Sadguru Shri Narayan Maharaj incarnated to dispel the false notion that a Perfect Master need necessarily be unconventional or that formal worship is fit only for immature, undeveloped minds
The belief current mostly in our country is that occult powers may be developed by invoking particular Deities through intensely devotional and formal worship. Instances of this kind are not lacking particularly in some of the temples, Mutts, (monasteries) and even private houses.
These powers can be developed also by means of selfless service or cultivating particular virtues like truth-telling or chastity or silence. The essential condition for the proper maintenance and growth of such powers is that they should not be exploited to serve selfish ends, but that they should be dedicated, whole and entire, in the service of the universe.
The prospects of deriving powers by this method are brighter in the case of an unmarried person, as the responsibilities of leading a single life come to almost little or nothing, and, hence the temptation to utilise occult powers for selfish ends is also by far less than in the case of a house holder.
Sadguru Shri Narayan Maharaj had incarnated to dispel the false notion that a Perfect Master need necessarily be unorthodox or unconventional, or that formal worship is fit only for immature or undeveloped minds. In order to establish this truth, it became necessary for him to lead an orthodox life and incarnate in a family that was traditionally orthodox.
Sri Bhimasankara and his son Sivaram, his illustrious ancestors, who had lived at Sindgi, a village in Karnataka, were ardent devotees of His Holiness the Jagat guru at Hampi.
They had the gift of composing hymns in honour of their Gurudev in Mahrathi and Kanarese languages. In June 1885, Sri Narayan was born at Bhagalkot as the youngest son of Sri Bhima Rao and Srimati Lakshmi Devi. Sri Narayan became an orphan in his infancy and the family migrated to Hyderabad to live under the protection of Kashinath the elder brother.
Later, his prosperous maternal uncle who was living at Nargund brought up Sri Narayan and made him heir to his fortunes. Once Narayan visited a cave in a jungle near the house and had darshan of a Yogi who was seated on a plank suspended by chains and lighted by four lamps and guarded by a serpent. Narayan spent his time in Sandhya, Suryanamskara, meditation, etc.
The refusal of his grandmother, one day when he was nine years old, to give him clarified butter supplied the pretext for Sri Narayan to leave the house and remain untraced for seven years.
In about 1902, he arrived at a Hanumanji temple in Ravivar Gate in Poona City. He begged cooked food from door to door which he washed and ate. At this time, Trayambak Rao Mama Atre of Bopgaum took him away, under inward promptings, to a place called Arvi where he
was living. Trayambak Rao's wife Shrimati Lakshmi Bai was regarded with great affection and addressed as "mother" by Sri Narayan.
A Jagirdar of Pareygar village near Pomalvadi Railway Station was ordered, in a dream, to take Sri Narayan to Gangapur, which he did. Sri Narayan lived at Gangapur under a neem tree by the side of a river. He never left the tree even when the river was swollen in floods during the monsoons. At such times, he would go up the branches and stay there.
One day, he entered a Mutt at Gangapur where he met with an old man, who said that he had so long been doing pooja for the welfare of Narayan, and he initiated the youth. He asked Narayan to fetch food for him. Returning to the Mutt, with the food, along with some of its inmates, Narayan found that it was empty.
The inmates pleaded ignorance of any such stranger and assured Narayan that it could have been no other than Lord Dattatreya Himself; and having had the darshan of and direct initiation by the Lord, Narayan was twice blest indeed. Narayan who was overcome with joy for the meeting
and filled also with sorrow at missing the Lord, in material body returned to the "neem" tree, where he waited for three days with the food he had brought as commanded by the "old stranger".
On the third day, it was revealed to him in a dream that his offering had been accepted and that he could now eat the prasad. Nana Saheb Deshpande of Supe, a jagirdar, had received commands to take Shri Narayan to live with him. Nana Saheb had lands in Badhani, where a small cottage was built for the accommodation of Shri Narayan and himself.
This spot was suitable' to meditation, but Maharaj had attracted a stream of visitors with whom he conducted Bhajan. One day, he removed the earth at the foot of an "oudumbara tree, and revealed to the congregation a wooden image of the Lord's feet covered with fresh floral offerings. After this' he is said to have performed miracles solely in the cause of humanity.
Another day, during a walk, Narayan Maharaj came across a rock covered by jungles, about seven miles off Khedgaon Railway Station. This station is situated at a distance of 34 miles from Poona. Narayan Maharaj decided to settle here permanently. In 1912 was acquired the property where a temple dedicated to Lord Dattatreya and a rest house were constructed.
Today, the place is cove red with buildings valued at lakhs of rupees and it has become a shrine. Shri Narayan Maharaj organised festivals on Vaishak Sukla Panchami, Guru Poornima, and Dattatreya Jayanthi. These days continue to be observed at Khedgaon even now. Shri Narayan Maharaj had visited Calcutta and Sri Vasantha Sett, a wealthy businessman of Calcutta, had offered 200 totals of gold to make images of Shri Dattatreya.
Narayan Maharaj liked Satyanarayan Pooja very much and it is often performed at Khedgeum. For the past 30 years, the Mutt at Khedgaon has been managed at a cost of Rupees 50 to 60 thousands annually. Here, Shri Narayan Maharaj used to lead a princely life wearing silk garments and costly ornaments and conduct poojas on grand scale and feed large number of devotees at a time. But Maharaj had remained a strict vegetarian and a poor eater.
Notwithstanding the refreshingly unconventional and seemingly heterodox ways of Lord Sainath, Shri Narayan Maharaj had directed a Brahmin Yogi like Pundit Kashinath (who later on become Shri Upasani Maharaj), and an earnest seeker after Truth like Brahmasri B. V. Narasimhaswami ji to go to Sri Sai Baba of Shirdi.
Avatar Meher Baba used to occasionally direct His devotees to have darshan of Shri Narayan Maharaj whom He regarded as "one of the five Perfect Masters of the Age". Narayan Maharaj passed away on 3rd September, 1945, at Bangalore.
Shri Narayan Maharaj is an example of how an orthodox and devotional minded personage may yet possess breadth of vision to discern greatness in others who had chosen paths which seemed to be somewhat different from what he had himself followed.