(Chapters from the biography of Shri Gulabrao Maharaj in English by Shri. Sharad Kopardekar.)
49. Meeting with Shri. Krishnarao Rege
At Harda there was a scholar named Shri. Krishnarao Rege. He had read a number of scriptures. Heused to meet each and every saint and scholar who happened to visit Harda. Heasked all of them to clarify his doubts, but was never satisfied. So the residentsof Harda used to say, “Krishnarao is a question mark himself!” When Shri Maharaj visited Harda, Krishnarao met him and asked a number of questions. Shri Maharaj replied to all his questions so that for the first time in his life, Krishnarao said he was fully satisfied.
Shri. Krishnarao did not believe in murti pooja (worship of a consecrated idol). He asked Shri Maharaj, “When God is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient, why should we worship an idol? Is he not present in everything?” Shri Maharaj said, “It is true that God is omnipresent. All the diversity you find in this world isonly external. The moment you experience that God is everywhere, you will no more feel that there is any diversity. Then you will find everything unified and merging into that one supreme being. Until one reaches that stage of sensitivity, one will continue to see diversity and differences in one thing from the other. Until that stage is reached, one will find that there is more of the Sattva Guna in certain beings and less in the others. Such a person will find Sattva Guna (pure righteousness) at the maximum in the idol which he worships. So for such a person, idol worship is essential, as that is the only way in which he can purify himself and can elevate himself to a higher plane.” The doubts of Shri. Rege were clarified and being fully satisfied, he touched the feet of Shri Maharaj with reverence.
Now, Shri.Krishnarao Rege had only one grandson. His name was Vishnu. He was suffering from tuberculosis, the wasting disease. In those days it was regarded as incurable. Most of those who got infected by that dreadful disease had no hope of surviving, as no effective treatment was available in any of the pathies.Shri. Krishnarao had consulted many medical practitioners in Allopathy and Ayurveda but in vain. When he came to know that Shri Maharaj had given medicines to a number of patients, he prayed to him to visit his house and examine Vishnu, his only grandson. When Shri Maharaj visited his house, Shri.Krishnarao threw himself at the feet of Shri Maharaj. He broke down with grief and cried openly like a child. He prayed, “Maharaj, please have mercy on me. Please cure my only grandson.” Shri Maharaj told him to observe certain Vrata and Upasana (observance of certain austerities like fasting,etc.) Then he gave some tirtha (sacred water) to Vishnu and also prescribed certain Ayurvedic medical treatment. In course of time, Vishnu started recovering. The doctors who had treated Vishnu earlier admitted that his recovery was miraculous. They said, “lt cannot be explained how a patient like Vishnu who was in the last stage of tuberculosis could be cured.”
50. Repentence of the Uncle of Shri Maharaj
We have already seen how Patilbuva and Bakaramji, the two uncles of Shri Maharaj had treated Shri Maharaj very badly while he was living in Madhan. They had never fed him properly. He was made to do odd menial jobs like a slave at home and in the fields. What he received in return was just abuses all the time.
Subsequently, Shri Maharaj left Madhan. Soon the fame of his uncanny powers and wonderful learning started spreading everywhere. Now he had followers all over the country in the North, East, West and South. His books and discourses brought him reputation as a realised saint, a yogi, an inspired poet and an eminent scholar.
The fame of Shri Maharaj reached Madhan also. Patilbuva and Bakaramji, the two uncles of Shri Maharaj were still alive. They had expected that blind Gulab would be a beggar on the streets. But contrary to this, Shri Maharaj had become one of the most outstanding persons of his time. Some of his followers respected him as the incarnation of God. The uncles of Shri Maharaj now started repenting for their misdeeds. They had no issue. Shri Gulabrao Maharaj was the only legal heir of all the ancestral property. So they sent a message to Shri Maharaj requesting him to come back to Madhan, forgive them, stay with them and take charge of the ancestral property.
When Shri Maharaj received this message, he sent them a letter.
“I am eager to serve you in your old ages not for the property but because it is my duty to do so. I do not need the family property. I would not allow my son also to receive the family property. Please donate it to a worthy priest and come to stay with me. I would take care of you as your son.”
This letter shows the greatness of the mind and the heart of Shri Maharaj. Not only did he forgive the misdeeds of his relatives and refused to accept the property, but he also offered them filial service as their son would have done.
