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The Spiritual Masters : Shri Gajanan Maharaj
There is hardly any authenticated information about the early life of Shri Gajanan Avdhoot, popularly known as Gajanan Maharaj. His place of birth, date of birth, parentage etc. are shrouded with mystery. It has been experienced that the terminal points (birth and death) in the lives of spiritually advanced souls is often mystical.
Shri Gajanan did not reveal about his past and did not encourage people to search for it. However, Shri Gajanan Avdhoot was first noticed collecting left over food items in a garbage dump on the outskirts of village Shegaon in Maharashtra by a person named Bankatlal Aggarwal. The Maharaj, although having a shining and extremely healthy body, was at that time in a super conscious state without a sense of his body; for he had no clothes on his person.
Bankatlal, who had earlier association with some spiritually advanced persons, sensed that the apparently crazy person collecting food from the dustbin might be a ‘Siddha’. It was 23rd February, 1878. Bankatlal, along with a friend named Damodar Pant Kulkarni approached Maharaj with humility and asked “Maharaj, why are you eating left over food, if you are hungry, I will certainly make arrangements for you."
However, Maharaj paid no heed to his words and continued to eat his food in a state of utter detachment. Seeing this, Bankatlal ran to the Ashram situated nearby, collected whatever food he could, and came back to Maharaj. As he offered food, Maharaj mixed up all the food items and gulped it down.
It may be understood that the saints at this level actually do not have a sense of taste as they are beyond the body state. Bankatlal, thereafter, went away to collect some drinking water. By the time he returned, he was shocked to see Maharaj happily drinking water from the reservoir meant for cattle. Bankatlal was convinced that he was in the presence of no ordinary mortal but a highly evolved spiritual entity. He prostrated in reverence and asked for blessings. By the time he lifted his head, Maharaj had vanished from there.
Disappearance and reappearance are one of the eight ‘siddhis’ or powers that yogis of India used to possess in the past. Bankatlal was extremely sad and depressed at the sudden disappearance of Maharaj but at that time little did he know that Gajanan Avdhoot was his own Sadguru (the Master) who had himself come at that time. Sadgurus or Perfect Masters attract or reach their disciples when the appropriate time comes, to lead them to their spiritual goal.
Their attraction becomes so powerful that it becomes difficult for anyone to resist. No doubt, therefore, that Bankatlal was so sad at his disappearance. His mind could think of nothing except Gajanan Avdhoot all the time and he searched for him whole day without any success. However, he again found Maharaj in the evening when he went to the old Shiva temple to join the worship. He was overjoyed to find him and in an emotionally choked voice requested Baba to come and stay in his house.
Maharaj, on his request, came to his house from where his divine function (Leela) started. The function of the Sadguru is to give a universal push to all the human beings and other species towards spiritual evolution. For them, caste, religion, sex, nationality and even difference in species etc. does not matter. They are humans with human beings and animals with animals. When they start playing this role, people from far and wide start getting drawn as if by the pull of an invisible force.
In fact, this is what Shri Sainath used to say, “I draw my children from thousands of miles like a child pulling a bird with a string tied to its legs”. With the advent of Gajanan Avdhoot thousands of them experienced temporal upliftment. With so many people visiting his house, Bankatlal tried to make whatever arrangements he could. It is not easy to have a perfect master as one’s guest, as social or religious laws do not limit them.
Whatever they say or think happens as they only carry out the functions of God with the help of nature. Their behaviour at times becomes extremely unpredictable to the common man. At times they behave like children, at times like a mad man or even like a person possessed. Nevertheless whatever they do, it is for the good of others. Only spiritually advanced people can understand this motivation behind the actions of a Sadguru. Maharaj often used to quietly escape out Bankatlal used to search him out by strenuous efforts and would request him to come back.
One day Maharaj quietly strayed away to another village named Adgaon. At about mid-day, when the sun was on the high, he approached a farmer cultivating his land and requested for drinking water, the farmer had with him. The farmer, named Bhaskar Patel, thought that he was one of the ordinary types of mendicant sadhus and started rebuking him saying that he would not give a drop of water which he has carried from home to a sadhu who is a parasite on the society. Maharaj only smiled without any reaction and slowly walked towards what looked like an old well.
Bhaskar Patel again started teasing him from behind saying that it is a dry well and how can any fool get water from there. Maharaj reached the well and meditated for a few moments and soon the well, which was dry for about twelve years, was filled with clean water. He quenched his thirst with this water. Seeing this miracle, Bhaskar Patel realised that he (Maharaj) was no ordinary man and profusely apologised for his intemperate behavior.
The Sadgurus are the ocean of love and mercy, and they are incapable of getting annoyed or angry-far to speak of being revengeful to the creations of God. That is why the epithets “Kripa Sindhu” (Ocean of grace) or “Daya Nidhi” (Abode of Mercy) etc. are used for them.
