Arunachala with Shiva

By Ananthanarayanan Sankaran, Australia

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Not many get the chance to visit Arunachala. The call has to come from within, just like a call to visit Kailash or any other powerhouse. When I was planning to visit India in Dec 2017, my only wish was that I get to meet Mohanji and spend few hours with Him if it is possible. I was in touch with the M – Family who asked me if I could make it to Sriperumbudur, abode of Shri. Ganeshanandagiri Baba. As the dates coincided with my departure date, I was disappointed to give it a skip. I was then told that Mohanji might visit Arunachala and if all goes well, I could join. I initially thought Mohanji was on a private visit and that accompanying Him might not be possible, but later to my joy, I was told that Gurulight was organizing “Arunachala with Mohanji”  program from Dec 24th until 27th.

My joy knew no bounds at the thought of being in Arunachala with Shiva Himself, my dream slowly coming to life. I knew it was not going to be easy for me given I would land it India a day prior (Dec 23rd) in Bangalore and then travel to Arunachala by road within 1 day of arrival. 

Here is a brief personal account of my journey to Arunachala and witnessing the Grace called Mohanji that’s ever flowing. 

About Arunachala:

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Thiruvannamalai a.k.a. Arunachala is considered as the “Kailash of the South”. Here, Lord Shiva takes the form of Fire and hence the Shivalingam at Arunachaleswara temple is called as the “Agni Lingam”. 

Shri. Ramana Maharishi, in his book Arunachala Mahatmyam says, ” By merely thinking of Arunachala, one will surely attain Liberation.” 

Before traveling to Arunachala: At “Divyarasa”

I got in touch with Madhu who was coordinating the journey from Chennai to know the team’s whereabouts so that I could join them while they were near Arunachala. However, Mohanji had other plans. I called up Madhu around 11 am on Dec 24th only to be told that they had just started from Chennai and might take a while before they arrive. Since I knew the local language (Tamil), I was asked to go to the Hotel and ensure if things were in order before the rest of the family arrive. 

I arrived at the Hotel venue around noon, warmly welcomed by front staff and a beautiful white dove, sitting gracefully at the front-desk as if waiting for Mohanji to arrive. Hotel staff were already getting the rooms ready and I jumped into the act, checking the rooms, facilities available, room allocations and the hall where a Satsang was planned in the evening.

It was not just the dove that was waiting, but 4 beautiful dogs were also waiting for their Master. The sight of them roaming around the entrance clearly suggested the connection between Mohanji and nature, a true AVADHOOTA who is one with nature at all times.2_Dove 3_dog_waiting_for_Mohanji.jpg

Judith was the first one to arrive at the venue as she had reached Arunachala a couple of days ago and had spent some time in the lap of Arunachala high up in the mountain. She then introduced me to Mani who is native of Thiruvannamalai and takes care of a cave at the top of the hill.  

Without any description, Judith introduced me to Mani. As soon as I went near Mani, I started breathing heavily, words didn’t come out of my mouth as I had a strong energy pull towards him. We hardly spoke any words but connected well. Judith then told me about Mani’s guru, an avadhoota himself residing up the mountain and that Mani, getting to know about Mohanji through Judith, had come to seek His blessings. 

Mohanji, along with 20 other people reached Arunachala and true to His nature, wasted no time. After a brief refreshment, we headed straight to “Divyarasa,” a residential commune in the lap of Arunachala with selfless service, love and acceptance as its spiritual core principles. 

It was truly a special moment to witness Mohanji spending time with the children and planting trees on the divine land where our beloved Guruji Avadhoota Nadanandaji had performed Bhoomi Pooja.

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While chatting with Mohanji at Divyarasa, He conveyed His decision of not travelling in 2019 and that it was high time we focus on Ashrams. We were casually talking about various countries and options for Ashrams. I would like to highlight that Mohanji was scheduled to visit Australia after completing the Peru trip (in April 2018).

While we were discussing about Ashrams, I didn’t say a word but I was looking at Mohanji’s eyes and He casually said, “Don’t look at me like this. I am not coming to Australia, I heard there are lots of snakes there.” I smiled and told Him, “That’s Ok Father. I will come wherever You are.” He simply smiled and nodded His head. The conversation then went on to other subjects. As you would have realized, Mohanji didn’t visit Australia due to various reasons and I was blessed to spend blissful 10 days with Mohanji in Peru, a blog on it will soon make its way with His blessings.

This is yet another reminder that a Master’s word should never be taken lightly or ever be discarded. He might be joking with you, but every word He utters is a word of consciousness which should be grabbed with attention. 

The Journey – Arunachala Inner Kora Parikrama:

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People who have visited Arunachala would be familiar with “Girivalam” a.k.a. circumambulation around the Arunachala Hills. It’s a well-laid path of 14 km where thousands of people take this pilgrimage during a full-moon day (Pournami). However, very few would know about the Inner Kora of Arunachala, a path via the forest that takes you closer to the Arunachala Hills from where we could spot Ganesha’s face, Shiva and His family on the mountains surrounding the Arunachala Hills.

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Forest officials have stopped giving permission for people to enter this path citing earlier problems including people burning down a portion of the forest. When Shiva Himself is visiting the land, there were no such permission denials.