51. Invitation from the Ruler of Dewas State
The reputation of Shri Maharaj reached the ears of the rulers of many princely states. Some of them invited Shri Maharaj to visit them. But Shri Maharaj ignored such invitations.
When Shri Maharaj was at Amravati, His Highness Shrimant Tukojirao Pawar, the Chief of Dewas, a state in Madya Pradesh, sent him four letters praying to him to visit his state. Shri Maharaj did not reply. The Chief then sent two telegrams with the same request. When the second telegram came, Shri Maharaj sent him a letter in the form of a poem. He wrote, “I am blind from infancy. I lost my parents in childhood. I had no formal education. I did not get an opportunity to serve any spiritual master. So you can imagine what an ignorant person I am. A poor fellow like me should not dare to enter the premises of a great king like you. I do not know how to show respect to a rich man, and how to please him. They have misinformed you by telling you that I am a scholar. To tell you the truth, I do not know anything except Dnyaneshwari. You are my king and I am your humble subject. So instead of inviting me to Devas you may graciously send me your blessings.”
It is difficult to believe that Shri Maharaj, the conqueror of scholars and pandits by whom he was now worshipped almost as divine incarnation should also be so humble. Perhaps he wanted to avoid the pomp and luxury and the lime light of princely states. Perhaps he was testing the sincerity of the Chief. After sending this letter, Shri Maharaj left for Harda and stayed there for a few days. When the Ruler of Devas read the letter of Shri Maharaj, he came to understand how really great Shri Maharaj was. So he sent a telegram in the following terms to Shri Maharaj.
“Your Holiness’ most gracious and kind letter received. With intense feelings of gratitude the undersigned underserving person prays to you to come to Dewas and bless me.”
This telegram was received at Amravati. Since Shri Maharaj was at Harda, it was redirected to him at Harda. Shri Maharaj did not reply. When the King did not receive any reply, he sent Shri. Trimbakrao Phadnis, his minister, to meet Shri Maharaj at Harda and to pray to him to come to Dewas. Shri Maharaj at last agreed to visit Dewas within eight days and sent Shri Narayanrao Pandit to see the arrangement there. Shri Narayanrao returned to Harda with Shri. Trimbakrao Phadnis who came again to fetch Shri Maharaj. So on the 10th of September 1913, Shri Maharaj and his followers left Harda and proceeded to Devas by train accompanied by Shri. Phadnis.
His Highness Shrimant Tukojirao Pawar received Shri Maharaj personally. Shri Maharaj stayed at the palace. After a few hours, Shri. Narayan Prasad, the Chief Minister of the Dewas (Major), came to meet Shri Maharaj. He asked a few questions on the Vedas and the caste system. Shri Maharaj replied to all the questions in his usual forthright manner. Shri Narayan Prasad then suggested that Shri Maharaj should not tell the king his opinions on the caste system for that might displease him. Shri Maharaj said bluntly, “I will always say what I believe. I will not utter even a single word to please or displease anybody if I do not believe in it. I am equally comfortable in a palace or on the bank of a river. My speech will be the same everywhere.”
Nobody except Shri Maharaj would have dared to say this in the face of the Chief Minister of the State. One is reminded of the Rishis (Sages) like Manishi in the old days who could call spade a spade and tell even a King in clear words that he was wrong.
The Chief Minister conveyed this to His Highness Shri Tukojirao Pawar. But His Highness was not at all displeased. He said, “His Holiness Shri Maharaj is really a great sage like Narada.”
Shri Maharaj gave discourses on Dnyaneshwari for four days. His Highness Tukojirao Pawar, members of the royal family, the ministers of the state and a large gathering attended these discourses.
The next day, Shri. Gangadhar Shastri, the Education Minister of the State, came to meet Shri Maharaj. He put up this poser to Shri Maharaj: “Saints are always poised. But there are some who lose their temper at times. Why is it so?” Shri Maharaj quoted a saying from the Sanskrit where it is explained that even saints should show a short temper outwardly so that people expecting worldly gains would be discouraged and keep away from them. Inwardly however, saints must keep calm and remain quiet all the time.
Every day a large number of people came to meet Shri Maharaj and asked him many questions. On the last night, His Highness Shri Tukojirao Pawar invited Shri Maharaj to his chamber. With his own hands he washed the feet of Shri Maharaj, dried them with a towel, applied scent on them and thus worshipped him. The King had never given this honour to anyone else in his life except to the images of Gods in the temple. The King said, “By serving Shri Maharaj today I am purified. I am honoured.”
His Highness Shri Tukojirao requested Shri Maharaj to accept him as his disciple. The King said he would be honoured if Maharaj agreed to be the spiritual master for the State. Shri Maharaj just smiled and refused the request politely. He said the King already had his own spiritual master. He should continue to follow him. There is no point in changing masters. He would get the utmost satisfaction even if he continues to believe in his spiritual master and follows his instructions faithfully. That night Shri Maharaj gave a discourse which went on up to 5 o’clock next morning. The King kept listening to him with rapt attention.
Early in the morning that day Shri Maharaj left Dewas by the car of the royal family. He came to Indore and stayed there. The residents of the city took Shri Maharaj out in a big welcome procession in which thousands of people participated.
52. Visit to Mumbai
From Indore, Shri Maharaj went to Mumbai. On the day of his arrival, he visited a bookshop to see the latest publications. Shri. Pangarkar met him in the bookshop accidentally. Shri. Pangarkar persuaded him to stay at “Madhava Ashram”, a famous hotel of those days. He stayed at “Madhava Ashram” for eight days, and gave discourses on Dnyaneshwari every day. A large number of followers attended regularly and the crowd began to increase day by day.
Shri. Kashinath Waman Lele, a great scholar from Wai, the home of learned scholars in Maharashtra, was in Mumbai at that time. He attended these discourses. He was so greatly impressed that he said, “I have not heard such meaningful and scholarly discourses in my Iife. I had heard of the great reputation of Shri Maharaj. But when I heard his discourses, I realised he is much greater than what people think. I am convinced he is an incarnation of Vidura, the great sage in the epic Mahabharata.”
His Holiness Shri Shankaracharya from Karveer, the highest spiritual authority of Hindu Religion, was also in Mumbai at that time. When he heard of the great reputation of Shri Maharaj, he sent a scholar follower to invite Shri Maharaj to see him.
The next day, Shri Maharaj went to meet His Holiness. Shri Shankaracharya. Shri Maharaj spoke of the teachings of the Adi (the first) Shankaracharya. He talked about how some verses in the “Shaankara Bhashya” could be interpreted in different ways and how there is unity in the apparent diversity in the different verses. His Holiness Shri Shankaracharya was greatly impressed. His Holiness garlanded Shri Maharaj and honoured him with a shawl.
Out of respect for His Holiness, Shri Maharaj accepted the honour. However, when he happened to meet Shri. Kashinath Waman Lele, the great scholar from Wai, in a bookstall in Girgaon (Mumbai), Shri Maharaj said, “I have accepted this shawl of honour out of respect for His Holiness Shri Shankaracharya. But scholars like you are really worthy of this honour, not I. So I offer it to you.” With this Shri Maharaj put the shawl round the shoulders of Shri. Lele and persuaded him to accept it though Shri. Lele Shastri kept on protesting that Shri Maharaj deserved it far more. At last Shri. Lele accepted the shawl. But while accepting he was overwhelmed with emotion.
Shri. L. R. Pangarkar who also was in Mumbai at that time, had also attended all the discourses of Shri Maharaj. He wrote an editorial in the Mumukshu, his periodical, on the 2nd October 1913. He said :
“Shri Gulabrao Maharaj is a scholar and a saint of such great height as is unknown and unheard of in the history of our country. He is an authority on Shruti, Smriti, Puranas, Hindi and Sanskrit literature, Parsi and Arabic learning, Christianity, Muhammedanism, Jain literature, the philosophy of the various sects and cults in our country, Eastern and Western philosophy, Yoga, Sankhya, Ayurveda, Astrology, Meemansa, Vedanta, etc. He explains these various branches of knowledge with such lucidity and in so simple a language with appropriate illustrations and references that one is led to believe that his great knowledge cannot but be a culmination of a study carried through many previous births.”
Shri. Pangarkar further wrote in his editorial: “Shri Maharaj presents in himself a great combination of karma (action), jnaana (knowledge) and bhakti (devotion to God). We feel, he is an Avatara (incarnation) of Vidura in the Mahabharata. If any one wants to learn the principles of Hinduism, he should go to Shri Gulabrao Maharaj. If one wants to know how these principles could be put into practice, he should observe the life of Shri Gulabrao Maharaj, for his life is a true representation of the principles of Hinduism. Shri Gulabrao Maharaj is also a great speaker and a great poet. Throughout the history of our country, we cannot find such a wonderful combination of knowledge, devotion and pure action all at once in a single person.”