Written by Rajesh Kamath
The Hindu religion recognizes the influence and significance of our ancestors and other dear departed ones in our lives. According to the Vedas (the ancient scriptures of Hinduism), the spiritual soul transmigrates from one species to the next, evolving up through the 8,400,000 forms of life until it attains a human body.
The human form of life has a special significance, for only in the human form is the soul’s consciousness developed enough to understand that the body is just a cage, and that there’s a way to free oneself from that cage and escape the birth and death cycle.
We owe our very existence to our ancestors and, consequently, we owe them an unredeemable debt of gratitude for offering us the most precious gift of all – a human life. On the other hand, our departed relations enrich our lives through all the experiences – good and bad – that allow us to relieve our karmic contracts and debts.
Hence, the Hindu religion considers it the obligation of every individual to express this gratitude to their ancestors and departed ones by performing the shraadh ceremony (a rite performed to bring salvation to departed souls) as per scriptural injunctions on their death anniversary. This is considered to free the departed soul from the pains of lower astral realms and clear their way to evolution to higher astral realms.
Since the river Ganga is considered the most blessed of all rivers endowed with immense purification powers, Hindus visit the ghats (bathing platforms) of this holy river since ages to perform the shraadh ceremony to honor their parents, ancestors and other dear departed ones. Usually, this ritual is performed only for one’s immediate family members who have departed.
The shraadh ceremony is done with the Sun as the witness and the river Ganga as the vehicle for offering the oblations to the departed. The departed are offered holy water, milk, flowers, sandalwood paste, etc. and the pind – a round ball made of a mixture of wheat, rice flour, sesame seeds, milk and honey.
Mohanji had been doing Ammu’s annual shraadh ceremony for the last eleven years but had stopped it when he was guided by elders that eleven years was sufficient. Recently after Mohanji returned from Canada, a saint told him that he should continue the shraadh ceremony for Ammu, as long as his health would permit.
Respecting the words of the saint, which Mohanji always does, he decided to honor her beautiful soul by doing a shraadh ceremony in Rishikesh by the river Ganga that year (2015). The date of Ammu’s death anniversary, that year, according to the Hindu calendar was September 5th and so was Krishna Janmashtami (the birthday of Lord Krishna). Interestingly, the day Ammu passed away (August 23rd 2000) also happened to be Krishna Janmashtami according to the Hindu calendar.
There is a strong connection between Ammu and Lord Krishna. Swami G of Sivananda ashram once told Mohanji that he was sad that he couldn’t meet Ammu when she was in her body. He said that he was sure she was an amsha (part) of Krishna’s consciousness.
I have read an anecdote that Ammu, when she was barely four years old, told her grandmother that she played with Lord Krishna. Since her grandmother couldn’t see Lord Krishna, she dismissed it as a childish fantasy. Ammu told her grandmother that you can’t see because your prayers are not strong enough.
With that background, we now move on to our trip to Rishikesh. There is only one direct train from Pathankot (the major railway station closest to Dharamshala) to Rishikesh. Due to Mohanji’s travel schedule and the saint’s guidance coming in late, the decision to do the shraadh ceremony for Ammu was taken at the last minute. Given the holiday season, there were no tickets available in the general category.
The alternative was to drive down from Dharamshala to Rishikesh, which is a long arduous drive. The venerable Mamu from Mohanji’s office decided to apply for the tickets in the tatkal category – a last minute option that typically has a very low probability chance given the high demand for tickets.
Getting a confirmed reservation in the Tatkal category in peak season is akin to winning a Lotto since it is easier to please the Lord than the railway authorities and their justly feared website which is flakier than snow. As usual, the Divine always takes care of Mohanji in every way. We weren’t too surprised when we got confirmed train reservations for both the legs of travel. Of course, all thanks to the venerable Mamu’s grace, as Mohanji would say.
We packed light and left for Pathankot in the evening. The venerable Mamu chose to drive us down to Pathankot in his sedan. This was a happy change over Mohanji’s driver Sher Singh (aka Mooch – the Moustache) and the ashram SUV. The way Sher Singh drives makes you feel that he drove an army tank in his past life where the concept of braking was alien.
We winded over the gentle hills of Dharamshala and made our way through some real bad roads that would have been the pride of an offroading circuit. The sedan got tossed and bounced all through the ride. We were like James Bond’s martini – shaken but not stirred! 🙂 Finally, the road Gods also shined on us and we found the last stretch with the entirety of its surface intact. What a blessing!
We reached the station well before time thanks to Mohanji’s principle of leaving well in advance to ensure that he is never rushed. We stopped at a restaurant outside the station and had a quick tea and snack. The train arrived almost on time and we quickly got into our compartment and then onto our seats.
The venerable Mamu did his pranaams to Mohanji and left onwards to his home in Jammu. We settled into our seats as the train left the station hurtling on its way to Rishikesh. Mohanji and I had gotten the lower berth thanks to Mamu’s efforts. For people not in the know, the berths of an Indian train are like the tiers of a bunk bed.
My neighbors were a couple and their infant child. The husband asked me if I could let his wife have the lower berth since it would be uncomfortable for her to take care of the infant on the upper berth. I agreed to his request. His aged mother was Mohanji’s neighbor. Even though Mohanji was not asked, Mohanji immediately asked if his mother wanted the lower berth as well. She said that she would be grateful if he allowed it.
The curvature of the roof of the train constricts the height in the upper berth. This is not an issue for someone my size. But for Mohanji, it would have been very uncomfortable since he could barely manage to fit into it. However, Mohanji immediately agreed. Hardly surprising given his life mantra of “putting others before self”!
Mohanji got into a discussion with our neighbors. The couple were from Pennsylvania and they were currently on vacation in Jammu which was their hometown. They were headed to Haridwar – a bordering town close to Rishikesh. From a spiritual standpoint, its stature rivals Rishikesh. The husband was a practising doctor in Pennsylvania with a specialization in infectious diseases.
He enquired about Mohanji and his mission. Mohanji explained the different aspects of Mohanji Foundation and Ammucare. They were visibly impressed by the honorary activities of the Foundation and its geographical spread across the world. Mohanji also spoke about his recent overseas trips specifically his visits to the US this year and last. After this engaging discussion, we had our packed dinner that a follower had lovingly prepared for Mohanji.
