By Shrikant Gogate & P.T.Phadol
Shri Sadguru Nisargadatta Maharaj Amrit Mahotsav Samiti, Bombay-57
The occasion is the auspicious birthday celebrations of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. The lavishly illumined Laxmibaug Hall of Bombay is agog with bustling devotees of Sri Maharaj. A huge portrait profusely garlanded with fresh and colorful flowers on a specially decorated platform captures the gaze of all present.
At the corner of this bright, beautiful and decorated platform is seated Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. He is clad with usual homely wear of a snow-white dhotee [loincloth], a yellowish khamees [shirt] and a simple topi [hat]. The conventional trappings of sandalwood paste marks and strings of conventional beads that usually go with other holy persons are conspicuous by their absence on his body. His bright dark complexion, a full face, a broad forehead and in particular his large eyes pouring grace all around characteristic of an accomplished being [siddha purusha] are the cynosure of his numerous devotees present.
Nearby are seated his respected Gurubandhus [co-disciples] and his illustrious devotees like Sri V, S. Page and Sri Maurice Frydman. Following the speeches, praising the glory of Sri Maharaj, of a few illustrious invitees he has begun his discourse. His words full of divine wisdom thrill and instill peace into the hearts of his countless devotees. See how powerful and inspiring are the following words coming from his holy lips:
"Today's celebrations are not in the glorification of any individual. This is an auspicious occasion for you and for me to glorify the unity of a devotee with his Satguru [fully enlightened Guru established in reality]. To name a particular day as being the birthday of One who is not only eternally existent but eternal existence itself is, in the spiritual parlance, incorrect. It is also wrong to personify a true devotee. As long as you conceive yourself to be an individual male or a female being you will not be the all-pervading, eternal and transcendental Self. Go with the conviction that you are not the bodily self, that you are beyond births and deaths, that you are dynamic, being dynamism itself and are apparently experienced only as pure and simple awareness. Be free, proclaim saints, go on asserting within that Atma [one's true nature] is not weak or devoid of power. Believe steadfastly with a simple belief that Atma is rich with its fullness. It is not possible to delve deep enough to reach the seed - the Gurubeej - the inner faith on Satguru. Devotion to Guru reaches the Guru through devotion to the Self and the Satguru's blessings emerge and flower through the Self and are consciously received externally by the devotee. Godhead is nothing but pure awareness of your being. The achievement of this fruit - this Godhead - is accomplished through unshakeable faith in the pure self. That is what is called the satswarup, the Self, is through this faith thoroughly comprehended. There should be conviction of this comprehension. The conviction implies unshakeability. That should be accomplished. There should be unflinching conviction of the Self being fixed, immobile. That which you conceive yourself to be is myth because you take yourself to be the bodily being. The incomprehensible on the surface of which the awareness of being is experienced is called the Satguru. Call conviction only to that which does not budge, which is immobile. Parabrahman [Supreme Reality] is fixed, immobile. The Self is fixed [in Parabrahman]. The Self is Parabrahman."
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj through whose holy lips gush forth these powerful words annihilating the encrustations of the individuality of his listeners rarely ever speaks of his worldly life. There is, according to him, no import to the happenings in the worldly life of a saint. To speak of the Self while being rooted in the self remains the only mission left with the saints and the audible message coming through the [inaudible] Self is commonly called the discourse of a saint. It is therefore difficult to draw a graph of his worldly past life.
The worldly life of a saint, though insignificant from his viewpoint, gives guidance and provides inspiration to his devotees. The devotees have, therefore, to collect information about the past life of their Satguru to inform their inquiring mind and in particular for their own good.
Sri Maharaj's birthday was unknown for a long time. Devotees needed to discover it, since how could they, otherwise, celebrate it? To those who mustered courage to ask him about this, he said, "How to tell the date of birth when there is no memory of the birth? Why to talk of things that have not taken place!" Though this was true on the spiritual plane devotees needed to know the day when their Satguru's bodily form took shape in this material world in order to embellish the exterior of their devotion. After a long search this day could be ascertained. On the break of the dawn of the auspicious full moon day of Chaitra month of the year 1897, popularly known as Hanuman Jayanti, Sri Maharaj took bodily form. A few details of his antecedents could also be collected from his near relations and close associates.
To write the biography of a saint, as it is, is really a very difficult task. A devotee once asked Swami Vivekananda as to why he did not write a biography of his Satguru, to which question he replied that it was impossible for puny words to do full justice to the magnitude of his Satguru's life. Being faced with the same difficulty an attempt is being made below to narrate, in short, the material past life of Sri Maharaj.
1. CHILDHOOD AND EDUCATION
The sprawling district of Ratnagiri - a mine of gems - lies smugly hugged to the warm sea along its long coastline. This district has added luster to the Indian life by providing to it numerous human gems in all walks of life. Sri Maharaj was born in Bombay and was brought up in a village named Kandalgaon in the lovely countryside, 4 to 5 miles deep from Malwan, a seaport to the south of this District. The hilly countryside here is extremely beautiful. It is ever green with mango, cashew and coconut trees. The exterior of the inhabitants of this district is seemingly rough and uncouth like the exterior of the local jack-fruit, but their interior is sweet like the inside of this fruit and sweet and luscious like the local mangoes.
