Swami Samarth (aka Akkalkot Swami) was a powerful Master who was based in Akkalkot in Maharashtra (a state from Western India). He was the third avatar of Lord Dattatreya, the Adi-Guru (the first Guru or founder) of our Tradition (the Datta tradition named after Lord Dattatreya).
Swami Samarth was a very powerful Master who made a truly miraculous and divine entry on planet Earth. The second avatar of Lord Dattatreya, Narasimha Saraswati, took samadhi (verb – a saint’s conscious exit from the body) in the fifteenth century. When Narasimha Saraswati decided that his time was up, he informed his disciples, sat on a boat filled with flowers and headed to the forest of Kardalivan which is near Sri Sailam, a very powerful pilgrimage centre of Lord Shiva. He told his disciples that the flowers would come back against the river’s flow signifying his cross-over to the other side. And so, it happened. The flowers came back against the flow letting his disciples know that he had merged with the Light.
Fast forward 300 years later. A wood cutter enters Kardalivan to chop a tree. The moment the axe strikes deep into the tree, blood comes oozing out. And moments later, out comes Swami Samarth of Akkalkot, a tall saint with big ears and long hands extending beyond the knees. As the woodcutter profusely apologizes to the saint, Swami Samarth reassures him that this was meant to be the way he was to be woken up to start his mission in the world. Even though he is known mostly in Maharashtra, Swami Samarth is supposed to have travelled extensively all over India and the Himalayas as well as across the world to Tibet, Jawa, Sumatra, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Japan, Australia, etc. He was known by different names in different countries.
He finally came to Akkalkot and spent the last twenty-two years of his life there. His last years were spent under a banyan tree where he finally took samadhi. It is said that when he took samadhi, his soul split in two – one part merged with the banyan tree which is now worshipped as his Samadhi (noun – final resting place) and the other merged with Sai Baba. It is believed that the fame of Sai Baba grew far and wide right after the merger. His famous words can be seen printed behind many taxies in Mumbai – “Bheevu nakkos, mi thujhya paatheeshi aahe” (Fear not. I am always behind you). Similar to what Mohanji says “I am always with you”. Different masters, same words.
Swami Samarth had a peculiar habit of bringing people, who had been dead for a long time, back to life to get some work done. He was once walking along the river bank. He asked a person who was coming near to him, “Why are you walking here? Go home quickly. Your child is alone at home crying. I told your father to look after the child.” The man was perplexed and couldn’t understand the Swami’s words. His father had died a long time ago. In any case, he rushed back home and was baffled to see his father attending to the baby. He couldn’t believe his eyes. His father handed over the baby, blessed him and left the house. Swami Samarth was a powerful Master who created powerful disciples like Shankar Maharaj, Gajanan Maharaj, Junglee Maharaj, etc. To this day, he is known to bless his devotees with his physical presence even though he has left the body two hundred and fifty years ago.
I had been to Akkalkot the first time on a New Year day in 2013 and it was a truly blissful experience. In November 2016, I had the privilege to visit Akkalkot again with Mohanji on our road trip to Kerala from Shirdi en route from Pune. We reached Akkalkot around afternoon and took darshan at his temple where his physical body was kept after he took samadhi. However, as mentioned earlier, the banyan tree is the place which is considered his true Samadhi. A temple was later built on this place which houses the banyan tree, the place where he took samadhi, his padukas (holy footwear) as well as temples of other deities (Ganesha, Hanumanji, Dattatreya, etc).
When we reached the temple, Mohanji was at the entrance of the temple taking off his footwear. I was just a short distance away buying flowers and offerings for the temple. I noticed Mohanji smiling at someone near the temple. This set off my warning alarms – some divine being was present possibly in a physical form in the vicinity. I immediately looked in the direction where Mohanji was looking and smiling. Around ten feet away, there was an elderly lady standing at the entrance of the temple smiling back at him. She was tall and elegantly dressed in a green sari – not the cheap or gaudy kind usually worn by the village folks. The sari was elegant but something that was probably worn in older (or I would even hazard to say ancient) times. She had a prominent nose ring and her face was wrinkled. She had a plate in her hand which had the offerings for the temple. If you have not guessed by now, this elderly lady looked just like Swami Samarth dressed like a woman.
For those not in the know, there are pictures depicting Swami Samarth as the Divine Mother to symbolize his motherly aspect. I was stumped. The interaction between Mohanji and the elderly lady from the distance was what I remember distinctly even though it lasted just a few seconds because it was amazingly subtle and elegant. The lady made only three eye movements. She first blinked both her eyes while looking at Mohanji as if acknowledging his presence – “I see you have come.” She then moved her eyes to look inside the temple and then blinked both her eyes at Mohanji again. As if to say, “It is time for me to go inside. See you later.” And then she touched the entrance steps with her hands in reverence and touched it to her forehead and proceeded to enter the temple. It happened so quickly. My mind was in suspended disbelief. I was too stunned to even realize that I should be taking photographs. As Mohanji entered the temple, I quickly closed my purchase and followed him. The elderly lady was nowhere to be seen. Wow! A physical darshan (holy sighting) of Swami Samarth welcoming Mohanji to his Samadhi!
We headed to the entrance of the parking lot where our car was parked. The parking lot was quite far away from the entrance. Hence, our driver had kept the car near the entrance to avoid Mohanji having to walk all the way to the parking lot. As Mohanji got in the car, the driver requested Mohanji that he would also like to quickly go for a temple visit. Mohanji agreed and we waited for him in the car. Mohanji told me to inform the security guard at the entrance that we had parked the car at the entrance and will remove it as soon as the driver comes back. Our car was parked in a no-parking space in front of the entrance. The right strategy would have been to remain unnoticed for as long as possible and buy time if and when the security guard notices and approaches us. Why would I go to the security guard and inform him that I am parked in the wrong place when he hasn’t noticed me yet? Hmmm. This is not making sense.
Finally, I decided to just do what Mohanji says, even if it did not make sense at that time. Because I figured he knew better and it eventually would. There was also the problem of him kicking my butt if I didn’t comply quickly. He always knows better but my mind chooses to introduce its “intelligence” where it is least wanted to ensure that my butt is kicked every single time. I got out of the car, went near the security guard and informed him of our mistake. His response was bang on the money. He blew his top and started shouting at me. “You supposedly literate folks behaving like illiterate, uncouth people creating problems for others. If some bigger car or bus wants to get in, do they fly over you? Please move the car to the parking lot immediately.” I informed him that I could not drive and our driver had gone into the temple and will be back soon. Until then, we had no option but to wait there. He got irritated, continued shouting for a while and finally walked away in exasperation. Of course, it made perfect sense to inform the security guard, right?
He then immediately turned back and walked up to me. I was wondering what else he had in store for me. He was more peaceful this time and told me that there was a dargah (a mosque housing the samadhi of a Muslim saint usually belonging to the Sufi sect) 15-20kms away. He told me that you people should go visit the dargah and offer your prayers there. This was odd and unexpected! I got back into the car. Mohanji asked me if everything was sorted with the security guard. I affirmed and mentioned to Mohanji that the security guard asked us to go to a dargah. Mohanji asked me if the security guard would guide us there. I was taken aback by security guard’s unexpected suggestion and, hence, didn’t even bothered asking him the exact location or the directions. So, I went back to the security guard and asked him if he would take us there. He said he would join us once our driver returned. As soon as the driver returned, the security guard also joined us in the car.
He offered his respects to Mohanji and introduced himself. He mentioned that he does the parayan (ritual reading of a scripture in a specified time) of Swami Samarth’s biography every morning and evening and only has food after he completes the reading. Today morning, he had a vision of Swami Samarth saying, “My boy is coming. Take care of him. Take him to the dargah when he comes there.” No further information was provided to him. The security guard was expecting someone to come but didn’t know who it was. That is why we were parked in the wrong place blocking the road because his job was to remove such vehicles. The security guard knew that someone would come and he was actually waiting. But he still did not recognize. Hence, I was sent by Mohanji to “inform” him. After scolding me, he came to the realization that the Swami Samarth’s “boy” was the passenger in our car – Mohanji – and he immediately returned to pass on the message. So, yes. It did make sense to inform the security guard.
As we drove to the dargah, the security guard started giving us more details about the dargah and its origins. Swami Samarth used to send his followers to the dargah for fulfilment of their wishes. His story started with a fakir (Muslim mendicant) walking alongside a village path begging for alms. He came across a Brahmin’s (priestly class) house and stopped there seeking alms. The lady of the house invited him inside. She was poor and did not have much to offer but gave him whatever best she could. The fakir was pleased with her devotion and selfless nature and blessed her saying, “I am very pleased with your service. Ask for whatever you want. I will give you twice of what you ask for and take back one half of it.” The lady said she did not care for material comforts. However, she had a desire to bear a child. The fakir said that, as per my diktat, I will give you two children and, after their birth, you have to return one to me.
The lady agreed to the fakir’s condition. In due time, the fakir’s blessings worked and she bore twins. One child was dark and the other one was fair. In keeping with her promise, the lady had to return one child to the fakir. She preferred to keep the fair child and return the dark one. When she took the dark child to the fakir, he informed her that it was the fair child that belonged to him and asked her to get the fair child to the dargah. When she returned home, to her utter dismay and surprise, the fair child was dead. She immediately came to the fakir and informed him of the child’s demise. The fakir told her to bring the body of the dead child, leave it near the tombs in the dargah and return back home. She complied. The fakir sprinkled water on the boy who grew from a newborn to a teenager. The young lad walked to the tombsand merged with it. It was a miraculous story though I failed to understand the significance of the story.
After a short drive, we reached the dargah. At the entrance, there was a section to the left which had a prominent tomb and some smaller tombs. The periphery of the main tomb had 4 iron brackets at the corners with threads tied all around the brackets. There were small sets of red bangles hanging from the threads everywhere. The dargah was to the right with an unpaved road leading to it that was wedged in between this tomb section and the dargah. The security guard asked us to first offer our prayers at the tomb at the entrance. He mentioned that the tomb belonged to a woman who was completely devoted to the fakir. The fakir was also very pleased with her service. One day she asked three boons from the fakir. The first was that people should consider her like his sister. The second was that people who come to the dargah should first visit her and offer their prayers at her tomb before they go to him. The third was that anyone who was desirous of a spouse should be granted their wish if they prayed at her tomb. The fakir granted all three boons.
The first boon was the reason her tomb was at the entrance. The second boon was the reason we came to pray there first. The third boon was the reason red bangles were tied on the threads circling the tomb. For anyone desiring a spouse, the person had to untie one set of red bangles from the thread and take it with them. Until they find the spouse, they were then supposed to circle lighted incense sticks around the bangles and pray to them on every full moon. Once the person gets married, the couple needs to come back to the temple and tie a fresh set of red bangles to the tomb as a symbol of fulfilment of their wish. Looking at the umpteen number of red bangles tied at the tomb, it looked like the “get-a-spouse” scheme was doing exceptionally well.
We walked around the unpaved road towards the entrance of the dargah. There were a set of steps leading to a raised concrete platform on which the dargah was situated. The dargah was freshly whitewashed and had the usual white and green shades of a typical mosque. We walked across the open space on the concrete platform leading to the entrance. As we entered the dargah, we were led to a wider room that led into the sanctum sanctorum which housed the tomb. The priest was nowhere to be seen. The security guard went outside and came back along with him. He asked the priest to offer prayers on Mohanji’s behalf. When the priest asked for more money, he told the priest clearly that what was paid was enough. He told us not to pay the priest too much since he thought the priest was getting greedy.
Mohanji sat down near the tomb and spent some silent moments in the sanctum sanctorum. The security guard took us around the other parts of the complex and explained various details about each area. He then took us to a covered section that had a big black stone receptacle shaped like a small boat. It was about 3-4 feet long, a couple of feet wide and a couple of feet deep. The thickness was probably almost a foot. As mentioned earlier, Swami Samarth sent people to the dargah to get their wishes fulfilled and the security guard told us that this was the place where the prayers were granted. He shared the story of a Muslim royal who believed in Swami Samarth and was sent here to fulfil his desire for an heir. One made the prayer request by touching the stone receptacle. On fulfilment, one had to come back and fill up the receptacle full of ladoos (a ball shaped Indian sweetmeat) in expression of gratitude. Mohanji and the group offered our requests to the wish fulfilling stone receptacle.
Finally, after spending some more time at the dargah, we returned back to banyan tree Samadhi temple at Akkalkot. It was past noon so it was time for lunch. Mohanji requested the security guard to join us for lunch. He politely declined. He said he has food only after the ritual reading of the book which he does at sunrise and sunset. Mohanji asked me to give him some money. Unfortunately, this was the time when the Indian central bank had implemented demonetization – cancelling all existing high value currency notes and reissuing new currency bills. ATMs were dry and money was scarce. There were long serpentine queues in front of the ATMs and daily withdrawal limits had been imposed. I told Mohanji that I would need to withdraw money to pay him and also for our lunch. The security guard guided me to the nearest ATM which already had a long line of brothers waiting in the hot sun for the moolah.
It took me a long time to get the money. While waiting, my mind started expressing its usual uncalled-for “intelligence”. I am usually skeptical when approached by people in religious places. Almost all of them are hankering after money. I was convinced that this person was also one of those “agents” who offer their services with the basic motive of fleecing people for money. I had a counterfeit fifty rupee note in my possession that was possibly palmd off to me by a sly street vendor. I thought that it would be a fitting payment for him to match his fake countenance. It is interesting how the mind loves to fall back into its patterns of perception from the past ignoring the experiences or inputs received in the present. This person came along with us leaving his assigned duties. He not only took us there but also showed us around and facilitated our entire trip there. Even though we offered lunch, he politely declined and did not even ask for any money for services rendered. The suggestion to give him money came from Mohanji who believes in energy transfer to ensure karmic closures – to respectfully offer him money for his time and effort to ensure that there were no karmic bondages. Yet, in spite of evidence to the contrary, my mind had already labeled him a charlatan.
When I came back to the car, I couldn’t locate him anymore. Mohanji asked me to look around at the parking spot and other places. But he was nowhere to be seen. In a way, my mind was happy that I didn’t have to pay a person who it thought didn’t deserve it. We had lunch and, as planned earlier, left for Pandharpur – a very powerful temple of Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi in Maharashtra. We stayed at Pandharpur for a day and had a lovely darshan there. We headed from there to Pune. Around noon, we suddenly found ourselves in a place that looked very familiar. Familiar because we were in the same square in Akkalkot where we had left the security guard. Pune is in the northwest direction from Pandharpur. Somehow, our driver ended up driving 120+km in exactly the opposite South East direction without him or us getting any wiser. I looked at the driver with a “Are you kidding me?” expression. The driver said that he drove promptly in the right direction as advised by Google and as suggested by the locals but was equally bewildered how he landed back in Akkalkot. He had no clue how driving in one direction could land him in the opposite direction. I, of course, had a clue. Mohanji had unfinished business and wasn’t leaving until it was done.
Mohanji looked around and looking mildly surprised said, “Oh! How did we reach Akkalkkot again?” Yeah, right? Like we don’t know who got us to return. He then said, “Why don’t you look for the security guard? We couldn’t pay him yesterday. I don’t like to keep anything pending. So, it is good we are back. Let us finish it off.” I couldn’t find the security guard at the parking lot. After looking around, I finally managed to locate him. He was happy to know that we had come back. He came with me to offer his respects to Mohanji. Since it was again lunchtime, Mohanji requested him to join us for lunch. He politely declined again reiterating his sadhana of eating only after the ritual reading. Mohanji offered him money. He suggested that it was not necessary. Mohanji insisted and requested the security guard to accept it to which he agreed. He told us that there was a place serving good sattvic (pure) food. He personally got in the car to direct us there and spoke to the owner to serve Mohanji well. He then requested to take Mohanji’s leave as he had to get back to work.
After a sumptuous lunch, Mohanji suggested that we go to the office to buy books in English. We went to the office and spent some time perusing the books and music CDs. We bought the English translation of Swami Samarth’s biography and some Marathi books of Swami Samarth, Shankar Maharaj, etc. After some time, Mohanji decided that it was time to leave. On the way out, I noticed a lone newspaper clipping pinned to center of the wall of the office. Normally, I am not the curious types. My apathic bent becomes even more pronounced when my stomach is full (which is most of the time as Mohanji will vouch for). I am blissfully secure in my ignorance of the world around me which explains the name, Abodhananda, given by Mohanji to me in jest. It means being blissful in one’s own unconsciousness – in reference to my absent-minded nature.
However, something compelled me to read that newspaper clipping. It was in Marathi. It was the commemoration written about the person who headed the trust that handled the banyan tree Samadhi temple complex. He had passed away eight months back in March the same year. He had given 24 years of service to the trust and worked tirelessly to help the pilgrims in every way and make their stay comfortable and memorable. I wasn’t sure if I was seeing things but the photograph of the person in the clipping was very similar to the security guard. The similarity was unmistakable. When I pointed this out to Mohanji, he said that the person did look similar to the security guard and casually mentioned that Swami Samarth had a habit of bringing people back from the dead and making them do certain things. And saying thus, he headed off to the car. This reminds me of my trip with Mohanji to Swami Poornananda’s ashram where Mohanji similarly insisted on buying books in English – a pretext for conveying a divine experience to one of Swami Poornananda’s devotees.
Facts stranger than fiction. It really makes one wonder the nature of reality as we understand it. I take the liberty to copy a paragraph from my previous blog, Miraculous days with Mohanji – Part IV, which sums up my state of disbelief when faced with these experiences.
In retrospect, it makes me wonder. I came in from a tangible world where people, places, objects and situations where what they seemed to be. The scriptures say it is all a grand illusion but it made complete sense to me. They say it is false but it looked “real” to me. Now with Mohanji, I am suddenly introduced to a world where everything is suspect. Nothing is what it seems to be. I was lamenting to a close follower of Mohanji that my world has suddenly gone topsy turvy after being with Mohanji – from the “real” to the “surreal”. 🙂There is a saying in Marathi, “Dista tasa nasta ithech jag fasta” (Everything is not what it seems, hence the world gets fooled). Trees, animals, humans – you are never sure who is lurking in front of you. It is unsettling to say the least. When you look at something, you wonder – is there a holy personage hiding in the form in front of you? Sai Baba wanted his followers to see Him in all beings. With a few episodes like this happening to me, I have suddenly started to venture down that path if not out of understanding then at least out of curiosity. 🙂
What a trip! It started with a darshan of Swami Samarth in his physical body welcoming Mohanji to Akkalkot and ended with a hair (and “dead”) raising experience. That was probably the reason the security guard politely refused food, money or support because he had no need for it. His life was dedicated for selfless service to Swami Samarth and the pilgrims that came to Akkalkot. And he was brought back to do it one more time.
My humble prostrations to Swami Samarth from Akkalkot and to my benevolent Master, Mohanji, for the blissful divine experiences there.
| Shri Swami Samarth Jai Jai Swami Samarth |
| Jai Mohanji |