Mohanji decided to allow the family to rest, got onto the upper berth and tried his best to fit into it. Considering that he was recuperating from hectic back-to-back travel, it was sad to watch his discomfort. He chose to lie down and work for a while. After a while, since it was too uncomfortable, he decided to call it a night. Since I was carrying my brand new laptop, I chose to keep our luggage with me rather than risk it getting stolen.
Hence, I also tried my best to fit into the berth with our luggage. To add to my woes, my berth was right next to the door of the compartment. I had to be careful not to knock out any unsuspecting passenger entering the door with a kick or get my legs whacked by the swinging door. I spent the rest of the night trying out creative positions to fit my body into what was left of the berth after our luggage. I had a fitful sleep. After an arduous journey, we reached Rishikesh.
We got out of the station in search of a rickshaw to take us to the hotel. We hired an auto rickshaw who charged us almost 3 times the going rate. I know that Mohanji does not like to haggle with poor people so I just accepted his proposition. Mohanji asked me to check with an old couple at the rickshaw stand who were also looking for a rickshaw, to see if their destination was on our way and if they would like us to drop them there (for free).
I had noticed this couple trying to get a rickshaw. They were looking for a share-a-ride rickshaw to reduce costs and were being refused by most of the rickshaw drivers. I took no further notice of them in my hurry to get us into a rickshaw and on to the hotel. It turned out that their destination was a little further down from ours. They happily agreed. Mohanji personally helped them with their luggage and helped the old woman get into the vehicle.
Mohanji enquired about their purpose for being in Rishikesh. They said that they were planning to stay there for an extended amount of time. Mohanji also asked them the location of our hotel since the driver did not know the exact location. The old man mentioned that it was a short distance before their destination. As we passed our hotel, Mohanji told the rickshaw driver to continue on and first drop the old couple to their destination.
They thanked us and went on their way. Mohanji asked me to pay the rickshaw driver some more money since we had taken two more passengers (for free) and changed the earlier deal. Two lessons that Mohanji was trying to teach me 1) Always be alert and ready to help people. Don’t get too caught in your own world and, thus, miss a chance to offer a helping hand. 2) Always be fair even if the other person is not
We walked our way back to the hotel. The room was nice and clean. The sweet spot was that it had a beautiful panoramic view of the river Ganga. We settled in, did our morning ablutions and charged our phones. Since one is not supposed to have food before the shraadh ceremony, we just had tea. Swami G of Sivananda ashram had arranged for the priest and made all the other arrangements.
We were requested to be at the Sivananda ghat in a couple of hours. Mohanji mentioned that he wanted to buy dhotis (a lower garment worn around the waist) for the priests conducting the ceremony. Since Mohanji spent a lot of time doing his spiritual practices in Rishikesh, he was very well conversant with the place.
He told me that best quality dhotis at a good price in Rishikesh are available on the other side of Ram Jhula (swing) – one of the two suspension bridges over the river Ganga that connects the two banks, the other being Laxman Jhula (named after Lord Ram’s brother Laxman). Mohanji and I started walking by the road adjoining the banks of the river Ganga towards Ram Jhula.
Mohanji was walking at a very brisk pace and I was trying my best to get ahead of him and take some pictures.
His pace was so fast that I captured some nice pictures of the back of his head, a part of his dhoti, half his face, half of the side profile, etc. By the time I ran ahead, turned and clicked, he was right in the face of the camera or past it. Once in a while, he would stop and ask me to give some money to a mendicant or beggar. That made it even harder for me to keep up. I consoled myself thinking that it is not easy to capture our Shiva in a camera. I even prayed to him to let me take some nice pictures but that only made me even more adept at capturing blurs.
We finally reached the entrance of Ram Jhula. There was an old man sitting at the entrance of Ram Jhula intensely staring at Mohanji. Mohanji walked past him a few steps and stopped. As usual, I was trying to keep pace with Mohanji and almost missed this old man. Mohanji called me and asked me to go back to the old man and give him a hundred rupees while he waited.
As I walked back to him, he stood up. I noticed that he was dressed in bright orange. I gave him the money as instructed, touched his feet and took his blessings. He said, “Khush raho. Chiranjeevi raho. Sukhi raho.” (May you be happy. May you be immortal. May you be prosperous). The old man then started walking towards Mohanji.
Mohanji asked him, “Did you have food?” He said, ” Yes. I had food and I also got the money”. Then Mohanji asked him, “What else can I do for you?” He replied, “I want to go to Neelkanth.”
Mohanji asked, “Do you know where Neelkanth is?” He said,” I will cross Ram Jhula. Then I will know”.
Then Mohanji asked him, “Fine. Since there is nothing more for me to do, may I take your leave?” He said, “Yes and thank you for your grace (blessing me)”. Mohanji walked past him. Mohanji asked me to go back to him and ensure that he has money to go to Neelkanth. I went back and asked him if he had enough money.
He said, “Someone just gave me money. Wasn’t it you?” I asked him, “Do you need more?” He said, “Give me whatever you want”. I gave him 500 rupees more. I again touched his feet and took his blessings. He again said, “Khush raho. Chiranjeevi raho. Sukhi raho.” I asked him if I could take his photograph. He consented.
When I returned to Mohanji, he asked me, “Who does this person resemble?” I said he looks like Hanumanji. Mohanji said, “Yes. He is Hanumanji. He came to bless us. Just watch, he will not cross the bridge. He will disappear most probably from the middle of the bridge”.
Hanumanji walked behind us for a while. He stopped near the middle of the bridge and sat down.
The traffic on Ram Jhula – people, cycles, motorcycles, cows, etc. – is so crazy that none would think of sitting on the bridge. Yet, he incredulously did just that. When I looked for him after a while, he was gone. Absolutely no trace of him! Moreover, he looked very similar to the Hanumanji picture from the “Plight of Hanumanji in Ayodhya” blog post. Both had great resemblance.
Interestingly, the venerable Mamu was telling us the same story of meeting Hanumanji in Ayodhya just the night before. He was a first-person witness. He said that Hanumanji had blessed him by saying, “Khush raho” which was what Hanumanji said here as well. And Mohanji said that these days, Hanumanji usually appears to devotees as an old man. Interestingly, bright orange is the color of sindoor that is put on Hanumanji statues all over India.
Mohanji later explained the significance of the drama that just played out, “Neelkanth means Lord Shiva or the complete annihilation of personal identities. Neelkanth is also a state. A state of collecting and storing poisons of existence at the throat region and not allowing it to enter your system at all, while having nothing to do with it.
This also has a deeper significance for the modern man. The suggestion of Hanumanji is not to allow negativity of day-to-day life to enter your system and keep it or remove it at the entry level itself (throat) and remain pure and unsullied always as does a great bhakt (devotee) like him.
And the other significance is that do not throw out poison because it will contaminate the society. Never throw out anger, hatred, greed and such negative emotions and if you have them, let them stay at your throat level, unexpressed. And when unused, the saturation of it will bring forth nectar of life, the Shivahood. Neelkanth means blue neck and blue color is the color of the poison.
Hanumanji is part of Shiva and naturally intends to merge with Shiva. But He is committed to Lord Rama. Bridge signifies worldly existence the here and the hereafter. He said if he crosses the bridge of existence with Ram, He will “know” or merge with Shiva. The message was loud and clear. Hanumanji chose to serve Ram and is happy and contented about it.
But he knows that if he crosses the bridge called Ram, (Ram Jhula) he will know Shiva. And instead of Mohanji telling Him that I am blessed by his visit, He said “Thank you for blessing me!” Humility means Hanumanji. No expectations. Humble and always surrendered to his master, but with full awareness.
Also, he met Mohanji on the bridge. Bridge called the world. Bridge between the here and the hereafter. Highly symbolic. Mohanji did not stop before the bridge to address Hanumanji. He walked past him and stopped on the bridge before he asked me to give him the money. Hanumanji got up, came towards Mohanji and met him on the bridge.
The entire episode makes sense when we understand the reason behind an event. Most of us, mostly are watching the show not understanding the story. I was a little lost post this incident. What grace to have the darshan of Lord Hanuman! The tremendous grace to have his darshan didn’t sink into me. It still hasn’t fully sunken in even as I write this experience.
As the whole drama played out, my mind was completely blank. I was just following Mohanji’s instructions without thinking. I touched the person’s feet and took his blessings out of reverence for his age, his ochre robes and because Mohanji was treating him with reverence. Not because I was touching the feet of Lord Hanuman.
If only I had an inkling of what was happening and who he was! Sigh! Sob! Sob! Mohanji always says, “Those who have eyes to see will see. The rest have chosen blindness. Let them be.” I guess I am one of the blind ones. I get these experiences through the compassionate grace of Mohanji.
I am not even sure if I deserve it but if Mohanji deems it, it must be. The best thing I can do for now is to hold on to Mohanji’s feet for dear life as best as I can until the awareness sets in. And when the awareness sets in, I can hold on to them even more firmly. I pray for that blessing from Lord Hanuman.
Anyways moving on. We crossed the Ram Jhula bridge and started walking towards the store to buy dhotis. Along the way, Mohanji asked me to feed bananas to the calves roaming out there. As soon as I walked towards the vendor, a calf and a begging saint followed me. The calf was pushing me and it hardly gave me time to complete the purchase.
There was a kind of authority or decisiveness in it that is quite unusual. Of course, the begging saint understood the words. But the calf? How did the calf understand what Mohanji told me? And it had a commanding attitude or authority about it. Perhaps one of Mohanji’s real army?
Even after feeding the calf, it followed me to where Mohanji was standing and Mohanji fed the calf with his own hands. Every being is the same to Mohanji. Absolutely no discrimination at all. Same love. Same treatment. He also asked me to give money and food to some of the beggars and mendicants.
The downside of seeing (and sometimes missing out on recognizing) a divine being is that you start earnestly looking for them in every person that vaguely looks similar. Every beggar or sadhu becomes a potential Hanuman (or another master), if you know what I mean. Even animals just in case they choose an animal form! I guess that is what Sai Baba wanted to instill in his disciples when he appeared to them in different guises as a beggar, a dog, etc.to make sure that his disciples saw him in everything.
We finally reached the store. Mohanji selected a few dhotis for himself and a couple of dhotis for the priests for dakshina. We picked up the merchandise and walked back towards Ram Jhula. As Mohanji was walking at his pace, a cow almost stopped him, looked at him and as he took a few steps past her, she turned and looked at him. Mohanji stopped immediately and asked me to buy two apples. He took the apples, fed and caressed her and stood next to her for a while. It almost felt like he was having a conversation with the cow.
We quickly crossed the Ram Jhula and headed to the Sivananda ashram. I looked around for signs of Hanumanji but he was nowhere to be seen. After crossing Ram Jhula, we walked down the road adjoining the river towards the Sivananda ghat that was the pre-decided meeting point. There is a concrete staircase that winds its way down from the entrance on the road towards the ghat. There are several spots around where people can sit and meditate in the serene presence of the river Ganga. We selected a spot facing the river and sat there in the shade. It was slowly getting hot with the sun blazing down on us. There were a few people hanging around near the ghat. A few renunciates from the Sivananda Ashram passed us by walking towards the river to take their morning dip in the river Ganga. I used the time to capture Mohanji’s photos in different moods and angles as best as I could. Thankfully, our Shiva consented this time to let me take some nice pictures. Slowly, the people there started moving out and soon we were the only people left on the ghat.
After a long while, the priest and his apprentice showed up. Mohanji and the priest exchanged pleasantries. The priest was a nice jovial guy. He enquired about Mohanji’s current location and activities. He enquired about me and told me that there was a very famous politician in the post-Independence era with the same last name and I should look him up. He discussed with Mohanji on the expectations of the ritual and explained the proceedings to him. He asked Mohanji to take a dip in the river Ganga while he setup the place and organized materials for the ritual. I went back to my role as the ace photographer in charge of the photo shoot.
The ritual was elaborate starting with the invocation of the various deities and giving various offerings to them. Then the offerings of holy water, milk, flowers, rice, etc. were made to the ancestors and to Ammu. The ritual culminated with creating the ritual offering, the pind (referred to earlier). The pind was adorned with flowers and then offered to the ancestors and to Ammu by setting it afloat on the river Ganga. The offerings of milk and water were made to the Sun and the river Ganga. Finally, Mohanji was asked by the priest to take dips in the river Ganga to culminate the ritual. Mohanji offered the dhotis and money to the priest and his apprentice and offered his pranaams. I took down their contact numbers for posterity. Mohanji thanked them and we proceeded to the hotel.
I noticed that there was a visible change in Mohanji’s physique after his meeting with Hanumanji. He became quite muscular as if he did a number of pushups unseen to human eyes. The photos could capture the changes and attest to the fact that his physique keeps changing with situations and reasons.
All through the ceremony, I was clicking away to glory. My camera really heated up abnormally and slowed down completely to the point where I had to anticipate and click because I could not see the frame in time. This has never happened before. The interesting thing to note is that I still managed to get some nice pictures. My guess is that Mohanji must have been in an expanded state through the ritual and his energies were affecting my camera. Mohanji later mentioned that the ritual went very well. All the deities and ancestors were very happy with the ritual. All the auspicious signs were there.
Mohanji changed his clothes and sat down in the shade. I asked Mohanji if I could take dips in the river. He told me to go ahead and take my time. I decided to take 108 dips in the river Ganga in the name of Mohanji. I walked down the steps to where the water was touching the lower part of my chest. There was a strong undercurrent that kept sweeping me forward. There was about a meter of space on the platform where the step ended. I had to push the current and walk back after every 2 dips to prevent getting swept off the platform completely. Beyond the step, the river flowed downstream with not much to hang onto for support. Even though I can swim quite well, it would have been a bit hard to swim to the shore with this strong undercurrent. I took the dip while holding the thought of Mohanji in my mind. Slowly and steadily, I kept taking my dips.
But the fear of getting swept off the platform was always there. I first took the dips with my eyes open repeating the forward and back routine. Then, I closed my eyes and took the dips but kept opening my eyes to ensure I wasn’t too close to the edge. In between, I kept losing count and recounting so I started doing extra dips to make up from where I left off.
Finally, when I crossed hundred, a thought occurred to me that this demonstrated my lack of faith in the protection of the Master. I still kept repeating my eyes open eyes closed routine. Finally, I decided to test my faith and just keep my eyes closed and do the final dips. I kept getting pushed forward and I had no idea where I was relative to the edge. As I got close to the edge, a safety chain bumped against my knees and I easily got hold of it. I held on to it and finished the last of my dips. My faith in the Master’s protection was validated.
I don’t know how many dips I finally did but it was well above 108 with all the extra counting. I was feeling nice and tipsy with a sweet cool ice-mint feeling inside my skull (similar to what you have in your mouth when you chew strong ice-mint gum). I just stood there and enjoyed and savored the feeling. Finally, I decided to get out of the water, walked up the steps and went up to where Mohanji was sitting. At about that time, a family of 7-8 people just walked in. It was then that I noted that from the time the ritual started to when I got off the platform, it was only Mohanji and I (other than the priests) on the ghat. Interestingly, the Divine had arranged for the ghat to be available to us exclusively and that too on the auspicious day of Krishna Janmashtami. How cool is that?
Later in the night, Mohanji asked me how many dips I took. He said that taking the dips in the river Ganga on this auspicious day was a blessing. That’s when I realized that I had taken dips in the river on Krishna Janmashtami. Infinite prostrations to Mohanji who arranges for everything in perfect divine order! I had received two malas from Mohanji during the Kailash pilgrimage last year in August. I had already lost the first mala when I was taking dips in the river Yamuna in Mathura. I noticed later that I had lost the other mala while taking dips in the river Ganga that day. One was taken away in the river that was the scene of the leela of Lord Krishna and the other was taken away in the river Ganga on Lord Krishna’s birthday. Isn’t that an interesting coincidence? Looks like Lord Krishna has a thing for my malas! The stealer of hearts is also a stealer of malas.
An old devotee of Mohanji had been coordinating for the last few days to meet Mohanji in Rishikesh. He had been connected to Mohanji since 2010. He worked as a loan officer in a public sector bank. We shall refer to him as Loan-man. He was single so he was a lone man too. The year before, he wanted to meet Mohanji in Dharamshala. But Mohanji’s team could not schedule time for him since Mohanji was busy.
On a whim, he decided to come down to Dharamshala and take a chance. He stayed for two days but could not meet Mohanji. He even requested Mohanji’s team to allow him to see Mohanji from a distance. But Mohanji’s team did not permit. Mohanji was busy with very important work during that time and they did not want to take a chance. He had been trying ever since to meet Mohanji but it never worked out.
When he found out that Mohanji was going to be in Rishikesh, he requested Mohanji to allow him to spend some time with him. Mohanji granted his request. At that time, he was stationed in Roorkee which is close to Rishikesh. We had invited Loan-man to have lunch with us at the hotel after the ritual.
After the ritual, we walked back to the hotel and took a quick change of clothes. Typically, when Mohanji is supposed to meet someone, he arrives before time. But this time he seemed to be in no hurry to meet the person. He was checking his phone messages and attending to calls. I reminded Mohanji that the person was waiting at the reception, but Mohanji curtly said that he knew. I decided to wait until Mohanji was ready to leave.
After about 45 minutes, he got up and headed to the hotel reception where Loan-man was waiting for us. Together, we headed to the restaurant below. We hadn’t eaten anything since morning so the food tasted divine. Mohanji’s only acknowledgement of Loan-man’s presence was at the reception and a brief enquiry about his family at lunch. This was very unlike Mohanji who always went out of the way to make a person comfortable.
Mohanji was quietly eating lunch without paying any attention to him. Finally, Loan-man broke the ice and asked why he was unable to meet Mohanji even after so many attempts. And then the dam broke loose. Mohanji gave him a few incisive blunt insights in his no-nonsense direct manner – You can’t connect to me because of your mind and big ego.