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We started our parikrama accompanied by Madhurai Swamigal who had just come to Arunachala from a distant location. The first meeting between Mohanji and the Swamigal at the Arunachaleswara temple main complex was truly special. We could see HUMILITY and GRATITUDE overflowing when Mohanji touched Swamigal’s feet and Swamigal doing the same to Mohanji. Later, Mohanji during one of the casual conversations told me the significance of Him touching Swamigal’s feet. He said,

“This should be our nature, being HUMBLE. Did you recall how Swamigal addressed himself as “Pichaikaaran” (beggar)? Remaining humble is a clear sign that you are on the right path. This conveys that there is no EGO attached. “

We must have crossed 2 streets and I was trying to keep up to the speed of Mohanji and Swamigal who were leading from the front. I noticed a person on the opposite side raising his hands above his head and offering his pranaams to Mohanji. I also saw that Mohanji raised His hands and blessed him while continuing His walk. As a casual observer, you would completely ignore this person as he was wearing a cloth that was fully stained by mud and his physical appearance would make you not go near him.

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The very minute Mohanji raised His hands to bless this individual, I saw Rajesh Kamath running to meet this person and I followed Rajesh. The moment we went near him, I had shocks all over my body. The energy around this person was giving me goosebumps. He smelt of alcohol, his clothes were soiled, all clear signs of “don’t go near him” for the normal eye, but a SAGE/SADHU/AVADHOOTA for the eyes that could see.

Rajesh offered him some dhakshina (offering) and he bowed down to collect the amount saying, “Oh twenty Rupees, that’s a big dhakshina for me.” I had carried some biscuit packets with me and immediately took a pack and offered it to him. He looked at me and said (in English), “Life’s a play, enjoy it. All your wishes will be fulfilled.” He followed this by saying “Land, wand sab kuch ho jayega” (Land will happen). The moment he told me this, I could recollect the conversation we had with Mohanji the previous day (at Dhivyarasa) about Ashrams and securing land for the same.

We ran again to join the group and entered the forest during the dawn of the day. Swamigal, followed by Mohanji were leading from the front and it was very difficult for the rest of the group to keep up to their speed. As we were walking through the forest, the group found it difficult to stay on track as it had thorny bushes, water streams and occasional mud surfaces. Some of the participants really struggled and I stayed at the end to ensure no one was left behind. 

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We reached a pool that was in a dissolute state and next to it was a cave. The Swamigal accompanying us shared some insights about this cave where a sadhu had been observing penance for a long time before the forest officials forcefully brought him out of the cave. There were lots of monkeys surrounding this cave. As a couple of us started to go inside the cave, the monkeys became aggressive and made lots of noise. Mohanji immediately stopped us from entering and said these monkeys were guarding the cave and we shouldn’t bother them.

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As we continued our parikrama around the Arunachala Hills, chants such as Om Namah Shivaya! and “Arunachala Shiva, Arunachala Shiva, Arunachala Shiva, Aruna Shiva Om!” kept us going in a terrain that tested everyone’s perseverance. During this walk, we could witness Grace ever flowing as support came from various quarters to the people who were struggling to walk through the forest. We had darshans of Ganesha and Nandi on the Hills and our Arunachala (Mohanji) ensured everybody was safe.

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We reached a point where we could get a clear darshan of the Arunachala Hills. Mohanji advised everyone to sit and meditate. He added,

“In Arunachala, your only wish should be to attain the state of “Nir Vichara Samadhi.” In Arunachala, Shiva takes the form of Fire and He burns everything to ashes.” 

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Without giving any insights, we shared the picture of Mohanji meditating facing the Arunachala Hills and the following is an experience shared by Subhasree Thottungal:

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“Just by looking at Mohanji in this picture brought in so much calmness and peace. I zoomed in, and looking at a close up view of Mohanji’s face showed complete silence! Para Brahma Swaroop (vision of Para Brahma) became crystal clear. The silence and peace brought a light within me and I slowly started to disappear. I felt myself merging into Para Brahma, in His space, in that moment. Words will not do justice to explain the state that this pic took me to. Few moments of gazing at this pic took me to being with Mohanji at Arunachala. Thank you Mohanji for being with us always and keeping us with You always. Koti Pranam.” 

Mohanji was in an expanded state during the parikrama and we were blessed with a mini-Satsang at the same spot. Mohanji went on to explain about various Siddhas living inside the Arunachala Hills in Sukshma form and every word uttered by Mohanji made everyone go deeper within themselves and experience the STILLNESS of mind.

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Realisation after Arunachala Parikrama:

Upon returning to the hotel after the parikrama, I was told that Mohanji had slipped  a couple of times and was having some uneasiness. I went to Mohanji’s room and started pressing His feet. I inquired about the injury and He casually said,

“It is my job. I had to take this so that others complete their parikrama.”

I wasn’t surprised when a couple of pilgrims told me that they were very certain they couldn’t have completed the parikrama if not for Mohanji. One of the participants had a troubled knee and I knew Mohanji carried every one of us. A true Master never lets His disciples down, EVER. He takes on everything for the ones who have full faith in Him.

I was also sharing with Him about the meeting of the Sadhu earlier in the morning and Mohanji gave the following explanation: 

He (the Sadhu) is from the Hills. He doesn’t live here, he was sent by Arunachala Himself. There are 3 forms through which we get signs/messages or answers to our burning questions:

1)     A thought (or) a casual conversation will give clarity to your question

2)    When higher beings (or) consciousness wants to contact us, they speak through someone (i.e.) they takeover someone for a brief time to convey the message. It happened today through the Sadhu we met this morning. This is because, they wouldn’t want to take a physical form to convey a message as they will have to live with its limitations (physical body).

