53. Various Writings
In the years 1913 and 1914, Shri Maharaj wrote a number of books. The chief of them are:— Sadhu Bodh, Prem Nikunja, Ku-shishya Akhyan, Prashna Kadamba, Sampradaya Surataru, Gaanasopaana, etc. Of these again, “Sampradaya Surataru” is really a great work. It contains 6068 stanzas and runs into about 800 pages of the demi size. In this book he shows how pure devotion to Lord Krishna, as described in his “Madhura Advaita” thought, is a simple way to become one with God.
Shri Maharaj has written in this book, the following few lines:
“Manu, Vyasa, Shuka, Narada, Shankaracharya, and Dnyaneshwara were the incarnations of God who came to this earth to explain religion of their times. I have come for the same purpose in this 20th century.” He explains, “All religions and all sects lead to the same goal “Union with God.” Though the philosophy in the different religions and different sects appears to be different, really it is not so. All religions mean the same. The language is different, the ways are different. But ultimately they reach the same goal. So everybody should follow his own religion meticulously and reach the Lord by following the path laid down in his own religion.”
Shri Maharaj has given many examples to show how there is inherent unity in the apparent diversity in the different religions and different sects. “Follow your own religion faithfully and you will reach the Lord.” is the message given by Shri Maharaj in this book.
54. Indian Classical Music
Shri Maharaj was an outstanding singer. He has composed 6500 poems and 23000 stanzas. He has set all the poems to appropriate tunes. He used to sing these songs —poems himself. He had a sweet voice and he could express the mood of a song appropriately. He knew classical music also.
Shri V. N. Bhatkhande, the then most renowned musician and scholar in the country wrote and published three books on Indian classical music which were studied by Shri Maharaj. He raised certain basic issues about Indian classical music in a letter which he wrote to Shri Bhatkhande. He posed certain queries to which Shri Bhatkbande had no reply. He suggested that Shri Maharaj should write a and put forth his point of view. These letters have been published in Sukti Ratnavali (12the canto) and Vishrabdha Sharada (Second Volume).
To explain his point of view, Shri Maharaj had accepted the suggestion as a challenge and decided to write a book. He studied Indian classical music every day for about two hours. He continued his study for a period of 2 and a half years. in January, 1915, he started to write his own book “Gaanasopaana” (Steps to music). The book remained incomplete. It has been published in its incomplete form and still it has received wide acclaim from scholars in music who regard it as an important landmark in the history of classical music, and a really outstanding contribution to the scientific study of Indian Classical Music.
While writing Gaanasopaana, Shri Maharaj had made deep study of some old works on music written in Sanskrit by some acknowledged scholars in music like Sharngadeva, Kallinatha, Venkatamakhi, Matanga Muni, Umapati, Somanath, etc. who had lived in the earlier centuries. Shri Maharaj also studied all the available issues of “Scientific American”, a journal devoted to Western classical music which was being published in the USA. He also practised singing the classical ragas under the guidance of Shri Namadevbuva, famous singer and scholar in music in those days.
That the book Gaana Sopaan has been regarded as one of the most outstanding events in the history of Indian classical music is further confirmed by Shri P. L Deshpande, the famous playwright and noted scholar in music, and an outstanding music director from Maharashtra who writes, “Though the book is titled Gaanasopaana i. e. Steps in Music, it is meant for the scholars in music. The acquisition of any depth of knowledge in music is perhaps a very difficult task and much remains to be done in this respect in our country. That a blind man in our country could succeed in achieving this distinction so confidently and easily, and could guide other scholars in music, is indeed a great miracle of modern times. I am not competent to review this book and in my opinion no scholar in music, or an artist or a musician living in our country would be competent enough to review this book.”
55. Illness: Still Work Continues
The health of Shri Maharaj was deteriorating. After the death of Manakarnikabai, he did not take food regularly. Often he skipped his lunch and dinner and devoted all the time to his mission. Thus, day after day, month after month he overworked himself for years without caring for his health.
In 1915, Shri Sukal Seth, a rich trader in Harda celebrated the wedding of his daughter. He invited Shri Maharaj to attend. But due to ill health Shri Maharaj could not go to Harda. So Shri Sukal Seth came to Amravati and offered rich garments and other presents to Shri Maharaj on the occasion of his daughter’s wedding. Shri Maharaj was not ready to accept this costly present. But Sukal Seth prayed to him again and again. so at last Shri Maharaj agreed to accept it. But immediately on the next day, he distributed the rich clothes and other presents to the priests in Amravati.
A mahant from Punjab came to meet Shri Maharaj. He was a follower of the Mahanubhav sect. Shri Maharaj explained to him the important features of the philosophy of that sect. He drew his attention to the deficiencies also. The mahant was greatly impressed. He said, “Shri Gulabrao Maharaj is the most outstanding saint of our times.”
Shri Seshadri Shastry, a renowned scholar from Rajamahendry in Andhra Pradesh, came to meet Shri Maharaj. He asked a number of questions to Shri Maharaj regarding the Vedanta philosophy. Shri Maharaj was feeling very weak on that day due to high fever. In spite of it, he spoke to Shri Seshadri Shastry in Sanskrit for two hours and satisfied him.
In spite of illness, he continued to meet each and every visitor and guided him properly on the path of spirituality. His Highness. Shrimant Tukojirao Pawar, the ruler of Dewas, was greatly enamoured of the personality of Shri Maharaj. He was again sending letters and telegrams requesting him to visit Dewas. Shri Maharaj also received invitations from many princely states. But Shri Maharaj was not interested. He politely declined all these invitations. At last, the ruler of Dewas sent Shri Bapurao Lengade, renowned photographer to Amravati to take photographs of Shri Maharaj. He offered costly presents to Shri Maharaj on behalf of the ruler and took a number of photographs.
Even during this short contact with Shri Maharaj, Shri Lengade was so much attracted that he became the devotee of Shri Maharaj. He prayed to him to guide him on the spiritual path. Shri Maharaj explained to him the Bhakti Marga, the path of devotion, presented to him a copy of the Dnyaneshwari and advised him to read it regularly.
All this time the health of Shri Maharaj was deteriorating day by day. But Shri Maharaj continued his work with the same spirit and speed. He had accepted his mission with a religious zeal and was not prepared to spare any efforts to fulfil it. He studied the mental makeup of each and every devotee and guided each one according to his capacity on the spiritual path. He also spent hours and hours in dictating his books. Haribhau Kevale and others spared no efforts in noting down each and every word dictated by Shri Maharaj. Shri Shrinivasa Shastry and Shri Balwant Rao Deshmukh collected funds and kept the press running all the time to publish the books of Shri Maharaj. The spiritual message was spreading fast all over the country.
56. Katyayani Vrata – The Festival of Devotion in 1914
The KATYAYANI VRATA,the festival of devotion of 1914 was celebrated at Lakhapuri on the bank of the river Payoshni.
Though Shri Maharaj was ill, he attended the festival. Thousands of followers had gathered at Lakhapuri for the celebrations. A large number of scholars and devotees also participated in the festival. Shri Maharaj gave a discourse on some verses in Dnyaneshwari. Shri Khando Krishna alias Baba Garde, a great saint in those days came to attend the festival. He had discussions with Shri Maharaj on the Vedanta. Shri Baba Garde became a devotee of Shri Maharaj. He said, “I have not seen a saint as great as Shri Maharaj in my life.” Shri Baba Garde composed a verse which meant, “Lakhapuri where the festival was being celebrated had become as holy as Banaras since Shri Maharaj was staying there.”
While leaving Lakhapuri Shri Båba Garde touched the feet of Shri Maharaj with reverence. Shri Maharaj stopped him and said, “Please do not touch my feet, I am from a lower caste.” At this Shri Baba Garde was overwhelmed with emotion. Tears flew from his eyes. In a tone full of reverence he said, “Maharaj, you are the real incarnation of God.'”
After the festival Shri Maharaj visited Daryapur, Alaspur, Kurha and some other towns for about a month to give discourses, before returning to Amravati.