In Quest of Guru and God – Fasting Disapproved
In this chapter Hemadpant describes two things: (1) How Baba met His Guru in the woods, and through him God and (2) How Baba made one Mrs.Ghokhale, who had made up her mind to fast for three days, eat Puran-Polis
In the beginning, Hemadpant describes the samsara (visible world) by the analogy of Ashvattha (Banyan) tree which has, in the phraseology of the Geeta, roots above and branches below. Its branches are spread downwards and upwards and are nourished by the gunas (qualities), and its sprouts are the objects of the senses. Its roots, leading to actions, are extended downwards to this world of men. Its form cannot be known in this world, nor its end – its beginning or its support. Cutting this Ashvattha tree of strong roots with the sharp weapon of non-attachment, one should seek the path beyond, treading which there is no return. For traversing this path, the help of a good guide (Guru) is absolutely necessary. However learned a man may be, or however in-depth his study of Vedas and Vedangas (sacred literature) may be, he cannot reach his destination safely. But if the guide is there to help him and show him the right way, he would avoid the pitfalls and the wild beasts on the journey, and everything will be smooth-sailing. Baba’s experience in this matter, the story which He gave out Himself, is really wonderful, which, when attended to, will inspire faith, devotion and salvation.
Once four of us were studying religious scriptures and other books and, being thus enlightened, we began to discuss the nature of the Brahman. One of us said that we should raise our consciousness by ourselves and not depend on others. To this the second replied that he who controls his mind is blessed; we should be free from thoughts and ideas and there is nothing in the world without us. The third said that the world (phenomenon) is always changing, the formless is eternal; so, we should discriminate between the Unreal and the Real. And the fourth (Baba Himself) urged that bookish knowledge is worthless and added, “Let us do our prescribed duty and surrender our body, mind and five pranas (life) to the Guru’s feet. Guru is God, all pervading. To get this conviction, strong unbounded faith is necessary.” Discussing this way, we four learned men began to ramble through the woods in the quest of God. They wanted to make the quest with their free and unaided intellect. On the way a Vanjari (a man who trades in certain things, such as grain etc. by carrying them on bullock) met us and asked us, “It is hot now, where and how far are you going?” “To search the woods,” we replied. He enquired, “On what quest are you bound?” We gave him an ambiguous and evasive reply. Seeing us rambling aimlessly, he was moved and said, “Without knowing the woods fully, you should not wander at random. If you want to walk through forests and jungles, you should take a guide with you. Why do you exert yourselves unnecessarily at this sultry noon-time? You may not give out to me your secret quest; still you can sit down, eat bread, drink water, take rest and then go. Be always patient at heart.” Though he spoke so tenderly, we discarded his request and marched on. We thought that we were self-sufficient and needed nobody’s help. The woods were vast and trackless; the trees therein grew so close and tall, that the sun’s rays could not penetrate through them; so, we lost our way and wandered here and there for a long time. Ultimately through sheer good luck, we came back to the place from where we started. The Vanjari met us again and said, “Relying on your own cleverness you missed your way; a guide is always necessary to show us the right way in small or great matters; and no quest can be successfully carried out on an empty stomach. Unless God wills it, no one meets us on the way. Do not discard offers of food; served dish should not be thrust away. Offers of bread and food should be regarded as auspicious signs of success.” Saying this he again offered us food and asked us to be calm and patient. Again, we did not like this good hospitality and discarded his offer and went away. Without doing any quest and without taking any food, the three began to move out. So obstinate were they. I was hungry and thirsty and I was moved with the Vanjari’s extraordinary love; we thought ourselves very learned but were quite strangers to pity and kindness. The Vanjari was a quite illiterate and unqualified fellow and belonged to a low caste. Still he had love in his heart and asked us to eat the bread. In this way he who loves others disinterestedly is really enlightened and I thought acceptance of his hospitality was the best beginning of getting knowledge. So very respectfully I accepted the loaf of bread offered, ate it and drank water. Then lo! The Guru at once appeared and stood before us, “What was the dispute about?” He asked and I told him everything that had happened. Then he said, “Would you like to come with me? I will show you what you want; but he alone, who believes in what I say, will be successful.” The others did not agree to what he said and left him, but I bowed to him reverently and accepted his dictum. Then he took me to a well, tied my feet with a rope and hung Me – head downwards and feet up – from a tree near the well. I was suspended three feet above the water, which I could not reach with My hands, nor which could go into My mouth. Suspending Me in this manner he went away, no one knew where. After 10 or 12 ghatakas (4 or 5 hours) he returned and taking Me out quickly asked Me how I fared. “In Bliss supreme, I was. How can a fool like me describe the joy I experienced?” I replied. On hearing my answer, the Guru was much pleased with me, drew Me near him and stroking My body with his hand kept Me with him. He took care of Me as tenderly as a mother-bird does of her young ones. He put Me into his school; how beautiful it was! There I forgot My parents; all my attachment was snapped and I was liberated easily. I thought that I should embrace him and remain staring at him always. If his image were not fixed in My pupils, I would rather be blind. Such was the school! No one, who entered it once, could return empty-handed. My Guru became My all-in-all, My home and property, mother and father, everything. All My senses left their places and concentrated themselves in My eyes, and My sight was centred on him. Thus was My Guru, the sole object of My meditation and I was conscious of none else. While meditating on him My mind and intellect were stunned and I thus kept on bow to him in silence (*). There are other schools where you see an altogether different spectacle. The disciples go there to seek knowledge and spend their money, time and labour; but ultimately, they repent. The Guru there boasts of his secret knowledge and his straight-forwardness. He makes a show of his sacredness and holiness, but he is not tender at heart. He speaks a lot and sings his own glory, but his own words do not touch the disciples’ hearts and they are not convinced. So far as Self-realization is concerned, he has none. How can such schools be of any use to the disciples and how can they be benefited? The master (Guru) mentioned above was of different type. By his grace, realization graced upon me on its own, without effort or study. I did not have to seek anything, but everything became clear to me as broad day-light. The Guru alone knows how the topsy-turvy Suspension, ‘with head down and feet up’ can give happiness! Among the four, one was a Karmath (Ritualistic) who only knew how to observe, and abstain from, certain rites; the second was a Jnani, who was puffed up with pride of knowledge and the third was a Bhakta who surrendered himself completely to God, believing that he was the sole Doer. When they were discussing and arguing, the question of God turned up, and they, depending on their unaided knowledge, went in search of Him. Sai, who was discrimination and dispassion incarnate, was one of the four. Being Himself Brahman Incarnate, some may ask, “Why did He mix with them and act foolishly?” He did this for benefit of the public, setting them an example to follow. Though an incarnation Himself, He respected a low Vanjari, by accepting his food with the firm belief that “Food is Brahman” and showed how those who rejected Vanjari’s hospitablity offer suffered and how it was impossible to get Jnana without a Guru. The Shruti (Taittiriya Upanishad) exhorts us to honour and worship mother, father and preceptor, and to study (learn and teach) the sacred scriptures. These are the means of purifying our minds and unless this purification is effected, self-realization is not possible. Neither the senses, nor the mind and intellect alone can help one reach the Self. Modes of proof, such as perception and inference will not help us in the matter. It is the grace of the Guru that counts. The objects of our life such as Dharma, Artha and Kama are attainable with our effort, but the fourth object, Moksha (liberation) can only be attained with the help of the Guru. In the Darbar of Shri Sai, many personalities appear and play their part; astrologers come and give out their predictions; princes, noblemen, ordinary and poor men, sanyasis, yogis songsters and others come for darshan. Even a mahar comes and, making a Johar (bowing down), says this Sai is the Mai-Baap (True parents), Who will do away with our cycles of births and deaths. So many others such as jugglers, gondhalis, the blind and the lame, nath-panthis, dancers and other players come and are given suitable reception. Biding his own time, the Vanjari also appeared, and played the part assigned to him. Let us now revert to the other story.
Fasting and Mrs. Gokhale
Baba never fasted Himself, nor did He allow others to do so. The mind of the one fasting is never at ease, then how could he attain his Paramartha (goal of life)? God is not attained on an empty stomach; first the soul has to be appeased. If there is no food in the stomach and nutrition, with what eyes will we see God, with what tongue will we describe His greatness and with what ears will we hear the same? In short, when all our organs get their proper nutrition and are sound, we can practise devotion and other sadhanas to attain God. Therefore, neither fasting nor overeating is good. Moderation in diet is really wholesome, both to the body and mind. One Mrs. Gokhale came to Shirdi with an introductory letter from Mrs. Kashibai Kanitkar (a devotee of Baba) to Dada Kelkar. She came to Baba with a determination to sit at Baba’s Feet observing three days fast. On the previous day, Baba said to Dada Kelkar, that He would not allow His children to starve during the Shimga, i.e. Holi holidays, and that if they had to starve, why was He there? Next day when the woman went with Dada Kelkar and sat at Baba’s Feet, Baba at once said to her, “Where is the necessity of fasting? Go to Dadabhat’s house, prepare the dish of Puran Polis (wheat rotis with gram-flour and jaggery), and feed his children and yourself too.” Shimga holidays were on. Mrs. Kelkar was then in her menses and there was nobody to cook in Dadabhat’s house. So, Baba’s advice was very timely. Then Mrs. Gokhale had to go to Dadabhat’s house and prepare the dish as directed. She cooked that day, fed others and herself. What a good story and how beautiful its purport.
