A MAN. A MENTOR. A MAHAGURU.
A famous Scottish American philanthropist once said that men who succeed are those who choose one line and stick to it. Spirituality was Gurudev’s chosen line, and he went the whole nine yards. Along this taxing path, seva became the cashmere with which he knit his goals.
He told us that it took him almost 500 years to gather his disciples so that they could concurrently advance and assist in the upliftment of others. A collective evolution model set against the backdrop of backbreaking hard work and acute circumstantial difficulties singled out Gurudev as a spiritual marksman, in the same league as the great prophets who descended on earth to improve the condition of the world and inject spirituality into the masses.
Sometime in the early 1970s, his elder daughter Renu, on a market visit with him, asked for two glasses of milk from a shop selling sweetmeats. She drank the milk with such delight that upon returning home, her father inquired of his wife if milk was in short supply at their residence. Mataji’s reply that there was never enough money to get dietary essentials for the kids stunned him. He hardly slept a wink that night, tossing, turning and churning the thought – had he taken the right step in pursuing spirituality at the cost of his family’s material comfort? However, the next morning, he was firmer in his resolve than ever before and ‘service before self’ became the backbone of his spiritual enterprise.
His job paid him very little, and part of what he earned was usually exhausted in public service on salary day itself! Aware of his generous ways, his colleague-turned-devotee, Nagpal ji, started saving a portion of Gurudev’s salary for Mataji’s household expenses, including looking after her children and the growing brigade of disciples who lounged at her home for weeks and months. Despite not earning much, the mahaguru did not accept anything from anyone. So, let aside surplus funds even adequate funds were in short supply! More often than not, the end of the month and his earnings in the bank seldom met!
By opening sthans (centres for help and healing) in his disciples’ homes, he managed to tie two strings to a bow. It meant that seva ensued despite the handicap of financial shortage, and at the same time, its reach extended across several parts of India and abroad. The disciples who became sthan sanchalaks (heads) used a dedicated room in their homes as sthans and funded the seva from their earnings. Money was required to buy saffron, cloves, cardamoms, peppercorns, mustard seeds and areca nuts because they were the carriers of Gurudev’s healing powers, given to those who came to seek his intervention on Bada Guruvar. Those sanchalaks who could not afford these items asked the visitors to purchase them elsewhere but have them blessed at the sthan. Visitors to the sthans on other significant days were offered the prasad of fried potato chips or sesame ladoos, or sweetened saffron rice, depending on the occasion.
If a sthan sanchalak was averagely well-off financially, he could offer tea and khichdi (cooked lentil and rice combination) to the visitors on Bada Guruvar. If he could only afford tea, then just that could be served. If the sthan sanchalak was deserving of a home-sthan but monetarily impaired, Gurudev created a coalition of two or three disciples, who ran the sthan in collaboration. By opening sthans, he distributed his powers to many disciples, multiplied his seva manifold and took seva to the people rather than the other way around. With this master-model, he reaped high spiritual returns on low financial investments. The return on investment in terms of goodwill and people’s blessings could stump any banker!
The mahaguru managed his seva at the Gurgaon sthan on a meagre monthly salary. He allowed his disciples to contribute to the visitors’ food arrangements and presented them with another opportunity to serve and earn its benefit. However, he also made it a point to personally contribute a percentage of the expenses so that he remained debt and obligation-free.
Gurudev’s concept of time while at work at his Curzon Road office was straitjacketed. Lunchtime was mostly reserved for meeting patients from nearby areas, at a house a block away from the office. During regular work hours, he took short breaks to meet the syndicate of devotees and disciples who stationed themselves at Gupta ji’s juice and tea stall, biding their time in his wait. But, off office hours, he was like a man on the run, speeding out of public glare on his Bajaj Chetak scooter. Besides being adept at hide-n-seek, the mahaguru also played cards and chess with his colleagues on days when the workload was less.
Gurudev speeds out of public glare on his Bajaj Chetak scooter.
Even outside of work, he was very clock conscious and preferred to start any new task within the first or second quarter of the hour and certainly not in its fourth. He extended the concept of time specificity to mantra recitation. Some disciples were asked to recite their mantras at specific times since he told them that he would connect with them at that time. A prescription for heightened spiritual adventures included utilising the ‘guru-paher’ or the time-band between 1.15 – 3.30 a.m. for spiritual tasks.
Gurudev would retire to bed by 1.30 a.m., probably do his paath for an hour or two after, and then catch a few winks. He would wake up between 5 – 6 a.m., starting his day with a cup of tea. Many days, he would go into paath for hours together. In the course of paath, he would travel astrally. Mataji once told me, “I felt he had gained mastery over sleep because he hardly slept. When he did sleep, it was because he wished to and not because sleep had overcome him. He would tell me that while the world slept, he would do his work. His words were, ‘No one will ever know where I go. But I watch over people and guide them’.”
He was often heard stating, ‘Vidhi ke vidhaan ko koi badal nahi sakta, par mein samay ka pabandh nahin, samay mera pabandh hai’. In translation, this reads, ‘Whatever is destined to happen cannot be avoided. However, I am not bound by time. Time is bound by me”. What he probably meant was that he could travel into the past and the future. He also could give the fruit of the future in the present. In some instances, he could transfer a few years from a person’s next life to his/her present one. When Chandramani Vashisht ji knew his death was on the anvil, he requested Gurudev for his wristwatch. When the mahaguru acceded to his request and sent him his watch as a gift, Vashisht ji knew his life had been extended.
The entrepreneur in Gurudev understood the opportunity cost of time. For him, his home in Gurgaon, his office in Delhi, his camps in remote parts of India or his astral destinations were merely operable zones for acts of dispassionate kindness. And for the more fortunate few, these were also pit-stops for his mentorship.
Speed was Gurudev’s hallmark, be it his brisk walking pace or the swiftness by which he shared his powers with his recruits. Seeing large queues at a school in Kathog where seva was in progress, the mahaguru empowered three schoolteachers by asking them to drink his sipped water. It was their first or second meeting with him, and they knew very little of him, let alone his seva. Among them, Santosh ji, a bodybuilder and PT teacher, was surprised when the jal miraculously transformed him into a healer who could cure people purely by touching the affected part of their body. The spiritual powerhouse recruited many people on the spur of the moment.
While he scored some prospective candidates on patience and loyalty by making them wait in queues for several days before meeting them, he greeted many other disciples-to-be with his infamous line, “Aageya puth”. These welcoming words were strange to many of us since we saw ourselves as first-time visitors while he addressed us from a continuity point-of-view. How could we have realised that he recognised us from our previous lives?
We were a band of boys from different walks of life, diverse skillsets and competencies, and different wallet sizes. Some more arrogant than others, while some humbler than most. Even though we probably ducked in our self-esteem, the mahaguru did not dismiss us. Instead, through consistent effort, he chiselled us into firebrand spiritualists led by the goal to serve other life forms, be it plant, animal, human or spirit.
With the advent of seva, and the coming of disciples from previous lifetimes like Malhotra ji, Jain saheb, FC Sharma ji and others, the spiritual movement grew. Many other disciples also showed up on some pretext or the other, and their training began. By mentoring advanced spiritualists, Gurudev came to be acknowledged as a mentor of mentors, the guru of gurus.
The spiritual mastermind was ingenious in role-play. When he had to act tough, he behaved like a father. When he nurtured us, he was caring as a mother. As big brother, he would don the cape of duality, needling us to act or cajoling us to react. As a guru, he was strict but soft. He made each of us feel that we were his most favourite. In our urge to please him, we forgot that this spiritual genius was a genie of role-play.
One of his famous one-liners or ek vakya was, ‘Main sab ka hu aur sab mere hai. Mein kissi ka nahi hu aur mera koi nahi’. It translates to, ‘I belong to all, and all belong to me. I don’t belong to anyone, and no one belongs to me’. Many of his parables were camouflaged as paradoxes.
Main sab ka hu aur sab mere hai
Mein kissi ka nahi hu aur mera koi nahi
Despite being an acknowledged public speaker in my early years, I was usually tongue-tied in Gurudev’s presence. On the contrary, Uddhav ji, the dashing Police Sub-Inspector, led marching brigades of conversation, constantly urging Gurudev to demonstrate more of his powers. In his signature subtle manner, the mahaguru would smile, using humour as his Merlin sword to deflect our preposterous queries, instead directing us to what he wanted to share. His powers were not for display, they were reserved for genuine seva.
When his disciple, Malhotra ji, delayed a train to suit his convenience, the mahaguru threatened to withdraw his powers. Later on, he became one of the mahaguru’s most accomplished disciples. The mentor kept a tight vigil and a lofty attitude.
Punishments and rewards carried equal weightage in his appraising eye. When he came to know that despite flying to Gurgaon on every Bada Guruvar, I seldom got the chance to do seva due to the continuation request of those before me, he bestowed me with the siddhi (accomplishment) of the Mahamritunjay mantra. This was a Yorker! Without my knowing a single syllable of this mantra, he had endowed me with its energies. His gifts were as abundant as his severities. When my wife complained about my frequent, night-long spiritual gossip sessions with my guru bhais, he ensured that for three years from that day, I came to Gurgaon for Bada Guruvar but instead of seva took my wife and kids for a movie and Dosa snack at a nearby mall. Seva of the wife instead of seva at the sthan! With one googly, he had me for a golden duck.
From temporarily suspending seva to permanently yanking it to completely overlooking faults, the results of the tests he threw our way varied. The corridor of uncertainty was very narrow, and we were never sure of whether to attempt a shot or leave the ball alone! We were left with no choice but to take our failures sportingly, albeit sheepishly. It took a lot more than faith and mental fleet-footedness to pass his tests. And as we upskilled, he upgraded his evaluation parameters. It is not that he wanted us to fail. He only wanted us to supersede his excellence. Speaking of his disciples, he would often tell his wife, ‘I carry them on my shoulders so that they can see much further than I can’. In this simple sentence, he defined a guru’s role and inspired his disciples to follow suit with their downlines.
I carry them on my shoulders
so that they can see much further than I can.
Not only could he read our thoughts from miles away, but he often tested us in disguise. When Uddhav ji saw two black triangles with yellow eyes float into his room, he took his Nunchaku to lash out at them. Later Gurudev told him, his reaction would have cost him his life had he not pacified the accompanying deity. When Bagga Saheb attended to an elegant lady in his shop and disregarded the man in rags, he knew not that the older man was possibly the master or his attendant, Augarh, in disguise. Often we failed the random tests Gurudev threw our way because we were not watchful enough.
The mahaguru’s constant watchful gaze tamed many of us. Even though he didn’t run classes, he gave customised tuitions. His guidance to his admirers, followers and devotees was individualised and not based on any particular premise. He was extremely permeable to all philosophies and non-rigid in his practicality. In his book of metaphysics, there was neither one concept for all nor all concepts for one, but different concepts for different people. He insisted that our answers must come from within us.
The mentor taught us to respect all religions. He told me, ‘beta yeh sab humara hi toh hai’, implying that all religions belong to us. He did not harbour any pseudo-intellectual views on idol worship. Even though we thought of idols as mere stone sculptures, he knew that when installed at temples, gurudwaras and churches, these idols become the face and storehouses of the energies collected there. Gurudev did not visit any temple or deified monument because he did not want to interfere with its energy equation. However, he advised his disciples that during astral travel, they should stop for a few seconds at siddh sthans to pay their respects. These monuments could be identified by a bright light. Gurudev would also stop for a few seconds at Shirdi during his astral trips to Mumbai. This was due to his collaborative relationship with Shirdi Sai. I know of Sai coming to the aid of Gurudev’s downlines on a few occasions. Several years ago, I committed his darshan to a lady, and he obliged.
Gurudev at a camp for soil survey and research.
Every year, he set up at least two camps for soil survey and research. In 1973, his first seva as a Mahaguru started at Kurwai in Madhya Pradesh. In 1976, the seva at the Kathog camp In Himachal Pradesh saw thousands queue up for help and healing. Special buses were started to transport people from across neighbouring states. In 1980, the camp at Renuka in Himachal Pradesh came to be recognised as his largest public seva, the largest gathering of mass healing.
He didn’t hesitate in setting up camps close to an open jail in Mungaoli or near a cremation ground in Ashok Nagar or even around forests. He always tried to choose venues where opportunities to serve both humans and spirits existed. From freeing spirits trapped in lower dimensions to granting them birth in human form, the mahaguru served all who sought his help.
His campsites also doubled as training retreats. At Mungaoli, he made me chatter and shiver with chills running down my spine since I wore a sweater upon his arrival, not because of the chill but because I didn’t want him to think I was boasting about not feeling cold even though almost everyone else was snug in their cardigans. By turning my pretence into reality, he demonstrated his control not only on my mind and body but also on nature. I soon realised, surrender to the mahaguru included the sacrifice of false ego and make-belief.
Life in these camps was no walk in the park. Many times, unable to find a suitable place, Gurudev’s team pitched tents on open grounds. Whether it was the 120 square feet room of his bachelorhood days or the decrepit district guest houses, or the makeshift tents of his camp stays, the mahaguru was indifferent to his living conditions. Eventually, I came to realise that mundane aspects of life neither perturbed nor distracted him. Moreover, being away from family for extended periods, the mahaguru lived the life of a renunciate despite being a grihasth.
Gurudev performs his first public healing in Kurwai and Ashok Nagar
Day after day, he clean-bowled us with his simplicity and humility. Many times, we made the mistake of dealing with him at a physical level. Uddhav ji did not realise that if the man did not show his self-importance, it did not mean he wasn’t. Jain Saheb did not understand that if the guru allowed you to talk to him as your friend, it did not mean he was. VP Sharma ji from Maharashtra, did not realise if the guru allowed you to take liberties did not mean that you were justified. People mistook Gurudev’s mannerisms for who he was. Limited perception of their captain’s distinctiveness put them behind in the batting order, but he saw them as who they were rather than who they thought they were. Knowing that we would transform in the future, he disregarded our physical inadequacies in lieu of our spiritual potencies. And as our coach, he used every manoeuvre to convert us from non-strikers to spiritual batsmen.
Gurudev did not take any liberties with the instructions he received from his spiritual mentor. When he was told to return to the life of a grihasth, he did. When told to renounce his siddhis, he did. The unquestionable surrender to Buddhe Baba changed his spiritual trajectory and fast-forwarded his transformation. Gradually, the powers of OM, trishul, jyot, shivling, gileri, Nandi, Ganpati, etc., amalgamated in him and showed up as symbols on his hands and other parts of the body. These powers of the shiv-parivaar (Shiv family) gave him control over many cosmic energies. He was liberal in distributing his power symbols, his energies, at will. When he met Gupta ji of Parwanoo, he transferred the OM to each of his family members and opened a sthan at his house.
As a guru, he was a non-conformist. His healing methods were more than casual. There was no theory to be pondered or scriptures to be read. He shared his own experiences as lessons with those seated in his small 150 square feet bedroom.
He taught us to work on our energies and augment them. He specified mantra vidya, tapasya and paath, insisting that we spend time perfecting these practices. At specific junctures in our spiritual journeys, he initiated us into remote healing using the power of our minds. He accessed our dreams and visions to communicate with us; training us, sharing messages, warning us of future events and helping us perceive hidden realms. He enabled a few of us to glimpse our past lives.
The mahaguru made us realise that the afterlife was a continuum with a different vibration, a much more subtle form. He trained a few of us to travel out of the body and taught the technique of acquiring the gati (supersonic speed) required to break the barrier of sound upon our earthly exit. He had explained that after death, evolved spirits should aim to travel through the North Star to reach higher dimensions or Lokas
The significant realisation that the human body was the workhorse for the subtle one (spirit) spelt out our lives’ purpose. The spirit needs the human body to evolve in qualities, realisations and power. By adhering to the mahaguru’s practices and recommendations, anyone can improve the quality of their existence in this life and beyond.
Gurudev peppered his organisation skills with meticulous planning. Bada Guruvar started at about 5.30 a.m., and so all arrangements needed to be made a night prior. About 15-20 sevadaars, under the strategic supervision of Malhotra ji and operational oversight of the four musketeers – Pappu ji, Nikku ji, Bittu ji and Gaggu ji, would organise the area for the queues and the menu for the day, including prasad for patients and meals for sevadaars. Duties were split among disciples, and time bands allocated for shoe-stand seva, jal seva and gaddi seva. The mahaguru himself supervised the supervisors. Batting from the front was his personality streak.
Such meticulous planning also went into organising Ganesh Chauth, Mahashivratri and Guru Poornima. Only this time, the preparations started days before the actual event. In 1984, Gurudev set up the Himgiri Charitable Trust and appointed Malhotra ji as its chief trustee. To date, this Trust continues to work for public welfare.
His farm at Khandsa in Gurgaon was looked after by Pehalwanji and his team of few but able farmhands. Pehalwanji, an erstwhile wrestler, put his energy into grooming the farm. Gurudev joined him daily whenever he was not travelling to his camps. The mahaguru would milk cows, plough the land on his tractor, sow the seeds, tend to the vegetables and whatnot! Manual labour on his farm and nurturing its natural occupants was his way of discharging his debt towards nature. The produce of the farm served the needs of the Gurgaon sthan. Once during Mahashivratri, OMs were found etched in some of the farm’s potatoes. Another time, the potato yield had trishuls, instead! Either these were spiritual potatoes, or the mahaguru was demonstrating that he could emboss his powers on vegetables too!
Gurudev plows the field at his farm at Khandsa.
Wherever Gurudev decided to open sthans, he chose to ally with the presiding deity of that area. Being a spiritual heavyweight in his current incarnation, it was easy for him to tap into his associations since he had already built these alliances in his previous lifetimes. Some of his spiritual allies were Guru Nanak Dev, Sai Baba, Guru Gobind Singh, Parshuram ji, Lord Krishna, Ganpati, Hanuman, Devi’s like Renuka, Laxmi, Saraswati, Mahakali and a host of others. He would have astral meetings with some of them to discuss the affairs of the globe. I am not sure what to make of this, but in his last few days, Gurudev reportedly told his sister-in-law that since Guru Shukracharya and Guru Brihaspati were serving on earth, it was his turn to protect the world from evil forces. It makes the Mahaguru sound like one of the Avengers of Marvel Studios!
The mahaguru had prepared his resting ground before he moved on. He chose Najafgarh in Delhi as his final abode. A few months before his death, he placed a stone at a certain point in Najafgarh and asked Baljeet ji to construct his samadhi. When he departed, his last rites were also performed there. The Brighu Samhita confirmed his status as an omnipresent divya aatma, which would stay at Mount Kailash in Shiv Lok but return to his samadhi at Najafgarh every afternoon. His limitlessness is still felt at his samadhi and his sthans in Gurgaon and other parts of India and abroad.
STEERING THE OBSTACLE COURSE
At the peak, he probably dealt with a lakh or more people every month across the board. Hotels, hospitals and institutions calculate the number of people per square foot in terms of visitors. He had to see close to 50,000 people on some days in hardly 600 square feet! That’s about 80 to 90 people per square foot per day. Yet he met them with a smile on his face and did not rush anyone.
In the pursuit of helping those who came to meet him or prayed to his photograph, he had to deal with negative energies like spirits, black magic attacks, annoyed gurus, and the like. He played the part of a defence attorney to the jivaatma of the diseased, the planets and their rays to win his case and point. He often did this by making the person wait in line and come to the sthan several times for treatment. He counted these acts as their tapasya and justified his adjustment of their destinies as their merit.
These words are easily written; the actions were not as quickly done! But those who acknowledged him owned him. And they saw miracles in every small and big facet of their lives. He became an integral part of their heartbeat and coded their DNA with divinity.