Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
Upasani Maharaj holds a special place in the hearts of all those who Love and revere, Sainath of Shirdi and Avatar Meher Baba.
Upasani Maharaj was Sai’s most beloved disciple and Shirdi Sai’s Grace and Love turned a man with innumerable demons within to become a Perfect Master. He was also The One, who brought Meher Baba from being completely immersed with Godhood into the dimension of duality; God with human consciousness; from a Man who was only God consciousness into God who accommodated within the Man, human consciousness too.
So who really was Upasani Maharaj?
Kashinath Govindrao Upasani, (May 15, 1870 – December 24, 1941), since a child never really conferred to anything that was normal. While very young, He was thrashed by a teacher, and decided then and there, that formal education was a waste of time. He was thus educated at home by His grandfather, who eventually renounced everything and went into seclusion, in search of God.
Where Kashinath lived, there was a woman, who the villagers considered either mad or a sorceress. The villagers avoided her and the children harassed her. Kashinath was not an exception.
One day, as young Upasani Maharaj began to experience unbearable pain in the stomach and within a few weeks the village doctor, diagnosed the cause of the pain as incurable and death inevitable.
So Kashinath’s family decided that if the boy was any way going to get a pair of wings, there was no harm in going to the controversial witch and try their luck.
The old lady saw Kashinath and told the family that hell could freeze over but she was not going to help cure the Boy. The family pleaded, but the old woman was adamant, muttering that the Boy had troubled her a lot and thus He had got this illness and that the village doctor, who usually was as accurate in diagnosis as the local drunkard, this time for some odd reason was correct and the Boy was going to die.
The young Boy, I assume, must have got an out of body experience with fright, and pleaded with the suave senior citizen who was breathing fire, to forgive Him. She muttered a few things under her breath and said, on one condition. If He was to live and get well, He would have to come and visit her everyday and spend some time with her.
I am sure Kashinath must have pondered over which was better, a quick death or a slow one, but better sense prevailed and the Boy, who I am sure also must have muttered a few things under his breath, gave His word.
So every day, it must have been some sight for sore eyes, the witch and the small Boy, sitting facing each other, sometimes talking and other times, the Boy with mouth ajar observing the witch.
As time passed the young Boy began to get better and in some time was completely cured. No herbs; no medicines; nothing; just spending time with this strange woman but strangely though the old lady cured the Boy of OR off stomach pain and she infected within Him something far more serious; the worst possible pain and ache in all of creation; the agony that comes with the realisation of being separated from God. She was inflicted with that pain of duality and she, the kind and good woman that she was, put the seeds of longing for God in Kashinath’s young heart.
Thus all His life, Upasani Maharaj hated His body, as He felt His body caged Him and separated Him from Oneness with The Creator. But strangely, all His spiritual growth was due to His body.
So His first step towards spiritual accession began with a stomach pain that forced Him to spend time with the old woman-witch-Mast, in love with God.
Thus began His journey. He got more and more disenchanted with the world around Him and His own body. He began to meditate or contemplate on God. He was happy in His own isolation. The family seeing such a behavior, decided the best course of action to bring Kashinath to Earth and may be end His happiness and His search for The Elusive One, was sure and certain. They got Him married.
He was fourteen and the girl was eight years old.
Those days the elders didn’t waste time. So Kashinath did the most sensible thing; every married man, since Adam has contemplated, but not many have put to action. He ran away. His grandfather already rather evolved, realised where his errant grand-child was and wrote Him a letter that His mother was critically ill. The ruse worked. Kashinath came back and realised He had been duped. His child-bride died a year later and the family those days, didn’t waste too much time in mourning and all that nonsense, and in some time again got the clueless and extremely bewildered Kashinath married again.
He was in a very vulnerable state, as not known to all, He had begun to have spiritual experiences, to which He had no answer for, and had also begun to hear a peculiar voice in His head, which He could not shut out. He ran away again, but returned, and then, after a while on the pretext of work, He went in search of somebody or to find some answer to what was eating Him up. He was truly confused and agitated and distraught. He had an issue with His body. He was miserable, and that voice within Him, sometimes soft, sometimes really loud, was making Him loose His mind.
He had begun to harbor suicidal tendencies, something He fought against until Baba Sai removed all the angst from Upasani Maharaj.
So Maharaj, unable to get a cure for His spiritual predicament, in his late teens, entered a forest, climbed a mountain, and entered a cave. Nobody can truly understand how He did so, as it seems impossible to do so to whoever has visited this cave. His intention was clear. Either He got some answers to the voice that spoke to Him and what was really happening to Him, or He intended to test the laws of gravity.
Upasani Maharaj spent nine months in the cave. Initially very frustrated, He slowly, slipped into Samadhi, or a very deep meditative zone, and blanked out from this very interesting world. He fasted for nine months surviving on whatever little rain water that collected in the cave. He was skin and bone, and was on the verge of dying. His throat was parched. He felt as though somebody was pulling out His tongue and His skin was torn. He had no strength to come down the precarious mountain and wondered how on Earth He had entered the cave in the first place. He had gone without food for nine months and had not drunk water for as far as He could remember. He knew He could no longer kill Himself, but it was as though God had heard His plea to die, nine months too late. And then it began to rain and rain and rain and water began to enter the cave and He couldn’t move but somehow, the water reached Him, wet His lips and slowly He began to drink the cool rain water.
It was years later that He found out that His Boss Man, Sai Baba of Shirdi, knower of everything, had heard His pleas and Baba Sai had instructed His Spiritual Workers in the astral plane to bring down the rains. These Spiritual Workers are also called Spiritual Agents or Abdals, who surround Masters to do as per The Master’s bidding. I can imagine Sai Baba telling His Abdals, ‘ Ok, My Son now needs Me, He is in that blasted cave since nine months, first wanting to die and now wanting to live, go and make sure water reaches Him and I don’t want ifs and buts, now get moving’.
So They got moving and seeing that there was no way They could get water up to the cave, They got water down into the cave. Upasani Maharaj eventually got some strength and I am sure being helped by the Abdals, He reached the village nearby.
It took Him a month to get well and He returned back to His family. He was in a better state spiritually and thus mentally, and decided to get back to the world of mankind. He studied ayurveda and became a doctor and also became an editor of a magazine that dealt with health and ayurveda. A few years passed and He became a rich man, bought hundreds of acres of land, and then, as it happens to all those who are marked by The Wise One, in a short period of time He became bankrupt again. By then His second wife too had passed over and He was married to His third wife, who understood Upasani Maharaj and His angst and did not pressurize Him to once again take on His medical profession.
Upasani Maharaj and His wife decided to go on a pilgrimage and one night, when Upasani Maharaj was in a deep state of meditation He experienced a jolt, some occult experience, and He fell to the ground, unconscious. He was thought to be dead but His wife revived Him. Upasani Maharaj regained His consciousness, but from that moment He began to experience difficulty in breathing. Something had gone wrong which had affected His breathing.
His search to get cured one day made Him want to meet One of The Five Perfect Masters, Narayan Maharaj. The Master was giving Darshan and there was a long line of devotees waiting to take The Master’s blessings but Narayan Maharaj told one of His devotees to bring the young Man to Him. He treated Upasani Maharaj as one of His own and removed a garland that adorned Him and placed it on the young bewildered Man. Upasani Maharaj was so humble that He could never understand why a Perfect Master would treat Him with so much Love, little realising that in a short time He too would form the band of The Five Perfect Masters, headed by Sai Baba of Shirdi, and including Giants like Baba Jaan and Tajuddin Baba.
But His breathing was making it impossible for Him to live in peace. He went to a very renowned ayurvedic doctor who after examining Him and treating Him with a lot of love, advised Upasani Maharaj to go to Shirdi and take refuge in Baba Sai. He told Upasani Maharaj that this wasn’t a physical ailment but due to intensive and exhaustive spiritual practices and breathing kriyas, the body had not been able to withstand the power of the spiritual energy and thus it had blocked certain Chakras, which needed Baba Sai’s blessings to restore Upasani Maharaj back to normal health. Upasani Maharaj refused, saying He was not going to a Muslim Fakir, as He belonged to a very high Brahmin lineage.
He kept suffering, and went back to Narayan Maharaj, who once again showed great Respect and Love and made Him eat pan, telling Upasani Maharaj that now He, Narayan Maharaj had coloured Him from within with the Divine Colours.
The ayurvedic doctor kept persisting Him to meet Sai Baba of Shirdi and at last on 27th June 1911, the Bird came back to The Nest.
Baba Sai through various conversations with His devotees but intended for Upasani Maharaj, made it clear that They both had lived together innumerable lifetimes back. From my understanding, both Sai and Upasani, were brother spiritualists, and for some reason, Upasani got waylaid on the spiritual path while Baba Sai moved on. But Baba Sai truly Loved His friend and fellow spiritual brother and had decided that enough was enough, He would make Upasani Maharaj finish His Karmic cleansing and make Himself realised and a Perfect Master.
Sages say that, the difference that exists in the state of consciousness, between a stone and a normal human being, is the same when compared to the difference between an ordinary human being and a Perfect Master.
When Upasani Maharaj met Sai, the Former was a normal human being, still far away from Godhood and Sai realised that only He Sai stood between His friend’s Karmic doom. Baba Sai was the Singer, whose voice Upasani Maharaj had been hearing from years and years. It was only later did Upasani Maharaj realise it.
But Upasani Maharaj was worried for His wife and His normal life. Baba Sai tried to prevent Him from leaving, but He was insistent. So Baba Sai told Him, that, go if you must but in eight days They shall meet once again, here in Shirdi.
So Upasani Maharaj left, and eight days later, He still was unsure of how He managed to come back to Shirdi. Some say, He kept travelling about in circles. Others say He got lost, and the people willing to make Him reach His home first wanted His help to reach a place very close to Shirdi and once they were near Shirdi, it was but natural they wanted to meet our Old Man. Whatever the reason may be, Upasani Maharaj stood in front of Baba Sai.
“So how many days earlier did you leave Shirdi?”
“How many days did I predict you will stand in front of me?”
And slowly Upasani Maharaj realised that This Old Fakir was a King in a really humble disguise.
It became clear to all that Sai Baba was partial to Upasani Maharaj. And Baba Sai said, “Whatever He is, good or bad, He is Mine. There is no distinction between Him and Me. Now, the whole responsibility for Him rests with Me.”
Baba Sai sent Upasani Maharaj to a Temple a few hundred feet away from where He sat. It was an old dilapidated Lord Khandoba’s Temple. Instructions to Upasani Maharaj were clear. He was not supposed to come out of the Temple. Food would be sent to Him. Only for evening Prayers would He come out and once Prayers were over, He would return to the Temple.
Upasani Maharaj entered the Temple which was inhabited by scorpions and snakes. Baba Sai had assured Him that He and His wife and near ones were protected and taken care of and to worry about nothing but to obey His wishes and that He knew best for Upasani Maharaj.
To make Upasani Maharaj understand who He truly was, Baba Sai told Upasani Maharaj, then only known as Kashinath, that He would come for a meal, thus to keep something for Him to eat. Kashinath every day would prepare a meal for Baba Sai and as Baba Sai was yet to come for a meal, He would take the meal to Baba Sai and offer it to Him as Prasad. He wouldn’t eat it as Baba Sai had made it clear He was supposed to meet nobody, as thus not increase His Karmic bonds and eat only what He sent.
Three months later when Sai was presented food by Kashinath, Baba Sai told Him that He had come for food but He had been shooed away. Kashinath said how it was possible as His eyes only searched for Baba. Baba Sai then told Kashinath, that hadn’t He shooed away a black dog who had waited patiently for Him to give it some food. He was that dog.
Once again Baba Sai said He would come for food. Sometime later again Baba Sai told Kashinath that what the hell, again He had shooed Him away. Kashinath kept wondering. Baba Sai then reminded Kashinath that He had taken on the guise of a poor untouchable.
Upasani Maharaj admitted that yes, he had shooed away an untouchable; years of conditioning had made Him look down on untouchables and Muslims.
Baba Sai then told Him, God and He, were in one and all. You look down on anybody; you look down on God and Baba Sai.
That was the corner stone in Upasani Maharaj’s life. Not only He had recognized the voice, which had haunted Him for years but He dropped all discrimination hence forth.
Upasani Maharaj was sent food once a day as per Baba’s wishes. Then one day Baba Sai stopped sending food. He resumed sending food after thirteen or fourteen months and Upasani Maharaj fasted for those thirteen or fourteen months. Scorpions, snakes, no food and water, jealousy, spiritual and occult happenings, and He stood steadfast as His Master had ordered and directed Him to be steadfast. The first law of spirituality, I shall obey, everything else follows later, even Love.
By the end of that period Upasani Maharaj was skin and bones. People stopped calling Him Kashinath anymore, but called Him Upasani Maharaj, as ‘Upas’ means to Fast. He had conquered food and water, and thus He was hence forth called Upasani.
For four years Upasani Maharaj stayed in Lord Khandoba’s Temple. He went through hell. He went through various stages of spiritual growth and then realised Oneness.
Baba removed His obsessive disdain to the body, by making Upasani Maharaj have a vision. In that vision He saw there were two of Him. One filled with negativity and hate. The other filled with goodness. Baba Sai kills the one filled with negativity and evil. Upasani Maharaj questions Baba that was He now only good; was only good left. And Baba Sai Says, even goodness isn’t enough. Nothing should be left. Not even the good body, as We are only Spirit, Pure Consciousness, devoid of all bodies; physical, astral and causal.
Baba Sai began to send somebody to specially cook for Upasani Maharaj. He began to send devotees to Pray to Upasani Maharaj and do His Aarti. He had in four years removed all Karma attached to Upasani Maharaj and conferred on Him Godhood. This is why He once told all around Him about Upasani Maharaj. “There was no one else like Him. His value only God knew. His merit was such that if the whole world was put on one side and He on the other, He would be greater!”
This is Baba Sai talking about Upasani Maharaj.
In the four years Upasani with Baba Sai’s permission travelled to a few places. He didn’t care about His clothing. He usually wore a gunny bag. He begged for food, slept in the dirtiest places. Once was seen petting a dead animal and lying down next to it. He roamed about in tatters. He lay in dirt. But He could fool nobody. In spite of all His Sai Baba of Shirdi like behavior, which often, in the most polite words, was erratic, eccentric, wild and often abusive and violent, countless people rushed to Upasani Maharaj too for blessings. But He would always wonder why Him? He always said He did nothing. Only His Master and The Lord were the doers, but that didn’t stop people from worshipping Him. On purpose He would stay with untouchables, and still the rich flocked, those who despised the untouchables forgot all their prejudices and would sit in the homes of untouchables, eat and drink in their humble homes, as Upasani Maharaj resided there.
He was a big Man and He could be very, how should I say it, undiplomatic and non Gandhian, in His approach if anybody dared to get on His wrong side. But all those who knew Him realised He was a child at heart, with a mother’s love for all.
His philosophy was simple, Not to trouble anybody in the least. To suffer for all of Creation, and be useful to others. To remain contented in a state of be as it may. He also often told one and all that if you can’t eat crap there is no way you are going to grow spiritually.
He never minded it in the least when foreigners made fun of Him. Once kids put a garland of shoes around His neck and for days He roamed about with the garland of shoes till somebody had the courage to remove that garland and put a garland of flowers. He was unperturbed. He would tell one and all to worship anything, even old and torn shoes, as everything was pervaded with God’s Energy and Presence. It didn’t matter what one prayed to as long as one prayed with the belief that God resided in that thing and thus that thing automatically became God itself.
Upasani Maharaj started an ashram in Sakori which is only five kilometers away from Shirdi, as Upasani Maharaj wanted to be as close to His Sai as possible. Yes there was tremendous jealously directed against Him, by those who wanted Sai’s favour and love only for themselves.
In Sakori, once again He fasted for over a year but this time He locked Himself in a bamboo cage, that was so small that His six feet two inches frame barely allowed Him any movement. He did everything in that small cage and His devotees tried their best to keep it as clean as possible but He didn’t care. He told one and all that He did this so that the Karma of His devotees were cleared.
When He came out of the cage, a girl child called Godavari garlanded Him. She would be His spiritual successor. Upasani Maharaj then began to teach the girl children scriptures and made them evolved and made them understand the scriptures and then spread the true word. He made the virgin brides (married to The Lord) perform religious ceremonies much to the chagrin of the orthodox. He would allow untouchables to become one with the flock and educate them. The jealous spread the rumour that He was sex starved, but He didn’t care. Till eventually slowly people realised the truth. He would give sermons to one and all and yes, if He lost it, would abuse and thrash one and all. Once He nearly thrashed a group of Hindu priests who refused to do Prayers as Upasani held the painting of Sai Baba of Shirdi. He didn’t care. He loved The Old Man. When Baba Sai dropped His body in 1918 it was Upasani Maharaj who performed the last rites.
After years when He went back to Shirdi, He cried like a small child aching for His father and mother.
If Baba Sai was His Guru and All, Avatar Meher Baba was His most belolved.
How can one forget Meher Baba and Upasani Maharaj’s association. When living in Shirdi under Baba Sai’s Guidance and Protection, Meher Baba approached Upasani Maharaj, who threw a stone that hit Meher Baba exactly at that same spot at the centre of His forehead which Baba Jaan had kissed and had begun the journey of Meher Baba’s Avatar Hood. By throwing the stone on the same spot, Upasani Maharaj brought Meher Baba back down to Human Consciousness but as The Avatar.
They spent two days in Lord Khandoba’s Temple.
When Upasani Maharaj sought leave from Baba Sai of Shirdi, as there was tremendous jealousy and also because Baba Sai wanted Him to continue with His spiritual work, Upasani Maharaj, settled down a few kilometers from His Guru, in Sakori. Meher Baba would sometimes spend months at a stretch with Upasani Maharaj.
Then for twenty years They did not meet. The last meeting where They met was at the insistence of Upasani Maharaj two months before He took Samadhi. They met for half an hour on a hillock. Nobody was allowed to see The Perfect Master meet The Avatar. The Guru had become the Child, while the Child had become God in Physical form. After the meeting They both looked at each other, knowing They would not meet again in the physical form.
Upasani Maharaj was very emotional in the last meeting with Meher Baba. He told Meher Baba, ‘You are AdiShakti, The Ancient One, The All Pervading One’.
What did The Avatar tell about Upasani Maharaj.
“Oh Upasni Maharaj, our repeated salutations to you! Your name will be revered for ages to come! You brought down The Ancient One and gave Him the knowledge to wipe away the tears of Our age! I can bring down the stars…I now have full powers… Maharaj has handed over His side of things to Me.”
The Man who had an issue with His body, who went beyond the body and matter, worked ceaselessly for the upliftment of the poor and the women and the untouchables and all those who sought spiritual growth, passed over calmly, knowing He was going to, like all Perfect Masters, with His spiritual successor, Godavari by His side. Baba Sai’s disciple, Avatar Meher Baba’s Guru, Upasani Maharaj Ki Jai.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha