The Server, not the Served

When we couldn’t walk, he gave us wings,
And the belief that we could fly.
And fly we did, under his selfless gaze
To unheard of spiritual highs.

In a vision, I saw myself seated with Gurudev and a few of his disciples, overseeing the descent of around a hundred evolved spirits to earth. All the spirits were bald and dressed in cream coloured togas (a distinctive garment worn by ancient Romans). I knew the spectacle unfolding had to do with my Guru’s mission. Some years later, when Gurudev casually mentioned that he had spent the last 500 years gathering his disciples, I understood what the vision meant. Gurudev had aligned our existence on earth to match his own, so we could partake in his mission of the spiritual upliftment of humanity.

Many dreams and visions are indicative, and sometimes exaggerated representations of certain events of the past or the future. In my vision, I saw myself with the face of my current physical incarnation, even though the vision was of an event that happened before my birth. Ravi Trehan ji was shown a vision of his past life by Gurudev, and both Ravi ji and Gurudev had the faces of their current incarnations in it, making recognition of past connectivity possible.

The motley crew of Gurudev’s disciples showed up at his doorstep on one pretext or another. Some came as patients and some in the garb of co-workers. Some came to satisfy their curiosity, while others received messages about their future guru in the dream state.

Gurudev took this eclectic mix of people from varied economic backgrounds under his wing. He wiped our slates clean and then rewrote the stories of our lives. We transformed from novices with little or no knowledge of spiritualism (in this lifetime), to spiritual healers under his watchful gaze.

Gurudev was deeply invested in our spiritual journey, often hand-holding us as we found our bearings. He guided our flight to higher levels of consciousness and wished for us to soar higher than he did. He inspired us when we failed and believed in us when we lacked self-belief. He shattered our delusions, then reconstructed us into the spiritualists we became. In time, we recognized our  divinity, and in turn, helped others recognize theirs.

One of my guru bhai’s described Gurudev as an ‘ulta guru’ (unique guru). The term was coined to pay tribute to Gurudev’s propensity for turning convention on its head.

While tradition dictates that it is the disciples who must serve their Guru, in Gurudev’s realm his seva extended to his disciples as much as it did to others. He shunned pedestals for a unique form of spiritual populism.

Despite Gurudev’s spiritually elevated stature, he never treated anyone as inferior to him. He didn’t just preach aatmic equality, he practiced it. Sometimes, he would sit on the floor and eat his meal with us. He disliked being treated as superior to those around him. He would appreciate it when his disciples were given preferential treatment instead of him. He saw everyone as equal but at different stages in their evolutionary journey. It was on the advice of his spiritual mentor, Buddhe Baba, that he started referring to all those who came to seek his blessings as ‘Putt’—a Punjabi term of endearment for children of both genders.

In the process of guiding his disciples to spiritual heights, Gurudev scripted an interesting twist in the Guru-disciple relationship when he willfully became The Server, not the Served.

When Gurudev moved from a small, two-room dwelling in Shivpuri to a slightly more spacious house in Gurgaon, he opened the doors of his new home to us. On days when his house was overrun with his disciples and their families, he would sleep on an old cot in a tiny storeroom. He once said, “I don’t mind being inconvenienced as long as my disciples do not face any problems.”

On events like Mahashivratri when legions of disciples arrived in Gurgaon from different parts of the world, he made certain that they were put up in comfortable accommodation. On one Mahashivratri, he single-handedly cooked a meal of aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower) for his disciples and only ate after they had.

Gupta ji, a disciple from Parwanoo, Himachal Pradesh, remembered that whenever he accompanied Gurudev on road trips, the latter would stop the car near dhabas to buy beverages for his disciples. Instead of sitting comfortably in the car allowing himself to be served, Gurudev served his disciples, prioritizing their needs before his own.

Server, not the served

Gurudev serving his disciples beverages on a road trip

Once, a disciple complained about the blandness of the food served at the langar (community kitchen) at that sthan at Gurgaon. He demanded desi ghee (clear butter used in South Asian cooking) in the dal and butter in the sarson ka saag (a dish made from mustard greens). When word of the disciple’s unreasonable demands reached Gurudev, instead of getting upset, he asked the sevadaar to make the disciple’s food in the manner that he desired.

However, there were times when Gurudev would shake up the status quo. On the first few days after they arrived at the camp at Renuka, Gurudev would wake Bittu ji at 3 am every morning so that he could serve Bittu ji a hot cup of tea. After enjoying the early morning beverage made by his Guru, Bittu ji would leave the cup unwashed and return to sleep. For three days, Bittu ji reveled in the luxury of being served by his guru, but on the fourth day, Gurudev gave Bittu ji an earful. After being reprimanded for the dereliction of his duties, Bittu ji divorced his complacency. Thereafter, he prepared the tea and washed the cups too!

At a metaphysical level, Gurudev would serve us pre-cooked meals so that we could start seva. To accelerate our spiritual journey, Gurudev bestowed his powers on us. He gave us mantras he had attained through years of effort and resolve. Often, when we became complacent, he gave us a share of his mantra count to hasten our spiritual climb.

In the 1980s, Gurudev instructed me to be present at Gurgaon on every Bada Guruvaar. One day, he called me to his room, made me swallow a laung (clove), and announced that I was now siddh in a particular mantra. I was confused since I didn’t know a single syllable of the mantra in question. As I was mostly dumbstruck in Gurudev’s presence, my confusion did not find articulation.

Ravi Trehan ji recalled, “Gurudev instructed me to do my paath from 11 pm to 2 am every night. Gurudev then went on to say that he would do paath on my behalf from 2 am to 5 am every morning, and allocate its benefit to me. His greatness and selflessness were beyond measure!”

These are a few among countless examples of how he armed us with his powers so that we could rise faster, and achieve more spiritually. He altered many of the advanced mantras he gave us by adding his special flavour to them. I believe his intent powered them with greater potency.

Sometimes, Gurudev’s magnanimity made a few of us complacent. Bittu ji and Pappu ji were repeatedly advised by Gurudev to spend more time chanting their mantras, but they never did. One day Gurudev said, “I cannot keep allocating a share of my mantra count to you if you don’t make an effort to earn some spiritual points of your own!”

The fruits of Gurudev’s tapasya (practices to generate spiritual energy) which he generously transferred to us, accelerated our evolution. By working for us, he ensured we could work for others. In return, our methods of serving him involved fairly routine chores like ironing his clothes, driving him to and from the office, and cooking meals for him. These little acts of gratitude and devotion could never compare to the sacrifices he made for us, and the selflessness he displayed in our relationship. Through his guidance and grace, Gurudev gave meaning to my life, and more significantly, he gave meaning to my impending death.