Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
The first time Sadhu Vaswani entered my life was exactly twenty years ago. The Mumbai riots had left me heartbroken. To see mankind kill each other, all in the name of God, blind to the dictates and maneuvers of politicians and the land mafia, I decided to get out of my beloved city, Mumbai.
I wanted to shift to Pune. Now, when I look back there was no logical reason. I did not know anybody in Pune. It wasn’t going to be financially a great move, as those days Pune was still a small town, the bastardization of this beautiful town into a concrete jungle hadn’t really begun. Thus, I shifted to Khandala, a beautiful hill station, midway between Mumbai and Pune.
Apart from alleged madness, we Zoroastrians have an access to lot of facilities, like beautifully located sanatoriums. There are so many Parsi sanatoriums all over the country, that one wonders, were we a community of travelers or sick people, as the word sanatorium is a polite or a gentler word for infirmary or a hospice. But our community elders, now all Stars in the sky, in their benevolence and foresight, have built sanatoriums and dharamshalas all over the country.
Thus, as a mid way point, Khandala was the ideal location. The place where we lived, was opposite a small lake, and to the right was an ancient Temple and beyond the mountains. Those days the express highway wasn’t conceived, so it was still a small place with maybe a few hundred odd people living.
Financially I was sort of barely managing to keep body and Spirit together, but those days Mahatma Gandhi even on a hundred rupee note went a long way.
Every day I would catch whichever train halted at the Khandala railway station and reach Pune. From there I would walk to Maharashtra Herald, the oldest English newspaper in Pune.
It would take me about twenty minutes or more to reach the newspaper office and I would pass Sadhu Vaswani’s ashram. His birthday was round the corner and there were hoardings or something, informing one and all that November 25th was Sadhu Vaswani’s birthday and in His honour declared as the International Vegetarian Day.
So each morning my train would arrive at Pune station around ten or ten thirty and then I would pass by Sadhu Vaswani’s place and I would wish Him a good morning. I began to call Him Saint Veg. So every morning I would look at His photograph and say, “Morning Saint Veg., hope You doing well?” And then when I would walk back to the station to catch my four thirty or six thirty train I would say, “Night Saint Veg., see You tomorrow.”
I remember one day while passing by the main hoarding I was asked to halt by two women and a man. I realised they were promoting some or the other cause.
“Today is Sadhu Vaswani’s birthday.” Informed the man.
“Happy Birthday to Him. My birthday went a few weeks back too.”
I am all for friendly birthday chit chats.
“In His honour would you like to pledge to become a vegetarian?”
I nearly swallowed the cigarette I was smoking. We Zoroastrians Love our non vegetarian food. I didn’t know paneer or cottage cheese existed till I was twenty four years old. We put mutton even in the sparse vegetarian food we eat. If nothing else, we would break eggs on vegetarian food to make it palatable. My family was more than convinced I was off my head in most of the decisions I had taken. Turning vegetarian they would bloody disown me.
“I am a vegetarian for nearly forty eight days in a year.” Mentally I was trying to figure out how many Thursdays came in a year. I settled for at least forty eight.
“Sadhu Vaswani would be happy to hear that at least I am not responsible for taking life for forty eight days in a year. Right?”
They asked me to think about what my gluttony was doing to the animals. I promised them I would. At lunch I skipped chicken sandwiches from Marz-O-Rin. Dinner time I forgot, and had two helpings of fish.
Six years earlier, I returned to Pune. Around three years ago, one morning I went to buy mutton and saw a sight at the butcher’s and when I heard the cry of the goats stocked in some small dark unventilated locker, just below the slab on which our butcher sat and slit the throats of the goats and the wailing chickens and when I heard the plea of the animals I walked out a born again vegetarian.
But that’s not the end of the story. Wake up please. Good.
So that afternoon I was seated with a few of my friends at Prem’s Café, and I was speaking about the sight I witnessed at the butchers and told them I have turned vegetarian. One of my friend looks at me and says, “That’s strange, as today is Sadhu Vaswani’s birthday, it is November 25th and its International Vegetarian Day and it is a great day to turn vegetarian”.
And I couldn’t help but smile. I remembered my walks and those times and realised Saint Veg. was having the last laugh.
Though I am the most disgruntled vegetarian going about, as I hate vegetarian food, I remembered Saint Veg. today and decided to ramble about Him.
