearing ochre coloured dress sitting for meditation under the guidance of an elderly person who did not appear to be a Japanese. He looked more like an Indian. Mr. Pitre met him one day and expressed his impressions. He said,
“Yes. They buried me because I was dead. Now they are celebrating the event every year. They give offerings of food every day and people steal the offerings.”
He then asked Mr. Pitre to visit the samadhi at Pune and also meet Mr. Abhyankar. Back in India Mr. Pitre visited the samadhi in Pune and had prasad (part of food offering) kept there in the afternoons. He really saw people taking away prasad in their bags. Mr. Pitre found out Anna’s address from the management at the Samadhi, met Anna and told him this story. Anna mentioned the event as having occurred recently but unfortunately it did not occur to me to ask him the date.
ANNA'S DUTY AT SAMADHI
Anna was contacted by Maharaj after his samadhi and instructed to sleep at the Samadhi daily from 1230 at night until morning during the period 1949-62. Maharaj did not let him sleep if he tried to avoid this duty on any day. In the morning he and Baburao Rudra who used to serve at the Samadhi full time, used to get up, take bath with water stored in two barrels that were filled from the nearby farm well. (The present well in the premises was dug much later). They would then prepare tea with whatever herbs available around and drink it. Anna would then come home, pick up his lunchbox and go to office.
A few more incidents and experiences narrated by Anna will be reported in later chapters. He passed away on August 10th 1996 at Virpur in Saurashtra while he was offering his respects to the Saint Jalarambapa in the temple there. He was cremated in Pune. Anna was also close to Shri Chile Maharaj of Kolhapur who considered himself as spiritual younger brother of Shri Shankar Maharaj. When Chile Maharaj passed away in 1986 in Pune, his body was taken first to the Abhyankar home where thousands of people came to pay their last respect before it was taken to Kolhapur.
Anna had a very pleasant personality. He was always in contact with Maharaj who not only guided him on spiritual path but also has seen him and his family through many personal difficulties. When I heard about his death I felt as if I suffered a personal loss even though I had met him only twice.
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