Baba gave a story of his boyhood as follows: “When I was a youngster, I was in search of bread and went to Beedgaum. There I got embroidery work. I worked hard, sparing no pains. The employer was very much pleased with Me. Three other boys worked before Me. The first got Rs. 50/- the second Rs. 100/- and the third Rs. 150/-. And I was given twice the whole of this amount, viz. Rs. 600/-. After seeing My cleverness, the employer loved Me, praised Me and honoured Me with a full dress, a turban for the head and a shell a for the body, etc. I kept this dress intact without using it. I thought that what a man might give does not last long and it is always imperfect. But what My Sircar (God) gives, lasts to the end of time. No other gift from any man can be compared to His. My Sircar says, “Take, take,” but everybody comes to me and says ‘Give, give.’ Nobody attends carefully to the meaning of what I say. My Sircar’s treasury (spiritual wealth) is full, it is overflowing. I say, “Dig out and take away this wealth in cartloads, the blessed son of a true mother should fill himself with this wealth. The skill of My Fakir, the Leela of My Bhagwan, and the aptitude of My Sircar is quite unique. What about Me? Body (earth) will mix with earth, breath with air. This time won’t come again. Wherever I go or sit, the hard Maya troubles Me much, still I always care for and think about My people. He who does anything (spiritual endeavour) will reap its fruit and he who remembers these words of Mine will get invaluable happiness.”
(*) We think that this description of upside down suspension in the well for 4 or 5 hours should not be taken too literally; for no one can be at ease and feel bliss if he be suspended with a rope-head down and feet up in a well for hours together. On the contrary it might amount to torture. This seems to be a figurative description of the trance or Samadhi state. There are two sorts of consciousness: (1) Sensual and (2) Spiritual. When our senses and mind, which are created by God with an outward tendency, meet their objects, we get the sensuous consciousness in which we feel pleasure or pain, pure or mixed, but not bliss supreme of happiness. When the senses and the mind are withdrawn from their objects and are given opposite or topsy-turvy direction, i.e. when they are turned inward and fixed on the Self, we get the other, i.e. spiritual consciousness in which we feel unalloyed joy or bliss which if ineffable. The words, “In bliss supreme I was, and how can I describe the joy I felt?” So that the Guru put Him in a trance and kept Him above or aloof from the waters of the restless senses and mind.
Bow to Shri Sai – Peace be to all
Observations – Chapter 32
The thoughts of all four of them if considered individually are incomplete, but if considered together, they constitute the real nature of Brahma.
Baba being Omniscient knew everything, but He presented a typical human behaviour i.e. being secretive, not sharing and thereby also demonstrated as to what happens to those who behave this way; the whole episode beautifully proves the need of the Guru.
If Baba had no faith in Guru’s statements – He would have been cynical as to where His Guru went, leaving Him in upside down (Samadhi) position – instead He believed in His words and therefore, felt the bliss.
Interesting account of Baba and His Guru, captured by Swami Sri Sharan Anand Ji (Baba Himself mentioned this to Swami ji) in “Sai Superman” is as follows:
Baba said, “I found My master in the Chawdi here. His calm, peaceful, cheerful and meditative face attracted Me, charmed Me, almost bewitched Me so much so that My eyes were ever riveted on his face and that even a moment’s separation from him made Me uneasy. In his company, I used to forget all My hunger and thirst. I served him with all My heart for more than 12 years. The duties I had imposed on Myself for him were very arduous. He never left his seat for any purpose, not even to answer calls of nature. Merged in meditation forever, he entirely forgot that he had a body, mind etc. He ate, passed urine and stool etc. on his seat. I fed him, changed his clothes, swept and kept his seat always clean. As a reward of this he awarded Me his blessings saying, “Wherever you are, here or even beyond the, seven seas, I will be ever with You to guard and protect You.”
Baba against Fast (Sai Charters & Sayings):
1. Baba (to S.B. Nachne): Have you taken your meal?
Nachne: This is an Ekadasi Day (which Nachne wanted to observe on that occasion, though not observing at home, because two of friends who had accompanied him were very orthodox and were observing it).
Baba: These two people are mad. You had better go and eat.
Nachne went to Bala Bhav’s hotel, but Bala Bhav being orthodox, the meal was refused, as it was especially before Aarti. So, Nachne returned with Bala Bhav to Mosque at Aarti time.
Baba: (to Nachne) have you taken food?
Nachne: Baba, it is Aarti time and meal can come after Aarti time.
Baba: No. You go and take the meal. Aarti will wait for you.
So, Bala Bhav was forced to give Nachne his meal. After meal, Nachne and Bala Bhav returned to Dwarkamayee. Just then Mausi brought and presented to Baba a number of bidas (i.e. rolled betel and nut).
Baba to Nachne: Chew this.
Nachne took a bida, but hesitated, as it is customary to not chew bida on Ekadasi Day.
Baba: Never mind, go on, chew it and Nachne chewed it.
Sri Satchit Anand Satguru Sainath Maharaj ki Jai!