3)    Taking a physical body (birth). This is when an Avtar is born for a larger cause.”

 Mohanji went on to tell me that,

“I am sure that the Ashrams will happen. Not one but many.”

Few months since this meeting , there has already been great progress! The Ashram in Canada has been inaugurated by Mohanji in August 2018 and idols of Lord Dattatreya, Shirdi Sai Baba and Lord Ganesha have been consecrated with regular rituals taking place. One more Ashram in Serbia has already come to possession. Another Ashram land has been registered in Serbia; an Ashram land in Slovenia is being finalized and an Ashram land  in Shirdi has already been registered! In less than a year, we can see what Mohanji uttered that time has been coming in full force!

I couldn’t stay with Mohanji at Arunachala beyond two days as I had to return to Bangalore for some personal work. But as it would always happen with Mohanji, not once did I feel the fatigue, hunger or tiredness. I would have slept for no more than 2-3 hours but the energy levels were always high. 

The trip did leave an everlasting impact on me. I had been to Thiruvannamalai a couple of time earlier, but never once had felt such a strong connection and there’s a deep desire to visit the holy land with Mohanji once again with His Grace. 

Slowly, I have come to a realisation that every pilgrimage with Mohanji is like moving from one grade to another. He gives you exactly the amount that you could digest and when you have finished, He himself calls you and gives you the next amount. I can only recollect Shirdi Sai Baba’s verses

“However distant my people may be, I draw them to me just as we pull a bird to us with a string tied to its foot.”

Likewise, our beloved Father, Parabrahma Swaroopa Mohanji pulls you near Him, blesses you and gives you exactly what you could handle/understand. While my laundry list of wishes to Him never goes down, my inner-self is fully aware that He alone exists and that I seek nothing except to be at His feet and at the lap of the Guru Mandala.

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Thank you, Mohanji, for all these wonderful experiences you have given us in these divine journeys. Deep inside me, I know nothing except You. You alone exist in me. I surrender everything at Your Holy Feet.

||JAI BRAHMARISHI MOHANJI||

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The Boy who Walked with Sai Baba – Shadows of Grace – Part II

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By Rajesh Kamath

This is the second part on Baba Ganeshananda Giri Maharaj (respectfully and lovingly addressed as Babaji). For those who came in late, please read the first part here.

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Moving on from where we left. We proceeded with Mohanji on our year-end road trip through the south of India. Babaji, as planned, concluded his Shirdi trip and moved back to Chennai in the first week of January. In between, Babaji called Mohanji and invited him to Chennai in the last week of January. Mohanji chose to be in Chennai on January 30th. We proceeded to Chennai from Palakkad via Coimbatore.

When we arrived, we found that Babaji had personally come to receive Mohanji along with members of the Shri Dattatreya Siva Sai Trust (the trust He founded to build the Sai Baba temple on the outskirts of Chennai in Sriperumbudur). Babaji honored Mohanji with garlands and a shawl at the airport and embraced him lovingly. The picture of them hugging each other is one of Mohanji’s favorite pictures. The mutual all-encompassing love and respect that the Masters had for each other were there for all to see.

Babaji first took us to the Shri Dattatreya Siva Sai trust office where we were introduced to all the members of the trust where they  (along with Babaji) shared the details of the temple construction project. After this Babaji took us to the altar within the trust office and performed Shirdi Sai Baba’s aarti.

Babaji had ensured that Mohanji was booked into five-star hotel. While Mohanji gently pointed out that the extra expense was unnecessary, and that he would have loved to stay with Babaji, and that there was no need to be honoured like this, Babaji insisted that  Mohanji had no say in this matter and insisted that it had to be done like this since this was the specific instruction he received fromSai Baba, including Mohanji’s stay at  the Grand Hyatt.

At the hotel, Babaji came all the way up to inspect Mohanji’s room and the bathroom. He smilingly told Mohanji that this was the first time he had set foot in a five star hotel! He was showering us with a lot of love, grace, and blessings. After he blessed Mohanji in the hotel room, he took both of Mohanji’s hands and placed it on his third eye. He asked Mohanji to rest a while to alleviate the fatigue from the travel, saying he would meet Mohanji in the evening at his temporary residence in Chennai and that he had arranged for Mohanji to be picked up and dropped there. Mohanji later mentioned, “Meeting Babaji was always overwhelming and the way He honoured me was also totally unexpected. Perhaps you can also see how much weight I have lost”. Someone commented that the love showered by Babaji on Mohanji was similar to that showered on Mohanji by Sri Vittalananda Saraswati (Vittal Babaji) a couple of years back in Kuruvapuram. While I wasn’t there to witness Vittal Babaji and Mohanji together, I have been witness to the immense love and affection showered on Mohanji by Masters like Swamy Vasudevanji of Ganeshpuri, Devi Amma from Bangalore, Vanamala Mataji from Rishikesh, Avadhoota Nadanandaji from Kurnool, etc.

In the evening, some of the trust members dropped us at Babaji’s temporary residence in Chennai. The Masters had a long discussion where Babaji shared his detailed plans for the Sai Baba temple that he was constructing in Sriperumbudur on the outskirts of Chennai. The trust members also discussed the current progress of the construction. In the course of the discussion, Babaji honoured Mohanji by requesting him to preside over and lay the foundation stone of the temple. Mohanji readily agreed, saying that he was a loyal servant of Sai Baba and that he considered it his duty to obey any command coming from Sai Baba. Babaji asked Mohanji to provide him with 10 tons of steel, 500 bags of cement and 4-5 truckloads of gravel. That was Babaji’s way. He hardly made any requests. You were just told what he was to be done and your acceptance of the chosen task was implicitly assumed. Mohanji immediately told Babaji that it would be provided before the foundation laying ceremony.

This was followed by an informal satsang where Babaji shared some of his insights on the Guru disciple relationship. He said, “Always follow the Guru no matter what. He may love you, beat you, scold you, hurt you – no matter what never leave the protection of a real Guru. If a Guru tells you to jump into a well and die, do it without thinking. The Guru will never let you get hurt. He will pick you out as gently as one would a flower. He who understands that the Guru’s scolding and hurting takes away lifetimes of karma will never leave the Guru. The one who leaves a true Guru is most unfortunate. He is forever in darkness – neither here nor there. That is why Baba always recommended shraddha (faith) and saboori (patience) as the essential qualities of in a disciple. Remember His name, live His teachings, follow His word – nothing will ever touch you. Anything or anyone that tries to harm you will be destroyed.” He also mentioned that the rudraksha is alive. It’s food is til (sesame) oil. You are supposed to soak the rudraksha in til oil a day before Amavasya (the new moon) and remove it the day after. Subsequently, Mohanji soaked the rudraksha given to him by Babaji as per his instructions and half the oil in the container disappeared. So his observation was indeed true.

Interestingly, most photos taken while the Masters were chatting showed light bodies hovering over them. In one photograph Shirdi Sai Baba and Lord Hanuman could be clearly seen. IMG_20160130_194749_HDR.jpgIt was very overwhelming to be in the loving presence of both the Masters. Both Masters spoke in languages alien to me – Babaji spoke in Tamil while Mohanji spoke in Malayalam. I was curious how they understood each other. Mohanji answered my unspoken question saying that he spoke Malayalam with a Tamil accent and Babaji spoke Tamil in a Malayalam accent. That’s how they understood each other. 🙂

Soon it was time for us to leave. Babaji literally showered Mohanji and all of us with lots of love and blessings as we departed for the hotel. He insisted that he wanted to come to drop us to the airport. However, as we had an early morning flight,  we entreated Babaji not to do so since he needed proper rest especially considering his punishing work schedule.

One of the concerns I had as I left the meeting was getting the material required by Babaji. There was a considerable cost involved and it wasn’t like we were rolling in cash. Mohanji just said, “The material has been requested by Sai Baba (since Babaji was not any different from Shirdi Sai Baba). Hence, Shirdi Sai Baba will provide for it Himself and there is nothing to worry.” Madhusudan Rajagopalan (aka Madhu), the person tasked with delivering Babaji’s request, has separately documented the amazing way in which the funds, resources, and people materialized to fulfill Babaji’s request in the book on Babaji, The Boy who Walked with Sai Baba. (People who are interested in buying a copy of the book  can email the publisher, Gurulight, at info@gurulight.com)

Mohanji subsequently left on his overseas tours while I returned to Dharamshala. It was wonderful to receive Babaji’s New Year packet of blessings which contained Sai Baba’s udi (holy ash), neem (margosa) leaves from Gurusthan and a picture of Babaji/Sai Baba with Babaji’s favorite mantra ‘Om Shri Sai Sharanam mama‘ (I seek refuge in Sai). Of course, it was filled with his wonderful heartfelt blessings. Babaji also sent the invitation cards for the foundation stone laying ceremony that prominently featured Mohanji as one of the luminaries attending the function. Mohanji had instructed a few of us in the group like Madhu, to stay in regular touch with Babaji. If we didn’t call him regularly, he would get chide us saying that we guys had become so busy that we didn’t call anymore! He would then excitedly update us on the progress of the temple construction and his plans for the near future. He would always enquire, “Where is my Mohanji these days?” and get a detailed update on Mohanji’s whereabouts, health, programs, travel plans, etc. He was always interested in knowing when Mohanji was coming back to India. If we called him with the slightest issue, he would tell us, “Why do you worry? I am standing behind Mohanji. My Guru is standing behind Mohanji. What more do you want? Nothing can affect you people.”

He also chided me to do more sadhana. He would say that you should do 10-15min of sadhana first thing in the morning as soon as you wake up straight out of bed. The same before going to bed. As you get accustomed to the practice, you can increase the duration gradually. When you end the call, he would have a long extended blessing that would last a minute or more. So much love and kindness poured out of him for us that it was truly moving. He was such a sweet and loving kindred soul to us which was very unlike the fierce imposing exterior that he projected for others. We felt that it was our association with Mohanji that afforded us this outlook from Babaji. For Babaji, we were Mohanji’s children. Hence, he extended his blanket of love and protection over us as well.

