Friday, February 26, 2010

NANASAHEB CHANDORKAR - THE BEGINNING


"Nana is about to die! I will not let him die! If a devotee is about to fall, I stretch out my hands, and thus with four outstretched hands at a time, support him. I will not let him fall.” At that time, Nanasaheb Chandorkar and Lele Sastri were near Poona, going in a Tonga. The horse of the Tonga reared and overturned the it. Chandorkar and Sastri were in peril of their life. But they picked themselves up and found that they had suffered no injury. When they reached Shirdi, they found that Baba had made the above declaration and saved their lives.

Narayan Govind Chandorkar was the first and foremost of Baba's devotees whose work was the basis of the spread of Sai faith for many decades. If Mhalsapathi was the seed, Chandorkar was the stem and trunk of the spreading Baba movement.

Nanasaheb, as he was called by Baba, was born on Makara Sankranti day (14 Jan 1860) to highly respected parents, who were good and pious Hindus, held in high esteem in their social circles and following the sastras to the best of their ability. They did their daily poojas and fed guests. They kept an open house and visitors to Kalyan were expected to be and were actually welcomed and fed by them as guests. His father was a retired Government officer, and had built a decent building there, the Chandorkar Wada, which became and still continues to be, the family mansion for so many generations. Chandorkar's capacity and talents can be seen from the fact that by twenty he was already a graduate. Entering Government service at once he rose to the position of a Gazetted officer, a Deputy Collector, in seven years, which was in those days - and even now - considered to be an exceptional feat. His conduct, character, and spiritual fitness were those of a good Hindu. He had taken up Philosophy as his special subject for the B. A. degree and supplemented his college study by careful attention to the Bhagavat Gita with Shankara Bhashya. In 1878, he married Bayaja Bai, daughter of a zamindar, Nanasaheb Ojha. He had two daughters - Mina Tai, Dwarakamayi - and two sons – Vasudev and Mahadev.
Nanasaheb was anxious to get the best out of the Hindu sastras for his own moral and spiritual equipment and progress. His basic equipment being so good, what was wanted was only the hand of a perfect master to turn him into a brilliant apostle, one high up in the spiritual ladder. Even under ordinary circumstances he would have shone well in life but with Baba as his Guru and guide, he shone resplendently well, and was known throughout the Bombay Presidency as a gentleman of an excellent and noble character, great attainments, and was revered as a Guru by eminent devotees like Sri B.V. Deo and others. His case illustrates the truth of the saying that it is not the sishya that seeks the Guru but very often the reverse. It was the Guru who sought him out. He had no idea of his previous births. But his Guru, Sri Sai Baba was full of jnana. The present, past and future floated before Sai Baba's mind's eye, if we may so term it, as one moment, and he could see every bit of it clearly. He knew that in the past four janmas Chandorkar was his sishya. He was determined to make the pupil continue the contact and derive further benefit till he achieved life's goal. That is why Baba sent for him even though he did not care ordinarily to meet persons in high official position - which in his view counted for nothing at all.

Chandorkar was Personal Assistant to the Collector of Ahmednagar, and was camping at Kopergaon for Jamabandi - that is land revenue settlement work. All karnams of the taluk had to attend the Jamabandi, and the Shirdi karnam was no exception. No one left Shirdi without permission of Baba, as everyone knew that with Baba's permission one was safe, and leaving without permission, ran into many dangers. So the Shirdi karnam, Appa Kulkarni, went to Baba and asked him leave to go to Kopergaon for Jamabandi work, as the Personal Assistant to the Collector, Narayan Govind Chandorkar was there.

Baba gave him leave, and added, 'Tell your Nana to come here'. Nana was the pet name of Narayan Chandorkar, which was used only by equals moving on intimate terms. Appa Kulkarni was astounded at the message. He considered that he was too insignificant a person and that Baba, a fakir, was also too insignificant to invite the Deputy Collector, a high Gazetted Officer of the Government. Baba insisted and told him that he might inform the Deputy Collector that it was Baba who invited him. With great diffidence the karnam, at the close of the day, approached the Deputy Collector and told him that Sai Baba, a fakir of Shirdi, invited him to come to Shirdi. Chandorkar was astounded. He thought that it could not possibly be, and told the karnam that he was a stranger to the fakir and the fakir was a stranger to him, and that he, the karnam, must have some purpose of his own to invite him to his village. In spite of the karnam's protests, Chandorkar would not believe him and sent him away.

When the karnam reported his failure to Baba, Baba repeated the invitation, and again the karnam, with considerable diffidence, approached the Deputy Collector on the second day and repeated the invitation. The second invitation had the same fate, and for the same reasons, as the first. That again was reported to Baba. Baba pressed the hesitating karnam to repeat the invitation for the third time. This time the invitation had the desired effect. Nana Chandorkar thought that there must be something in it, and so he told the karnam that he would visit Shirdi, but not immediately. Chandorkar kept his promise. Sometime after going to Ahmednagar, in 1892, he did go and pay a visit to Shirdi. After making a present of sugar candy and almond with some reverence to Baba, Chandorkar asked Baba whether it was true that he sent for him, and when that was admitted, why had he sent for him. Baba said, 'There are thousands of persons in this world, and do I send for them all? Should there not be some special reason why you alone should be sent for?' Chandorkar said that he was unable to see any special reason. Then Baba made the solemn statement, 'You and I have been connected with each other in four former births. I now invite you to come and again have your contact. Whenever you are free, you may come'. Chandorkar was surprised by this statement, and was not fully impressed. He left the place with the impression that he need not return to Shirdi. But he did come, and began his grand work of carrying on propaganda for Baba.

As Nana still hesitated to renew his contact, Baba revealed to Nana his watch over his interests using his powers to foresee or control the future. The Collector, Nanasaheb’s Superior, was pressing Nana to inoculate himself with a new serum against plague, so that the public could believe and get inoculated. The epidemic plague was playing havoc with the public health. Nana feared the inoculation and hastened to Baba to get his assurance about the safety of the operation. Baba gave it. Again, his father's objections to a Muslim's connection with any one in his family, was an apparently insurmountable obstacle. But it was overcome by Baba's power to control the father's mind. Baba made the latter approve of Nana's acceptance of Baba as his Guru.

The first essential of progress under a Guru is faith. Nana had to be impressed with Baba's divine nature and Baba's personal interest in him or attachment to him. As for the divine nature, Baba declared time and again that He is God, that is, that he has completely realised God or merged his identity with not merely the Impersonal Brahman but also the Personal God known under various names and forms. Thus, it was Baba's lookout to see that his nature and attitude towards his devotees should be thoroughly well impressed upon Nana's mind. Baba was watching over not merely Nana but numerous others and looking after their welfare.

Baba had to repeat his efforts to ensure the thorough fixing of these valuable truths and impressions in Chandorkar's mind. The most common and ordinary things one would suppose in the list of an ordinary man's needs are water to drink and food to eat. Yet at times these assume extraordinary importance, and provisions of drink or food under extremely difficult circumstances becomes clearly a kind act of Divine Providence. This was done for Nana Saheb Chandorkar by Baba under very peculiar circumstances.

Chandorkar was an orthodox Hindu, and, in spite of his corpulence, was anxious to visit hill tops where there were temples. Harischandra Hill, forty miles away from Shirdi, was a noted hill with a Devi's shrine at the top. But the long stretch of barren rock between that temple and the bottom of the hill was one vast treeless, wild, rocky waste, where there was neither water to drink, nor any shelter to hide in. Over that hill, Nana was climbing on a hot, summer day, and, after he had gone some distance, the heat of the sun and the toil of the journey told upon him. He felt very thirsty and asked his friend by his side for water.

The latter replied that there was none and that it was a barren rock. Nana also felt the fatigue of climbing greatly and said he could not climb any further. The friend asked him to climb down. But Nana was unable to do that either, and quietly sat on a huge stone and exclaimed 'if Baba were here, he would surely give me water to quench my thirst'. The friend, who was by his side, remarked that such observations about 'ifs' were useless. He added 'Baba is not here. What is the good of thinking what would happen if he were here?' He had only fleshy eyes and materialistic brains. He could not see with the eye of faith. If he had such an eye, he could have noted the presence of Baba not only on Harischandra hill but in every other place also. Chandorkar was in a slightly better position than this friend. It is because of his faith in Baba that the thought occurred to him that Baba could save him even on that barren rock. But he did not feel certain that Baba was there and that water would be provided. Anyhow his thought of Baba was the tiny hairspring or switch working the magic, the turn that saved the situation.

Prayer saves. But what are prayers but thoughts? Prayer is a means of placing one in contact with higher beneficent powers and there it serves its primary purpose. When a devout soul is deeply concentrating on God, what happens is that the soul gets so thoroughly saturated with the divine that divine power infiltrates into the Jiva and the combined power or the higher power produces certain results. It is the man of prayer that draws down divinity - turns divine at the moment of intense prayer and is responsible for certain results.

His thought was very intense and even if it had been less intense, when it was directed to Sai, it must have had immediate effect. That could not be seen by the friend or by Chandorkar himself on the hill. Sai Baba spoke out immediately in the presence of some devotees, 'Hello, Nana is very thirsty. Should we not give him a handful of water?' To Baba all places and all times were open before his vision, and he could see and hear everything. The persons around him, who did not have the benefit of such a vision, were wondering why Baba should talk of Nana's thirst. Nana the Deputy Collector was not there, and if the Deputy Collector was in thirst, gallons of water would be quickly brought to him by number of persons. Why did Baba talk like that? People around Baba could not make it out. Nor did Baba care to explain. What followed on the hill, gives the explanation. A little time after Nana made his prayer to Baba, a Bhil, that is, a hill tribesman, was seen coming down the hill towards Chandorkar and his friends. Chandorkar stopped him and said 'Hello! I am thirsty; can I get some water to drink?' People wondered how this Brahmin Deputy Collector should ask a Bhil, who is considered an untouchable or a low-caste man, and ask him for water. But necessity knows no law, and the Bhil's reply was most surprising. He said, 'What! You ask for water! Under the very rock on which you are sitting, there is water'. So saying, he moved away and disappeared from view. Nana's subordinates and friends who were with him immediately set about lifting the stone. There was just enough water on that rock, attractive and cool, necessary to save a man from fiery thirst. Nana took that water, his thirst was gone, and he was able to climb up and complete his pilgrimage.