In keeping with the local custom, being born as aforesaid on the auspicious birth anniversary day of Sri Maruti, Sri Maharaj was named Maruti. In later life, he had the distinction of being the leading disciple of Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj.
Sri Maharaj's father, Shivrampant Kambli and mother, Parwatibai were both ardent devotees. Sri Shivrampant was, up to 1896, in the service of a merchant at Colaba in Bombay. At the first outbreak of the epidemic of plague in that year in Bombay, he left for his district and purchased some land at Kandalgaon near his home town Revandi and eked out his livelihood. He was simple and obliging by nature. He had in his possession a number of traditional holy books which he read regularly and devoutly.
Sri Maharaj's parents observed very rigorously the traditional fasts and holy days. They made no distinction as between Shiva and Vishnu. His father loved to sing bhajans, especially loudly as do the followers of the Varkari system.
There was one Brahmin friend of Sri Shivrampant. His name was Sri Vishnu Haribhau Gore. He tilled his land and owned also a coconut and betel-nut garden.
He had a mastery over astrology. Shivarampant often had long talks with him, especially on spiritual matters. Sri Maharaj regarded Sri Gore as a pious person. To him Sri Gore was the ideal in the virtues of honesty, courage, tenacity and hard work. He greatly respected him. The devotional life of his parents and the virtuous life of Sri Gore molded Sri Maharaj's childhood which became fertile for divine grace.
There are hardly any childhood memories available of Sri Maharaj. The first memory he has is of his being carried on the shoulders by his father one early morning on the slopes of a hill, when in front the Sun was brilliantly rising above the horizon. Sri Maharaj says this first and a very vivid memory he still carries very clearly till today.
Sri Maharaj had his elementary education up to Std. IV at Kandalgaon. While observing the village life he developed a liking for tending cattle, tilling land and gardening. He particularly liked taking household cattle for grazing far in the open. He spent happy time in the jungle with the young herdsmen of his age.
The mystery of nature always posed him with a problem. How was it that only a basketful of paddy, once sown gives mounds of yield? How, when there is nothing but soil in the field, abundant grains come out of it? How is it that mangoes come out of the tree? How sour mangoes when small turn out later to be sweet and luscious? Why the seed of a cashew fruit is outside the fruit when all the other fruits have their seeds inside them? These and such other mysterious questions tormented his young mind. Adult replies did not satisfy him. The mysterious and wonderful play of nature enthralled his mind and provided him inspiration for love of God.
He was from the very beginning of an obliging nature. He immediately responded to a needy call. In times of distress he ran to help them put out fires, pull out a cattle from a well, etc. For this, he made no distinction as between a caste Hindu and a Harijan. If there was death in any household he would himself go out and render all assistance to its members. The life of poor Harijans in particular touched a sympathetic chord in his heart. He was distressed by their hard life.
How did poverty still exist when the world had long been in existence? When the villages were very old why were pathways leading to them so primitive and difficult? When all human beings were similar, why are we regarded high and the others low? Such questions tormented him. If the world existed before I was born, how was it that I did not know that it was there? He brooded over such occult questions also. Journey to Bombay:
On the 14th night of Falgun month of the year 1915 Shivrampant quietly breathed his last. A few hours before, he had given pre-intimation to his dearest friend Sri Gore that he would leave the world that day.
The paternal love and security of four brothers and two sisters was no more. Agriculture was a poor means of livelihood in those days. The elder brother of Sri Maharaj left for Bombay in 1916 to eke out life.
Sri Maharaj also left for Bombay in 1918 to explore life there. He occasionally would go to Kandalgaon to look after the land there. He had endeared himself there to all with his obliging and friendly nature. Even in those olden days he had befriended many Harijans. He had at times even helped them drag carcasses. His pure mind did not even so much as think of inequality amongst men.
After intermittently being either in Bombay or in Kandalgaon for 2 to 3 years, Sri Maharaj permanently settled in Bombay in 1920. He joined a night school for a short while to acquire the rudiments of the English language. He worked for a couple of months as a clerk in the Princess Dock. The fetters of service inhibited his enterprising mind. He therefore left his job and entered business.
2. SUCCESS IN BUSINESS
Owing to his industrious and friendly nature he started getting stability in business. He even then stayed in Khetwadi. He married in 1924. His wife's nature befitted her name Sumatibai. The field of his business slowly started enlarging. Shops, big and small, of tobacco, beedis [hand-rolled cigarettes], cutlery, ready-made garments etc... were opened by him at Khetwadi, Grant Road and Bori Bunder. His technique was to acquire a place for a shop in a building under construction in a locality suitable for business by starting negotiations with the agent of the owner in advance. Thus, his business flourished. There ware 30 to 40 employees working under him.
3. ASPIRANT TO SPIRITUAL REALISATION
He was fully engaged in his expanding business. He was making good money, but he had not forgotten the Almighty. Devotion to God also deepened.
One of his friends in business, Sri Yashwantrao Baagkar by name, was a kind-hearted person and was a devotee of God. He and Sri Maharaj often had long talks on devotional matters. Sri Maharaj from the very beginning loved to read books on spiritualism. He liked the book "Nawnath Bhaktisar" in particular. In addition to reading books on spiritualism he also observed traditional fasts and performed other usual religious practices. He snatched time from his busy schedule to go to Bhuleshwer or Walkeshwer temple. In those days his mother stayed with him. Every morning he used to give her flowers and reverently touched her feet. This to him was worship of God. He never forgot to give grass to cows. The cows that always used to have grass at his hands developed relationship with him. In the month of Shrawan he religiously used to go every morning to Bhuleshwar temple to offer leaves from the Bel tree to God Shiva.
There was one yogi by the name of Sri Athavale in the Girgaum area in those days. Sri Maharaj learnt yogic exercises from him for a few months. Sri Baagkar used to go for darshan [to see or be seen by a Guru or God] of Sri Satguru Siddharameshwar Maharaj and also attended his programs of devotional songs and spiritual lectures. He even received grace from Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj in the form of initiation. Thenceforth, he pressed Maharaj to have darshan of Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj. Sri Maharaj avoided it. He refused to believe that there could ever be saints or sadhus [renunciates] in a mushroom city like Bombay. He refused to touch, by his forehead, the feet of any human form.
When the importunities of Sri Baagkar failed, he requested Sri Maharaj that, at least for his sake, Sri Maharaj should accompany him for a darshan of Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj.
Willy-nilly Sri Maharaj accompanied Sri Baagkar. In those days Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj used to be at the residence of late Sri Krishnarao Pathare, Solicitor. The usual program of devotional prayers and spiritual discourses used to be held there. The day Sri Maharaj went there first, Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj was having a discourse on a line from the book, "Yoga Vashistha." "Look inward, Oh Lord I", was the theme of the day's discourse. Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj profoundly expounded the theme. The talk exalted renunciation. Sri Maharaj plainly told Sri Baagkar that the call was beyond him. He, however, at the requests of Sri Baagkar, went thrice in succession for the darshan of Siddharameshwar Maharaj.
Sri Baagkar strongly desired that Sri Maharaj should receive initiation from Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj. He succeeded at last. Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj by disclosing one secret thing above him created confidence in him and initiated him by giving a Nama Mantra and explained to him how to meditate. Within a few minutes Sri Maharaj experienced within him dazzling illumination of various colours and went into deep trance. Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj soon awakened him. Thus, at the end of 1933 the stage of an aspirant was over and he became a sadhak [spiritual seeker].
4. GREAT HIERARCHY OF SATGURUS
In the field of spiritualism the hierarchy of Satgurus has a great significance. It is a fortune of a sadhaka to have a long tradition of enlightened Satgurus. The hierarchy of Satgurus Sri Maharaj belonged to is well known as the Nath Sampradaya [School of Philosophy] which had a brilliant past. Sri Revannath, alias Sri Revan Siddha, was the first of the famous Nav [nine] Nathas. From his one name Revan Siddha his Sampradaya is also known as the Siddha [a realised being] Sampradaya. In this Sampradaya, a disciple is taught to have a direct experience of the Self.
After Sri Revannath, Sri Marul Siddha, Sri Kad Siddha, Sri Guruling Jangam Mabaraj of Nimbargi, Sri Bhausaheb Maharaj of Umadi and the last Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj belonged to the line of the great Satgurus of Sri Maharaj.
Sri Bhausabeb Maharaj built a Srine for Sri Gurulinga Jangam Maharaj at Inchgeri, District of Bijapur, and widely spread spiritual knowledge there. Sri Amburao Maharaj, Sri Siddharmeshwar Maharaj, the world-famous philosopher Gurudeo Ranade Maharaj Sri Girirmalleshwar Maharaj and other great disciples of the Sampradaya spread spiritual knowledge far and wide. Sri Bhausaheb Maharaj used first to initiate his disciples only on Mondays and Thursdays. It was a Saturday when Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj first met Sri Bhausaheb Mabaraj. Sri Bhausaheb Maharaj knew the potential of Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj and gladly broke his practice and gave him initiation on a Saturday. From then, he started giving initiation even on Saturday. Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj spread spiritual knowledge between the years 1924 and 1936 with great effect in Bombay and round about Sholapur.
5. UNFLINCHING FAITH IN SATGURU
The grace of Satguru completely changed the course of Sri Maharaj's life. He dedicated his worldly life with his Self to the lotus-feet of his Satguru at his very first prostration before him. At the very first meeting his wind introverted and settled on the feet of his Satguru. In the words of Sri Maharaj, he was bound in wedlock.
Whatever his Satguru said or was saying was law unto him. So unflinching was his faith on his Satguru that every word coming from his Satguru's lips was finality to him. He cared for nothing else-beyond that. He got everyone of his employees initiated by his Satguru.
Whenever Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj was in Bombay, the usual programmes of chorus singing of devotional songs and of spiritual discourses were held with great clat.
He was an accomplished yogi, a renunciation [vairagya] incarnate. Though in the midst of royal splendor, he was detached from everything as a lotus leaf is in water. There was quite a number of rich and learned persons amongst his thousands of disciples. He, however, gave spiritual knowledge freely and bountifully to all his disciples irrespective of their social status as well as being kind-hearted yet fearless and outspoken.
He hardly received any education. He studied only up to elementary second standard. He had, however, such spiritual height that while giving a spiritual discourse he shone like a blazing Sun. He expressed spiritual knowledge in such a simple language in his talks that listeners flocked to him in great numbers. He spoke with such conviction based on Self-experience that many learned persons sat mute and bumble at his feet.
The description given by Swami Ramdas in his "Dasbodh" befitted him completely. His talks were virtual boons of divine grace to his disciples. In one of his talks he says:
"God is nothing else than the devotee. Give up the idea that there is a devotee and a God. It is a myth that some one else will come and do something for you. Whatever is, is of your own making. Nothing extraneous will give you Godhood. Maya [doubt] has the power to dislodge or shake you from your conviction, but it has no power to give you Godhood Your will has given you the shape you experience. Be God or whatever you like; you have only to will so. Name what you like and you have it. What you acquire comes to being. How will people call you God if you yourself do not believe in your Godhood? When you will realise that you were committing a "sin" or a blunder in behaving like a worldly being then Godhood, will dawn on you. When you feel so, then take it, that You are acquiring Godhood. Why, you have actually acquired it, nay, you will then experience that you needed no acquisition of it because it was there eternally within you already. As a man naturally feels ashamed to wear the garments of a woman, so a man who has acquired Godhood will feel ashamed of the material life. You must always feel that ultimate Reality is ever free. You should be ashamed of going round as a human being. Why should you need different objects for the gratification of different senses of the body when you are convinced that you are not the body but pure consciousness [Brahma] itself. Beware and examine critically the thoughts coming to your mind. Do it as a daily routine. Go on observing, how far, what you took yourself to be before, is undergoing a change. Observe and compare the change in your attitude to life before and after you met the Satguru - what you consider yourself to be before and what you consider yourself to be now. See what feelings evoked Pleasure in the mind before and what feelings do so now. See what attributes we give to our life, that is, what form and meaning we now give it. Acquisition and dispossession take place involuntarily according as what form and quality your consciousness takes shape of. Our mind, intelligence, Chitta and Ahankar put together go to form our right which we try to exercise with reference to our form, inner consciousness and the place or the destination where, we aim to go. By focusing your inner gaze directly on your conceived outward form and inner cognition, you realise the Self at first hand and the conviction of such realisation is called the steadfast Self-Realisation".
6. IDEAL SEEKER [VAIRAGYA]
The powerful teaching of Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj carrying conviction with it revolutionised Sri Maharaj's life. His zest for family life and business waned. He practiced meditation and sang devotional songs with sincerity. Thereafter, he indulged more and more in spiritual thinking and to him, practicing meditations as taught by his Satguru and singing devotional songs with sincerity remained the only pursuits of his life. The vow given to him by his Satguru was his only guiding star in the future course of his life. Implicit obedience, without raising even a shade of doubt, of his Satguru's word became the key-note of his life. If his Satguru bade him give up a thing, he unhesitatingly and instantly did so. He derived great happiness in the service of his Satguru and carrying out his orders. He once accompanied his Satguru to his home town, Patri. He did not miss, during those days, even a single traditional function held at Inchgeri, Bagewadi and Siddhagiri [Kolhapur]. In 1935, he had gone to the home town of his friend Sri Baagkar. He gave twelve discourses there on spiritual books. On hearing them Sri Baagkar was greatly pleased and cited in approbation the mythological story of a Parijatak flower tree which, though in front of the doors of Satyabhama, actually shed flowers in front of the house of Rukmini - both the wives of Lord Krishna. Occult books difficult of understanding earlier became now simple and plain to him. He was fast gaining spiritual height. At every step he experienced the grace of his Satguru.
Being occupied with the daily chores of business, he practiced meditation mostly at night. He experienced strange and colorful divine lights in his meditation. He also experienced various divine forms of God and saints. He experienced beautiful sights of places and lands never seen before. Thus, his spiritual life was blooming fast.
7. THE LOSS OF SATGURU
Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj dropped his body a little before the Divali festival in the year 1936 on the Ekadashi day of the later half of the month of Ashwin. The material form which pleased the eyes of his devotees was no more. It was like a heaven-fall to them. Sri Maharaj extremely grieved his Satguru's loss whose absence he keenly experienced every now and then. Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj laid his material body in Bombay. His beautiful marble shrine is built on the Banaganga Walkeshwar cremation ground. Sri Maharaj used to visit the place very often. A shrine is built also at Bagewadi.
Sri Maharaj used to remember the powerful words of Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj. In his last days, he used to say, "Disciples as such there are many, but is there one who is ready to renounce material life completely for the sake of his Satguru's word?" The wound caused by the arrow of this question tormented his mind. He often used to be completely distracted. His business remained neglected. The idea of complete renunciation of material life was taking root in his mind. He yearned for Self-realisation.
8. THE WANDERING SANYASIN
The days were of Divali celebrations in the year 1937. There was gaiety all around. Sri Maharaj, however, was calm towards everything. Tears often gushed in his eyes at the memory of his Satguru and his grace. His Satguru's last words tormented him more and more. It became almost impossible for him to carry on with his business.
He took a final decision to renounce material life completely while the Divali celebrations were in full swing. Without informing his aged mother, wife and children and literally throwing his business to the winds, he left Bombay and took the path to Pandharpur.
At Pandharpur he gave up his costly clothes, put on a simple khamees and only with two small pieces of loincloth and a coarse woolen covering he began the course of penniless wandering. Saffron colour signifies renunciation. His outer wear became in its true sense, therefore, in tune with his inner mind which had turned saffron-coloured. The memory of his Satguru was his only thought and the only support. Blessed be he, who, just for the sake of a word from his Satguru, kicked off his wealth and completely renounced his material family life.
He coursed and walked his way from Pandharpur to Ganagapur. From there he turned to the South. While wandering in the State of Madras he reached Rameshwar. Having loved to walk long distances he wandered only on foot. Since communication through the language of the South was impossible, he relied only on mute gesticulations.
Through the grace of his Satguru, food for subsistence was never a problem to him. Some one or the other with reverence for sadhus chanced to meet him at lunch time and offer him food with great respect. Some even used to offer him a ticket for his further journey or fare for it but he politely declined it. Sometimes along with other wandering sadhus he was implicated by the police in some trouble. But, by the grace of his Satguru, he used to be honourably let off on each occasion. The undaunted faith in his Satguru had made him fearless.
He turned back from Rameshwar in the South. Wandering through Karnataka, he entered Maharashtra. Accidentally a brother disciple met him at Sholapur. Out of love, he gave Sri Maharaj a fine photograph of his Satguru, a copy of "Dasbodh", a piece of saffron cloth with its ends tied together to be slung on his shoulders to serve as a receptacle, camphor and scented sticks. Then he started for the north. Traversing through Madhya Pradesh he reached Agra. Then he set out for Delhi via Mathura-Brindavan. Then he made up his mind to go to the Himalayas to visit holy places and do penance there.
9. MYSTIC EXPERIENCES
In the course of his wanderings, he had many mystic Divine experiences. That deepened his faith in his Satguru. Exhausted and tired of long walks when sometimes he caressed his hot bare feet he saw on them the divine Picture of his Satguru. That instantly relieved him, of his exhaustion and refreshed him. This direct experience of the grace of his Satguru filled his heart with emotion and filled his eyes with tears of love for him.
In his wanderings, he everyday used to do one yogic exercise known as Tratak. This required fixing a long gaze on the disc of the Sun. He used to do this so long that ultimately the burning Sun used to cool down and looked like a piece of ice. He, thereafter, gave up this practice.
Once he set off for his next halt. He walked on till noontime. He looked around and afar but there was no trace of a human habitation; long barren fields lay stretched everywhere. He became very much hungry. In that barren land he did not know where and how to go further. His Satguru, however, was, as always, uppermost in his mind. Once again he looked back. He now noticed a small habitation. He went there out of curiosity. It was a small, old house. When he approached it, a man inside received him with reverence and fully fed him. After his meal Sri Maharaj set off for his next journey. He was wandering how the house came to be noticed and how at once he also got food. While so wandering and when he had not walked even fifty paces, he casually looked back in the direction of that house. And Oh! There was no trace of the house which he had left only a few moments before. No human being could also be seen anywhere. All around lay, as before, long stretches of barren fields. The intensity of the emotional upsurge of this moving experience of his Satguru's grace could well be imagined.
Top of the page
Sri Maharaj reached Delhi by the Mathura-Brindawan Road. He intended to go to the Himalayas for a pilgrimage and to spend the rest of his life there only in penance. Dedication to his Satguru was, according to him, to be complete - by his body, speech and mind.
Sri Maharaj wanted for his next journey a small pot for drinking water. He had however, no money for it. While walking through the streets of Delhi, he accidentally met a brother disciple. The full story of Sri Maharaj enhanced his respect for him but he could not approve of his plan to go to the Himalayas. He said to Sri Maharaj, "Blessed are you as you have stood the test of a true devotee by complete renunciation of your worldly life. But does attainment of divine life call for going to the Himalayas? The entire hierarchy of our great Satgurus, as you will see, has, by its own example, exemplified the unity of the worldly and the divine life. The teachings of the "Dasbodh" also support this. How can you absolve yourself from your moral responsibility for the maintenance of your wife and children? No, that won't do. Do go back to Bombay. I shall make all arrangements for your journey back to Bombay. By the grace of Satguru, I am sure, while leading a material life you will also acquire fruition of the spiritual life."
Sri Maharaj could not rebut his revered brother disciple's arguments. In deference to his advice, he returned to Bombay.That was a great fortune of his family members and his future devotees. It is the Satguru's will, it is true, and that ultimately prevails.
11. LIFE DIVINE AND MATERIAL
On his return to Bombay after an absence of many months he took stock of his business. It was completely upset. He could retain only his present bidi shop. His old zest for business having waned he was content with running only his present small shop. Since that was just enough for the sustenance of his family he devoted minimum time to it and gave as much time as possible for his spiritual pursuits. Beyond the time that was absolutely necessary to keep his family and business going, he was always engaged in meditation, singing devotional songs contemplation and similar other spiritual matters. He did not do any conscious efforts for these spiritual pursuits [sadhana] because; whatever sadhana was going on was involuntary taking place at the beckoning of the call within. Without going out anywhere else he made use of the mezzanine floor of his tenement itself for his spiritual practices. Having traversed long distances over a protracted period, independently and without any means his self-abnegating nature [vairagya] had come to stay. He followed a strict and regulated daily regime. He spoke but a few words. His devotion to his Satguru was so singular - that he never thought of going out to temples or meeting any saints.
He regularly spent hours in meditation. While in meditation he intuitively received replies to his spiritual doubts from within and, felt reassured. He read spiritual books like "Dasbodh", "Sadachar" by Sri Shankaracharya and in particular studied the "Yoga Vashistha" and Eknatha's "Bhagwat". He was lost in getting at the root of their meaning. He also carefully read works like "Srimat Bhagavad Gita", "Upanishads", "Dnyaneshwari" and "Amruta-nubhava".
He loved singing devotional songs from the early days. While singing these songs in front of a portrait he used to become oblivious of the surroundings, turn his back to the portrait and was lost in himself and lay still for a long time in the ecstasy of the luminous divine light in front of his eyes. He literally experienced chewing a paan [betel-nut] himself when he sang a line meaning a devotee offering a paan to the Lord. He got all the spiritual experiences explained in the traditional song of his Sampradaya [school of thought] sung everyday in the afternoon. Owing to the rousing of serpent power [kundalini] he gained very high spiritual experiences and was lost in their ecstasy for long periods.
Being engrossed in these matters his health remained neglected and it broke down. He felt very weak. Through the pleadings of his relatives, medical treatment was started. The doctor's diagnosis of T. B. frightened all. Sri Maharaj, however, remained unmoved. "Yes, the doctor has pronounced it to be T. B," said Sri Maharaj, "but what will it do when the tube inside is full of my Satguru's vow?" Without taking much of a medical treatment he started doing regular physical exercises.
He started doing sashtang namaskars and baithakas and increased their number up to 500 a day. He started doing physical exercises with wooden clubs [mudgals] also. His health started improving and within a few months, he became quite fit.
A few years later his health broke down again and he became weak. He passed blood 3 to 4 times through his urine. The doctor frightened everyone again by suspecting cancer and advised taking six X-ray photos immediately. For the sake of his relatives, again, he agreed to take a few medicines but refused X-ray photos. "If you really have faith in me", he said to them, "give up the idea of taking photographs of the disease". At these resolute words of his, they kept mum. For their sake Sri Maharaj agreed to a minor course of medicines. Through sheer faith in his Satguru, he was cured. His health improved within 2 to 3 weeks.
12. AS A SIDDHA [ACCOMPLISHED BEING]
Sri Maharaj's spiritual practices were unfolding themselves involuntarily through sheer faith on his Satguru. In course of time his sadhana culminated into his ripening as a perfect Siddha - a Seer through direct Self-realisation The primal reality of the Self got confirmed by its direct revelation through the Self. Delving deep into the mystic Self, he experienced the inner blinding flame which illumines the universe. He saw the eye which perceives through the mortal eye. By the grace of his Satguru he acquired through Self-realisation the immortal fruit of Reality in the form of jivanmukti [final liberation] as a culminating point of his sadhana. The routine of his daily life outwardly continued to be as before. He was doing nothing though he seemed to be doing everything. Even after fulfilling his duties in his shop and towards his family he snatched hours for offering prayers and singing devotional songs to his Satguru and for loud spiritual thinking with his dear brother disciple.
From 1941 onwards he came in a close contact with his brother disciple Sri Bhainath Maharaj. Everyday they usually used to go to Girgaum Chaupati for a walk after the shop hours. They were engrossed for hours together in their discussion, the subject matter of which was nothing else but spiritualism. In those days of the Second World War, there used to be a black out every night. Sometimes even curfew hours were on, due to communal riots and house-fires. Close by, country bombs used to explode on the open streets. Braving such tense atmosphere and unmindful of the rain or the cold winds, these two Gurubandhus were engrossed for hours together in spiritual discussions on the Chaupati [beach in Bombay] sands or the Chaupati bandstand or sitting on the footsteps of a closed shop or standing at the corner of N. Powell. It was not uncommon that when they reached home it was two or three hours past midnight. Their daily routine mundane duties, however, did not suffer on that account.
