Written by Madhusudan Rajagopalan
As seekers on the spiritual journey, all Masters tell us clearly that the journey is all about looking inward. Yet, we often search for external validation that we are on the right path. On one side, there is faith and the unerring belief that a Guru’s grace is already working on you at multiple levels. But then how does one deal with the analytical mind that raises questions? It is perhaps to quell these doubts that the Masters grant experiences (or miracles, depending on how “unbelievable” a certain event seems) to the mind; clear signs to indicate their presence and their grace.
Over time, I’ve learnt that experiences are of various types – visions, astral visitations, materializations, unbelievable synchronicities and so on. Since I came under Mohanji’s fold, I’ve had the good fortune of having a few experiences, some of which I’ve shared earlier. Recently, I had one such experience on the night of Mahashivraatri (Feb 24, 2017) and that got me thinking of a pattern of similar experiences earlier.
It was during a satsang that I first learnt that each Master has a unique fragrance. But this is felt only if the Master wants it to be felt or if they are in their subtle form. My first experience of this nature was during the Kumbh Mela in Nashik 2015. After we had finished our dips on the first shahi snan (royal dip), I heard some people say that they suddenly felt a strong smell of vibhuthi (sacred ash) coming from near Mohanji (For one such reference, you can read the following blog post). However, as I went late for my dip after attempting photographer duties, I couldn’t experience this. Sniffing around in the air wouldn’t have been of much use either, so I put it off saying it wasn’t meant for me. But the question nagged me on and off – why wasn’t I given that opportunity?
When we finished the Kumbh Mela trip, we stopped at Ganeshpuri, on our way back to Mumbai, to visit Bhagwan Nityananda’s samadhi shrine. While the rest of the group went ahead to Bhagwan Nityananda’s samadhi and Kailash Bhavan, Mohanji stayed back at the Nath mandir (temple) with Vasudevan Swami. Kailash Bhavan is the house where Bhagwan Nityananda (aka Bade Baba) lived. So usually a visit to Kailash Bhavan involves stops at the various places where Bade Baba used to sit and sleep – his armchair, his place of rest near the staircase, his bathtub and so on. The devotee gets an opportunity to touch and feel the objects that were hallowed by the touch of Bade Baba. The trust maintains this place wonderfully and with the surfeit of photographs, one can literally feel Baba’s presence in the place.
Opposite the bathtub area, there is a small room where Baba used to sleep. This is usually closed but one can see inside through the slats on the door. As usual, we stopped outside this room and put our head against the door to pray. As soon as I touched the door, I felt my head spinning and a kind of magnetic feeling as if my head was stuck to the door. At the same time, I could feel a strong scent of vibhuthi (sacred ash) and chandan (sandalwood) emanating from inside. I took my head out and tried again and the same thing happened. A few others around us felt the exact same way and we guessed that Mohanji was visiting Bade Baba. Each of us sought confirmation from the other that they felt it too – you see we need so much validation to believe something unexplainable like this, as there was clearly no physical object in that room that was giving out this fragrance, and the door was not metal, neither was my forehead.
We headed back to the Nath mandir (temple) and asked Mohanji if He was indeed visiting. With a twinkle in his eye, He confirmed His presence there and said He didn’t need to physically visit to pay His respects to Baba. He also added that there were a few Masters there, which would explain the strong energy felt by all of us at that door. So now I knew first hand that Masters can sometimes be felt through their fragrance, and that Mohanji’s trademark fragrance was chandan and/or vibhuthi!
In December 2016, a group of us folks was with Mohanji in Chennai to mark the Jayanthi (birthday) of Baba Ganeshananda Giri – a great saint and disciple of Sai Baba. Babaji had attained mahasamadhi (a saint’s conscious exit from the body) earlier in the year after initiating a grand Sai Baba temple project in Sriperumbudur. He and Mohanji shared a special bond though their first meeting happened only in December 2015 – a mere 4-5 months before Babaji attained mahasamadhi. Babaji’s birthday fell on December 19th. To mark the occasion, a special book – The Boy who walked with Sai Baba – was being released. This book commemorated Babaji’s life with testimonials from various devotees across India.
Mohanji was visiting Chennai to release this book and to spend time guiding the trust up by Babaji. On December 18th, once the books arrived in Chennai, we visited Babaji’s samadhi in Sriperumbudur (located at the same site as the temple) to offer our respects and offer the first book to Babaji at his samadhi. We reached the site and first visited Babaji’s kutir (cottage) where he stayed. Then we walked over to his samadhi (final resting spot) and Mohanji offered the book and prayed there. Earlier, Mohanji had asked Natesh Ramsell (a gifted singer from the US who specialises in kirtans) to compose a chant using Babaji’s favourite mantra “Om Sri Sai Sharanam Mama”. Mohanji asked Natesh to offer the chant at Baba’s samadhi.
Natesh began singing this chant at the samadhi as all of us stood and absorbed the moment. A group of cows walked over to our location, watched the show and proceeded to walk away in a single line once Natesh finished his song. After this, we performed aarati there and began to leave. On our way out, I decided to do one more pradakshina (circumambulation) of the samadhi. As I was walking near the samadhi, I felt an overpowering fragrance of roses. When the Samadhi for Babaji was being laid out following his mahasamadhi, the procedures required a copper wire to be brought from inside the Samadhi to the top – this was to preserve a direct energetic connection with the saint inhabiting the Samadhi now. This fragrance was felt at the precise spot where the copper wire was protruding out from the Samadhi. Whats more, I could recognise this specific fragrance.
During Babaji’s samadhi ceremony, as part of the ritual preparations before lowering his physical body into the samadhi, I had been blessed to be part of a group that mixed rose essence with special herbs and vibhuti – this was then used to sanctify and fill up the space around Babaji in the “container”. The “container” was then encased in concrete and there is no way that the fragrance could emanate from within the samadhi. Yet, eight months later, the exact same fragrance was being felt by our group at Babaji’s samadhi! Soon, each member of the group came there and felt the intense fragrance at the same spot. As a mark of respect to Babaji, I had done a pradakshina (circumambulation) on our way into the place, and I was sure that the fragrance didn’t exist then. Further, this lasted only for a few minutes and then began to fade away. This could only mean that Babaji was acknowledging the gift of his book and the chant and was blessing us in approval. So here was another confirmation that fragrances appear as signals and markers, if only one is open to recognizing the possibility.
This year, Mahashivratri fell on Feb 24, 2017. This was a day after Mohanji’s birthday and also when the Advanced retreat in Serbia was due to start. I had contemplated going to this retreat but had to drop the idea due to schedule conflicts. Mahashivratri is considered to be an extremely auspicious day for spiritual progress and staying awake through the night with the spine upright is extremely valuable. I was determined to follow this for as long as I could. After a full day’s work, I finally sat down to meditate at around 11pm, starting with listening to Mohanji’s recitation of the Shiva Kavacham.
Earlier that day, I had this urge to begin reading the Sai Satcharitra, so I proceeded to do that soon after the Shiva Kavacham, and then moved onto chanting. Somewhere through this phase, I began to feel the familiar fragrance of sandalwood all around our pooja room. I looked around to see if any incense sticks had been lit but didn’t spot anything; besides it was well past 1am. I continued chanting now aware of the strong fragrance that stayed all through that period. I was up till about 2am, and possibly drifted in to sleep a few times in the middle. I remember looking at the picture of Mohanji in our altar and asking “Are you really here?” and thinking “Is He really smiling? Or am I just dreaming?”
I was convinced that Mohanji had visited our pooja room on Mahashivratri – I couldn’t go to the retreat, so He decided to visit us. How cool (and amazing) is that? I was also more willing to trust the experience of fragrance since I had been through this before just a couple of months ago in Chennai. Yet, just to be extra extra sure, I wrote to Mohanji a week or so later about this and He said “I am sandalwood, though I am sometimes celestial floral fragrance. I use options :-)” He also said that several people had experienced this but many dismissed it as imagination to their own loss.
I am sharing this experience more to tell my own self that these experiences were all real. As Mohanji always advises us, the primary audience for one’s experience sharing is our own self – a reminder to the mind that we didn’t imagine it all. Besides, when we share this with a wider group, it may help several others connect their own experiences and strengthen their faith.
As Mohanji once explained in his typical eloquence, grace is like sunshine – always available to all with no differentiation for any being. Whereas doubts are like clouds – they obscure this sunshine; the presence of clouds doesn’t make the sunshine go away neither can it call the sunshine into question, it only makes it harder for us to feel it. Our job as seekers is to just go past the doubts and focus on the sunshine. Our experiences are just a means for us to realize this critical difference and understand that the Guru’s grace is always shining on us, whether we recognise it or not!
I humbly offer this write up at Brahmarishi Mohanji’s lotus feet and pray that my faith and resolve is strengthened by each passing day.
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