Attaining Moksha / A Guru being a guide to reach to God
Human life is full of desires, greed and sensory pleasures. Even if we control these things for a long time, we do not know when they will raise their ugly heads. Due to the influence of Maya on a person , one will distance himself from God and lead a lowly life. The path to reach God is full of thorns and ditches. Even though a person has learned all the Vedas, etc., he cannot go on this path safely. Only he who has already travelled in this path and knows where the ditches are and where the thorns are, can guide us safely to our destination. Such a guide is a ‘Guru’.
One day Baba narrated his experience in the form of a story of Shama, Tatya, Noolkar and others, near Gurusthan. It goes as follows.
In Quest of God
Once four of us thinking we are great learned men, went into the forest. Having heard that there was a temple for the forest deity belonging to the banjaras (nomads), we went in search of it. It was a deserted place. While proceeding we were discussing the ways to reach God. One opined that it was enough if we controlled our mind, another expressed that it was enough if we know about Atma, and so on. But I told them, "We must perform our duties properly and place your body, mind and the five pranas at the feet of the Guru and seek his protection. Then with the blessings of the Guru, we can reach God easily." As we were walking a banjara who was coming in the opposite direction, asked us where we were going. One gave an indifferent reply to him thinking that it was below his dignity to talk to such a person. The Banjara waited for sometime and offered to accompany us and show us the way to the place of our destination. But we proceeded quickly, ignoring him. We roamed in the forest till evening without finding the temple. Luckily, we came back to the place from where we had set out. Again the same banjara was waiting for us. He told that if we had taken his help, we should have definitely seen the temple. "But never mind. You are lucky to have come back to this place. You seem to be very hungry. Please take this food." and offered them food. The others felt insulted and went away. But as I am hungry, I ate the food given by the Banjara and drank water. To my surprise, my Guru appeared in the place of the Banjara. Then I respectfully greeted him with folded hands . My Guru asked me whether I would go with him I told that I was bound by my Guru’s orders.
My Guru took me near a well. He tied my legs together with a rope. Then he tied me upside down to the branch of a tree on the well. He lowered my body in that position into the well until I was two feet above the water. After hanging me like that, my Guru left me. Slowly the place became dark due to nightfall. I heard the tigers roaring from above the well. Inside the well poisonous snakes were hissing. I could not see anything in the pitch darkness. My Guru was very competent. When his protection was there, why should I fear these snakes and tigers? After four or five hours, my Guru came and lifted me up from the well. He asked me how I felt. I told him that I felt very happy. He then asked me whether I had feared at any time. I replied that when he had personally brought me there, why I should fear? Then my Guru, patting me on my shoulders with affection, blessed me. His love for me was more than that of a mother. He admitted me in his Gurukul (school). His love made me forget my parents. I used to look at him with concentration. Every word coming out of him was equal to that of God’s. My house, my property and my parents , all are my Guru only. All my sensory organs left their places and lay centred near my eyes. My eyes were always fixed on my Guru. Except for this, I was conscious of nothing else.
With the blessings of my Guru and without any effort, Atma Jnana came to me. I could understand everything in this creation, just like daylight. This is the effect of my Guru on me. The right conduct, wealth, and desires can be acquired by humans with their efforts. But ‘Moksha’ can be achieved only with the help of a competent Guru.
Baba’s narration of his personal experience, must have taken place while he was under his Guru Venkusa’s care. What we learn from this story is that we must have the help of a Guru, when in quest of God. Without going to a Guru and reposing full faith in him, we cannot know God.
Obeying Baba’s Orders
For the people of Shirdi, Baba was the incarnation of God. When the devotees took leave of Baba, he gave certain suggestions. The devotees took them as Baba’s orders and followed them strictly. If a person not follow Baba’s suggestion, he met with some difficulty.
Once Tatya Kote Patil was on his way to the shandy at Kopargaon in a tonga. He went to see Baba, who advised him not to leave Shirdi. But Tatya replied that when Baba was there, he had no fear and continued his journey. After going some distance, one of the legs of the horse got sprained and the horse sank on its legs, and the tonga fell down. There was no serious danger, but Tatya had to come back to Shirdi. Tatya was grateful to Baba for his motherly love and for foreseeing the mishap and advising him not to go.
A doctor from Europe once came to see Baba. He wanted to go inside the mosque and kiss Baba’s hand. But Baba did not allow him inside the mosque and asked him to pay his respects from outside. The visitor felt insulted and wanted to leave Shirdi immediately. But Baba advised him to leave the next day. Without heeding Baba’s advice, he left Shirdi immediately. After proceeding for some distance, the horse took fright due to some unforeseen reason, and the tonga fell down, the doctor was dragged for some distance, with the result that he received injuries all over the body and had to be hospitalised for several days in a hospital in Kopargaon. What the above two incidents mean are:
i) Though Tatya went against the advise of Baba, he put the burden on, Baba expressing complete faith in him, and he escaped from danger.
ii) The foreigner thought that Baba had insulted him and went away without realising what Baba had advised him was for his good only.
Even what Tatya had done was also not correct. Disobeying Baba and then putting the burden on Baba was also not proper. It was a foolish act.
Ramchander Atmaram belonged to ‘Prardhana Samaj’. He was also known as Baba Saheb Tarkhad. Members of the Samaj do not accept idol worship. He was an advocate practising at Bandra. He was a broadminded humanist. But his wife and sons were devotees of Shirdi Sai Baba. His son got up early in the morning daily and after ablutions, worshipped Baba with his photo before him and only then attended to other work.
Once Atmaram’s wife wanted to go to Shirdi and have Darshan of Baba. Atmaram wanted his son to accompany her. But his son declined stating that if both he and his mother were absent from the house, then there would be none to worship the photo of Baba. Though Atmaram was against idol worship, he agreed to worship Baba’s photo daily in the same way that his son worshipped, till his son and wife returned, and sent them to Shirdi. The first two days Atmaram worshipped Baba’s photo regularly and had Baba’s prasad before he took lunch. On the third day, Monday, due to urgent court work, he finished the worship early and went away. When he returned for lunch he wanted to have Baba’s prasad first. But, his cook told him that no prasad had been offered to Baba in the morning worship by Atmaram as he had gone out in a hurry and forgotten about offering sugar candy to Baba. On hearing this, Atmaram got up and went to the puja room and found the plate empty. He felt guilty and bowed his head before Baba. What his son feared had happened. As a punishment for not offering Baba sugar candy, he decided not to take his lunch and went back to court.
At about the same time, Atmaram’s son and wife stood with devotion before Baba in Dwarakamai . Baba called Atmaram’s wife and told her that when he went to their house in Bandra that day to eat something, he found the puja room locked, but even then he went inside and found nothing there which he could eat and so returned hungry. He further told her that her husband also had not taken food that day for having sent Baba away hungry. She was surprised at Baba’s revelation and immediately wrote a letter to Atmaram at Bandra.
That day after going to court again in the afternoon, Atmaram wrote a letter to his son at Shirdi, explaining the lapse on his part. On the third day both the letters reached their destinations. On seeing his father’s letter, the son ran to Baba with the letter. Baba told him, "Son, do not fear. In future, your father will never forget me. He will also worship my photo as you do. You can stay here as long as you wish."
On reading the letter received from Shirdi, Atmaram wondered how Baba could have known his lapse in forgetting to offer prasad and his observing fast as a punishment for this. He came to the conclusion that there was no difference between Baba and his photo and that idol worship was not incorrect if worshipped with faith. From that day onwards, he took a vow before Baba’s photo that he also would daily do Baba’s worship along with his son. He felt very happy with the way things had happened through his son. Usually children learn spiritual matters from parents. But in this case, the son acted as a guide to his father and brought him into Sai’s fold. Atmaram was really lucky to have such a son.