Since you approve loans, many people want to be in your good books. You may consider yourself a very important person in society. Not for me. Your ego and you can stay at home rather than get trashed in my presence. He continued to blast him for a while, mellowed down and returned back to his lunch. To give credit to Loan-man, he took the hammering as genuine feedback from the Master and seemed determined to get Mohanji’s favor.
At one point, Mohanji remarked to me that it is not easy to meet him. That made me realise how fortunate I am to spend so much time in close proximity with him. A real lesson not to take the Master’s grace and outstretched hand for granted. What can be gained so easily through the Master’s grace and compassion can be lost even faster through the ego and mind’s foolishness. In Mohanji’s words, “Grace got the Master. Mind took him away.”
After having lunch, Mohanji wanted to go to the Sivananda ashram to meet Swami G. I decided to pay off the hotel dues as Mohanji and Loan-man stepped out of the hotel. When I was paying the money, I noticed that a sadhu came out of nowhere and headed straight to Mohanji.
Mohanji was looking at him with a naughty smile. A telltale sign, usually, that there was more to this sadhu than met the eye.
I quickly paid and came out of the hotel to join them. He was wearing a worn-out saffron dhoti with an ordinary towel wrapped around his upper body. He was speaking in a Rajasthani dialect of Hindi. As a sign of reverence, he had removed his footwear while talking to Mohanji. Mohanji folded his hands in a respectful pranaam and asked the sadhu, “How are you doing? Have you eaten?” The sadhu said, “I am doing fine. Yes, I have had food.”
Mohanji then asked the sadhu, “What can I do for you?”. The sadhu said, “Aap sab kuch kar sakte hai.” (You can do anything or everything). Hearing that, Mohanji laughed. Mohanji again asked the sadhu, “What can I do for you?” The sadhu then took out a book from his bag and showed it to Mohanji. It had a picture of Bhagwan Dattatreya on the cover. Mohanji smiled and looked to us and said, “Look. A picture of the Lord!”
The sadhu started turning the pages of the book and came to a page that had a picture of Balaknath (who looked very similar to Rakhadi Baba). Balaknath was a powerful master of the Nath tradition. Under the photo of Balaknath was the famous shloka of the Gita – “yadA yadA hi dharmasya glAnir bhavati bhArata abhyuthAnam adharmasya tadAtmAnAm srujAmyaham” – the eternal promise of the Lord to take an avatar whenever dharma (righteousness) is under threat from evil.
I felt that the sadhu was in some way referring to Mohanji’s past life connection to Balaknath and the verse and picture of Lord Dattatreya was pointing to Mohanji’s incarnation as an avatar of Lord Dattatreya in these troubled times.
In between, the sadhu told something to Mohanji which sounded like “I know who you are and I came to you knowing your true form. Even though you are not wearing white, I do recognize you.” I could not understand what he meant and I asked Mohanji. Mohanji suggested us to ask him directly. When Loan-man asked, he said in a stern voice. “Mohanji asked you to do something. Ask no further.” This was quite unusual for a sadhu who begs for a living. I asked him to clarify and he deflected my query. I asked him again but he did not give me a clear answer. Twice the sadhu tried to touch Mohanji’s feet but Mohanji held his hand lovingly but firmly and would not allow it. Mohanji asked me to give the sadhu 500 rupees. Mohanji asked him, “Are you happy now?” He thanked Mohanji.
Mohanji again asked, “Anything else I can do for you?”. He replied that he did want something from Mohanji – a white shawl or a Ramnaami shawl (shawl with the name of Lord Ram on it). Mohanji asked me to go with the sadhu and buy him whatever he wanted. Before I could respond, Loan-man requested that he would like to volunteer. Mohanji accepted and asked Loan-man to go with the sadhu and buy him what he needed. I was a bit miffed that I did not respond in time but, as it turned out later, it was meant to be Loan-man’s turn. Once the plan was finalized, Mohanji asked the sadhu, “May I go?” The sadhu tried to touch Mohanji’s feet again. Mohanji prevented it gently, but firmly. He blessed us and took Mohanji’s permission to leave. I could not really understand the drama that was being played out there. He was very pleased with Mohanji and, in a way, had blessed him through his eyes and words. Mohanji and I left for Sivananda ashram to meet Swami G while Loan-man left with the sadhu to the market to buy the shawl. I asked Loan-man to meet us at Swami G’s residence in Parvati Kutir at Sivananda ashram, once he was done with the purchase.
We walked towards the Sivananda ashram – a prominent landmark on the main road. We entered the ashram gates and headed to Parvati Kutir where Swami G stays. The ashram is a simple and peaceful place with many old buildings connected by roads winding their way upwards. The place provides a good warm up exercise since you have to go quite a distance uphill to reach anywhere. On a serious note, the calm that it exudes is serene. I mentally bowed down to the place made holy by the divine feet and presence of the great Swami Sivananda.
He received Mohanji very cordially as one welcomes an old friend. Mohanji gave Swamiji the special dates from Dubai that he had gotten for him. They conversed mostly in Malayalam. I gathered that he was enquiring about Mohanji’s family and work. Mohanji told him about the extensive overseas trip that he concluded last month and mentioned about his future plans.
While they were talking, I noticed a monkey in the window trying to get their attention. It made different noises – like a monkey, like a bird, like a cat, etc. It even tried to flit from window to window to try to catch their attention. But they were deep in conversation and, I guess, didn’t notice. The monkey was desperately trying to catch Mohanji’s attention. I managed to get a few blurry pictures of the monkey. Finally, Mohanji noticed the monkey and asked me to take a picture. But it disappeared from sight after that.
Since we had to a train to catch in an hour and a half, they concluded their discussion and we took leave of Swamiji. We left Sivananda ashram and made our way back to the hotel. I called Ashutoshji and he didn’t seem too happy on the phone. He was still at the market and said that he would take another fifteen minutes. I asked him to meet us back at the hotel. He was possibly miffed at being unable to spend time with Mohanji (Mohan is another name of Krishna). Not to mention missing out on the ananda (bliss) of meeting Swami Govindananda (Govind is another name of Krishna). On Lord Krishna’s birthday.
While walking back to our room, Mohanji casually remarked, almost to himself,
“In this incarnation, I will play with a lot of people. Only a few will understand me or the game I play. Many won’t. They will lose me. I will lose nothing”.
When I asked what he meant, he brushed it off and did not explain any further.
Loan-man later joined us in the hotel room. Mohanji enquired about his experience with the sadhu which Loan-man related. The sadhu took him to a local market. Loan-man advised him that it was better to go the main market to get the shawl. The sadhu gruffly told him, “Did I ask you where we should go? What did Mohanji tell you – to get me what I want. You just follow me.” He enquired in several shops but could not find the shawl he was looking for. In one shop, the sadhu was offered a saffron shawl but he declined saying that it was meant for sanyasis (renunciants). He was specifically looking for a white shawl. The commanding and authoritative tone of the sadhu was surprising and, in a way, annoying to Loan-man. It was not expected from a begging sadhu.
The sadhu then told Loan-man that they would go to the main market. The sadhu was walking very fast and Loan-man was following – almost running behind him. Loan-man started observing his walking style. The baba had a confident gait with a walking stick held firmly in his left hand and was walking with a dynamic pace much faster than Loan-man. It was amazing to Loan-man that the sadhu had asked for bhiksha (the act of giving alms). Yet he was the one following the sadhu around and the sadhu was deciding everything according to his own whims without even bothering to ask Loan-man. Loan-man started getting frustrated with the sadhu’s attitude. He wondered, “Who is this sadhu who was turning the concept of bhiksha topsy turvy?” For a moment, Loan-man thought, “Why can’t the sadhu just take money from me and buy it himself? Why is he wasting my time? I wanted to be with Mohanji.” But then, a second thought came along that if Mohanji has asked me to do it, then there must be a specific reason and I must do this.
While walking with Loan-man, the sadhu enquired about the location of Mohanji’s ashram. Loan-man mentioned that Mohanji lives in Dharamshala. Suddenly, the sadhu hailed an autorickshaw driver in a rough and commanding tone to stop the vehicle. He sat next to the driver and asked Loan-man to sit on the backseat. The sadhu asked the driver to take them to the main market. On reaching the main market, they alighted and the sadhu asked Loan-man to pay in a very authoritative way. The sadhu asked a local hawker for directions to the garment shops. The hawker was not responding properly probably because of his worn-out garb. The sadhu scolded the hawker and asked him firmly to guide them properly. The chastised hawker directed the sadhu accordingly.
They looked through several garment shops. Finally, they reached a shop where the sadhu was shown a shawl for two thousand rupees. He said that this wasn’t what he was looking for. He was talking to the shopkeeper in the same authoritative tone. Finally, he found what he was looking for – a 5 meter long pink cotton shawl for two hundred rupees. He told Loan-man, “The Swami (Mohanji) has come from “far away”. He is a good saint. I have not asked this from anyone and I will not ask this from anyone except him. Only from Swamiji (Mohanji).” He further added, “Sawa lakh se bhi jyaada kimti hai ye daan” (this offering is worth more than a hundred and twenty five thousand rupees). Loan-man asked him if there was anything else that he could do for him. He asked for ten rupees to take an autorickshaw. Then he placed his hand on Loan-man’s head, blessed him and left with the shawl. Loan-man noticed an unusually nice fragrance of vibhooti (sacred ash, usually scented) coming from him.
When he finished relating his experience, Mohanji asked him, “Do you know who he was?” Loan-man was surprised at Mohanji’s line of questioning. He assumed that the sadhu was a siddha purush (realized being) since Mohanji was treating him with utmost respect. However, he couldn’t figure out who he was. Mohanji finally asked him, “Did you see Sai Baba?” Loan-man was not prepared for this. Of all people, he didn’t expect it to be Sai Baba. Mohanji asked us to look at the photographs that I had captured. It happened so fast that I only managed to take three photographs. Mohanji asked us to look at the legs of the sadhu and compare it with the picture of Sai Baba. As an aside, when I sent the pictures to Sandeep Mishra, he noticed the clear face of Sai Baba from Dwarkamai on the right leg of the sadhu. Mohanji asked Loan-man if he found it out of the ordinary that a begging sadhu should demonstrate that kind of authority and confidence in his behavior. Then Mohanji explained that Baba’s nature was commanding and authoritative. In Mohanji’s words, a king in the guise of a clown will still act like a king. That is his basic nature.
Sai Baba had himself come down to give Loan-man three important lessons –
1) a dressing down to demolish his ego. Loan-man may have been carrying the pride and ego attached to his position as the loan officer in a bank. He was a great fan of Mohanji. And he was craving for his time and togetherness. After months of waiting, he met Mohanji. And almost immediately, he was asked to go after this Baba. The longer the Baba took to choose his stuff, the more frustrated Loan-man became. He had to literally run the streets with Baba without having any awareness as to who this old man is. He took him through streets, shops and made him pay for their travels, until he found what he was looking for. He did not buy anything until he found the exact shawl that he was looking for. The tedious trails made Loan-man impatient and angry. He had thought that it was a simple thing. And he was eager to get back to Mohanji as he knew that Mohanji will leave the place soon to catch his train. Baba tested him, his devotion to Mohanji, his commitment, his patience and finally blessed him. Also, the long wait to meet Mohanji bore fruits in a much larger dimension where he got to travel with Baba and take his blessings. Also, Baba never allowed him to sit next to him in the vehicle. He allowed him to sit at the back. Only those with equal stature are allowed to sit next to him. In this context, the vehicle driver is insignificant in this story. Loan-man was also quite annoyed and concerned with the commands and authoritative language of the Baba. He found it inappropriate to his cultured mind. Another barrier broken here. His heart brimmed with the anxiety of missing Mohanji again, lapse of time, anger towards the behavior and ways of Baba and finally, after all the tests and turbulations, he got the sweet nectar of divine grace.
2) Baba told him to follow the Guru’s commands without question. That was what he meant when he sternly said, “Mohanji asked you to do something. Ask no further.” What an immense blessing in return for the resolve Loan-man demonstrated to pursue Mohanji at all costs.
3) The greatness of a Master can be recognised by his extreme humility and Sai Baba showed us an example of that by taking off his slippers while talking to Mohanji.
As for me, it was my second case of non-recognition of a Master. Two strikes in a single day! Not being able to see Hanumanji and Sai Baba. I must be truly blind. In spite of the tremendous blessings, I was at first dejected at my lack of awareness. But then I realized that they did not come to meet me. They came to see Mohanji. I was only meant to be a witness to the meeting. It was only the grace of Mohanji that allowed me to be a witness to that incident for reasons best known to him. The witness serves best when he doesn’t get involved with the incident. Hence to play the role of an unbiased observer, I am blissfully unaware of the significance or the import of the incidents and the people involved until after the fact. When I evaluate the incident later, the glory of the situation is revealed to me (mostly through the grace of Mohanji). And that is exactly how you spin a negative quality into a positive one. Either that or I am the village idiot. Anyways, this is my story and I am sticking to the former.
One interesting aspect that I thought about, in hindsight, is that both the masters responded, when asked, that they had food. It probably could be due to the fact that Mohanij always offers food to both of them before eating. They had in a way received and “eaten” the food that was offered by him.
Anyways, moving on. It was time for us to head to the railway station. Mohanji asked me to get holy water from the river Ganga for taking back with us. I looked around and wondered if the sand from the banks may make the water murky and dirty. I was also looking for a clean spot to fill up the water. I asked a person standing on the steps and he pointed to a couple of spots around – almost as if saying that it didn’t matter; it was all good. I then picked a spot and stood at the edge of the bank and starting filling water in my bottle. He came by, stepped into the water and himself offered to fill up the bottles with water away from the shore. I thanked him profusely and headed back to our room. Before leaving the hotel, Mohanji said that he wanted to go to visit the river one last time. Loan-man wanted to take photos of Mohanji. He had specially brought an SLR camera to take the pictures. Mohanji asked him to come along and take some pictures by the shore.
We then proceeded to check out and head towards the railway station. Loan-man wanted to accompany Mohanji to the railway station. I hired an autorickshaw to take us to the railway station. This chap wanted to charge a hundred rupees (even higher than the exorbitant charge we paid earlier). Since Mohanji specifically asked me not to haggle too much with the autorickshaw driver, I told him that we had paid eighty rupees on the way here. He agreed. Mohanji saw an old man and asked us to check if he wanted to be dropped off. He was more than happy to tag along. When we reached the station, Loan-man paid the fare for the rickshaw. Mohanji asked him to pay the autorickshaw driver a hundred rupees.
As we were walking to the train station, Mohanji told us, ”Never bargain with poor people. If someone can be made happy by ten or twenty rupees, we should go ahead and do it. It does not mean that we should let people fleece us. We should try as much as we can to make people happy in our own way as per our means. As an example, this autorickshaw driver could feel the love in people and give someone a free ride tomorrow.”
The train was already docked at the railway station since Rishikesh was the starting point. We boarded the train and got to our seats. Loan-man wanted to spend the last few moments with Mohanji before he left. Mohanji asked me when the train would arrive in Pathankot. The message I received from the venerable Mamu only mentioned the departure time. Loan-man offered to get that information online. Suddenly he realized that the train went up to Roorkee where he lived. He immediately decided to take a chance and board the train even though he didn’t have a reservation. He decided to immediately buy an unreserved ticket and then request the ticket collector to stay in our compartment. Through an innocuous query, Mohanji gave him an opportunity to spend a few more hours with him in the train. He was more than elated. Loan-man rushed to the ticket office and managed to get in just minutes before the train started leaving the station.
As the train moved along, Loan-man requested Mohanji’s permission to massage his feet. Mohanji consented. Loan-man started to massage Mohanji’s feet with a lot of love. Mohanji gave certain directions for Loan-man to follow. An interesting side note is that when the ticket collector came asking for the ticket, Loan-man just told him that he was headed to Roorkee. The ticket collector just nodded and did not even bother to check his ticket. He just let him be seated in a first-class compartment on a general class ticket! When the train arrived at Roorkee, Loan-man took Mohanji’s blessings and left.
This time round, the railway gods were probably not appeased because we got the seats towards the side of the train. The lower berth towards the side of the train is made by folding two adjoining seats which are never on the same level (much like the mind of a man and woman). This results in a gap around the lower back which makes sleeping on it uncomfortable. The venerable Mamu asked me to speak to the ticket collector and get Mohanji’s seat changed to a regular lower berth. On hearing my suggestion, Mohanji categorically said, “I don’t want any favors taken on my behalf.” Mohanji never takes any favors and always gives preference to others. I still quietly slinked away and went to the ticket collector. But there were no replacement berths available. Mohanji had to, unfortunately, suffer through more discomfort on the long journey back home.
As for me, the railway gods decided to give me an experience of how it feels when hell freezes over. I had both the AC vents running full blast on my body. I was planning to stay awake since the train reached Pathankot at 2:00am in the morning. But the frigid cold got through my resolve and I hid within the thin sheets that barely kept the cold air out. I managed to get a couple of hours of sleep until the alarm beeped me out of my cold storage slumber an hour before the scheduled arrival time. It was time to stand vigil and ensure that we do not miss the station. Mohanji probably knew of this and insisted that I set an alarm just in case I slept. That did come in handy since the alarm woke me up in the nick of time. Finally, after what seemed like eternity, we finally landed at Pathankot.
I had informed Sher Singh aka Mooch well in advance to pick us up from the railway station. Mooch was there to welcome us and he quickly escorted us back on the ashram SUV. Mohanji gave Mooch a free pass to step on the gas and drive us back to the ashram as fast as he could. Needless to say, Mooch took to the suggestion like a fish to water. We were literally flying back on the wings of the SUV aided in flight by choicely placed potholes and Mooch’s breakneck speed. Mohanji asked me in between if I would like to have some tea. I would have loved to but didn’t want Mohanji to wait so I declined the offer. Thanks to Mooch’s flying ways, we reached the ashram quickly and, yet, not too worse for wear.
As we entered the ashram, Mohanji requested Devadasji to make some tea for him. It was already 4:30am in the morning so I decided to forego sleep. I was pleasantly surprised and infinitely grateful when Devadasji took the extra effort to make a piping hot cup of regular chai just for me (Mohanji has only herbal tea without milk or sugar). The Master listens in and grants our every need no matter how small. As I sip the tea in the cool morning and have a smoke, I bow to Mohanji in gratitude for the immeasurable grace that he showers on my undeserving self and hope that someday I prove myself worthy of his unconditional love and grace.
An update on Loan-man. After this experience, Loan-man was completely revved up. Before leaving, he made resolutions for doing Mohanji’s meditations, conducting them in his house and doing everything to make up for lost time. In the light of his experience, I wanted to follow up with him and support him in any way I could. The first week, he said he will get to it. Second week, same response, Third week, same excuses. After 3-4 months, I dropped it since there was a total lack of commitment.
Around a year later, Mohanji was visiting Guruji (Avadhoota Nadanandaji) at his ashram in Kurnool. Mohanji was standing with Guruji when Anand, one of Guruji’s close companions, who was on the phone said, “You are coming to meet Guruji. Oh! You are a disciple of Mohanji”. It caught Mohanji’s attention. He immediately said, “My disciple! Let me speak to him”. Guess who was on the other side! Our dear Loan-man! Mohanji told him, “You are my disciple. I didn’t know. Please come.” The following day, Loan-man showed up at the ashram early in the morning. Mohanji and Guruji were seated on the chairs with a group of us encircling them on the ground. We were enjoying being in their presence and the informal satsang (discourse) that was going on.
Loan-man came and sat on the ground along with us. He was sheepish and uncomfortable because he hadn’t expected Mohanji to be there at the ashram. Mohanji sarcastically invited his “disciple”, “I didn’t know you were my disciple. Thanks for letting me know. Please come and join us.” Guruji enquired about his journey and if he needed anything. The conversation continued from where it left off before Loan-man’s intervention. Suddenly, Guruji looked at Loan-man and said, “What do you want? Ask for anything. I will grant it to you right now.” Loan-man was completely taken aback. He looked confused and kept looking alternately at Mohanji and Guruji. Finally, he blurted out, “I want Mohanji!”.
Then it was déjà vu all over again. Until that time, Mohanji had ignored Loan-man’s presence completely except for the short jab when he invited him. Mohanji asked, ”You want me! Did you say you want me?” And then Mohanji let loose on a trembling Loan-man, blasting him in front of Guruji, “You must have read Guruji’s autobiography and decided to get close to Guruji thinking that you will get a chance to go to Gyanganj. First, you didn’t know I was coming here. In spite of all the previous bashings, you have still come there and that too on a false pretext claiming to be Mohanji’s disciple. Don’t use my name. You are a very important person. Lot of people may need favors from you. But I need none from you.“
Loan-man started weeping. Guruji interjected, “The child is crying, let him go.” Mohanji replied, ”I don’t care for emotions. Even if I work on him for a hundred years, he will remain the same. Nothing will become of him.” Guruji felt pity and said, “For my sake, can you initiate him?” Mohanji continued, “It is completely useless. Nothing will happen. It will be a complete waste of time for me and him.” He told Loan-man, “Don’t bring this crying drama to me. Your tears won’t move me. I show no mercy for people like you.”
Guruji kept insisting and Mohanji kept refusing. Finally, Guruji told Mohanji, “If you consider me as your Guru, please initiate him.” Mohanji replied, ”If it’s your command, then I will do it. But I am telling you right now that it is a completely useless exercise. It will have no effect on him.” All this happened in the presence of a large group with Loan-man, unwittingly, being in the center of it. He told Devadasji later, “I will find out when the next train is coming and commit suicide in front of it.”
The same evening, Sujatha Akka (Guruji’s disciple), Guruji, Mohanji and I were sitting in Guruji’s room. Guruji asked me and Sujatha akka, ”After my energy transfer to Mohanji, he is technically my disciple. But I still call him my brother. Do you know why?” Since we were put on the spot, we coughed up reasons which he summarily dismissed. Guruji then explained, “Mohanji is the son of Shiva. I am the son of the Mother. I have nothing to do with the Father and he has nothing to do with the Mother.”
“But we are children of the same parents. Hence, he is my brother. What you saw in the morning today were our differing innate expressions. Mohanji as Shiva displayed the sternness of the Father while I displayed the care and love of the Divine Mother. When he met me for the first time, he didn’t tell me who he was. (Looking at Mohanji) When I asked you who you are, you said you just needed my blessings.”
“Even though you didn’t, Mother told me who you are and asked me to honor you. Why are you not revealing yourself?” Mohanji replied, “There is nothing to reveal, what will I reveal? It’s not important.“ Guruji said, “The Guru Mandala (Masters of the Tradition) had asked me to cool him down because he had too much fire which didn’t allow people to approach him. That was the reason I initiated him in Sri Vidya (practices centered on worship of Divine Mother).”
The following day, Mohanji initiated Loan-man into Sri Vidya in the Kurnool ashram. There is a happy ending to the story. I met Loan-man in Ugadi seva in 2018 and he was a completely transformed person. A year later, he even had the great fortune to host Guruji at his residence in Varanasi (where he moved from Roorkee) for a few months and take care of him. The same year, he even joined Mohanji and the group for the royal dips in the Kumbh Mela. Through all the episodes, Mohanji (and then Guruji) got him moving finally on the path to freedom.
Even when they mete out harsh punishment, Masters do it solely out of unconditional love. Never out of malice. Mohanji’s stern treatment of Loan-man in both cases was aimed at the removing the blockages that were keeping him from progressing. The two Masters orchestrated a divine play and worked together seamlessly to help a follower who had been stuck in a rut for a long time. It is futile to use our human faculties that have the inherent and obvious limitations to understand the actions of a Master rooted in cosmic consciousness. Isn’t it then foolish to comprehend the incomprehensible with our human failings?
|| JAI BRAHMARISHI MOHANJI||
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