Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
Narayan Maharaj entered my life very silently. Exactly twenty years back I was going through a certain interesting phase. By interesting I mean my karmic laundering was going on in a very loving, determined, forceful manner. Our God, Goddess, Master are most loving and all They seek is to make us realize our Oneness with The Source. Of course often They go completely ballistic and They take on the role of Master Dhobis, trying Their best to clear the karmic sludge ingrained within us.
So anyway twenty years back I walked out of my house without telling anybody and first reached Pune from Mumbai. I stayed in Pune for a day or so, I really can’t remember much, and then travelled to Kedgaon Bet. I remember travelling to Kedgaon by train. I was in a rather empty state. I had left a one and a half year old daughter, without telling her I had decided to go away. May be that was best for her. At least that is what I thought.
So, I reached Kedgaon and a friend had arranged my stay at a Christian Missionary. I am really not sure where it was but it was close to the main market. I remember entering this modest room. There was a bed, a small table with one chair, a small cupboard, a tube light or a bulb burning, a Cross and a photograph of Mother Mary and Jesus Christ hanging on the wall and I sat on the bed, looked around the clean, modest room, and I missed my daughter and I picked up the Bible and read something and whatever I read, I don’t remember now, made me cry. So I sat in that room, with tears rolling down my face and I missed a life that was simple and where people were less complicated.
I don’t remember much about Kedgaon. I don’t remember where I had a bath or where I ate my food. I remember staying there for a maybe two or three days. I remember the sweet Christian Missionary was near a Temple. I remember sitting on a swing in somebody’s porch but don’t remember how I landed on the swing or who was that family who allowed me to be seated on that swing in their porch but I do remember taking long walks. Really long walks and I remember this Temple and the Bible and then catching a train to Mumbai, with or without the ticket I am not sure, and reaching home late at night and holding my small daughter and she looking at me and saying she loved me and then she going back to sleep but in my arms.
It was years later that I realized that I was in Narayan Maharaj’s domain. The Temple I saw in all probability the Temple He made with His dedication and love. So even though I wasn’t aware of Him, He had provided me shelter and I am sure given me the strength and wisdom to go back home and not backpack through the country like a vagabond.
There are two aspects of Narayan Maharaj which were in total contrast to other Perfect Masters. First and foremost, He was a real natty dresser. He loved to wear the most expensive and stylish clothes, with jewels and all but yet had the simplest of tastes and barely ate and worked tirelessly for the poor and the needy. Thousands of poor were fed each day and He was very particular about being selfless as well as cleanliness being next to Godliness.
Our Perfect Master lived in a palace and even had a silver throne which was ridiculously heavy in weight but His entire focus was to take care of the food, feed them, protect them and most important of all make them move towards the path of Oneness.
Thus, unlike the other Perfect Masters, especially Those reigning during His time, His dress sense was very Un-Perfect Masterish. The Avatar Meher Baba had divulged that during any period there are five Perfect Masters who walk the Earth and the Chief of Them during that period was Sai Baba of Shirdi and the other Four Perfect Masters were Baba Jaan, Tajuddin Baba, Narayan Maharaj and Upasani Maharaj. All of Them were dressed in the most humble manner but Narayan Maharaj, dressed like a King.
I guess it is important for the message to get across that there is no formal dress code where spirituality is concerned. Diet and dress code doesn’t decide one’s spirituality nor does one’s mode of behavior or language. The only true thing that matters is love for The Boss Man, compassion for all beings, selflessness, the maniacal need to take all on the path of Oneness and eventually make all realize their Godhood. Nothing else matters.
Heaven is not the sole prerogative of vegetarians, teetotalers, abstainers, but mainly the prerogative of only those who truly love, serve and dance to the seemingly out of tune of The Harpist. Being decent, gentle, loving and giving, will get you the grace of God, Goddess, Master far easily then all the rituals and abstinence.
In spite of dressing like Royalty and living like one, Narayan Maharaj’s philosophy was, ‘Treat everybody as God’, which meant see God in everybody. Thus with this philosophy in mind, thousands were fed and cared for by Narayan Maharaj and His followers.
Another aspect of Narayan Maharaj was that He gave tremendous importance to prayers and ceremonies. He advocated chanting of The Name, be it your God, Goddess or Master, continuously. He would tell one and all, that if you kept chanting The One’s Name, karmic cleansing took place without its laundering effects; the centeredness made one move closer to The One, and the bliss that followed could only be experienced if one got lost in the rhythm of chanting The Name. Thus chanting The Name was the simplest, easiest and also the surest way of doing away with one’s karma, gaining Grace, getting centered and most importantly merging with The One.
But this same Perfect Master also loved to perform elaborate prayer ceremonies or poojas and havans unlike other Perfect Masters who believed that God was found in simple devotion, chanting of The Name and living a decent and compassionate life.
Thus, Narayan Maharaj wanted to elaborate that God is found in intention and it didn’t matter what you wore or how you prayed, simplicity personified or elaborate, it didn’t matter, what mattered was the intention and staying true to your nature. If by nature you liked to dress up it didn’t make you not spiritual or spiritual, it was your essence that decided it. Also if you did perform prayer ceremonies, it didn’t make you spiritual but also it did not make you unspiritual.
Nowadays we look down upon anything that doesn’t match up with our own way of living and thinking. It’s not about right or wrong, the moment somebody behaves the way we don’t approve, we tend to judge the person or disregard his or her spirituality.
I feel Narayan Maharaj wanted to prove that it just didn’t matter what you wore or how ritualistic one was, as long as one stayed true to one’s nature and served and lived selflessly.
Hundreds of prayer ceremonies were performed and many were really on a large scale, once He had six thousand priests conduct a pooja, and often thousands would gather and those who were part of the ceremonies would go back feeling as though the very Gods from Heaven had descended. And He would feed all who came. The food would never fall short. Thousands of the poor and needy were fed everyday and it was a wonder where the money or the food came from to feed the hungry.
The strange part of it all was that though Narayan Maharaj undertook the most minute details of these ceremonies once the prayers began, He became a devotee and forgot He was a Perfect Master. He sang, danced and prayed just like every other person who attended the havan or pooja and this is where He showed once again, how little He thought of what others thought of Him. He would sing, dance, pray, weep with joy get immersed in the prayers and worship. There was no sham about Him. He was different as a Guru and Master and that was Him and it didn’t matter at all.
Many considered Him either too ostentatious or orthodox. Ostentatious because of His lifestyle but even Avatar Meher Baba made it clear to one and all that underneath all the expensive clothes and jewellery and the royal style of living, throbbed a Perfect Master whose only goal in life was to serve the needy and take all those who reposed faith in Him, to The One.
Yes He could be orthodox when it came to religious ceremonies but then He was the same One who sent Upasani Maharaj to the most unorthodox Rock Star of spirituality…The Baba Sai of Shirdi. He was the same One who when He went to live in Mumbai, lived in the house of a danseuse and didn’t care a rat’s arse as to what anybody thought about this so called unspiritual act.
Those days a danseuse was considered as a glorified commercial sex worker who plied her art as an excuse to earn money via the chang-chang act. Thus people began to criticize Him for staying with a danseuse. But after a while the same home of the danseuse became a religious and spiritual destination for innumerable disciples of Narayan Maharaj.
Once on another occasion there was a man, an important member of the legal fraternity, who was very fond of being with spirit world, in the sense he had imbedded a lot of booze within him and was kind of sloshed. Our legal chap vomited all over Narayan Maharaj and though all the other devotees were exceedingly angry, Narayan Maharaj kept blessing our legal drunk whiz kid, inspite of the Master’s regal clothes in a complete mess. Thus a Master who spent His life getting the most intricate prayer ceremonies in the most rigid and orthodox fashion, lived with a danseuse and had the greatest love and compassion for all, irrespective of their station in life or their weakness.
He would love playing sports and games with His disciples and it is often said through the games He would once again teach the essence of spirituality.
He would wake up at four every day and He had built an underground cellar where He would go and spend hours alone in meditation, prayer and doing His spiritual work.
Then He would pray to Lord Dattatraya, His Guru, His God, His Everything and then He would see His followers and those in need. Then He would answer to every letter written to Him, which was truly voluminous. Just His words and blessings would do the needful for those who had written to Him. Then He would have lunch. Which was a little of buttermilk and half ground boiled jowar (something the poorest of the poor could afford) and He hardly ate and thus for all His regal external appearance, He toiled like a labourer and ate food which the poorest of the poor could also afford.
Then He would go back into solitude. Evening times was for prayers and devotional songs and He would become a devotee during such times. He was of the firm belief that playing games, doing your duties, worldly as well as household and doing the chanting of The One’s Name and silent contemplation were mandatory and the very foundation of progressing on the spiritual path.
So basically it was Play, Work and Pray.
All those who knew Him would fall in love with Him. He barely spoke. He was four feet six inches in height. He was polite. He was courteous. He was dignified. He wore expensive clothes. He loved ritualistic ceremonies. He cured scores of people from innumerable and often fatal illnesses, fed thousands of the hungry, provided clothes to unaccountable poor people, educated untold children and provided medicine for countless. He had Kings as disciples. He had the most famous lawyers, judges, doctors, professors and so many foreigners as disciples but He served the poor, the needy and the damned and prayed for them and His life revolved around them. He was one of the Five Perfect Masters who was instrumental in bringing to the fore the Godhood of Avatar Meher Baba.
