The Karmayogi

To be free from the cycle of life and death,
He said, “Wipe clean the inner slate.”
Erase each scribble, remove every doodle,
To rid yourself of karma’s unrelenting weight.

Gurudev had mastered the science of karmayoga. He understood the transactional nature of existence better than anyone I have ever met. He worked conscientiously to exhaust his karmic debts and as a means to that end, he spent a lot of time engaged in the seva of greening places.

Gurudev’s farm at Khandsa in Gurgaon became not only a sanctuary where he nurtured nature but a lush classroom where we came to learn in our suits and returned home in muddy boots.

Gurudev kept and cared for many animals at the farm. He served up a reminder of aatmic equality in his inimitable style when he named the cattle after deities. Whenever Gurudev would call the cows and buffaloes by name, they would acknowledge his call with moos. They could sense Gurudev’s arrival a few minutes before he entered the gate of the farm. The happy sounds they made were a cue to the farmhands that their Guru’s arrival was imminent.

However, not all the animals on the farm were on their best behaviour. The most ill-tempered of the lot was Gurudev’s pet monkey, Bajrangi.

Bajrangi, a gift from Maharashtra, was the farm’s Dennis the Menace. His unruly ways were the bane of those who worked at the farm. However, he would magically transform into Saint Bajrangi upon Gurudev’s arrival.

One afternoon as Gurudev and his disciple, Giri ji, arrived at the farm, they noticed Bajrangi was sulking in a corner. When Gurudev affectionately asked, “Oye Bajrangi, kaisa hai? (How are you, Bajrangi?)”, the monkey made his displeasure known by turning his face the other way. Gurudev indulgently asked him what the matter was. Bajrangi responded with an incomprehensible sound. Gurudev nodded with understanding and said, “Tera kaam ho jayegaa (Your work will be done)”. Giri ji looked on with bemusement at the interaction happening before his eyes. After Gurudev’s reassurance, Bajrangi returned to his saintly ways (albeit only around Gurudev).

The next afternoon, as Gurudev and Giri ji returned to the farm, they saw Bajrangi in an exultant mood. Gurudev walked up to the monkey and said, “Ab khush hai? (Are you happy now?)”. Bajrangi responded with a happy dance. Sensing Giri ji’s confusion, Gurudev pointed towards the wall where a female monkey sat coyly on the parapet. Giri ji laughed as he realized that Gurudev had played match-maker for Bajrangi. The man who claimed he belonged to no one certainly walked the extra mile for his monkey, like a father would for a son!

Gurudev spent many hours at the farm. He would plough the field on his tractor, pluck the vegetables, and milk the cows. If there was a calf nearby, he would milk the mother’s udder and spout the milk into the calf’s mouth. During the harvest season, he would also help separate the chaff.

Gurudev works at the farm

Gurudev picking vegetables at his farm in Khandsa, Gurgaon

Bittu ji recalled that even though the work at the farm was physically exhausting and the working conditions far from ideal, Gurudev never complained. Sometimes, the heavy lifting he did would result in blisters on his hands. Concerned, Bittu ji begged him to stop repeatedly.

One day after Bittu ji raised the subject of the toll the work at the farm was taking on Gurudev, the latter said, “I am a man of moderate means. My ability to serve people monetarily is limited. So I will use my body to render service, no matter how physically taxing the work may be. I also eat the vegetables grown here and consume the milk of the cows that live here, so I have to perform the seva of looking after it.”

Neither the milk nor vegetables and cereals grown in his fields at Khandsa were sold. They were used to feed people at the daily langar (communal kitchen) at the sthan.

In 1988, Giri ji purchased a small plot of land in the village of Muhammadpur in Gurgaon. At the time, most of the land in the area was not cultivable. Many of the farmers who lived there had relocated due to the aridness of the terrain and lack of yield.

Gurudev personally attended to and oversaw the greening of this plot. He dug the soil, ploughed the land, sowed seeds, and planted trees. Soon, the farm became cultivable and inspired other farmers to start recultivating their lands. Eventually, the little village was teeming with lush pockets of land thanks to Gurudev’s initiative.

Through his actions, Gurudev showed us the way to a far more evolved and karmically lighter existence. Under his guidance, we became observant of our attitudes and mindful of the impact our deeds had on our karmic balance sheet.  Eventually, we learned to live a life of non-doership, detachment, and self-observation.