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Babaji was working at breakneck speed preparing for the foundation stone laying ceremony. He was planning the function to the minutest detail. This was also taking a toll on his health but that did not stop him from continuing with his backbreaking schedule. It was his all-consuming passion to deliver on the promise he made to his Guru. He was involved in every aspect of the temple project – planning, fundraising, marketing, construction, etc. Leading from the front and rallying the troops to deliver it with the perfection that was expected by his Guru, Shirdi Sai Baba. It was all he thought about in his waking hours and possibly also while he was sleeping.

Soon it was time for the foundation stone laying ceremony. Mohanji and our group arrived in Chennai the evening before the ceremony and headed straight to Sriperumbudur. Once we reached the temple land, we headed straight to Babaji’s kutir (cottage) on the land. It was a standalone house with one room and an attached bathroom. This was the command center from where Babaji directed all the efforts for the temple construction. As you enter the house, there is a giant Shivling in the space between the gate and the door of the house. Babaji would perform an abhishekam of the Shivling daily. We were told that the construction folks had advised Babaji that the soft land would not be able to take the weight of the Shivling and it would start sinking very soon. Hence, it was inadvisable to install the Shivling there. Babaji purportedly told them to do as directed and he would take care of any eventualities. [Almost a year on, the Shivling continues to stand on solid ground and nothing has happened to it or the ground below.]

As we entered, Babaji greeted us. Mohanji prostrated at Babaji’s feet and then Babaji embraced Mohanji. Since it was late in the night, he checked to see if we had our dinner. All the hard work for the ceremony was showing on him – he looked shaken but not stirred. He gave Mohanji an update on what he had planned for the ceremony. He then asked Mohanji and our group to accompany him so he could show us all the arrangements. He took Mohanji’s hand and started walking out the door to the place where the ceremony was to be conducted. He was suddenly like a young teenager sprinting out of the door with us in hot pursuit.

They were expecting a few thousand people in attendance. At the venue itself, arrangements had been made to accommodate several thousand visitors, including their seating, food and sanitation. A big stage had been erected with different areas – some had the different idols that were to be eventually housed in the temple, one had all the Sai Baba statues, there was a place where intricately decorated pots were kept, and so on. The entire place was abuzz with activity – priests were getting the place and ingredients ready for the ceremonial rites, huge garlands were being woven, workers were busy putting the final touches, etc. The preparations for the pooja were in full swing – the statues for the various deities were arranged on the stage (including Sai Baba, Ganesha, Dattatreya, Rama, Hanuman, Shaneeswara, Kala Bhairava, Shiva, Maha Vishnu, Mahalakshmi among others), the ceremonial kalashes (urns) were being readied and the homa kund (fire ceremony pit) was being prepared. The center of the stage was where the dignitaries were to be seated. In front of that was an open area where artists would perform. Towards the right of that place was the area where the ceremonies were to be conducted. Babaji enthusiastically updated us with all the details of the preparations so far, the flow of the program and ceremonies that were to be held tomorrow. He then walked us back to his house.

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Our photographer Palak who was in Babaji’s face all the while trying to get the right expressions asked Babaji if he was bothered by her constant clicking. Babaji laughed and said, “My dear child, only Sai Baba bothers me. He doesn’t let me eat, drink, rest, sleep, bathe and keeps me on my toes. Only He bothers me and no one else.” Babaji then briefly discussed our stay arrangements, meeting times for tomorrow and asked a couple of trustees to ensure that everything was taken care of in terms of our stay. We then headed back to the accommodation.

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The next day we reached early for the ceremony. It was a truly elaborate affair. Once Babaji, along with Mohanji, reached the venue, the ceremony started with the team of priests invoking Lord Ganesha for his blessings. The ceremony started with an elaborate yagna (sacred fire ritual) where different kinds of offerings were made to the various deities to the chanting of vedic mantras. Several priests sat around the sacrificial fire chanting mantras in unison as other priests prepared and placed the offerings into the fire. The poojas and homas included Sri Ganapathy Homa, Sri Mahalakshmi pooja, Sri Maha Mrityunjaya Homa, Sri Maha Sudarshana Homa, Sri Jayadurga pooja, and Sri Navagraha Shanthi Homa. While these homas were conducted, a leading singer also performed bhajans for the audience and raised the feeling of devotion among all present.This went on for a few hours.

This was followed by worshipping the cow as a representation of the Eternal Mother. Most human beings are brought up by being breastfed by their mother followed by cow’s milk. Hence, the cow takes up the role in most of our lives. Moreover, the cow is probably the only animal that releases no toxins. Its urine is used in a host of preparations in Ayurveda and it’s dung serves as a disinfectant and insect repellant. In most villages in India, the floor of the house and the porch is smeared with cow dung. Further, Mohanji mentioned that the cow was kept in most traditional Indian houses in the past because it kept negative elements at bay and prevented them from entering the house. Hence, the cow is worshiped as an embodiment of the Eternal Mother in most rituals. A cow and its calf were brought over for the occasion. Mohanji and Babaji fed the cow and its calf with their own hands. They first fed it bananas and then the food that was cooked for the occasion. The Masters then performed kanya puja – worshipping nine girls representing Navadurga (the nine forms of Goddess Durga). This pooja is symbolic of worshipping the Divine Mother, the pure basic creative force of nature. The young girls symbolize purity and innocence, the overriding characteristics of the Divine Mother. The Masters symbolically washed their feet, garlanded them, gave them gifts and adornments and took their blessings.