When Avatar Meher Baba first met Narayan Maharaj, He was a very young man, who had been kissed on the forehead by The Perfect Master Baba Jaan, which initiated God Realization in Meher Baba. So one day Meher Baba decided to leave all and travel. He found Himself in Kedgaon and when Narayan Maharaj saw Him, He walked up to Meher Baba and removed a garland from His neck and placed it on Meher Baba’s neck. Then He made Meher Baba have mango juice. Narayan Maharaj would personally make panna, a cooling drink made out of unripe mangoes. Nobody knows what They spoke about. After a while Meher Baba left.
Even decades later, when ever Narayan Maharaj would travel with His disciples in the train and the train would pass Meherabad, on its own the train would stop midway and only after Meher Baba would appear and both, Narayan Maharaj and Meher Baba would see each other from far, the train would begin to move.
Sorry got carried away by the love of The Masters for each other.
To surmise, He was a very well dressed Perfect Master who lived in a palace and served the poor like a king.
Narayan Maharaj loved Lord Dattatraya. He became an orphan at a very tender age and was brought up by His grandmother. There was internal politics and He left the house realizing that no relation was real but that of God and disciple. He left all and went in search of God at the age of barely nine or twelve. He spent time in a Lord Shiva temple and once the ceiling caved in and Narayan Maharaj lept and covered the Shiv Ling with His body so that no harm come on the Shiv Ling. Nothing happened to Him or the Shiv Ling. He would spend His time in meditation and a tiger would come and sit by His side and then go about whatever tigers go about and do.
Travelling all over India, He came to Pune and from there He was directed to Kedgaon.
Lord Dattatraya pleased with the devotion and love of the young boy blessed Him with Oneness.
Avatar Meher Baba narrated the story of Narayan Maharaj’s Oneness with Lord Dattatraya.
After journey to various places Narayan Maharaj came to Gangapur, not far from Pune, which is a very powerful place and is known to be brimming with Lord Dattatraya’s Energy. Narayan Maharaj was still a teenager. There He met an old man who at first sight He took to as His Master. There was something about the Old Man which made Narayan Maharaj forget the world. One day the Old Man told Narayan Maharaj that He was very hungry so to beg for food and bring the food to Him.
Narayan Maharaj immediately went and returned with food. There was no sight of the Old Man. Narayan Maharaj searched every place. No sight of the Old Man. The Heaven above does not believe in making life easy. They will test and prod and needle and stomp and dry the marrow in the bones till They are sort of satisfied. So for three days Narayan Maharaj waited at the very spot the Old Man has asked for food. He had decided He would never eat food or drink water till the Old Man, His Guru, didn’t reappear.
Three days later the Old Man reappeared. The Old Man smiled and Narayan Maharaj realized that the Old Man was none other than Lord Dattatraya. The Old Man had a little food and then the remaining He asked Narayan Maharaj to eat. The moment the young man ate the food, duality disappeared and Oneness reigned. Once He came back to the state of Godhood in human body, He roamed about from place to place. It is said that when He came to Kedgaon, He heard two Pingla birds talk. The chaps were talking about how blessed this particular land was, as it was on this land that Lord Rama had spent a little while on and that this land would witness thousands of poor being fed, clothed and nurtured. Narayan Maharaj purchased four hectares and built a beautiful temple with Lord Dattatraya’s statue adorning it.
Miracles ensued and His following grew and a township thrived and money came in and more work was done and more poor looked after and miracles increased but Narayan Maharaj never forgot His love for The Lord Dattatraya and Lord Shiva.
In 1942, His health began to fail. He decided to go to Ottacmond. Whenever He left Kedgaon He would always say, ‘I will see you soon or I will be back’. This time He said, ‘I am going’. None of the devotees realized the significance of this simple statement.
Ottacmond did not agree with His health so He came over to Bangalore where He decided to organize a massive pooja ‘Ati Rudra Swahakar’ to Lord Mallickarjun, an Avatar of Lord Shiva. He undertook all the arrangements, met innumerable people, blessed the poor, initiated many into chanting the various names of The Lord. More than hundred thousand devotees gathered and He took care of it all. Then He went into a room, sat in the Lotus Posture and breathed His last.
The Mysore State agreed to arrange for The Master’s body to reach Kedgaon but devotees in Bangalore insisted that His body would lie in the state of Samadhi forever in Bangalore.
It truly doesn’t matter. Perfect Masters reside in the heart of their lovers and children. Narayan Maharaj who treated everybody as equal, as He truly believed that God resided in everybody, I am sure must have known, that He too resided in the hearts of all those who loved and called out to Him.
There is no resting place as secure and blessed as in the heart of a lover.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha