(Continued from SHAMA OR MADHAVRAO DESHPANDE – THE EARLY YEARS)
From the very early times, Baba used to call Madhavrao as Shama and Masjid as Dwarkamai. Similarly, Madhavrao used to call Baba by the name Deva. Once, after his bath, Madhavrao was taking out from a niche (Konada-in Marathi) the utensils etc. for Pooja. Suddenly, a snake - which was sitting in the alcove bit him. The snake was poisonous. Poison started spreading through Madhavrao’s body and he was writhing in pain. A few days prior to this event, Baba had warned him, ‘Shamya, take care! Do not put your hand in any nook or corner.’ As the snake’s venom started spreading, Madhavrao panicked. Everyone started running helter-skelter. People started saying – ‘Let us take him to the temple of Viroba.’ Madhavrao was getting fits and seizures. But, even in that condition, he started saying, ‘Take me at once to the Masjid and place me before my God there.’ People brought him to Dwarakamai. At the first glance of the approaching people, Baba shouted, “Oh, wily Bhaturdya! Don’t climb up! How dare you do it?!!” and then roared, “Come down! Get away, GO! If you do not listen to what I say, I will make you into pieces like seeds of Mustard.” Baba’s face had become completely red because of anger. Seeing Baba and hearing these words from Him, Madhavrao was aghast. Others were also surprised. Madhavrao started crying. He was unable to understand, why Baba, Who allowed him to come near at any time of the day, had suddenly become stone-hearted, when death was hovering around him. He had loved Baba more than his own life and had thought that masjid alone was his home. If Baba Himself drives him away, where could he go? Having lost all the hopes, he thought that even if Baba drives him away, it is better to die at His feet rather than elsewhere. So, he coolly entered inside the masjid and sat near Baba, waiting for his last moments. By this time, Baba had calmed down. He had become normal. He put his hand benevolently on Shyama’s head and tenderly caressing it, told Shyama, “Don’t fear, My child. Don’t worry a bit. Nothing will happen to you. Allah Malik will save you. Go home and sit quietly. Don’t go out anywhere. Believe Me, be brave and don’t have any anxiety.” Saying these soothing words, Baba sent him home. As soon as he left, Baba immediately called Tatya Patil. He told him to see that Shyama should eat whatever he liked, could move around in the house, but in no case should he lie down and sleep. When the night fell, He sent word to Kaka that even if Shyama dozes, not to allow him to lie down and sleep. By morning, Madhavrao got relief. However, for two-three months thereafter, his finger, which the snake had bitten, had turned blue-black. Due to the snake bite, he also suffered from acidity for some time.
On some occasions, Madhavrao used to suffer from ailment of piles. At such times, he was a really harassed man. For relief, he used to take fomentation of a brick. He never used any medicines on himself without asking the permission of Baba. Once, he was suffering from an attack of piles. Baba told him – “We will do the treatment in the afternoon.” Accordingly, Baba prepared a concoction of an Ayurvedic herb called “Sonamukhi” and gave some of it to Madhavrao. He immediately got relief. Two years thereafter, Madhavrao once again had an attack of piles. He on his own - without consulting Baba - took some amount from the concoction already prepared by Baba in the past. However, instead of bringing relief it aggravated the problem. After a few days, with the blessings of Baba, Madhavrao started feeling well. He realized that the power of healing was not in the medicine but in the blessings of his God. Once, Madhavrao was at Nagpur with Bapusaheb Booty and the attack of piles reoccurred. Madhavrao sent a letter to Baba. Baba replied, “Ask him to come to Shirdi!” He further jokingly added, “I take utmost care of him; but he likes to roam about; does not like to come here. Send him a letter and call him here! He will get well.”