Sadhu Vaswani may or may not have performed miracles. I do not believe performing miracles is the sign of a Master. His Spirit was filled with Oneness and compassion for all, and for me that is the true calling card of all Masters.
Sadhu Vaswani’s parents themselves were noble souls. His mother was a Guru Nanak devotee and disciple. She knew the entire Sri Japji Sahib by heart and would also recite the Sri Sukhmani Sahib.
His father was a Maa Kali disciple. The Mother had graced Him with Her Darshan. He would pray to Her standing on one foot for hours. Through His devotion He had received the power to heal people.
He was a landlord but often the family had to go through tough times and when Sadhu Vaswani was born, the family was going through a financial lean period.
When Sadhu Vaswani was a young boy, one day, passing the butcher’s shop He saw animals being ruthlessly killed and decided to turn into a vegetarian. The very thought of eating something by taking its life was not acceptable to the young boy. The parents tried their best to make Him change His mind but my Saint Veg. stuck to His ground and the parents eventually relented.
From childhood He would worship the Sun, seeking the Sun to fill His body with Its Radiance and Strength and pray to the Moon to fill Him up with Her Purity and Calmness.
The first signs of His Divinity came when He prayed for a relative who had lost his job and who couldn’t afford to even feed his family. Every night for seven nights Sadhu Vaswani prayed to God to give the relative a job and on the eighth night His mother told Him that not only had the relative got a job but got a job that paid the man forty rupees a month. Which in those days was considered a huge sum, and in these days if one is lucky, one can procure a cup of ghastly tea in some restaurant.
So initially Guru Nanak and Maa Kali’s influence and Protection along with His parent’s spark of divinity were His Guiding Force.
Then at an early age He read about Jesus Christ. When He read about how Lord Jesus The Christ was crucified and the passage when The Lord Christ, thirsty for water says, ‘I thirst’, and nobody gave Him a drop of water, Sadhu Vaswani felt a knife twist in His little heart and He began to cry. From that day onwards Jesus Christ became a part of Sadhu Vaswani’s life.
In fact a few years later Sadhu Vaswani dreamt of Jesus Christ. This is what the dream revealed in His own words, “We spoke to each other. Jesus said to me….control your mind, unfold your heart that I may draw out tunes from your heart, even as a musician draws out melodies from the strings of the sitar”.
Even as a child He began to help the poor with whatever little pocket money He would get. He would take food from home and feed the poor. He convinced His friends who were in awe of Him, as He was a naturally gifted leader and speaker and academically the best of the lot, to bring whatever they could to feed the poor.
He would spend hours at night on the terrace in contemplation and had realised the importance of going within. The breath and the process of going within made Him strong, courageous and bold.
Growing up, He read the life of St. Thomas of Acquinas. The Saint would regularly flog Himself if He felt He had strayed even a little from the path of Divinity and Sadhu Vaswani began to flog Himself too, with a can, whenever thoughts took Him away from the path. In fact there was a time it seems when He would wear a garland of thorns and every time He felt He had strayed in His mind, He would pierce the thorns into His delicate skin till He bled.
By the time He had turned sixteen and excelled in His academics He had decided to turn into a wandering Sage or Fakir. He even voiced this to His mother, who had become a widow and she made Him promise her that till she was alive in the body He would never become a Sage or a Fakir. He kept His vow for the next twenty four years.
He won many laurels in His academic career and became a professor and Head Master too. But His mind was always on God and always on serving the needy.
He was also greatly influenced by The Master, Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Vivekananda. When He visited Ramakrishna’s ashram and saw the picture of Jesus Christ which Ramakrishna Paramhansa had gazed for years and was told that even The Master was Blessed with The Christ’s Love and Vision, Sadhu Vaswani felt a kinship with The Master. But The Master had taken Samadhi and Sadhu Vaswani ached and yearned to meet His Guru.
He met His Master Sri Promotholal Sen, and His lifelong search ended. With the meeting of His Master, His need to become a Sage and Fakir intensified, but His promise to His mother chained Him to His worldly profession.
When He was forty years old His mother fell ill, a victim of a plague that had created havoc in that part of the country. Sadhu Vaswani nursed His mother but her spirit was ebbing. To assure His mother that she was going to be well, He drank from her own bowl of water. Nothing happened to Him but a few days later His mother passed over.
Hours after He cremated his mother, He resigned from His very well paying job as a professor and scholar and renounced the material world.
During His pilgrimages to all the Holy places, Sadhu Vaswani was blessed with the presence of Lord Krishna.
He lived a very humble life. He would bathe from a common tap, which was located at a corner of a street. He would wake up early and meditate and then serve the poor. People began to see His Godhood and recognized Him to be a Saint. The sick, the needy, the anguished, flocked to Him and He opened His arms to all. To annihilate His ego, Sadhu Vaswani began to beg for His food. The greatest test was to go and knock at the door of His friend and beg for food, which He did.
For Him, it was all about the spirit, and the ego of the flesh had no place in His life. Then two meetings with two Fakirs again impacted His life. One day travelling from place to place He met up with A Fakir and He began to speak to The Sage. Sadhu Vaswani realised that This Fakir was no ordinary man. He asked The Fakir as to how to make The Lord happy and how to merge with Him. The Fakir replied that one needed to become a moth. The moth has only one agenda to merge with the flame. It is not bothered about death, hurt, physical anguish or annihilation. It only wants to merge with the flame.
Sadhu Vaswani then told The Fakir that He was filled with imperfection and His greatest fear was that He would never please The Lord enough for The Lord to embrace Him and accept Him. The Fakir told Sadhu Vaswani that The Lord is like The Mother. The Mother’s love goes beyond all imperfections. All that The Mother seeks is pure love. Thus, the only way to merge with The Lord and to gain His acceptance is to treat The Lord like The Universal Mother and to become a child to gain The Mother’s tender embrace.
Fakirs played an important role in Sadhu Vaswani’s final metamorphosis. One Fakir told Him, that there were children who threw stones at Him but He endured everything as if that is what The Lord wanted, that He should suffer, so be it, He would suffer. Sadhu Vaswani had asked The Fakir as to what gift God or Master truly treasured and The Fakir replied that once He had asked His Master what was the best gift The Fakir could offer His Master and God and The Master had replied, ‘The gift of an anguished heart’.
This sentence had left Sadhu Vaswani in a sort of trance like state. For days He went into isolation. Days would converge into night and vice versa. Then Sadhu Vaswani met another Fakir. The Fakir sang songs and Sadhu Vaswani was reminded of Lord Krishna and His mystical flute. The Fakir told Sadhu Vaswani who had prostrated Himself at the feet of The Fakir, to meditate on His Satguru (though a Muslim Man of God, The Fakir had used the words Satguru…meaning The Perfect Master) and said that only meditation on one’s Perfect Master and blessing of one’s Master can one be blessed with the true treasure, which in reality is The Master’s glance of Mercy.
Mercy and compassion, two words meaning pure love from The Master can only unchain us from our ignorance and free us from the wheel of karma. Baba Sai of Shirdi often has said during channeling, that only selfless love which comes from the realisation of Oneness and which brings forth compassion, can release us from duality and merge into Self Realization of Oneness and Godhood.
We keep going from one place to another when in reality all we truly need to do is to go within and let one’s God, Goddess, Master manifest within us. To awaken Divinity that already reposes within us. Anyway enough of my ramblings.
Then Sadhu Vaswani met another Fakir who told Him seven requirements to realise The Oneness within each individual.
Have faith in Allah (which means, one’s God, Goddess, Master).
Forgive the faults of your servants (which means, to forgive the flaws of all those who come in contact with you).
Do not turn your face away from the Truth (obviously this means, not only don’t lie, but don’t gossip and don’t slander and malign as God is part of the conversation and He hears every word spoken or unspoken).
Remember God every day (it really means every moment, as He is with and within each of us each moment, never doubt this).
Words of Allah when you leave your body will be ‘I was sick and in pain and you did not care for me or serve me’ (that means take care of the less fortunate and needy and those ill and those less fortunate and ill).
Charity (give give give without any agendas; without the thought of Karma or praise or ego).
Love (eventually all comes to naught and is useless if one doesn’t come from selfless love, compassion and Oneness).
Sadhu Vaswani lived each of these tenets. All His life He served, and served and served. Even when in the last stage of His physical life, He due to a fall had injured Himself, from the bed He served the needy. He counseled, blessed and made sure countless girls were educated, as He knew that it is through education that one can dispel the darkness and surge ahead into His Light and Radiance.
Sadhu Vaswani lived humbly. All His life He desired to serve and be filled with The Lord’s Radiance. His arms were open for the poor, ailing, the anguished, the young, old, rich, caste and creed being no bar.
He was a special Warrior of The Light. Softness personified and humility engrained in every cell.
Happy Birthday Saint Veg.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha