(Chapters from Shri Gulabrao Maharaj’s biography in English by Shri. Sharad Kopardekar.)
37. THE DIVINE EYES OF PERCEPTION
From Mumbai, Shri Maharaj went to Nagpur and stayed with Shri Vasudeorao Mulay for a few days. In Nagpur, Shri Maharaj gave discourses every evening which used to continue even up to late hours in the night. A large number of his followers attended these discourses.
Once during a discourse late at night Shri Maharaj quoted from a famous religious book titled Narada Pancharatri. A devotee asked Shri Maharaj where he could get that book. Shri Maharaj informed him that the book was not printed and as per his knowledge, only two hand written copies of that were available. One was in the Library of the Royal Bhonsale Family of Nagpur, and the other was with a priestly family at Mathura.
Some enthusiastic devotees greatly interested in seeing the book went to the library immediately. Naturally they found that the library was closed and the librarian had gone home. So they went to his house and persuaded him to come to meet Shri Maharaj. When Shri Maharaj asked him about the book, he said that the book might be there in the library. But at that late hour it would be practically impossible to find it. “I can give it to you tomorrow morning,” he said.
Shri Maharaj then informed him that the book Narada Pancharatri, was in such and such a cupboard in such and such a room of the library. It had a cover of such and such colour. He also told him the names of the books and those of the authors of the books which were in the shelves above and below the book Narada Pancharatri.
The librarian was greatly amazed. He could not believe this piece of information. But the devotees of Shri Maharaj had great faith in the perception of his divine eyes. They insisted that the librarian must go to the library at that very hour and prove or disprove what Shri Maharaj had said. So the librarian and the devotees all went to the library. They found the book exactly in the position which Shri Maharaj had described. The names of the books and authors above and below the book were also as stated by him. The book was immediately brought to Shri Maharaj.
Now Shri Maharaj said the quotation given by him was on page number so and so. Shri. Govind Ramchandra Bhakta opened the book and found the quotation exactly on that page and it read exactly as said by Shri Maharaj, word by word.
How was all this possible? How could a blind man quote word by word with the relative page numbers? How could he describe the cupboard in which the particular book was? How could a blind man see the titles and names of the authors of the books which were above and below it?
It is all unbelievable. But it is true. It had happened in our country. Shri Gulabrao Maharaj had done it. People may say that he was blind as he had no physical eyes. But he was blessed with divine eyes of perception, with which he could observe what persons with normal eyes could not do.
38. ILLNESS OF NANAJI KAVIMANDAN
Once Shri Maharaj was at Nagpur. He was to go the Nagpur railway station to proceed to Yaoli by train. It was noon time on a summer day. There was scorching heat outside. In order to leave for the station; Shri Maharaj told somebody to ask Nanaji to go out and fetch a tonga (a horse drawn carriage) for him to go to the station.
The man came back to say that Nanaji had high fever, as high as 104° F. He could not even get up and it was so hot outside! “Would it not do if someone else went out to get a tonga?” Shri Maharaj replied, “No. Nanaji must go out himself and fetch a tonga for me to go to the station.”
So Nanaji had to go. He went out most reluctantly, fetched a tonga and then accompanied Shri Maharaj to the station. He went and bought the railway ticket for Shri Maharaj and got him seated in a third class compartment. By that time the train was about to leave. Then Shri Maharaj asked him, “Nanaji, how is your fever?”
Nanaji was surprised to find that he had no fever. He felt absolutely normal. He could not believe it. He said so to Shri Maharaj. In reply Shri Maharaj just smiled. The train started at that moment and Nanaji could not remove his gaze from that bewitching smile of Shri Maharaj until the train had left the station.
39. MEETING WITH SHRI PANGARKAR
Shri. L. R. Pangarkar, the renowned scholar and author, was then the principal of a school at Amrvati. He was a deeply religious man and had written biographies of a number of saints. He was the editor of a periodical devoted to religion and philosophy, known as Mumukshu. He had heard a lot about Shri Maharaj. The first opportunity he had to meet Shri Maharaj was in 1906. He has given a vivid account of this first meeting with Shri Maharaj.
In 1906, Shri Maharaj was at Vathoda to celebrate the Katyayani Vrata— the festival of devotion. A large number of the followers had gathered on the bank of the river Payoshni for the festival. Shri Pangarkar and a few Sanskrit scholars decided to visit Vathoda to participate in the Katyayani Vrata. They attended the discourses of Shri Maharaj on Dnyaneshwari. They were greatly influenced.
After the discourses, Shri Maharaj expressed a desire to meet the visitors who had come to Vathoda for the first time. When they had all assembled in his presence, they were not asked who they were nor what their names were. Instead, Shri Maharaj asked them to come to him one by one. He touched the pulse of each person one by one and told him his name. In this way he told each one of the visitors his name without mistake.
When the turn of Shri Pangarkar came, he bowed down and touched the feet of Shri Maharaj in reverence. Shri Maharaj took his hand, felt his pulse and said, “You are Pangarkar.” Shri. Pangarkar was amazed. How could a blind man, simply by feeling the pulse of a stranger standing in a queue, tell his name correctly? He felt it was a miracle. He thought the powers of Shri Maharaj were beyond human imagination, certainly beyond human perception.
He has written a detailed account of this first meeting with Shri Maharaj and has published it in the Mumukshu in, 1908. He writes: “I have met a number of great saints in my life, I have written biographies of many saints. But I have not come across any saint who could tell the names of unknown men correctly only by feeling their pulses. Shri Gulabrao Maharaj was a great mystic. His powers were miraculous. I could not suppress my curiosity. So I prayed to Shri Maharaj to tell me how he could find my name in my pulse. But Shri Maharaj did not reply. He just smiled and said, ‘But I was not wrong. Isn’t it?’ My question remained unanswered.”
During this visit to Vathoda Shri Pangarkar stayed with Shri Maharaj for two days. The next day at 3 o’ clock in the afternoon, Shri Maharaj was in the temple of Lord Mahadeva. About 50 persons were there surrounding him. Shri Pangarkar went and touched the feet of Shri Maharaj in great reverence. It was a pleasant afternoon and Shri Maharaj was very happy to meet Shri Pangarkar. He said: “Pangarkar, please suggest a subject and I would this evening give a discourse on it in the form of verses”.
Shri Pangarkar could not believe his ears, that Shri Maharaj would instantly compose verses on a subject suggested by him. He just kept quiet. Shri Maharaj said: “Pangarkar, I request you to suggest a subject. I would compose verses and give a discourse on it in the form of a poetic composition.”
Now Shri Pangarkar thought for a while. He remembered a difficult verse in the twelfth chapter of the Dnyaneshwari. The verse indicates that he, who believes that the whole universe is his home, becomes the universe himself. The verse is extremely difficult for interpretation. Yet again there was a miracle for, Shri Maharaj had composed in three and a half hours 1300 verses in exposition of the verse suggested by Shri Pangarkar. Each one of those verses was so poetic, so meaningful and so profound that Shri Pangarkar thought all the poets in Maharashtra should bow down to Shri Gulabrao Maharaj in acknowledgement of his great talents.
When Shri Maharaj composed these verses, the flow had been like an uninterrupted torrent. He did not have to stop even for a moment. He could just go on narrating them, for the verses were the very essence of the philosophy which he had so deeply imbibed and lived in his own life. If these had been written down. a reader would have taken three and half hours only to read them. Alas! Nobody was present there who could write as fast as Shri Maharaj composed and narrated them.
This was spontaneous poetry par excellence. A graduate scholar who was present there did not believe in the miracle. He remarked: Can one compose 1300 verses in a short period of only three and half hours? Such instantaneous poetry is impossible, unbelievable. Shri Maharaj must have composed those verses earlier, learnt them by heart and must have just recited them. It cannot be explained otherwise.
Then Shri. Pangarkar explained to him: “But how could he have composed the poems beforehand? I had myself suggested the subject of the discourse on the spot.”
Shri Maharaj came to know about this doubt expressed by that scholar. The next time when Shri Pangarkar went with the scholar to meet Shri Maharaj, he said, “l had composed all the verses instantly. If anybody has a doubt he should suggest any other topic. I am prepared to compose verses on that topic just now.” The scholar who had expressed a doubt had to eat his words now. He just bowed down his head in deep obeisance.
Shri. L. R. Pangarkar has written, “By the grace of God, I have met many saints in my life. But the devotion and divine love which I experienced in the company of Shri Gulabrao Maharaj is unparalleled. I could not experience it in the company of anyone else.” He further says, “If a person like Gopalrao Agarkar, who was a noted social reformer and an atheist, had come into contact with Shri Gulabrao Maharaj, the latter would have transformed him into a perfect believer in God and in religion.”
Further he continues: “If Lokamanya Tilak, the intellectual giant and famous political leader of our time had had occasion to confront Shri Gulabrao Maharaj in arguments, Shri Maharaj would have confuted him completely. Indeed, Shri. Tilak was a rare genius and had a pure heart. But what Shri Maharaj had was divine. Was this divinity of Shri Maharaj the cumulative result of his pursuits in his previous births? In any case, in this birth he appeared before the world as a divine culmination of pure knowledge, perfect work and unlimited devotion unlike any other saint in the history of our country.”
Add to that the many uncanny, mystic powers of his which even the most advanced modern scientific knowledge cannot explain and Shri Maharaj stands out as the very incarnation of the Supreme Being.
40. MEETING WITH SHRI KRISHNANAND SARASWATI
At Banaras there is an ancient ‘Matha’ (abbey) known as Kaivalyadham. Shri Krishnananda Sarasvati was the chief this Matha. He was a renowned scholar of those days. He had heard of the reputation of Shri Maharaj. When he visited Kolhapur, his followers there told him how Shri Gulabrao Maharaj was a great saint, a scholar and a yogi and how it would be worthwhile for Shri Krishnananda Saraswati to meet him.
Shri Gulabrao Maharaj was at Harda at that time. Shri Swamiji wrote to his followers in Harda that he would reach there on a particular day by train. A number of his followers came to the station to receive Shri Krishnananda Saraswati. As soon as he alighted from the train, he asked one of his followers: “l understand a great saint has come to Harda. Who is he? Where is he staying?”
There upon Khanderao Vinayak replied, “Yes, Shri Gulabrao Maharaj has come to Harda. He has come to the station to receive you.” Shri Gulabrao Maharaj came forward and touched the feet of Shri Krishnananda Saraswati as a mark of respect.
When Shri Swamiji reached the residence of his followers he inquired about the activities of Shri Maharaj. He was not happy to know that at times Shri Gulabrao Maharaj used to dress like a woman in the role of a ‘Gopi’ – a female devotee of Lord Krishna.
Shri. Bhat, a scholar and a renowned priest came to meet Shri Swamiji. He said, “A number of Brahmins from Harda have become the followers of this man who comes from a lower caste. They have even accepted initiation from him as their spiritual guru. It is not proper. They should have gone to to a worthy Brahmin to take initiation from him.”
Shri Swamiji was not upset. He replied calmly: “Perhaps that lower caste man has gained the necessary spiritual authority.” Shri Khanderao Vinayak intervened to say, “Swamiji, now, I happen to be a Brahmin myself; and I have accepted initiation from Shri Gulabrao Maharaj. There are a number of others also, who are Brahmins and yet have accepted initiation from him. That is because he is a great scholar, a saint and a Yogi. and that is also why we believe in him. You may test him and tell us what you think of him.”
Shri Gulabrao Maharaj himself came to meet Shri Swamiji after some time. He touched the feet of Shri Swamiji and stood before him. He sat down only when Swamiji requested him to do so. A few moments passed without conversation. Then, Shri Maharaj asked him with folded hands: “Swamiji, I have a question to ask. In the commentary on verse No. 20, chapter No. 13 of Shri Bhagavad Gita, Shri Adi Shankaracharya has stated that there are 25 principles of the Sankhya Philosophy. Will you kindly enlighten me on the 25th principle?”
Without replying to this questions Shri Swamiji said, “I understand you have started a number of controversies about God and time.” Shri Maharaj folded his hands and said, “Who am I to start controversies? It was Shri Shankaracharya himself who has discussed these issues.” Then Shri Maharaj quoted a number of extracts from the writings of Shri Shankaracharya and stated how he interpreted them. He then asked, “Am I right Swamiji in my interpretations?” Shri Swamiji was greatly impressed. He could not refute the interpretations of Shri Maharaj.
Silence prevailed for some time. Shri Maharaj reminded Swamiji of his question regarding the 25th principle of the Sankhya Philosophy. Shri Swamiji said, “You may refer to Kanthabhashya. It will reply to you.” Shri Maharaj called for the book and said he had read it and that it did not say anything about the 25th principle.” Shri Swamiji said, “I had read Kanthabhashya 40 years ago and I do not remember these details about the 25th principle. Now today I am meeting my followers after a long time. Let us discuss your question tomorrow.”
Next morning when Shri Swamiji and Shri Maharaj were in conversation, two scholars from Mumbai came and asked a number of questions in philosophy. Shri Maharaj replied to them appropriately quoting references from the scriptures and from modern books published in the west. He referred to a number of scientific developments in the west and showed how they supported what the Vedas and the Upanishads have described. The scholars from Mumbai were greatly impressed by the depth of the study of Shri Maharaj. Shri Swamiji was also astonished by the eloquence and the depth of knowledge of Shri Maharaj. He said, “I am extremely sorry. I had not realised what a great scholar you are.”
Shri Swamiji spent the whole day with Shri Maharaj. They talked about a number of subjects. The discussions continued up to midnight. Shri Swamiji retired to his bed at midnight. Shri Maharaj most humbly massaged his feet as a mark of his respect for him. Shri Swamiji fell asleep. Shri Gulabrao Maharaj continued the massage of the feet. Hours passed. Some time in the early morning Shri Swamiji awoke. He felt ashamed when he saw that Shri Maharaj was still awake and massaging his feet. In an embarrassed tone Shri Swamiji said “What is this?”
Shri Maharaj said, “I am from a lower caste. You are great Brahmin scholar. It is my religious duty to serve you.”
Swamiji said, “I could not even reply to your questions. I am not worthy to receive service from you.”
Shri Maharaj said, “It is my religious duty to serve you, and I am just doing my duty.” Shri Maharaj continued massaging his feet…
After a moment Shri Maharaj asked Swamiji how Shri Maharaj should proceed to solve a difficulty which he was getting in practising Yoga. Shri Swamiji confessed that he had not reached that stage in his practice of Yoga. “Please forgive me,” he said “I will not be able to reply to your question. You are a great scholar, great saint and a great Yogi. I did not realise this in the first instance. Please pardon me. I am extremely sorry for my mistake.”
Later during the conversation Shri Gulabrao Maharaj said, “I believe in Madhura Bhakti. That is why I dress like a woman sometimes, and try to experience the love and devotion which the gopis had for Lord Krishna.”
Shri Swamiji replied, “Madhura Bhakti is an age old mode of devotion in our country and there is nothing wrong in following it. Even great saints like Ramakrishna Paramahansa of Bengal and Narsi Mehta of Gujarat used to dress like women at times while practising this mode of devotion.”
Shri Swamiji and Shri Maharaj spent the whole day together. On the fourth day Shri Swamiji decided to leave Harda for Banaras by train. Shri Maharaj went to the station to see Swamiji off. He touched the feet of Shri Swamiji as a mark of respect. Swamiji hurriedly bent down and stopped him. He said, “Please come and sit near me. Your place is here by my side. In the Purana scriptures we read about Lord Krishna and Narada who were scholars and Yogis of your stature. You are the third. I am stunned by your knowledge and eloquence. That is why I stayed here for three days instead of one day as originally planned by me. I pray to you, please visit my Matha in Banaras at least once during my lifetime. Banaras has a number of scholars who will be able to appreciate your knowledge of philosophy and of Yoga in the real sense of the term.” Swamiji had tears in his eyes when the train left Harda station.