Ganpat Rao then came to Baba and said, 'I have now left my service. My wife and I have to beg in the streets, as we have no property or income'. Baba said, “Ganu, I shall provide for you and your family”. Baba then asked him to go on with his Brahminical duties, puranic studies, and kirtans at which he was excellent. From the day of his loss of service in 1903, till his last day, Ganpat Rao was never in want either for food or clothing, and had even become the owner of some lands yielding him sufficient support. In 1919, his wife died issue less, leaving him without any encumbrances. Baba told him to attend to his kirtans. Das Ganu was especially good at kirtans. He had a fine metallic voice and could hold an audience of over 2,000 people spellbound in rapt attention. As he never asked for any money, his kirtans were very popular. In all his kirtans, he would place Baba's picture next to him and even though his katha was about Tukaram or Namdev or Jnanadev, he would always refer to Sai Baba as the living Satpurusha, as the present Great Saint. Dasganu would emphasise that it would be a great blessing for people to have darshan of Sai, as the very darshan would purify and benefit the visitor. As soon as his kirtans ended, people started in numbers to go to Shirdi and see Baba. These numbers included high officials of good and great position, as also the poor. Thus he was the means of sending some tens of thousands of people to Baba. He was justly styled Hari Bhakta Parayana Kirtankar. Baba developed his nature and purified it by making him spend his time whenever he went to Shirdi in reading Vishnu Sahasranama at a temple there. Das Ganu Maharaj thus got highly purified and was highly devoted to Baba. His purification and development are marked in various ways, and Baba's favour to him on the spiritual side is so vast and varied that it is impossible to sketch them out. However, mention may be made of a few facts showing how Baba favoured him in addition to relieving him of the two great hampering curses upon him, namely, the dance mania and the Foujdar mania. Baba gave him a special capacity to understand things which others could not ordinarily understand. Baba gave him special hints on special occasions. Two of these instances are given below.
Das Ganu Maharaj wished to write a Marathi commentary on Amritanubhava, a famous Marathi religious treatise, which was considered to be impossible. A pundit told him that he could not possibly catch all the meaning of Jnana Dev, the author, and express it in his work. Das Ganu went to Baba, prayed for and immediately got his blessing. Then, he began to write his explanations of the riddles, seeming contradictions and apparently meaningless dicta of Amritanubhava. He found the heart of the author and brought it out by a number of illustrations. He drew these illustrations mostly from Baba's talk which he heard at Shirdi. He thus succeeded in presenting Amritanubhava in such a way as to satisfy even keen critics; and the pundit who first considered it impossible was of the opinion that Das Ganu's work was satisfactory.
After Amritanubhava, Das Ganu was anxious to render a Sanskrit Upanishad, Isavasya Upanishad, into Marathi. Before proceeding further, here is a brief idea of this most beautiful Upanishad. Isavasya Upanishad consists of only 18 verses. It is full of great thoughts and has been considered by Mahatma Gandhi to be peculiarly important.
It is believed that the God, intent on the regeneration of the world, communicated Vedas through Hiranyagarbha (Brahma) and Hiranyagarbha, in turn, passed them on to his ten Manasa-puthras, including Athri and Marichi. From them, the Vedas spread among humanity, handed down from one generation to another. As time passed, ages accumulated and continents moved, some Vedas got lost, or were neglected as too difficult for comprehension, and only four have survived into modern times. These Four were taught by Vedavyasa, the greatest among the exponents of the Vedas, to his disciples, in the Dwaparayuga.
When Vyasa was thus expounding the Vedas, engaged in spreading the sacred scripture, one of his disciples, Yajnavalkya by name, incurred his wrath and as a punishment, he had to regurgitate the Yajurveda that he had already learned, into the custody of his guru and leave the place. Just then, the Rishis who revere the Vedas flew into the place in the shape of Thiththiri birds and ate up the regurgitated Yajurveda. That particular section of the Veda is called "Thaithiriyam".
Yajnavalkya then took refuge in Suryadeva, the treasure-house of the Vedas. Suryadeva was pleased with the devotion and steadfastness of the unfortunate Yajnavalkya. He assumed the form of a Vaji or Horse and blessed the sage with renewed knowledge of the Yajurveda. The sections thus taught by the Vaji came to be called 'Vajasaneyi'. The Yajurveda as promoted by Vedavyasa is called Krishnayajurveda and that handed down by Yajnavalkya as the Suklayajurveda. In these, the first few chapters are mantras connected with the Karmakanda and the last few sections deal with Jnanakanda. The IsavasyaUpanishad is concerned with Jnanakanda.
The Upanishad, though apparently simple and intelligible, is in reality one of the most difficult to understand properly. The aspirant should sit at the feet of an experienced teacher, a Brahma-Srotri, a Brahma-Nishtha, and study this Upanishad with single-pointed and pure mind. Then everything will become quite clear. Out of the eighteen mantras in this Upanishad, only the first two deal directly with the problem of liberation and its solution. The other sixteen elaborate this solution and serve as commentaries thereon. In the first mantra of the Isavasya, the Jnana-nishta characterised by the absence of craving of any sort is expounded. This is the primary Vedartha. However, those who have cravings will find it difficult to get stabilised in that Nishta or state of mind. For such, the second mantra prescribes a secondary means, the Karmanishta. The rest of the mantras elaborate and support these two nishtas - based on Jnana and Karma. Karma-nishta has Desire and Delusion as the cardinal urges; Jnana-nishta has Vairagya (Renunciation), the conviction that the world is not Atma, that is to say, not true, and therefore, it is profitless to have any dealings with it. Renunciation here does not mean negation of life. It is not some morose and lifeless experience. We should not renounce life because of despair or depression arising out of our fears, frustration or personal failures. True renunciation arises out of intense longing for the divine, out of a state of mind in which attachment with the Divine alone makes sense and out of a sense of freedom and fearlessness that stem from unflinching faith in God and His supreme will. We should not renounce life because we do not like it. We renounce life because we love God intensely and live our life with a sense of gratitude and self-surrender. The life of renunciation is a carefree life, utterly devoid of all pretension and seeking and free from the cares and the struggle that accompany all manners of seeking. Man has the right to enjoy his life. There is a divine sanction for it. Life has to be enjoyed, but without seeking, without coveting, and without struggling to get things done or get things for oneself. It is the renunciation of seeking and of desiring things which is the central feature of a life of true renunciation. Those who renounce life truly, in fact, enjoy life better than those who do not. The true sanyasis are not troubled by the fear of loss or the possibility of gain. They accept their lot, what comes to them without struggle and seeking and remain indifferent to what does not come to them or what has departed from them. Such an attitude to Vairagya is the gateway to Jnana-nishta. From the third to the eighth mantra, the real nature of the Atma is depicted, through the condemnation of the Avidya, which prevents the understanding of the Atma.
Thus the Isavasya teaches the lesson of renunciation through the first mantra and the lesson of 'liberating activity' (through Karma devoid of Raga and Dwesha) in the second mantra. In the fourth and fifth mantra, it speaks of Atmathathwa and later of the fruits of the knowledge of that Atmathathwa. In the ninth mantra, the path of progressive liberation or Karmamukthi (useful for those who are too weak to follow the path of total renunciation but who are adepts in acts that are conducive to moral development and inner purification) is laid down; this is the path which co-ordinates all Karma on the principle of Upasana. Those who are engaged in acts contrary to Vidya are full of Ajnana. It says that those who confine themselves to the study and practice of divine forms are even worse, for their desire is for powers and skills. Vidya leads to Deva-loka, Karma leads to Pithr-loka. So, the Jnana that results in Atmasakshathkara or Self-realisation is something quite distinct from these, no attempt to co-ordinate the two can succeed.
Isavasya Upanishad is also called as, ‘Mantropanishad’. It constitutes the last or the 40th chapter of the Vajasaneyi Samhita. Being embodied in Vedic Samhita, it is regarded as superior to all other Upanishads. In fact, the other Upanishads are considered to be commentaries on the truths mentioned briefly in the Isavasya Upanishad.
Prof. RD Ranade (1886 - 1957 AD) one of the greatest philosophers India has produced, says, “The Isopanishad is quite a small Upanishad; and yet it contains many hints which show extraordinarily piercing insight. Within the short compass of 18 verses, it gives a valuable mystical description of the Atma, a description of the ideal sage, who stands unruffled in the midst of temptations and sorrows; an adumbration of the doctrine of Karma-Yoga as later formulated and finally a reconciliation of the claims of Knowledge and Works. The most valuable idea that lies at the root of the Upanishad is that of a logical synthesis between the two opposites of Knowledge and Works, which are both required according to the Upanishad, to be annulled in a higher synthesis.” (Page 24; Constructive Survey of the Upanishadic Philosophy). In another place, he says that “The poetry of the Isopanishad is a co-mixture of moral, mystical and metaphysical knowledge.” (Page 41, ibid.)
Dasganu Maharaj undertook the difficult task of translating this Upanishad into Marathi, entitled ‘Isavasya Bhavartha Bodhini’, and bringing out its exact meaning. For this purpose, he used the ‘Ovi’ metre, verse by verse. As he did not comprehend the essence of the Upanishad, he was not happy with his work. So, he consulted some learned men to clarify some of his doubts, discussed with them for great lengths of time, but the doubts remained as doubts. Dasganu was becoming restless.
As seen already, the Isavasya Upanishad teaches us the science of self realization. It gives us a weapon which can cut the bondage of life and death and set us totally free. When nobody could resolve his doubts, Dasganu thought that he should ask someone who has himself achieved self realization. He thought that Sadguru alone is competent to resolve his doubts. When a suitable opportunity presented itself, Dasganu prostrated at the feet of Baba and asked for guidance. Baba blessed him and told him, “Don’t worry. The maid servant of Kaka (Kakasaheb Dixit) will clear all your doubts at Vile-Parle (a suburb of Mumbai).” Those who had assembled there, thought that Baba was joking as “how could an illiterate maid servant clear the doubts about Isavasya Upanishad, which she may not even know exists.” Dasganu, however, knew better and was certain that whatever Baba spoke came true.
Obeying Baba’s instructions, Dasganu left for Vile-Parle and stayed with Kakasaheb Dixit. Next day when he was doing his daily morning worship, he heard a beautiful and melodious song. The song was in praise of a crimson coloured saree, about its pallu, border and the embroidery on it. The song was so appealing that Dasganu came out to see the person who was singing the song. The singer was a young girl of about eight years of age. She was sister of Namya, Kaka’s male servant. She was cleaning the vessels and was dressed in torn clothes. Dasganu immediately took a liking to the girl and felt pity for her. He also observed that though she was impoverished, she was in a very jovial mood.
Next day, when Rao Bahadur MW Pradhan presented him with a dhoti, Dasganu requested him to give a sari to the young girl. Rao Bahadur bought a good Chirdi (small sari) and presented it to the girl. Seeing the Chirdi, the girl’s face beamed with happiness and uncontrolled joy. Next day, she wore the new sari, whirled, danced and played ‘Fugadi’ (a traditional dance played by the women during Vinayaka Chaturthi in Maharashtra) with her friends and was very happy. The following day, she kept the sari in her box at home, came in the same old torn clothes and was singing and playing as on the previous day, when she was in the new sari. Seeing her so jovial, Dasganu had admiration, in stead of pity, for the girl. He thought that she had kept the new sari in her trunk to be worn on some festival day; and as she was poor, she had to be in torn clothes. Then something flashed in his mind.
Dasganu had observed that the girl was happy in the torn clothes, she was happy when in a new sari, and she continued to be happy even when she had to revert to the old torn clothes. Her dress did not affect her state of mind at any time. Her happiness of mind was not affected by the changes that were taking place to the dress on her body. She believed that whatever happened to her was the blessing of God, accepted the changes and was happy. She had not, of her own accord, asked for any of these changes. This was exactly what the first sloka of Isavasya Upanishad propounded.
Isavaasyamidam sarvam yathkincha jagathyaam jagath
Thena thyakthena bhunjeethaah, maa gridhah kasyaswid-dhanam
Thena thyakthena bhunjeethaah, maa gridhah kasyaswid-dhanam
All this-whatsoever moves in this universe (and those that move not) is covered (indwelt or pervaded or enveloped or clothed) by the Lord. That renounced, enjoy. Do not covet the wealth of any man.
Then Das Ganu understood the Upanishad. He knew that the girl's happiness lay not in the external sari which she had 'thrown away' (tena tyaktena, which means, that being thrown away) but in herself. And Isavasya Upanishad says the same thing. 'Tena Tyaktena' means being content with what God gives you. The girl was happy as she was contented. Thus Baba taught Isa Upanishad to Ganu through a young maid servant of eight years age. Dasganu was very happy. His doubts were clarified. Sadguru had guided him through an illiterate servant maid. Baba's ways of teaching were and are peculiar and different in the case of different individuals.
When he thought there was nothing for him to depend upon, Baba provided everything, and Das Ganu had always been very well off temporally. The properties he acquired subsequently, he got them transferred to his adopted son. As for the spiritual uplift, it is impossible to conceive of any greater benefit than wrenching one away from the two great ropes that were dragging Ganpat Rao downwards, namely, the lewd village dramas which Ganpat Rao was playing in and the soul-destroying police work, the wickedness of which would be heightened by the ambition to rise to Sub Inspectorship in double quick time. The way in which Baba responded to prayers and saved him, time and again, from dismissal or punishment would quite suffice to impress the mind of Ganpat Rao with the fact that Baba is omnipotent, is everywhere, watching and attending to his prayers, and is ever looking after him. Baba watched him at every place to which he went and took the appropriate measure that was urgently needed for his welfare. What else can be God, other than the one who watches us everywhere, and further takes adequate steps to see that harm does not befall us but real benefit is conferred on us? What is God other than the one who hears and grants prayer?
Even though Das Ganu sang of Baba as God in fine terms and set to excellent music, his conviction was superficial and not deep. His faith in Baba's divinity was very poor and very weak. In order to make Dasganu and other disciples realise Him properly, Baba exhibited some miracles, one of which is as follows.
On a Mahashivaratri day, Dasganu wanted to have Gangasnaan (a holy bath in the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna at Prayag) by going to Singaba (about 5kms from Shirdi) and having a dip in Godavari River. Godavari river, in ordinary parlance, is termed 'Ganga' (the Ganges, the most sacred river). Dasganu approached Baba for permission. Baba told him, “If you have unflinching faith, then both Ganga and Yamuna will flow here itself. One need not go that far for the sake of a bath”. Ganu felt very much dissatisfied. Without showing his displeasure, Dasganu prostrated at Baba’s feet. The moment his head touched Baba’s feet, Ganga and Yamuna sprouted from both the toes of Baba’s feet and started flowing like rivers. Having witnessed what Baba could do, Dasganu could not contain his ecstasy and began singing Baba’s Leelas.
Baba asked Das Ganu to read Vishnu Sahasranama and retreat from the crowds of the Dwarakamai. He asked him to go to a sequestered temple like the Vittal temple in the village and continue recitals or repetitions of Sahasranama. The Vishnu Sahasranama is so vast and the import of the thousands of Names, is so great that any one who goes through them carefully with the help of Sankara or other Bhashya thereon must be struck by the fact that powerful material imbedded in Vishnu Sahasranamam must suffice for the purification of any soul. The experience of thousands justifies them in the belief that what is claimed in the Vishnu Sahasranama stotra itself is right. That stotra says at the end that a person making a parayana thereof will obtain issue if he is issueless, wealth if he has no wealth, power, fame, glory and success if he is without these and, it adds that sins of ages would be washed off. In order to give the benefit of the Sahasranama to those who have unfortunately not the time nor the opportunity to repeat, the bare repetition of one name contained therein, namely, the name 'Rama' would be equivalent to the merit of repeating all the thousand names.
Sri Raama Raama Raameti
Rame Raame Manorame
Rame Raame Manorame
One who repeats only the name of Rama will obtain the merit of repeating the Sahasranama itself.
Whatever Baba did, Das Ganu stuck mostly to his old set of ideas which formed the foundation for his spiritual progress. He could not get rid of the idea that the great thing for him to do was to go to Pandharpur, the Bhooloka Vaikuntam as it is called, in Asvin and Kartik months and see the holy image of Vittal there and worship it. That Vittal alone was God. And if he was to get vision of God it must be by that form appearing before him in a vision.
When he was in this mentality, Nanasaheb Chandorkar, his former master (for this was in 1912 or so when Ganu had retired from service) was asking him to stay on for Asvin at Shirdi and do his kathas there. At once Das Ganu thought that Baba was compelling him, through Nanasaheb, to keep off from visiting Vittal at Pandharpur. His thought then was "How is Baba a God, when He keeps me away from God (Vittal) at Pandharpur?" Baba noting his thought told Nana Chandorkar to send him away to Pandharpur, and so he went and returned later on to Shirdi. Then he came to Baba and said, 'When will you give me Sakshatkar?' Baba said, 'You see Me. This is Sakshatkar. I am God'. Then Das Ganu said, 'I expected you would say so. But I am not satisfied with it'. Das Ganu considered that Vittal of Pandharpur alone was God, and not the Sai form that he saw at Shirdi. He concluded that it was not in his destiny to have Sakshatkara of Vittal.
