Realized souls (dnyani) and Shri Maharaj
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This is how Shri Swami Maharaj describes the individuals who have attained the goal of human life by realizing their true essence the Self. They have merged their individuality into the Universal Soul. Their physical shells may remain distinct and apparently separate, but they themselves do not perceive any duality. They are freed from the eight bonds of human existence, namely revulsion, shame, fear, doubt, aversion, and feelings of birth, character and race. Having broken the knot (of ignorance) in the heart, they have no more doubts; and are thus always peaceful and happy. Continually absorbed in the Self, these sages dwell in this world assuming stupidity, insanity or ghostly demeanor (to avoid popular botheration). Thus they continue till their residual Karma is expended, which they endure without resistance or protest. Such noble souls can be recognized only by other realized souls.
Shri Maharaj came into contact with several such souls, in addition to Shri Govind Swami, Shri Mouni Swami, and Shri Narayanand Saraswati who were his Gurus. Their interaction is indeed beyond ordinary human comprehension. However, one can still benefit from observation of these interactions. One has to keep in mind that such great souls have merged their minds with The One Reality and through It, unified with each other. The very concept of interaction is probably invalid in this context. In fact, there are instances where Shri Maharaj and the other Saint have met and just sat together without exchanging a word, apparently rejoicing in each other’s company. This was the case with a Paramahans who passed by the hut where Shri Swami Maharaj was staying in Brahmavart. Lord Dattatreya had told Shri Maharaj to expect him. Another Paramahans spent a whole night with Shri Swami Maharaj at Sandhya Matha near Tanjavur.
One who has attained the highest level of Self-realization and is so much absorbed in the Blissful Self that he is totally oblivious of the external world including his own body.
As a youth, when he was still a bachelor, Shri Maharaj acompanied his mother on a pilgrimage to Nasik on the banks of Godavari. They went to the renown saint Shri Deo Mamaledar. The saint asked Vasudev about his education. When Vasudeo replied he was not much educated, the saint remarked to others, “Here is a learned person” and offered him some money in recognition of his learning. Vasudev, however, rehused to accept it.
The then reigning Shankaracharya of the Sharada Peetha, Shri Rajarajeshvar Swami was an ardent admirer of Shri Swami Maharaj, ever since they met at Haridwar and spent the Chaturmaas (Shri Maharaja’s 3rd), together. At the instance of the Shankaracharya, Shri Maharaj gave discourses on Adi Shankara’s Bhashya on Upanishads.
After his 17th Chaturmaas at Tanjavur, while travelling along the Kaveri River, Shri Maharaj learnt that the Shringeri Shankaracharya, Shri Nrisinh Bharati was staying at Shrirang to pay obeisance to him. The Pontiff welcomed him so much joy that he kept laughing for quite a while! Shri Maharaj then composed hymns in praise of Sharadamba and Shankaracharya. The Acharya responded with a stotra in praise of Shri Maharaj. He arranged for the Bhiksha (lunch) of Shri Maharaj and later honoured him in following words, addressed to his disciples:
"You have not recognised the great Swamiji who has arrived today. He is Shri Datta Prabhu himself incarnated by the intense devotion and great virtue of his parents. His continuing endeavour of revival of Vedic religion is comparable to that of Shri Adi Shankaracharya. Strictly living by the Varnashram Code of Vedic religion, he has been responsible for religious and spiritual uplift of a large number of men and women. Travelling on feet from Setu (Kanyakumari) to Himalayas, he has educated the seekers in the paths of Action, Worship and Knowledge, according to their eligibility. We pray to God to grant him a full life to enable him to further his work of the revival of Vedic religion.” In reply Shri Maharaj said that he did not deserve the high praise His Holiness had so gracefully accorded to him; he also added that Shri Rajarajeshvar had graced the Shringeri Seat. The two saints kept in frequent touch with each other through their disciples and Shri Maharaj used to send copies of his works to the Shankaracharya at the latter’s instance.
In those days, there used to stay a great Sanyasi in Benares by the name Shri Shantashram Swami. Hailing from Karad in Maharashtra, he had performed weekly revisions (Parayan) of Shrimad Bhagavat Puran continuously for 40 years in Kashi. By his constant austerities and the devoted study of Bhagavat, he had attained communion with the God. It is said when on occasions he overslept and did not wake up at the usual hour of 4 a.m. in the morning, the Lord of Kashi himself used to knock at his door to wake him up! Though not formally educated in either Sanskrit or the Scriptures himself, he used to be consulted by the highest authorities in Kashi for the interpretations of certain abstruse passages in Bhagavat Puran. He had heard about Shri Maharaj, then staying at Brahmavart (1913 AD), for three continuous years, and was looking forward to seeing him in Kashi. When in spite of several requests of different persons from Kashi, Shri Maharaj did not visit Kashi, Shri Shantashram Swami decided to visit Brahmavart himself. When the two saints met, it is recorded that both of them were so overwhelmed with Love that tears of joy started flowing incessantly from their eyes! Shri Shantashram Swami was so enchanted by the ambience of the place and the various religious services, discourses etc. going on there that he stayed there for four months.
Strange are the ways of saints. Having attained the highest Spiritual Goal, they adopt bizarre life styles to shield themselves from the crowd of people with worldly desires. They may display a childlike (Baal), a crazy (Unmatta) or a ghostly (Pishach), behaviour just to avoid crowds. One such saint was Vaijnath of Shri Narasobawadi. He was known to be a very straightforward person with a childlike simplicity. He never performed any religious service, spending the morning just carrying a lota (vessel) around. In the name of bathing, he used to brush himself with mud in the river for hours. He never went to the temple nor worshipped the Padukas. If anyone questioned him about this, he would claim to be possessed by ghost who did not let him perform any Puja etc. When invited for meals, he never accepted more than two paisa as Dakshina (monetary offering accompanying a ritual meal). He kept all his money with a trusted person and kept the accounts himself. He thus had a balance of all of eight rupees! Once when Shri Maharaj was camping in Wadi, Shri Ganda Maharaj, a major disciple accompanying Shri Maharaj, suggested to Vaijnath that he perform a Mahapuja with part of that money. Vaijnath gave his stock reply that he had saved the money for a visit to his brother and won’t hear of spending it! The people from Wadi told Shri Ganda Maharaj that this was just a ruse and in the several years that Vaijnath was in Wadi, he never once went to see his brother. Finally they escalated the matter to Shri Maharaj. Shri Maharaj told them that they did not understand Vaijnath correctly; by being possessed by the ghost, he meant Divine possession and by visit to his brother, he meant the dissolution of his body to be one with the Reality. His savings were thus set aside for his last rites. He is a Self-Realized soul whose language was mysterious to ordinary folk. Shri Maharaj then requested Vaijnath to spend seven rupees on Mahapuja and keep one for “the visit to your brother”. Vaijnath readily agreed but expressed his inability to perform the Puja, as “the ghost” won’t let him. Shri Maharaj further urged him to “tell the ghost to release you for a day”. This having agreed upon, Shri Maharaj proceeded to invite the entire town of Wadi to partake the prasad at the Mahapuja of Vaijnath. Many were worried how seven rupees would suffice to feed the entire town. Inspired contributions of foodstuff by many devotees made it possible to serve food to thousands to their heart’s content. Shri Maharaj went around feast in the company of Vaijnath supervising the arrangements.
Swami Maharaj of Akkalkot:- Once, on his way to Pandharpur from Wadi (1905 AD), at a place called Kamalapur, a tall man with hands extending to the knees appeared to Shri Swami Maharaj in his dream and asked him, “You travel all over and also compose poetry. How come you pay no attention to me?” On waking up, Shri Swami Maharaj enquired with the Lord about the personage. The Lord answered, “He is The Swami Maharaj of Akkalkot and he desires you to visit Akkalkot and write his life in verse.” Shri Swami Maharaj said, “This tongue (pen) is dedicated to the feet of Lord Datta. If you command and the (relevant) information is available, it (the life) may be composed.” The Lord asked Shri Swami Maharaj to visit Akkalkot on the way to Pandharpur. Accordingly Shri Swami Maharaj paid his respects to Swami Samarth at Akkalkot. Shri Swami Samarth of Akkalkot is considered an incarnation of Lord Dattatreya and has massive following in Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi was a contemporary saint, also considered an incarnation of Lord Dattatreya by his devotees. A major disciple of Shri Sai Baba and a saint-poet in his own right, Shri Dasaganu Maharaj, met Shri Swami Maharaj during his stay at Rajamahendri in Andhra Pradesh. After offering a Kirtan service in the presence of Shri Swami Maharaj, the latter enquired Dasaganu Maharaj about his plans. Dasaganuji told Maharaj, he was on his way to Shirdi to see his Master Shri Sai Baba. Shri Swami Maharaj gave a coconut to Dasaganu saying, “Please give to my brother”. Dasaganu accepted the coconut and left for Shirdi, with his party. On the way, one morning, the party halted at Kopargaon station, where Gasaganu Maharaj went away to perform the daily religious services. His companions, feeling hungry, proceeded to eat some snacks they had packed. It turned out the snacks were rather too spicy and hot. Everyone was thirsting for water, which, on that hot summer day was not readily available. Some resourceful members decided to break the coconuts in the baggage to satiate their thirst. Among these coconuts, the one from Shri Swami maharaj was also broken and consumed. The snacks and the coconut were offered to Shri Dasaganuji too on his return. When they reached Shirdi, Dasaganu was dismayed by the cold reception he got from Shri Sai Baba, who turned his back on the party and shouted abuses at them, “thieves and scoundrels!” This was markedly in contrast to the loving reception Dasaganu almost always got from Baba. He was stricken with remorse and threw himself at the feet of Baba begging forgiveness. Baba shouted at him, “Where is the coconut my brother gave me? Get me my coconut first!” Dasaganu, unaware of its disposal, asked his companions for it. It was only when they confessed to having eaten it that he came to know of the sacrilege. Having impressed upon Dasaganu and others of the esteem he had for his “brother’s” coconut, Sai Baba gave up his feigned anger and rebuked them for the sacrilege.
Thus, though the two saints never met each other in person, they have, through this episode, made evident, their innate spiritual unity. Outwardly Swami Maharaj was a highly orthodox Brahmanical monk and Shri Sai Baba was a most unorthodox mendicant refusing to conform to any religious tradition. But for this incidence, most observers would feel that they represented to two opposing doctrines. However a close examination of their life and teachings would reveal that their differences were more in form than in essence. Both these saints were motivated by an intense desire to mitigate the sufferings of all persons coming into their contact, irrespective of his caste, creed or persuasion.
Shri Gajanan Maharaj of Shegaon in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra was another great contemporary saint whose birth and previous life are shrouded in mystery. He just appeared one day in Shegaon and immediately started attracting devotees with his miracles. His real name is not known. He is called Gajanan Maharaj because of his constant chant “Gana Gana Ganat Bote” which is considered to symbolize the popular deity Ganesh or Gajanan. During his sojourn through Vidarbha (1905), Shri Swami Maharaj visited Shegaon. On the previous day Shri Gajanan Maharaj instructed his devotees, “My learned brother, a Karhada Brahmin is coming to visit. He is a strict puritan. Don’t let any bits of cloth strew his path!” When Shri Swami Maharaj arrived Gajanan Maharaj was snapping his fingers absentmindedly. On seeing Swami Maharaj, the snapping suddenly stopped and the two saints started staring at each other smilingly with joyous faces. There was hardly any verbal communication. They just seemed to enjoy each other’s company. Shortly afterwards, Shri Swami Maharaj took his leave. Gajanan Maharaj just said, “Very nice!”
After Shri Swami Maharaj left, the devotee and host of Shri Gajanan Maharaj Shri Bala Patil wondered how a strict Brahmin Sanyasi could be a brother to a personage with no restrictions like himself. Gajanan Maharaj told him that the differences are only apparent and in essence they were one having merged with the Universal Being beyond all names and forms.
Another contemporary saint from Vidarbha, Shri Gulabrao Maharaj once conveyed his desire to “see” Shri Swami Maharaj. Gulabrao was blind since childhood but was one of the most learned persons of the time, though born in a farmer family. He was an aspirant of Madhura Bhakti, seeking Lord Shrikrishna as a paramour like the Gopis (milkmaids) of Vraja. He was so immersed in his divine love that he considered himself a woman and also dressed like women. As the Sanyasin’s code did not permit him to see him, Shri Swami Maharaj sent a word that “We share internal love; there is no need for an outward meeting”. Not satisfied with this, Shri Gulabrao Maharaj told his disciples to take him to a spot from he could watch Shri Swami Maharaj without being seen. His wish was thus fulfilled and he expressed his sense of blessedness at having had the “Darshan” of Shri Swami Maharaj.