Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
The most fascinating lives of Gurus and Disciples are in ancient Scriptures and I would like to share these stories with you. I have taken the liberty of using my own rambling to narrate the conversations. Yes, the conversations that take place shall have my words but the essence is from the Scriptures. So bear with me. All Scriptures eventually have come forth from word of mouth down the ages or have been translated into English, thus there shall always be a personal touch to any rendition.
I am reading the Guru Charitra. It is one of the most revered Scriptures, especially in Maharashtra and it contains the life and philosophy of Lord Dattatreya, who is considered to be the Trinity Himself; the embodiment of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma.
Lord Dattatreya or Lord Datta Guru, took several incarnations, popular being Sripada Sri Vallabha and Sri Narasimha Saraswati.
So now let’s get down to the rambling. The story goes something like this. It has been narrated by Lord Brahma to the One who is in charge of the present Yug or phase.
There was this beautiful Ashram of Angiras Rishi on the bank of the river Godavari. There were various students being trained about spiritual life. In that Ashram there was a Guru called Veda Dharma also referred to as Vedadharma. He was the Son of the great Maharishi Paila. Veda Dharma was renowned for His learning and wisdom and He had a large group of disciples. One day, Veda Dharma called out to His disciples and they all assembled. He asked His disciples whether they loved Him. All of them professed their love for the Guru. So Veda Dharma told His disciples that if they truly loved Him then they would obey what He was about to ask of them.
The foundation of Guru disciple relationship is based on selfless love and complete surrender. Or at least it was during those times, thousands of years ago. The philosophy of those days was that if you did not obey your Guru, once you died, you were packed off to the bowels of hell and you could wave salvation good bye. Those days the Big Boys didn’t beat round the bush. Like in the Durga Chalisa there is this profound but to the point plea to the Goddess, that says, Shatru Nash kijiye Maharani, which means ‘Oh My Goddess annihilate my enemies’. Short and simple. No psycho mumbo jumbo of ‘ Oh Goddess remove the evil from my enemies’ or ‘ let the venom and enmity be cleansed from my adversary’ but simple and to the point, off with the bugger’s head.
Those days Guru’s were beacons of spirituality, purity, power and Oneness. So Veda Dharma told His disciples that He had sinned grievously in His past life times and though most of His sins had been cleansed by His intense devotion and penance, still there were sins that were left which He had not been able to burn away with His intense spiritual fire. He was clear that the purpose of spirituality was liberation from illusions and duality and salvation and eventually merger with The One.
” Karma, the laws of cause and effect, spare none. Not even the very Gods. As one sows one reaps and I have no other option but to suffer intensely thereby paying for My sins of past lifetimes and only then will I get salvation. One has to pay for every thought, word and deed and as I have sinned in my past lifetimes and usually the last remnants clinging to the bottom of any vessel are most difficult to clean, similarly, the last bits of Karma clinging to My aura shall need intense suffering to be removed. I shall be going to Kashi, the holiest of places, to work out My last pending Karmas and it shall not be easy for Me as well as anyone who is going to serve Me. I shall repeat that this entire process shall be extremely difficult and only those who truly can go through this path of fire should accompany Me. This is not for the faint hearted as it shall be a truly thorny path not only for Me but also those who love Me and want to serve Me.”
I am sure most of those who were present must have realised that if the Master has repeated a number of times how difficult the path was going to be, then it was best to let the Master go about cleansing Himself while they went about their daily life at the Ashram. If they were still contemplating, the Guru further described what the suffering was going to be.
” For the next many years I shall fall ill to the most dreadful of ailments. The disease shall consume My very body and I shall want somebody to serve Me but let it be known, usually those taking care of somebody ill, suffer far more than the one who is ill and the disease that shall ravage My body will need constant tending too. Even though I am a spiritual Master, physical pain can cripple the soul of even the most elevated beings and I fear I shall be no exception. I shall become somebody who could be unmanageable and even rude and abusive. Thus, not only will the disciple have to deal with My physical ailment but also deal with My anger and My wrath.”
I am sure by then most of the disciples had already begun to contemplate which other ashram they could relocate to and continue their spiritual journey under the guidance of another Guru. What their Guru had told them was that the next few years was going to be an excavation into the various by lanes of hell.
Any way this young man, some refer him to be Deepak or Deepaka or Sandeepak came forth and looked at his Guru and told Veda Dharma that if given the opportunity he would like to serve Him.
” Dear Guru of mine first and foremost with Your powers why don’t You transfer Your pending Karma on to me. I am nobody. Of use to nobody. You are needed by so many. You are Divinity Yourself. Why should You suffer? Pass on the remaining Karma through Your spiritual power on to me and let me suffer and You continue doing the noble work that You are so known for.”
” The fire of Karma has to be experienced by the one who has lit the fire child. I can’t and will not transfer My suffering to you but yes if you really want to do something for Me, then serve Me selflessly. I can’t ask more of you as I know how difficult it is going to be for both you and Me during this period. I shall become a leper and also go blind and crippled.”
” Without You there is no life as it is. Without You there is no taste on my tongue. No colour in my vision. No fragrance in the air. No smile in my eyes. You are the very reason the Sun shines and birds sing. My wanting to serve You comes from selfishness as I cannot live without You. Do not deprive me of being in Your presence Master.”
Veda Dharma, not a man known for expressing emotions had tears in His eyes. He nodded. The next few days He took care of His other devotees. I say devotees as it was obvious that He had only one disciple and that was Deepak.
Once He had settled His devotees with other Rishis, He and His disciple left for Holy Kashi. The Sage took a bath in the holy Mankarnika river and He worshipped Lord Shiva in the form of Vishweshwar and then through His powers initiated the disease to begin to ravage His body.
In a few days itself the body of the Holy Sage was filled with puss. Leprosy which usually starts slowly but in this case shifted gears with alarming eagerness and in weeks the disease was full blown. It is said that the puss had such a stench that flies from everywhere wanted to make Veda Dharma’s body their home. In a short time Veda Dharma lost His eyesight. As the disease ravaged His body Veda Dharma began to get angry and frustrated. He would lash out at Deepak and nothing which the good disciple did was good enough. If Deepak was tending to his Guru, the Guru would abuse Him that He was hungry. If the disciple went to beg for food when he returned the Guru would abuse him for neglecting Him and leaving Him all alone. The food was never good enough. He would throw the food away. It is said that He would physically thrash His disciple. Verbal abuse was constant. He was ready to point a flaw about any and everything. Nothing was good enough for the Master. It is said that the disciple suffered not because of the way he was treated but because his Guru suffered. That he would cry seeing the suffering of his Guru and not once took to heart anything that the Guru said to him. This continued for a long time but not once did Deepak let his focus wander away from serving his Master. He barely slept as his Master was always in pain and always complaining about the deplorable manner in which Deepak served Him. But the disciple didn’t mind. He was most content to just be near his Master.
Cautionary advice to any aspiring Guru reading this rambling. Don’t try doing all this stuff now. You will have so many court cases slapped onto you, you will forget how to do alternative breathing.
Years went by and one day Lord Shiva materialised in front of Deepak in the form of Vishweshwar. He smiled tenderly at the young man who had prostrated himself in front of the God of Gods, The Great One, MahaDeva Shiva.
” I am most pleased with you My child. I have seen how you have loved your Master and despite the trying circumstances you have served Him selflessly and most importantly happily. The very foundation of serving the Guru is to do so with happiness and with selfless love irrespective of all the hardships, and you have done so in a manner that the very Heavens sing your praise child. Ask what you want and I shall bless you with it. Name whatever you desire and it shall be yours.”
Deepak bowed to The Great One.
” Oh Lord of Lords, I am truly humbled that You, the Lord of all creation are happy with this child of Master Veda Dharma. But forgive me my Lord, without the permission of my Master, I cannot ask for any boon and cannot accept any blessing. Let me go and place what You have offered to me to my Guru and whatever He says, I shall do.”
Lord Shiva nodded.
” I shall wait for you here child. Go ask your Guru what blessing I should confer and I shall bless with you that.”
So Deepak went to his Guru and told Him about his meeting with Lord Shiva. Veda Dharma flew into a rage.
” I have to go through My Karma. I shall not allow even the God of Gods to deprive Me of My suffering. If I don’t suffer in this lifetime I shall do so in My next. I shall wait no more for salvation and liberation. I shall cleanse My slate of any Karmic residue in this lifetime no matter how painful My suffering. Go to the Lord and tell Him that I want nothing. I guess you want Me cured so that you do not have to go through the trouble of taking care of Me. If you want something for yourself that is your concern not Mine.”
So Deepak went back to Lord Shiva and told Him that neither his Master or he wanted any boons to be granted.
” My Guru doesn’t want to be released from His suffering. My only wish is to serve my Guru. I have no wants or desires for myself. So Lord of Lords, please forgive me but I shall have to refuse Your generosity, as I have done nothing to deserve such largesse from You as by serving my Guru, I have done nothing which any other disciple would not do for the Guru.”
Lord Shiva met Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma to discuss the strange situation. Normally everybody seems to yearn for nothing more than their wishes to be granted by the Lord and here the Guru and disciple wanted nothing from Them.
” The great Sage Veda Dharma is undertaking severe penance and His disciple’s love is exemplary.”
So Lord Vishnu approached Deepak and entreated him to ask for any boon.
” Anybody who serves the Guru, their seva reaches Me. Anyone who serves their parents, their spouse, their children, the aged, the sick, the abandoned, in a selfless manner their love reaches Me. Ask of what you desire and it shall be yours.”
” My Lord I am humbled but if You truly want to bless me then bless me that I can serve my Master better. Bless me that my seva makes Him happy and eases His pain and suffering.”
Lord Vishnu smiled.
” Child, the one who can love the Guru so selflessly needs no Trinity for salvation as that selfless love shall lead to liberation and Oneness. Lord Shiva, Lord Brahma and I, are happy with you. You have shown all of mankind what it means to not only serve one’s Guru but how to serve happily and selflessly love one’s Guru. They are very often not the same thing.”
Deepak went back to his Guru. The Guru was livid with him for leaving him alone for so long. But Deepak lovingly told Him about the meeting with Lord Vishnu.
” So what did you ask of Lord Vishnu?”
” I did not want the Gods to get angry at me for refusing Them Their boons, as if They did get angry and something were to happen to me, how would I serve You. So I requested Lord Vishnu to bless me that I can serve You better as I am not serving You well and am not being able to relieve You of Your pain, He has blessed me thus my Master. I am sure I shall be able to serve You better from this very moment.”
That very instance the Guru, Veda Dharma’s body filled with puss, excrement, flies, disappeared and now He shone in all His glory, resplendent in health and beauty.
” All I wanted was to show the world how one needs to serve one’s Guru and My son your love for Me and your selfless service to Me, shall be remembered by not only the Gods in Heaven but all those who are on this Path of seva. Whoever remembers you shall be blessed with your selfless love for their Guru. The very Trinity now abides within you, My son. All the knowledge in every Scripture now resides within you. The very Lord Vishweshwar shall be by your side for all of eternity.”
Henceforth Deepak was known as Sandeepak or Samdeepak.
I truly love this story. The way he served and loved his Guru is humbling. As this story appears in the Guru Charitra and in the holy book it has been said that it was Lord Brahma Himself who has narrated this story, then I would like to believe in the authenticity of this story and to imagine what Deepak must have gone through and the love he must have harboured and nurtured for his Guru is humbling. Selfless love is one thing but to be humiliated and abused constantly and yet love and serve selflessly and most importantly with true seva and bhav, dedication and devotion, is a way of life that slowly seems to have existed earlier.
But what truly left a deep impact on me is the very thought of what the Guru went through in order to bring forth circumstances to set an example for posterity of how one needs to love and serve one’s Master. The pain and the illness and the angst and the discomfort was real as the Guru has to go through the suffering taken on for the sake of the disciples and devotees. To suffer in order to show all of creation how a true disciple should be can only be undertaken by a true Guru. What a Guru goes through for those who are on the path or to get those who have gone astray back on the path is beyond the very Gods Themselves and thus the Guru is so venerated by the very Gods Themselves.
But though I know it is hard to come by a true Master nowadays but I am certain They are around. But true disciples like Deepak are harder to find and I am kind of sure that they are not around. I pray that whoever worships a Guru, may we all be blessed with the love and devotion which Deepak or Sandeepak had for his Master, Veda Dharma and may we serve and love the Master in a similar manner. The intoxication of such love transcends all the splendor of the very Heavens itself.
Be blessed always.
Shri Laxman Narayan Joshi. Shri K.V.R.Rao. P.B. Paranjape alias Nana, founder of Shree Swami Samarth Vishwa Kalyan Kendra.
Acharya E Bharadwaja
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha