(Chapters taken from Shri Gulabrao Maharaj’s biography in English by Shri. Sharad Kopardekar.)
45. WIDE TRAVEL IN THE NORTH
Prof. Priyanath Mukherjee had some differences with the newly appointed European Principal of the Morris College. So he resigned and went back to Calcutta (present day Kolkata). He was of the age of Shri Maharaj’s father. So the Professor and his wife regarded Shri Maharaj as their son. When they left for Calcutta they felt very sad for having to lose the company and guidance of Shri Maharaj. They prayed to Shri Maharaj again and again to visit Calcutta and spend some time with them.
After about four months, Shri Maharaj went to Calcutta. He stayed with Professor Mukherjee for about ten days. The Professor invited many scholars and other celebrities to meet Shri Maharaj. There were marathon discussions on Yoga, Philosophy, Vedanta, etc. Thousands of people came to touch the feet of Shri Maharaj.
Eating fish is verycommon in Bengal. But Shri Maharaj did not eat fish or flesh. He would not,therefore, take food which would even be touched by a hand cooking fish. So,for ten days, while he was in Calcutta, Shri Maharaj did not take anything except milk. While in Calcutta Shri Maharaj visited some nearby towns also. On his way back from Bengal, he visited Jagannath Puri and went to the famous temple of Lord Jagannath. He also stopped at some other towns on the way.
After his return from Calcutta, Shri Maharaj stayed at Nagpur. It was there that he came across the then world-acclaimed book ‘Human Personality‘ by FWH Myers. He dictated his criticism on the book extensively.
After a few days, Shri Maharaj visited Mathura, Brindavan and other places of pilgrimage in that area. At Brindavan he gave discourses for three days on the Rasakrida of Lord Krishna as described in the Bhagavatam.
While returning,Shri Maharaj visited Jabalpur. He was waiting at the station for the arrival ofthe train when be heard someone crying. It was a young blind boy of about 18years. Shri Maharaj went to him and offered him some food. But the boy would not take it. Shri Maharaj tried to console him saying, “Why are you crying? Please do not cry.” The boy said, “I am blind, so my brother has deserted me and left me here.” He started crying more loudly saying, “I want to go to him.” Shri Maharaj tried to pacify him. He said, “If your brother has deserted you, why do you want to go to him again? I will take care of you. Now come with me to Nagpur and you can stay there with me comfortably all your life.” But the boy was not convinced. He insisted on going to his brother only. Shri Maharaj tried to dissuade him, but in vain.By then quite a crowd had collected and was watching the scene. At last, since the boy insisted on going to his brother, Shri Maharaj contacted the police, arranged to trace his brother and sent the blind boy back to him. Whatever money he had with him, he gave it to the blind boy.
46. AGAINST IMPOSTORS AND PSEUDO SAINTS
In those days there was at Raipur a fellow who had set himself up as a saint and had become quite well-known. He was an impressive speaker and had managed to collect a large following in that area. He was a real impostor. Outwardly though he posed as a preacher of ethics, his private life was full of debauchery and duplicity. He developed illicit relations with many women, some of whom came from good respectable families. Under the garb of a saffron-clad saint, he indulged in many immoral activities.
When Shri Maharaj visited Raipur, he heard a lot about that ‘saint’ and his preachings. But with his inner perception he had gauged him. He realised how false the so-called ‘saint’ was. Shri Maharaj was bitterly against those who turned spirituality into a profession to earn money and used it as a cloak to hide their nefarious practices and duped ignorant simpletons, particularly women, into parting with everything that is valuable.
Shri Maharaj collected a lot of information about the private life of the demon and put it before his followers. Within no time people came to know about the doings of this impostor and they hounded him out of Raipur.
Another incident of the same type happened at Wardha. A fellow called Shridhar Pant Paranjpe professed that he was a disciple of the famous saint Samartha Ramdas who had lived in the seventeenth century. He even started a sect known as Ramdasi Panth, claiming to be devoted to the philosophy of Samartha Ramdas. A number of even educated people joined this new cult. Shri. Paranjpe exploited this group for personal ends. His private life was full of duplicity and immorality and he even had illicit relations with many women coming from respectable families.
When Shri Maharaj visited Wardha, he came to know about this evil fellow called Paranjpe. The philosophy propounded by him had numerous discrepancies. Shri Maharaj invited the attention of his followers to these and in his righteous anger declared that those who led a lustful life under the garb of spirituality must be boiled in hot oil as punishment.
Soon word spread in and around Wardha. People started talking openly about the immoral life of this Paranjpe. Then Shri Maharaj sent messages and invited him to an open discussion of his false philosophy. But Shri. Paranjpe had already heard of the fame of the great learning and scholarship of Shri Maharaj. So he avoided meeting Shri Maharaj under the specious plea that he had no orders from saint Ramdas to discuss his philosophy with Shri Maharaj.
But some other scholars decided not to let Shri. Paranjpe off so easily. Shri Chaundebuva, a famous saint from Wai and Shri Motibaba Jamdar of Nagpur took the lead and arranged a meeting on the 13th of June, 1911 at Nagpur. Shri. Paranjpe wished to avoid this meeting. But Shri Jamdar threatened to have Shri. Paranjpe boycotted from society if he did not attend the meeting at Nagpur.
Shri Chaundebuva invited Shri Maharaj also to attend the meeting. To avoid the social boycott, Shri. Paranjpe felt compelled to attend the meeting. Shri. Krishnabuva Paturkar, Shri. Sadashivrao Subhedar, Shri. Govindrao Subhedar, Shri. Shriniwas Shastri Hardas and forty other renowned scholars in and around Nagpur attended the meeting. Shri Chaundebuva initiated the discussion. Shri Maharaj pointed out some of the discrepancies in the preachings of Shri. Paranjpe. All were now eager to hear what Shri. Paranjpe had to say in the matter.
But Shri. Paranjpe observed silence. He did not utter even a single word. He just kept touching the feet of Shri Gulabrao Maharaj from time to time.
Shri Gulabrao Maharaj spoke extensively for one hour and explained the discrepancies in the thinking of Shri. Paranjpe. He requested Shri. Paranjpe to reply. But Shri. Paranjpe did not open his mouth. He sat mum. So there was no alternative but to end the meeting.
The next day Shri. Paranjpe went to Shri Chaundebuva and put forth heated arguments before him. Shri Chaundebuva asked, “Shall I send a word to Shri Gulabrao Maharaj and request him to come here?”
Shri. Paranjpe said, “Shri Gulabrao Maharaj comes from a lower caste. Do you know this?” Then Dr. Paranjpe, a follower of Shri. Paranjpe, repeated that Shri Gulabrao Maharaj came from a lower caste family, and said, “He has no authority to speak on the Vedas. We will not allow him to speak.” Thereupon, instead of replying, Shri Chaundebuva instructed one of his followers to go to Shri Gulabrao Maharaj and request him to come immediately. When Shri. Paranjpe heard this, he left the place before Shri Maharaj came.
When Shri Maharaj heard of this he sent a message to Shri. Paranjpe, saying, “Let us discuss whether a lower caste man has authority to speak on the Vedas.” Shri.Paranjpe was now totally vanquished. Full of remorse, he said in his reply, “Shri Gulabrao Maharaj is a great saint. He has deeply studied the Vedas. I am not worthy to discuss anything with him.” He left Nagpur for Wardha the same day. All the newspapers in Maharashtra gave wide publicity to the meeting in Nagpur and the subsequent discussions.
47. MEETING WITH SHRI. ADITYA RAM BHATTACHARYA
Shri Maharaj travelled to Chhidgaon, Harda, Indore and other towns for about a month and a half. Then he went to Prayag (Allahabad) and stayed there for about 8 days. Shri. Aditya Ram Bhattacharya, a renowned scholar from Prayag, came to meet Shri Maharaj. He said, “Maharaj, I have visited many pilgrim centres. I have heard a number of saints, yogis, scholars and pandits. Still, I am not satisfied. I have many doubts in my mind. Is there no conflict between Bhakti Marga (the path of Bhakti – Devotion) and Jnana Marga (the path of Jnana or Knowledge)? Can one retain devotion towards God when he gets knowledge? By nature, I am a believer in devotion and in idol worship. I cannot understand those learned men who have knowledge but have no devotion towards the Lord.”
Shri Maharaj listened to him carefully. He agreed to give discourses on the subject. Shri Maharaj gave three discourses on Bhakti Marg and Jnana Marg. A large number of people attended these discourses. When the final discourse was over, Shri. Bhattacharya touched the feet of Shri Maharaj. He was overwhelmed. He said, “Maharaj, I have now fully understood what is devotion, what is knowledge and what is the relation between them. All my doubts are clarified. I am feeling for the first time in my life that I am satisfied fully.”
Shri Maharaj just smiled and asked him, “Can you tell me what you have understood?” Shri. Bhattacharya said in a humble tone, “Maharaj, what I have understood from your discourses, is like this. Unless one gets knowledge, Jnana, one cannot develop real devotion, Bhakti. He who practises devotion merely externally and without attaining knowledge, performs only Upasana (i. e. ritual) which is only a formality and therefore is not real devotion.” Shri Maharaj smiled and said, “Yes, you have now really understood the subject.”
“Unless one gets knowledge, Jnana, one cannot develop real devotion, Bhakti. He who practises devotion merely externally and without attaining knowledge, performs only Upasana.”
From Prayag, Shri Maharaj went to Chhidgaon where he stayed for a few days. There he discussed with Shri. Dattatray Khapare, the then latest scientific developments in the west. Shri. Protap Chandra Bose, a scholar from Bengal who had settled down at Hoshangabad, came to Chhidgaon just to meet Shri Maharaj. He took the opportunity to ask Shri Maharaj to clarify some of his doubts. A number of these were about the philosophy of Berkeley, a western thinker. Shri Maharaj clarified all his doubts one by one to his full satisfaction. The discussion which had started at eight o’clock in the morning went on for nine hours continuously without a break. A number of the followers who had gathered to hear Shri Maharaj were so enchanted by his talk that everybody lost all sense of hunger and thirst and sat there upto 4 p. m. without any nourishment. As for Shri. Bose, he was so much influenced that he touched the feet of Shri Maharaj again and again and said, “Maharaj, all my doubts have vanished. I am now convinced that the root of all philosophy is the faith in God. Unless one has that faith, all philosophy is meaningless.”
48. VISIT TO MADHAN
Shri. Keshav Pande,an old friend of Shri Maharaj, was at Madhan, suffering from tuberculosis. Hisillness was in the last stage. When Shri Maharaj came to know about this he immediately returned to Madhan. Now this Keshav Pande had done many misdeeds and committed sins in his earlier life. When he saw his death approaching fast, he started repenting his past life. When he met Shri Maharaj he cried and sobbed like a child and prayed to Shri Maharaj, “Please forgive my sins. Now I repent all my sins and all the wrongs done towards others.”
Shri Maharaj pacified him. He read out portions from the “Vichaar Sagar” (Ocean of Thoughts) written by Shri Nischal Das and explained them to him. He told him, “Since you have repented, you are purified. God has promised that one who remembers him with all sincerity even during the last moments of his life, becomes one with God.” Shri Maharaj continued his stay in Madhan for a few days. He visited Keshav Pande everyday and explained to him the importance of real Devotion.
On the 20th October, 1911, Shri. Mahadeo Prasad, a senior Government Medical Official from Salimpur, came to Madhan to meet Shri Maharaj. He set forth his doubts about the philosophy of Islam. Shri Maharaj said, “Everybody should follow his own religion. The basic philosophy of all religions is the same. Whether it be Hinduism, Islam or Christianity. So I tell a Hindu to follow the Vedas, a Muslim to follow the Koran and a Christian to follow the Bible.” Shri Mahadeo Prasad was fully satisfied. He touched the feet of Shri Maharaj with great reverence.