By Rajesh Kamath
Mohanji informed us yesterday about the news of Gopala Baba’s mahasamadhi (a saint’s conscious exit from the body). It was shocking and unexpected because neither were there any ominous health factors nor was there an indication from Babaji. In a way, his exit had the signature of his life – unassuming, quiet and without fanfare yet powerful (merging with the Supreme Consciousness). When Mohanji saw our consolation messages to Gopala Baba’s devotees, he objected to the use of the word “condolence”. He said, “The departure of a saint of Babaji’s stature may be sorrowful for his devotees, but it can never be a cause for condolence. The Master has merely dropped his physical form and will continue working for the world in his subtle form with more renewed vigour, free from the limitations of the physical body, In his subtle form, he will be more easily available to be with those who are deeply connected to him or wish to deeply connect to him. His physical form was merely a shell that could hardly contain the vast consciousness that Babaji was.”
I was told by a long time Sathya Sai devotee that Bhagavan Sathya Sai had said to one of his close confidants in a personal interview that there were three people who had attained such a high level of purity that they could be his extensions in the world. Gopala Baba, Devi Amma and a third person (don’t remember his name). A recognition of the stature of the Master from the Avatar himself. I later found this article on a Sathya Sai Baba website attesting to that fact. His devotees believed him to be an reincarnation of Maa Sharda Devi (wife of Ramakrishna Paramahansa). To the uninitiated, he was a soft spoken, gentle and kind soul whose unbounded love poured continuously and limitlessly across species (human beings, animals and plants).
Around September 2018, we had a request that a person wanted to connect with Mohanji and convey a personal message. He had tried several avenues for almost 6 months but had been unable to connect with Mohanji. His name was Dinesh Rathod and he was a disciple of Gopala Baba. One of his brother disciples, Somashekhar, had participated in the Kailash with Mohanji pilgrimage and he managed to get a connect to Mohanji’s personal office team. He told the team that he had a video of Gopala Baba’s message to Mohanji and he wanted to deliver it to someone who could reach Mohanji directly rather than send it to an email. In the video message, Gopala Baba said that he sees the shakti (power) of Mother Kamakshi and Devi (the Divine Mother) inside Mohanji. Dinesh mentioned that Gopala Baba had invited Mohanji to come and visit him at his ashram, Sai Soma Skanda Ashram, which was about 2-3 hours from our location in Bangalore.
Dinesh asked to coordinate the logistics with his brother disciple, Somashekhar, who lived in Bangalore. Mohanji agreed to visit Gopala Baba the Sunday of the same week. Somashekhar conveyed that Gopala Baba said, “I am very happy that my son (Mohanji) is coming to meet his mother (Gopala Baba). I am eagerly waiting for my son. My ashram is Mohanji’s house and he can come whenever he wants. Mohanji should take lunch at the ashram. Ask Mohanji what he likes to have for lunch so that we can have it prepared.” The immense love of the Master for Mohanji was very touching. It is amazing how Masters who have never met each other (on the physical plane at least) have such amazingly pure and unconditional love for each other. One can feel and get a taste of the unity of consciousness from their mutual interactions.
That Sunday, we drove down to Gopala Baba’s ashram which is right on the highway to Mysore. The ashram was a short hundred meter off-road drive from the highway. The beautiful arch of the ashram welcomed us and a short concrete road lined with coconut trees led us into the ashram premises. There was an open ground to the left and a huge temple complex on the right. The place was dotted with coconut trees. Beyond the temple at the far end were Babaji’s residence, the living quarters, the kitchen and the office spaces. A big statue of a waist high Sathya Sai Baba welcomed us to Babaji’s beautiful and impressive abode. As we entered the ashram, we could feel the divine presence immediately. There were statues of Bhagavan Sathya Sai, Sai Baba and other Masters of the Tradition everywhere, watching over us and greeting us from the arches, the junctions, rooftops, and so on.
Mohanji was taken straight to Gopala Baba’s residence where the gentle Master was eagerly awaiting Mohanji’s arrival. His residence was very simple. The door opened into his meeting room. Baba sat on a small bed on the right while there were chairs for visitors to sit in front of him. A short distance further away from his bed was his beautiful personal altar. To the left was a small kitchen and his bedroom and to the right was a store room. The first thing one would notice around his residence both on the benches outside the door as well as in his house were the cats, bowls full of milk and bowls full of cat food. Even on his bed as well as in his meeting room. Babaji’s love for cats was legendary. At any point in time, he had at least fifty cats in the ashram and he personally took care of them. He would boil the milk for the cats in his kitchen which would then be distributed into the many bowls in and around his residence. I was told that Gopala Baba would get furious if there was even a slight delay in their feeding. The cats were allowed free access to every part of his residence and the cats, in turn, took this privilege boldly. They were in various states of inaction all over the house, the benches outside as well as on the ground soaking under the warm sun. All of them were basking in the warm love of the Master. I felt that these cats may possibly be his divine companions who had taken the form of a cat to be in his powerful, loving presence.
Babaji had a beautiful picture of Bhagavan Sathya Sai pasted behind his back as if to say that Bhagavan had his back. Bhagavan would be peeking at us every now and then when Babaji moved. Upon entering the room, Mohanji prostrated at Gopala Baba’s feet. Baba blessed Mohanji while caressing his head lovingly. He offered Mohanji several gifts – books, clothes and prasad (consecrated offering) and also to the other members of the group. Mohanji also offered his books – the Power of Purity, Kailash with Mohanji – the Inner Kora and Kriya Yoga – to Babaji. Baba was an ocean of compassion receiving Mohanji like a loving mother. Mohanji played the role of a humble son or disciple and Babaji as the mother or Master showered limitless love and unbounded affection on him. Babaji enquired about us and our travels and Mohanji introduced our group to Babaji. Babaji understood English and also spoke English haltingly but he was more comfortable in his local language Kannada. A gentleman named Venkat was there along with Somashekhar to specifically help with the translations.
Babaji shared a brief overview of his life journey. He spoke with high regard about his parents who demonstrated with their life, the principles of compassion, discipline and hard work. He specifically spoke about his mother as being a saint – simple yet highly spiritually evolved – who showed him an example of exceptional dedication to one’s duties and responsibilities. He said, “The scriptures say, ‘Pitru Devo Bhava’ (rever your parents as God). I always urge my devotees to follow this scriptural injunction. One’s responsibilities towards one’s parents are more important than even those towards God and Guru. If one lovingly performs one’s duty towards one’s parents, then they need not do any spiritual practices, perform rituals or visit temples. I lovingly served both my parents wholeheartedly and and considered them my first Gurus. Until she attained samadhi two and a half years ago, I always considered my primary duty was to take care of my mother.” He had a picture of his parents prominently placed by his bedside which he worshipped daily. In the ashram, he also had a small temple dedicated to his parents.
His devotion and deep connection with Bhagavan Sathya Sai was the cornerstone of his life and his spiritual journey. His journey with Bhagavan began when he accompanied his father to Puttaparthi and Brindavan (Whitefield, Bangalore) for the divine darshan of Bhagavan. Slowly but surely, his devotion and dedication to Baba increased to the point where he chose to dedicate his life to the service of Baba and to live and propagate his teachings. In later years, he had regular communions with as well as physical visitations by Baba. In one such physical visitation, Bhagavan appeared on November 23rd, 1991 (Bhagavan’s birthday) and materialized his atma lingam (a part of his soul in the form of a lingam – an smooth elliptical stone) – the Chandra Moulishwara lingam – and gave it to Gopala Baba. He also instructed Gopala Baba to perform the rudrabhishekam (ritual bathing) to the sacred linga on every Monday and distribute the tirtham (holy consecrated sacred water) to the people.
I have read that this incident has been narrated by Prof. Anil Kumar (Bhagavan Sathya Sai’s official translator) in the divine presence of Bhagavan Sathya Sai which is published in the July 1992 issue of the Sanathana Sarathi (official magazine of the Sri Sathya Sai organisation).The rudrabhishekam ritual was done continuously from 1991 to 2015 without a break. Many people have been healed by the tirtham. Gopala Baba also gave vibhuti which is blessed by the lingam to his followers. There are innumerable instances of people who have been cured of mental and physical ailments by partaking of the tirtham. Gopala Baba also mentioned that the mantra he gave to devotees was “Sai Chandramoulishwara Pahi Mam Raksha Mam“.Though he never allows anyone to touch the lingam, he allowed Mohanji to touch it and feel it’s energy.
Mohanji also shared his experiences and communions with Bhagavan. Since the details are available in this blog post “Miraculous Days with Mohanji – Part 3”, I am not sharing them here again. Mohanji also informed Babaji about his spiritual and seva (selfless service) activities and his travel experiences around the world. Babaji was deeply appreciative and gave his wholehearted approval for Mohanji’s work. When Mohanji mentioned that he wanted to build an ashram in India, Babaji said, “Don’t build any ashrams. You can have my ashrams.” Babaji is in such a high state of detachment that he has absolutely no attachment whatsoever to anything material including his ashrams.
Babaji mentioned that he had earlier started a center in Girinagar which soon grew into a big temple with an outpatient clinic (dispensary) which experienced massive crowds who flocked to Baba to get a cure for their myriad terrestrial problems in life. Eventually, he built this ashram in 2015 and managed to get away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds. However, he lamented that the ashram suffered from a chronic lack of support in terms of staff. He said that the local people were seldom reliable and it was hard to maintain the sprawling grounds and the many buildings and temples that were in need of constant upkeep. We were introduced to Babaji’s man Friday – his attendant, Ravi. Ravi lived in the ashram with Babaji and took care of his needs as well as the maintenance of the ashram. Needless to stay that he was stretched, given that volunteers were in short supply and staff hard to retain. His blood shot eyes indicated a chronic lack of sleep. However, he was the proverbial work horse – engaged in constant activity and always on the move. We were told that his aged parents stayed in the city but he mostly stayed in the ashram to take care of Babaji and was like Babaji’s shadow.
Babaji asked us to take a darshan of the main temple in the ashram. We took Babaji’s leave and headed out to to the temple complex. The temple complex had a dwajasthamba (flagstaff) a few meters from the entrance along with an idol of Lord Nandi looking at the idol of Lord Shiva inside. Lord Nandi is the supreme devotee of Lord Shiva, his vehicle and the chief of the Shiva Ganas (Lord Shiva’s army). The temple has smaller spaces dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Goddess Kamakshi, Lord Chandramoulesshwara, Shirdi Sai Baba, Bhagwan Bhagavan Sathya Sai, Swami Samarth and Gopala Baba. The temple is beautiful built using a south Indian architecture an painted in varied, beautiful bright colours, with numerous statues on the walls, arches and in the temple structures. We had an amazing darshan. Babaji’s devotee explained the background significance of the different places.
We were introduced to the priest of the temple. He used to be an engineer working for one of the leading information technology services companies in India. He was a follower of Babaji and found the internal calling to quit his job and join Babaji full-time. In addition to the duties in the temple, he also helped with the upkeep of the ashram. He told us about the different ceremonies conducted at the ashram including the regular yagams (elaborate fire ceremonies) that were conducted a few times a year. He also explained the different deities in the temple. An aarati (ritual waving of lamp) and archana (offering of flowers, etc) was performed during our visit. The priest took Mohanji’s blessings and we took his leave after our detailed discussion.
Babaji had asked his people to take us for lunch after the temple visit. Baba rarely had food. He had given up solid food after Bhagavan Sathya Sai had taken mahasamadhi. On rare occasions, he had prasad from a nearby temple – maybe a few morsels or even just a morsel. Sometimes, he had a coffee in the morning, coconut water in the afternoon and a glass of milk in the evening. Barring the above, he avoided all intake of food. His devotees believed that he had closed his annamaya kosha (the food sheath) a while back. There was a bit of wait for the food but it was well worth it. It was simple food but very delicious. We wholeheartedly partook of this prasad to our full satisfaction.
After lunch, we went to the temple of Lord Dattatreya. It was at the end of the open field in front of the main temple. There were two very rare and special trees next to this temple. One was the holy Audambar tree that was grown using a branch from the holy Audumbar tree in Ganagapur (the seat of Lord Narsimha Saraswathi – the second incarnation of Lord Dattatreya) and a banyan tree that was grown using a branch from the banyan tree in Akkalkot that was the samadhi of Lord Swami Samarth. To read more about the samadhi tree of Lord Swami Samarth, please read the following blog post – Back from the dead – A tryst with Swami Samarth of Akkalkot. A rarest of the rare opportunities to connect with such powerful divine beings. Mohanji touched each of the trees with his third eye, circumambulated the trees as a mark of respect and also poured water to both the trees.
Then we headed back to the residence of Gopala Babaji. Mohanji mentioned about his initiatives on veganism and the extreme cruelty practised at animal farms and dairies. Babaji expressed deep anguish and angst at the senseless slaughter of animals especially cows, just for the satisfaction of the human palate. He said that we should never harm any being since they are all part of God’s creation. Especially the helpless animals. He would get so moved at times that he wished to implore Bhagavan to end the world and rid it of all humans. Babaji said that his only prayer was that people should inculcate the following values in their lives – peace, devotion, faith, righteousness, truth, ahimsa (non violence) and proper respect in the world for parents and teachers, These are the teachings of the Dattatreya Tradition that he followed. He said that following these time tested principles would not only bring greater peace and equilibrium in our lives but also make the world a better place. Though different in outward expression, their (Babaji’s and Mohanji’s) teachings resonated perfectly and were in unison.
Finally, it was time for us to say goodbye. Babaji showered blessings on Mohanji and then the rest of the group. There was an outpouring of affection for Mohanji as he kissed him, caressed him and held him close. Love was pouring through his very being. Verily, God’s own child greeting another! More than what was spoken and exchanged, the silent communion between the Masters was a real treat as they expressed their unconditional love recognising each other as two branches of the same tree of God Consciousness. We were truly blessed to meet this incarnation of pure love. With heavy hearts, we said our goodbyes and started our journey back home. Babaji left an indelible print on our mind, heart and soul. We salute this living embodiment of Bhagavan Sathya Sai’s teachings, viz. Love all, Serve all.
Please find below a video tribute to Gopala Krishna Swami (fondly called Gopala Baba) from the Mohanji Community. We relive our fond memories of this gentle yet powerful Master and his interactions with Mohanji as well as share a few glimpses of his samadhi ceremony to allow our community a last darshan (holy vision) of the beloved Master.
Posted below a photograph of Babaji at the samadhi ceremony conducted yesterday (12th June 2020) for those who would like to pay their last respects to this beloved Master. I am deeply grateful to Mohanji for the grace to meet this wonderful, kind-hearted and amazing Master and offer my deepest obeisances at the feet of Gopala Baba knowing fully well that he watches over and blesses us all, as he continues to work for the welfare of the world in his subtle form for decades and centuries to come.
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