Monday, March 1, 2010



Those were the days when Baba’s fame had not yet spread far and wide. Devotees, who came for Baba’s darshan, could easily spend some time alone with Baba. On one such afternoon, Baba was relaxing and Nanasaheb was tenderly and lovingly massaging Baba’s legs with utmost care. To spend time purposefully, Nanasaheb was trying to repeat and recollect something. He did not want to disturb Baba’s peace, so he was muttering in a low voice. Baba knew what he was mumbling and caught him exactly at the point He wanted to. It dealt with the Guru teaching the sishyas, and that is what Baba wanted—to disabuse him of his conceit and pride based on an ego which barred God-realization or jiva brahma-aikya.

Baba asked, “Nana, what are you muttering?”
Nana: A sloka in Sanskrit.
Baba: Which Sloka?
Nana: From Bhagavad-Gita.
Baba: Say it loudly. Let Me also hear it.
Nanasaheb then recited the sloka from Bhagavad-Gita.

Tadviddhi pranipaatena pariprashnena sevayaa;
Upadekshyanti te jnaanam jnaaninas tatvadarshinaha.
Chap.4, Sl.34

Know that through prostration, inquiry and service. The wise ones who have realized the Truth will impart the Knowledge to you.
Although people may be wise, some of them are apt to know Truth just as it is, while others may not be so. Hence the qualification, 'who have realized the Truth'. The considered view of the Lord is that Knowledge imparted by those who have full enlightenment becomes effective, not any other.

Baba: Have you understood it?
Nana: Yes.
Baba: Then, tell Me.
Nana: It means, “Making Saashtaanga Namaskar, that is, prostration, questioning the Guru, serving him, learn what this Jnana is. Then, those Jnanis who have attained the real knowledge of the Sadvastu (Brahman) will give you Upadesh (instruction) of Jnana.”
Baba: I don’t want the gist of the sloka. Tell Me the meaning of each word and its grammatical significance.

Nana wondered how the intricacies of Sanskrit grammar could be understood by Baba who showed no trace of linguistic, literary or any other education. Still, Nanasaheb explained it word by word with meaning and its import.

Baba : Well, what does ‘Ta’ refer to?
Nana: Jnana.
Baba: Which Jnana?
Nana : Jnana referred to in the previous verse.
Baba : What does pranipata mean?
Nana : It means prostration or bowing down.
Baba : What does 'Pata' mean?
Nana: The same.
Baba: Mere prostration is enough?
Nana: I don’t know any meaning other than ‘making prostration’ for ‘pranipata’.
Baba: What is ‘pariprashna’?
Nana: To ask questions.
Baba: What does ‘prashna’ mean?
Nana: Same, asking questions.
Baba: If ‘pariprashna’ and ‘prashna’ meant the same, why did Vyasa add the prefix ‘pari’? Was he mad?
Nana: I don’t know any other meaning for ‘pariprashna’.
Baba: ‘Seva’. What kind of ‘Seva’ is meant?
Nana said that it was merely service like massaging, which he was doing.
Baba: Rendering such service is sufficient?
Nana: I don’t know what else is signified by the word ‘Seva’.
Baba : Nothing else?
Nana : Nothing else so far as I can see.
Baba: In the next line, ‘Upadekshyanti te jnanam’, is it possible to read any word other than ‘jnanam’?
Nana: Yes.
Baba: What is it?
Nana: We can say Upadekshyanti te {a} jnanam.
Baba: Using that instead of ‘jnanam’, can any meaning be made of the sloka?
Nana: What! This reading of the Guru giving Ajnanam is not in Shankara Bhashya.
Baba: Never mind if it doesn’t give. Is there any objection to using ‘ajnanam’ if it gives a better meaning?
Nana: I don’t understand how to construe a meaning using ‘Ajnanam’.

Nana could not understand how the Guru's giving Ajnanam could make a better meaning. In that way Baba puzzled him word after word and phrase after phrase.