Seeing the plight of Bhaskar Patel moved Maharaj told him that he has created water for him in the well so that Patel does not have to carry water from the village strenuously every day for cultivation or drinking. The love that we sometimes feel within us, the depth of kindness that stirs in our heart when we are in touch with a Sadguru, is because the Sadguru first showers his total love and compassion on us without any qualification and even without our asking.
This is what is known as “Ahetuk Kripa” (the grace without asking) thus, by total sacrifices of himself, the Sadguru tries to evolve his children towards their goal and teach that sacrifice for others without any intention of getting returns raises Godly qualities in human beings.
The Sadguru teaches, by his own examples that in order to shine one must sacrifice one self. No one can truly help others without any sacrifice on himself. Protection of the Sadguru is the strongest armoury in a person’s life because the extent to which a Sadguru can go to protect his children cannot be imagined.
Once Maharaj was invited by Bankatlal, went to his farmland to eat corn stalk (Bhutta). Baba, along with a group of devotees sat under a tree, lit fire and started roasting the corn (Bhutta). Nobody had seen that there was a honey beehive on the tree. As the smoke from the fire reached the hive, the honeybees got out in swarms and started stinging everybody. Except Maharaj all of the devotees ran away.
All the honeybees, thereafter, settled on the body of Maharaj who continued to stay unmoved and in his normal composure. Suddenly Bankatlal saw this from a distance and was moved by the plight of Maharaj. When he approached Maharaj to render help, Maharaj addressing the honeybees said, “You go back to your own place. My dear devotee Bankatlal should suffer no pain”. No sooner than he uttered these words that the entire swarm of honeybees returned back to the hive.
The devotees on return saw that Baba’s whole body was full of stings. No ordinary person can quietly bear the stinging of a swarm of honeybees. All of them started thinking that Maharaj must be in pain. Seeing their plight Shri Gajanan Maharaj gave a smile and took a deep breath. At once all the stings fell out of his body in Hundreds .In this case what the Sadguru did was to take on his own body the pain of the honeybees stings and not allowing his children to suffer.
After a short stay at Khodgaon, the Maharaj returned to Shegaon. There he moved to the house of one Khandu Patil. His style of living was so ordinary like that of Shri Sai Baba Of Shirdi that it was not easy for everyone to make out about of the depth of his spiritual personality in the first look. One day, about ten South Indian Brahmins, with the intention of earning some money came to Maharaj, who was sleeping under the cover of a blanket.
Suddenly Maharaj woke up during the recitation and pointed out to the Brahmins that they were pronouncing the vedas in a wrong manner. Thereafter, he himself started reciting. Soon the Brahmins realised that Maharaj was a Saint of very high spiritual order and prostrated at his feet. Maharaj blessed them all and also gave them dakshina.
One day Maharaj went to the Nilakanth temple near the village and desired to stay there. Patil built a palm cottage for him and people started visiting the place. Once a group of Gossains (a type of Sadhu) claiming to be the disciples of one Brahmin Guruji reached the place where Baba was staying. The pretentious Sadhus demanded halwa, puri (a variety of food in India) and ganja (opium) from Patil. They also told him that by doing so he would get more virtue than by serving a mad and naked person like Gajanan Maharaj.
After taking his food just in order to prove his superiority over Maharaj the group leader, Brahmagiriji started lecturing on Bhagavad-Gita to draw attention of people. He started explaining “Nainam chhindanti Sastrani, Nainam Dahati Pavakam”- meaning ‘neither weapons can destroy the soul nor can fire burn it’. In spite of his efforts, people were found to be collecting around Gajanan Maharaj who was smoking his Chilum (clay tobacco pipe) sitting on a wooden bed right opposite to Brahmagiriji.
His ego was hurt and he became very angry finding absence of proper public appreciation and attention. Strange are the ways of Sadgurus. In this situation a strange thing happened. The bed on which Maharaj was sitting suddenly caught fire. As the fire rose up the disciples of Maharaj requested him to get out of fire and also started arranging for water.
Maharaj said that neither water would be used to extinguish fire nor would he get out of the fire bed. Addressing Brahmagiriji who was enjoying the sight, Maharaj said, “since you have been telling people for the last one hour that neither weapon can destroy nor fire can burn the soul, please come and prove it by sitting on fire.” On this Brahmagiriji did not react but tried to avoid the situation. Then Maharaj asked a physically strong disciple to catch hold of Brahmagiriji and bring him before Maharaj.
One can well imagine the condition of a pretentious sadhu in such a situation. His ego was totally shattered and he repented not only for his behavior but also for his pretentiousness. Maharaj pardoned him and advised him on the path to be followed for spiritual upliftment.
The Sadguru is the Universal Guru. He deals with each person at his level of consciousness. He tries to destroy their ego through his superior power in order to evolve that person. Sadguru removes all such limitations of mind and body that are not conducive to the evolution of a soul slowly. What methods in the gross, subtle or mental level the Sadguru may use can never be predicted by anyone.