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After these ceremonies were completed, Swamiji and Mohanji then proceeded to perform the stone laying ceremony. The place where the foundation stone was supposed to be laid was a short distance away from where the stage was setup. Babaji and Mohanji and some of the trustees went in a golf cart, with us surrounding them to prevent devotees from approaching them for blessings, requests, etc. At a chosen spot, a deep pit had been dug for this purpose. Once we reached there, Babaji himself stepped into the pit that was set up and the foundation stone laying ceremony began. Swamiji  sanctified it with the offerings from the kalashes (urns), and then placed bricks which had been purified from the homas and poojas done earlier. Babaji placed the yantras and all the sacred objects in the pit in the right locations and facing the right directions. The foundation stone was placed on the exact spot. It was covered by all the sacrificial offerings and ingredients. Finally, it was to be covered with udi (sacred ash) from Shirdi. Babaji had got a huge amount of udi from Shirdi but due to some mixup, the organizers misplaced the udi and it did not make it to the site. Babaji was furious and berated them angrily. There was a mad scramble to locate udi among the people that had congregated around the pit. Surprisingly, not one person had a single packet. Just at that moment, there was a person who suddenly appeared behind Mohanji and immediately offered us a packet of udi. We handed it to Mohanji and he handed it to Babaji. Babaji placed it on the stone and then covered it up with other sacred ash. The bricks were then placed over the foundation stone and the pit was covered.

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Babaji got out of the pit and got into the golf cart with Mohanji. He was livid at the turn of events. He had planned this event to excruciating detail. Hence, a glaring mistake causing the most important thing to be missed out really enraged him. The single packet of udi had averted it but Babaji was still not satisfied. He expected everything to go like clockwork. As we were headed back, one of the attendees tried to get clever and snuck in around the golf cart in the guise of protecting Babaji and quickly moved in to touch his feet and get his blessings. Babaji swung his arm and with his open palm nicely whacked him square on back of the head with a resounding thud and pushed him out. Like they show in the Batman comics. Bam! Pow! The poor guy was spinning around for a while after receiving this heavy prasad (consecrated offering). Must have definitely knocked some of his latent hard-to-erase karma and some sense into him that you can’t force your way with someone like Babaji.

This was followed by the program where the dignitaries were brought on stage and felicitated one by one by Babaji. Through the entire proceedings, Babaji sat next to Mohanji and held his hand most of the time. The dignitaries had quite a few heavyweights – a central cabinet minister, a state cabinet minister, other local political heavyweights, people from the film fraternity and other leading personalities. The trust had done a wonderful job of spreading awareness of the function, with press coverage in leading magazines, and posters and billboards on the route to the venue. There were letters from the governor of the state, the chief minister of the state and the president of the country that conveyed their inability to attend and their best wishes for the event. There were speeches from the main dignitaries. This was followed by an artistic and captivating Bharatanatyam dance program by a noted dancer and his troupe. The dance troupe was felicitated by the dignitaries. There was a detailed talk about the temple project by the trust chairman. Finally, the program concluded with a vote of thanks by the trust chairman and the other trustees followed by a delectable lunch which was consumed as prasad (consecrated offering). The function had over 7000 visitors on the day. All the visitors received blessings from Swamiji and all the other saints on stage. Every visitor partook of food as prasad and returned home, nourished from every perspective. Throughout the function, Swamiji held Mohanji close to him holding his hand wherever possible, a clear sign of his deep love and affection for Mohanji.

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The following day we met at Babaji’s house on the temple land. Barring minor issues, the foundation ceremony went really well. With that out of the way, Babaji looked a lot more relieved. The weight of conducting this ceremony was off his shoulders. He had been tirelessly working nonstop for a long time to plan every little detail to ensure its smooth functioning and execution. Babaji told Mohanji that he was revising and expanding the trust and he had asked Sai Baba to decide on his behalf. He had placed chits with the names of all the people INCLUDING himself in front of Sai Baba. The first chit that came up had his own name. The second one had Mohanji’s name. And then the others. So he said that Mohanji had to be one of the trustees along with him. Mohanji told Babaji that he would not be able to perform his duties properly since he was out of the country most of the time. Since these were Sai Baba’s wishes, Babaji insisted that Mohanji be part of the trust and, keeping in mind the issues, asked him to be the chief advisor of the trust. To honor Sai Baba and Babaji’s wishes, Mohanji agreed without further discussion.

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As per Sai Baba’s instructions, Babaji’s Samadhi place was to be in Sriperumbudur in the same complex as the temple. Mohanji told Babaji and the trust people that the details of Babaji’s samadhi plans must be recorded at the earliest. He even requested Babaji to ensure that it is done without delay.  Out of their love for Babaji, the trustees were emotional about Mohanji’s request and even complained to Babaji that Mohanji had requested them to do it but they knew that Babaji would be with them for a long time, and definitely until the temple was completed. Babaji, at that time, chided them that if Mohanji is asking them to do something, then there must be some significance. They should always keep that in mind and do as he says rather than getting emotional. These words were to soon prove prophetic indeed. Mohanji had also reminded Babaji several times of the need to ensure that his Samadhi instructions had to be recorded by him in the presence of witnesses and recorded on paper so that there was no confusion regarding his preferences. It was a very interesting and objective discussion between the Masters, the morbid nature of the discussion notwithstanding.