Sri Maharaj was much spirited and clear-cut in his talks. Sri Bhainath Maharaj had, therefore, usually to play the role of a listener. Commenting on his calm habits Sri Maharaj once said to him, "You are indeed very cool like Lord Vishnu. Look at me ! I am like the fiery Lord Rudra."
These long and subtle talks on spiritual matters helped both. This nightly spiritual fire was continuously on for 25 years. Self-realisation had made Sri Maharaj cool towards the ups and downs, the happiness and misery in his life. The loss of a dear daughter, devoted wife and a revered mother during the years 1942 to 1948 and the severe loss in his business did not ruffle him. On the contrary, these shocks hardened his vairagya [dispassion]. Owing to lack of attention, his landed property in the Konkan was literally thrown to the winds. Braving great miseries one after other, he once coolly exclaimed, "Fortunate shall I be, if miseries do befall me."
Experiencing his spiritual height and powers, his well wishers and devotees started gathering around him. To avoid distraction he used to avoid them. If some one persisted, he cut him short by giving him a short shrift. How long, however, a sweetly smelling flower can keep off the bees? They shall hover round it whatever the obstacles. The well-wishers and the devotees were, likewise, irresistibly attracted towards him. They used to get their spiritual doubts and difficulties cleared by him. Mundane matters were a taboo with him. He is against using spiritual powers [siddhis] for performing miracles. Most of his time of the day being spent in his shop, the spiritual discussions used to be in front of his shop. Some aspirant or other was always seen standing in front of his shop. To avoid encumbrances he never used to invite others to him or to go to them. His devotion to his Satguru, as said earlier, was so singular that he never so much even as crossed any other sadhu.
In those days there was in Bombay one famous Avalia [Sufi] by the name ofTikku Baba. One of his chelas [devotees] often used to visit Sri Maharaj and tell him many things about Tikku Baba's greatness and invited Sri Maharaj to visit him. Even Tikku Baba sent him messages to come and see him. Sri Maharaj did not yield. Before dropping his body Tikku Baba sent him a message, "I am dropping my mortal body, do come and receive my spiritual powers". Without the slightest wavering of his mind, Sri Maharaj conveyed his message to him, "My contract has already been finalised, once and for all time."
13. ON THE SEAT OF SATGURU
Many received guidance through the discussions held in front of his shop. Some of his devotees expressed a desire that he initiate them. Sri Maharaj was reluctant to play the role of a Satguru, he used to direct them to one accomplished Gurubandhu of his. Some of his devotees however, insisted on initiation from him only. He did not yield to their importunities. Whenever the question of giving a Nama Mantra [initiation] arose he quietened them by a cross question whether the saints like Saibaba, Upasanibaba, Satam Maharaj or the like ever gave Nama Mantra. All the same, they could not give up their insistence and preferred to wait patiently for years to get the Nama Mantra from Sri Maharaj. Although, in order to avoid encumbrances he was avoiding them, he could not disobey the dictum from his Satguru much longer. His Satguru himself strongly willed that Sri Maharaj bless his devotees by initiating them into the field of spiritualism by giving them Nama Mantra and spread true knowledge in the world. He yielded and started, in deference to the will of his Satguru, to initiate from 1951 onwards true aspirants by giving them Nama Mantra. Thus, after all, he assumed the role of a Satguru.
14. ASHRAM REGIME
After he started giving Nama Mantra, devotees began to gather at his residence for their sadhana. The present mezzanine floor was half its size then. He got it complete, full-sized. More aspirants could, therefore, make use of it for their spiritual practices. A lovely portrait of Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj was installed in the place which has turned itself into a regular ashram now.
The love and care the devotees get from Sri Maharaj defy description. One truly gets the experience of saint Dnyaneshwara's couplet from one of his abhangas meaning:
"At the meeting of the saints today
my happiness is at its superlative.
Mind is disinclined to meet, father,
mother, dear ones and other relatives."
Blessed be the devotees endowed with such divine love!
Sri Maharaj likes plain and disciplined life. All the programs held in the ashram are characterised by their regularity and cleanliness. That is largely due to the willing cooperation and efforts on the part of his only son, Sri Chittaranjan. his daughter-in-law, Mayadevi and his younger daughter, Kumari Suprabha. The eldest daughter born Sulochana is now Srimati Mangala Hate, being married to Sri M. D. Hate, an old devotee of Sri Maharaj. Since his retirement in 1966 from active business, Sri Maharaj's son looks after his shop. All the inmates in the ashram being very kind by nature all the incoming devotees are warmly welcomed. One also hears here the twitter of the two young grandchildren of Sri Maharaj.
The day in the ashram begins with a Kakad Arti followed from 8 a.m. onwards by the portrait worship of Satguru, Pothee-reading and simultaneous group meditation for an hour for those present. This is immediately followed by the singing of the morning Bhajan, Arati, and Prasad distribution. This concludes by 9.30 a.m. Sri Maharaj impresses on the minds of his devotees the necessity of increasing the practice of deep meditation and doing Satguru bhajan with all devotion. This perhaps is the only place in the whole city of Bombay where one can practice dhyanyoga very regularly. The singularity of this holy place is that, despite the constant din of the traffic on the road below, the mind of a sadhak, within a few minutes, turns inwards and losing bodily consciousness, enjoys, through divine experiences, inner bliss.
Daily in the evening, discussions on spiritual matters are held for those who are interested in them. One can hear masterly analysis of what is knowledge [dnyana] and what is devotion [bhakti]. In course of his talk he, off and on, keeps on smoking bidies. The aroma of costly scented sticks [agarbatti] constantly lingers on. At 7 p.m. begins the evening bhajan. This is followed for an hour or an hour and a half by a very inspiring and powerful discourse on dnyana and bhakti by Sri Maharaj. The day concludes with the singing of devotional songs, Arati and Prasad distribution. On holidays, the number of devotees attending being large, the evening program of singing devotional songs and Sri Maharaj's discourse is held in the commodious hall of Sri Bhainath Maharaj. On the holy days like the Birthdays and anniversaries of Satgurus in the tradition, Guru Purnima, Deepavali, Dev Deepavali etc., celebrations are held in specially rented big halls with great enthusiasm. On these occasions Sri Maharaj himself loudly sings devotional songs and dances to the tune. It is a lovely scene to witness. Sri Maharaj does not at all like the idea of celebrating his own birthday, but he had to acquiesce in the importunities of his devotees.
In the recent past, the number of disciples of Sri Maharaj in the city of Bombay and in other places has considerably increased. He undertakes tours four or five times a year to visit, along with some disciples, holy places, like Bagewadi, Inchgeri, Siddhagiri which are the birth places of Satgurus in the Sampradaya. He also visits, though rarely, the places of disciples who stay out of Bombay. On such occasions the disciples not only get opportunities to express their devotion for their Satguru through physical service but also get their divine life refreshed by added vigor and vitality. Sri Maharaj reveals, through his daily discourses and talks, the essence of Reality through his own conviction with exceptional vigor and clarity. Knowledge flows through his talks everyday for hours on end. It pours freely like rain and is addressed to all who are present.
Narrow distinctions of male and female, high and low, caste and creed, isms or schools make no sense here. His sublime and saintly looks pour peace and love equally on all. Like the pure and refreshingly cool waters of the Ganges, his powerful language gives peace to the spiritually thirsty according to their needs. His audience includes seekers from different walks of life. Professors, pleaders, judges, high executives, political and social leaders often visit the Ashram to seek spiritual guidance from him. Seekers of Truth from the West like Sri Maurice Frydman often visit him for discussion and spiritual guidance. Since he has no expectations from others, he is, as in his day-to-day practical life, exceptionally plain and uninhibitive in his spiritual teachings as well. Worldly matters have no room with him. Sri Maharaj is against making use of spiritual powers [siddhis] to seek worldly ends though his faithful devotees do experience his powers in their daily life.
The language used by Sri Maharaj has its own singularity. Always deep-rooted in the Supreme reality, he reveals at ease, to the surprise and ecstasy of his listeners the glow of their spiritual self through the words spontaneously flowing out of his holy lips giving a spiritual twist to their conventional meaning. New aspirants do not easily grasp the inner meaning of the language, peculiarly his own. One realises the value of his spiritual language only after listening to a few of his discourses through the inner silence with rapt attention. One is, then, involuntarily drawn towards him to listen to him. His power of exposition is rare indeed.
Himself seated firmly in the absolute non-dualism he peals out through his peculiar spiritual language the truth of direct Self-realisation. By correctly listening to him, his devoted listeners, then, enjoy the spiritual ecstasy of Self-realisation blossoming through their own Self and are immensely pleased with their rare fortune.
The discourses or talks of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj are now available in book-form. Though averse to publicity, therefore, he is well-known to many earnest aspirants of Truth. Three or four compendiums of his talks have been published. They are immensely useful to seekers of Truth. Some of his lyrical poetry [abhangas] has also been published. In the worldly sense his 71st Birth Anniversary Day was celebrated by his devotees in 1967 with great clat. On this auspicious day his devotees published one commemoration book. They took an opportunity, through this book of expressing their Self-gratification for being fortunate in getting a life-time chance of rendering what is, in spiritual parlance, called a service to the Satguru. Even in this book are included valuable articles explaining the teachings of Sri Maharaj.
The message of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj borne out from his Self-experience appears at the very outset of this article. They are not mere hollow words. He speaks out what he himself experiences within. Countless obeisance be at his holy feet! The great saint, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj personifies a continuous flow of ecstatic bliss of the Self. His saintly life itself is an auspicious living message providing inspiration and guidance to all.
The glory of saints can be described only by saints. To try to do so is beyond the words of mortals. It is better, therefore, to conclude here the puerile attempt made above.