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Incense Sticks

 

INCENSE STICKS

Contents

THE MIDNIGT CALL

BHAKTIBA’S BETTERED BEQUEST

THE TWENTY TICKETS

YOURS TO YOURSELF

SOMERSAULT IN HOLINESS

[][]THE MIDNIGT CALL

The dawn was pleasant and the cool Himalayan breeze had a refereshing effect at that place at a height of 6000 feet known as [_Hanuman Chatti – _]otherwise referred to also as the ‘Gateway of salvation.’

My friend Sri Amarsinhji I and I set ourselves on the steepy and serpentine tracks leading to I [_Badrinarayan – _]the renowned place of pilgrimage seven miles away.

Things were different in those days and the pilgrims had to treck eighteen miles from Joshimutt to reach Badrinarayan. Amenities were few and poorer inhabitants of [_Tehri Garhwal _]and [_Nepal _]earned enough as wages to last them a whole year by carrying pilgrims’ luggage during the five months for which the pilgrimage lasts.

The other beneficial advantages then were, pilgrims learnt the lessons of self-reliance, compulsory physical labour, adapatability, accommodativeness, simplicity and frugal living.

Above all, the general atmosphere in and around Badrinarayan used to be very calm, soothing and uplifting and essential supplies were also cheap and in plenty. For, the holiday crowds and picnic parties from among the affluent never haunted and polluted the place with modern utilities and worldly revelries there.

We moved on with ease for some distance with hundreds of other pilgrims. We had light luggage with us and yet, we chose to engage coolies more with a view to giving them an opportunity to earn.

It was a mini india on the holy march. There were pilgrims from Assam, Andhra, Bengal, Bihar, Cutch, Delhi, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, Kashmir, Kerala, Maharashtra, Madras, Mysore, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Saurashtra and Uttar Pradesh, _]comprising a representative mixture of [_Brahmins, non-Brahmins and Harijans-literate and illiterate both.

We must have covered two miles when from a peak we sighted the dim sun emerging from behind the lofty snow – capped mountains in the east. Though the rays were thin and pale, the light they had shed and spread on the farther high peaks seemed to activate the still and jammed snow.

We kept on surging ahead and the uphill trek was becoming more difficult to ascend and breath-taking. We soon heard from behind ‘Make way for His Holiness, the [Jagatguru Shankaracharyaji Maharaj.’ _]We turned back, stepped aside and saw a gorgeously dressed person in ochre-robes, with three stripes of ashes on his forehead and gold mounted beads and a pair of binoculars around his neck, being borne on a sedan, carried by four coolies, two of his paid aides with a silver staff in the front were now and then announcing the passage of[ Shankaracharya_] and two others from behind were keeping out the flies from pestering his holy person, with a bushy chowry. Two constables from the [_uttar-Pradesh _]government were also in the retinue to protect him.

The announcement neither invoked curiosity nor kindled delight in the batches of pilgrims moving ahead. Instead, we heard someone say, “HERE COMES A LIVE CORPSE”, “SEE, SEE! HOW PLUMP & POMPOUS, THE GULLIBLE HAVE MADE HIM”, said someone else. “HE IS ANOTHER OF THE STAUNCH DEFENDERS OF CASTEISM AND UNTOUCHABILITY”, remarked some educated ladies from Bengal. “WE HAVE NO USE FOR SUCH DRY AND LUXURY-LOVING SPIRITUAL HEADS AND MORE”, was yet another expression of indignation from the crowd. “CALUMNY, COLDLY CAST AGAINST THE CHOSEN AGENTS OF THE DIVINE, CAN ONLY MERIT ONE, A PLACE IN THE WORST OF HELLS”, quipped a poor old Brahmin from a backward province.

Having heard such contemptuous things said against the approaching [Shankaracharya, Amarsinhji _]himself had something to add. He said, “[_Swamiji _]! these pilgrims from different parts of the country have only given expression to the popular feeling. The days of blind faith and subjugation are on the westward course and with the dawn of independence, people in the present time are more educated and their heads have begun to wrench the reins from their hearts. People can no more be exploited and fooled in the name of anything – much less in the name of _God and religion. The citadels of false-beliefs and the nonsensical customs, traditions and religious rituals strong at one time are fast crumbling now. Hence, it behoves these spiritual people to change their attitudes in accordance with the changing times and demands, by remaining aloof from the masses and mainstream of life, one can no more earn the love and respect of the people, through simplicity, accessibility, broad-mindedness, liberal views, and rich inner gains, the preaching class should mix, mingle and that way display a genuine sense of belonging, if they wish to do good to society and safeguard their interest. It isn’t unreasonable to expect this from the leaders, educationists and religious preachers who are the triple architects of human society”. Then he asked, “Now Swamiji! What have you to say?”

Before I could reply, the sedan carrying the Shankaracharya neared us and Sri Amarsinhji and I greeted him. He knew us both and so signaled the carriers to halt for a while. We exchanged pleasantaries and the party of Shankaracharya proceeded on.

Because I had to keep pace with the tortoise-like speed of my obese companion, I was finding the onward move wearisome. To make things worse, he kept on talking even while gasping and he expected vocal acknowledgement of hearing him and as also my remarks with regard to his occasional statements of sorts. I could neither persuade him to hire either a pony or a sedan chair nor could I dissuade him from talking. Someone seemed to have pumped into him the notion that pilgrimages should be undertaken on foot as far as possible.

Even the old and the infirm who had started from the halting place farther than the Hanuman Chatti had overtaken us and we were still far behind.

The remaining distance of two miles to Badrinarayan was a particularly steep as cent and we had to trudge and almost drag ourselves up-losing breath at every forward step. Laboring this way, at long last, we reached the precincts of the holy shrine.

We were about the first batch of pilgrims in the wake of that year’s season and we found no difficulty in procuring a good place of accommodation in the central part of the then less crowded small town of the Himalayas which has no human habitation during the whole of every winter.

A little rest was our foremost need and we stretched ourselves. The worn-out Amarsinhjii fell asleep and was snoring heavily. A short while after noon, [_Amarsinhji _]got up and we partook of the rich sacraments from the temple. I allowed him another round of sleep.

Around 3 p.m. we went to the hot-springs and bathed in one of the cisterns. The water was pretty hot but because of the cold atmosphere it was bearable enough to bathe. We experienced the soothing effect of the sulphur contents of the water, upon our tired limbs. We also felt that long baths in the cisterns induced dizziness.

On our way back to our apartment, Sri Amarsinhji over-heard a [Parsi lady _]proposing to her friends that they should snatch the first opportunity to meet one _Swami Sri Shreyapriya Bharati who was camping in one of the caves near Managaon- a village two miles away from Badrinarayan.

Sri Amarsinhji spoke to that [_Parsi _]sister and by the tempting account she gave of the saint, he too wanted to meet the sage, without much loss of time.

After I had heard him in detail, I said suggestively, “Look, friend! From what you tell me, it is clear enough that Miss Freni, the Parsi sister, is here for the first time, she herself hasn’t met the saint before. We haven’t sufficient data to satisfy ourselves if the information passed on to her by casual informants is so weighty as to prove our visit to the saint as an experience eof profit. Let’s enquire locally and gather more convincing facts, if possible, before undertaking the tiresome trip.” He agreed with me and we decided to go round and enquire about the presence of saintly personalities at Badrinarayan.

As we neared our place of camping, we met the [Rawal, _]the _Keralite Chief priest of Badrinarayan, Amarsinhji approached him and requested for information about saints who could be met at Badrinarayan and particularly questioned if one Swami Shreyapriya Bharati stayed in or around the adjacent Managaon.

The [_Rawal _]parried the points of our query and instead exhorted us to take refuge at the lotus feet of the Lord [_Badrinarayan _]to solve, resolve and absolve all our mundane and spiritual problems,

Our next contact was a prominent pundit from Karma-prayag, who like the members of his class, has a lodging at Badrinarayan and performs religious rituals on behalf of the visiting pilgrims. He gave us a very dismal reply. He said no saint lived in Badrinarayan and the pseudo ones who come during the season, occupying various vantage points, come only to earn gifts from the pilgrims and that they are helped by some unscrupulous local men who do propaganda and conduct pilgrims to them for commission either in cash or clothing. In the same breath, however, he also told us that we were fortunate, for, presently there was an aged Yogi who had come on pilgrimage to bless the devout pilgrims at Badrinarayan. When questioned directly if one Shreyapriyaji was camping at [_Managaon, _]he replied that he did not know if any such bellyfiller stayed there. His general tone gave us the impression that he himself might be one amongst the very type of commission agents in the employ of the fake monks he had earlier spoken to us about.

All the same, we went along with him to meet the old [yogi. _]Shortly, we were in the presence of a good looking person. He was robust, tall and well dressed with a number of rosaries around his neck and ashes applied to his forehead. He received us with a beaming smile and in the process it was observed that he slightly bit the lower end of his lip one of the peculiar traits of deceivers when welcoming. From the tray near hi, he proffered us coffee and while we were sipping from it, he gave us a short hanky panky discourse on _Kaivalyopanishad.

Amarsinhji seemed to have a feeling that he had met the old yogi somewhere. So, Amarsinhji put a straight question to him and was satisfied that the old person we were with had visited [Amarsinhji’s _]mother a few years back and had collected from her some amount in the name of building a caravansary at [_Badrinarayan. _]And later, we also learnt that he happened to be the paternal uncle of the _pundit who had taken us to him. They stood exposed as cheats and the uncle and nephew recoiled in embarrassment.

The [pandas _]of _Badrinarayan are in the habit of visiting the houses of pilgrims with whom they happen to come in touch during the pilgrimage season and that way they collect monies on the false pretexts of building houses of shelter for pilgrims and feeding the poor in and around the Himalayan shrine.

On the next morning, [_Amarsinhji _]happened to meet [_Miss Freni _]and her friends and got it confirmed from them that [_Swami Sreyapriya _]was camping in one of the vaces near [_Managaon _]and that they were all to visit him that afternoon.

The open minded Amarsinhjii consulted me and we too joined them. They were five all ladies and all of them were graduates from Bombay. We commenced our trip to Managaon. After a tiresome trekking, we first reached a wayside cave where we met one Apoorvanandji whose name literally, in [_Sanskrit, _]means ‘a person in a state of extraordinary bliss.’

The only extraordinariness about him was that we found him relentlessly beating a dog which had drunk all the milk he had kept for providing tea or coffee to his visitors. There were half a dozen other pilgrims with him then and they all pleaded in vain for the already bleeding dog. It required the chiding intervention of Miss Freni to calm the enraged man in ochre-robes.

We moved on and finally reached the cave where the saint of our quest was staying.

[_Swami Sri Shreyapriyaji _]was all alone in that apacious sphere-shaped cave. His lean figure was somewhat emaciated and yet his face lit with a smile was charming and made us all feel that his inner delight was surging to express itself in his countenance. He welcomed us with outstretched hands and motioned us to sit.

All of us bowed to him and sat around him. None of us spoke and the saint himself remained motionless. The cave exuded a pervasive calm, it was soothing and we felt a pull towards him all the more. The otherwise talkative [_AmarsinhjiI _]was also silent and I saw no traces of boredom on his face.

[_Miss Freni _]broke the silence by making some casual enquiries about the saint’s headquarters and as to how long he had been in that cave.

The first gush of words by way of his short reply to them, revealed his evenly set sparkling teeth and his voice carried with it the sweetness of an individual of peace and refinement.

We were told that he was an itinerant individual with no permanent place of habitation and that he visited Badrinarayan once in a few years for a long spell of halt there.

I expected Amarsinhji to strike a conversation with the saint and that way prepare the ground, involving the saint in tackling questions on diverse matters of vital interest. For, I had known Amarsinhji as commanding a rare knack of putting well-phrased and intelligent questions and they seemed to come to him easier than the falling of the eyelids.

But, instead, it was Miss Freni again who put this leading question. “If it is not particularly taxing your time reserved for higher personal pursuits and at the same time, if you view it not as a n attempt on our part to pry into personal matter, may we be privileged to hear from you the various circumstances and considerations which have collectively prompted you to take to this ascetic life?”.

It was a very pertinent question. One which anyone would want to put especially to persons who are found to be leading a different and seemingly a difficult life. We were of the opinion that replies so got from such introvert individuals, would be not only interesting but very often, inspiring too.

We looked forward to some such thing and [_Sri Shreyapriyaji _]granted us a generous peep into his life by giving us the following impressive information, after a brief pause.

“The details affecting my switch over to monastic life is crowded with evidently enigmatic, enlivening and enlightening episodes and they form an integral part of my very being that I cannot feign to have forgotten them.”

I ruminate over them all reflectively now and then and that way draw strength to speed up my spiritual journey. Though I haven’t had occasion to fully recount them to anyone before, yet, it would not be unprofitable to me if I did so now.”

Adding to our erlier impression of him, what we had further observed of him in his manner his sitting erect and motionless as also the above meaningful and measured prelude to the narration that was to follow, there was the unmistakable phrenological inference that[_ Sri Shreyapriyaji _]was indeed a realist with his feet firmly fixed on the hard ground of yesterday’ experiences. We deduced too that he must be a quick thinker endowed with the ability to analyse and that he certainly didn’t belong to the category of persons who only sparkle under the polish of others’ admiration.

[_Sri Shreyapriyaji _]cleared his throat and began his narration with closed eyes as do introvert individuals who are not concerned about the reaction of their listeners.

Said he, “There isn’t much I know about my early childhood days and what little I do know doesn’t make useful memory.

I can only begin with the period of my life when I was fifteen years old and memories of happenings which are vivid and interesting and as such worth recalling, ruminating and recounting.

I was born in Marwar and bred and educated in Bengal where my father owned a big hardware store.

My Jain parents too were regarded as religious because they were associated with monks and religious institutions. Prominent monks and nuns used to visit our house because of my father’s affluence and generous donations to needy Jains an dorganizations.

The more I saw and heard my father, even at that immature age of mine, the more I figured him as a rank materialist bent upon making money in ways which can be termed only as crooked. That’s perhaps the way with all businessmen!.

He cheated his customers in a clever manner, by selling them cheaper products for higher prices, lent money to needy on fat interest, bribed officals and cleverly dodged taxes. Sometimes when the limbs of the laws closed in on him, to book him for malpractices, he gave them the slip. His successes in outwitting the arms of law, commonly said to be long, always reminded me of following satire by James Jeffrey Roche, who humorously ridicules the inffectiveness of the penal laws when it comes to booking big offenders:-

‘The net of law is spread so wide,

No sinner from its sweep may hide,

Its meshes are so fine and strong

They take in every child of wrong,

O wondrous web of mystery!

Big fishes alone escape from Thee.’

I had an elder brother and we were both the only two children in the family. The educational career of my intelligent brother happened to be a bright one. So, he was loved more and because of his promising future, my parents had planned to groom him into a medico.

As for me, I happened to be a back bencher with very little liking for labor and learning and as such, I was less liked by all. Yet, my parents made me spend more time in the company of [_Jain _]monks so that I might also take to ascetism when grown up. They talked to me alluringly of the divine gain reserved for those who become monks. Their commendation sounded anomalous. For, I was conscious of my lack of ability to pick up things-a state hardly fit for divine pursuits. I reasonably felt that my brother who was truly intelligent should have been asked to take interest in scriptures and sainthood.

Somehow I graduated and my elder brother who was final year student in the medical line, committed suicide due to some personal reasons.

The unforeseen loss to the family made my father realize the fickleness of human existence to some extent. His interest in the business began to register a sharp decline and he started to devote more time for studying scriptures, traditional worship and attending religious lectures. We had a feeling that he might renounce worldly life at any time, and that I would be entrusted with the responsibility of running our popular store.

That expectation didn’t however take shape into an actuality. For some undisclosed reason my father simply clung to his earlier strange fancy that I should take to ascetic life. His insistent attitude baffled me and I didn’t know how to tackle him. Some days later, I consulted a learned friend of the family about this especially in regard to joining the rigid Jain order. I entreated him to advise me how to escape becoming a monk and at the same time not hurt the feelings of my parents.

He happened to be a Jain himself and he too appeared in favor of my becoming an ascetic and argued that the institute of [_Jain _]monks would be amply enriched if graduates like me joined it. That sort of zealous recommendation coming as it did from lay worldly persons who were enthused in making monks of others, appeared to me to be not only unattractive but deceptive too.

On a further reflection, I felt that my father was devoid of all sense of practical approach when it came to deciding major issues of life. Any other person in his place, with a capital carrying concern would not in the first place want his intelligent son to become a doctor. Then again, after the unfortunate death of that brother of mine, the wise course would have been to train me, the only other son, to run the business house and that way be relieved of the partial burden-as against imposing monkhood upon me. Even assuming, just for argument’s sake, that if he had some strong reasons, of his own, behind his adamant wish that I should become a Muni which he did not divulge to me, It appeared to me even then that such reasons could only be of a sentimental nature-something very distinct from a logical decision.

The pinching parental pressures persisted and in that helpless state and in a bid to thwart their ardent and arrogant desire, I made a counter proposal informing them that they too should join me and renounce worldly life.

My case was that if what was good for me to save me from becoming worldly, it would be much more in fitness of things that they who were already steeped in worldliness should be the first to extricate themselves from the roles of life which they considered as an hindrance to spiritual awakening and fulfillment. In an appealing manner I also told them that I saw no wisdom in the sick ones who go about prescribing medicines to the healthy.

The unexpected happened. After some days of serious thinking, my parents resolved to give up the world and don the white robes and dedicate themselves to the quest of self-emancipation-after attaining which nothing more remains to be achieved.

We three decided to become the disciples of one Venerable Sri Nischaya Vijayaji-a saint who was held in great respect by the Jain community for his knowledge of the scriptures and praiseworthy penance.

My father wound up his business, declared different donations to the various [_Jain _]institutions and set apart a very rich sum to be utilized for purposes which our preceptor-designate might choose to direct from time to time. It made me sad to relize that religion is another dumping station of black-money.

On an appointed date, the elaborate ceremony of initiation was conducted with great fanfare and the rank and file of the Jain community blessed our entry into the holy order and in this way we three too become spiritual disciples of the Venerable Sri Nischaya Vijayaji Maharaj.

Within a week of our donning the white robes, we were separated. My mother was sent away to nearby village where some nuns were camping and she was ordered to remain with them and pursue the spiritual practices. Likewise too, my father was instructed to join a group of monks who were on the move. I was to remain in the immediate presence and company of our holy guide.

I found life in that changed environment a little too rigorous-one into which I had lunched myself without intial preparation and training. The first six months were hectic. Everyone in the hermitage began to boss over me, bully me and order me about. It reminded me of the first few months in the college hostel where the older ones harass the new entrants. I was made to fetch food for the old ones, clean their wooden plates and bowls and help them in pulling hairs from their heads and do such other personal services.

As months went by, I got used to the norms and forms of discipline one has to observe as a monk. I found no particular difficulty in remaining without food and water from dusk to an hour after sunrise. I could do without brushing my teeth and began to feel no need to bathe. I could walk without any foot or head wear. I experienced no difficulty in procuring items of cooked food and beverages for break-fast, lunch and evening meal. I too could sleep on hard surface without physical discomfort-using only a woolen blanket and cotton sheet to spread over it, to keep off the formation of germs from bodily perspiration. Pillow and mosquito nets weren’t needed either. There was no uneasiness in spending the nights in darkness-without having to use lights. There was no feeling of delicacy either when it came to answering nature’s call undressed in the dry fields and making use of special pots to urinate in. I also could use moistened ashes and pull out hairs from my head and face without experiencing pain.

As a part of internal discipline, I had to devote regular hours to the study of scriptures and to listen to the wisdom-charged discourses of my holy elders. Nights had to be spent in silent self-introspection, confessions and fresh resolutions to remain pure and holy. Meditations and counting the beads was also a must in the daily routine. Over and above these primary calls, I had to assist my preceptor in the preparation of a [Sanskrit _]text and my college days’ study of that language came handy and received a desirable brushing in the process. Very often, during the course of his dealings with me, my learned preceptor spoke to me in _Sanskrit and he insisted upon my doing the same.

Days passed on, so did months and calendars changed, and with it, I began to find myself growing mentally stronger and experiencing inner calmness. I found myself purged of all warring emotions, sentiments and attachments.

At the end of five years as a Jain monk, my peaceful inner state was however disturbed. I knew not how, but I came to develop an arresting pull for devotion to the dancing Shiva-the Hindu mythological deity.

This strange development caused a battle within me. I couldn’t make out then, why, I as a Jain by birth and teaching, with no specific association with those who worshipped Shiva, or any adequate knowledge about the Shiva cult should all at once see ‘Shiva’ in visions and hear special hymns to him, from unknowable sources.

I felt sad and hurt. I considered that type of experience as disloyal deviation and therefore sinful. I hadn’t the moral courage to talk about it to anyone-much less to my preceptor. For, I feared hurting them by such information.

The more I tried to suppress that intruding experience, with a more marked vividity did I continue to see the dancing figure of Shiva and hear ever new hymns in praise of HIM.

I wept, cried and implored Lord Mahavira to save me from that tormenting state. I plugged my ears with my index fingers, not wanting to hear the hymns, closed my eyes in order not to see the figure of Shiva, and tried to recite the ‘navkar japa’. Nothing worked and my odd behavior in that disturbed state naturally roused the curiosity of my companions and my preceptor.

I had to disclose to them, I detail, all that was happening to me and as also about the frequent visions of the dancing Shiva during the nights. Every one of them was intrigued and all of them tried differently to disrupt that unwanted and haunting experience of mine. There was no change in me and none were prepared to won having failed.

I undertook a fast for three weeks and resolved to observe silence also. I did remain without food and water for an extended period of one full month. But I could not remain silent even for half an hour. Instead, I began involuntarily to recite the six-lettered mantra ‘OM NAMAH SHIVAYA’ over and over again. I couldn’t find the reason why, I a pilgrim on the path to Mahanirvana through the Mahavir way, should be weaned by the encroaching Mahadev!

Three more months passed thus and my wise preceptor saw in that change in me. Some very powerful latencies working perforce. He himself was helpless, yet, he began telling me on the sly that it would ultimately prove to be spiritually profitable to me.

Many thought me to be mentally deranged. With every passing day from then on everyone expected my preceptor, the Venerable Nishchaya Vijayaji Maharaj, considered me to be a growing nuisance. Fellow monks and members of the Jain society began to dislike me and their general attitude towards me clearly revealed their natural disapproval, disregard and disgust for me. Things so brewed up gradually as to make my continuance there in their midst, almost impossible.

After considerable thinking-weighing the enigmatical mental state of my being and the bad effect of it all upon the [_Jain _]devotees at large, I decided to leave them before I was thrown out.

Since I had nothing to square up there with anyone, all that I had to do was just to leave and take to the roads and thence to wherever my destiny would drag me on to-to face lonely what further I had in store for me. But then, I felt I should atleast inform my spiritual mentor about my intention and also personally express to him my sincere feelings of gratitude for all his favours.

So, one day when it was past midnight, I woke up the Venerable Sri Nishchaya Vijayaji Maharaj and talked to him about my desire to quit. He heard me sympathetically and readily blessed my resolve and wished me well too

He then took me to the house of one of his trusted devotees and instructed him to accompany me for some distance. He gave me no guidance eas to where I could go and I myself didn’t know what to do about it. A brief while later, with longing look of silent good-bye, he went back.

That good devotee of my benevolent preceptor took me to the railway station and booked a ticket for me to Benaras. I do not know if he was directed to do so or whether he did it of his own accord. I boarded the train for the first time after six long years. It took me thirty hours to reach Benares- a place where I hadn’t gone before and where I knew none.

In that big city, rightly said to be the seat of learning and held to be a holy place of pilgrimage of [Hindu, Jains _]and _Buddhists, I didn’t quite know where to go and whom to approach for refuge and shelter. I could have gone to where the last remains of Lord Suparshvanath and Parshavanath the seventh and twentythird Jain prophets respectively, are enshrined. But I didn’t go there.

Instead, I wandered and loitered in that ancient city of temples and by the time it was dusk, unable to move any further, due to fatigue and hunger, I camped on the open Lalitha ghat-one of the many bathing points on the busy end of the bank of Ganges.

I bathed in the cool running water of the Ganges. It was my first bath after six years and I who was used to drinking cooled boiled water only, drank the cold water from the river without even straining it.

As I was quite used to remaining without food for a period of forty days without any feeling of agitation, and as I saw no prospects of getting anything to eat, I stretched myself on the open bank of the river and slept there.

When on the next morning I woke up, I began feeling a strange onset of uneasiness and I couldn’t see clearly. My eyes weren’t swollen and felt no pain in them. Yet, I was becoming aware of my power of sight becoming dim. The Eye-Specialists would have diagnosed that state as Astigmatism-a defective condition of the eye, in which rays proceeding to the eye from a point are not correctly brought to a steady focus. Because I commanded a fair degree of philosophical attitude towards life and its issues, I wasn’t perturbed but mustered inner strength to face all that came by. I stuck on to where I was. That day too passed off with visions of Shiva in various postures and the hearing of hymns to HIM.

On waking up next morning, I found myself completely blind. That too came suddenly, as suddenly as did the experiences of visualizing Shiva and hearing holy hymns. Things had a way of visiting me abruptly.

I heard movement of people near and around me. There were so many of them talking and bathing close to me. None took notice of me. I myself spoke to none of them. I didn’t want to excite pity or lean on to anyone for help.

The third morning was however to treat me differently and a gentleman came to me and said, ‘Friend! I have been observing you for the last three days and wondering who you are and why you have all at once begun to behave like a blind person. May I know what brought you here and what is wrong with you?’ he queried too, in tones of surprise.

I felt kindness and compassion in his pleasant voice and I narrated my case to him in detail. He heard me with patience and feelings.

Later that day, that stranger took me to an Eye-Specialist. I was examined by the aid of ophthalmoscope and I was informed that the sudden blindness was caused by what is known as optic-atrophy, degeneration of the optic nerve due to the absence of light sensitive cells at the point where the optic nerve joins the retina of the eye and aggravated by the development of glaucoma which had raised the pressure of the fluid within the eye-ball. The Eye-Surgeon too felt sorry for me and added that I cannot regain sight because there was nothing anyone could do to restore sight in a case like mine.

My new friend in that religious capital of the Hindus, consolingly advised me to take the handicap spiritedly. He also promised to take care to me and help me in every possible way within his means, for the time I chose to remain to Kashi. He took me to his house, provided me with meals and thereafter led me to a temple for a permanent lodging there.

I had not expected to come by that sort of humanitarian care from a total stranger in that unfamiliar city. Succor came to me as suddenly as did suffering.

From that day onwards, [_Sri Shivadas, _]for that was the name of that stranger friend, visited me daily once in the morning and again in the evening. He used to remain with me for well over an hour each time and usually spoke to me on the exoteric and esoteric aspects of the [_Shiva _]cult. Though he was born in a family of tailors and a tailor too by profession, he appeared to have mastered the scriptures to an appreciable extent and his talks were of absorbing interest.

Pondering over the chain incidents of my involuntary journey to Benares, loss of eye sight and coming by a ready helper in Sri Shivadas who turned out to be a devout Saivite, I saw in it all, the hands of [_Karmic _]causes manifesting as consequential effects and that they were all inexorable.

Within a month’s time of my stay at the temple, I chanced to come in touch with every member of [_Sri Shivadas’s _]family. All of them too treated me with genuine love and regards due to an elder. Each of them in turn brought to me my midday and night meals. They included his wife, two sons, two daughters-in-law, one seven year old grandson, two school going daughters and a serving nephew.

To my astonishment, even found every one of them speaking me only about Lord Shiva and singing sweet songs extolling HIM. They went about it spontaneously and I saw nothing in their attitude to suggest that theirs was a conspired attempt to generate in me move for propitiating [Shiva. _]Their ways evoked in me admiration deserved by individuals who are saturated with one-pointed and sincere devotion to their personal _God of worship. Everyone who visited the temple where I was staying and who gradually began to come to me also, supported my deduction and all of them spoke very praisingly about the [Shivadas’s _]family. Even the _Bhramin pundits and the monks, who cannot be that large-hearted as to openly honour the deserving, happened to hold the non-Brahmin Shivadas in high esteem.

Many months passed and members of the Shivadas’s family continued serving me with singular affection – without slightest feelings of boredom. One of them conducted me for regular baths and to the Vishvanath temple daily after my bath everyday and that they joyfully did and it was at my request.

Whenever I visited Sri Shivadas’s house I always heard those present there humming holy hymns. Even the food was cooked to the accompaniment of chanting Lord Shiva’s divine name. Such was their piety.

My experience of visions of Lord Shiva’s personal form and the hearing of the sacred hymns to Him, continued unabated. In the meanwhile I also felt enriched by the daily Sanskrit discourses of Sri Shivadas on Shiva cult and that way too my love and reverence for Lord Shiva got grounded. Before and after the discourses, I used to join Sri Shivadas in reciting the original Sanskrit version of the following psalm. Methinks this translation is by an Englishman !

‘A jewelled seat, a bath in water cool;

Garments most rich with sundry gems bedecked;

Sandalwood-paste perfumed with choicest muck;

Flowers of the Jasmine and the Champak fair,

On Bilva leaves outspread; and incense sweet,

And lighted lamp before Thy shrine to wave;

All these within my mind in love conceived,

God Pasupati, Fount of Mercy, take !

Clarified butter, porridge made with milk,

The five fold food; milk, curds and plantain fruit

Together mixed, a cooling drink to make;

Vegetables of all kinds, and water sweet,

And camphor-scented betel : all of these

In golden vessels with the nine jewels set,

And in my mind with deepest love arranged,

I to Thee offer – Master, make them Thine !

A parasol, two fly-whisks and a fan

So tiny, and a mirror without stain;

Sweet music of the lute and kettle-drum,

Tabor and horn, with song and dance combined;

Obeisance by prostration of the limbs,

And hymns and prayers of many different kinds;

All these by me within the mind conceived

In humblest reverence – take, O Powerful One !

Thou art my soul, and Parvati my mind,

And my sense-organs are Thy retinue:

My body is Thy temple, carnal joys

Thy worship; and when sleep on me descends,

Then I with Thee a blissful union find.

When upon foot I go, that is the rite

Circumambulation; my words are hymns to Thee,

And all my actions, Sambhu, are Thy praise !

Whatever sins, O Lord, by me are done-

Whether by hand or foot, body or voice.

By deed of ear or eye or thought impure-

Things I have done which I should not have done,

And things I should have done which I did not –

Forgive, I pray ! Glory be unto Thee,

Ocean of pity ! Glory be unto Thee,

O God of Gods, giver of Happiness !

With the succeeding months, my varied mental visions and their duration increased all the more and the inner experiences of hearing the soothing hymns began to find vocal expressions and I freely sang them with delight. I sensed my whole being filled up and bubbling with Shiva consciousness. It was all very much uplifting.

As I continued in that state of transformative consciousness, one morning, at the close of my eighteen months stay at that temple of rich spiritual currents, Sri Shivadas took me for the first time to his spiritual guide. He was Swami Sri Shankara Chiatanya Bharati, an evolved soul who happened to reside in the upper premises of Raja Rajeshwari temple.

I had certainly heard of him from my visitors earlier and it is likely that he himself too had information about me from his pupil Sri Shivadas, I knew too that the reverend Swamiji came down to the Goddess’s temple regularly every day. But then we had never come close to each other before. Sri Shankara Chaitanya Bharati received me with the warmth which the holy ones alone are capable of extending. He hugged me close to his bosom and the tempo of that especial embrace enkindled in me exceptional-endearment for him.

That holy man was revered by one and all for his deep erudition, publication of intricate philosophical treatises, austere life and spiritual richness.

From then on, I visited him daily when he was teaching his ascetic students and even when he used to be all to himself. He talked less, spoke in Sanskrit only and whatever he said had a strengthening effect upon one’s beliefs and convictions.

My visits to him became more frequent and I imbibed Vedanta Philosophy so rationally and lucidly interpreted by him. As I continued listening and learning at his feet, it came to dawn upon me that, evalued esoterically, my earlier studies of the Jain scriptures weren’t different from the great advaita philosophy of my recent; learning. At the same time, I also began to see that the central aim of all diverse philosophical systems, the world over, uniquely converged on essential issues, despite the terminological and abstract differences.

In support of this logical conclusion, as though, one fine morning I saw in vision, all the twenty four historical finders of the ford-referred to in the scriptures as Tirthankars and all of them merged one by one into the mystic form of Lord Shiva. Of them all, the blue complexioned Mallinath, the nineteenth in the line of Tirthankars was the only female. Then came the sight of Prophet Mohamed, Lord Buddha, Krishna, Christ, Zarathostra and Guru Nanak following suit. In the next scene came the vision of Lord Shankara too separately merging” with each of them. Over and above this unique catholic experience, my mental eyes next perceived all the different rivers with their tributaries flowing into the vast ocean and losing their individual identity. Finally came the spectacle of Lord Shiva singing in praise of the Tirthankars and other divine ones and the Tirthankars themselves paying glowing tributes to Lord Shankara and other great world teachers. Significantly, all this only confirmed the great grand truth of the many being in one and the one being in all. Put otherwise, it meant that the indescribable, immeasurable and the infinite principle, about which the ignorant vainly speculate and quarrel, is uniformly present in one and all.

With such spontaneous inner experiences, picking-up of vocal scriptural lessons, serious contemplation and continued association with the good and the virtuous, I passed four fruitful years in Varanasi and emerged as a new being, with new light-no more a defector Jain monk or a converted conservative Hindu. All this was possible, I am now inclined to believe, because I judiciously capitalized upon opportunities by listening and thinking more, talking little, just to the point and never beyond the formal pleasantries. Yes. I kept myself open too, without giving way-to prejudices for anyone or anything for the long while I was circumstanced to stay at Benares. .

To cap the earlier changes and surprises of profit in my life, in the very early hours on a Sunday morning, I woke up regaining my eye-sight after having remained completely blind .for full four years. It was a welcome freak of nature.

The first thing that I did after the optical restorement was to run to the house of my benefactors. Though they were visibly glad to see me seeing, yet, there was nothing in their general countenance for me to surmise that they were surprised also. Very soon, all the members of the Shivadas’s family told me with irreprissible joy that they were confident that the three-eyed Lord Shiva to whom all of them were daily praying for the restoration of sight to me, would one day grant their prayers.

The knowledge of their secret prayers for my personal benefit moved me and I fell prostrate at their feet out of natural gratitude. I also saw in their statement the demonstrated proof of the possibilities of good wishes and selfless prayers, objectifying themselves as astonishing actualities.

The next thing I did was to visit the great Swami Sri Shankara Chaitanya Bharati – through whom top I had abundantly gained in philosophical understanding. At that time of the morning, the holy Swamiji was engaged in his usual tantric rituals. I had to wait for quite sometime. When at last I saw him and offered my respects, I noticed his reaction to be a passive one. Perhaps he was firmly conscious of the fact that anything can happen in this universe of name and form, that it wasn’t necessary to give expression of surprise with regard to the enigmatical episodes which defy human explanation.

Members of the public who used to visit me and who had known me as a blind one, rejoiced over my having regained eye-sight and they began to respect me all the more as one in whose favour too, the divine grace of the Lord miraculously worked.

One night, many months later, I experienced in dream, what in the traditional religious cricles is known as ‘initation’ being imparted to me by Swami Sri Shankara Chaitanya Bharati and christened as ‘ SHREYA PRIYA ‘.

When on the following morning I went to the Swamiji, to my astonishment and joy, he of his own accord, made me undergo the ritual of ‘initiation’ which was identical in every detail to the one that was earlier gone through by me in the dream state. That ceremony proved my dream experience as factual and at the same time made my faith in the imparted spiritual secrets, much more meaningful and mature.

My stay in Kashi continued for a further period of three months and one evening Swami Sri Shankara Chaitanya Bharati summoned me and advised me to proceed to the Himalayan region and be moving about there. That was reminiscent of the parent birds which release the younger ones as soon as they become of steadier limbs and fullgrown wings, that they too may .wander about in the vast expanse of the land and sky and get on.

Since then, I have wandered extensively in the remotest parts of the Himalayas, visiting Kailas and Mansarovar too and come in touch; with a good number of great saints, yogis and Tibetian monks. Thus, my peregrination, meeting and communion with the evolved ones have all paid me good spiritual dividends in the form of manifold uplifting experiences, in the course of the past decades.

And friends ! that’s how, I, Vinodkumar at one time became Vidya Vijayaji – the Jain monk and Shreya Priya Bharati thereafter.” Thus concluded the gripping personal story of that saintly person in the cave, so forthrightly narrated.

The ladies in whose company we had gone to meet Swami Sri Shreya Priya, had some personal problems and they wished to discuss them with the saint for practical solutions. So, we two, kept out of the cave for that while.

The sisters didn’t take longer than half an hour and when they came out, we two stepped in. Amarsinhji wanted to fix up an “appointment for a dialogue with the sage. Sri Shreya Priya told us that he would call us when he was more free, in a day or two.

The whole of next day Sri Amarsinhji and myself wandered aimlessly all over Badrinarayan and observed such bad, bitter, bewildering and base things as garlands and cocoanuts offered to the temple by the pilgrims being sent back to the vendors by the priests for resale; offerings of pure ghee being replaced with dalda; the pandas detailed to separate and count the collection of monies, clothes and ornaments, pilfering and passing them on to their posted men; best of the cooked food being smuggled out of the temple kitchen for sale to the rich pilgrims; pilgrims who tip the temple watchmen being allowed to remain in the temple for longer duration and go nearer to the altar; pandas owning dharmashalas shunting out pilgrims from the rooms let out to them-to accommodate other pilgrims who paid higher rents; adulterated and fake bitumen, saffron, asafoatida, musk and such other Himalayan products being sold to the pilgrims at higher costs; stealthy sales of wine, meat and eggs going on in full swing; fly-swarmed and stale eatables cooked by dirty hands being sold to the pilgrims; unqualified persons functioning as medical men, uneducated, rude and filthy pandas who can hardly pronounce a single Sanskrit stanza chastely, performing religious rituals for the pilgrims; bad smelling pandas who had never bathed for months together, making the pilgrims to take ten to twenty dips in the icy waters of the Ganges to enlist religious benefits; pandas knocking out monies from the unwary pilgrims on the false pretexts of praying for the welfare of the departed ones, curing of the sickly, feeding the poor, building tenements for the visiting pilgrims and taking pilgrims to far off spots falsely branding them as of mythological merit and importance. We were saddened by all these polluting conditions and felt that the general ways and misleading false beliefs of the pilgrims too contributed in a good measure to cause the growth of the prevalent ills in that northern region of pilgrimage.

That afternoon Sri Amarsinhji kept himself engaged in drafting a questionnaire for the impending dialogue with Sri Shreya Priya. He took one hundred and twenty minutes to prepare a rough copy of I08 questions and made a fair one of it after consulting me.

I spent my time thinking about the chain of incidents that had taken place in the many coloured life of Sri Shreya Priya and the phenomenal progress he had enlisted. Much as I thought of him and the impersonal manner in which he had recounted them all, my respect for his picturesque personality became perspicuously pronounced. I had stranger occurrences to recall in the lives of Sri Mastramji, Makrana Sahib, Vishvapremji, Togini Devi, Shantipuriji and others – included in my earlier publications and hence, there was nothing in Sri Shreya Priyas narration to excite incredulity in me.

It was just before retiring to bed that we were wondering as to how Sri Shreya Priya could send for us when we had not informed him where we were staying or gave him our names. That point had clean escaped our attention at the time of our taking leave of him and we were in a state of uncertainty.

It was past 11-50 p.m. that night when my companion Sri Amarsinhji hailed me to wake up. I woke up at once and in our then pitch-dark room. I saw a luminous cloudy form receding into disappearance. My friend flashed his torch-light and informed me that he had a feeling of having been roused to wakefulness by the saint from the cave. It was only then that the waning mass of cloud which I had very clearly seen, made some sense to me. Our past experience of the phenomenon convinced us of the positiveness of Sri Shreya Priya having visited us astrally. We remained motionless for a while to see what further happened. Nothing else took place and Sri Amarsinhji interpreted the experience as summons from Swamiji.

We hurriedly prepared and drank a little coffee and set out for Managaon on that chilly midnight, in response to what we felt was a call from the saint. We carried with us a powerful torch each to light our way to the distant cave and a petromax for use there.

It was exceedingly cold and densely misty outside and because of it, our range of vision was shortened. Our limbs shivered and our feet moved forward with reluctance, demanding a pushing effort from us. We met none on the way and in the pervading quietness, we only heard the rhythmic gush of the continuous flow of water in the river-beside which we had to negotiate our trip to the saint’s cave.

Sri Amarsinhji was no doubt full of eagerness and enthusiasm, but he fell short of requisite efforts to move faster and that was because of his bulky body. Of thin build and more used to brisk and fast walking, I had perforce to plod on, treating that midnight march as a self-imposed penance.

When at last we reached the cave of Swami Sri Shreya Priya, we found him on the wait for us. Even before we could reverentially greet him, he had a dig at us by smiling and exclaiming, “goodness ! it took you this long eh ?” Perhaps it was also meant to convey to us that he had indeed astrally travelled to our apartment.

We lit the petromax and sat silently in his presence for sometime. The Swamiji himself kept mum, possibly to allow sufficient time for Sri Amarsinhji to collect himself before beginning the talks ! For the while we sat that way, we did not notice Sri Shreya Priya yawning, closing his eyes or making other bodily movements suggestive of the need for rest through sleep. From his poised state we gathered that people who expend very little energy are mentally relaxed and therefore need very little or no sleep for renewal. Because of conserved energy again, people like Sri Shreya Priya could do with very little or no clothing at all even during the extreme winter.

After some time, Sri Amarsinhji looked up towards Sri Shreya Priya seeking his permission to begin with the questions. The saint signalled to him to commence and the following dialogue then ensued while I remained a silent listener.

Sri Amarsinhji:(1) What according to you, are bad habits ?

Shreya Priyaji: … Any habit which directly or indirectly harms others or impairs one’s own physical and mental health is indeed a bad one.

Sri Amarsinhji:(2) When can such bad habits be said to have been given up entirely?

Shreya Priyaji: Only when they are completely done away with, in the firm knowledge that they are not necessary because of their harmful effects and cravings for them never issue forth from the sub-conscience. Refraining from bad habits motivated solely by apprehension of personal harm to health or out of fear of ridicule by the society is just a convenient restraint and not a whole freedom from them.

Sri Amarsinhji:(3) We come across individuals who indulge in the intake of various types of narcotics and who yet have given us creative literary pieces of edifying and educational values. Would you brand them also as prisoners to bad habits?

Shreya Priyaji: … YES. The ultimate effect of all sorts of artificial stimulation is badly injurious to one’s physical and mental well-being. This is the reason why addicts die early and meet a painful death. I myself am not inclined to believe that human society would have been poorer without the creative works of art by persons who are proven slaves to bad habits. An honest survey should reveal to us that the best and more inspiring works have come to us from persons who lived a balanced life of discriminative habits.

Sri Amarsinhji:(4) Repeated and continued good habits in respect of food particularly, can also prove bad if dragged on to advanced age. What would you say to this?

Shreya Priyaji: … It can verily come to that. A wise individual should certainly be alert enough to restrain himself by applying brakes and change course according to the needs of his age instead of fanatically sticking to good habits of the past as he ages.

Sri Amarsinhji:(5) What particular techniques would you advise to free one-self from the clutches of bad habits?

Shreja Priyaji: … A thorough analytical understanding of the injurious effects of the bad habits coupled with the firm determination to be free from them should prove successful in this direction. A person of weak mental build, one who is prone to self-deprecation and self-pity and also he who lacks in personal love and therefore cannot regard the physical body as a temple of God can never give up bad habits.

Sri Amarsinhji: (6) Would prayers too help in eradicating evil habits ?

Shreya Priyaji:YES, if by prayers you mean persistent plus positive affirmations springing from within an individual who is sincerely repentant over his willful and wrong conduct.

Sri Amarsinhji: (7) Can psychiatrists be of assistance?

Shreya Priyaji: ..: They can guide to some extent and they generally do so for fixed fees. But then, an individual should himself persevere to overcome the self-installed bad habits.

Sri Amarsinhji: (8) What do you think are the principle causes which impel an individual to become an easy victim to bad habits. Is heredity one of the causes too?

Shreya Priyaji: … Predispositions are the principle causes and environments strengthen them. Though it is different in cases of certain types of diseases, yet, tastes and

. temperaments are not parental transmissions, as a general rule.

Sri Amarsinhji: (9) From what you have said just now, sir! are we to understand that you are of the opinion that parents aren’t in the least responsible for the bad habits taking roots in their children ?

Shreya Priyaji:. Yes, so far as the subjective acquirements of bad habits as hereditary conditions are concerned. But, I do not negative the unlimited possibilities of parents too implanting, encouraging and fostering good or bad habits in children or grown-ups.

Sri Amarsinhji: (I0) What practical approach would you suggest to effectively eradicate bad habits in others and implanting good ones in them?

Shreya Priyaji: This can first best winning the be done by love and confidence of individuals with whom we wish to deal. In this regard, it is desirable to bear in mind that all advice and admonition abruptly activate adamant non-adherence and resistance in our children and others; solely because we miserably fail in gaining their unreserved love and confidence. Besides, we should tactfully devise healthy diversions and induce them with love to take a lively interest in them. This way too, we can deter them from wasting time in trifles and evincing taste for harmful behavior.

Sri Amarsinhji: (11) There are rigid individuals who are not amenable to love and refined handling. What course would you advise when it comes to tackling such hard types?

Shreya Priyaji: … Such a presupposition simply reveals our lack of faith in the infinite and wondrous results of LOVE. With the magic wand of TRUE LOVE everything is possible of accomplishment. No individual can be so rigid and frigid as not to respond to love. Even the most ferocious animals, we should know, are subdued by love. We should therefore understand and believe that TRUE LOVE actuates obedience, surrender, sacrifice and transformation.

Sri Amarsinhji: (12) In which particular way have the various religions helped mankind?

Shreya Priyaji: According to the great Sri Aurobindo, every religion has helped mankind.

a) PAGANISM increased in man the light of beauty, the largeness and height of his life and his aim at a many sided perfection.

b) CHRISTIANITY gave him some vision of divine love and charity.

c) BUDDHISM has shown him in a noble way to be wiser, gentler and purer.

d) JUDAISM & ISLAM how to be religiously faithful in action and zealously devoted to God

e) HINDUISM has opened to him the largest and profoundest spiritual possibilities.

A great thing would be done if all these God visions could embrace and cast themselves into each other, but intellectual dogma and cult egoism stand in the way.”

Sri Amarsinhji: (13) People who take to the Godward path are generally derided and annoyingly ridiculed by others who are not so inclined. What should be done to counter them?

Shreya Priyaji: ..NOTHING. Those who are truly steadfast in their religious ideals give no importance to such a conduct in others. As for people who easily get irritated by the reviles of others we should know them to be name-sake aspirants. Individuals who drift from the general way of life are usually disliked, disowned and derisively disparaged by the common lot. The dedicated seekers of higher life remain impervious to all vile remarks and attacks coming from the quarters of the ignorant and the intolerant.

Sri Amarsinhji: (14) Are souls in discarnate state independent in the choice of bodies they shall inhabit?

Shreya Priyaji: NO. That is generally predetermined by karmic influences released by the individual souls during their embodied existence.

Sri Amarsinhji: (15) What specific qualities in a soul make it especially possible for it to take residence in a physical frame of its choice?

Shreya Prijaji: Souls which command a fine degree of developed willpower alone enjoy the right to choose. Souls of still better merits can from their bodiless state even influence the formation of the physical features and other mechanism in the womb of their choice to suit their future requirements. Categorically put, the lower grade souls have to take the allotted bodies, second grade ones enjoy a reasonable choice and the upper-grade souls exercise the privilege of even designing the mechanism in the physical frames in the making, prior to occupying them. Such is the mysterious and natural working of the phenomenon of birth and rebirth.

Sri Amarsinhji: (16) Sometimes children are born with various bodily deformities. To what would you attribute this? Have past sins anything to do with it?

Shreya Priyaji: … Strenuous work, mental agitations caused by unhealthy emotions and a weak physique during pregnancy generally are the causes of deformities in the new born. In some cases this can even be due to the incoming soul having been residing in a deformed body previously. At times, damages are also caused to the tender tabernacle by more than one soul scrambling to occupy it.