Some more examples of how Baba helped Das Ganu temporally and spiritually are given here. Once when Das Ganu and Bere, an agricultural inspector, were to leave Shirdi for Kopergaon to catch a train for which there was plenty of time, they went to take Baba's leave. Baba in giving the leave, said "Start at once, don't stop but go straight to Kopergaon." They acted on his advice. Other tongawallahas told them to wait and go with them on that dangerous road to have the benefit of their company. They, however, followed Baba's advice and drove straight on and arrived safe at the Kopergaon station. The other tongawallahs who came up later were in time to catch the train but they were waylaid by highway robbers. Baba's advice had saved Bere and Ganu from that mishap.
Baba similarly tried to save Das Ganu from being attacked by the inner enemies (Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada, Matsarya) also. Baba set before him the ideal of being totally free from those six enemies. That, however, was no joke. Like so many other devotees, this apostle also had his slips. But Baba very kindly pulled him up and corrected him off and on. For instance, on one occasion there was a feast at Shirdi where sira (a sweet dish prepared with wheat rava) was prepared and distributed. Baba asked Ganu, "Did you get sira at that person's house?" "No, Baba" said Ganu, "that man is my enemy and did not invite me." Baba, at once rebuked him and said, “What is this sira and who eats it? Do not say of anyone that he is your enemy". Baba wanted to point out to him that he is the soul which neither eats nor has any other physical function and that all souls are in essence one and the same, namely, Paramatma. To one who has realised himself as Paramatma, there can be no enemy at all.
Das Ganu Maharaj was a very severe critic and occasionally uttered words that wounded the hearts of others and produced other evil effects. On one occasion, he had used hard words and defamatory language against a devotee living at Shirdi, who had done splendid work to make Sai Samsthan highly attractive and who drew numerous influential and other people to Baba's feet. When Das Ganu vented one of his frequent abuses against that devotee, Baba sent for him and pointed out that the work of attracting devotees to Baba's feet was rightly prized and practised by Das Ganu himself on a vast scale and yet he was defaming a person who carried on the same work and he thereby hindered that work. Baba thus made him acknowledge his error and insisted on his prostrating himself before that devotee and begging pardon. So Das Ganu adopted that advice and prostrated himself before that devotee and prayed for pardon. He thus gained more self-control and more humility.
This peculiar lack of faith of Das Ganu was not noticed by himself till after Baba left the body. In 1919, that is, a year after Baba shed his mortal coil, Das Ganu was at his usual place, Nanded, where there was a saint, with wonderful spirituality, on a rock. When others went to see that saint, he received them. But whenever Das Ganu tried to see him, he avoided him. On one occasion in 1919, when his wife died, he sent some food to that saint and saw him later. Das Ganu wanted to know why the saint was evading him. Then the saint answered, 'You call yourself a Kirtankar. Why then have you "Ahamkar" (Egotism)?' Das Ganu pleaded that every one had Ahamkar, and that it was impossible to avoid it. Then that saint said, 'Shall I tell you what sort of Ahamkar you have? Is not Sai Baba your Guru? And shall I say what you have done with him?' Das Ganu said, 'Yes'. The saint asked, 'Did not Baba produce water from his feet, and what did you do with it? You sprinkled it on your head, but would not put it into your mouth, because you are a Brahmin and the Ganga was coming from the feet of the mosque dwelling Baba. Is it not Ahamkara of yours?' Das Ganu felt the force of the saint's observations. Das Ganu's inability to think of Baba as pure Vittal or God is an instance where a person gets very great benefits from Baba but something or other hinders his deriving the fullest benefit as prejudices die hard and old habits cannot be easily erased.
Even during Baba's life in the flesh, Ganu was the person to deliver the annual Harikathas (from 1914) at Shirdi at Baba's Urus, the Ramanavami Utsavam; and had kept up the tradition of conducting that Utsavam for a major part of his life. Das Ganu Maharaja's regular kirtans throughout Maharashtra have raised him in the estimation of all whether they are devoted to Sai Baba or not. His eminence may be seen from the fact that he was the President of the All India Sai Devotees' Conference held at Coimbatore in 1948.
Das Ganu Maharaj passed away at the ripe old age of 95 years on 23 October 1962. It was also an Ekadashi Day in the lunar month of Kartik . Baba gave this Ekadashi death to his devotees Kasiram, and Appa Bhil. We may also note here that Mhalsapathi died on an Ekadashi day as also Nanasaheb Chandorkar, Tatya Patel, Kakasaheb Dixit and other Baba’s devotees.