Brief Biography of Swami (Papa) Ramdas (1884-1963)

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What is Swami (Papa) Ramdas’ uniqueness amid Hindu spiritual masters?

Papa Ramadas was a saint, a God realized/ Self realized master, whose life stood as  a standing example of the efficacy of chanting Rama Mantra as a sure means of realization. He was a saint who saw his beloved Ram inside him as well as in every living being outside. He lived an exemplary life of total surrender to his Ram and demonstrated to the world that a life of cent percent renunciation is possible and when such a surrender comes, the Lord takes care of everything for the well being of his beloved devotee.

Papa Ramdas lived a life of a wandering monk carrying no money or possessions with him during his early spiritual life and traveled the length and breadth of India. Later he established his Math Anandashramam at Kanhankad, (Kasargod district) in north Kerala.

He had thousands of followers who came to him for spiritual guidance. He blessed them with Rama Mantra :” Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram“. He recommended a sadhana practice of Nama (Chanting of the name of Lord Rama), dhyana (meditation) and Seva (selfless service for the well being of others) to his followers as the effective means of attaining spiritual progress and God realization in life.

Birth and early years

Vittal Rao (later Swami Papa Ramadas) was born on the auspicious day of Hanumat Jayanti (the birthday of Lord Hanuman) on April 10th 1884 as the sixth son of the Saraswath Brahmin couple Sri Balakrishna Rao and Lalitha Bai, at Hosdurg in Kasargod district of Kerala. He had 9 brothers and three sisters. His parents led a simple life, full of devotion to God and dedication to austerities.

Vittal Rao had his primary education in Hosdurg and went to Mangalore and then to Udupi for higher education. Vittal Rao was a happy go lucky boy, enjoying games and swiftly climbing trees; though intelligent and quick to grasp things, he had no taste in formal education and he failed in his matriculation. As a boy, he was a free thinker, not conforming to mimicking the worldly; he loved simplicity and was pure in heart. He was quite humorous too. He learned English well. He also read bible during his high school days.

After failing in matriculation exams at Christian High School, Udupi, , he returned to Hosdurg and started showing interest in theatre and arts. He went to The School of Arts in Chennai to formally learn painting and screen printing. He then went to Mumbai to learn textile manufacturing at Victoria Jubilee Institute. He did not develop much of interest in it. He developed lots of interest in reading variety of books including English literature and was influenced by books on the life and teachings of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Rama Tirtha. He read Bhagavad Gita and felt highly influenced by it. After finishing the diploma course of three years duration successfully in textile manufacturing, he started looking for jobs. After chequered start in making a career for life, he got a job Spinning Master in Gulbarga for a brief period.

At the age of twenty five, he was married to Rukma Bai. Because of high instability in his career, Vittal Rao was without job many times and it affected his family life too. Five years after marriage,  Rukma Bai gave birth to a female child named Ramabai.

Dispassion

Vittal Rao worked as a Spinning Master in several mills at places like Coimbatore, Ahmadabad, Cuttack etc. He was disturbed by seeing the exploitation of workmen by higher management and got disillusioned with his job. He started his own business of dying clothes in Mangalore. But because of his generosity, compassionate nature and lack of calculative shrewdness, he failed to be a successful businessman and soon accumulated quite a loss. He had accumulated debts to be cleared; he was stressed out and he lead a life of worries, sorrows and desperation. Almost an year passed in this way.

Vittal Rao, the family man under mental turmoil, longing for a journey in quest of God…

In this process, he  developed a deep longing for escape from the worldly life, which had no more attraction for him. He started praying to his beloved God Rama earnestly. He started chanting Lord Rama’s name and spent his time in prayer and meditation.

Thus Vittal Rao was turning inwards, developing discrimination and dispassion and longing for a spiritually dedicated life. Gradually he started gaining mental peace. He turned to simple living and started wearing khaddar; he lost interest in eating and simplified his intake to bananas and boiled potatoes, eating just one time only in a day. He relinquished cushioned bed and slept in mat. He reduced his sleep and spent the night in the contemplation of Lord Ram.

It was at this time that divine grace started working on him. A compassionate friend  volunteered to become his business partner and  paid back all of his the loans!

In the meanwhile, Vittal Rao’s father Balakrishna Rao, having lost his wife, opted to spend his older years dedicated to devotion to God; he went to stay with his eldest son at Kasargod. One day, as he was visiting the famous Udupi Krishna Temple, he got attracted by the radiating divinity of a sanyasi sitting in the shade of a tree in the marketplace. He went and surrendered at his feet. The sanyasi initiated Balakrishna Rao with the mantra “Sri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram“. Sri Rao was overjoyed by the unexpected divine grace and felt very blessed.

Getting Mantra Diksha

Since Balakrishna Rao knew of his son Vittal’s ardent yearning for a spiritually oriented life, he came to Mangalore to meet his son, with his heart full of compassion; he told Vittal Rao about the mantra he had received from the sanyasi and without delay, he imparted the mantra to his son and blessed him.

And that was the turning point in the life of Vittal Rao. It paved the way for Vittal Rao to blossom into Swami Ramdas sooner.

The moment Ramdas received the mantra, he felt enthralled. He felt he was now a bird released from the cage.  He fell at the feet of his father and from that day, he treated him as his beloved guru, who, out of utmost compassion, came to give him the key to his liberation.

From that day onward, Vittal Rao immersed himself in chanting the Rama Mantra day and night. He added “Om” to the Rama mantra that his father gave. Rather, the mantra virtually caught hold of Vittal! The more he chanted the mantra, the more Vittal got immersed in the bliss of contemplation of his beloved lord Rama. Food and sleep became matters of irrelevance to him.

He started seriously thinking of leaving behind the worldly life altogether and take up Sanyas. He fervently prayed to Lord Rama for His guidance. On that day, as he was reading books like The Light of Asia (Buddha’s life), New Testament and Bhagavad Gita, whatever pages he opened and read contained sentences glorifying a life of renunciation. Vittal Rao took this as the answer from Lord Ram for his prayers. He wrote a letter to his friend who helped him out of his financial difficulty informing of his decision. He also wrote another letter to his wife.

The following is the translation of the letter written by Vittal Rao to his wife before he left his home for good. Notice how he addresses his wife in this letter:

To Srimati Rukmabai, Mangalore

Beloved Sister,

From now onward, you will be my sister. I have surrendered myself totally at the feet of Sri Ram. He has redeemed me from my erstwhile life. Taking his holy name on my lips, I am going out into this vast world as a beggar.  You know that I have no other desire in this life except striving for receiving His grace and love. I am dedicating the rest of my life for this lofty ideal. I am ready to face any amount of hardship for this purpose.

We are not going to meet as husband and wife hereafter.  Lead your life dedicated to God and truth and also ensure that Rame (Ramabai) too follows it.

Never give up the spinning wheel. It will give you peace and bliss. Let Rame too do it.

Sriram’s blessings on you and Rame – He protects you both.

Yours affectionately

B.Vittal Rao

27/12/1922

Taking two dhotis dyed in saffron with him along with a cash of about 25 Rupees and a couple of books mentioned above, he left at 5 AM on the next day from Mangalore and took a train that went up to Erode. Thus began his life of renunciation from family bonds, in December 1922, at his age of 38.

Travelling Mendicant Ramdas – ‘In Quest of God’

Vittal Rao then travelled to Srirangam in Tamil Nadu. He took bath in Kaveri river and took up Sanyas by wearing the ochre clothes, leaving his old clothes to the flowing waters of the Kaveri. He prayed to Lord Ram to protect him from the threats of leading a life of a renunciate. He took three vows: 1) To dedicate the rest of his life to the contemplation of Rama and in service of Rama.  2) To consider every woman as his mother  and 3) To carry on with his physical needs by taking food only through begging or when someone offers it voluntarily.

Thus Vittal Rao, having opted to become a lifelong servant of his Lord Ram, took up the name Ramdas.

He donated some money to fellow mendicants. He decided to leave his future course of movement and actions totally to the prompting of Lord Ram or to whatever way the Lord lead him by circumstances, without much of a choice of his own.

And from then onwards, the wondrous ways of the Lord’s divine play started unfolding in his life. An enthralling life of a wandering monk began;  Ramdas was always assisted, taken care of and lead by some stray sadhu or other  who joined with him voluntarily (different persons at different journeys). Ramdas opted to call such a person as Sadhu Ram. According to him, it was verily Lord Ram who came with him to take care of him.

Ramdas travelled to Rameswaram, Madurai, Chidambaram, Thirupapuliyur, Puducherry and then to Thiruvannamalai. At times he travelled in train without tickets and had to face the wrath  from the Ticket Checkers and Police. But through his radiating divinity and utter humility, he won the hearts of even the toughest officers and underwent no punishment. Rather they turned around and extended help to him to proceed with his travels!

Meeting Ramana Maharshi and Having the Universal Vision of Lord Ram

Along with a sadhu Ram accompanying him, Ramdas went to the meet Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi, who was staying in a humble hut at the foothills of Arunachala (Thiruvannamalai). Ramadas surrendered at the holy feet of the saint and made this prayer: “Maharaj, here stands before Thee a humble slave. Have pity on him. His only prayer to Thee is to give him thy blessing.”

Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi — his mere look is enough

The Maharshi, turning his beautiful eyes towards Ramdas, and looking intently for a few minutes into his eyes as though he was pouring into Ramdas his blessing, then nodded his head to indicating that he had blessed. A thrill of inexpressible joy coursed through the frame of Ramdas, his whole body quivering like a leaf in the breeze.

After this darshan, Ramdas wanted to stay up in the in the Arunachala hill in a cave all alone, engaged in his japa and dhyana uninterrupted. Sadhu Ram made arrangements for it. He spent one month ther, deeply engaging in his sadhana and enjoying a divine bliss of Rama consciousness all the time. Every day, he went down to the town to beg some rice; he cooked it and ate it once a day and engaged rest of the day in his deep contemplation.

And one day, as Ramdas came out of the cave,  got the exhilarating divine experience of seeing everything around him verily the manifestations of Rama and nothing else. Ramdas described his experience thus:

Once, during the day, when he was lost in the madness of Ram’s meditation, he came out of the cave and found a man standing a little away from the mouth of the cave. Ramdas felt an irresistible attraction towards this friend because it was due to the perception of Ram in him. “O Ram, You have come, you have come!” Unconsciously, he ran up to him and locked him up in a fast embrace. This action of Ramdas thoroughly frightened the friend who thought that it was a mad man who was behaving in this manner and so was afraid of harm from him. It was true that he was mad of Ram, a harmless madness that the visitor realised later.  At times, he would feel driven to clasp in his arms the very trees and plants growing in the vicinity of the cave. Ram was attracting him from all directions. Oh, the mad and loving attraction of Ram! O Ram, Thou art Love, Light and Bliss!

Travelling to North India

After this experience, Ramdas continued his journey northwards. He went to Tirupati, Puri, Kolkata and Dakshineswar. He visited Dakshineswar Kali temple, the holy place where Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa had lived.

It is in this room that Ramdas rolled on the floors in an inexplicable divine bliss.

A stranger voluntarily took care of his needs and also led him to the room where Sri Ramakrishna lived;  Ramadas felt that the whole room was surcharged with divine vibrations. A divine bliss ran in his nerves wave by wave. Unconsciously, he started rolling over the floor of the room as if to charge him further with the dust of the room that had been purified with the holy feet of Sri Ramakrishna. The visitor was taken aback by the inexplicable divine madness and joy with which Ramadas was rolling on the floor for about half an hour.

Next he visited Tarakanath, Kashi and then reached Jhansi. There he met a businessman by name Mahadeva Prasad; the Moment Sri Prasad saw Ramdas, he was possessed by a great sense of devotion and surrender to the wandering saint. He forced Ramdas to stay with him and ensured that Ramdas’ physical being is taken care of and some health is restored, which had been battered by total discard due to cold, extreme physical strains, lack of nutrition etc.

Ramdas lived in Jhansi for more than a month. He started giving lectures on Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures to small group of devotees who gathered around him and revered him as their guru. Another devotee by name Ramkinkar became quite close to him.

Visiting Himalayas

Ramdas, the weather-beaten, travelling mendicant

Ramdas left Jhansi for travelling to holy places in Himalayas in the company of Ramkinkar. He visited Haridwar, Rishikesh, Kedarnath and Badrinath. All those places were covered by walk. The beauty of Himalayan mountains capped with snow, the holy rivers, the flora and fauna frequently brought Ramdas to rapture and he felt the presence of his Lord Ram everywhere. Ramdas, surcharged with energy like a Hanuman, climbed huge hills surrounding the holy places and took bath in ice cold waters.

After visiting Himalayas, he travelled to Mathura, Gokul and Vrindavan, Raipur, Ajmir, Junagadh, Dwaraka etc and came to Mumbai. He stayed with his erstwhile brother Ramakrishna Rao there. He continued his journey to Panchavati, Trimbakeshwar, Pandharpur, Bijapur and arrived at Hubli, to meet Sri Siddharoodha Swamy at the behest of his brother.

He stayed in the Mutt of Siddharoodha Swamy and enjoyed the company of the revered saint for a week.

Back home

Siddharudha Swamy, Hubli

By this time, the news of his arrival at Hubli reached his erstwhile family at Mangalore. His erstwhile wife along with the daughter came to meet him at Hubli. She prayed to Siddharudha Swami to impress Ramdas to return to Mangalore with her. As instructed by the saint, Ramdas accompanied her back to Mangalore. However he made clear to her that his return to grihasthashram (worldly life) was unthinkable as his life had been possessed by Rama irrevocably.

He stayed with his eartwhile brother Sitarama Rao and also met his father who was his guru too.

Thus the first phase of Ramdas’ spiritual life of intense period of Rama Consciousness in which Ramdas lived the life of a wandering monk for a period of about one year,  came to an end.

Ramdas explains his temperament and state of being during this one year period as below:

During this period, Ramdas’ mind was totally in peace and his life was one of total surrender. The world was dreamlike to him and was virtually non existent.  He travelled from one place to another like a machine. Lord Rama was obviously taking care of him with love and protection. In his exclusive world, only Ram and Ramdas were existent. There was unequivocal bliss in that state. Ramdas was free from dualities — pain and pleasure, heat and cold, good and bad. His mind was always at peace, rest and silence; it was sort of empty too.

 At times, he would suddenly slip to the external world  with all its associated dualities, but Ramdas would be attentive enough to notice it and withdraw his mind inward again. 

Ramdas disliked crowd. He always tried to escape to places of loneliness. Ramdas was totally free from any fear — fear of any danger or even death. He had the strongest conviction that he was in the protection of his Lord.

Rama’s name was constantly on his lips. He kept chanting it mechanically at all times. North Indian acquaintances that became close to him felt that he was totally free from any attachment. 

Ramdas was virtually like a child; he was extremely humble and obedient towards others. He was taken care of by others as if he was a child and they assisted him in taking bath, dressing up, eating and so on.   

He was never attracted or distracted by anything happening in the world. Both his mind and intellect had stopped working. There  was no more the false sense of “I” in him. It was Rama who occupied that space. Ramdas spoke very little in this period. 

He was simply like a dry leaf, swept this way and that way by the wind.”

Austere Life at Pandava Cave

Pandava Cave at Kadri Hill

From his brother’s house, Ramdas then shifted his residence to the Pancha Pandava Cave at Kadri Hills, two miles away from Mangalore. He stayed alone with bare minimum needs and totally immersed himself in meditation and contemplation of Ram there, for a period of about three months. He ate just fruits and drank milk twice a day. His day would start at 3 AM and after ablutions, he would sit chanting japa and soon lose himself in deep meditation for hours at stretch with little external consciousness. He undertook vow of silence for a week.

It was the second phase of his spiritual quest. During this period of sadhana, Ramadas had visions of inner light; he delved deeper into his Self, transcending name, form, thought and intellect. He could experience the purity, silence and the bliss of his Self inside. Gradually, this state became permanent that there was no longer any fall of the mind into the external world.

Next he could feel that the Self (Atman) that was an internal experience of bliss and light was gradually expanding to cover the external world too. His Self bloomed like a flower and in its light, the whole external world was embraced by pure love and light. This bliss that he experienced this way was much more powerful. Even though he had bouts of this experience earlier too, during his days of austerities in Pandava Caves, it became a permanent nature of him. Ramdas became one with Ram.  Ramdas realized that he had now got transformed into a state brimming with energy, love and bliss. The fruit was totally ripe now. He was now fully ready to share that sweet bliss to all those who came into contact with him.

Ramdas, the Tapasvi, radiating divine love — The fruit was totally ripe now.

 

People started coming in large numbers to have his darshan at the cave. Ramdas interacted freely with them and shared his wonderful experiences with them. He spoke on the glory of God and His infinite compassion. He attracted people from all religions. He could instantly communicate with Muslims and Christians too and spoke with them as though he was verily one among them. His radiating divinity broke all boundaries.

During his stay in the caves, Ramdas wrote all the thrilling experiences of his previous one year journey in the book “In Quest of God” which got published first in the year 1925.

During this period at Pancha Pandava Caves, Ramadas served with love a group of beggars suffering under acute leprosy for a brief period.

Spreading his message of Love and bliss – The second round of travelling

Ramdas’ spiritual life now entered into the third phase. Ramdas decided to take up the life of a travelling mendicant once again. But this time, he was on a different mould. He was bent upon sharing his divine bliss to all those seekers who,  attracted by his divine radiance, mobbed him wherever he went. Ramdas visited Kasargod and Kollur. Through the association with a Yogi, he learned and practiced Pranayama. He had mixed experiences — positive and negative through this practice.  After practicing it intensely for some during his stay at Kudlu (near Kasargod) and grasping its efficacy, he discontinued this practice.

At the feet of God

During his lonely stay at Kudlu, Ramdas got an inner urge to outpour his spiritual bliss through writing: He wrote poems, prayers and articles which later in 1928 got published in the form of a book ‘At the feet of God‘.

Ramdas returned to Kadri Hills and stayed there again for about two months. This time, a young man by name Madhav (later Ramas called him Ram Charan Das) started staying with Ramdas and serving him with love and devotion.

Continuing journey northward

Ramdas began his next round of journey towards north by walk and Ram Charan Das joined him, despite Ramdas’ advising him against it.

Ramdas visited Gokaran, Shetphal and Pandharpur. Ramdas now insisted Ram Charan Das to undertake his own journey independently in order to personally taste the bliss of Lord Ram and understand how His love always protected a hapless devotee. Thus they parted ways.

Ramdas travelled alone to Bijapur, Hubli, Bangalore and then went Mangalore and Ernakulam.  Ramdas was taken care of very well by so many people in all the places he visited. People vied with each other to feed him and take spiritual advice from him. Unlike the past, Ramdas was quite open to talk freely with people on matters of God and spirituality and was giving lectures and invited talks to amidst gathering of devout people.

He again travelled northward to Goa, Mumbai, Wadhwan, Surat and many other places in between.  In Wadhwan, Ram Charan Das joined him. Later, again leaving Das to chart his own course, Ramdas left for Jhansi. There his old acquaintances who had become his devotees — Mahadev Prasad and Ramkinkar were emotionally overwhelmed to see him again and happily took care of him. Ramdas conducted satsang amid his several Jhansi devotees.

He then went to Chitrakoot, Bhanda and Gokar Parvat. He travelled to Lalitpur, Rajkot, Sattarpur, Kanpur and then returned to south. He witnessed the marriage of his erstwhile daughter Ramabai at Kasargod and felt happy to feed about 400 poor people as part of the ceremony.

He travelled again to Jhansi and then to Haridwar and Rishikesh. Purely driven by divine will, he travelled up in Himalayas to Vashistha Ashram which was not easily accessible to travellers. Despite his sparse food-intake, Ramdas was at the brim of his energy; climbing trees, cliffs and mountains were like child play to him and he was in constant bliss as he undertook his lonely journey by foot to various places in Himalayas. Everywhere Sadhus and poor villagers took abundant care of him with reverence.

Ramdas next took his  journey to Pathankot, Jammu and Kashmir. He travelled to Amarnath Cave and had the thrill of seeing the ice linga there. He reached Srinagar and met many sadhus. He returned to south via Amritsar, Sattarpur, Mumbai, Sholapur and finally returned to Kasargod. Several miracles happened by the will of the divine around Ramdas and Ramdas took them matter-of-factly with the mood of a witness. Wherever Ramdas went, crowds swelled; Bhajans, Satsangs and feeding of the poor happened.

First Anandashram — at Kasargod

At Kasargod, Ramdas stayed with his eldest brother Ananda Rao. Ananda Rao was very eager to construct an Ashram for Ramadas and a nice place was located at Bilkunchi hill nearby. A devotee leased the land free of charge. Soon construction of a humble Ashram began there in that picturesque surrounding. The ashram was  inaugurated on 3rd June 1928  in the presence of lots of devotees and well wishers, including the aged father and guru of Ramdas.

Coming into the fold of Ramdas — Mother Krishnabai (1903-1989)

It was in the year 1928 that Ma Krishnabai first met Ramdas, at her 25th age. Soon she surrendered totally at the holy feet of Ramdas and became his foremost disciple and future caretaker of Anandashram.  She got spiritual enlightenment by the blessings and guidance of Ramdas through her dedicated practice and surrender; she was held in the highest regard by Ramdas himself for her life totally  spent in loving and serving all. He wrote about Krishnabai at a future occasion: “Krishnabai’s life presents a practical illustration of how an individual can live a life of spontaneous and intense activity while ever fixed in the Divine Consciousness born of complete self-surrender.” 

Krishnabai, a very pious and God-loving brahmin girl right from childhood,  had a very troubled and grief stricken past. She got married at the age of 12 and widowed at the age of 20, having two young boys to take care of. After a failed attempt of suicide, Krishnabai developed dispassion for worldly life and she longed for peace and spiritual guidance to remove her grief and progress in a life dedicated to God. She got her  Mantra initiation from Siddharudha Swami of Hubli. She also had a few other Mantra initiations from others.  She was very dedicated and systematic in practicing mantra japas, without any selfish motive. Yet not finding peace in her life, she stared searching for a Guru who should be a jivan mukta (as per advice given to her by an astrologer).

Her ardent prayers were answered and her life took her to Kasargod. A few days after the Ashram was inaugurated, the caretakers of Krishnabai, who were devoted to Ramdas brought her to the Ashram. Krishnabai felt instantly at peace at her meeting with Ramdas. Ramdas’ divine attraction brought her back to Ashram again and again and she enjoyed Ramdas’ satsang immensely.

Soon she received Mantra Diksha from Ramdas and started actively engaged in japa as per his guidelines; she continued to be a regular visitor to the ashram ; however, Ramdas did not permit her to stay in Ashram, despite her deep wish to do so. She got closely acquainted with the esrtwhile family members of Ramdas (wife Rukmabai and daughter Ramabai) who too were now earnest devotees of Ramdas.

During the early stages of Ashram, Ramdas stayed fully in the Ashram and several earnest devotees too stayed with him. After about a year,  Ramdas heeded to the repeated plea of his devotees from North India to visit them.

Mother Krishnabai, could not bear the idea of getting separated from her guru and she pleaded to Ramdas not to leave devotees like her to despair through the separation. She wanted to stay in the Ashram permanently. But Ramdas was firm that her duty to her children demanded her presence at home. One day, she left the ashram late in the evening with lot of reluctance. The next morning news came that she had spent the whole night alone at the adjacent hill and she was bitten by a snake in her leg and her leg was fully swollen.

Ramdas rushed to see her at the hills and brought her to the Ashram; he chided her for her obstination  and then arranged to send her back home. After treatment Krishnabai became alright.

Ramdas travels across North India again

Ramdas visited Bangalore, Sholapur, Pandharpur, Anchor and Osmanabad.  Old acquaintances and new devotees surrounded him wherever he went; bhajans and satsangs happened amid huge gatherings.  In Osmanabad, people belonging to cobbler class (considered untouchables those days) invited Ramdas to attend a devotional function at their place. Ramdas visited them along with several brahmin devotees. A massive crowd of cobbler community had gathered there to have a darshan of Ramdas. They conducted pada puja to him and offered prasad that even the brahmins took along with him.

From there, Ramdas proceeded to Mumbai, Wadhwan, Rajkot, Ahmadabad, Agra and Jhansi. He briefly returned to Kasargod to see his seriously ailing father and then started again to the disappointment his close devotees at home. Ramdas travelled to Chennai, Nagpur, Jhansi and Rawalpindi. Everywhere his old eager devotees were overwhelmed to meet him again and enjoy his divine company. Next Ramdas went to Srinagar and then returned to Rawalpindi. Then he visited Dhanbad, Katrasgarh, Chennai, Kumbakonam, Ernakulam and finally returned to Kasargod.

Krishnabai leaves her family and returns to Ramdas

During the period of his absence, Krishnabai lovingly took care of and nursed the aged and ailing father of Ramdas and also Rukmabai who was suffering from Asthma.

After his return, Krishnabai had to accompany her relatives to Dharwar, which she did extremely reluctantly due to her unwillingness to part with Ramdas. She went to Mumbai, entrusted her children to her close relatives and then took  a firm decision to leave worldly life and return to Ramdas. She arrived at Kasargod by train virtually empty handed and decided to walk straight to the ashram all alone in the night. By a divine miracle, she was guided to the ashram in total darkness through a mysterious light emanating from her feet; thus, she presented herself before Ramdas unawares at about 9 PM at the Ashram! Ramdas was undertaking a vow of silence and fasting those days and he burst out into laughter upon seeing Krishnabai there at those odd hours. Krishnabai too had a hearty laugh!

Ramdas wrote in a piece of paper “Mother, you have come to your own home now; the ashram shall, in future, be your permanent place of residence“. Krishnabai felt a great relief and joy on seeing the welcome note.

Krishnabai comes into the fold of Ramdas permanently and dedicates her life to serve him and the Ashram.

As expectable in a conservative society, a young widow leaving behind her family and staying permanently and interacting actively with Ramdas, created slanderous talks and gossips. Other residents in the ashram were threatened by their families and most of them left. Regular visitors to the ashram too started dwindling.

Krishnabai’s self-realization

Krishnabai immersed herself to active sadhana under the guidance of Ramdas at the Ashram. When Ramdas asked Krishnabai as to what sort of spiritual attainment she was keen to get, Krishnabai replied: “Papa, I want to be one with your eternal and infinite Being and know you and I are one. Besides, nobody should know that I have realized your immanent and transcendent Being.

Ramdas engaged Krishnabai to practice deep meditation for the first time. With total dedication and mental strength Krishnabai immersed herself deep into her inner being and soon realized her individual self merging with Universal self, which, according to her experience was nothing but the all pervading formless aspect of her beloved Papa Himself. This happened in the year 1930. After she got that experience, Krishnabai lost interest in all her service activities including serving Papa and she was content to remain immersed in divine bliss.

Kasargod Anadashram abandoned

During a brief period, when only Ramdas and Krishnabai stayed alone at the Ashram, thieves and thugs came to the Ashram at one night. One of them tried to misbehave with Krishnabai; fortunately, by chanting Rama nama loudly, both Ramdas and Krishnabai got protected by the power of Lord Rama and the thieves ran away, totally scared.

This incidence made Ramdas to take a decision that such a secluded place away from any residences nearby was not safe for women devotees. He decided to abandon the ashram and leave Kasargod immediately, leaving future things to unfold as per the will of Rama. But Krishnabai pleaded to him again and again not to forsake her and she begged him to take her along wherever he opted to go. After refusing for a while, Ramdas ultimately decided not to forsake his ardent disciple. He took her to Hosdurg and stayed with devotees.

New Anandashram comes up at Manjapathi (Ramnagar), Kanhangad

Based on the suggestion and requests by earnest devotees, Ramdas decided to start a new Ashram close to Manjapathi hill which was also close to Kanhangad town and yet a picturesque and extremely peaceful place, surrounded by natural greenery, fertile fields and the hills.

Anandashram (1933)

Ramdas wrote to all his acquaintances across India for their help in starting the new ashram. Money flowed in generously from eager devotees. Without any delay, construction of the new ashram premises started. The new Anandashram was inaugurated on May 15h, 1931. Ramdas dedicated the Ashram to the service of the people cutting across all barriers of caste, religion, age, sex or creed and the two guiding principles of the Ashram would be Universal Love and Service. Krishnabai gradually was able to a return to a state of active life (yet blissfully remaining in sahaja samadhi state)  and was in the forefront of the inaugural function and all the other activities of the new Ashram. She was a born administrator and showed her mettle in facing all hardships with smile and serving everyone with love and care like a mother.

Ramdas considered all religions equal and respected all the great spiritual masters of the past. The Ashram sported the pictures and portraits of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Saradadevi, BHagwan Ramana Maharshi, Saibaba, Jesus Christ, Sri Aurobindo, Lord Buddha, Jorastra, Swami Vivekananda, Gurunanak and Ramdas’ own guru — his father.

Soon Rukmabai and also Ramdas’s father and Guru left their worldly life.

Soon the Anandashram became the center of attraction to so many devotees; people and spiritual aspirants from all walks of life came to Anandashram to take part in japa, meditation and satsangs. Several distinguished Sadhus from other religious maths too regularly visited the Ashram to be in the divine company of Ramdas.

‘The Vision’ magazine

The Ashram’s monthly English Magazine ‘The Vision’ with Ramdas as its editor started its publication in the year 1933. The magazine continues to be published even today.

Ramdas’ second round of travelling experiences  were written by him in the form of a book ‘In the Vision of God’ which got published by Anandashram in the year 1934.

Ashram expands

Ramdas’ physical body had got considerably weakened on account of his incessant travels totally ignoring proper food and rest; he was affected by rheumatism and exhaustion. Krishnabai took extreme care and concern on his physical frame by providing him with essential minimum comforts and rest which he was all along negligent of. Ramdas, by this time was also free from his erstwhile tendency to wander with total freedom  except for two tours done during 1931 to 1938, done in the company of his caretakers. He stayed put in the Ashram between 1938 to 1949. Consequently, more and more of his devotees and new visitors started visiting the Ashram and the Ashram had to expand.

Ramdas made it a point to feed the poor in large numbers particularly at the times of religious festivals, cutting across all barriers of caste, religion or creed.

From the generous contribution from devotees, new buildings to house the printing activities, kitchen, guest house, residential quarters for the staff, Cowshed and so on.

An elementary school under the care of the Ashram (Sri Krishna Vidyalaya) was started in the year 1942. In the year 1946, Sri Krishna Udyogshala, an institute for vocational training was started. A small hospital was also run by the Ashram from 1952.  (All these institutions were handed over to Government in later years).

Coming into the fold of Ramdas — Swami Satchidananda (1919-2008)

It was in the year 1947 that  Ananta Sivan at his age of 28 met Ramdas at the Ashram for the first time. As a young brahmin boy of 5 to 6 years, Ananta Sivan had lost his mother and did not have a happy home at his childhood. After his education he joined defence services. He had deep spiritual inclination and was searching for meaning to his life. After having a few bouts of depression, he was guided to meet Ramdas by divine dispensation. He was instantly attracted by the divinity of Ramdas and the bountiful motherly love from Krishnabai. He felt that his real home was Anadashram and he became its permanent resident from 1949.

Swami Satchidananda with Mother Krishnabai 

He served Ramdas as a secretary and took care of his personal needs. He also assisted in the hectic activities of Krishnabai. Due to an inner urge, he felt the need to go to Himalayas and do intense spiritual practice so as to qualify himself better for a truly devoted selfless service at the Ashram. Despite Krishnabai’s objections, he went to Rishikesh and started practicing meditation in solitude.

Swami Satchidananda

However, after about 8 months, he was called back by Ramdas to accompany them on an Indian tour. Circumstances developed in such a way that he could not return to Rishikesh and he understood clearly that his life and spiritual progress was linked to serving Ramdas and being a right hand to Krishnabai in her administrative work. Parallely progressing in his spiritual quest, Ananta Sivan was given Sanyasa Diksha with a name Satchidananda. He too became a self-illumined disciple of Ramdas and the future head of the ashram after the departure of Ramdas and Krishnabai from the world.

Ramdas undertakes World Tour

Anandashram Trust was formed in the year 1954.  Ramdas accompanied by Krishnabai and Swami Satchidanda undertook a world tour from August 1954 until January 1955.

His world tour covered Switzerland, Germany, France and England at Europe.  At france (Gretz) he visited Ramakrishna ashram and met Swami Siddeshwarananda.  At Sussex in England, he met the famous Christian mystique Henry Thomas Hamblin. Papa also visited Shakespere’s birthplace. Ramdas conducted Satsangs and spread the message of Universal love and God consciousness in all the places he visited, which were attended by avid spiritual seekers cutting across religious barriers.

His tour continued to USA and Hawaii; He then proceeded to Japan and met the famous Buddhist scholar D.T. Suzuki there. The tour continued to Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaya, Singapore, Cylon and back to India.

During world tour – Swami Satchidananda with Papa Ramdas

 

End of Papa

On the evening of July 25th 1963 at Papa’s 80th year, he had a severe heart attack.  He was collapsing and Mother Krishnabai and Swami Satchidananda managed to take him to his cot. While lying down there, he  suddenly sat up chanting “Hari, Hari, Hari Ram.” With the name of God on his lips Papa breathed his last.

At the feet of Ramdas…

While his divine presence without his physical body continued to be felt in the Ashram, Krishnabai carried on with the running of the Ashram with her motherly love and care and continued to guide avid seekers in the spiritual path of Nam-Dhyan-Seva for the next 26 years. After her passing away, Swami Satchidananda took care of the Ashram and continued to inspire avid seekers till he breathed his last in 2008.

Reverberating ever with the chanting of Ram nam and surcharged with the subtle presence of these three great spiritual masters, Anandashram continues to be the place of attraction for sincere seekers of Spirituality at Kanhangad, Kerala.

….Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram….

-=0O0=-

REFERENCES:

  1. Anandashram – official website
  2. In Quest of God – by Papa Ramdas — free pdf download from Anandashram website
  3.  “Introduction to The Essential Swami Ramdas” by Susunaga Weeraperuma – free pdf: World Wisdom, Inc.
  4. In the vision of God – by Papa Ramdas — free pdf download (from Anandashram website)
  5. My beloved Papa Ramdas by Swami Satchidananda — From Divine Life Society web page
  6. Guru’s Grace — Life of Mother Krishnabai – Free pdf download
  7. Video — Swami Ramdas’ World tour

 

 

Brief Life History of Shirdi Sai Baba

Who is Shirdi Sai Baba?

Shirdi Sai Baba (~1838/42-1918) was a very unique Avatar of God; he was a realized saint who knew his oneness with God. His Avatar perhaps was ordained to foster Hindu Muslim unity, though a vast majority of his devotees were essentially Hindus even during his times, as it is now; he lived in Shirdi (which was not his birthplace) for almost 60 years. Shirdi is in Marathwada region where Islamic population too is considerable.

He emphasised ‘Sabka Malik Ek‘ (God of all people is one). Saibaba was, in all probability, had no formal education, but he had extensive knowledge on Bhagavad Gita. His life and utterances reflected the highest truth of Vedanta. He was also very knowledgeable in Koran.

It is widely believed that his Guru was a Muslim fakir (a Sufi saint), who too was a knower of God. Sai Baba dressed up like a Fakir and lived in a dilapidated mosque. That lead some people to think that he was a Muslim Fakir.

Sai Baba did not put any of his teachings in writing; he never gave any discourses; however, his sayings have been recorded by his followers.

Sai Baba often hinted that he did not come to teach, but to awaken. He brought this awakening through his unconditional love towards his followers. Surrender to him unconditionally and he will never let you down –that was the level of confidence he imbibed into his devotees. Baba’s response to his devotee’s call for help is as eager, as ardent and as urgent as the devotee’s call itself. His sayings too stand testimony to this. It is true even today.

The way devotees throng at Shirdi in thousands on a daily basis and in lakhs on festive occasions despite the passage of more than a century after his departure from the world stand testimony to this assurance and faith.

Crowd of devotees waiting for Darshan at Shirdi Sai Samadhi. (Inset: Image of Sri Sai at his Samadhi mandir)

Birth and Early years

Little information was available from Sai Baba about his origins. Connecting historical happenings during his period, it is believed that he was born somewhere between 1838 to 1842.

There was no solid proof available about Sai Baba’s place of birth, religion or caste during his lifetime. Sai Baba never revealed anything about his origins to his devotees.

Two evidences from people who lived close with Sai Baba at Shirdi lead researchers to believe Sai Baba was a Hindu — one, he had his ears pierced and two, he was not found circumcised.  In later period, researcher (Shri V.B,Kher, a Sai devotee and a biographer of Sai) based on several hints collected from Sai Baba’s conversations with devotees in his authentic biographies, by visiting places mentioned there, meeting people etc,  was able to reasonably deduce where his birth place is.

It is believed to be villege Pathri, situated in Parbhani district of Maharashtra, some 150 km south east of Daulatabad. Connecting events of the distant past with family histories learned from aged residents of the village, the researchers also felt that a boy born in a Brahmin family of Bhausaris (Shukla Yajurvedi Brahmins of Koushika Gotra) who had reportedly left his home at an age of about five with a Muslim Fakir was Sai Baba in all probability. They also located the ruined house  of the Bhausaris at Pathri. The name of the Sufi Fakir who became the custodian and spiritual master of the young Brahmin boy was (deduced to be)  Roshan Sha Mia.

The family deity of Bhausari family was Hanuman. After picking up bits and pieces from Sai Baba’s utterances, Baba’s deep knowledge of Hinduism, his practice of celebrating Ram Navami regularly at Shirdi during his final years and the liking he had on Hanuman and a couple of other coincidences, Shri V.B. Kher satisfied himself on his findings. Shri Kher bought the piece of land in 1978 from a descendent of Bhusari Brahmin family at Pathri. Construction of a Sai temple there began in 1994 and On 19th October 1999, the Sai Janmasthan Temple was inaugurated.

Sai Janmasthan temple at Pathri, Maharashtra.

So, it is now more or less an agreed belief that Sai Baba was a Brahmin by birth. Even if he were to be a Muslim, Islam does not have any scope or provision to worship any person as God.

Saibaba reportedly traveled across several places of Marathwada along with his Fakir Guru. He (according to his own statements) was under the care of his guru for 12 long years and served him with love and humility and received love and blessings from his guru in abundance.  It is also believed that Sai Baba was indeed ‘born perfect’ and his innate divinity got just rekindled by association with such a formal Guru. Several statements of Saibaba reveals that he remained in a state of Advaita (a state of non-duality — being one with God) and uttered them with utmost authority and assurance.

It is learnt that Baba, after remaining a wandering monk upto his age of 25 to 30 and before coming and settling Shirdi, was staying in Aurangabad and he was the spiritual master of a fakir by name Bade Baba or Fakir Baba for 12 years. Incidentally,  many years later,  Bade Baba returned to stay with his erstwhile master at Shirdi in the year 1902.

Arrival at Shirdi

Sai Baba arrived for the first time at Shirdi some time the year 1868-1872, when he was around 25 to 30 years old. He was a serene looking young man, tempered by a disciplined life of tapas and austerity. He came to Shirdi along with a marriage party of Chand Patil of Dupkhed; Chand Patil (a muslim)  had brought Sai Baba along with him, to attend the marriage of his sister with one one Hamid of Shirdi.

How did Chand Patil get acquainted with Sai Baba?

The story goes that Chand Patil met Sai Baba on his way from his village towards to Aurangabad while going by walk after he unfortunately lost his mare. He met this young man (Baba) looking like a fakir under a tree, who told him that his lost mare was just in the nearby vicinity, close to a stream there. Patil went in search and was surprised to find his mare there. As he returned to the young Fakir to thank him, he found him preparing his hookah by getting a piece of burning charcoal and also some water by simply digging into earth! The fakir shared the smoke with the traveller too. Impressed by these miracles, Chand Patil took the Fakir reverentially with him to his home to be his guest. Subsequently, he also took him to the marriage ceremony at Shirdi to bless the couples.

No one knew the name of this Fakir. The story goes that when he arrived at Shirdi and got down from the cart, the local Khandoba temple owner and priest Bhagat Mhalsapati saw him first and welcomed him “Ya Sai!” (Welcome Sai) and this name Sai stuck. (The word Sai or Sain/ Sayi denotes Lord,God, saint, husband (beloved) or Fakir. Baba means father). Incidentally, after a couple of  years of arrival of  Sai Baba, Mhalsapati accepted Sai Baba as his Sadguru and became a lifelong devotee to serve Him.

After the marriage, the party with Chand Patil left Shirdi, but Sai Baba stayed back. Initially, Saibaba stayed at the outskirts of Shirdi in Babul forest for nearly 2.5 years, then under a neem tree for four to five years. During this period, he was deeply immersed in Self, ignoring rain and shine and living day and night in the open.

Living under Neem tree and Guru Sthan

According to another version of the story , it is said that he came to Shirdi much earlier, when he was about 16 or 17 years old and  lived with his Guru near the neem tree without much of public gaze across 12 years.

Sai Baba had mentioned about the existence of the tomb of his guru underground adjacent to the neem tree. When dug, four earthen lamps and a japa mala were found there. Baba prevented further digging as the tomb of the guru existed further below. Sai Baba mentioned the existence of a tunnel there where he did his tapas without getting disturbed from the outer world. His utterances on this matter were not so clear whether he was mentioning about his Guru and his life in the present Avatar or in his previous birth. This tunnel reportedly extended upto the Masjid to which Saibaba shifted to live later.

Later he shifted to the dilapidated Masjid where he lived permanently thereafter.

During these early years, Sai Baba had no proper food. He would go for alms and be content to eat whatever people gave him. However, a kind-hearted lady by name Bayajabai somehow seemed to understand the high spiritual status of Sai Baba and she took a vow to feed Baba before she ate her food. She would take the meals for Baba. go in search of him near the neem tree oand surrounding places in the jungle, locate him and feed him.

People by and large thought he was a mad Fakir, till a well known Vaishnava Saint by name Gangagir Bua, who often visited Shirdi, met Baba; he could grasp Baba’s true stature of divinity and he spread word.  Two other sadhus who lived in Shirdi at that time by name Devidas and Janakidas too started liking the company of the saintly Sai Baba. Soon, one by one people started going to him and were amply rewarded by his blessings.

Living at Dwaraka Mai (Masjid)

An old photo of entrance of Masjid (Dwarakamai). Sai Baba seen at the right extreme.

Mhalsapati, Kashiram Shimpi and Appa Jagle of Shirdi were the earliest disciples of Sai Baba, who surrendered to him and served him with devotion.  It is by their efforts that Sai Baba shifted from the neem tree to the dilapidated Masjid in Shirdi; This masjid became his permanent abode till the end of his life, spanning about 60 years. He named the place Dwaraka MaiMhalsapati became the closest of all and he served his Master till Baba left his mortal body.

An artist view of Sai Baba sitting inside the Masjid (Dwarakamai).

 In fact, it was Sai Baba who attracted devotees and ardent seekers living in distant places by creating circumstances in their lives or by sending word to them to come and meet Him. He said that his relation as  Guru with some of his disciples started a couple of births ago and he was duty-bound to take care of them and lead them to enlightenment across births.

After his permanent occupation at Dwaraka mai, more spiritually inclined seekers like Appa Kulkarni, Nana Saheb Dengle, Chidambar Keshav, Madhav Rao Deshpande, Nanasaheb Nimonkar, Nanasaheb Chandorkar, Das Ganu and others frequently visited Sai Baba and accepted Him as their Sadguru and surrendered to him.

By the grace and blessings of Sai Baba, Das Ganu  (real name Shri Ganapat Dattatreya Saharabuddhe) a former policeman left his job, surrendered to Sai and later blossomed into a great poet, singing the glory of his guru through his kirtans. He was hailed as a santkavi.

It was through Nanasaheb Chandorkar (a well educated person in Sanskrit and Hindu scriptures) that the outer world came to know of Sai Baba’s extensive knowledge on Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures of Hinduism.

Abdul, the Muslim disciple of Sai Baba too came to Sai Baba through his calling. Abdul was earlier a servitor of Amiruddin fakir of Nanded. It was through Abdul that the world came to know of the extensive knowledge Sai Baba had on Islam, the Koran, Sira— the life of Mohammad, Sunna (code of conduct) , hadith (traditions), sharia (laws) and so on.

Common people started coming to Sai Baba in large numbers for curing them of their ailments and seeking solutions to their worldly worries. During his early days, Sai Baba prepared some indigenous medicines and gave to them. People got cured miraculously and they spread words; more and more people came to him for the purpose.

The Dhuni and Udi as prasad

At Dwaraka mai, Sai Baba started a Dhuni — a fire place where he arranged to keep a sacred fire burning perpetually. Baba stopped preparing and giving medicines;  instead, he started giving the ash (Udi) from the Dhuni as his prasad.  Sai Baba’s udi prasad soon became a ‘cure all’ medicine for many people, including people having mental problems. Through the udi, what they really received was the unconditional love and divine blessings from Sai Baba.

As Baba’s popularity grew, people started bringing food for him to the Masjid and gradually, the need for him to go around the village for seeking alms came down.

Sai Baba as a Saint and Sadguru

Baba radiated divine love; his compassion flowed unconditionally towards all those who came to him with faith and trust hoping their problems to get solved. Spiritually inclined seekers who came to him, grasped his divine nature and surrendered to his feet considering him to be their Sadguru.

Baba remained a unique blend of all religious faiths and he did not discriminate people based on religion, sect, caste, race, sex or language. He strengthened the faiths of devotees to their respective religions and guided them individually on spiritual practices suited to each one’s capacity, calibre and taste.

He taught his devotees self-restraint, detachment, faith in God and faith in guru.Without being preachy, he taught philosophy, devotion, spiritual discipline, morality, right conduct for daily life and fellow-feeling towards all living beings.

He encouraged sadaks whose worldly duties were over, to live with him and concentrate on sadhana for spiritual enlightenment.  He discouraged youngsters from relinquishing worldly life out of over-enthusiasm without the necessary mental strength for renunciation.

Many devotees of Lord Dattatreya who came to him considered him to be an avatar of Dattatreya. Akkalkot Swami (Shri Swami Samarth)  was a highly revered and a contemporary saint of Sai Baba who was considered  an Avatar of Dattatreya. Many of his devotees held Sai Baba in very high regard. It is said that Akkalkot Swami directed some of his disciples to go to Sai Baba for guidance after his departure.

Likewise devotees of other God forms (Lord Ganesha, Hanuman and so on) too considered Saibaba as the divine Avatar of their personal Gods.  Some such devotees, who had taken vows to make certain money offerings to their deities in times hardships faced in their lives,  conveniently forgot to make the offerings to their deities once they came out of the difficulties. When they came to Saibaba, there were several instances where Baba asked for and collected such money from them!

Sai Baba strongly condemned religious conversions. Once a person who had  converted to Islam from being a Hindu came to Sai Baba for his darshan, Sai Baba slapped him on his face saying, “Are you not ashamed of changing your father?”

Baba’s daily Life – Simplicity personified

Saibaba always donned a Kafni (long full sleeved kurta), wore a langot (waist band) and covered His head with a piece of cloth. He sat on a piece of sackcloth, and his bed too was a sackcloth. He wore his dress till they were torn and turn to become rags. He always said “Poverty is better than Kingship, far better than Lordship. The Lord is always brother of the poor.”

During his early years, Saibaba went out for begging his food; whatever solid and liquid food items he was given, he collected them separately, brought them to the Masjid, kept them in open pots and ate from them. Those who came to him and those who did service to him (like cleaning the masjid premises) could also partake the food from the pots. Dogs too came to him and had their share from the collection.

In later periods, as the number of close devotees increased, devotees brought food for him from their homes to the masjid and the need for going out for daily alms stopped. Using the provisions that people brought, Saibaba sometimes cooked the food and offered it as prasad to the devotees. The prasad he made at times contained meat too that non-vegetarians devotees partook from him.

Baba’s close devotees always worshiped him and revered him as God. As part of the daily routine in Dwarakamai, an aarati (formal worship with lighted lamp) in the noon and one aarati at night was performed to Sai Baba by close devotees (like Mhalsapati) amidst chanting of hymns. Of course, this practice was not to the liking of some people of the Muslim community in and around Shirdi.

Baba had no personal wants or needs. For so many years, Baba never had any need for money. During his later years in life, Sai Baba accepted dakshina (offering of money) from his devotees. Whatever Sababa received — be food, provisions or cash, he distributed amidst the visiting needy devotees and also to his close associates who served him and had families to take care of. Many devotees observed that the money Sai Baba distributed daily to others appeared to be more than what he used to receive as dakshina!

When Sai Baba attained Samadhi, a Policeman present on duty at Dwarakamai at that time officially took charge of Sai Baba’s possessions and according to the report, Sai Baba had just 16 rupees with him in his possession!

Baba and miracles

Baba in numerous miraculous ways played the role of God, a mentor, a Guru, a guide and a savior in the lives of devotees who surrendered to him with unflinching faith. Practically all devotees of Baba had some miraculous experience or other in their lives  to come out of worldly worries and calamities. Such experiences redoubled their faith on His divinity and helped them to tread the path of dharma and spirituality.

Baba’s devotees experienced that He knew every detail of their lives without the need of telling him; Baba read their good and bad thoughts and constantly warned them from going astray.  When caught up in deep troubles, Baba heard their prayers and came to their rescue in some way or other, in some human form or other wherever they were. Sai Baba willingly took up the bad prarabdhas (effects of bad karmas of the past) of some of his devotees on himself in order to reduce their suffering and burden.

There were many instances when Sai Baba blessed progeny to childless couples, saved devotees from accidents and life threatening diseases, protected them from financial disasters, helped them in getting the right match in marriages and so on.  Reviving the dead to life was also performed by Sai on one or two rare occasions.

Very occasionally, Baba also openly displayed a few miracles. Here are a few of them:

  • Baba in deep Samadhi bordering on death for 3 days. This happened in the year 1885. Sai Baba had a severe bout of asthma; he called Mhalsapati and said, “I am going into samadhi; please take care of my body for 3 days”. Mhalsapati stayed day and night with the motionless body of Sai that looked almost dead. Some people in Shirdi believed that Sai Baba was dead and wanted to cremate his body. But Mhalsapati stood very firm. Baba regained outer consciousness after three days.
  • Stirring boiling food with bare hands. Devotees had witnessed  Sai Baba sometimes cooking Prasad for feeding the gathering in a large pot. He would simply use his hands instead of a ladle to stir the boiling contents in the pot.
  • Arresting spread of Cholera. During 1910, Shirdi was affected by Cholera. A few people died. One day Sai Baba was seen single handedly grinding a sack of wheat in a hand grinding stone. Local ladies came to assist him and when the work was over, they attempted to take the flour with them to their houses. Sai Baba scolded them severely and asked them to collect the flour and spread it along the borders of the village. Wondering why, they obeyed his words. Sai Baba clarified later that by this weird gesture, he had prevented spreading of Cholera in Shirdi.  After this incidence,  no death occurred on account of Cholera in Shirdi.
  • Preventing Plague deaths. In 1911, plague epidemic broke out and it started affecting Shirdi too. At that time, seven or eight buboes appeared in Baba’s body and he got fever. His devotees got scared. Baba used his own medicine (ghee) for applying over buboes which he recommended to others too. Baba assured them that neither He nor anyone in Shirdi would die on account of plague and he had taken up the calamity on himself to ward off the epidemic. It was proved true.
  • Bringing holy waters. Once, Das Ganu thought that he should go to Prayag for a bath, and came to Baba to get His permission for doing so. Baba replied to him – “It is not necessary to go so long. Our Prayag is here, believe me.” When Das Ganu placed his head on Baba’s Feet, out came or flowed streams of water — of Ganga and Yamuna, from both the toes of Baba.

Baba’s two Biographers who were direct devotees

Shri Govind R Dabholkar was a Brahmin by birth and he was a 1st class Resident Magistrate in Borsad before he retired. Nana Saheb Chandorkar was his friend and due to the later’s insistence, he came and met Sai Baba initially with some reluctance in the year 1910. He was bowled by Sai Baba’s radiating divinity and his thirst to have a guru came to an end. He started visiting Baba regularly. in 1916, a year before Sai Baba’s departure, Shama, a friend of Dabholkar and an ardent devotee of Baba convinced Baba for the need of having an authentic biography of Him written and Baba gave his blessings to Dabholkar for writing it.

With the help of all close Sai devotees, Dabholkar collected information about Sai Baba’s sayings, leelas and miracles from the real life experiences of many devotees for 13 years from 1917 to 1929. He wrote Shri Sai Satcharitra in Marathi in the form of verses and they first got serialized in Sri Sai Leela magazine from 1923 (6 years after Sai Baba’s Maha Samadhi). Shri Sai Satcharitra complete in book form came out 1929. Sri Dabholkar passed away in the same year.

After his retirement, Dabholkar served Sai Baba very sincerely till Baba’s Mahasamadhi and afterwards managed very skillfully and efficiently Sai Baba’s Shirdi Sansthan till his death in 1929.

Shri Sai Satcharitra was the first authentic source book on the Avatar and leela of Shirdi Sai, and it was written not as a biography in chronological order, but in the form of a Pothi, a religious book. It contained 53 chapters and 9308 verses. This book, in later years, got translated into English and  other Indian languages.

Sri Vaman Prangovind Patel (Later Swami Sai Sharan Anand) was one of the most faithful and true disciples of Sai Baba. He was  a Gujarati Brahmin by birth, studied B.A., L.L.B and worked as a solicitor at Mumbai. When Vaman was five, Sai Baba (identified by his mother as an unknown person who appeared before her as a Fakir) saved his live from acute diarrhoea by giving sacred udi. Vaman as a youth longed for getting a Guru who can assure him of getting direct perception of God; he first met Sai Baba at Shirdi when he was 22 years old, in the year 1911.

He visited Sai Baba again in 1913 and was was retained by Baba to be with him for 11 months. Baba engaged Vaman in reading scriptures like Jnaneshwari under his guidance, made him do Gayathri Purascharan and seek alms from the local households.

Again in 1916, Vaman stayed with Baba for 3 weeks when he was blessed with valuable spiritual experiences. In 1946 (some 28 years after Sai Baba’s maha samadhi) Vaman wrote two books in Gujarati on the life of Baba — Sai Leelakhyan and Shri Sai Baba. After his wife and daughter passed away, Vaman  took up Sanyas (with the monaistic name Swami Sai Sharan Anand) at the age of 64. He lived to ripe old age (93 years) and passed away in 1982.  3 more books of him  Sainathne Sharane, Brahma Parimal and Siddhamrit got published posthumously.

His books exemplify his great devotion to Sai Baba and they remain one of the best sources of information on Shirdi Sai.

Sathe Wada – The first dormitory for visiting devotees

Over years, as Sai Baba’s residence in the Dwaraka Mai Masjid became permanent and devotees from outstation started coming in large numbers, Baba’s devotee Hari Vinayak Sathe bought the land covering the sacred neem tree, Gurusthan and adjacent areas. In 1908, he constructed a wada (traditional mansion) there which was called Sathe Wada. The wada served as the sole resting place for visiting devotees, till the time Dixit Wada too came up.

Dixit Wada – the second dormitory for visiting devotees

Kaka Saheb Dixit, a rich solicitor from Mumbai first met Sai Baba in the year 1909. He became an ardent devotee of Sai Baba and decided to settle in Shirdi to live the rest of his life in the holy company of Baba. He bought land adjacent to Gurusthan and constructed Dixit Wada,   to be his residence as well as a resting place for people visiting Sai Baba from distant places. The Wada was constructed and inaugurated on the day of Ram Navami in the year 1911.

Sai Baba and Muslims

Devoted Muslims

As we saw already, Sai Baba had two earnest devotees who stayed with him were Muslims – Abdul and Bade Baba (Fakir Baba).

Sai Baba had many other Muslim devotees who considered him as a Pir (A Sufi Saint) or Awliya (An Islamic guardian/ protector).

From 1911, when Ram Navami celebrations (with a procession ending at  Dwaraka mai masjid) became an annual festival celebrated with fanfare at Shirdi as per suggestion of Sai Baba, some Muslim devotees headed by one Amir Shakkar too pitched in with a Sandal Procession (Urus festival) on the same day; Hindus and Muslims participated in both processions, thereby building a good interfaith comradery.

Discordant Muslims

In 1894, some intolerant Muslims with the support of Kazi of Sangamner assembled with lathis in order to attack the devotees who worshiped Sai Baba as God inside the masjid. Mhalsapati, who used to do the  daily aarati was in a fix and he did not know what to do. However, Sai Baba summoned him inside and asked him to proceed with his daily worship. The militant assembly of armed Muslims stood there transfixed, unable to move their limbs! They got scared of Sai Baba’s divine power and retreated never to attempt any such move there after.

Some 20 years after this incidence, a fundamentalist Pathan was dead against Hindus worshiping Sai Baba and he sought Sai’s permission to massacre all the Hindus sleeping at the Chavdi. Sai Baba told him to cut His throat first before attempting to do any harm to Hindus. A few days later, with hatred brimming on Baba, the Pathan came to attack Sai Baba with a large stick. Sai Baba simply caught him by his wrist and the pathan fell to ground losing all his power.

Muslims also created trouble when Sai Baba attained Maha Samadhi. (This is covered later in the article).

Construction of Buti Wada – and the end of Sai Baba’s avatar

Gopalrao (Bapusaheb) Buti, The man who built Buti Wada where Sai Baba’s samadhi exists.

Gopalrao Buti was an extremely rich devotee of Sai Baba who hailed from Nagpur met Baba in 1907.  From 1910, he shifted to Shirdi permanently to live with Sai Baba and was contemplating to build a house for him there. One night, Baba appeared in Buti’s dream and asked him to construct a Wada (Mansion) with a temple in it.  Very surprisingly, in the same night, Baba appeared in Madhavrao Deshpande’s dream and said “Let there be a wada with temple so that I can satisfy the desires of all”. Both were sleeping in Dixit Wada when this happened.

When they shared the experience with each other, Buti decided to build a grand mansion with black stones. With Sai Baba’s blessing and also approval of the building plan, the construction started in 1915. Buti wanted to install, in the sanctum sanctorum, Lord Muralidhar (Krishna playing flute) there.

Madhavrao supervised the construction of the ground floor. Sai Baba visited the site while construction was in progress and offered some suggestions too. Sai Baba once said “When the temple is built, we shall inhabit it and ever live in joy there!”

While the construction was nearing the end, Sai Baba fell sick and his condition started deteriorating. Gopalrao Buti became restless. He wondered whether Baba would live to see the temple, let alone come and stay there as promised by him. “If Baba is not going to live there, what is the point in constructing this wada and temple?” he thought.

Baba’s close devotees nursed him with all love and care, but there was so sign of recovery. Baba’s last words were: “Take me to the wada. I would feel better there”.   But before his devotees could shift him, He breathed his last at 2:35PM on 15th October 1918 at the Masjid. News spread quickly and all close devotees of Sai Baba thronged at the Masjid.

Unfortunately, there were discordant opinions in conducting the last rites for Baba’ body  between Sai’s Hindu devotees (who were in majority) and the Muslims.  The Muslim devotees headed by Bade Baba did not want Hindus to touch Sai Baba’s body and they wanted to take the body to kabari-sthan as per Islamic rites. Against Muslims’ stiff resistance, Sai’s devotee Laxman Bhat performed puja to Sai’s body as per Hindu traditions and applied tilak at Sai’s forehead. Hindus planned to shift Sai’s body to Buti Wada and place it in a samadhi and started necessary digging work work there.

Mamledar (Revenue administrative officer) of Kopargaon mediated between Hindus and Muslims and a compromise was arrived. Muslims finally yielded and allowed the Hindu devotees to proceed with their Samadhi plan at Buti Wada on the condition that Muslims would be given continued access to Masjid and also to Sai Baba’s samadhi, to which Hindus gladly agreed.