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After all the discussions, we took Babaji’s leave and his blessings and then headed to Chennai. One interesting scenario we would face in Chennai or Sriperumbudur was the lion and lamb aspect of Babaji. He was fire when it came to getting Sai Baba’s work done. Yet, anyone coming from Mohanji would be pampered with a lot of love, kindness and respect. Hence, when we would come down to meet him in Chennai or Sriperumbudur, he would enquire very kindly of our travels and if we managed to get there safely. Then he would turn and scream the head off someone standing there for not doing something properly. Then he would turn and ask if we had our food and ask someone to get us something to eat or just coffee. Then again he would turn and scream the crap out of someone else who turned up with some other issue. It would almost happen in lockstep and was very hilarious and unsettling. It did drill unto us the fact that Babaji’s loving treatment of us was extremely special and a blessing that we received only due to our Guru Mohanji’s grace.

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I settled back in Dharamshala after the ceremony and Mohanji was back on his overseas tour. I was in regular touch with Babaji every other week in the beginning and that started to reduce as I got busy with work. One day, I got a call from Madhu early in the morning that Babaji had taken samadhi (Verb – a saint’s conscious exit from the body). Babaji was going through a lot of friction in the temple project and that was causing him much consternation. But, as the temple trust folks said, we thought he would be with us till he built the temple. We just couldn’t believe it. Out of the blue. Just like that. It was a day when I had woken up very late and was feeling lost and listless. I also did not feel like doing any sadhana. Probably a subconscious cognizance of Babaji’s samadhi!

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Mohanji had asked Madhu to head over immediately to help out with the Samadhi preparation. And the obvious issue was what Mohanji had been dreading all along from the earliest – a lack of clear direction from Babaji regarding his Samadhi preferences. Madhu mentioned that there was hardly any clarity on how the Samadhi place would be done. He had been asked by Mohanji to call a few established masters on how to setup the Samadhi in such a situation – the rules, rituals, etc. But he was not able to make much headway and proceeded for Chennai without a clue on how to get this done. Just think about it! You are tasked by your Guru to handle the Samadhi of a Master without having a clue. You do it wrong and you have to contend with an upset Babaji who was no longer constrained in the body and His omnipresent Guru Sai Baba. Without a body, he had innumerable ways to get to you and even more ways to kick your butt. Literally up shit creek on a hope and prayer! And then you have to contend with your own Guru who sent you there. Anyways, all kudos to Madhu for handling and tiding over the situation perfectly. By nightfall, things had fallen in place and with the Guru Mandala’s grace, the right people showed up to ensure that Babaji’s Samadhi place would be well prepared for his dispensation ahead. You can read about it in Madhu’s experience sharing in the book on Babaji, The Boy who Walked with Sai Baba. (People who are interested in buying a copy of the book please email the publisher Gurulight at info@gurulight.com)

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Mohanji asked me to head over to Chennai to help Madhu. By the time I figured out that I was supposed to go to Chennai, it was too late to catch the last flight (which was leaving early afternoon) out of Dharamshala. The only option I had was to wait till the evening to take an overnight bus ride to Delhi, catch the morning flight the next day to reach Chennai and then drive down from Chennai to Sriperumbudur. As the evening progressed, things started falling into place and it turned out that the function would start on time early in the morning. And I realized that there was every chance that the Samadhi function would be well over by the time I reached! I am not an outwardly emotional person by nature ( I hide my emotions quite well), yet the tinge of sadness I felt couldn’t be washed it away.

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To add to it, the fact that I would not be able to see Babaji before it was over made it worse. I was praying that through some major quirk of fate, things would get delayed and I would get a chance to be part of the proceedings. I was praying for obstacles to delay the Master’s Samadhi function propelled by the desire to see the body of a Master who had dropped it to be present everywhere in Consciousness. How egotistically weird can that thought be? The ego attempts to feel self-important even in circumstances like these. I have been sent to help over so I must be important and I have an important role to play. Then you realize there is no role to play, which can be emasculating. And then the ego feels I must be important since I got to be part of the proceedings. And even that is not to be. So even more emasculating. The ego attempts its flights of fancy in the oddest of places and circumstances.

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The whole ride was punctuated by moments of sadness, the hope against hope to get there on time to get a glimpse of Babaji and more sadness on realizing the logistical improbability of that occurrence. When I finally reached the temple premises, I saw everyone standing at the Babaji’s Samadhi doing the final aarati to the Samadhi. I rushed to the spot just in the nick of time as they were chanting the final verses. It went down to the wire and I got to register my token presence to the event. Just before the curtain drew to a close. The same way Babaji entered our lives – just before his final bell was being rung.

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It finally dawned on me that Mohanji in his compassionate grace allowed me to be present on the occasion given my connection with Babaji. There was neither any role for me to play nor any higher purpose for me to serve. Mohanji graced us to connect to a Master like Babaji and the resulting grace flowing from Babaji to us was, in reality, the outpouring of grace from Mohanji himself. It is the leela of the one light of Consciousness that shows the illusion of being diffracted to many different hues to suit the temperaments of the duality stricken mind.