One day, Baba suddenly started getting pain in stomach. Ramdas Buva, a follower of Saint Ramadas, was in Shirdi during that time. Followers of Saint Ramadas were also called as Ramadasis. This Ramdas Buva used to get up early in the morning, take bath, wear saffron coloured clothes, apply vibhuti to his forehead and then perform sandhyavandanam. He performed Archana also. After that he would study Sri Vishnu Sahasranama and Adhyatma Ramayana with great devotion and dedication. Sri Vishnu Sahasranama contains one thousand names glorifying God Vishnu. It is held in high esteem by the devotees and is considered to be next in importance to only Bhagavad Gita. Regular recitation of Sri Vishnu Sahasranama is believed to fulfil all the desires of the devotees. He continued this practice in Shirdi also. He read these devotional books in the masjid. Baba was watching Ramdas Buva every day. He called him and told, “I am suffering from severe stomach pain. Unless I take Sona Mukhi, this pain will not subside. Please get Me the medicine from Bazaar.” Ramdas Buva closed the book he was reading, kept it aside and went to get the medicine. Baba got down from His seat, went to where Buva was sitting, took the book with Him to His seat. After sitting down, He turned a few pages and called Madhavrao. When he came near Him, Baba said, “Shamya, this book is very valuable and efficacious. I am giving it to you to read it. Once, I suffered intensely and My heart began to palpitate. My life was in danger. At that critical time, I hugged this book to My heart. Shamya, what a relief it gave Me! I thought that Allah had come down and saved Me. So, I am giving this to you. Read it slowly, little by little. Read at least one name daily and it will do you good.” Madhavrao was scared, as Ramdas Buva had the reputation of being, obstinate, irritable and picking up quarrels at the slightest provocation. He told Baba that he did not want the book as a rustic like him could not read Sanskrit properly. He also told Baba about Buva.
Madhavrao was under the impression that Baba wanted to set him up against Buva and watch the fun. He could never imagine the esteem in which Baba held him. As Madhavrao was His intimate devotee, He wanted to save him from the miseries of the worldly existence. Baba would have thought that reciting at least one name of God everyday would benefit Shyama much more. The efficacy of reciting God’s name is well known. There is no better method than this of purifying one’s mind. There is no easier sadhana than this. There is no paraphernalia, nor any restrictions. Baba wanted to give this sadhana to Shyama as it saves one from the cycle of repeated birth and death. Recitation of Sri Vishnu Sahasranama would also save us from all sins and bad behaviour. With all this in mind, Baba forced Madhavrao to accept the book.
By this time, Ramdas Buva returned from Bazaar with the medicine and gave it to Baba. Anna Chinchinikar, who had witnessed all that had happened between Baba and Madhavrao, was waiting for an opportunity to tell everything to Buva. Narada, the great rishi who was known to set up quarrels even among friends, had perfected this art. He used to do this at the behest of Sri Vishnu for the benefit of all concerned - loka kalyana arthaaya. As soon as Anna saw Buva, he recited everything to him. It was like adding ghee to Agni. Buva flared up and started blaming Madhavrao. He told him that it was Shyama who had set Baba to send him away under the pretext of getting medicine for stomach pain and as soon as he had gone, to take away the book. He scolded Shyama to his heart’s content and told him that if the book was not returned to him, he would break his head then and there. Madhavrao did not know what to say, but still made a valiant effort to convince Buva, which was in vain. Then Baba called Ramdas Buva to Him and spoke very kindly, “Oh Ramdasi, what happened? Isn’t Shyama our boy? Why do you scold him unnecessarily? Speak soft and sweet words. Though you read these books, your mind is still impure and passions are uncontrolled. Being a Ramdasi, you should be indifferent to all these petty things. Why do you covet this book? A true Ramdasi should have only ‘samata’ and no ‘mamata’. You are now quarrelling with Shyama for a book. Books can be had in plenty, but not men. Shyama did not ask the book. I took it Myself and gave it to him. I thought Shyama might read it and benefit. You know it in your heart.” This was how Baba taught the concepts of samata and mamata to Ramdas Buva. Baba conceptualized the entire philosophy of detachment in to this simple episode and made it easy to understand for everyone. These words of sweetness, like nectar, had immediate effect on Buva. He calmed down and told that Madhavrao could keep Sri Vishnu Sahasranama with him and he would take ‘Pancharatni’ Gita in return. Madhavrao was also happy that everything ended peacefully and agreed to give Buva, Pancharatni Gita.
Sri Ramachandra Atmaram Tarkhad, also known as Babasaheb Tarkhad, visited Shirdi in December 1910 for the second time to take Baba’s Darshan. At that time, only Sathe Wada was available for staying. Tarkhad wanted to spend time away from the routine, daily responsibilities and problems of his job and family. His main wish was to spend the time at the feet of saintly person and get some peace of mind. On that occasion, he had come alone to Shirdi. On his arrival, he was very much fatigued because of the hassles of travelling, the strong sun and an unsatisfied urge to have tea since morning. Tarkhad had just reached Sathe Wada. Immediately, he was taken by two gentlemen not very closely known to him. They bombarded him with questions relating to spiritual matters. However, he did not outwardly show that he is tired of their questions. He enjoyed the cup of tea provided by Balabhau (nephew of Nanasaheb Chandorkar - Nanasaheb had started an eatery for him in Shirdi) and went to take Baba’s Darshan. However, he could not help thinking that ‘I came here to get away from the botherations of Mumbai and have some mental peace. But, it seems that the nuisances would not leave me here also. I think, I unnecessarily came here. Mumbai was better.’ Such conflicting thoughts started going through his mind in just five minutes. In the same mental status, he went with Madhavrao to take Baba’s Darshan.
As per usual custom, he lit incense and camphor, placed coconut and bowed down in front of Baba. In blessing, Baba placed hand on his head, gave fruits as Prasad and asked him to be seated. In his own mind, Tarkhad was getting himself ready to take Baba’s permission to return to Mumbai. Suddenly, Baba said to Madhavrao, ‘Shamya, why is he behaving like this? Give him some advice. Go! Take Udi and sit peacefully in the Wada.’
Taking the Udi, Tarkhad and Madhavrao came outside the compound of the Masjid on the street. There Madhavrao stopped Tarkhad and asked him, what had happened. Tarkhad narrated the chain of events. After hearing everything, Madhavrao said, ‘This is the miracle and message of this God. He is teaching you that you must remain steadfast in your devotion - in spite of the problems posed by the mortal world. While facing the day to day hassles involved with your job, your mind must be focussed on your God. Let us go back to our God and understand what He has to say.’ Both of them once again entered the Masjid. The moment they climbed the steps of the Masjid, Baba said, ‘Bhau, always remember the words of Shama!’ Seeing this miracle, Tarkhad was overwhelmed with emotions and placed his head on the ground in front of Baba. He realized the teaching of Baba - Even while facing the problems of day to day life, a disciple must be unwavering in his devotion to his Sadguru and his contentment must be constant. Baba used to talk in riddles. But, as Madhavrao had spent considerable time with Baba, he was able to catch the meaning very quickly.
Some of the devotees, who came to Baba for darshan and blessings, gave Baba things with a hope that He would bless and return them as Prasad. However, many times Baba, instead of returning them, passed them on to Madhavrao saying – ‘Keep it with you!’ In this manner He handed over several articles, like Vishnu Sahasranaam Pothi, Eknathi Bhagwat Pothi, a coin having picture of Ram-Seeta-Laxman, silver Padukas, a clay statue. Sometimes, Baba said to Madhavrao, “Shamya, build My house (Devhara) and keep all these things in it.”
Every afternoon, Baba used to make Kala of the different Naivedyas that were received and distributed it amongst the few devotees who asked Bhiksha in the noon. Madhavrao was one of them. But, assuming that he would not like the mixture of Kala, Baba waited till everyone else had finished their meal and then gave Madhavrao a plate full of slices of mangoes.
After completing evening stroll, Baba used to sit in the Masjid. At that time, besides some 3-4 specific devotees, no one else was allowed to come to the Masjid. However, Madhavrao had no such restrictions on his coming, going or asking things to Baba. If he went to Baba at odd hours in the night, Baba pretended to get furious like Narasimha; but also quickly get pacified. Once, Tatyasaheb Nulkar became seriously ill while in Shirdi. His last hour came near and he disclosed a desire to get holy water from Baba’s Feet. It was almost 1-1.30am in the night. Who could dare to go to Baba at such an hour? Madhavrao got up and went to the Masjid with Pali and Panch-patra. Baba got up from His place and roared, ‘Who is it?’ On getting reply that ‘I am Shamya’, Baba said, ‘You came at this hour?’ and pretended to come to hit him. He stood on the Masjid foundation with one leg in the front. Madhavrao started pleading with him, ‘Tatyasaheb is losing his life. He is asking for the holy water from Your Feet. Please give it quickly’. Baba was saying ‘No!’ and Madhavrao was daring to inch forward. Of course, as Tatyasaheb was an ardent devotee, Baba had also put forward his toe. Madhavrao immediately dipped the toe in the water carried in Panch-patra and fulfilled the last wish of Tatyasaheb.
There is another incident concerning the wife of Sakharam Aurangabadkar, a resident of Solapur. Madhavrao had forced Baba to gift a coconut to her and warned Him to bless her with a child or ‘else I will bang the same coconut on Your head!’ The lady really had a child within a year.
to be concluded in SHAMA OR MADHAVRAO DESHPANDE – FINAL YEARS