Baba finally asked, “Why does Sri Krishna refer Arjuna to Jnanis or Tattwadarshis to do his prostration, interrogation and service? Was not Sri Krishna Himself a Tattwadarshi and a Jnani?”
Nana: Yes, He was. But I don’t understand why He referred Arjuna to Jnanis.
Baba: Did you not understand this?

Nanasaheb Chandorkar was thoroughly humbled. He understood that he was in front of a giant who knew everything. He then asked Baba himself to explain, and Baba's answers to His own questions revealed a wealth of knowledge of Upanishadic material and mastery of that knowledge in twisting the words to provide a new meaning. Nanasaheb’s pride was knocked on the head. He was deceived by Baba’s external appearance. He knew that Baba came to Shirdi when He was very young and did not have any formal education. So, he thought that Baba’s knowledge was based purely on intuition and as such, He did not know Sanskrit or for that matter the theoretical aspect of any religion. Nanasaheb assumed that Baba’s knowledge grew out of His experiences alone. The way Baba asked sharp, pointed questions and answered them revealed a depth of mind which was totally new to Nanasaheb.

Then Baba began to explain the real significance of the sloka:

“1. It is not enough to merely prostrate before the Jnanis. We must make Sarvasva Sharanaagati (complete surrender) to the Sadguru.
2. Mere questioning is not enough. The questioning should be serious and with a view to achieve spiritual progress or Moksha. The questioning should never be made with a view or attitude to trap the Guru or out of idle curiosity or with any other improper motive.
3. Seva is not rendering service. Rendering service implies that one is free to offer or refuse service. Seva implies that one is not the master of the body, that the body is Guru’s and that it exists only to render service to him.
If this is done, the Sadguru will show what the Jnana is, as referred to in the sloka.”

Nanasaheb was perplexed. Earlier Baba had asked to use ‘Ajnana’ for ‘Jnana’ in the sloka. He could not understand whether the Sadguru teaches ‘Jnana’ or ‘Ajnana’. How does a teacher teach ‘Ajnana ’? He asked Baba.

Then Baba replied:
“How is Jnana-Upadesha done? It is done by removing the veil of ignorance over Jnana. Only a Jnani knows that he is a Jnani. For all others, the fact that they are Jnanis is not known to them. A veil of Ajnana covers their Jnana. A Sadguru removes this veil. Commenting on Gita 18-66, Ovi-1396 of Jnaneshwari says, ‘Removal of ignorance is like this, oh Arjuna. If dream and sleep disappear, you are yourself. It is like that.’ Gita 5-15 says,

Ajnaanenaavritam jnaanam tena muhyanti jantavah.
Knowledge is enveloped by ignorance, thereby beings are deluded.

The next sloka says,

Jnaanena tu tad ajnaanam yeshaam naashitam aatmanah;
Teshaam aadityavaj jnaanam prakaashayati tatparam
But, to those whose ignorance is destroyed by knowledge of the Self, like the sun, knowledge reveals the Supreme (Brahman).

Destroying this ignorance means acquiring knowledge. Expelling darkness means uncovering light. Destroying duality (dvaita) means becoming advaita. Whenever we speak of destroying Dvaita, we speak of Advaita. If we have to realize the Advaita state, the feeling of Dvaita in ourselves has to be removed. Once this is done, what remains is Advaita. That is the realisation of the Advaita state. Only the one who has attained the stage of Advaita can teach others about it. How can anyone speak of Advaita while remaining in Dvaita?

The Sishya, like the Guru, is also an embodiment of Jnana. The difference is that he does not know it. The Guru, on the other hand, knows that he is a Jnani: he has an attitude, high realisation, marvelous super human Satva, unrivalled capacity and Aishwarya Yoga (divine powers). The Guru is formless, Nirguna, Sat-Chit-Ananda. He has taken human form only to uplift the mankind. By taking the human form, his Nirguna nature is not destroyed. His divine powers, wisdom and beingness remain unchanged.

The Sishya also is in fact of the same Swaroopa. But, this Swaroopa is covered by the effect of samskaras of innumerable births in the form of various layers of ignorance. These layers of ignorance prevent him from knowing that he is Shuddha Chaitanya. With each layer of this ignorance, he gets the impression, ‘I am Jiva, a creature, humble and poor.’ The Guru has to root out these offshoots of ignorance by giving proper instructions. To the Sishya who is bound by the ideas of his being a creature, humble and poor for endless generations, the Guru has to teach him for hundreds of births that ‘You are God, you are mighty and opulent.’ When the Guru destroys this ignorance, layer by layer, the Sishya becomes increasingly aware of the fact that he is indeed God. The delusion that he is Jiva, and that God and the world are separate from him, is an error inherited from innumerable past births. To remove this delusion, or error, he must seriously start intense questioning - how did this ignorance arise? Where is it? The answer to these questions, provided by the Guru, is the Guru Upadesha. Examples of the Ajnana of the Sishya are:

1. I am a Jiva (creature)
2. I am the body (body is the soul)
3. God, world and Jiva are separate
4. I am not God
5. Not knowing that body is not the soul
6. Not knowing that God, world and Jiva are not separate, but one.

Unless these errors are brought to his notice, the Sishya cannot learn what is God, Jiva, body and world; how they are interrelated and whether they are different or are one and the same. To teach him these and destroy his ignorance is the instruction in Jnana or Ajnana. Upadesha is merely to show him the error and destroy his ignorance. Why should Jnana be imparted to Jiva, who is a Jnanamurti?”

Baba further added:

1. Pranipata implies surrender. 'Pranipata' must be 'Sashtanga dandavat 'like a stick falling down. You must feel that you are nothing. You are only a zero. The Guru is everything, and, therefore, thorough humility is involved in pranipata.
2. Pariprasna means an earnest questioning and repeated questioning, questioning carried on up to the point of getting full and complete enlightenment impressed upon you. This is pariprasna. It is not merely putting questions with a view to trapping up the master, and catching him at some mistake or simply asking for the fun of it.

Regarding the question, why should Krishna refer Arjuna to other Jnanis? A sadbhakta believes everything to be Vasudeva. Gita says,

Bahoonaam janmanaamante jnaanavaanmaam prapadyate;
Vaasudevah sarvamiti sa mahaatmaa sudurlabhah
Ch.7, Sl.19

At the end of many births the wise man comes to me, realising that all this is Vasudeva (the innermost Self); such a great soul (Mahatma) is very hard to find.

The Guru also takes the Sishya to be Vasudeva. And Sri Krishna treats both as His prana and atma. Gita says,

Udaaraah sarva evaite jnaanee twaatmaiva me matam;
Aasthitah sa hi yuktaatmaa maamevaanuttamaam gatim
Ch.7, Sl.18
Noble indeed are all these; but I deem the wise man as my very Self; for, steadfast in mind, he is established in me alone as the supreme goal.

As Sri Krishna knows that there are such Bhaktas and Gurus, He refers Arjuna to them so that their greatness may increase and be known.”

Nana was observing the vedic injunction that at every meal he should prepare the Vaisvadeva food and, after offering it to God, wait for an Atithi – guest - before he should eat it. Nana was in so many camps and waiting, and yet he never found an Atithi or guest. So, one day he thought, "How could Vedas give such a nugatory or infructuous injunction?" With that thought uppermost in his mind, he went to Baba. Though he did not utter it, Baba himself started the subject.

Baba said, 'Yes, The Devil, they will come. You think that Atithis will come wherever you go. But you do not look at the Atithis when they do come.'
‘Yes, Baba. I want to know how that is', said Nana.
Then Baba answered. 'The mistake is not in the Vedas. The mistake is in your interpretation of the Vedas. An 'Atithi' is not necessarily a person who is a Brahmin by birth, and who would come to your quarters to sit at meal with you. After your pooja is over, take some food out in your hand and leave it in some corner, and thousands of Atithis will be coming one after another, each in its own due course, and partake of it. They are the asses, the dogs, the flies, the ants, etc. To you they do not look like Atithis. But they are Atithis, for God is in them all’. If you do this, the Vedic injunction is satisfied and you will obtain the required punya".

