Social Hygiene


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.


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.

Gurudev conceals his cigarette on meeting a Sikh devotee

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 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.