Sri Amarsinhji: (17) Could you please tell us through what channel the incoming soul merges with the physical frame in the womb?

[_Shreya Priyaji: _]Either through the nostrils or the mouth of the delivering agency. Sometimes this takes place through the lower outlets too.

Sri Amarsinhji: (18) What particular effects would the incumbent mother feel when the merger of the soul with the ready physical frame takes place?

Shreya Priyaji: ..A slight feeling of sudden heaviness and a sort of ticklish sensation, for, the hitherto passive physical body in the embryo becomes active and begins to make movements.

Sri Amarsinhji: (19) Can sufferings be conquered?

Shreya Priyaji: Since the direct effects of any action cannot dictate any particular course of mental reaction, a balanced individual remains calm and unaffected in every conceivable situation. Such wise persons don’t have to battle with unfavorable situations and suffer.

Sri Amarsinhji: (20) But would a mentally balanced individual consciously act to bring into being situations which normally engender pain and suffering?

Shreya Priyaji: As a result of an unconscious false step, an individual may cause himself to fall into a river. But then, if he knew swimming, he would certainly wade himself to the bank of safety. Even so, having somehow erroneously acted, the balanced ones would soon check themselves from further repetition and would still remain stoic with regard to the results of their wrong actions.

Sri Amarsinhji: (21) What types of food would you recommend as good, wholesome and as of being conducive to spiritual growth?

Shreya Priyaji: … About nothing which touches the well-being of human beings do opinions differ more widely than on this subject. All the same, one can partake with profit such eatables and liquids as are easily digestible and are therefore non-constipative and that way escape the onslaughts of laziness, drowsiness, sleepishness, torpor, bad-dreams and sexual-excitement which impede spiritual pursuits. What one eats doesn’t matter so much, as what mental states result. Lord Christ has said, ‘it is not what goes into the mouth defiles men than does what conies out.’ The general tendency of condemning people whose food habits do not conform with ours isn’t the attitude of the wise.

Sri Amarsinhji: (22) Am I to take it that, in your view, partaking of non-vegetarian foods isn’t foul or harmful ?

Shreya Priyaji : If it were really so, the world would have been long empty of the virtuous, gentle, the loving and pious ones.

Sri Amarsinhji: (23) Is it necessary to believe in the existence of God?

Shreya Priyaji: NOT IN THE LEAST NECESSARY for those who are that ignorant, stupid or egoistic as not able to acknowledge the presence of the supreme creative and invisible protective force-the glorious source of all life and existence.

Sri Amarsinhji (24) Is vision of God possible ?

Shreya Priyaji: … Men of piety while mentally in communion with their personal God, do visualise Him.

Sri Amarsinhji: (25) In the same way as Sri Aurobindo and other devotees who are said to have visualised the Lord?

Shreya Priyaji: Yes, in that very way and in other ways and forms too.

Sri Amarsinhji: (26) The uneducated peasants from the rural parts and the urbanites from orthodox families get themselves initiated by house-holder preceptors. Is this a spiritually profitable custom?

Shreya Priyaji: … Even the householders can prove to be powerful spiritual guides. But due care should be taken not to fall in the clutches of those deceitful householder gurus who falsely pose as advanced beings and cunningly demand surrender on the part of the gullible disciples and mercilessly swindle them.

Sri Amarsinhji: (27) Could you please give us some practical hints to be guided in the selection of individuals as helpful spiritual guides?

Shreya Priyaji: ..Whosoever they be, whether householders or ascetics, they should first of all be upright in their general conduct and also possess a never declining degree of detachment, unreserved love for all, and above everything, holy in every respect-true Godly men – before they undertake to lead others from worldly bondage to spiritual liberation.

Sri Amarsinhji: (28) Would it be right then, having got caught in the traps of a pseudo-spiritual person, for one to denounce him?

Shreya Priyaji: … Not only right, BUT THE WISEST THING TO DO.

Sri Amarsinhji: (29) Do you think reading of scriptures and studying of Vedantic treatises help individuals in self-improvement and spiritual elevation?

Shreya Priyaji: ..Reading of such works as do promote growth of higher values of life, such as, dispassion, discrimination and detachment, can indeed prove to be very helpful to persons who aspire for a peaceful mental disposition. But, the intricate Vedantic texts which are essentially abstruse and speculative expositions don’t really help. On the contrary, dabbling with Vedanta, very often conditions one’s spiritual growth to the finite knowledge gained from such studies. This apart, students of Vedanta generally become dry, arrogant, egotistic and devoid of love for the visible world, human beings, and other creatures. Aren’t the ochre-robed Vedantins excellent examples in point?

Sri Amarsinhji: (30) In different parts of our country we hear of and come across a good many persons claiming to be divine incarnations. They go about as [avatars, acharyas, Bhagwans, Yogis _]and[ Yogeshwars_] -glibly talking about God, performing miracles, holding meditation sessions, etc.,.They draw good crowds too. Could they all be really that great?

Shreya Priyaji: In the blindness of misconceptions about God and religion, the gullible gentry who are material-minded and circumstance conscious run after such claimants, lured by publicised greatness and expect personal worldly profits. No truly great person would ever stoop to project himself as such, and the false beliefs of the ignorant followers cannot invest lasting greatness upon anyone.

It is in the nature of the truly great to work for the betterment of society, silently and invisibly, even as do the roots of trees which are not visible and which yet nourish the visible trees.

The drum-beating pseudo great don’t go beyond pampering the ego and misguiding the unwary members of the society.

The discerning section of modern people don’t subscribe to such blind-beliefs. Instead, they are inclined to search for truth through investigations due to reasonable doubts.

With this much said on the point, it would be to our good to remember that however lucidly and forcefully an individual might talk of God, apparently do some social services for the good of people and even perform feats of jugglery that pass off as miracles, yet, a duffer is a duffer and cannot become God. The popularity of such Rasputins soon get confined into the melting pots.

 

I am reminded of the following [_Sanskrit _]saying:

“XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX”

 

“Though of gold its beaks be,

Feet are made of red ruby,

Even if its feathers of pearls glow,

A crow is a crow and no flamingo.”

 

Sri Amarsinhji: (31) Can astrology accurately predict the entire course of an individual’s life from birth to death?

Shreya Priyaji: … One principal factor which would check such an astrological possibility is, persons of stronger will can create counter causes and that way partially change or even neutralize the effects of their past actions. Even otherwise, the speculative science of astrology, barring some flukes now and then, isn’t perfect yet and cannot therefore be depended upon for accurate predictions.

Sri Amarsinhji: (32) In the course of this enigmatic human life we suffer harm in the hands of persons whom we have never met before or wronged. How would you explain this?

Shreja Priyaji: … Every situation we come by is the direct effect of our actions whether committed in the past or present life. !f we are ever able to transport ourselves into our past lives, we would be able adequately to convince ourselves that nothing which is not a deserved result of our actions manifests in our present lives.

Sri Amarsinhji: (33) Can curses and blessings become effective?

Shrgya Priyaji: VERILY YES. Reiterated and intentional release of evil thoughts by malevolent persons do objectify themselves in the lives of the persons in view. Likewise too, intensified good wishes of the benevolent individuals materialize too. Incidentally, however, it would be hearterning to take particular note of the fact that because it is the good and the holy ones alone who generally command a fine degree of concentrated will power, blessings actualise more effectively than do curses of the vacillating, the ignorant and the vile.

Sri Amarsinhji: (34) What tested technique would you advise us to employ for transferring thoughts to any individual?

Shreya Priyaji: ..One must first create a clear and lasting mental picture of the individual to whom one desires to send messages or suggestions and focusing directly on him transmit them mentally and at the same time strongly will that the same should reach the contemplated end. This process must be continued till the transmitter visualizes the intended reaction in the earlier created mental image of the subject

Sri Amarsinhji: (35) Do even animals react to mental suggestions?

Shrya Priyaji: … Yes, they too can be influenced through thought transference.

Sri Amarsinhji : (36) How can one develop the power to concentrate?

Shreya Priyaji: ..Persistent attention to the subject of one’s interest and the ability to draw back the mind as and when it attempts to drift, enables an individual to strengthen his power of concentration.

Sri Amarsinhji : (37) It is believed that hypnotic cures are also possible. Do you think this method is reliable and can be advantageously resorted to when it comes to treating ordinary diseases and the incurable ones?

Shreya Priyaji: ..This delicate and intricate process of treating persons who are diseased only psychologically, has helped many to enlist cure. Even biological cases have appreciably responded to psychotherapy. But this success is spoken of by Psychotherapists in Western countries and not in India where there are yet only psuedo-paychiatrists and partially instructed psychotherapists.

I am of the opinion that any interference with the physico mechanical structure of the affected organism through psychitism can prove very dangerous unless handled by a medical specialist who is also an adept in hypnotic cure and who in his wisdom may feel that the patient can be easily and permanently cured without subjection to the painful medico-surgical treatment.

Sri Amarsinhji : (38) Can we do anything to help an individual who is about to embark on his last journey- death?

Shreya Priyaji: … Most certainly yes and particularly in cases of persons who didn’t live squarely and who because of it would struggle hard at the approach of death. In all such cases, a loved one who is in the know of the death process can always induce calmness and courage in the dying person; by vocal or mental suggestions that death is natural and no pain is involved in the process and that the departing one need have no apprehension of any horror or harm accompanying it.

Sri Amarsinhji: (39) Does the astral counterpart leave the physical body during sleep?

Shreya Priyaji: The state which we call sleep is in reality a natural? separation of the astral body from the gross physical one, every night. We must however take note that in the case of ordinary persons, the astral body does not go too far from the resting physical vesture – and is generally in a partially conscious state. When it comes to advanced souls, the astral body is capable of remaining fully conscious and can travel far and into the invisible regions also without losing awareness of the physical body.

Sri Amarsinhji: (40) For what length of time can one remain in a state of astral projection ?

Shreya Priyaji: .. If it is involuntary as in cases of ordinary people in sleep, such projection doesn’t last for more than two hundred and forty seconds at a time. Whereas, higher souls can move out voluntarily too and prolong their absence from the physical body for any length of time both during the sleep and WAKEFUL states.

Sri Amarsinhji: (41) A friend of mine residing overseas reported to me of his having seen a cloudy figure of his ailing mother who was in India then, a few days prior to her death. He felt that figure wanted to say something to him. But didn’t do so and faded gradually from headwards. What could this phenomenon be ?

Shreya Priyaji: We hear of such experiences of people now and then. It is a clear case of an individual’s intense longing manifesting as an artificial elemental. Our strong desires acquire a form identical to •our physical frame and travel to places where persons with whom we wish to communicate happen to be present. Didn’t you yourself experience this a few hours back?

Sn Amarsinhji : (42) Is it possible to see one’s own subtle body ?

Shreya Priyaji: …Persons who command the ability to mentally relax at will, can always do so by generating a strong desire to see their personal double. Such a vision is also possible when a dear one thoughtfully and vividly dwells upon our physical image.

Sri Amarsinhji: (43) Is alms-giving sinful?

[Shreya Priyaji _]YES. However good intentioned it might be, ALMSGIVING is highly sinful. Because, by so doing we weaken the spirit of self-dependence of persons whom we apparently happen to be helping. The menace of beggary is legendary in _India. Our country’s image remains tarnished in the eyes of foreign visitors who are harassed by beggars everywhere. Encouraged by the charitable disposition of the people, the ease-loving guys even maim themselves and their wards, to excite more pity and to receive regular alms. And so, when moved by the emotional influence of philanthropic feeling, we help the beggars, we will have acted unwisely. Therefore, nature’s governing powers punish us with suffering, so that, we may learn to act considerately without harming others in the name of helping.

Sri Amarsinhji : (44) Is feeding the poor, monks, and Brahmins bad too?

Shreya Priyaji: Any sort of help rendered to the able-bodied individuals who are not in any way useful to society and who are encouraged to depend upon others like parasites and lead a life of ease is bad and sinful. Please do not understand me as being against helping and caring for the aged and the disabled. It is the responsibility of society to maintain the helpless and this can be better done if each district shelters them in regular homes and cares for them with the help of public charities and government grants. If the beggar problem is tackled on such practical lines, begging could be uprooted and unnecessary and annoying demonstration of poverty and suffering obviated.

Sri Amarsinhji: (45) What qualities and qualifications of the head and heart go to make an individual to be dignified as MATURE?

Shreya Prtyaji: I am in agreement with the following sane views of the great that :-

 

MATURITY is the ability to control anger and settle differences without violence and destruction.

MATURITY is patience, the willingness to give up immediate pleasures in favor of the long-term gain.

MATURITY is perseverance, sweating out a project inspite of opposition and discouraging setbacks.

MATURITY is unselfishness, responding to the needs of others.

MATURITY is the capacity to face unpleasantness and disappointment without becoming bitter.

MATURITY is humility. A mature person is able to say, “I WAS WRONG”, He is also able to say “I AM SORRY”, and when proved right, he does not have to say, “I TOLD YOU SO”.

MATURITY means self-dependability, integrity, keeping one’s word. The immature in have excuses for everything. They are chronically tardy, the no-shows, the gutless wonders who fold in crisis. Their lives are a maze of broken promises and unfinished works.

MATURITY is the ability to live in peace.

MATURITY is the ability to give more than to receive, most of the time comfortably.

[_ _]

Sri Amarsinhji: (46) What is the conception of the twice-born, the ascetic, poor intellects and the enlightened ones, with regard to GOD?

Shreya Priyaji: I remember having gathered from an ancient work that, to the twice-born, God is in Fire; the God of the silent one is his heart; POOR INTELLECTS find their[_ God ]in IDOLS; the even-eyed enlightened ones SEE _GOD EVERYWHERE.

Sri Amarsinhji: (47) When can spiritual reflection be said to have borne fruit?

[_Shreya Priyaji: _]Spiritual reflection must be supposed to have borne fruit in that man of intellect who continues to lose, from day to day, all avidity for all types of sensual enjoyment.

Sri Amarsinhji: (48) Is it true that observance of silence confers upon one spiritual benefits?

Shreya Priyaji: Observance of silence by individuals who have no need or urge to talk, can indeed prove of benefit to them. Such a discipline does conserve energy otherwise spent either usefully or wasted through being talkative. It can be truly said of this silent state as being conducive for continued contemplation and communion with the self. But I have not been able to understand the wisdom behind the fashionable practice of neighing, nodding, writing, clapping, denoting, winking and such other communicating expressions resorted to by individuals who apparently observe silence but who yet wish to talk or communicate – very often making it difficult for others to understand what is wished to be communicated – nothing to speak of avoidable labour that has to be needlessly employed by these showy people in their attempt to want their thoughts of communication to be fully understood.

Sri Amarsinhji: (49) What steps do you think should be taken to put a stop to the rampant student unrest in the country?

Shreya Priyaji: ..Extra curricular programmes should be thoughtfully introduced in the schools and colleges and that way the students should be usefully kept engaged – leaving for them no time for disruptive activities. At the same time, students should be barred from taking part in politics. This can be better implemented, only if politically inclined individuals are not allowed to man the educational institutes. Instead, dedicated educationists with no political allegiance should be engaged to run the schools and colleges. The above steps should ensure and establish peace and progress in the student world.

Sri Amarsinkji: (50) Could you also suggest some practical and effective means to eradicate adulteration, hoarding and black-marketeering?

Shreya Priyaii: .. If people in every village, town and city happen to organize themselves and boycott the profiteers and the members of their families, the present malpractices would come to a magical end.

Sri Amarsinhji: (51) It is observed in the present society that there is a wave of feminine traits and tendencies in boys and masculine qualities predominant in girls. What could be the cause of this peculiar trend?

Shreya Priyaji: .. I do not know how you would take it, but it seems to me – that this is the direct result of women who had suffered harassment and humiliating dominance in the hands of men, having intensely willed to be reborn as males and as also because of their having strongly desired that the males who had treated them cruelly and inhumanly, should be punished to reincarnate as females.

Sri Amarsinhji: (52) what fine factors do you think bring about the possibility of people living long?

[_Shreya Priyaji: _]An unremitting will to live long, backed by discriminative food habits and a calm mental disposition free from the disruptive emotions which cause rapid wear and tear in the physical organic mechanism, I think, are the contributory causes that make it possible for individuals to live a fairly long and healthy life.

Sri Amarsinhji: (53) There are numerous instances of saints and other good persons of whom it can be rightly said that theirs is a balanced life of restraint and who yet become victims to the attacks of acute diseases and die early. How would you account for this?

Shreya Priyaji: Atmospheric and food pollution over which we have little or no control can and do cause a decline in the power of resistance in the case of such persons too, making them prey to the attacks of deadly diseases and consequent early death.

Sri Amarsinhji: (54) lt is believed that great souls can discard the human body at their own sweet will. Could this be true?

Shreya Priyaji: Those who have risen above the general state of body consciousness by fully realizing that the soul is distinctly a different principle from the gross body, such enlightened ones at once attain the ability to travel astrally and can even give up the physical body as and when it becomes unfit for further residence.

Sri Amarsinkji: (55) Many people talking about Sayla, a town in Surendranagar district of Saurashtra, claim that if anyone uttered that place’s name early in the morning, one would not get that day what one wanted to eat, get delayed meals and might even have to remain without food for the whole day. It has become a place of pilgrimage associated with the late Lalji Maharaj, a popular devotee of Saurashtra. So, in order to circumvent any of the above alleged effects, it has come to be an accepted practice to refer to that town as “Bhagatno gaon’-‘town of the devotee’. Could such things happen?

Shreya Priyaji: This question of yours intrigues me. For, by the very reason of your being from Saurashtra itself, it would have been easier for you yourself to have personally checked this. Instead, you want me, one whose peregrination has been confined to these northern parts only, to opine upon it. From the details of your question, however, I am beginning to doubt if it could be a clear case of false reports cleverly spread, with a view to adding to the popularity of that late devotee and that way to attract more pilgrims and followers-a source of greater temple income!!!

Sri Amarsinhji: (56) A section of Indian people believe that what little percentage of vegetarianism prevalent in the Hindu society has originated from Jainism. Could this be true?.

Shreya Priyaji : This is a fact-one that is as clear as Jainism is a heterodox form of Hinduism and allied to the ancient Buddhism.

Sri Amarsinhji: (57) When does an individual become really fit for transforming spiritual experiences?

Shreya Priyaji: Not till such time as one is able to spread wide one’s wings of good conduct and soar into the higher horizons of ethical perfection does one become eligible for higher spiritual experiences.

Sri Amarsinhji: (58) We hear of and comes by individuals who are able to pick up and hold hot embers in their bare hands without sustaining blisters or burns. How could it be done?

Shreya Priyaji: .. I have seen ladies rubbing on their palms the paste got out of equal parts of powdered alum and camphor and then easily picking up and holding burning embers without the natural effects.

Sri Amarsinhji: (59) Under its socialistic programme, the Indian government has taken various measures, to eradicate the plague of untouchability. It has absorbed a good number of Harijans in its various departments. There are a sizable number of them in the officers cadre too. The railways employ Harijans alone as watermen. The practice of untouchability has also been declared as a penal offence. Despite all this, a vast majority of caste Hindus, and even government officials and ministers still treat the Harijans with visible dislike and contempt. A good many popular places of worship are still closed for them. What further steps do you think the government should take to uproot this disgraceful social evil?

Shreja Priyaji: The measures to punish those who harass and ill-treat the Harijans which are still in a passive state should be seriously activated and the defaulters should be relentlessly penalised. The government should open more catering schools and train and finance Harijans to run eating houses. They should be provided with full educational facilities right upto the college career absolutely free. They should also be trained to perform religious rites and rituals, now exclusively in the hands of Brahmins. The temples which do not admit Harijans should be taken over by the government and made over to the Harijans to run them. Institutes and individuals discriminating against the Harijans should not be patronised by the ruling party. Government officials and ministers should be induced to give a lead by marrying their sons and daughters with the opposite members of the depressed classes. All the state governments should be directed to boycot the Shankaracharyas and other heads of different religions who are fanatically opposed to accepting and acknowledging Harijans as equal members of the society. They should also be stripped off all privileges and other benefits now being enjoyed by them as religious supremos. People in the urban areas have almost set the sails of their thinking in a cosmopolitan direction. But the spade work of giving a boot to the malpractices of untouchability still rampant in the vast rural regions needs to be undertaken in right earnest. The illiterate peasants should be educated enmasse to understand that nothing is more degrading and sinful than persecuting these God-created beings in the name of casteism.

Sri Amarsinhji: (60) A large number of our country’s young men go abroad for higher technological studies and do not come back. This results in colossal brain-drain as well as loss of foreign exchange. What can be done to check this sort of traitorous trend in the young men who are devoid of national love?

Shreya Priyaji: .. In tackling a delicate issue such as this, the Government should first remove the causes of its origin. Such ambitious young men should first be assured of suitable employment on their return from overseas, reasonable employment and due recognition of individual merits of efficiency. With the creation of this type of encouraging atmosphere, love for the greater good of the nation could be enkindled in those who are lured by better service conditions and higher standard of living obtaining in foreign countries.

Sri Amarsinhji: (61) It is almost a fashion of the day for our religious preachers to proceed to foreign countries on the plea of disseminating spiritual knowledge and to import white-skinned Christians from there. Is it proper for these Hindu preachers who vehemently decry the proselytising activities of the foreign missionaries in the country here, to indulge in converting the Christians to the fold of the Hindu way of approach .to spiritual perfection?

Shreya Priyaji: The real position is, the figure of foreign converts to Hinduism is too very negligible. No doubt they come in flocks, mostly fascinated by the comprehensiveness of Hindu philosophy, the unique system of Raja Yoga and partially also because they happen to be fed up with the lifeless Church services and fanatical clergymen. In short, their switch-over to Hinduism is motivated by curiosity and a liking for a change. Those responsible for bringing them to India, with alluring assurances, do so only for dollar gains and keep their foreign disciples in good humor through impressive lectures on Yoga and sessions of meditations etc., After a brief stay in the Hindu ashrams, these observant foreigners see through the game and wisely go back gracefully, without announcement and with the sad feeling that the claims of their short-term gurus are anything but factual. Some crafty ones amongst them who see a fine source of making money by posing as Hindu converts, slick on to it and gain sufficient training and when back in their country, centres and dupe the people there.

With millions of our Hindus still ignorant about the rudiments of their culture and religion, it is most stupid that monks should indulge in the mania of preaching on a foreign land to alien people instead of first setting their own house in order.

Sri Amarsinhji : (62) As a part of their penance, some saints don’t accept money and are even known to fast if they happen to unknowingly touch currency coins or notes. What merit does accrue from such a vow?

[_Shreya Priyaji: _]This puritanic practice is prevalent among the orthodox minded saints of many cults and it is also regarded as one of the highest ideals of renunciation.

Though as a Jain monk, I myself had to stick to it, yet, I am of the opinion that, to handle money and put it to appropriate use in a true spirit of detachment can never bind. It is the possessiveness which need to be eschewed.

Monks handling money should be judged by the appositeness of the purpose for which they use what they have or what come to them from time to time.

Selfless people alone can be relied upon to administer monetary funds for the general welfare of society in a disinterested manner.

But if the admirers of the outward show-masters in renunciation of money, care to know, they would readily realize that those who never touched money, stand proven as the most luxury craving individuals going in for posh ashrams and in the habit of using the best available things which money alone can procure and provide.

Another point which is worthy of reasoning is, if the physical abstention of touching money is by itself an ascetic quality, many affluent persons who don’t have to touch money should also be conferred upon the distinction of renunciation.

In any case, no one would grudge highest reverence for individuals who live at resorts where money is not in circulation, use nothing which costs money and subsist exclusively upon things which grow naturally and are therefore available FREE.

Sri Amarsinhji: (63) In what concepts does Jainism differ from world religions?

Shreya Priyaji: On two distinct counts Jains stand apart from other religions:-

(1). Jainism is of the view that the visible world is eternal-with no beginning or end-rot created by any God.

(2). With all their penance and piety, Jain women are not eligible for spiritual perfection. For, in Jain religion, liberation is exclusively reserved for men. The case of Mallinath, a female Tirthankar, they argue, is the lone exception so far.

Sri Amarsinhji: (64) It is a common knowledge that there are millions of people all over the world who believe in the existence of God and there are also millions of religious preachers of diverse cults, who are revered and regarded as holy. So, why is it, venerable sire that despite such a vast majority of world population of God’s devotees, praying and loving God, should there still be pain, perplexities and poverty in the human society?