Some days later, Nana had occasion to go to Shirdi and as he stepped into Baba's Dwarakamai, the very first words that Baba uttered to him before anybody could inform him about Nana's experience on the hill, were these, 'Nana, you were thirsty. I gave you water. Did you drink?' Nana's eyes opened with joyous wonder. He felt that his very thought of Baba had worked as a prayer and the appearance of the Bhil and his pointing out where the water was and the appearance of the water there on a waterless rock must all have been due to Baba. How Baba managed it, Baba only knew. And to confirm Nana in his view, devotees at Shirdi mentioned to him that on the memorable day and hour when he was on the Harischandra hill, with burning thirst, Baba spoke the above words. Nana was convinced, more than ever, that Baba was God - omnipresent, merciful and omnipotent, for he had the power to bring water under a rock and a man to show it just at the exact psychological moment. This conclusion of his might perhaps appear to be too weak for a logician to accept. An individual instance does not prove a rule and guarantee the validity of a universal proposition. But Nana was not pestered by doubts of logic. In the circumstances of Nana, there could be no room for doubting that Baba did respond to his very thought, which was an appeal for aid and did provide him with the water which was a necessity to save his life at that perilous juncture. His faith was confirmed and grew stronger and stronger.

Nana, with very little of doubting nature, advanced in the strength of his faith, obtained more and more of wisdom by the grace of Baba and was progressing rapidly towards that shanti or Peace, which is the goal of all spiritual life and endeavour. Thus Nana was convinced that Baba had superhuman power, superhuman love, and made superhuman provision of needs for those who were attached to him and whom he loved. So, he found that Baba was really a Deva (God), and that Baba was pre-eminently fitted to take charge now of Nana's life, of his comfort, and of all his concerns, temporal and spiritual. Thus convinced, Nana was perfectly prepared to take the plunge of Prapatti to the Gurudeva, to surrender himself unhesitatingly to the directions of Baba, being perfectly assured that no harm would result because of such an action, and on the other hand much good—nay every good—would result.

Having provided for the thirst of Nana in one place, Baba marvellously provided for his hunger in another place. In Padmalaya forest, there is a Ganapati temple. It is ten miles away from the nearest railway station and the access to it is through ten miles of forest. Nana had made arrangements for all this, but trains have got a queer way of being late, and in this case, his train being many hours late, all arrangements were upset and there was no conveyance and no assistance forthcoming. Nana's arrival at the railway station was evening time, very near dusk. He was determined to push along with his companions to the temple, come what may. In the absence of any conveyance, Nana had to dare and dared the risk and trouble of walking ten miles to reach the Ganapati temple. So he trudged on. But when he was about half way or more than half way, it was already 9 p.m. and the pujari of the temple would usually lock it up by 9 or 10 p.m. and retire to his cottage at some distance for his night's rest. So, Nana doubted whether he would get into the temple at all. Further, having walked wearily six or seven miles, he felt the pangs of hunger. Naturally he remembered Baba. He prayed, 'Baba, I am not asking for much. I am not over greedy. I will be quite satisfied if, at the close of this journey, I can get one cup of tea to quench my hunger'. Then he and his companions trudged on. It was nearly 11 p.m. when they reached the temple. Instead of the temple being closed, the pujari was on the watch, and on seeing persons at a great distance coming, shouted. 'Is Nana coming?' It would be highly impertinent on the part of any priest to call a Deputy Collector by his pet name, as though he was his chum. But here there was no feeling of resentment, but one of gratification on the part of Nana and his friends when they heard the voice, 'Is Nana coming?' They approached and said, 'Yes. How do you know that Nana is coming?' Then the priest said, "I had an ethereal message from Sri Sai Baba in which he said, 'My Nana is coming weary, thirsty, and hungry. Keep for him one cup of tea'. Here is tea ready for you all." He then gave Nana his cup. This again proved that Baba's eye of supervision was not merely on hills but also in forests to look after the safety, comfort and health of his beloved devotee. Alike from danger of thirst and hunger, Baba had saved him.

Baba, having implanted in Chandorkar sufficiently strong faith in and reliance on the Guru, was constantly watering this plant with fresh instances of his loving watch and care. Even in apparently trivial matters such as catching trains and meeting official superiors, Baba showed his concern for the disciple and helped him. It is this enduring and endless concern of the Guru that grips the disciple, and makes him understand God.
Continued in NANASAHEB CHANDORKAR - THE FAITH

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this wonderful experiences of a devotee from Shirdi Sai Baba himself.

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