Nana felt duly humbled by seeing that Baba gave an interpretation which made the Vedas sensible, whereas his own interpretation made the Vedas absurd and infructuous. Baba also asked Nana to leave the food outside without crying out or calling for anyone or anything.

Familiarity, if it does not breed contempt, at least breeds liberty-taking, and Nana was the only one or one of the very few who hobnobbed with Baba. All the hundreds of males and females who went to Baba at pooja or Arti time would invariably stand up, and no one would sit. Upasani Maharaj had to stand and so had others to stand. The pujari Bapusaheb Jog had to stand. Every person, male or female whatever his or her position may be, had to stand before Baba. Nana, however, used to sit next to Baba, even at Arti. Having studied Baba's nature, Nana began to get rather weak in his humility and reverence. For instance, the vessel of water held near Baba's lips at the close of the pooja, would be distributed to all as tirtha, and they would all drink it. But Nana and Das Ganu would not take it. Therefore, familiarity had its adverse effect in the case of Nana also. Tirtha taking is after all a minor matter. The more important matter is that Baba's presence, which was magnetic, lost a great deal of its magnetic spell in Nana's case by his repeated contact. The highest lessons one has to learn from a Moksha Guru are first to realise that in a particular person or object there is God, and next that He is in all. That means that one must first have realisation of one's own nature and of God's nature; and God should not be merely that which you worship with flowers.

Nana seeing Baba constantly at the Mosque or in particular places naturally developed sakhya more than daasya and insisted on particularising and humanising or fraternising with Baba and not universalising him, as he ought to have done. Baba had to overcome this difficulty.

So, Baba wanted to make him feel divinity more and more in Baba and the fact that Baba's divinity is not confined to the Baba’s body but extends to all creatures as Baba is their Antaryami or soul or self. These two are closely connected. Baba said, 'I am not at Shirdi alone. I am in all creatures, in the ant, etc’. Intellectually this was understood, but at heart, Nana did not realise it. Baba wanted him to realise it more vividly, as that was very important for higher spiritual progress. So on one occasion, when Nana came up, Baba told him to prepare 8 pooran polis (cakes) for naivedya and then take his food. When Nana placed before Baba eight pooran polis, Baba did not touch them, but flies sat on them. Then Baba asked Nana to take away the Prasad. Nana insisted that Baba should eat some. Baba said that he had eaten. 'When?' asked Nana. Nana said, 'All the eight polis are there'. Baba said he had eaten it at some time. Then Nana got vexed and went away to the Chavadi. When Baba sent for him, the same conversation was repeated. Finally Baba told Nana, 'I say you have been living with me for 18 years now. Is this all your appraisal of me? Does Baba mean to you only the 3'/2 cubits height of this body? Am I not in the fly and the ant that settled upon the polis?' Nana said that he knew that, but could not realise it. If Baba could make him realise it, Nana said, he would take and eat the polis as prasad. Then Baba lifted his hand and made a gesture. He thereby revealed a secret which Nana was hiding very deep in his heart; and Nana discovered that Baba knew the secret. How? The only explanation was that Baba was the antaryami or the inmost soul in his heart. If Baba was his antaryami, he must be the antaryami of the fly and the ant also. So he agreed to take the pooran poli as prasad, and was satisfied. Then Baba told him, 'As you see the gesture I make, you must remember that I am in all creatures'. Thus Baba gave him a very valuable lesson and took him up one very important rung of the ladder, that is, of realising God in one form after another and not confining Him to the object worshipped at home or in a temple.

Nanasaheb Chandorkar, like other Baba devotees, Mhalsapathi, Kakasaheb Dixit, Tatya Patil, passed away on an Ekadashi Day, 21 Aug 1921, at the age of 61 years at Kalyan.

||Sri Sainathaarpanamasthu||