GRATITUDE & BENEVOLENCE
A few months before he moved on, Gurudev informed his eldest daughter, Renu ji, that he was absolving her and his other children of any responsibility towards the sthan but holding them liable to caring for the cows at his farm. He had named them after Hindu feminine deities and actively conversed with them. Their responsive modulated moos ensured the chatter stayed interactive.
Pehalwan ji, who spent several hours with him daily at the farm, recalls how Gurudev went on paath when he heard that the monkey who regularly pranced around the farm had lost her infant. The mahaguru granted the dead infant a human’s birth in his next life since his mother tirelessly entertained the guru with her antics. Another time, Gurudev acceded to a snake’s request for freedom from the clutches of a tantrik who had enslaved it. The mahaguru had the snake killed and ceremoniously buried before allowing it to take human birth. When a couple who had visited Gurudev in Renuka to request a child returned a year later with their newborn, the mahaguru summoned Bakshi ji, a disciple, to see the child. Bakshi ji recognised the baby as the former snake because of the hood marks on her back. Reminiscing, he says that she was the most beautiful baby he had ever seen! Even if they were animals, the mahaguru’s benevolence to those who served him or sought his help remains unparalleled.
Gratitude was an integral ingredient of Gurudev’s social hygiene, and its seeds appear to have sprouted as early as his childhood. His gratitude to the fakir of the dargah from which he and his friend, Subbhash ji, picked jujubes as children most likely inspired his admiration for the mystical. Even though he rarely mentioned his guru, he was always watchful of his presence. In fact, on significant days like Mahashivratri and Guru Purnima, he refused to wear many garlands around his neck, preferring instead to have them offered at the sthan, which he referred to as his guru’s abode. To be seen with more garlands than his guru was not in line with his thinking.
Benevolence was his way of offsetting the obligation
of being served. With his disciples and other associates,
he was the server, not the served.
Bittu ji affectionately remembers the gentle nudge of his guru waking him at 3 am in the wintry mornings of Renuka, offering him a cup of chai he had freshly brewed. Raji ji is misty-eyed while remembering how the great guru assisted him in unloading gunny sacks full of fabric from the trunk of his car. Pratap Singh ji lived his life feeling special because the mahaguru personally cooked breakfast for him at the camps. Rudra ji, who saw Gurudev as his brother-in-law, no less and no more, believes his sister’s husband was the person who respected him the most in this world! Santlal ji recalls the mahaguru paying a visit to the sthan in Sonipat to look up his daughters, who were recuperating there following their accident. Rather than just spending time with his family, he chose to visit the poor and elderly parents of his farm’s caretaker. Months earlier, the caretaker had requested the mahaguru to meet them during his subsequent trip to Sonipat. A request made in undertones was honoured in overtones!
The mahaguru always reminded us to be thankful to those who let us serve them. This concept completely redefined my notions about seva. The idea that I was able to serve only because it was enabled by another, bridged the mental divide between “I” and “You”, creating a sense of unity.
Gurudev’s connection with others manifested in diverse ways since he underplayed or role-played to attune to their level of thinking. As a result, children were treated with naughty affection, while elders were treated with the utmost respect. Some evenings draped in his lungi, he would play gully cricket with the neighbourhood kids, cheating at the game but making sure he had bought them a packet of sweets beforehand to keep them from complaining! Dr Shankar Narayan was at a loss for words as he recalled accompanying the mahaguru to his in-laws’ house in Bilga in 1990. When the great guru saw his mother-in-law, he followed the Hindu custom of touching her feet to show respect. The mahaguru, whose feet millions waited to touch, was touching the feet of an ordinary woman! In Gurudev’s world, humility aligned with humanity to take centre stage.
Respecting socio-centric beliefs was another facet of his social hygiene. He knew better than most of us that people perceive the world according to their upbringing and conditioning.
Knowing that Sikhs were religiously averse to smoking, he would quickly stub his cigarette if he saw any of them approaching him. While he prescribed a vegetarian diet, he allowed those from West Bengal to eat fish occasionally as it was their staple food. Even though he advised abstinence from alcohol since it was a downer, he did not abandon devotees like Billu ji, who was unsuccessful in giving up alcohol despite several genuine attempts. However, he did not permit his devotees or disciples to enter the sthan while inebriated. Those who knowingly ventured had to face the wrath of guru avelna.
Although the mahaguru was flexible in his ways,
he was principled in his thinking.
Within the confines of social tradition, he was an out-of-the-box thinker. He opposed dowry because he considered giving away a daughter in marriage or kanyadaan among the higher forms of seva. Quite often, he alone, and sometimes along with his disciples, contributed to bridal trousseaux to save the bride’s father from being staved off his lifelong earnings.
In an era when Indian women were profiled only as daughters, wives, and mothers, he saw them as independent equals. His wife was a qualified schoolteacher who contributed equally to the household. Even though grihasth was his prescribed path, he did not insist on women marrying young. Marriage was about companionship, not compulsion.