[Shreya Prijaji: _]The truth of the matter is that the average man the world over, isn’t that perfect yet as to be dignified as humane. His so called devotion to _God and his different religious practices is all sham, blind and foolish comparable to a person who keeps on rowing the boat without pulling up the anchor. Horace has described it beautifully in the following verses :-

“He first exclaims aloud O’ Apollo !

 Then into a whisper drops his voice again,

And mutters O’ Laverna ! fair and bright,

Grant no suspicion ever on me alight

Make me seem devout and just,

And shroud my frauds and follies in a friendly cloud.”

Sri Amarsinhji: (65) And lastly, Sir, may we be privileged to hear from you, the definition of love, its possibilities and demands?

Shreya Priyaji: ..Much has been said and written about LOVE. But the following account of it by one of the great thinkers, appeals to me the most. For, I see in it, abundant said sweetly and yet briefly:-

 

LOVE IS GOODWILL IN ACTION. The spirit of love crowds out of man’s minds all sense of bitterness because of fancied wrongs, it sets aside all differences and opens wide the windows of the soul, letting the God within shine forth. If God is love, then LOVE is all that God is. NO PERSON CAN LOVE GOD WITHOUT THIS LOVE’S OUTFLOWING TOWARD ALL OF GOD’S CHILDREN; THEREFORE, LOVE IS THE CONSTRUCTIVE, UNIFYING POWER THAT HOLDS THE UNIVERSE TOGETHER.”

 

Our memorable interview with Swami Sri Shreya Priyaji was over. We found his replies edifying and what surprised and satisfied us most, was, some of the questions were replied by him with the precision of an individual who had undergone the enigmatic experiences associated with them. Indeed, everything he had said, has a provoking appeal and I am of the view that only persons who have assimilated their knowledge can PROVOKE and the society profits only from such super souls.

[]BHAKTIBA’S BETTERED BEQUEST

That pre monsoon afternoon was oppressively hot and I left my host’s house in a city for a walk and to get some relief in the open air. I trudged on, on the shady pavements of a crowded locality. I must have covered a little over a mile and a half.

I was not in the know of the latest weather forecasts for the day by the whimsical weather wizards, who generally predict without much certitude. I soon found the sun which had by then past its midway course in the sky being hurriedly enveloped by thick black clouds. A whistling outburst of gale ensued and the reverberating thunder followed, all in a quick succession and the clouds began to pour their collection of the aqueous vapour from above the skies.

I was fully drenched. The indications were that it would rain for quite long and I wanted to go to some place where I could rinse my clothes, dry my body and the soiled contents of my pockets.

There were a number of families known to me staying close by and I chose to step into the house where Bhaktiba, a fairly educated aged lady who lived with her youngest son.

My acquaintance with the widow Bhaktiba and the members of her family comprising of three married sons and grand children extended to many years. I knew Bhaktiba had shifted to the house of her youngest son Mahadev in order that she may not be a burden upon her eldest son whose economic means were limited. I also knew how, in his pretended love and concern for his mother, her son Mahadev had brought her to live with him, only because he had heard that his mother had in her possession a good lot of money; and he saw easy opportunities to manipulate and gain it all.

It struck me immediately that I had visited the old Bhaktiba a year earlier and the letters which I received from her sons during the intervening period informed me of her continued illness and confinement to bed. This was another reason why I stepped into her house to meet her.

The doors weren’t on the latch and I enteied into the house without announcing myself and I found everything quiet within. As I approached the stairs which led to the upper floor, where I knew Bhaktiba stayed, I found Meenaben, Bhaktiba’s youngest daughter-in-law enjoying her free afternoon nap, in full abandon, under a fan. It is this very type of carelessness on the part of housewives, which the careful crooks craftily capitalise upon and day time thefts happen to be reported.

I reached the upper floor and there in a small ill-ventilated, dark and dirty room, I found Bhaktiba in a welter of perspiration, lying sprawled on a low pouchy cot. She seemed to be half asleep. I stood silently studying her shrivelled state. She was reduced beyond recognition. Her flesh was badly shrunken. Soon, she stirred slightly, sniffed swiftly and effortfully opened her eyes suddenly somewhat startled.

Presently she took notice of my presence. She was delighted to see me and she flashed at me melting smiles of welcome. Then, in an ecstatic voice she said, ‘‘Swamiji, only a little while ago I saw you in a vision. That vision somehow generated in me a delightful feeling of certainty that you would soon show up, Expression fails me to put it exactly. Yet, I must say that the experience was very agreeable plus pleasant – and it has increased now when you are right before me!

There was a small shoddy stool in her room and she invitingly beckoned me to use it for a seat. Thereafter, she took a few moments to sufficiently collect herself, before telling me as follows :-

Swamiji, I had all along avidly and assiduously aspired to meet you before I am transported to that unknown sphere where death leads to. From what you see of me now, I am sure, it might well-nigh be clear to you too that it cannot be my privilege for much longer to enjoy an extended earthly existence. My turn for the imminent departure from this world is drawing near. Before I happen to journey into that unknown realm, there is just one desire in the fulfillment of which I harbor a natural interest and I solicit your valuable assistance for accomplishing it. I hasten to assure you, Swamiji, that it is a very small piece of work – one which will be neither cumbersome nor entail embarrassment of any sort.”

From what she so soberly said, I could reason out that it was her emotionalised thoughts focused upon me which must have dragged me to her. The evidence of it was too specific to be attributed to causes called chance or coincidence.

Without wanting to keep me wondering long as to what exactly she desired me to do for her, Bhaktiba sat up on her poorly made bed, got hold of her sweat and saliva stained silken pillow and with the aid of a razor blade, she slowly stripped open one of its edges. Then, thrusting her hand hastily into it, she brought out a small black coloured leather bag and hurriedly restitched the slit edge of that pillow, with the threaded needle which she had kept well set for an immediate and needy use.

That quick work seemed to have tired her and she reclined for a little respite, wheezing awhile. I remained quiet, waiting for what was to follow.

She didn’t take long to sit up again with that black bag held in her bony hand. She then began thus ;

Swamiji , this bag contains Rs. 14,000/- in currency notes and I want you to pass it on to Mahadev, the most dutiful and lovable youngest son of mine, sixty days after my death.”

Her revelation and assignment intrigued me. For, on earlier occasions I had chanced to hear Bhaktiba telling her son Mahadev that she had no money with her. I even recalled instances of feigned want on the part of her son and knew how his vehement pleas for a little monetary help from his mother, as having always met with the same old reply, ‘Son, I have nothing with me.’

As recounted earlier, Mahadev’s sole interest in keeping his mother with him centered around knocking out whatever money he thought she had with her. Truly, some scheming selfish sons seldom spare, when possible, to deceive their parents who affectionately nurse them to growth and well-being.

In view of my close association with that family, because of which I could openly observe Mahadev’s general behaviour, it was abundantly clear to me that he and his wife Meenaben treated Bhaktiba with neglect and indifference from the time they found that Bhaktiba had no more money with her.

Bhaktiba happened to be a good-tempered simple lady. She appeared to have developed a more contemplative side to her nature at that age and as such could speak of death, as some old people do, with a philosophical view point as does Shakespeare in the words :-

“For DEATH remembered should be like a mirror, Who tells us life’s but a breath, to trust it ERROR.”

Yet, when it came to the cold facts of a practical life, she too remained deceived by her misplaced understanding that she was being sincerely loved by her son Mahadev. In their blind affection for their children, it is very difficult for good-natured mothers to believe that “GOOD WOMBS HAVE BORNE BAD SONS” an observation we come by in “THE TEMPEST”.

Because of it all, I failed to understand Bhaktiba’s partiality for Mahadev. The right thing for her to do was to make over all that money to her eldest son who wasn’t financially well up and of whom alone it could be said, I thought, that he was an upright and good man who deserved affection and aid. In any case, it was my mental contention that it was not necessary that I should be asked to execute her will, after her not distant destined demise.

Bhaktiba had a ready and convincing explanation and she told me in assurance of secrecy. “Swamiji, a few years back, the mother of a late business associate of my late husband reported that her son Rudresh had left the house with ten thousand rupees informing her that he was going to meet me to repay the amount to me. On that very evening he died of an accident. The bereaved mother naturally wanted to know from me if her son had met me at all and paid me that sum of ten thousand rupees, which, according to her, he had carried with him in cash on that fateful day of his unforeseen death.”

“I had not received that amount and I too was upset. A foul-play was suspected and the people of the late Rudresh quickly reported the matter to the resourceful police for a thorough probe into the circumstances of his death and the fate of the ten thousand rupees said to have been with him prior to the accident which had cruelly claimed his life.”

“Apart from other unconnected information, the initial police inquiries resulted in some of our neighbors deposing that they had seen Rudresh going out of our house a few hours before his reported death.”

“On the strength of our neighbors’ truthful statement, myself, Mahadev’s wife and some relatives who were in our house on that unfortunate evening, were all interrogated and none admitted knowledge of anyone having called in.”

“Elaborate enquires ensued and all associates and assistants of the late Rudresh were questioned. But nothing important came to light with regard to the amount said to have been with Rudresh some hours before his ghastly end. The clever cops could only gather that Rudresh was a small scale salaried salesman, simultaneously serving some sea-ware stockists on commission basis also and that his gross annual income never went beyond six thousand rupees. It also came to be known that he owned nothing worth calling as property and that he operated a small savings bank account, the balance of which rose to and fell down from three figures during its ten long years of operation. By her own admission, Rudresh’s mother had not herself seen the ten thousand rupees which her son had said he was carrying with him to repay in full to me, the creditor.”

“ In these circumstances, the police officials who were investigating the case, were reasonably sceptical about the possibility of Rudresh having had on his person that fat sum of money at the time, of his visit to my house or immediately prior to his tragic death.”

“Over and above it all, because the nasty accident had taken place on a crowded road in a busy shopping locality, there was the least possibility that anyone in the crowd that thronged to see the instantly killed Rudresh, having stealthily removed anything from the person of the dead victim.”

“With this much of factual information, the police were understandably satisfied that the reported missing of the ten thousand rupees was neither a direct nor a contributory cause of the accidental death of Rudresh and the case was closed.”

“My late husband knew Rudresh and his mother fairly long and he had profited in a good measure by their friendship. Because of it, I had loaned him Rs. I0,000/- from my personal funds some months after my husband had passed away, ten years back. Since Rudresh could not come up well financially, I had never pressed for the repayment of that sum and my sons knew nothing about my monetary dealings with Rudresh. His fair-minded transactions of the past had full-well convinced me that he was truthful, trustworthy and that he would most surely clear himself of the debt as soon as the fair season of funds visited him. It was with this relieving understanding that I had long ago asked Rudresh and his good-natured mother not to involve themselves in further debts by raising money from other sources, solely to repay what he owed me.”

“Because of my known attitude with regard to my claim on Rudresh, it was not in the least necessary for Rudresh’s mother to falsely report that her son had gone out with ten thousand rupees on that black day, to pay back the debt.”

“Hence, despite the knowledge of the results of public enquiries which had beyond all reasonable doubts negatived the possibility of Rudresh having carried that amount in question, on that day of the shockful episode, I decided to delve into the whole thing in my own way.”

“With that end in view, on a midnight I sat relaxed and ready to work on a planchette. I have a fair knowledge of operating it and my past attempts have proved to be somewhat successful.”

“I invoked the presence of the late Rudresh by focussing my thoughts upon his good relationship with my husband and myself, my anxious concern about what happened to the ten thousand rupees he was said to be having with him on the day of his sudden accidental death and strongly willed that he come and communicate to me.”

“I kept on repeating the process for quite sometime, when suddenly I felt that I wouldn’t need the planchette board. I set it aside and placed a note book on my lap and tacitly waited on. To make my concentration easier and more forceful, I put out the light in the room. In those surroundings and the resultant inner stillness, I sensed the presence of someone. A flow of unmistakable mental impressions began to take place in my mind. I jotted them in the note book. I seemed to have done it involuntarily – not in the least conscious of what I had scribbled during the fairly long while I sat in that state of self-forgetfulness and self-imposed darkness.”

“Later, when I rose, somewhat fatigued by the sitting session and examined what I had written on the pages of the note book, I found the following message written on them over and over again, eleven times :-

Bhaktiba, this is Rudresh come, in response to your call. All of you are still in my memory even in my present discarnate state. I had handed over the ten thousand rupees to our Meenaben for being made over to you, in full and final settlement of what I owed you.”

“That message seemed to enlighten and explain the situation. It set me thinking and I summed up that Meenaben who possibly could not contact me immediately after the receipt of the money from Rudresh, must have found it convenient to completely keep mum over it when a few hours later she too had heard about the death of Rudresh. Another bit of earlier information, in my knowledge, was that her brother was badly in want of money. It was clear therefore, that Meenaben took advantage of the situation by posing ignorance of Rudreh’s visit to our house prior to his death and her plans must have been slyly to pass on that amount to her needy brother. This unpalatable and weighty conclusion fitted well with the case. I felt that the game was up and that it was going to be of no use interrogating Meenaben on this point.”

“On the following morning however, I happened to be a little more fresh to think clearly and it struck me that the amount stated to have been given to Meenaben might still be in the house, kept hidden somewhere. For, till that whole week which preceded Rudreshs death, Meenaben remained indisposed and never went out of the house and her brother who happened to reside in a distant town hadn’t visited our house during that time.”

“And so, without being noticed, at some opportune moments I began searching several spots in the house, particularly choosing the obscure ones where things could be hid without the least fear of easy detection. It was tough going and my strenuous search yielded nothing but fatigue and frustration. I didn’t give up. Something within me kept on pumping into me feelings of assurance that after all, I would be able to spot the place of concealment and gain the hidden currency notes.”

“Compelled by restrictions which the arrival of guests and nightfall imposed upon me, I had to put off the exploration till the next morning. That night I went to bed pretty tired, with the crowded thoughts of the late Rudresh having given to Meenaben that amount for being handed over to me and how, she crookedly chose to misappropriate the same, taking adventage of the follow-up news of Rudresh’s death. My thoughts were more closed in over wanting to know as to where exactly Meenaben could have secretly kept that amount.”

“Next dawn, I woke up with the vivid details of a remarkable dream. It was too pointing to be dismissed as an altogether absurd mental projection. For, in that dream I was given to see clearly Meenaben opening the wooden back-cover of a big size carved frame which held the attractive coloured photograph of my late husband. My mental eyes also perceived Meenaben evenly arranging the currency notes on the thick mount, sprinkling thereon nephthalene powder and replacing the back-cover thereon. She then drove the screws in on to the sides of the frame. Thereafter, she hung it on the wall. Thus ended that predawn vision in the dream.”

“As I ruminated over the contents of that guiding dream, it struck me as odd to have seen Meenaben busying herself with that work of deft concealment seated in the room on the terrace, which my late husband used as a prayer room. The photo of my late husband which Meenaben had used for stowing the money in, happened to be in my son’s drawing room on the ground floor. And as I told you, Meenaben remained indisposed and in bed that she couldn’t have gone up all the way to the room on the terrace, carrying the heavy framed photo. It seemed to me, she attended to the work of hiding on the very night of Rudresh’s death.”

“Anyway, I first went into the drawing room on the ground floor. The photo referred to by me wasn’t there. In its place hung a painting by Nandlal Bose. I went to the room on the terrace and found it there. I set myself to work behind closed doors and removed the currency notes which were neatly arranged therein. I whisked out of the room after carefully rearranging the things there.”

“I am of the belief that when it comes to our dealing with the misled and the erring individuals who stand exposed, one of the wise courses is to indirectly make them realize that there are smarter heads capable of detecting their deceitful, disgraceful and devilish deeds. This approach, methinks, would keep them in suppressed shame, show them that we harbour a reasonable regard for their right to self respect, kindle in them the need for a fairer conduct to fulfill all their desirable needs and at the same time ensure a continued good relationship. The general negative procedure of openly accusing and relentlessly punishing the errant, simply engenders excessive embarrassment and endless embitterment in the offenders and the offended both.”

“With this understanding, therefore, I have neither questioned my daughter-in-law nor talked to my son about this unpleasant incident.”

“Now, strictly between ourselves, my late brother had gifted to me a sum of Rs. 4000/- some five months prior to his death. Thus it is that this bag now contains Rs. 14000/- in all."

“If I handed over this amount to my son personally myself, I fear it would entail my having to disclose to him the attendant painful details of its receipt, concealment by Meenaben and the wondrous manner of its ultimate recovery. All this would create avoidable misunderstanding, suspicion and friction in the house. Whereas, if it is done by a proxy like you, these undesirable situations are obviated. And, since it is going to be after I cease to exist physically and you will not be pressed for details, everything will pass off well. At the most, my son would be surprised why I had kept him in the dark about this money and would soon stop surmising – in the obvious satisfaction, of course, that after all money has come to him.”

“I have carefully weighed over the other possibilities too, in this regard, but can think of none better than the one I have detailed to you and none other than you who can easily and effectively carry out this old lady’s last little desire.”

“So now, Swamiji, please don’t feel troubled about taking charge of this bag containing fourteen thousand rupees and see to it that you personally make it over to my dear good son Mahadev that I may meet the end of my physical being that is fast closing in on me without any care. I beseech you to do this last favour for me.” Thus punctuating the interesting appraisal, Bhaktiba held out the bag containing the money, for me to receive.

In the ordinary course of things, i would not have agreed to undertake that responsible and risky assignment. But I expressed my willingness to carry out her wishes, exclusively because, even while I was patiently hearing all that Bhaktiba had told me, a peculiar scheme started shaping itself in my mind and there and then I decided to deal with that amount in a different way. With that resolve, I took possession of the bag, assured her that I would pray for her peaceful departure, begged leave of her and left.

My decision centered around the proper course of handing over Bhaktiba’s money to Ambarish, her neglected eldest son, after her death. I was induced to want to do so, because I justly felt that he was a better-natured person and I knew him to be in want of financial help. I also happened to factually know that the covetous Mahadev had wilfully wronged Ambarish, deprived him of a sizable sum of money and so cooked up an affair as to make Bhaktiba’s love for Ambarish to freeze. I had also taken into account that Mahadev and his second brother weren’t that bad financially.

The desire to talk it over with Bhaktiba, convince her and persuade her to change her decision in favour of Ambarish did possess me. But then, I had to exterminate it. For, I too happen to be of the opinion that women can’t think deep. Because of this biological deficiency in them, they are only capable of making quick and disadvantageous decisions, one way or the other. It is true also that at times they do make intelligent decisions; such ones are generally coincidental and they can offer no logical reasoning in support of them. It is because of their incapacity to rationally think, women are rightly said to be frail. In consequence of this very natural set-up of their cranium capacity, they are very seldom flexible and they are therefore the greater sufferers in the human society. It must also be said that the minor section of women who function as administrators, lawyers, judges, doctors, writers, educationists, business-women etc., are all predominantly masculine and therefore don’t come up well as fine mothers or nice housewives. This is conversely true too in respect of men whose temperament is ascendingly feminine and hence are found to be devoid of felicity to penetratively think.

With the cumulative reasoning heretofore detailed, I felt that I could pardonably act contrary to the wishes of Bhaktiba without consulting her and make over the amount to the more deserving Ambarish.

As I was expected to dispose of the money after Bhaktibas death and also because I could do it the way I wanted to only after her passing away, I had first to make arrangements for the safe custody of the money in my charge. There were a good many trustworthy friends in the city. But since the money was to go to Ambarish sooner or later, I chose to entrust him with that job.

I packed the bag of money in another cover, sealed it and handed it over to Ambarish to keep it with him for as long as I wanted him to. I also truthfully told him that it contained currency notes.

On a morning, seventytwo days thereafter, I heard of Bhaktibas death, through a letter from Mahadev. As I was on a tour in the rural parts of Saurashtra, the letter reached me pretty late. The general contents of that letter put it as her having died seventeen days after my last meeting with her. True to her apprehension, she really didn’t pull long. The way was clear for me thought I, to pass over Bhaktiba’s money in the manner I had earlier decided to.

With that gladdening feeling, I moved into the metropolis and was to meet Ambarish on the following day. On that night however, the late Bhaktiba visited me in a dream. On waking up, I had an enigmatical impression of having been questioned about the propriety of my wanting to act contrary to her wishes and of having been also directed by her not to function in that fancied way of dispensing what I thought was a with-held justice.

I found it difficult to analyse that dream experience and couldn’t immediately make out if it was the projection of my thought images or a glimpse into the knowledge that discarnate beings can also read the thoughts of the carnate ones!

From my past experiences of dreams, somehow, I knew for certain that this type of advisory dreams have a way of repeating themselves. And so, I held on – on the wait for another one.

My expectation came true on the fourth night. I visualised Bhaktiba in a dream once again. I woke up with fresh memories of that more surprising dream. I recall and give below what she told me :

“After my last visitation to you, I seriously thought over your personal proposal to give that money to Ambarish, my eldest son, I reviewed some past incidents in the light of what I clearly saw and heard in my post-death state, I now feel that many facets of Mahadev’s past behaviour towards me, his general treatment of me as well as his immediate indifferent reaction to my death and his later conduct stand revealed to me, as a cloaked sham of love for me. In any case, he and my second son have enough for them to carry on, and there is no necessity whatever to swell their holdings. In my blind infatuation for Mahadev, it dawns upon me now, I allowed myself to misunderstand and neglect my dear eldest son Ambarish. Now that I am better placed to view and evaluate things with the right perspective, I stand free of all doubts that Ambarish is indeed a good and lovable soul. I must thank you over and over again for having thought fit to set right what could have been a blunderous move on my part if the money was given to Mahadev, in preference to Ambarish who is badly in need of it and who deserves it most. Please go ahead, Swamiji, and give effect, to your judicious decision. I will watch you.”

I visited Ambarish and spoke to him about his mother’s instructions to me in a dream. His immediate reaction bewildered me. He flatly refused to believe me. Said he, “Look Swamiji, all that you say about my late mother having given you the amount prior to her death and her having directed you to pass it on to me, does certainly make a good hearing. But I fail to understand why, if she was that way inclined to help me, she hadn’t given me the money all by herself, before she passed away. What little money she had, I know, she gave it all to Mahadev long back. It is hardly likely that she could have come by the four figure amount you now talk of. Even if all this is somehow true, the better and easier course for her would still have been to visit me in a dream and lay bare her intentions, with regard to what I hear from you, is her last oral will conveyed in a dream. I am more disposed to believe that this offer of money to me is your own anonymous design to help me incognito. Much as I appreciate your generous gesture, my conscience does not permit me to accept money from you, a monk. To us householders, Swamiji, the bad weather of tight situations is quite familiar and we are used to battling with trials, torments, taunts, troubles and tempests. We get to learn also that it is no use getting sour or fussy about them. The sun of better times would also show up and relieve me ere long. Anyway, I, for one, am not in favour of anyone becoming a debtor to a monk, monetarily. I do not believe in the common practice of people digging different ditches to cover the one that needs to be levelled by covering. All this apart, I am not as yet in a sad situation of sucked-up sources. If need be, I can as well sell my house to free myself of my liabilities. Things taken thus too, there’s no need for me to accept financial help from an anchorite, a neutral member of society.’‘

Ambarish’s apathetic attitude and agreeable argument aroused admiration and adduced additional evidence of his being above the lure of exploiting an unexpected profitable situation. There was nothing further I could do to convince or persuade him.

Possibly, Bhaktiba watched the proceedings, as she had said she would and I had no misgiving about the surety of her stepping in to intercede and settle it all!

A few days later, again on a night, Bhaktiba reappeared in my dream and informed me of her having assured Ambarish that the money she had left behind with me was her own and that she had asked him to accept it as a gift coming from her. This dream intimation was followed by yet another dream that very night. In it, i was enabled to watch distinctly Ambarish examining the black bag I had entrusted to his care and custody. He however, didn’t open it to check the contents. Evidently, he acted that way to make sure that the dream information and instruction from his late mother was true.

I hurried to the place of Ambarish on the following morning and exclaimed with a nudge, “And so Bhaktiba visited you, eh!” He was naturally stupefied. A little later, regaining himself from that nonplussed state, he said, “It is all very mystifying, Swamiji. My late mother did come to me in a dream and she told me everything in connection with what you had some days earlier, tried to convince me about but in vain. To make my belief in the dream more firm, I had even…………” Before he could

finish that sentence I interposed, “checked the colour of the bag.” This additional remark from me made him all the more flabbergasted. He then asked me about the causes of dreams, their types and if dreams can be influenced by others. Ambarish seemed to regard his dream experience as a grand miracle. It gladdens me to add that he wasn’t suffering from amentia and I could therefore at once convince him that I wasn’t a miracle man-capable of making people dream the way I want them to.

So, Ambarish agreeably accepted the proceeds of Bhaktiba’s amended will and that gladdened me too.

In my view, this narrative would be incomplete if I don’t include here, before the general comments that are to follow, the most magnanimous manner in which Ambarish actually applied himself to deal with the unexpected thousands of rupees. Not that it is a point vitally connected with the episode recounted. But all the same, I am of the humble opinion that it holds out a rich and emulative lesson for us all.

Ambarish voluntarily gave to his two brothers equal share from the amount of fourteen thousand rupees. It is not that he was not unaware that if he didn’t do so, it could not have given rise to legal claim from his brothers. Yet, he in his high sense of righteousness, chose to hold that post-death profits from the parents should be distributed equally among the brothers even if no such specific stipulations existed. This liberal attitude of his, even when he was under the heavy weight of want, speaks of his ideal spirit of freehearted fairness and singular sacrifice.

The chain incidents of dream experiences, faithfully reported in this chapter, too very clearly bring to the fore some interesting and illuminating details, particularly with regard to the post-death states and possibilities of the departed souls. Of them all, the following may be noteworthy:-

(1). Generally, DEATH is not a passive state.

(2). The dead are also eager to establish contact with the earthly beings. The dead too can hear, see, speak and think more clearly.

(3). Contact and communication with the dead is possible also without the aid of planchette boards etc.

(4). The dead prefer to communicate with human beings more in dreams.

(5). They can manifest themselves in the dream states of more than one individual, at different places, at one and the same time.

(6). Human thoughts are transparent to them.

(7). They can cause the manifestation of picture projections of the past events in the sequence of their happening.

(8). They can be of great help in the detection of crimes and retrieval of lost and hidden things.

(9). The discarnate ones don’t usually interfere in human affairs. They come only when their presence is strongly desired.

In conclusion, I may add that the remarkable research records of the dedicated Dr. Constantm Raudiva, has, in collaboration with such notables as Friedrich Jurgenson, Dr. Zenta Maurina, Professor Atis Teichmans, Peter Bander, Colin Smythe, Micheal Taunton, Arthur C. Clarke and Sir Robert Mayeo, has recorded 72,000 voices from the dead. Added to this, the exhaustive probe individually and collectively undertaken by Para-psychologists and Psycho-acoustic experts the world over, impel us to believe that ‘COMMUNICATION WITH THE DEAD’ is another well ploughed subject. Serious minded scientists are no more in doubt about the objective proof of post-mortal life and they assure us that in the not too distant future, mankind will be initiated into a technique of communicating with the dead and that it will surely be more dependable then the telephone system we currently use for conversing with those residing in distant cities and countries.

[]THE TWENTY TICKETS

The person immediately ahead of me in the queue at a railway junction in Saurashtra was also on the wait for the booking window to open. About ten other intending passengers were before him. There weren’t many right behind me.

His face was long, eyes were small, nose tip was arched, the other limbs of his body were of fair shape and the mass of matted locks which were dandling on his shoulders and back were bristling. In his left hand he held a gourd shell, he had his body covered with a piece of white cloth of fine texture and he wore a pair of metal-lined wooden sandals. Apparently, he was a monk of a Vaishnavite order. He kept on saying something slowly in a gibbering murmur. He clenched his right fist every short while, possibly, out of disgust and each time he did so, one could notice his prominent clubbed thumb.

The quickness with which a magnetic rod attracts iron fillings, even so, my little knowledge in character reading, instantly flashed to me the acknowledged revelation that the triple combination of small eyes, arched nose-tip and clubbed thumbs are another set of signs in the individuals who too are habitually bad and can deftly deceive.

Facial features and formation of other limbs and the general bearing of an individual unmistakably convey a lot with regard to his behavior pattern. It is an interesting field of study and could be very useful in one’s day to day life – if pursued with persistence – systematically observing and analysing different facial settings and other physical features.

To the relief of all, the ever late booking window did open at last and tickets were being issued. The people in the queue began to advance as persons ahead began leaving the counter after purchasing their tickets. Then came the turn of the mendicant I have here before attempted to describe.

That white-robed recluse demanded twenty tickets for a terminal station which happens to be one of the sea-side towns, to where I myself was also bound for. He collected the tickets, the change and left after picking up his bag.

I purchased mine, proceeded to the platform and boarded at random a mid-compartment. The central figure of my earlier observation happened to be seated therein itself. I had to occupy a vacant seat right behind him. Even with about twenty-five passengers, that big compartment was half empty.

Three persons from amongst the other peasant passengers in our compartment were quite conspicuous because of their well-creased and expensive dress and they presented an appearance of being businessmen. One of them wore a silver bracelet on his right wrist with a rectangular plate bearing the name Dhirajlal Shah all in capitals and his baggages also bore the same name. The three of them were seated on the opposite bench facing the one on which the mendicant was seated flanked by a few others.

As is usual with all passenger trains, our train too left latish. And barring the two of the well dressed passengers who settled to play chess, none of the others in our compartment spoke to one another. There were certainly casual questions and stray remarks. But it was all devoid of any suggestive intimacy between any of them. This clearly indicated that a pack of total strangers were on the travel in our compartment. By itself, the situation wasn’t strange. But since the mendicant himself didn’t seem to know anyone among the passengers, it appeared trifle odd to me that he should have purchased twenty tickets for his lone self.

It surely couldn’t have been that he purchased those tickets for a batch of people travelling in another compartment. For, in that case, he would himself want to be with them. The likelihood of his having got those tickets for a group of ladies did not arise. Because, the Indian railways too are considerate enough to their female patrons and they still give a preferential treatment to them. There are separate queues meant for the ladies at all railway booking windows and anyone of them could have purchased the tickets for themselves with greater quickness and ease.

There was nothing in his general countenance to suggest that he was mentally-imbalanced either. On the contrary, I happened to find him seriously watching the game of chess which was in progress. He seemed to have a thorough knowledge of the game and appeared to follow with attention every move the players made. He silently shook his head disapprovingly whenever the player he chose to side for a winner, made a wrong advance and nodded in approval when an advantageous attack was made. From his this glued interest in the intricate game of chess it was too very plain that he was very much in his senses and that he must have indeed purchased the twenty tickets with a definite purpose in view.

The train sauntered on its course on the metre-guage rail lines and that white robed person stopped watching the game when it registered an off the board loss of a good many chessman of both the players and the game was about to result in a stalemate.

Thereafter, the mendicant passenger opened his bag and brought out there from a velvet bundle and placed it on his laps. When he opened it, we had to our full sight a piece of evenly cast conch and a big size berry-bead the smaller ones of which kind, the devout Hindus use for rosaries.

Some of the peasant passengers seated on his sides saw those objects with a common curiosity and the other well-dressed passenger Sri Dhirajlal Shah who was right opposite to the recluse, instantly held out his hands requesting the mendicant to permit him to see the conch. The mendicant passed it on acquiescingly.

Sri Dhirajlal examined the conch and exclaimed, “Reverend Sir, this is a rare right-handed conch!” “It is verily so,” admitted the mendicant and remarked, “you might be knowing too that its possession merits an alround prosperity.” “Yes, I have heard it being held to be so,” said Sri Dhirajlal and added, my wife has been hankering to procure one.”

“You see gentleman!’‘ began the mendicant and said, “this rare and beautiful conch happens to be a gift to me from and old Tibetan monk whom I met fifty years back at Mansarovar, the sacred lake at the foot of Mount Kailas. As such, I regard this too as precious as the big berry bead, now in my hands, commonly known as ‘eka mukhi rudraksha’ and through uncommon luck alone one comes by it.”

He then passed on that piece of rudraksha too for Sri Dhirajlal to inspect, with the comment, “this one-faced bead is another sacred object and this came to me from a great Indian Yogi who blessed Nepal by residing there for over six decades. Possibly you also know of its wondrous powers to bestow upon its holder, continued youthfulness, and also an abiding alround good.”

This fastidious claim by the mendicant with regard to his being fifty years older and the exaggerated effects of the right-handed conch and the berry bead, just amused me, coming as it did from one who couldn’t be over thirty-five years old and who because of the holy robes he donned is expected to give expression to the factual. But Sri Dhirajlal seemed to believe it all as true.

Legends somehow get woven around all rare things and objects like the right-handed conch, the one-faced rudraksha and the one-eyed cocoanut also happen to belong to this category. The superstitious section of Hindus fancifully believe that the possession of the above curios also confer upon one, prosperity, well-being in health and long life on earth.

Sri Dhirajlal asked the mendicant, by well-phrased pleas to favour him with the possession of the twin items of novelty. His request carried with it a guarded hint of monetary offer too.

That the mendicant wanted to dispose off by sale, the conch and the berry-bead was quite evident, for otherwise, there was no necessity for him to display them in the crowd of passengers in a moving train. But yet, he kept quiet for quite somewhile – possibly, to make Sri Dhirajlal to realize that such precious things as right-handed conch and the one-faced berry bead aren't sold off just for the asking -they are not that cheap. This is the usual technique which the tactful sellers employ to arouse greater interest in the prospective buyers - towards the exaggerated values of the objects which the sellers wish to dispose through sale.

In that purposeful silence of the mendicant, Sri Dhirajlal seemed to deduce reluctance on the part of the robed man to part with those novelties. He therefore renewed his request and put it, “you see Maharaj, my aged mother, who is also very religious, would be very happy too to see these sacred things enshrined in our house and please know me as affirming that your terms, whatever they be, would be quite agreeable to me.”

That unreserved offer convinced the mendicant, so it seemed, about the readiness of Sri Dhirajlal to buy those sacred things. Breaking his silence, therefore, the anchorite said, “well gentleman! quite a many well-to-do individuals who saw these things with me, wanted to purchase them. But I had never wanted to give them away. I do not know why, I somehow feel today that these precious things have been with me for fairly long and since I shall soon be proceeding to the Himalayas for pursuing a final round of penance there, I should severe my attachment for them by passing them on to you, for your safe possession and attendant profit. You shall have to offer to these sacred objects some ritualistic worship daily - instructions with regard to which I cannot impart to you in the presence of so many here. I will do that by post on your permanent address which you will please give me before we part. Now, before I state to you my terms, I wish to make it clear to you that I am no commercial creature and I harbour no greed for monetary gain. Yet, because I wish to feed one thousand monks at Hardwar, before retiring for an advanced penance, I want you to give me a small sum of Rs. 1500/- in exchange for these divine gifts. Please be assured that the feeding will be done in your name and the merit thereof will be credited to your earlier earnings."

Sri Dhirajlal found the proposition quite fair, paid to the mendicant the demanded amount, gave him his permanent address and took charge of the conch and the rudraksha bead.

The chess players were deeply engrossed in a second round of the game and seemed unconcerned about the drama of deception so cleverly enacted by the mendicant - enchanting and entrapping a co-passenger. As for the other simple folks in our compartment, they just looked on with awe. In all that took place right before my eyes, I saw a demonstrated proof of my earlier deduction that the mendicant -like person indeed harboured within him, propensities to deceive. I felt sorry for Dhirajlal.

After a short while, the mendicant rose and went to the toilet. I got an opportunity to speak to Sri Dhirajlal to attempt to make him realise the deception practiced upon him and how, if he so desired, he could still retrieve himself from a situation of loss. With this honourable and in view, I said to him, “dear brother, the things you have purchased are very ordinary and inert stuff and cannot certainly confer upon you, all that you have been told and you believe they can. The only extraordinary thing about them is that they are scantily available.

In the course of my wide travels, I have come across a number of persons possessing such things and I can positively say that nothing good has come to them as a result. The very fact that these things are given away for money is a pertinent proof pointing to their being devoid of the power to make anyone rich, enjoy continued good health and long life. Different are the factors which make it possible for human beings to achieve material prosperity, enjoy an abiding good health and longer lease of life on earth.”

I also put it to him, “does it not strike to you that the scape-grace who sold to you these things is still in want of money despite his having possessed these so called divine objects for as long as fifty years as claimed by him ? Would anyone part with things which command a magical multiplying might? Please do try to think on these lines, return the stuff to the mendicant and get back your money from him. I have personally nothing against the mendicant but i do have strong reasons to believe that he is a crafty crank. Does it not strike to you also that he lied in a big way by indirectly claiming to be very old in age? Does it really appeal to your reason that this fellow who appears to be hardly thirty-five years old could truly be an octogenarian?”

“Listen Swamiji! your high sounding advise and suggestions are unsolicited”, blurted Sri Dhirajlal and proceeded saying, “I happen to be an astute businessman and I can take care of my dealings without the need for you to butt in. You seem to be ignorant about the marvelous effects of belief. Firm belief is capable of doing and undoing things. I know you over-bearing ochre-robed people as harbouring prejudice and hatred for the Vaishnavite monks. I can excusably put it that like dogs that bark at the sight of strangers and their own kind, you sanyasins too can’t stand the sight of the monks of other orders and still less those who belong to your own class. I have had enough, you will please mind your business and say nothing more.”

Rebuffed that way, I just had to keep quiet in the knowledge that Sri Dhirajlal was not open to fair reasoning and that he was another individual living within the circumscribed orbit of his fanciful beliefs.

The train came to a halt at a next junction and Sri Dhirajlal begged leave of the mendicant and he alighted there, beaming with cheerfulness.

A few hours later, our train reached the terminal station and the mendicant was the first to get down and I lost sight of him in the crowd of passengers hurriedly surging towards the exit gate.

As I walked past the brake van of the train, on my way out, I met the guard of the train there and as we happened to know each other, I was held up for a few minutes for exchanging pleasantries with him. By the time I reached the gate, there were not many passengers left to leave and I found the mendicant detained by the railway official collecting the tickets from the passengers. I surrendered my passenger ticket, walked out of the gate and stood within the hearing distance, waiting and wanting to see what took place.

I missed what the mendicant said but clearly heard the railway official saying, “nothing doing Maharaj, pay the fare plus the penalty or face the music.”

“Sahib, I am a poor sadhu with no money to pay the fare. I have come on a pilgrimage to the Goddess’s temple by the sea-shore in this town. Please take pity on me and allow me to go,” implored the mendicant, almost cringing.

Why that mendicant posed as being without a ticket was not clear. It was as confounding as his having had purchased twenty tickets. Possibly, thought I, he was attempting to put into operation the designed purpose with which he had bought them. I waited on, to see what followed.

“We will send you on a pilgrimage to the prison alright,” quipped the exasperated officer on duty at the gate and he began to arrange the tickets he had collected from the passengers, station wise.

The mendicant stiffened, laid his bag on the ground and held his gourd shell with both his hands above his head and muttered the following prayer with closed eyes :-

“O’ worshipful ones in heaven! If I have all along avidly sung your praise, come to my aid right away. Provide me with twenty journey tickets and teach this insolent official not to behave discourteously with those who are engaged in devotion to Ye.”

After that, the mendicant opened his eyes and with a swift swing turned the gourd shell upside down and caused twenty tickets to pour out of it on to the ground.

It was all done in a dramatic quickness and mystifying precision. Members of the railway staff and some stray passengers with heavy luggages clustered around the mendicant and watched him awe-struck.

The stupefied official bent down, picked-up a few tickets and examined them. He gaped in astonishment when he found them all to be regular valid tickets.

Satisfied that things worked the way he had wanted, the mendicant addressed the official and admonished him thus :-

“I take it you now know that it is no good to be cheeky with the saints. Unless you wish to invite God’s wrath upon you, never trouble the saints again. You made me to disturb the Gods on too petty a matter.”

The railway official straightened himself, looked repentant and with folded hands expressed apology. He then entreated the mendicant to sanctify the railway office by stepping into it. The request was also backed by others around and the mendicant went with them all-led by that Assistant Station Master carrying the miracle man’s bag meekly.

I found it difficult to surmise as to what exactly the mendicant wanted to achieve by conducting himself in that trickish way. Yet, as a sole witness to what was cleverly demonstrated for acceptance as a super-natural feat, I felt I should expose the whole fraud and warn the mendicant’s fresh and unwary admirers lest they be cheated by him or his like.

With this honourable intention, I rushed to the crowded office. As soon as the mendicant saw me, he rudely remarked, “Here comes a bellyfiller. Our Hindu society is so full of such idlers, living on easy alms. They are a disgrace to the holy order and to the human society.

I didn’t expect to be forestalled that way. All the eyes turned towards me-contempt was lit in them all. My position was that of a fool in the midst of the wise. Presently the mendicant ordered, “Ask him to clear out before I curse him to suffering in the name of God.”

Even before I could speak, a few railway servants hurried towards me and indignantly turned me out. Even the guard of the train who happened to know me for years and who only a short while before greeted me with vivacious warmth, put on a look of estrangement towards me. In that altered attitude of my friend, I saw incoherence – inconsistency. All of them were naturally enamoured by the super feat they thought they were lucky enough to witness.

I left the station, musing over the platonic opinion that “EVERYTHING THAT DECEIVES MAY BE SAID TO ENCHANT.”

Some days thereafter, I happened to meet this railway guard. He was visibly apologetic over his indifference towards me the other day, at the railway station where a clean hoax by the mendicant had passed off for a miracle.

Later, he gave me an account of how the Assistant Station Master of that terminal station lodged the mendicant in his quarters, invited several leading citizens to meet that great holy man for obtaining from him talismans to cure different defiant diseases and ward off forebodings. Then followed the harrowing details of that miracle man decamping with a trunk from his host’s house containing all the clothes and jewelry of A. S. M’s daughter who was to be married within a week from then.

From what I heard, it was openly evident that the crafty monk must have cleverly choose his victim in advance, meticulously planned the course of action and made a clean get away with his loot.

It would be to our advantage to realize that through greed for easy gains, superstitious religious beliefs and ready trust in miracles too, we are apt to become gullible and exploited by those masquerading as GOD MEN.

[]YOURS TO YOURSELF

People knew him as Tejbahadur. He was from Nepal and every year, during the season of pilgrimage he came to Rishikesh to earn what he could, by carrying the baggages of the pilgrims bound to Badri-Kedar, the Himalayan centres of pilgrimage.

Those were the days when the buses carried the pilgrims only upto Bela Chatti on the Badri route and upto Gupta Kashi on the Kedar route. As such, he could with ease make as many as 25 – 30 trips to Badri-Kedar , carrying as much as 80-I00 pounds of luggage of the pilgrims and used to receive in return around Rs. 40/- per trip. At times, when he got no baggages to carry, he even carried on his back the human load of a pilgrim at a slightly higher rate.

With good looks, a fine sturdy physique and an ever-smiling countenance he had endeared himself to all those whose burdens he happened to transport on his back to the twin temples.

Besides carrying the baggages of the pilgrims, he also rendered them extra services by way of cooking their meals or helping them to cook, massaging the tired limbs of the members of the group of temporary employers, washing their clothes, taking care of the children, spreading beds and doing such other petty work for them. All this of course, he did with a view to earning additional money.

Because he always chose to serve the well-to-do, comfort-loving, kind and generous Gujaratis and Punjabis, his extra services were generally recognised and suitably rewarded by those whom he lovingly attended upon. He sometimes received much more than what he expected and very often much lesser than what he greedily thought might be paid to him. Such mixed compensations for his services induced him to give up calculative expectations and he remained balanced in contentment.

He seemed to have assimilated the grand truth contained in the following couplet by a renowned author

“Oft expectations fails, and most oft there

Where most it promises, and oft it hits

Where hope is coldest and despair most fits.”

Many prospective pilgrims too had heard about Tejbahadur and his sincere services, from the earlier ones and they too searched for and engaged him during their pilgrimage to the above mentioned holy shrines. In this way. he was very much in demand and never without work during any part of the pilgrimage season.

One afternoon, during the pilgrimage season, Tejbahadur happened to find a fat wallet lying on the busy road in Badrinarayan. He picked it up and examined its contents sitting in a latrine.

There were twentyfour crisp one hundred rupee currency notes and a partially withered visiting card which bore the following name and address in Gujarati :-

JAYANT SHAH, RAJKOT. “

Because the Gujarati letters are very much akin to those of Hindi, even with the little knowledge at his command to read and understand Hindi, Tejbahadur could make out the printed address.

As he put back those notes into the wallet, compulsions of poverty caused mean and selfish thoughts to surface in his mind. He felt that with that big amount he would be able to provide some additional items of comfort to his children, aged parents and that there would still be left enough to renovate his small house, giving it a lease of further years of life and lasting.

With such thoughts racing in his mind, he walked out of the latrine and moved towards the temple. Soon there was a rush of finer set of thoughts and he began to feel that he had no right to keep to himself that wallet and its rich contents which legitimately belonged to someone else. He also felt that if his parents knew of it, they would feel ashamed and would be cross towards him. Why should he create such a situation, thought he. He felt that though it was true that his faithful work brought him just enough to wade along, battling to meet the bare demands of life, still, it was not necessary for him to stoop to appropriate that easy money, was yet another desirable feeling which coursed through his mind.

So, he addressed his mind admonishingly thus: “Now, look here my mighty mister Mind, I don’t want you to use me as a spring – board to do anything dishonest. I want you to realize that I come from a family whose elders had time and again spurned the chances of illegal monetary benefit. Now tell me, how can I and why should I, a product of such a virtuous family, slur the record of their upright life by becoming dishonest? Just imagine the hardships the rightful owner of this wallet and those with him have to face, if I kept the same for my use! Then again, don’t you think that it is likely this wallet with its twenty four hundred rupees might as well belong to an individual who gave me an opportunity to earn, fed me and treated me generously during his last pilgrimage! Even when I think this way too, would it not amount to ingratitude on my part towards one of my past benefactors, if now I obeyed your conceited dictates? Is it not another weighty fact that nature has blessed me with good physical abilities and opportunities to earn lawfully what I can to provide for myself and other dependents of my family? This being so, why should I incur the displeasure of my gracious Creator by indulging in criminal acts? Eh! you, my mind, your kind have made many men miserable. I shall not yield to your dirty and disgraceful designs. Remain warned, therefore, not to try henceforth to lure or rule me by tempting suggestions.”

He next resolved to search for and hand over that wallet to its rightful owner. He could have passed that work on to the local police. But, he was of the opinion that the corrupt cops can’t be trusted to do that. So, he chalked out a line of approach to accomplish it all by himself.

Badrinarayan wasn’t much crowded during that early part of the season and as he was certain of the fact that the wallet belonged to one of the Gujarati pilgrims from Saurashtra, he felt that there would be no particular difficulty in tracing the person who had lost the wallet. All that he would have to do was to go round and enquire if there was a Jayant Shah among the pilgrims present in any of the various dharamashalas.

With this plan in his head, Tejbahadur set out in right earnest to search for [Jayant Shah _]of Rajkot. He did come by pilgrims from _Saurashtra, but none answered to that name and he got no clues from anyone about the presence of a pilgrim with that name at Badrinarayan.

He persisted in his search. He went wherever the pilgrims were, looking for a worried face. He seemed to know that gains, lawful or otherwise, always gave rise to joy and made peoples’ face flush in cheer. Whereas, losses, either from hard-earned capital or from wrongful profits, usually knocked out the merry looks in those people.

After roaming about for quite some time, he spotted a person standing in one of the by lanes. His was a long-drawn face and he appeared lost in tight and tense thoughts.

Our Tajbahadur went right up, greeted him and asked, “Dear Sir, where do you come from?” It is a common habit of the Pandas at Badrinarayan to pester the pilgrims with such a question and that gentleman too had been asked that very question by a good many dullards helping the pilgrims to perform religious rites. He didn’t reply-engrossed as he was in his own brooding. “Dear sir, I asked you, where from are you ?” repeated Tejbahadur. “I come from hell.” pat came the reply in a tone of annoyance.

In that exasperated reply, Tejbahadur felt the probability of that pilgrim being upset over something surely serious and wondered if he could be the very same Jayant Shah he was searching for.

With a view to confirming that, therefore, he let go a witty snub. “I am glad to hear of that. I have some relatives even there. Mr. Shah, pray tell me if you have come by any Manadhars, Shrestas or Bistas there?”

That humorous retort addressed to him by the surname, sounded strange and surprised Sri Shah, the pilgrim. Hence, he became curious and communicative and with a tone of surprise asked his questioner, How come, you know my name?”

Tejbahadur parried the question and began to sermonize a bit and put a counter question in order to be doubly sure if Sri Shah’s first name was also ‘Jayant’ Said he, “Hear me, Jayantibhai, pilgrims like you come here from distant place like Rajkot, spending a lot, to merit the Lord’s grace and accompanying effects. As such, I feel, irritation, anger and an agitated attitude shouldn’t be allowed by people like you to get the better of you. Anyway, I am also conscious of the fact that in this uncertain human life, any unusual happening can abruptly upset one’s mental balance. If it pleases you, may I know the cause of your worry-worn looks?”

Sri Shah, the pilgrim, wasn’t prepared for such a hortation and raillery, coming as it did from a ragged porter. Yet it intrigued him to take note of having been addressed by his first name also. So, he blared out, “Now, what is it you are after? What is the source of your information with regard to my name and the place I come from? Out with it soon, be brief and be gone away before I smack you.”

Without the least trace of being offended by the roughness of Sri Jayant Shah’s heated attitude, Tejbahadur produced the partially torn visiting card from his pocket and held it out before Sri Shah.

The sight of his own visiting card roused Sri Shah’s impatience and he at once questioned, “Where’s the wallet ?”

Tejbahadur wasn’t any more in doubt about the identity of the person he was on the look out. So, he instantly brought out from another pocket of his, the wallet containing two thousand and four hundred rupees and handed it over to Sri Jayant Shah.

The delight that was missing flushed back on the face of Sri Shah. He took possession of the wallet, examined its contents and apologetically said, “Young man, I am sorry for having been rough with you. I thank you for your goodness.” He then offered Tejbahadur four hundred rupees from out of the wallet’s contents, as a token of his appreciation.

Tejbahadur declined to accept that amount and submitted in a style reminiscent of a person wise in the knowledge of human behaviour. “Mr. Shah, persons placed in situations such as the one you passed through, are apt to be irritated and I am not in the least sore over what you told me. I view with satisfaction your generous offer of reward. But then, having made over to you yours to yourself, I have only discharged my human duty and hence it wouldn’t be fair on my part to accept any recompense.” Thereafter, giving a witty twist to his disinterestedness to accept anything, he quipped, “That apart, Mr. Shah, my preceptor hasn’t taught me to give away twenty four hundred rupees and accept four hundred in return.”

The stupefied Sri Shah couldn’t at all persuade Tejbahadur the cooly into accepting the reward for his honest act. A vast majority of us are indeed capable of being superbly honest. But sadly enough, our disposition to be thus honest and just is generally confined to petty cases involving paltry things and matters. A sincere self search should at once reveal to us all as having been wilfully dishonest and outright unjust and wholly incapable of resisting challenging temptations in respect of bigger wrongful gains. It is this distinct and dividing difference which singles out Tejbahadur as an individual who could curb and conquer powerful temptation which carried with it plentiful pecuniary profit – viewed especially in the light of his stringent social status and means.

Another remarkable thing about him is that it brings to the fore the fact that intelligence is not an exclusive monopoly of the educated alone and this is amply evidenced in the psychological technique he had masterfully employed in tracing the owner of the wallet he had found.

As and when I recall this uncommon incident, I at once feel that with the type of Tejbahadur’s reasoning and conduct, we too can triumph over the tenacious temptations, rise above selfish gains and this way be good, tensionless and usher trustful feelings of security in the lives of our brethren.

[]SOMERSAULT IN HOLINESS

When I woke up, I found that there still was three and a half hours for the sun to rise. I went out as usual, to greet the little luminaries which loom in the wide canopy up above the earth. Except for the shrill cries of foxes running helter skelter in the tobacco fields surrounding the ashram, it was all quiet and that mid-winter early morn was pretty chilly.

“NO – NO – Kamala, you can still retract and make suitable amends. Your place isn’t there-just think of Jairam’s future.” Trifle startled by the unexpected human voice, I turned in the direction from where the babble issued forth. At the left end of the platform near the ashram’s gate, lay a covered and cuddled human form apparently asleep.

I put on the light for a closer look. The sleeping stranger was in ochre clothes and lying near him were some Hindi magazines and books. It was obvious enough that he came by the last train which reaches Bhadran at 22-30 hours and not wanting to disturb me at that hour, he chose to spend the night outside the ashram.

From his canorous breathing, it became clear to me that he was fast asleep. I didn’t wake him up. To keep him more warm, I fetched a quilt and covered him with it.

Talking in sleep once again, that person muttered in Hindi, “I have had enough. You ungrateful usurpatrix! you and your bad son may go to hell. I just don’t care. You both are no more worthy of my affection and care.”

Thoughts and feelings which lie suppressed in the sub-conscious mind, generally surface themselves as involuntary vocal expressions either during one’s sleep or when one is under the influence of intoxication. This is how the phenomena of talking in sleep is interpreted by psychologists. Scientists who have conducted intricate researches in the field of mental possibilities, have even made crime detection easy, by employing the processes of dictative suggestions – inducing criminals to talk in sleep, confessing their criminal acts and offering factual clues to solve them. Psychiatrists are also known to employ this technique to cure those who are mentally unwell because of some deep-rooted absonant assumptions and affrightful apprehensions.

The set of utterances that escaped from the sleeping visitor – with a clear tone of coaxing first, followed by a contemptuous condemnation, made me to infer that he was not happy about the ways of one Kamala and that he was also anxious about the future well-being of one Jairam.

I also deduced that Kamala and Jairam are two living persons for whom the sleeping guest harbored passionate feelings of love even after he had taken to the ochre-robes. It is likely, I thought, they were his wife and son respectively and that their general behaviour didn’t perhaps meet with his approval.

It saddened me to hear outbursts of deep attachment from him who donned ochre-robes which symbolises detachment from worldliness. I somehow impulsively felt I might be able to help him to uproot the pestering emotions of hurt feelings lurking in the depths of his inner mind, so that he may remain cheerful and inwardly composed.

With this end in view therefore, I sat near him and after satisfying myself that he was breathing evenly, I began to pass on the following mental message in Hindi, for his sub-conscious mind to pick up :

"Dear guest, whoever you are, I am inclined to believe that your visit to me is motivated by love and liking for me. You are welcome. As soon as you are up and ready after your usual course of morning work, you will speak to me about the problems troubling you. I regard you too as my fellow brother and my intentions are purely friendly. You need not entertain any doubt in this regard. You will recall this suggestion on waking up-YOU SURELY WILL. You are to talk to me in good faith, all about yourself, and in the hope of eliciting some practical solution to the problems hurtfully worrying you. O. K- then, remember to talk to me."

I repeated the massage five times, gradually willing stronger each time and affirming as well that the mental message I was transmitting would be received for storage in the sub-conscious mind of the sleeping subject for ready reproduction a short time after he woke up.

I had no doubt in my mind that the account he will give is going to be about agitational mental conditions arising out of attachment for someone. I know this to be a sad song playing in the hearts of many who get caught up in the meshes of worldly infatuation. But my sole interest centered more around wanting to see if I could in any way help him also to reduce, remove, repair or replace the eroding emotions which troubled him.

In order to check up if he knew any other language besides Hindi, I whispered in English, the suggestion that he should turn to the left’. There was no response. I next repeated the same suggestion in Gujarati, he turned; and when I uttered that suggestion in a reversed way, in Hindi, the sleeping figure obeyed as was suggested by me. This check up convinced me that the subject was conversant with Hindi and Gujarati and that my message had indeed reached the sleeping guest.

All of us are amenable to suggestions self-suggestions or suggestions from others.  Animals and plants also respond to suggestions. The possibilities of mental suggestions are unlimited.

In our day to day life we are influenced by a series of suggestions. Suggestions almost rule our life – commending, commanding and cautioning us to act in diverse ways – decorously or devillishly both. Suggestions shape or shatter our very being.

Psychologists probing into the magical power of suggestions haven’t as yet been able to know all about the subtle details with regard to its vital processes of working.

For enlisting a ready profit, we ourselves need not necessarily knew in minutest detail how suggestions work. In our over busy life, we are already doing so many things gainfully without a thorough knowledge of their functional techniques.

Yet, in order that this dynamic mental power may be advantageously capitalised by us also, we may know that the human mind principally works from the conscious and the sub-conscious levels.

It is the function of these twin levels of consciousness to receive, record, retain and reproduce, reason and respond to all suggestions coursing into them from different sources. This unified and spontaneous processes see to it that our aspirations contained in the suggestions actualise as external situations or internal conditions.

Through the media of the emotionally intensified positive suggestions, we can create cherished conditions which are congenial and conducive for an alround progress and happiness.

Concentrated suggestions can be gainfully transferred into individuals, influencing and inwardly compelling them to act the way we want them to. The most receptive individuals, we may know are those who talk in sleep and those who are extremely nervous.

Children and others who don’t pay heed to our counsels in wakeful state can be tackled by us when they are asleep, through mental or whispered suggestions calmly passed on to them by sitting erectly and close to them. Experiments by psychiatrists have satisfactorily proved that those who revolt to suggestions in conscious state, generally respond while in the sub-conscious condition of sleep.

With this much, of theoretical knowledge about suggestions and how we can take recourse to them to achieve what we want, we can right away proceed to experiment them upon ourselves first.

Here below are some sample suggestions set in short striking and stirring sentences :

(1). I will love all.

(2). All will love me.

(3). I will always harbour healthy thoughts.

(4). I will always’ be able to take a right course-steps which will not be a source for future repentance.

(5). I will not give vent to anger and harm myself or hurt others.

(6). I will serenely face the natural consequences of all my actions.

(7). I will not fall a victim to temptations, threats, terror, tears or tensions.

(8). I will remain detached without getting caught in the soul-sullying web of worldly attachments.

(9). I will fear none and no one shall fear me.

(10). I will always be cheerful.

Now, when it comes to sending out suggestions to persons present right before us in wakeful state, we may pass out mental suggestions on the following lines :

If you are a medical man dealing with difficult patients, you may mentally suggest, “My cheerful disposition will put my patients at ease at the very first sight of me. They will deal with me in the confidence that I will not unnecessarily chase them to different specialists to earn my commission. They will not shrink out of fear of being directly exploited by me. They will faithfully submit to the treatment which I may prescribe and they shall be so cured as not to come to me again.”

If you are a judge, dispensing justice, you may mentally release suggestions here below given for being picked up by witnesses, the main carriers of knowledge of the case before you for judgement:

“As a witness in the case now before this court, you are expected to so assist me as to obviate miscarriage of justice. You will soon be on oath to depose the truth, a whole truth and nothing but truth. You shall forget the tutoring by your crafty counsels. You are well advised to bear in mind that endowed as I am with legal acumen, penetrative and speculative mind, I can at once smell your attempts at trying to twist truths and subject you to cross examination. If need be, I can declare you hostile and charge and punish you for perjury too. So, be wise without trying to be too clever.”

If you are a teacher, charged with the duty of imparting education in schools or colleges, you may send out the following suggestions:

“Student friends, you are here to learn and know a good deal before you too step into the world of constructive activities to do your part and give your best for your personal good and for the welfare of human society. In order to successfully achieve this end, it is necessary that you forget your past playful pranks and concentrate right from now upon the higher calls of essential studies so very necessary to shoulder the noble responsibilities on the wait for you.”

The sample suggestions specified by me are only general hints for your guidance. You may formulate better patterns of your own, suitably phrasing them as per your needs. You may even coin a catch-word and pass on to your subject, such suggestions in a condensed form and motivate reaction in him.

Before embarking upon applying this tested talismanic technique, it would be desirable to bear in mind that the half-hearted and mere mechanical repetition of the suggestions won’t work. Instead, our suggestions, whether for one’s own self or for others, should be so emotionally charged as to carry with them a firm belief and one-pointedness to come by sure and surprising results.

We may as well know, that no person who wishes to experiment the workability of the power of suggestions, can successfully do so, unless he himself is fully receptive to his own personal suggestions, as to create in himself and for himself the desired conditions and situations respectively.

A beginning should be made with simple common place suggestions prior to attempting the serious ones. This is another vital point worthy of remembrance and implementation.

And above all, this natural power of suggestions should be exclusively exercised for positive purposes of personal benevolence and for the general good of others. Used this way alone, easier and useful results can be enlisted.

Having incidentally thus far dealt about the efficacy of the power of suggestions, a worth-while digression, let’s now get back to the main narration.

Leaving my sleeping visitor, I returned to my room and engaged myself in my daily routine. Hours passed off and I became free.

Just then, I heard the gates open, sounds of someone walking in and pacing in the open lobby was also audible. Usually, that is not the hour for anyone coming to me. As such, I naturally surmised that it must be the ochre-robed guest who came during the night and slept outside.

I tried to mentally picture him – working upon the earlier observed sleeping form of the visitor fully covered and in a cuddled posture. I couldn’t get even a vague impression about his possible age, physical appearance and stature. I am in the habit of dabbling in such mental gymnastics even when I receive letters from strangers. I have found it to be an enjoyable exercise. One’s power of concentration can also be strengthened by such practices.

When I stepped out of my room, I was face to face with a plump and middle aged person in ochre robes and I found him to be depressed.

After the usual greetings, I allotted to him a room and acquainted him of the various conveniences for him to go through the morning ablutions – mentally willing at the same time that he should speak to me soon after he was ready.

He made a snappy job of it and I offered him some light refreshments and milk and waited observing him.

Beginning with a personal introduction, the visitor said, “Swamiji, my name is Chaturanand. I have been moving about in the western parts of Saurashtra, fertile areas of Kutch and in the plains of Rajasthan.

Having heard about you in Saurashtra, I have come to meet you. It might sound odd but the truth of the matter is, of late, I am feeling out of sorts and right now, the urge to lay bare before you some despicable details about me is stirring up strongly. May be, as a man of deep experience and practical wisdom, you might condescend to consider granting a request I have in mind to make, at the end of what I first wish to say. In any case, of one thing I am positive, I will certainly feel light of the burden of sins foolishly committed by me if i make a clean breast of it all before you. Though it is just a passing fancy which brought me to meet you, yet, presently I see in you a friendly guide and somehow assuredly feel that I can freely speak to you and gain freedom from mental conditions which keep me tied to terrific tensions.

If you permit, I shall right away proceed with my case or else, I shall put it off till the time you are more free to give me a patient hearing.”

Swami Chaturanandji had begun speaking spontaneously – in the very manner I had mentally desired he should and hence, I did not want to check the impulsive flow of his readiness to talk, by postponing to hear him.

So, I expressed my interest to hear him right away, assured him that we would be all to ourselves for the next three hours and that he may confidently go ahead to tell me all that he wanted to.

Put at ease by my readiness to hear him right then, Swami Chaturanandji resumed thus, “Swamiji, at the outset I must confess that I am not a regular initiate of the holy order of monks. Please don’t be surprised by this factual statement. I am still a married man with a wife and son………”, named Kamala and Jairam, interposed I.

This unexpected remark from me caused him to spring up from his seat, very much wonder-struck.

Swamiji” he stuttered to say, “What I have heard about you is surprisingly true. Indeed, you are also omniscient. People who know you personally and those who have read your books, openly and objectively opine so.”

Disagreeing with him, I said, dear friend, forget what you have heard from people. In their ignorance of facts and blind fancy for something sensational, people begin to interpret even ordinary incidents as miraculous without caring to delve deep and discern. Now, as for the source of my knowledge about the name of your wife and son, the plain truth is, I heard you babbling in sleep. This caused me to make an obvious guess which now stands proved to be true. Honestly, I know nothing about you. You will please believe me and continue what you further wish to say about yourself.

“No Swamiji, it cannot be so,” rejoined Chaturanandji and added, “I am not in the habit of talking in sleep. Were it really as you say, surely then, someone from my home and others who have stayed with me elsewhere, will have heard me do so and would have certainly brought it to my notice – for me to put a check to it. I am more disposed to believe, Swamiji, that having somehow given expression to what you have intuitively known, you now want to cover it up with a handy explanation, so that your extra sensory perception may remain unpublicised.”

I couldn’t convince him and I felt that I ought not to have intercepted him by that amazing interjection.

Anyway, I managed to make him to continue talking about himself as follows:

“My father was running a milk shop in a town of Uttar Pradesh and it was waiting for me to be taken charge of. Because I was not academically inclined in the least, that was a great advantage. There was no question of my being listed in the category of the educated unemployed.”

“After the death of my father, my mother got me married and yoked me to the management of the milk shop. This went on well for quite some years – right till my mother’s death.

“My mother’s death cleared my way to become a bit more free to live the way I liked – without let or hinderance. I could spend a little more on pleasures of my fancy and cater to the better living standard which my wife Kamala liked.”

“Then came the responsibility of my having to care for the grown up sister who had all along lived with a widowed aunt and with it, dogged the prospects of my becoming a father, i remember someone having humorously told me then : “NEEDLES AND PINS, NEEDLES AND PINS, WHEN A MAN MARRIES HIS TROUBLE BEGINS.”

This situation enforced an involuntary curb on our personal expenditure and with no open scopes for expanding the milk business, I had to drag on, walled with wants weighing over me.

It was around then that I became friendly with one Ishwar Prasad. He was a good looking young man who owned a small cycle shop. He used to sell some small spare parts, repair cycles and give them out on hire.

My new friend was a likable person. He commanded a good voice, evinced interest in classical music, he was a fine harmonimist and he gave himself to reverentially reading Ramayana regularly. It was a treat to hear him singing different hymns in praise of Lord Rama. You must be aware of the fact that the popular epic of Ramayana is a household companion of the people in Uttar Pradesh and that different episodes from this mythological work are frequently enacted on public stages there. Because of this practice, even the illiterates in Uttar Pradesh are well up in the knowledge of Ramayana and are even able to recite different portions of the rich verses from it. This certainly cannot be said of any other Hindu spiritual treatise as being so widely liked and learned even by the literates in other parts of the country.

My love and liking for the company of Ishwar Prasad increased day by day and we always met every evening after meals and spent quite some time gossiping in the initial stages of our intimacy. Ishwar Prasad took to treating me with affection because of our identical interest in music, Ramayana and above all, because he saw in me an individual who could teach him to speak Gujarati over which I happen to have a hold of fair fluency.

So, during our subsequent daily meetings, I gave him lessons in Gujarati, he read out portions from Ramayana and before parting, we sang different hymns in praise of Lord Rama. His patent one used to be the one from Lanka canto of Ramayana and this rich and stirring piece came to be sung by him regularly in an ecstatic away.

“As said earlier, I too inherited this love for Ramayana, from the cradle, so to say, and my association with Ishwar Prasad gave it a rehearsing, leading to a lasting remembrance of several specifically soul-soothing stanzas from its rich treasure of uplifting knowledge. If you permit, Swamiji, I shall sing before you,’ after sun-set today, Ishwar Prasad’s patent piece, I mentioned a little before. For your greater enjoyment, I would suggest, it would be better if you can provide me a harmonium from the town.

We were not destined to be together for long and before the close of two years of my coming into a friendly contact with Ishwar Prasad, he sold his shop and shifted to another town for a permanent settlement there.

For sometime however, we maintained the link of friendship through regular correspondence and I was given to understand that he was engaged in selling fancy cut-pieces and children’s dresses.

As his town of residence wasn’t too far I went to meet him a good many times. But, each time I did so, he was out and I always returned with the knowledge that he was doing fairly well. For, I happened to observe new additions of household things piling up in his house and expensive clothes and gold ornaments on the person of his wife, within as short a time as one year’s stay in that new town, doing a different business.

This knowledge of quick and multiplying profits of prosperity visiting my friend, kindled in me a strong desire to switch over to his line of business. I tried to gather details of its operation from his wife. She could neither give me a lead herself nor could I at once get in touch with Ishwar Prasad who was said to be always on the move from one unknown place to another. I was also told that he came home once in a way without intimation after a long spell of absence, stayed for a day or two and went back to unknowable places.

Anyway, I left word with his wife to call me by the quickest mode of communication when her husband next visited the town. Quite a few months passed off without my hearing anything from her or my friend Ishwar Prasad.

It was sometime then, when I was still under the sway of the constantly teasing desire to meet Ishwar Prasad, that I had to take my paternal aunt and her friends on a pilgrimage to Dwarka, in Saurashtra.

It was my first pilgrimage and it was for the first time that I saw the sea – one of the most wondrous creations of God. It thrilled me to watch the waves of the sea rushing forward and receding backward with a reverberating roar, caressing and kissing in the process, the shining shore successively.

We visited several small shrines in and around Dwarka. We had a pleasant time. The ladies in my company wanted to remain there for some more days and I myself desired to go to Porbandar, the birth place of Sudhama, a great and renowned devotee of Lord Krishna. As an additional attraction, there was for me a chance to feast my eyes with a better view of the vastness of the sea there.

I made suitable arrangements for the safe stay of the ladies, told them that I would be back within two days and left for Sudhamapuri, which, besides being a popular place of pilgrimage, is also the native place of Mahatma Gandhi, the pious pioneer of India’s struggle for freedom and an apostle of our country’s incredible independence.

At Porbandar, I visited the famous Kirti Mandir, Sudhama Mandir and a few other spots of interest including the port. In the evening I went to attend a devotional meeting arranged at Sudhama Mandir.

It was a full-moon day of the holy Hindu month of Chaitra and hundreds of local devotees and crowds of pilgrims from different parts of the country had congregated there. The temple notice board bore the information that one Swami Sri Ishwaranandji from the far off Himalayas was to conduct a mass chanting of Lord’s name.

A little before the appointed time, a car drove into the compound of the temple and from it stepped out a besepctacled young man of fine looks in ochre robes. He walked up to the flower-decked cushion platform and was flanked by two persons who appeared to be prominent Porbandarites.

The pious crowd stood up and cheered the Swamiji and the holy one acknowledged the greetings with a sign of blessing. Soon after, the session began with an invocation prayer. A short discourse on the power of repitition of God’s name preceded the mass chanting of different sets of popular chorus, of course, led by the Swamiji himself. Betimes, the Swamiji got up and with cymbals in his hands, danced rythemically on the platform. The crowd of audience became rapturous and began to slowly sway sideways.

The Swamiji’s voice, general gestures and bearing, most strikingly fitted with the identity of my friend Sri Ishwar Prasad. I remained perplexed for quite a while unable to become certainly convinced. ‘Could he really be Ishwar Prasad?’ This question began to rise and race within me in that state of doubt. I was seated pretty far from the platform arid possibilities of my edging myself to its nearness couldn’t be sighted by me. I was restlessly waiting for the programme to end soon, giving me an opportunity to check-up the facts.

Suddenly, my auditory organs picked up that sweet hymn by the Gods, which I said in the beginning, happens to be Ishwar Prasad’s choicest piece. My doubts were at once allayed and I became cock-sure, that the bespectacled person in ochre robes and on the platform right before me was verily Ishwar Prasad, my good friend. It was surely an astonishing knowledge that he who was said to be on tour selling clothes, was in fact now a revered monk moving in respectable circles of God’s devotees. I didn’t know if such change could come all so soon and remain unknown even to his wife. It was all pretty baffling.

At last, the devotional programme of that evening came to a close and before I could wade my way through the crowd and to the platform to meet my friend Ishwar Prasad, he left the place by another car.

On the spot enquiries revealed that he was camping at the residence of a well-known businessman of Africa. My informants gave me the address and showed me the way to it.

I reached the place straight away and was soon conducted to the suite in that big house where Sri Ishwar Prasad was lodged. He was all to himself then and out of natural excitement of joy, I exclaimed, “‘Halloa ! Ishwar, fancy meeting you like this !” “The cycle store Ishwar is dead. You are now before Swami Ishwaranand”, came the ready correction from him.

“Very well, be it that way”, said I, and asked, “What is all this? Since how long have you taken to this Godward life ? My knowledge of your debut as a Swamiji has amazed me. We were all along under the impression that you were doing some business.”

He said nothing for a brief moment and I sat tongue-tied, gazing at his glowing ochre-robes, airiness in his elated countenance and began wondering still about the paradoxicalness of his sudden rise to respectability and reverend ranks. While I was thus mentally engaged, wanting explanation to the pertinent questions, Ishwar Prasad stroked me on the head and beckoned me to hear him.

He began thoughtfully, “Look here friend, I am indeed in business, an all time one and wherin there is room for as many as have a little initiative, grit, brains and intelligence. Between ourselves, I am now in the business of holiness as Swami Ishwaranandji – feeding the flames of religious credulousness of people and making them to respect and reward me.

Because blind belief in religion and God is as widespread as darkness is diffused during the night, I found that anyone who cares to capitalise upon this human weakness also, can more easily attract to himself situations which go to make life slick and secure.

We need to understand that during- the brief sojourn on this earth as human beings, with no definite knowledge about the future and what it holds for us, it is sheer stupidity to neglect the immediate physical needs and wants which alone can make the live present more secure and enable us to remain happy.

I want you to realise also that the good and useful things of the world are all for the gain and enjoyment by the clever, cunning and crafty cheats, chicaners and charlatans.

The nice calls of norms and faithful clinging to moral values are all stipulations by the brainy people to keep simple folks like you and me tied to tearful trials and tribulations.

A little serious thinking and a focussed peep into the general human behaviour should at once convince you that the human sentiments of love, belief, faith, piety, renunciation, generosity, compassion, modesty, social service and charity are all designed dramas in deception – empty of reality and sincerity.

It is my factual understanding that the whole world is pretending and that it is therefore desirable that we too be practical and start to swim with the current of this all-pervading trend.

You may know me even as of the belief that any single pattern of prolonged pretention is not possible for long in all fields of human activities, save, the world platform of religion. The far-sighted sages, I must hasten to add, need to be thanked thousand times for their having mentally meandered and minted munificent myths, making it possible for us to twist their theological tales and profitably fool the people.

When the wise Abraham Lincoln averred that, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time,” he only refers to the activities which are governed by the head and not about what proceeds from the heart. At the same time, we need to regard that great Yankee’s contention as also portraying the view that due to diversity of peoples’ taste, all people cannot be fooled in the name of religion; but yet, it is still possible to keep on fooling all of the so called religious minded people all over the world all of the time.

Fortunately, I somehow realized the reality of the aforesaid promising situations prevailing in human society and I decided to play my present role as Ishwaranand. And as must be now evident to you, I am quite up on the high ladder of material success.

You will presently see for your satisfaction, rich persons like my host, who in normal circumstances, would never allow an ordinary cycle shop owner that I was, to near even the place where they store foot-wears, now readily and reverentially respect me and my behests.”

Though all that Swami Ishwaranand said was absolutely contrary to received and respected opinion, yet, his averment and arguments in support of them, carried with it a compelling and convincing force.

Ishwaranandji said nothing further. It is possible, he wanted me to go over all that he told me so strikingly and seriously.

Our dinner was announced in time and Swami Ishwaranandji briefly instructed me about the table manners and we were conducted to the dining room. Rich varieties of food was served to the accompaniment of soft music-the like of which I had never tasted before. While we were doing justice to the different dainty dishes, Swamiji introduced me to the host-couple, giving a false account that I was running a small orphanage in a town of Uttar Pradesh and that I was on a funds collecting trip. He casually hinted that such deserving institutions were worthy of financial assistance from well to do individuals like him. In exact demonstration of what the Swamiji had earlier told me about his hold on his host, the sethji instantly announced a donation of two thousand and five hundred rupees. I felt like a Cinderalla in a wonderland. As a milk man, I didn’t know that people could part with such a big sum without any trace of hesitation.

Then began the dessert-service and tin fruits and comfits were also liberally served. With the stoppage of the sonorous music, our dining ended and we rose.

Immediately thereafter, Swamiji remained closetted with some visitors and in the meantime, his host sang some sophical songs, made me also to do the same and at the end, gave me the promised amount of donation in currency notes.

Swamiji didn’t take very long to show up and later, in the midst of the family gathering, he conducted collective chanting of God’s name and we bid good night to all.

Back in his suite, where I was also to sleep for the night, Swami Ishwaranadji advisingly said to me as follows :

“I am glad we chanced to meet here. As a friendly favour, I wish to share with you the secrets of my modus operandi, so that, you too may astutely and advantageously apply them all and come out of the ruts of remaining and rotting as a mere milk man.

I know you as possessing the qualities and qualifications to fare well in this luscious and lucrative line. Incidentally, I may inform you that you needn’t renounce your family ties. I haven’t done it either. You have only to play the role of a renunciate in these distant parts and still remain attached to your near and dear ones in U. P. You may meet them from time to time and besides, provide them with the comforts which they lack and which you can never give them as a petty milk man.

All that you shall have to do is to procure for yourself a set of ochre robes, wear it and move about as a monk. You too may ramble about in the villages of Rajas than, Saurashtra, Gujarat and Cutch, reading Ramayana, singing hymns in praise of Lord Rama and tactfully start extracting from the religious people, gifts of money and clothes.

As you happen to command a thorough knowledge in Gujarati, you can make yourself full well understood and draw people to you. Side by side, you may also keep yourself equipped with the various herbal medicines for the effective treatment of the common complaints of fever, head and stomach ache, cough, dysentery, diarrhea, cuts, burns, and scabies. You will know the Gujaratis to be gluttonous and as such, suffering from loss of appetite, indigestion and constipation. So, you will find it necessary and useful to keep with you a good quantity of cheap medicinal powders which improve appetite, accelerate digestion and check costiveness. You can procure from my wife native formulaes to prepare inexpensive potions and concoctions for curing cough, asthma, piles and other diseases and complications common amongst women.

The ever busy people in the villages get very little or no time to go to the towns or cities for medical treatment and because their remaining ill for long hinders their attending to the agricultural calls, they are always anxious to avail themselves of the quick means of cure, if possible, locally. This being so, you too can profit playing the holy role of an apothecary. To give a touch of modernity, you may carry with you a stethoscope, a syringe and a little supply of harmless injections. And because people happen to believe that monks are in possession of secret techniques to cure the incurable, your presence plus prescriptions would be very much valued and handsomely paid.

You can even pretend to know astrology, palmistry and numerology. The simple and superstitious villagers, like their urban counterparts also believe in such senseless stuffs.

What I have told you are by no means all that there is to it. You must find for yourself different schemes to exploit the religious sentiments of people, majority of whom are yet in the pretentious stages of loving their Gods.

There are a few more points I desire you to bear in mind. They are the important DON’TS. If you carefully followed the ones I tell you, the useful DO’S will become automatically intelligible. The fifteen DON’TS are :

(1). Don’t remain in any one place for more than a week.

(2). Don’t get too friendly with people.

(3). Don’t exchange letters with anyone.

(4). Don’t try to be intelligent when in the company of the fools.

(5). Don’t try to be wise in the circles of the intelligent.

(6). Don’t postpone acceptance of the offered gifts.

(7). Don’t take too big a bite of the opportunities for making money.

(8). Don’t remit moneys from the very place of receipt.

(9). Don’t deposit moneys in Banks or entrust it to others’ custody.

(10). Don’t express or exhibit dissatisfaction over what is given to you.

(11). Don’t get involved with women.

(12). Don’t make emphatic predictions.

(13). Don’t deride any religious cult.

(14). Don’t go to places where you are known as an ordinary milk man.

(15). Don’t incur the displeasure of anyone.

While people practicing deception in other trades and professions run the risk of being sooner or later exposed, decried and held in contempt, you will find to your satisfaction such scathing situations will not visit you in your role as a mendicant. You need only to pretend perfectly and passionately play the paying part.

Remembering well all that I have comprehensively told you, should you wisely act the way I have suggested, you too can rid yourself from the recurring state of want, for the long you live. Everything will depend upon how ably you act – capitalising upon every opportunity which might carry with it monetary or material profit.

His adept and alluring advise appeared adequately appealing and I decided to act accordingly. Before parting, Swamiji himself gave me a sum of one thousand rupees from his personal funds and blessed me with success.

I returned to Dwarka, from there I went home and began in right earnest to set out as a monk; giving my people the impression that I was switching over to a better business of selling ready-made clothes.

To my relief, everything went well and on a dark night I left home with the desire to build and brighten my well-being.

I moved over to Saurashtra attired in ochre-robes and with a harmonium. As advised by my skilled mentor, I began my role from a village. There was an encouraging response all quarters. The whole village turned up to hear my religious songs, despite that winter nights cold. Before I shifted to another village, a collection of one hundred rupees in cash was made over to me.

That first day’s success emboldened me all the more and I began to speculate over the plenty more I can make by giving effect to other modes to knock out gifts from the simple villagers of Saurashtra region.

I started visiting the village schools to distribute sweets to the children. I dressed their minor wounds and even gave away books and clothes to the needy students. People began to regard me as a broad-hearted holy man return for my concealed selfish goodness, the well to do among the villagers gave me different amounts, many times more than what little I actually spent in their villages for being used in that very manner elsewhere too

I visited twenty villages by the time I was one month old, operating as a monk and earned eighteen hundred rupees nett.

Since I had come by enough money and desired to meet my wife and son, I proceeded to my native place. On the way, I changed into plain clothes which I always carried with me. I remained with my dear ones for a few days, left behind fifteen hundred rupees for their use and was back in Saurashtra for continuing my business.

I stuck on to visiting villages after villages and wherever I went, I first contacted the village head and became friendly with him. As before, I went to the schools, distributed chocolates, books and clothes to the children and entertained the villagers by singing different sets of religious songs both in Hindi and Gujarati.

As I continued thus, I chanced to receive more and more money from the villagers now and then. It was a case of the liberal and natural scheme of recompense paying back to me also, munificently, for the little I gave.

I made it a regular practice to visit a nearby town or city once in a fortnight to regularly remit home a major portion of the collections of money, with instructions to my wife to purchase different items of use. Once in about two months, I myself went home for a brief stay and returned to re-enact the rewarding role of a religious man.

A whole year passed off and I gained a good footing and felt fit and fearless to go anywhere to carry on my profession more vigorously. From then on, wherever I went I managed to procure for myself a separate room. This I did more with a view to enjoying long hours of sleep, a luxury which remained denied to me as a milk man. Because, people who harboured a weakness for tea used to pester me at all odd hours for the supply of milk to them. I found this tea taking habit more widespread in Saurashtra and Cutch. In these parts everytime is tea time.

I also thought it necessary to change my food habits. I found the Gujaratis to be inhygienically lax with regard to their eating and drinking habits. Eating out of common plates preserving the left-overs and dipping the used glasses into the water containers, without washing them is prevalent in all homes. The Vaishnavite Gujaratis can be said to be somewhat cleaner because of the strictness of the ladies in the house. And so, I gave.up eating food and began subsisting on milk, raw vegetables and locally available fruits.

The over-eating Gujaratis regarded my changed diet as an ascetic accomplishment and prodded me with enough and more milk and fruits daily. I partook of them just once every morning.

This way, getting a separate room wherever I went and taking milk and fruits only once in the early mornings, I slept the whole day from sun-rise to dusk daily. In the evenings, I met people who came to me and at nights I gave bhajan programmes lasting till the early hours of the morn. The villages in Saurashtra, Cutch and Rajasthan being close to one another, I always moved over to the next village a little before sun-set. I never told people that I also slept like them and saw to it that they knew not about it. As such, I also passed off as an individual who has won over the need to sleep. People were all praise for me and honoured me with gradely gifts of money and expensive clothes.

The villagers respected me as a man of God and always made arrangements for my comfortable stay and bhajan programmes in their villages and even recommended me to their friends and relatives in the adjacent ones.

At all places I had to meet visitors coming from the villages where I had previously stayed, prescribe medicines to them, console them over deaths in the family, settle petty disputes among them and advise them on other matters of their limited interest. All this I did with care and with an eye on monetary profit and with the show of interested concern.

I got on swell and with the earnings flowing to me, even as rivers flow to the ocean I managed to get my sister married into a good family. I also purchased a house and a few acres of land in the name of my wife.

People expected me to do so many things for them and I tackled them always in the evenings and nights – reserving the day time for a long and sound sleep. I had to attend marriages to bless the couples, remain present at religious functions in private houses, hold special prayers for the welfare of the dead people perform religious rites to ward-off the feared bad times, sell talismans, suggest spots in the fields were wells could be sucessfully sunk, arrange marriage alliances, cause small yagnas to be performed and have small temples to be built or renovated. People somehow began to come by what they desired and my presence, pats, predictions pacifications prescriptions, pronouncements were all ignorantly considered to be very potent and auspicious and this meant additional income to me.

It is my opinion that to give and forget having given is imbedded in the people of Gujarat. When it comes to giving in the name of religion, God, cows, dogs, pigeons, feeding the poor, distributing free medicines and other undertakings of social good, none can excel the Gujaratis. Another fine quality in the Gujaratis is, having given away what they wish to or can give, they generally don’t care to know if their money, given away in charity is honestly used for the particular cause they happen to donate to. Again, it is about these people alone, can it be said that they are superlatively superstitious and as such cannot deliberately disbelieve what they somehow happen to regard about religion as true.

During the long period of eight full years of my wandering in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Suurashtra and Cutch, I came across some saintly souls and I bypassed them because I was not in want of what they could give me. For, spiritual advancement was not what I aspired for. There were also instances of senior sharks of shammers, well versed in the scriptures, showing up where I camped. On all such tight occasions, I garlanded them, showered lavish praises and offered monetary presents – falsely acknowledging their superiority and that way discreetly restrained them from dubbling me as a quack or a good for nothing fellow.

As I carried on with the confidence and self-complacence which comes to a successful individual who has been in the line for a fairly long time, some two years back I came in touch with a good family in a town of Saurashtra. It was a small family of five persons comprising of a husband and a wife, a son and a daughter-in-law and a daughter. They were quite well to do and were considered to be pious persons as all people who visit temples, attend religious discourses, take to the company of monks or take God’s name when badly ill, are all falsely accepted as religious ones. Both the husband and wife were partially paralytic, their married son was attending to the family business in Nagpur and the undergraduate daughter Charu, despite her advancing age, chose to remain unmarried so that she could personally serve her pious paralytic parents.

I was introduced to them by a rich agriculturist from a nearby village, as an avatar of Ashvinikumar, the celestial physician. I cannot say that the affluent villager had exagerrated, because, his wife who was suffering from mental derangement and whose case was pronounced as immedicable, was, by a fluke, cured by ordinary medicines I gave her. And hence, he had reassuring reasons to believe the way he did and naturally therefore, he chose to recommend my treatment to his friend Sri Raghuvirbhai also.

Prognosis had it that the case of Sri Raghuvirji would lead to an incurable spastic – stiffness of limbs not under the control of brain. Sri Raghuvirbhai felt that he was over-drugged for a pretty long period and as such, was fed up and was averse to take any more medicine. The condition of his wife was worse. She was supposed to be suffering from causalgia-presistent pain caused by injury to a vital nerve. They were somehow persuaded to give me a trial.

I undertook to treat them. I mixed three different oils and added camphor powder to it and massaged the partially active limbs of Raghuvirbhai once in the morning, shortly before I went to sleep and again prior to Seth Raghuvirbhai retired to bed. I detailed Charulata to massage her mother. I also put them on a dietic discipline.

I read out portions from Ramayana for them to listen and sang devotional songs every night. Charu had a good voice and she herself knew a good many fine songs. She too sang one or two pieces daily. Because I was tied down to treating the rich couple, I didn’t go anywhere. But people from the villages came to me for medical consultation.

The condition of the Raghuvirs began to show signs of improvement within four weeks of continued massage and dietic restrictions. It was another welcome fluke. Because of the little favourable effect of my treatment, the couple who were disinclined to take any medicine, could be persuaded to subject themselves to the intake of some metal ashes, particularly of the iron content. That too did a little good to tone them up.

Within two months of my stay with them I had endeared myself to them all by my pretended pious conduct, loving treatment and by reading Ramayana, recounting good stories from the mythological treatises and singing devotional songs.

One day I observed Sri Raghuvir removing a tile plate from the high and broad skirting board in his prayer room. He then thrust his hand into the deep cavity and brought out bundles of currency notes. Thereafter, he set aside a few, counted the rest and put them back where they were. He then replaced the glazed tile on the wall and hung the portrait of Goddess Laxmi, concealing that way the loose tile from coming to view.

Soon after that, he moved to the opposite end and from behind a portrait of Lord Buddha too he worked in a similar way, removed a few bundles of notes and covered the wall and suspended the portrait.

There were four portraits of identical size in that special room and possibly, thought I, behind each of them there was an enclosed space wherein Seth Raghuvir hid currency notes of different denominations.

On an opportune afternoon, when the Raghuvirs were asleep, and both the maidservant and Charu had gone out, I slipped into the prayer room and managed to pull out the tile plate with the help of a prog and from each of the currency bundles stored therein, I removed five notes of hundred rupees. There were nine bundles in all and I had collectively taken out fortyfive notes. I acted that way to avoid immediate detection and it was just in accordance with the advise of Ishwaranandji who had warned me not to take a big bite out of paying opportunities.

Of the three at home, Charu liked me more – nay, she even started to love me. We spent stolen hours to talk together on topics which tickle and kindle young hearts to flicker in an inexplicable bliss. Her mature age and understanding yearned for masculine attention and affection. You will pardon me saying, Swamiji, I let loose the lurking lewdness in me, to a lilting liberty, taking advantage of Charu’s charming concessions.

It was well over two months since my last visit to home and I wanted to visit my native town and at the same time make over to my wife the four figure fortune, my chance peep made it possible for me to acquire. When I felt quite satisfied that I could leave without rousing suspicion of having committed theft, I informed Sri Raghuvir that I would like to go to Hardwar to bring for him some fresh herbs from the jungles near Rishikesh. He permitted me to go and offered me one thousand rupees for the expenses. I accepted five hundred rupees only, wanting to give an impression that I was above greed. The Sethji also provided me with a return air ticket from the nearest airport to Delhi.

As before, I spent a few days with my wife and son, gave them the money and returned to my patients’ place to begin what I told them was a follow up treatment to make their affected limbs to regain a natural pliantness.

Two more months passed by and Charus parents appeared to be coming round to normalcy in health. The native concoctions which are generally used in cases of Rheumatic pains, seemed to have worked. With the registration of unmistakable and additional signs of change for the good, in their health, the Raghuvirs took a greater liking for me and reposed an added trust in me and my mountabankery.

My quackish treatment continued, so did my reading Ramayana regularly and also my role as Chari’s lover. Days passed on pleasantly and I had completely won over the progressing parents and the prurient pretty prude.

With this ready and favourable situation coming into being, by the friendliness of good luck and my having acted as I was tutored to, I saw in it additional chances to make more money. So I suggested that Sethji should go to Hardwar with me, where alone, I said, some more herbal medicines which I proposed giving to them admixed with fresh ganges water, as the third and last stage of treatment to cure them permanently, was available. They at once agreed and by prior arrangements, the four of us reached Delhi by air and Hardwar in a taxi.

At Hardwar we stayed in a Dharmashala where the rich pilgrims alone are accommodated and spent forty days there. Somehow again, the intake of fresh medicines which I administered to them, worked wondrously and the couple almost became well.

As per his earlier resolve, at the end of his succesful treatment, Sri Raghuoirbhai fed hundreds of poor people plenteously and even gave them decent alms. I was paid three thousand three hundred and thirty three rupees for the services I rendered to them and rupees one thousand six hundred and sixty seven towards the collective costs of medicines I had given them for about six months or so.

According to our programme, I was to go back to Saurashtra with them. Before doing so, I asked the Sethji to allow me three days to go to Kurukshetra, another place of pilgrimage, for the purpose of visiting two good charitable institutions there, to personally donate to them the generous gift given by him.

The three of them also wanted to accompany me. But I managed to dissude them, saying that in their present improving health, the extreme heat of Kurukshetra would have an injurious effect upon them.

On his wanting to know the details of the general activities of the institutions I wished to visit, I did some impressive bluffing and Sri Raghuvirji gave me another five thousand rupees for being equally donated to those institutions on his behalf also.

I rushed to my Kurukshetra and remained in the affectionate company of my wife and son-the two institutions. I gave them all the money, left behind instructions as to on what they should soon spend that sizable sum and got back to Hardwar.

A few days later, we boarded a plane to take us to Saurashtra and reached Raghuvirjis residence. I stayed there for about a fortnight and was planning what next to do.

The Raghuvirs were well on the way to complete recovery, with no more need for any further treatment, save, light exercises and regulated diet. Because of this, I felt that I cannot hang on much longer. And so. I first thought of decamping with the lot of Raghuvirbhai’s hidden money. But, the magnetic pull towards Charu who madly loved me, came in the way as a check. I didn’t want to lose her company. I found it difficult to take a final decision. All the same I didn’t want to do anything which would work out to my having to severe ties of my illicit love with Charu.

I hadn’t visited Cutch for a fairly long time and I felt that I could go over to some villages there for the time being and indulge in the old game of entertaining the people there with my bhajan programmes and earn what I can. As expected by me, the Raghuvirs sincerely requested me to treat their house as my own and to visit them now and then even if it be for short spells of stay with them.

Before leaving for Cutch, it struck me all of a sudden that there was something I could easily do in the immediate, leaving the distant, doubtful, difficult and dangerous chances of further gains from within the four walls of Sri Raghuvirjis prayer room, for a careful and future attempt. The person I selected to dupe was Charu. She had once made a passing reference to her having secretly saved some money besides what she had in her personal bank account.

I talked to her alluringly about the merits of charity and told her that she could help a good family seething in poverty, in Cutch then. As she had already surrendered to me, the precious virtue of modesty any lady could be proud of and be praised for, I hadn’t to do much persuading. She readily rose to the occasion and asked me to name the amount. I made her to part with five thousand rupees.

Because Sri Raghuvirji had taken for granted that I had given away in charity all that I had received from him at Hardwar, he gave me a decent amount for my trip to Cutch.

I reached Cutch and the first thing I did was to send to my wife per registered parcel the amount which I had knocked out of Charu. In order to hood-wink the postal hands who are used to purloining from the registered articles, I packed that parcel to home, as before, in a shabby and sloven style. Because of this care on my part, my parcels never suffered abstractions in transit.

It was harvest season then and the villagers of Cutch were all gay and generously gave to me money and grains after my nocturnal programmes of reading Ramayana and singing devotional songs. I toured for about two months going to select villages in the fertile parts of that state.

Having earned what I could from the villagers of Cutch, I returned to Saurashtra, wanting to meet [Charu _]and to see if i could try another helping from _Raghuvirji’s hoarded money.

The Raghuvirs and Charu were too happy to receive me. I had gone there with plans to spend about ten days with them prior to going to my home. But, on the fourth day itself Sri Raghuvir had an urgent assignment for me. He asked me to proceed to Mathura immediately to treat a local friend of his who was down with a. sudden paralytic attack soon after he took a dip in the holy waters of river Jamuna. It was believed that his friend had gone on a pilgrimage to the holy places in [North _]and he broke journey at _Mathura while on his homeward journey and fell a victim to the attack. My prospective patient, I was told, happened to be so firm a believer in the efficacy of the special stanzas of Ramayana to cure all diseases, that he never took medicines at all. I was also told that he happened to be a cured the Ramayana way agreed to leave right away.

Before I left, I wanted to try another round of stealing from the enclosures in the prayer room walls which were full of currency notes.

I sneaked into the prayer room and uncovered the particular tile on each of the four walls. But I drew a saddening blank. All of them were empty. I came to know afterwards about Sri Raghuvirjis son having come from Nagpur a week back, to take some money. This information explained the emptiness of the concealed cubital cabinets. For the present, thought I, that the season of want had emptied the enclosures of their contents. But that the climate of plenty would soon refil them – even as it happens in cases of ponds which get dried up in summer and become full again with water, during the rainy season.

As usual, before I left, Seth Raghuvirji gave me some money for expenses and I myself wasn’t short of funds. I reached Mathura and went straight to the place where I was told Sri Raghuvirjis friend Kanchanlal was staying.

He was glad to meet me and I assured him in my own way that he too would soon be cured of the malady-in the same way as were the Raghuvirs. I also told him that I very much appreciated his repugnance for the allopathic medicines which are full of animal contents and easily managed to convince him that the herbal ones were harmless and that their use should not be avoided if he cared to enlist a quick cure. My new patient wanted to remain in Mathura itself till he was completely cured. But, I reserved my opinion on that issue for the time being. For, I was no medico and

as such knew not if the new patient also would so successfully respond to my ordinary hanky panky massage, harbal concoctions and metal ashes. And I didn’t want to commit myseif for too long an absence and to be away from where Charu lived. I had also to gauge the extent of monetary gain I could hope to come by from Sri Kanchanlal. With these thoughts, I started the treatment. Within a few days, I found him to be a pinch-fist. Yet, I thought it fit to continue posing to treat him for the pleasure of Sri Raghuvir.

Some days later, under the pretext of having to procure some additional herbs needed for preparing a special type of lincture and which were available only around Agra city, I left him, promising to return soon after I collected all that was -needed.

It was well over eight and a half years since I had last met Swami Ishwaranandji. Almost whenever I went to my native place, I visited his town on my return trip, wanting to meet him or get information about his where-abouts from his wife. But, I always failed and his wife knew nothing – even as my wife and son know not about my movements. On all such occasions, I had to return disappointed after giving her different nice presents as a token of my gratitude for her husband who had launched me into respectability and easy earnings.

Now that the home town of my friend Sri Ishwar Prasad alias Swami Ishwaranandji was close to Mathura, I went there to try to meet him.

I found the house locked. The neighbours informed me that Mrs. Ishwar Prasad died of poisoning, ten days back and that Ishwar Prasad himself was an indoor patient in a leper hospital since about a month and a half. I couldn’t believe what I heard. I dashed to the hospital. My good old friend was indeed there. His whole person was affected with that cutaneous disease. It was a very pitiable sight. He gave me a brief account about the death of his wife, saying that he suspected her of having knowingly taken poison and died in order to avoid having to tend the leper husband, expose herself to infection and to face social ridicule.

He was very bitter in his comments about the apathetic attitude of relatives and friends towards him, since he was going to be of no more use to them as a provider of comforts and conveniences.

Then, unable to contain himself he sobbed like a child burying his hefty head in his hand and hurtfully said, “It torments me now to realize that the few persons one so much loved and helped could even become indifferent to their benefactor when he is suffering in sickbed and is very much in need of little consolation, comforts and care.”

It seemed he had much more of his wounded feelings to pour out. But, as the sight of his sick and suffering state, somehow, kindled in me the frightening feelings of an irrepressible foreboding, I did a bit of hurried consoling gave him a little money and left him after assuring that I would turn up again in a few days.

My next place of visit was my home town. On the way to my house, I purchased sundries for my wife and son. But, when I reached the house, I found strangers living in it. Enquiries revealed that they were the new owners of the house. To my immediate anxious question I was given the shocking information that my dear wife was mentally deranged and that my teen aged son Jairam had lost an eye and a leg and that they both were with my brother-in-law, in the same town. Other people who were living close to my house told me many unpalatable things about my wife’s misconduct. All this hearing naturally upset me and when I viewed it all in the context of my fresh knowledge with regard to the bad weather of suffering having visited my guide Swami Ishwaranandji, I became all the more nervy and apprehensive about what might happen to me personally.

In that sad and shrunken spirit of mental uneasiness, I hurried to the house of my brother-in-law. My wife had indeed turned mad. She simply stared vacantly at me. She was physically reduced and appeared anaemic. Truely too, the thirteen year old son of mine was in a crippled state – having lost his left leg and a complete loss of the right eye. I was told that he fell from a roof-top while flying kite.

Kamala’s brother gave me the harrowing details of how, because of my continued absence from home and the easy flow of money she received from me, from time to time, she got entangled in cheap companionship with a neighbour of questionable character and indulged in drinking, debauching and dicing.

In the past years, some persons in the neighbourhood had brought to my notice the details about Kamala indulging in drinks, gambling and flirting. I was also informed later that the young Jairam had also begun to develop a taste for alcohol and that he kept a watch when his gamestress mother and other bad characters were engaged in a session of chicken hazard.

When I happened to question Kamala then she denied it all and said that some enviers tried to malign her that way, She did however admit that both the son and the mother did at times take small doses of brandy pawnee which is not absolutely alcohol and which she said, kept them warm and free from catching cold. It was a fairly convincing explanation and I didn’t bother much about it. On a later occasion, however, I had advised her that the mice of raw-ginger taken admixed with milk will be of a better effect tan what she thought of a habit forming and injurious brandy as doing them good.

More information poured in from other reliable quarters and when they were all pieced together, I had the all the more saddening picture of Kamala’s squander-mania and degeneracy. It dazed me to learn that the house and lands I had purchased in her name were first pawned and later sold away. All the thousands of rupees, I had sent and given her were all spent on cheap pleasures of drinking and betting. What amazed me most was, the proven information that my sister and her husband had also cheated Kamala, making her to part with a big sum of money. To top this twitching situation, there were quite a few genuine creditors pressing for immediate payment of their lawful dues.

I found all my fond hopes of making and keeping my wife and son happy, shattered to the core.

Kamala’s condition was appalling. She coughed convulsively and tears cascaded from her eyes now and then. At times, she sorely screamed and spattered saliva. Neurologists diagnosed her malady as “WET BRAIN” i.e., dementia due to chronic alcoholism. I got her admitted into a mental hospital.

Jairam had grown up as an unmanageable boy, and because he was crippled, I had to arrange to put him into an institution caring and training the physically handicapped, in handicrafts and other branches of suitable vocations.

Having spent quite a bit, settling some of Kamala’s debts, I was almost broke. I needed money to square up the claims of other creditors. So, I went back to Mathura to take up the case of treating Sri Kanchanlal. He was not there, I was told that some of his relatives came from Saurashtra and took him home.

I mustered hope and went to Saurashtra, without knowing the grim and jolting situation I was to face there. On reaching Sri Raghuvirji’s house, I didn’t find Charu at home. The maid servant rudely refused replies to my questions. And when I was before the Raghuvirs, they reddened, accused me of having spoilt Charu’s life and slurred their name. They fired me left and right. And to add fuel to the raging fire, that mutual farmer friend dropped in at that very time. He seemed to have learnt of the whole affair earlier. He was very rough with me. But somehow, he controlled himself and spared me the painful hiding he could have given me. There was nothing I could say, taken in, as I was, unawares. They drove me out. I felt very much enervated and I left with a humming head, hung down in shame.

Later, when in the afternoon, I visited the house of the old maid-servant, to gather more details from her, with regard to what brewed up after I had left for Mathura, I came to know that Mrs. Raghuvir somehow saw symptoms of pregnancy in her daughter a few days after I had gone. I was also informed that Charu had no go but to admit her secret companionship with me and that she was forthwith taken to Nagpur for a therepeutic abortion. I also came by the information that the irate Raghuvirs spoke ill of me whenever people from Cutch and other villages in Saurashtra happened to call in, enquiring about me.

Very much true to what I heard had happened, some nearby villages I visited immediately thereafter, made it abundantly clear to me that a considerable damage had been done to my earlier reputation as an adorable anchorite. Quite a many people gave me the impression of their having shockfully learnt about my loose conduct and about their reluctance to have anything to do with me.

Despite such discouraging alloverishness, I tried in vain to pull on with pleasantness in my present role. The wheel of good fortune or easy income and cheap pleasures having come to a halt after a good many rotations of what I had all along thought to be a blissful time, I now realize that bad behaviour, born of barren beliefs isn’t the way to beget and bask in blitheness.

All the episodes in the puranas which depict the bad as having ultimately suffered wrath, can’t be set aside as figments of the ancient visionists. The case of my own ultimate failure as a rogue in holy robes and the sad fate which my erratic preceptor met, are by themselves, sufficient enough to understand that the dramas of duplicity and deception cannot go on for long without the actors being punished by the divine laws. I for one, am convinced that when it comes to recompensing good or bad deeds performed with INTENSE feelings, the natural laws see to it that it is not delayed or deferred. The effects of such karmas can be likened to cash transactions one gives by the right hand and receives by the left one-or sows during the day and reaps at night – so instant is the result of all INTENTIONAL actions.

Incidentally, since the visitation of bad times, I have been recalling many nice things from Ramayana and other epics and one of them happens to be the following piece :

FATE LINKS THE UNLINKED,

UNLINKS LINKS;

IT LINKS THE THINGS

NO MAN THINKS.”

Though, in my present state of mental confusion, I do not know in what measure the processes detailed in this dictum of an apologue from the Panchatantra operates in human life, yet, the one I shall presently quote from the same source has granted me a fixity of understanding, and it is :

“A CALF CAN FIND ITS MOTHER COW,

AMONG A THOUSAND KINE;

 SO GOOD AND EVIL DONE, RETURNS

AND WHISPERS, “ I AM THINE.”

 

So, you see Swamiji, by my bad ways, I forced the ignomy of illegitimate motherhood upon the innocent Charu, wounded the feelings of her generous parents, drove my devout wife to indulge in extreme vileness, ruined the life of my son Jairam and made it possible for my good natured sister to cheat.

I must add that I have been very brief in recounting my misdeeds. It is quite possible that in the course of my nine years’ role as a monk, quite a many homes and hearts were broken, causing them all sorrows and sufferings, through my dishonest ways and animalistic appetite and I admit that I have met my Waterloo.

I find it a trifle difficult to forget that it is the Raghuvirs and Charu who suffered heavily because of my wickedness. As and when I recall their goodness, generosity, graciousness and guffaw and their having treated me with sincere affection and absolute trust, compunction overtakes me. I feel guilty of knavishness and this too fills me with a deep sense of contrition.

What has happened to me or what further punishment I shall have to face in consequence of my willful violation of the most sacred human obligations doesn’t so much worry me right now, as does the desire to know whether I would yet be given an opportunity to purge myself of all the possibilities to indulge in further sins!

Now, Swamiji, in order that I may attempt a beginning in the direction of self-reformation through penitent atonement, I need your help. I beg of you to pray for my redemption, that I may steadfastly believe that this short human life is intended to be made sweet, serene and seraphic and not shorter, sour or stinking.

I thank you, Swamiji, for having heard me sympathetically all this while. In a similar spirit, please attend to my request so that I may feel light to pursue the path of self-correction and that way live as an ardent adherant of all worthy values of life. Please, Swamiji , please, please say, that you will help me -p - r - a - y for me, Swamiji , p-I-e-a-s- e".

With this fervent appeal, Chaturanandji concluded the narration of his misadventures as a masquerading monk and broke down and wept remorsefully. I watched him passively without pacifying him. I desired that he empty the grieving emotions and become calm all by himself.

I saw in his tears, sincere feelings of personal guilt squeezing out the fluidic secretions from within. I felt it would be wrong to hold, especially; viewed in the light of his frank confessions, that the liquid which oozed out of his lachrymal gland could be either crocodilian or the type women are able to force out of themselves with felicity.

Having misguidedly got caught in the net of temptations and having woven within himself a thick web of guilt by his deceitful ways, which he too wrongly felt promised an exciting and easy existence, he now wanted to veer round to good ways which alone guarantee lasting happiness.

From what he later told me and also made known to me of his resolve to go back to his native town and revert to his profession as a milk man, it was doubtlessly clear that he wanted to sincerely start steering his life in the direction of self-improvement.

I assured him that everything always happens for the ultimate good of all those who choose to become and remain humane and that my best wishes would wholly be with him.

Before we went to bed, Swami Chaturanandji sang to me that rich hymn which he had in the morning said he would sing. The following is its anglicised version from an unknown but an abler pen:

“Glory to the immortal Rama, the blissful Hari, the prince of Raghu’s line, with his bow and arrows; the lion like lord rend in pieces the elephant of earthy existence, the ocean of perfection, the all-wise, the all-pervading; in whose body is concentrated the incomparable beauty of a myriad Loves; whose virtues are sung by bards, saints and sages. Hero of spotless renown, who in thy wrath didnt seize Ravan, as Garur might seize some monstrous serpent; delight of mankind; destroyer of grief and fear; ever unmoved by passion; lord of supreme intelligence; beneficent incarnation of illimitable perfection; loosener of earth’s burdens; very wisdom; everlasting, all-pervading, ever one, without beginning; I rapturously adore thee, O Rama, fountain of mercy, Glory of the line of Raghu, slaying Dushan and making a king of the ever faithful Vibhishan, storehouse of virtue and wisdom; incomprehensible and from everlasting; I constantly adore thee, O Rama the passionless, the supreme, Mighty of arm, strong in renown, exterminator of the hordes of the sinful; pre-eminent in auspiciousness; friend and protector even of the undeserving suppliant; I worship the perfection of beauty, the spouse of Lakshmi. Deliverer from the burden of mortality, extern to cause and effect, soul-created, destroyer of hideous sin; wielder of the arrows and bow and lovely quiver lotus-eyed, paragon of kings; temple of bliss, Lakshmi’s beautiful consort; subduer of pride, lust, lying and selfishness; irreproachable, imperishable, transcendent; all forms alike and yet no determinate form; like the light of the sun-thus the vedas have declared, it is no mere quibble of speech – which is separate from it and yet not separate. How fortunate, my lord, are all these monkeys who reverentially gaze upon thy face. A curse, Hari, on the life of we gods enjoy; without devotion to you we have all gone astray in the world. Now, as thou art compassionate to the suppliant, have compassion upon me; a lion to destory the elephant-like inconstancy of my purpose; may I practice the reverse of my former way and live happy, esteeming that a happiness which was before a pain. Mercy, destroyer of the wicked, beautiful jewel, whose lotus feet are cherished by Sambhu and Uma, O king of kings, grant me this boon, the blessing of a constant devotion to thy lotus feet.”

On the following morning, Swami Chaturanandji took leave of me, left behind his ochre robes and went back to his native place. A month and a half later, he wrote to me to inform that he was quite settled, carrying on fairly well with his new milk shop and devotion for Lord Rama.

From the series of his subsequent nice letters too, I learnt with delight about his progress as a refined milk man and as a serious devotee, faithfully practising the incantation of [_Lord’s _]name

SRI RAM JAYA RAM JAYA JAYA RAM.”

Some seven months after he had left Bhadran, during my travels in the northern parts, I paid a surprise visit to the milk shop of ex. Swami Chaturanandji. Lo ! there he was, in his clean and tidy shop attending to the sale of milk, humming the aforesaid incantation. Because I had gone to him after shaving my head and removing the beard, he didn’t recognise me. That was quite natural for a person who had just met me once, seven months back. I myself told him nothing right away about our having met at Bhadran.

The ex-Chaturanandji welcomed me with respects, prepared a seat for me and offered me a cup of hot sweetned milk. While I sipped from the shining stainless steel cup, I observed with attention the bewitching appearance of the former Swamiji and felt that the fresh lustre in his luminious eyes could only be present in a truly God conscious man and which sadly enough is absent in the eyes of our present day so called God men of India.

It gladdened me to be with the man who through real repentance retracted from his past bad ways and registered a considerable self-progress. :

I at once recalled Vincent’s wise observation that:

"Mere sorrow, which weeps and sits still, is not repentance. Repentance is sorrow converted -into action; into a movement toward a new better life."

After the last sip from that cup of sweet milk, sweetened too by the rich radiations from his pious plus peaceful personality, I disclosed my identity to the ex-Chaturanandji. He rose with awe and tightly clasped me in his hold. Thereafter, with the excitement of child-like joy, he told me that after his return from Bhadran, he wrote to the Raghuvirs, imploring them to forgive him and that they had condes cendingly pardoned him for all his offences against them, including the theft of money. He showed me the letter of forgiveness from the noble couple and Charu. He also told me that he had visited the Raghuvirs a couple of months back. I felt refreshed to learn that unlike people who only know how to FALL in love, the ex-Chaturanandji knew also how to RISE and RAISE in love!

Yes, he made a casual reference to his wife’s death and about his son Jairam diligently doing his advanced courses in carpentry. At last, he requested me to stop over for the night so that we both could go next morning to meet his former preceptor who was in a precarious condition, still confined in a leper-home of a nearby city. I agreed to do so.

Before we went to bed that night, the former Chaturanandji, gave some fine recitals of hosannas he had himself composed. Late that night, I heard him, as I had at Bhadran, talking in sleep. But, he spoke differently, clearly and tenderly – “BELOVED SISTER CHARU, I WILL REMAIN GRATEFUL TO YOU ALL, FOR AGES, FOR HAVING SO MAGNANIMOUSLY FORGIVEN ME. MAY THE LORD BLESS YOU. MAY HE BLESS ME TOO, TO REMAIN FIRMLY FASTENED TO THE SELF-PURIFYING PURSUITS WHICH FINALLY LEAD TO HIGHER SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES AND CONSCIOUSNESS.”

A comment from the popular Panchatantra points out :

“Whatever secrets good or ill, men in their bosoms keep, Are soon betrayed when they are drunk or talking in sleep.”

On the next morning, we set out to meet Ishwar Prasadji. We found him in a slack, sluggish, sunken and spiritless state. On seeing us, with some efforts, he sat up on his bed and greeted us with his outstretched stumpy hands.

We asked him how he was feeling and whether his system responded to the medicinal treatment. He said, “Swamiji, the position is, physical maladies which are caused by dirtiness, intemperate habits, exposure to infections and climatic extremities can be cured by medicines. But, in cases like mine, when disease happens to come as a punishment for past sins, its function is to kill the victim gradually making him to writhe in pain. So, you see my lot is to rot and wither away in languishment. I have been disowned by all and this means death will soon claim me. I have none to hold on to or anything to fall back upon. I am furlorn and doomed.

A part of what he said, somehow seemed to be in agreement with the versified opinion of Arthur Guiterman, given herebelow :

WHERE LIFE IS WOE,

AND HOPE IS DUMB,

THE WORLD SAYS “GO”,

THE GRAVE SAYS “C O M E”.

We rounded off our visit by providing him with little money and left him. The ex-Chaturanandji went to his place and I returned to my monsoon headquarters.

Since then and till the time of clothing this episode in print, for inclusion in this book, I happened to meet the transformed milk man, half a dozen times. From my personal studies of his general conduct and from what i have learnt about him from those who have come to know him right from the time his late wife had turned mad, I must say, like all good people of God, he too is unostentatious, regular in everything he does, talks less, harbours no jealousy for anyone, helps the unfortunate to the best of his abilities, he is attached to none and nothing and yet sincerely loves one and all without any reserve. He is free from caste prejudices, he wisely spends on present needs, saves nothing for the future wants, doesn’t say anything on matters in which his personal understanding lacks a rational firmness. He does not complain, neither does he battle with emotions or self-created situations and he is ever cheerful. Like the great Shakespeare, he also believes that ‘WHEN WE ARE SICK IN FORTUNES, WE NEEDN’T MAKE GUILTY OF OUR DISASTERS, THE SUN, THE MOON AND STARS, AS IF WE WERE VILLAINS BY NECESSITY, FOOLS BY HEAVENLY COMPULSION. KNAVES, THIEVES AND CHEATS, BY SPHERICAL PREDOMINANCE, DRUNKARDS, LIARS AND ADULTERERS, BY AN ENFORCED OBEDIENCE OF PLANETARY INFLUENCE AND ALL THAT WE ARE EVIL IN BY A DIVINE THRUSTING ON”

Though it is certainly true that Chaturanandji switched over to lead a good life which befits a human being, yet, it must be said that he was motivated to resolve to do so, because the unique and infallible nature’s law of retribution thwarted his continuance as a psuedo monk, by deterrantly punishing him. Or else, there is no saying what further harm he would have inflicted upon those who might have continued to deal with him, still holding him to be a true man God.

It must also be said that times were when the healthy tradition of screening every individual who came forward to be initiated as a monk, was scrupulously followed. Because of if, only those individuals who combined the graceful qualities of the head and heart were admitted to the ascetic order. With the result, there were a band of rational minded dispassionate monks in Hindu society and their very presence inspired the people to lead a life of virtue and yearn to attain the highest goal of human birth.

Unfortunately for us, those good old days and healthy practices are no more in vogue. These days, any Tom, Dick and Harry can easily get initiated as a monk or can don the holy robes all by himself, even as our Chaturanandji and Ishwaranandji did. To put it a bit more elaborately, due to this laxity in the original norms of selecting persons for the holy order, frustrated individuals, who are generally overtaken by feelings of momentary dispassion, manage to gain entry into the holy ranks of monks and finding the life of monkhood as offering every type of comfort and respect hitherto denied to them, they continue as monks, with gusto. The mercenary minded men also find it easy to change into ochre or other holy garbs and fare on well, going about as representatives of God.

It would be no exaggeration to state that these days, the reins of Hindu religion happens to be in the hands of such worthless persons who are steeped in worldliness. People who are devoid of discrimination and dispassion can only be DEALERS and not LEADERS; they can only CHEAT and not TEACH. It is not in the nature of opportunists to give anything worthwhile. At best, these show masters just do a lot of clever talking on scriptures and keep us all tied to ignorance. For, their personal life of enjoyment and public adulation, depends upon the members of the society remaining constitutionally credulous and generally gullible.

We may yet know that people who move about as Bhagwans, falsely claiming to cure the incurables, cleverly producing concealed objects, the Dadaji who produced Scotch whisky for the Sikh editor and recently got mixed up in a criminal case of obtaining probate by fraudulant means, the rag-wearing Bapu who used to change into what he called ‘attributive’ dress when shamming to take over the sufferings of others and slipped from hermithood to become a husband – enticing a religious minded lady professor, marrying her and made her life miserable, the Shastri who avowed to be detached even though married and yet, shamelessly dogs the heels of his wife who has publicly disowned him; the Yogi who does business in meditation courses; the Swamigal who produces eggs and chickens for his devotees; the graduate lady who dabbles with Bhagawat and avers from the public platform that everything happens by the will of God and for the ultimate good of HIS devotees, and yet airs in the columns of the newspapers her displeasure over her house which caught fire, unable to bear the loss, stoically; the different Acharyas who cannot sit with others of their rank, in the same row of seats, in a true spirit of fellow feelings even for a brief while, the so called universal gurus who fanatically advocate and cling to caste distinctions, the Babas and Devis who claim abilities to generate spiritual powers in others and that way to calm the downward emotions in their followers, but redden with anger if handsome gifts don’t come forth from the initiates; the band of preachers who run after profitable platforms to deliver religious discourses for monetary gain alone; they who hate women; those guys who can never remain without the company of ladies; the English knowing preachers going to foreign countries to convert people of alien culture and religious beliefs, to follow the path of Krishna consciousness, while millions of Hindus are still ignorant about religion, are all outright HYPOCRITES. These wretched persons are responsible for the wave of degeneracy and disrepute now clouding the Hindu religion.

As for the various religious institutions and temples, it is very much hurting to observe that they function as business centres. Crafty persons vie with one another to establish themselves as trustees of these rich institutes to enjoy back-door benefits. Funds are collected in the name of helping the poor. But nothing reaches the needy and the miserable ones. Institutes boasting as feeding hundreds of poor people can be found treating our helpless and destitute brethren as worse than dogs. Those who wish to gain a first-hand knowledge about the truthfulness of this factual statement are advised to go incognito, on a visit to these so called charitable institutes and see for themselves the goings on there.

It is on government records that the different commissions appointed by it to enquire into the mismanagement of many such institutions as having unanimously come down sharply in their criticism and as having rightly held the high priests and the management to be PINDARIS engaged in an organised loot in the name of religion, God and serving those placed in unfortunate situations.

Now withstanding the above saddening situation, it is heartening that there still are amidst us some dedicated spiritual personalities and good religious institutions working in the direction of leading the people towards socio spiritual betterment.

Should we all wake up from the long slumber of ignorance and apathy, by doing some serious thinking and disassociating ourselves from the commercial creatures posing as God men and boycot the so called religious institutions which are deftly exploiting us, we can still bring to an end the dispicable somersaults currently in swing in the name of holiness, religion, charity and God.

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Sermons in the Storms

Episodes & Experiences – 2

   Reminiscences

Pearls & Pebbles


Incense Sticks

Man can learn more from their own experiences than other sources. In his previous years Swami Krishnanand was narrating the experiences and the episodes of his pilgrimage to his visitors. In its mortal Swamiji is not with us but by his writing we feel his immortal and appealing presence with us. The first goal of life is not ‘MOKSHA’ or ‘SAKSHATKAR’ that is the second for a man. The premier goal of life is to be a MAN a HUMANE. If one will be a good HUMANE, GOD will pick him and show the path of ‘MOKSHA’, this is real philosophy of life in Swamiji’s view. If we try to adopt the values of a good conduct and be a perfect humane on this earth, the writing of Swami Krishnanand and publishing this volume by us will be valuable in its real sense.

  • ISBN: 9781370089840
  • Author: Mrugank Patel
  • Published: 2017-07-11 16:35:11
  • Words: 42740
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