On 16th October evening, Sai Baba’s body was taken ceremoniously in procession to Buti Wada and placed in the sanctum sanctorum where originally an idol of Lord Muralidhar had been planned to be installed. Saibaba’s body was laid and a samadhi was built there.

Sai Baba had said earlier:

  • “I never forsake anyone who relies on me.    If you cast your burden on me, I will bear it.   My eye is ever on those who love me.”
  • “Remember my words even when I am no more. My bones will assure you from my samadhi. It will communicate with you, it will respond to him who surrenders to it.”
  • Here, in Shirdi, my men will come like ants“.

It is indeed true — even after passage of a century!

Related reading:

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Essential teachings of Shirdi Sai Baba

SOURCE: ” Sai Baba of Shirdi – a Unique Saint” – By M V Kamath &  V B Kher — Jaico Publishing house ISBN 81-7224-030-9

The following are the collections of some of the sayings and teachings of Shirdi Saibaba to his devotees:

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 God

  • God is and there is nothing higher than Him. He is perfect, infinite and eternal. He is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. He is the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer. Surrender voluntarily and totally to His will. Not a blade of grass moves without His will. Trust in Him and do the right. Let the inner light (enlightened conscience) guide all your actions.
  • Do not believe that God is not.
  • God’s name is eternal.
  • This universe is all a leela of God.
  • God is the Lord and the Master. There is no other truth.
  • His ways are unique, mysterious and inscrutable.
  • There is no one higher than God. How he will protect and sustain is known only to him.
  • He is the protector of the poor.
  • He is very compassionate. We falter in our faith in Him and lack sufficient patience.
  • Herculean effort is needed for the attainment of God.
  • Without unflinching faith and patience, you will not see Him. One who has both these will undoubtedly find Him.
  • Who says he is out of reach? He is there in the tabernacle of our heart, nearer to us than the fingernail to the finger.
  • God protects the righteous.
  • It needs insight to recognize God.
  • His will be done. He will show the way and all your heart’s desire will be fulfilled.
  • Who can really satisfy the desire of another? For the more you give, the more the desires grow. It is only the Lord and the Master who can give that which is everlasting.

Karma Yoga

  • Perform your duty conscientiously  and with detachment regarding yourself not as a doer but only as an instrument in His hands.
  • Surrender the fruit of action to Him so that action will not harm you or bind you.
  • Do good and offer it to God. He will bless you.

Right Behavior

  • Let your love and compassion flow to all  creatures of God.
  • Do not engage in controversy.  For every ten words you hear, speak only one word, if that is necessary.
  • Even the learned are confused. Then what of us? Listen and be silent.
  • Words (of others) cannot harm you; bear with others patiently.
  • Accept your lot cheerfully without comparing yourself with others.
  • Do not speak ill of others.
  • If you injure others, I suffer.
  • I feel disgusted when you quarrel with others.
  • Members in a family are bound to have differences. But do not quarrel.
  • Do not give tit for tat for each is answerable for his own actions.
  • Do not remain idle but engage yourself in some useful activity.
  • Read sacred books. Be moderate in your food and recreation.
  • Do good and God will bless you. Do evil and you will displease Him.
  • If you do good, good will follow.
  • Great is the reward of virtue. The vicious will suffer.
  • Be content with your lot.
  • You need neither praise nor blame others.
  • One who has received God’s grace is silent, but he who falls from His grace talks too much. His grace must be earned by merit.
  • remove the fangs of the serpent before he can harm you. Let us see to what length he goes.
  • He who lays hands on the devotee of God will suffer for it.
  • One who means well will do well.
  • Practice before you preach.
  • If wealth is used judiciously, it will be beneficial.
  • Do not cover others’ wealth.
  • Wholesome food will bring good health.  A man of restraint is better than a man of indulgence.
  • Are we born merely for sensual pleasures? The mind is tricky for it ensnares us in temptation. Restrain it to attain peace.
  • It is renanubandh (ties of previous births) which brings human beings, birds and animals to each other. Therefore do not shoo away anyone, even the meekest.
  • Be hospitable to anyone who comes to you. Give water to the thirsty, bread to the hungry, clothing to the naked and shelter to the homeless and God will bless you.
  • Whatever you give me will come back to you redoubled. If you sow, then only you can reap.

Sai Baba about Himself, his devotees and the people who come to Him

  • I am everywhere and in all places and the whole world is within Me.
  • I move everywhere and anywhere.
  • I pervade the universe. I am both the visible and the invisible.
  • I am unborn, eternal and ever lasting.
  • I am not the body or the senses; I am the eternal sakshi (witness).
  • Know that my spirit is immortal. Know this for yourself.
  • I am God’s slave.
  • I am merciful to all.
  • I am not beholden to anyone except God.
  • People inhabit towns and villages, I live in the jungle.
  • People have a roof over their head; I have none.
  • Even though my children be thousands of miles away, I call them to me.I am happy when they come. I enjoy their company and thrive on it.  I have to care for my children night and day because I am accountable to God for them.
  • I have to go thousands of miles to take care of men.
  • Fear not. I am always with you. I take care of my men, generation after generation, birth after birth.
  • Who can compare with all His munificence that God alone can give? The Lord Himself waits anxiously for the devotees to partake of the treasures that He offers, but instead, people come to me asking for worldly things. When I try to tell them this, nobody pays attention to what I say or listens to me. The coffers are overflowing with treasures, but no one will make the effort to pick up the treasure.
  • I give people what they want in the hope that they will begin to want what I want to give them!
  • I have now grown weary of people’s request for wealth, wife, child. No one wants the treasure I have. I will wait a while and one day, I will quietly leave.
  • Men will throng to Shirdi like ants. Men may come and  men may go. What do we have to do with it? How does it concern us?
  • My Udi (Vibhuthi – Sacred ash) will be most useful for my devotees. Preserve it carefully.
  • I do not babble or whisper any mantra in the ear. Our traditions are different.
  • Men of all sorts, good and bad,  come to my durbar. All are equal in my eyes. I have to care for them equally.
  • All kinds of people, good, bad, wicked, vicious come to my court. Why indulge in gossip about them?
  • Those who sow nettles expect me to give them corn. How can i do so?
  • I never forsake anyone who relies on me.
  • If you cast your burden on me, I will bear it.
  • My eye is ever on those who love me.

  • If one perpetually thinks of me and makes me his sole refuge, I become his debtor and will give my life to save him.
  • I am the bond slave of my devotees. I love devotion.  He who withdraws his heart from the world and loves me is  a true lover and he merges in me like a river in the sea.
  • If one meditates on me, repeats my name and sings about my deeds — he is transformed and his karma is destroyed. I stay by his side always.
  • If you make me the sole object of your thoughts and aims, you will gain paramatma.
  • In whatever faith men worship me, even so do I render to them.
  • Look up at me and I will look after you. Not vain is my promise that I shall ever lighten your burden.
  • There shall be no want in the house of my devotee.
  • Why go for Ganga elsewhere? Hold your palm at my feet — here flows the Ganga.
  • Whatever you do, wherever you may be, ever bear in mind that I am always aware of everything you do.
  • Remember my words even when I am no more. My bones will assure you from my samadhi. It will communicate with you, it will respond to him who surrenders to it.
  • Do not think I am dead and gone. You will hear me from my samadhi and I shall guide you.
  • Though I be no more in in flesh and blood, I shall ever protect my devotees. I shall be with you the moment you think of me.

Sadguru

  • See how selfish people are. When it suits them, they leave their companion. So attach yourself to one who will never forsake you.  There is no such companion except the sadguru. Love the creation, but keep company with the sadguru for his companionship will conduce to your welfare.
  • Once you entrust yourself to the hands of the sadguru, you do not have to worry.
  • One has to accept the guru wholeheartedly and not mechanically.
  • Trust the sadguru fully. This is the only sadhana. Sadguru is all the Gods.
  • For a human being, the guru’s place is preeminent. By keeping utmost faith in him alone, everything is obtained. A devotee’s entire strength is due to his guru. Devotion to guru is superior to devotion to Gods and Goddesses. The guru is the supreme being.

Spiritual

  • I have single horse carriage (the vital breath, praana) but it carries ten to twelve men (organs)
  • I will slay the four bodies (the gross, the subtle, the causal and the mahakaran) .
  • Light dispels darkness.
  • Why grieve or the loss of a son?Everyone has to die one day. In this mortal world, death is inevitable.
  • Whatever may happen, one should remain steadfast and watch everything with detachment.
  • One who is enlightened will not make a noise about it.
  • You cannot escape what is preordained. You may face it with a groan or a smile. Only that choice is yours.
  • Earth will return to earth and the soul will fly away.

Related reading:

Brief Biography of Swami Sivananda Saraswathi

PENDING – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The story of Krishna – Krishna Avatar – The enchanting avatar of Vishnu

One of the very basic and important aspects of Hinduism is the concept of Avatar. It is the fundamental belief in Hinduism that God descends to earth from time to time to take birth as Human or other forms; it happens whenever good and pious people suffer and evil ones have an upper hand. God protects the good, destroy the evil and restore dharma (righteousness). Such a divine being / person is known as an Avatar.

The 10 Avatars

In Hinduism, Lord Vishnu is the “God who protects”. He is attributed with taking 10 such avatars. They are Matsya, Varaha, Koorma, Vamana, Narasimha, Rama, Parasurama, Krishna, Balarama and Kalki. Rama and Krisha Avatars are considered to be the two greatest Avatars of Vishnu in human form.

The Greatness Of Krishna

The Avatar of Krishna is said to have taken place in Dwapara Yuga (a time period dating back to thousands of years). Very elaborate holy mythologies (Srimad Bhagavatam, Brahma Vaivarta Purana and Mahabharata) are available in Hindu scripture which contain the wonderful life history and details of the divine play enacted by Lord Krishna. Plenty of folklores and wonderful literary works too are available practically in all languages of India eulogizing Lord Krishna’s divine play, particularly His enthralling childhood pranks.

The avatar of Krishna is considered a “Poornavatar” — an avatar in which Godly qualities were found manifested in full. Lord Krishna is perhaps the most widely loved, adored and worshiped Avatar by Vaishnavaites (devotees of Vishnu) across the length and breadth of India. In fact, worship of Krishna has even transcended the boundaries of India, considering the global appeal of the ISKCON movement (International Society of Krishna Consciousness), spearheaded by Swami Prabhupada. It has happened because he is personification of love; Krishna is sweetness personified.

His attraction to devotees is magnetic. He is ever joyful; He is the preacher of Karma Yoga (the path for unification with God through work without attachment) and he is a perfect Karma Yogi himself, performing work ceaselessly all through his life with joyous detachment and abandonment, seeking no fruits of his actions for himself. It is with this practical authority that he delivered discourse to his disciple and close friend Arjuna on the eve of a grand Mahabharata war is Bhagavat Gita — one of the greatest scriptures of Hinduism; it is a philosophical treasure very widely read and adored by people across the world, cutting across religious barriers.

Unlike Rama, a greatly revered Avatar of the previous Yuga, Krishna was fully conscious of his divinity and he never tried to hide his divine prowess. At every right and opportune occasion, Krishna demonstrated his divinely attributes and super-human powers. He utilized them to humble his opponents, destroy the evil doers and to instantly come to the rescue of his devotees in distress.

He was all at once the player by the rules and also the lord of the rules — and by virtue of this lordship, a breaker of the rules too, for the goodness of the world.

The divine play of Krishna is something that can not be written across a few pages. It is extremely difficult to comprehend Krishna by a mere intellectual study of his life or through analysis of his speeches and actions. Krishna is more amenable for comprehension to those who love and surrender to him rather than to those who analyze him.

Krishna’s Birth

Let us now see very briefly, the life history of Lord Krishna:

In DwaparaYuga, the demon-like king Kamsa ruled the kingdom of Mathura (that belonged to the Yadava clan) by overthrowing his father and the king Ugrasena. He became too powerful and people on earth as well as Devas (the celestial beings) suffered immeasurably under his tyrannical rule. Moved by the earnest prayers of the sufferers, Lord Vishnu decided to take birth in human form and annihilate the evil forces headed by Kamsa.

Another reason for the descent of God as avatar was the problem of excessive population at that period (particularly accentuated by higher proportions of the wicked and evil ones over the righteous ones) and the Mother Earth suffered on account of it. God came to earth as Lord Krishna and one of his roles was to initiate large scale destruction of human race, in order to bring a manageable balance to the earthly resources and establish dharma.

The King Kamsa was forewarned by his astrologers that his death would be caused by the eighth son who would be born to his cousin Devaki. To prevent such a happening, Kamsa arrested Devaki and her husband Vasudeva and incarcerated them in his prison.

Immediately on birth, Krishna was carried stealthily by his father Vasudeva to Gokulam. It was a stormy night. The divine snake Adhisesha was there to act as an umbrella to protect the lord.

As and when a child was born to the couple, he would go to the jail and kill the child then and there. When the eighth child was born, it was Lord Krishna. By a dramatic divine play, at the midnight when the birth took place, the child was miraculously and secretively transported to Gokula (a community of cow herds belonging to Yadava clan at the banks of river Yamuna) to become the foster son of mother Yasoda and King Nanda. A female child born to them (Maya) at the same time was transported back to the prisons. It was Vasudev, Krishna’s father, who did the exchange of the babies at the behest of a divine command. All these took place without the knowledge of Devaki and Yasoda.

When Kamsa came to know of the birth of the eighth child, he came to the prison as usual and as he lifted the child to kill it, the girl child (Maya) got freed from his clutches and flew away laughing aloud that the king was cheated squarely and the child meant to kill him was safe and alive elsewhere. Kamsa was shell shocked.

 

The Child Krishna Brought up at Gokula

The baby Lord Krishna grew up joyfully in the company of cow herds at Gokula. He was dark skinned and was the most beautiful and charming boy of the community. Whoever came across him fell in instant love with him. He was full of childhood pranks. He loved to steal butter and eat it in the company of fellow cow herd boys. He became the prince charming for all the young girls and women folk (Gopis) of the community.

 

Little Krishna, so calm and charming in the affectionate embrace of Yasoda…

In the meanwhile, Kamsa sent several powerful demons in varying disguises to search for, locate and kill the boy-who-escaped from the prison. Little Krishna encountered all of them (Putana, Sakatasura, Bakasura, Trinavarta, Vatsasura, Aghasura etc) and killed them all as a matter of child play.

Child Krishna kills Putana, a woman demon sent by Kamsa to kill him by feeding him her breast milk. But Krishna suckled and sucked her life!

 

Krishna is not all that nice boy after all! He loved butter and never hesitated to steal it from the house of Gopies…

 

at times, he gets shocked when he is noticed…

 

and when the Gopis complain to Yasoda about Krishna’s behavior, can she afford to leave him scot free?

 

Krishna kills Bakasura

Further, little Krishna killed a very ferocious and poisonous Snake Kaliya who lived in the river Yamuna. He extracted the snake from the river and danced at his hood to the awe of one and all. When the celestial lord Indra created heavy rains at Gokula because a worship due to him was denied at the behest of Krishna, Krishna protected the entire community by lifting up the hill Govardhan by holding it like an umbrella at his little finger.

He killed the most dreaded poisonous snake Kaliya who lived in Yamuna.

 

Liffting Govardhan Hill is just a child play for him.

Krishna and Gopis

Right from his boyhood, Krishna started playing flute. His music was exremely captivating. Not only human beings, but animals too were attracted by his flute.

When the young boy Krishna played his flute, none can resist his musical charm.

When Krishna was in his early teens, his attraction to the womenfolk of Gokula (Gopis) was divine. Their love towards Krishna was so intense that they even ignored their duty and allegiance to their husbands and went madly behind Krishna. Hindu spiritual masters interpret that this love of Gopis towards Krishna was never carnal, but it was the spiritual longing of the individual souls (jivatmas) towards the divine soul (paramatma).

Krishna and Radha 

It was during this phase that Radha (or Radhika) of Brindavan developed a deep rooted love for Krishna. The divine love between Radha and Krishna (which was never consummated in a marriage), though not found mentioned in Srimad Bhagavata, is dealt with elaborately in Brahma Vaivartha Purana and several folklore and Sanskrit literary works. Radha-Krishna love has always been a source of inspiration for the Bhakti movement of Vaishnavaites (worshipers of Vishnu) of eastern India as this love symbolically represents the longing for “yoga” (union) of the individual soul with the Supreme soul.

According to Brahma Vaivartha Purana, Krishna is considered the Paramatma (Chidatma) and Radha his Chit Sakthi.  He is the creator-Sustainer-Distructor of the Universe and he is verily tha Brahman (Ultimate God).  He is not considered as an Avatar of Vishnu unlike other Purnas.

No wonder the Gopis were mad after him.

 

But it was Radha who stole the heart of Krishna. Radha-Krishna love transcends human love. On this unique painting, at the right side, is Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (Gouranga, who spread bhava bakthi on Krishna) and at the left, Sri Prabhupada (ISKCON movement).

Krishna Returns to Mathura

When Krishna became a matured boy, it was time for him to go to Mathura and take the bull by its horns — to face his uncle Kamsa and destroy him for all his vengeful deeds. Krishna overcame several obstacles at Mathura and finally killed his uncle in a ferocious combat. He released his parents from the jail and re-throned Ugrasena as the king.

Krishna killed Kamsa in a ferocious battle.

Over a period of time he got married to Bhama and Rukmini. The story goes that Krishna later got married to 6 more women. At later period of his story, he killed a demon king by name Bhaumasura and he had to marry 14000 women who were earlier abducted by the demon king. This he did at the behest of the women, who would otherwise lose their honor in society for having been in the custody of the demon king. The story goes that Krishna used his divine maya to be simultaneously present with all his wives in their respective homes and lead happy life with all of them.

 

Rukmini lovesKrishna; Krishna abducts Rukmini against stiff opposition from her brother and warriors.

Krishna with his consorts – Bhama & Rukmini

Krishna And The Pandavas

In the meanwhile, his maternal cousins — the Pandavas (5 sons of the kind Pandu headed by Yudhishtira) of the Kuru clan at the kingdom of Hastinapur were facing lots of difficulty in claiming their rightful share to their kingdom. It was due to certain acts of omissions and commissions done by themselves as well as due to the vengeful and treacherous acts of their unrighteous cousins — the Kouravas headed by Duriyodhan (who too claimed the throne of Hastinapur) that the peace-loving Pandavas were facing insurmountable difficulties in life.

Krishna and Arjuna developed close friendship. Krishna later became his spiritual guru at the battle field.

Krishna developed a bosom friendship with Arjuna the most powerful archer and the younger brother of Yudhishtra. Whenever they found time, they spent time together and enjoyed the friendly company of each other. Arjuna fell in love with Krishna’s sister Subhadra and Krishna arranged their marriage secretively against stiff resistence from his clan.

The Pandavas were fairly knowledgeable of the divinely nature of Krishna;  The Pandavas surrendered to Krishna and sought his help and guidance in overcoming their problems. Krishna intervened frequently in the lives of Pandavas to protect them from innumerable personal problems. He also used his diplomatic skills and tried his best to bring in a truce between the Pandavas and Kouravas. But Kouravas had neither respect for Dharma nor for Krishna’s counseling.

The Kurukshetra War And The Birth Of Bhagawad Gita

Finally a grand war erupted between Padndavas and Kouravas. Numerous kings of the entire subcontinent virtually sidelined and supported either Pandavas or Kauravas according to their relationships and temperament and took part in the great Mahabharata war. Dharma was obviously on the side of Pandavas. Krishna, as the king of Mathura and a blood relative of both Pandavas and Kouravas, offered his entire army to take part in the war on one side and he himself without taking-up arms on the other side. He left the choice to Arjuna (of the Pandavas) and Duryodanan (of Kouravas) to choose any one between the two. While Arjuna instantly and gladly opted to have Krishna on their side as a non-fighting companion, Duryodanan was too happy to accept the huge and powerful army of Krishna. Krishna offered his services to be the charioteer of Arjuna during the war.

Just before the beginning of the war at Kurukshetra, Arjuna became jittery. He felt it was futile to wage war against his own blood relations and other seniors, respectable elders and teachers and masters in the opposite camp. It was at this juncture, that Lord Krishna gave one of the greatest sermons to Arjuna. His utterances form the holy scripture Bhagavat Gita. In this great spiritual discourse, Lord Krishna predominantly teaches Karma Yoga – the path of attaining the greatest goal of life though self-less action by surrendering all the fruits of actions at the feet of lord. In Bhagavad Gita, he also elaborates the other spiritual paths — Bhakti Yoga and Gnyana Yoga.

Krishna’s discourse to Arjuna at war front – Bhagavad Gita

 

Vishwarupa Darshanam – Krishna revealing his cosmic form.

Krishna, as part of his effort to teach Arjuna during his discourse, gave a divine vision to Arjuna an revealed his Vishwarupa (his cosmic form that transcended the creation, births deaths and time, space and causation) and Arjuna was overwhelmed with awe to see this form of the Supreme Lord Krishna.

Krishna acted as a charioteer to Arjuna and saved his life under many tricky situations. In a couple of occasions Krishna even used dubious means (that his enemies accused him as acts of adharma) in order to tilt victory in favor of the righteous Pandavas. The war ended with the annihilation of Kouravas and the rule of the Pandavas was established.

Krishna – the overseer of massive destruction

The Kurukshetra war, though ended as a victory to Padnavas, in fact turned to be a divine act supervised by Krishna without his direct participation to result in the destruction of millions and millions of soldiers and warriors, thousands of kings / people of ruling class, and countless numbers of horses and elephants.

Despite the win, Pandavas too were virtually emotionally wrecked, as practically all their offspring (5 children born to their wife Draupati) and several other children born to them from other wedlock got annihilated. Arjuna’s brave young son and a wonderful archer Abhimanyu (born to Arjuna-Subhadra)  too got killed in the war.  Lord Krishna ensured that the progeny of Pandava’s clan was not cut, by using his divine power to protect a fetus in the womb of Arjuna’s daughter-in-law Uttara, wife of Abhimanyu. Later in history, her son Parikshit became the king.

Krishna And Dwaraka

At his own Kingdom at Mathura ruled by Ugrasena, Krishna had to face a very tough war against Jarasandha, the father-in-law of the slain king Kamsa. The war was waged 18 times by the extremely powerful king Jarasandha and Krishna had to play hide and seek with the king.

After the last attack, Krishna convinced King Ugrasena and his father, Crown-Prince Vasudeva to rescind the land and establish a new Kingdom at Dwaraka, due to strategic reasons. All the Yadava subjects were shifted to Dwaraka and Krishna lived and ruled there for about 38 years. Krishna utilized the services of Bhimasena (one of the Pandavas, who was extremely strong and powerful) to finally kill Jarasandha.

Bhima kills Jarasandha with Krishna’s tactical support.

The End Of Krishna

Yadavas fight with each other in line with a curse they received from a sage and the entire clan gets annihilated.

As Krishna advanced in age, the Yadava clan grew too arrogant, morally weak and got in the grip of vices. By an act of mischief, Krishna’s descendants and their clan got a curse from sages that paved for their annihilation. Lots of bickering happened between the members of families and the ruling class and they grew out of control of Krishna’s divine and moral influence. Time soon came when they were destined to get wiped out entirely on account of a verbal dual that started between two drunken relatives of Krishna. It grew into a bloody fight and Krishna took up the role of a destroyer now and he personally killed many yadavas using pestles that grew out of wild grass near seashore.

Krishna knew that it was time to draw curtains to his divine plays in his present Avatar. He retired to forest and was engaged in deep meditation. He was finally slain by an arrow which was mistakenly aimed at his foot by a hunter who thought it was a deer.

 

 

Krishna was attacked unknowingly by a hunter. The hunter gets blessed by Krishna before he leaves the earth.

Soon a great tsunami came and the surging sea waters submerged the entire city of Dwaraka.

Krishna’s entire life was one of an exuberant display of divine play. Krishna’s childhood life at Gokula and Vrindavan where he became the very soul of all the lives of Gopas and Gopis and his divine love with Radha continues to be the source of inspiration of Bhakti movment for the Vaishnavites.

Krishna’s Bhagavat Gita reins as a supreme reference book of all the various paths of Yoga (Karma, Bhakti, Gnyana and Raja Yoga) for earnest seekers of Hinduism for guidance and enlightenment.

 

A note of thanks:

The beautiful pictures appearing in this article are all sourced from various websites and since all of them appear to belong to public domain and found freely used in several sites, I too have used them accordingly. I sincerely thank the various websites that have posted these pictures.

Introduction to Meditation – Preparation, Methods and Practice

Meditation is a disciplined practice to attain control of the mind, by way of limiting the flow of thoughts and then ultimately leading to a state of consciousness with cessation of thoughts. The goal of meditation at a “lower” level is to attain physical and mental well being. At a “higher” level, it is to realize God or the Atman – one’s true inner-self.

The Hindu system of meditation has only one fundamental goal – God realization or realizing the Atman, which are one and the same, viewed from two different perspectives. But this quest of the ultimate goal is never easy; for an earnest aspirant, it may even take several births to attain it. Such a “higher goal” could at the best be the bastion for only a woefully small minority of people.

But the effort put in meditation never goes a waste; meditation calms down the mind, improves one’s mindset and mental well-being and enhances one’s physical health too. It is by grasping these benefits that meditation has evolved into a ‘science’ to offer these fringe benefits, namely the physical and mental well-being for the benefit of the majority.

Before going into the ways of learning meditation, some basics about the mind and its relationship with the body have to be understood.

The mind – body relationship

The mind is known as the subtle body. All our emotional dualities – pleasure and pain, peace and restlessness, anger and compassion, love and hate etc are all caused by the unceasing activity and oscillations of the mind. The mind has its existence only in the form of flow of thoughts. The more turbulent the flow of thoughts is, the more are the fluctuations of emotions. The less the flow of thoughts in the mind, the more peace and tranquility does one get. If the mind could cease its activity altogether, one transcends the dualities of pain and pleasure, the relative and the absolute – a state known as “Ananda” or bliss or Samadhi.

It is a known fact that gross (physical) body functions as a slave of the mind. Physical activeness, fitness or sickness has its intrinsic connection with the mind.

The converse is also true. The condition of the gross body affects the condition of the mind. The vital force that controls the body is known as Prana, whose gross function is breathing. Functioning of the mind and prana (breathing) are intrinsically interlinked. When the mind slows down, breathing slows down; conversely, when breathing is controlled, mind is controlled. The control of the breathing by disciplined practice is known as Pranayama.

Lured by the umpteen “schools” that profess teaching easy ways to do meditation, many think that it is akin to learning some form of fitness exercise – learn the basics and procedure and then go meditating happily ever after! Nothing could be more naïve than that!

Mind is compared to a male elephant in heat; mind is compared to a monkey which can’t sit in a branch ever for a short while. Our mind is a storehouse of accumulated impressions (called vasanas) and the moment one sits to meditate, the store-house opens and one faces a flood of thoughts that can thwart one even from doing even a semblance of meditation! Whatever be the “easy” way to meditate, be forewarned that it may take even years for the “less-prepared” ones to calm the mind for 10 full minutes.

Holy bath for external purity (Niyama)

The 8-stage Yoga – Patanjali Ashtanga Yoga

The Eight-steps in Patanjali Yoga are:

  1. Yama (Self control/ morality)
  2. Niyama (Disciplines)
  3. Asana (Physical Posture)
  4. Pranayama (Breath control)
  5. Prathyahara (withdrawal of mind from senses)
  6. Dharana (Focusing mind on a single point)
  7. Dhyana (Meditation)
  8. Samadhi (Attainment of Unity with Divine)

 

Sitting in Padmasana (Lotus posture) and doing Pranayama

The Hindu system of 8-stage meditation guidelines (known asAshtanga yoga) as professed by Saint Patanjali (in his Yoga Sutra) places meditation at the 7th out of 8 stages, the last one being,Samadhi. All the 6 stages preceding meditation are only preparations that make one qualified better to succeed in meditation.

The first two preparatory steps are known as yama and niyama. If the goal of meditation is the “Higher one”, it goes without saying that these two steps are extremely important.

Yama covers non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy and non-covetousness. Niyamacovers internal and external purity, contentment, austerity, study of scriptures and a sense of surrender to God.

Assuming that the goal of meditation is only the “lower one”, even then certain basic disciplines are important to get benefits of meditation. They are:

(a) Moderation in intake of food
(b) Moderation in sleep
(c) Moderation in indulgence in sensual pleasures and physical activity.

Excessive eating or inadequate eating and excessive sleep or inadequate sleep will act as hindrance in practicing meditation. One should not undertake meditation when the stomach is full. At least 2 to 3 hours should have passed after eating when one sits for meditation.

Moderate and simple stretching exercises (which are calledYogasanas) can make the body conducive for undertaking meditation.

 

Choose a nice and calm place for meditation

The sitting posture (Asana) must be comfortable. Sitting on a flat surface over a soft mat or a folded blanket (but not too thick a cushion), cross legged in the posture known as “Padmasana” (Lotus posture) is the best. But, for westerners not used to sitting cross-legged, sitting on a bench, hanging the legs down is acceptable. Sit erect, with the spinal chord and neck vertical. Place your hands on your knees or clasp your fingers and place your palms near your stomach.

The choice of place for undertaking meditation should be calm, free from possibilities of disturbance, unobtrusively ventilated and comfortable. Certain holy places (certain mountains and hills, certainriverbanks, forests, temple premises and places where the mortal bodies of great saints were laid to rest) are very conducive for undertaking meditation.

Meditation is best practiced at early morning known as Brahma Muhurtha(after 4:00AM till sun-rise), noon, evening (at about 6:00, around sun-set) and at mid-night.

We have already discussed aboutPranayama, the breath control. It is generally said that Pranayama helps one to prepare effectively for meditation. Kriya Yoga is one popular method for Pranayama. Pranayama involves slow breathing in, holding and slowly releasing the air from the lungs at controlled timings. There are also schools of opinion which do not insist on practice of Pranayama. 

Sri Sri Ravishankar — The Hindu guru who is popularizing the Pranayama Technique ‘Sudarshan Kriya;

A word of caution about Pranayama

It is extremely important that pranayama must be learned from a properly trained and trust-worthy Guru. It should be practiced strictly under the direct guidance of the guru in the initial stages. Uncontrolled and unguided practice of pramayama has potential dangers of creating troublesome side effects. Any attempt to practice it in excess (of one’s physical capacity) must be shunned.

Considering such risks, there are some spiritual traditions that do not emphasize the need for practice of Pranayama. Saints like Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Saradadevi, Ramana Maharshi, Mata Amritanandamayi and the like do not really give undue importance to the practice of pranayama.

Some techniques of meditation offered by different Gurus

When we come to procedure, it’s here that we come across myriad options and schools of practice. Hinduism insists that one should learn meditation from a qualified Guru.

Some of the various methods professed by different schools are:

(1) Meditate on the form of your favorite God

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa says practice of intense love on ‘ishta’ (favorite/ personal God) and meditating on Him is the easiest way.

This is the most widely suggested method for Hindus, who have the natural flair for establishing a loving relationship with physical forms of God. Bhakti (devotion) is the easiest to way to relate to God according to Saints like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

Know your Ishta (favorite God) first. If it is ,say, Krishna, keep a picture of Krishna before you, intently watch Him, close your eyes and meditate on his form within your mental eye. if you can’t get His whole form, even meditating on his lotus feet or his glowing face is quite fine. Let all other thoughts except your ishta’s form be wiped away from the mind.

2) Do Mantra Japa and immerse yourself in the thoughts of God

Papa Ramadas – The saint who strongly recommends Mantra Japa

Learn a Mantra (generally the holy name of your favorite God beginning with Om) from your Guru, repeat it by concentrating on the God-form or on the sound or on the meaning of it. In the recent past, Papa Ramadas was a great votary of the efficacy of Mantra. Naam (the Mantra of god), Dhyan (Meditation) and Seva (service) are the ways he recommended for spiritual progress.

Mantra Without God Form

As per the school of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, A Mantra can also be just a syllable, without relation to a God (as practiced in “Transcendental Meditation“).

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi became extremely popular in west as he could offer TM as a meditation technique for people with no interest in religion or spirituality.

 

 

 

 

Maharshi Mahesh Yogi – The saint who took TM to the west.

 

 

“Who am I?”

Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi

For that, meditate with an inquiry: “Who am I?” Inquire by negation “I am not the body, I am not the mind, I am not the ego…” Proceed till mind settles in its inner most recess at peace. If a stray thought comes up, “Ask where from has this thought come?” The reply is “from inside me”. Then look deeper and go to the source of the evolution of the “I” thought in you. Kill all thoughts in the same way as and when they emanate and establish yourself in thoughtless state.

According to Ramana Maharshi, this is the “straight path” practicable by all needing no external support like pranayama, bhakthi (devotion) on God, worship of divine forms or chanting of mantra.

4) Relax-Chant Om-Delve deep-Watch your breath (Ma-Om) and Meditate – the IAM Technique

The Integrated Amrita Meditation(IAM) technique evolved by divine mother Mata Amritanandamayi can be learned free of cost from qualified trainers from Mata Amritanandamayi Math. According to the IAM technique, the watching of the breath is coupled with “Ma-Om” mental chanting while inhaling and exhaling. Certain prescribed Yogasanas too are to be practiced before doing meditation. (To be learned from qualified trainers only. See introduction to IAM technique in the video below).

Integrated Amrita Meditation (IAM) – benefits

Sri Abhinava Vidya Tirtha Swami of Shrinkeri Sarada Math. According to his biography, Lord Shiva himself taught him Kundalini Yoga in his dreams and made him visualize all the Chakras, the presiding deities of each chakra and experience Samadhi.

5) The Kundalini Yoga

(7) Awaken the “Serpent Power – The “Kundalini” and imagine its traverse through various nerve centers (Called Chakras) along the spinal chord (This is the “Tantrik Method”, never to be practiced without Guru’s guidance).

And there are more and more techniques….

What we discussed above are only a few techniques offered by great masters of Hinduism. There are so many other techniques evolved by so many other Hindu and Buddhist monks being practiced by different schools of religions and sects. Ultimately, a sincere and earnest seeker will surely end up in the right school and technique for meditation by the will of God.

Conclusion

All these techniques are aimed at withdrawing the mind from running behind sense objects and turn it inwards (known as pratyahara by Saint Patanjali – the 5th stage) and then making the mind focused on single point (known as dharana – the 6th stage). Remaining steadfastly focused is dhyanam (7th stage). When mind transcends even this stage and remains in thought-free awareness, it is Samadhi(8th stage). Some say that all these three – pratyahara, dharana and dhyanam put together is meditation.

Though these guidelines may look too simplistic,practicing them to perfection is not an easy task. One has to practice with perseverance, never losing heart and never slacking on the preparatory disciplines. In the beginning, one may try to sit in meditation for 5 minutes and gradually increase the period to 15 minutes and more. Experience will tell you that duration of sitting many a time will be beyond your control.

What is the sign that you are really doing meditation and not simply watching the plays enacted by your mind? When mind is truly focused or truly stops, it transcends time. One tell-tale indication of successful meditation is this: When you open your eyes after meditation thinking that some 10 minutes would have passed, but you find that almost 20 minutes have gone. Yes! You have succeeded in meditation. Another indication is: your erect posture will remain so when you open your eyes; you would not have stooped nor slouched from your position. Drowsing to sleep is a normal problem faced by many beginners! If done rightly, you will feel very refreshed, peaceful and contented when you wind up your meditation session.

To repeat, the preparatory disciplines are quite important in succeeding in meditation. Surprisingly, you will also find that as you practice meditation with perseverance, your capacity for self-discipline also improves; you will find that you are able to gain control over your sense organs and also the mind’s tendency to hanker behind sense-pleasures.

Know your goal; learn from a qualified Guru and practice with determination to succeed in meditation.