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Interestingly, as I am finishing this piece, I realize that it’s been exactly a year to date when Babaji took samadhi. Babaji may have left the body but his indomitable spirit is still ever present in this world (and beyond). We had a vivid experience of this fact when we paid a visit to his Samadhi December last year, a day before his birthday (December 19th). Out of his love for Babaji and his commitment for Babaji’s temple project, Mohanji had given a week out of his extremely busy schedule to the Shri Dattatreya Siva Sai Trust to use for fundraising/promotion, meeting luminaries, garnering attention for the temple project, etc. In short, for the trust to use it as they saw fit to help with the temple project. It was decided to coincide it with his birthday. An elaborate function had been planned on the eve of his birthday that included the release of the book, The Boy who Walked with Sai Baba. The book is a compilation of experiences by people who were acquainted with Babaji through his more than a century of existence on earth.

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There were a bunch of people from various parts of the world who congregated in Chennai to be part of Mohanji’s travelling ‘circus’! Amongst them were the saintly kirtanwallahs – the Ramsells (Natesh and Monnie). Mohanji had asked Natesh to record a ditty for the occasion based on Babaji’s favorite mantra “Om Shri Sai Sharanam mama” (I seek refuge in Sai) and sing it at the birthday function. A day before the function, Mohanji and our group went to Babaji’s Samadhi to seek his blessings and to dedicate the book at his feet before the function. There was a peculiar tiny bird that hovered around us the whole time we were there, following us from Babaji’s kutir to the samadhi. Mohanji placed the offerings and the book on Babaji’s Samadhi and asked Natesh to sing his newly composed number to Babaji at the Samadhi. As Natesh and Monnie sang the beautiful number, a herd of cows grazing in the field came very close to us and stopped at the ditch that separated us and ‘listened’ to the chant. Indeed, as soon as they stopped chanting, the herd went back from whence they had come, going single file like a procession. It was as if they came just to listen to the song.

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When the song ended, Madhu noticed that a strong scent of roses was emanating from the Samadhi. He remembered that they had put in a lot of rose water in the Samadhi when they interred Babaji’s body. However, bear in mind that the Samadhi structure was completely encased in concrete and there is no chance that the smell of rose could come from within the Samadhi. It was Babaji’s way of indicating his acceptance of the offerings, the book and the song. It is similar to the smell of vibhuti that signifies the presence of Sai Baba or the smell of chandan that signifies the presence of Mohanji. For some, the smell lingered all the way to within his kutir as well (which is a good 200-300 meters away from the Samadhi). Maybe an eye opener for those who ever doubted Babaji’s living presence beyond death and for the rest an indication that he is ever present with us even in the beyond – even more so after his samadhi than while living.

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The temple project that Babaji started is also a living indication of his guiding presence from the beyond. It is also moving ahead at a steady clip with his grace and that of his Guru, the great Master Shirdi Sai Baba. The Shri Dattatreya Siva Sai Trust has been slowly but steadily moving to accomplish Babaji’s vision. Annadaan (food donation) that was so dear to Shirdi Sai Baba is happening on a regular basis in the premises. Babaji’s samadhi mandir and the meditation hall have been built and the Sai Baba idol will soon be consecrated and installed in the temple premises. Babaji is working through the trustees to construct the temple premises and through gracious devotees to support the noble cause with their contributions.

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Mohanji had sent across a beautiful idol of Lord Hanumanji for the temple project. It came in a day before Babaji’s samadhi day. He had also arranged for a life size idol of Shirdi Sai Baba to be delivered to the temple. That arrived a couple of days before Babaji’s samadhi day. The trustees welcomed Shirdi Sai Baba to the temple by doing a mahabhishekham (a ritual bathing of the idol) followed by clothing and accessorizing him and decorating the idol followed by a puja (worship) of the idol. The Lord Hanumanji was similarly welcomed. It is an amazing coincidence that both idols came just in time right before Babaji’s samadhi day and were worshipped on that day. It was like Babaji’sa acceptance of Mohanji’s gifts with love.

Finally, Babaji lives within us by being a living example of the teachings of Sai Baba – shraddha (trust) and saboori (patience). In reality, Babaji never existed or existed just as an outer form – inside there was only Shirdi Sai Baba. Every thought was Sai Baba, every word spoken was for Sai Baba, every action done was for Sai Baba. He taught us absolute devotion to the Guru through his total self-effacement by always dedicating every success as a showcase of the prowess of his Guru. There was never a word about himself. Through his nothingness, he showed that he was all-powerful since his Guru had limitless power. Time and time again, he demonstrated his unshakeable trust in the power of his Guru to overcome all odds. There was never an iota of doubt or ego. He completely accepted all circumstances as the gift from the Guru without any complaints – not by preaching but by precept. He had a single-minded focus on his purpose – to spread more awareness about his Guru and to further the teachings of his Guru.

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On the eve of his birthday, I wish Babaji a wonderful birthday 🙂 and prostrate humbly at his feet seeking his blessings that we may one day become like him in this very lifetime. Also, my infinite prostrations to Bramarishi Mohanji for the wonderful gift of his divine presence in our lives and for kicking our butts on the ultimate path of liberation.

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P.S: Those who would like to experience a slice of Babaji can visit his Samadhi in Sriperumbudur. You can also make a pilgrimage to the Room #3 on the first floor of the Sai Balaji Guest House in Shirdi where Babaji mostly stayed when he was in Shirdi.

P.P.S: People who are interested in buying a copy of the book on Babaji, “The Boy who walked with Sai Baba” can email the publisher Gurulight at info@gurulight.com

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