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Chapter 9 - Chain Of Enlightened

There was a scholar named Devdhar who was well versed in the philosophy of the Vedas. He had the rare privilege to study under the great scholars at Varanasi. This is a pilgrimage town with many ancient temples located here as well as a center of learning. Devdhar was an orator par excellence in the various Vedic philosophies. Time passed. He became bored juggling with words, propounding dry philosophies without having any spiritual experience. Dissatisfaction drove him to become an ascetic. He went for pilgrimage to Badrikedar eight times. Still discontented, he settled down in Kolhapur. Devdhar was a thorough gentleman, soft spoken and well behaved. Even at philosophical debates, he would not annoy or criticize anyone. His knowledge was so extensive that even the Shankaracharya (the religious head of the Hindu religion) of Karavir (ancient name of Kolhapur) would ask him doubts on any the Vedic philosophy. Devdhar learnt of Swami’s existence and started visiting the mathi. Everyday without fail he would come to seek Swami’s blessings before going to give discourses. At the mathi, Devdhar would sit gazing lovingly at Swami’s face, losing complete track of time. One day he requested Swami to show him the path to progress on the spiritual journey. Swami said, "It is not easy. A lot of hard penance is required". Thereafter Devdhar started practicing various methods of fasting. He stopped consuming salt and chillies in his diet. Thereafter he subsisted only on milk, later only on oil and so on. People criticized him that since he was a sanyasi, he should not resort to such methods. But Devdhar was keen to cleanse and purify his mind. He wanted to go to any length to please Swami. Finally it dawned on him that bhakti or devotion is the only way to understand God and get close to him.

With realization, Devdhar gave philosophical discourses with a new insight. Large number of interested students studied Vedic literature under him. Devdhar lived to the ripe age of ninety-three years. Even on the last day of his life, he had given a discourse in a temple.

Basavappa was a Telugu Brahmin youth from a small village of Andhra state. His uncle was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva and had remained a bachelor all his life. Throughout life his uncle stayed at the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva which was adjacent to Basavappa’s residence. From childhood, Basavappa observed the way his uncle conducted his life. Since his uncle was as good as his father, he treated him as a Guru. With this in mind, he offered his services to him. Daily he would fetch the river water, clean the temple, wash the utensils used for rituals, make sandalwood paste and pluck flowers.

Impressed by the selfless services rendered, the uncle called Basavappa and said, "Child, life is useless if you do not have a spiritual Guru. Go to Kolhapur and offer your services to Shri Krishna Saraswati Swami. He is Lord Dattatreya himself". Basavappa was dejected. He nevertheless told his uncle, "Why should I go to anyone else when you are my Guru? However I shall abide by your instructions". Thus he informed his parents and his wife that he was going to Kolhapur to meet Swami and he would soon be back.

Basavappa walked to Kolhapur wondering what Swami would look like. He wondered if he would be loving and gentle like his uncle. He entered the mathi and bowed to Swami. To Basavappa’s surprise and delight, Swami asked him to stay at the mathi. Here he did various odd jobs and spent rest of his time chanting Swami’s name. He got so involved with the life at the mathi that he completely forgot about his home and family. He did not even send a single postcard to his family informing them about his well being.

Since Basavappa had not returned as promised nor sent a word about how he was faring, his wife was naturally worried. His wife was so upset that she inquired with his uncle, "If anything has happened to him, tell me so honestly. He has not come back as promised". The uncle assured her that he was faring well and narrated stories of Swami’s greatness. Basavappa’s wife then started praying to Swami, "Call me to Kolhapur. It is my duty to serve my husband. So I have to stay wherever he stays". Swami could not turn a deaf ear to a sincere prayer. He called Basavappa and asked him to fetch his wife and return to Kolhapur immediately.

Basavappa returned home. He went to the temple to narrate all that had happened to his uncle. The uncle asked him to go and freshen up first, and meet his family. He requested him to return to talk to him in the afternoon. Basavappa entered his home. On seeing him his wife implored him to take her along with him. To her joy she was astonished as well as delighted to hear him say, "Do not worry. Swami has sent me home to bring you along with me to Kolhapur".

In the afternoon, he went to meet his uncle who narrated his own life story, "From childhood I was reluctant to lead life like everybody else. I did not want to earn a living or get married. The only thing I wanted to do was to worship Lord Shiva. Hence I kept myself busy conducting rituals at the temple. One day Lord Shiva appeared in my dream and instructed me to go to Kolhapur to serve Shri Krishna Saraswati Swami. I went there. Swami gave me a spiritual initiation. But after a few days he directed me to return home to serve Lord Shiva here. I was heartbroken but reluctant to disobey his orders. When I returned I came directly to the temple to bow at the Shivalinga. How long I bowed I cannot remember but when I lifted my head, the Shivalinga had disappeared. In its place was Swami smiling benevolently at me. Then I realized that Lord Shiva and Swami are one and the same. After that I worshipped Lord Shiva with full devotion. Son, you are very lucky that he has allowed you to stay with him.

After staying at home for a few days, Basavappa and his wife arrived at Kolhapur. For some time they stayed with Swami. One day Swami called Basavappa and gave him a pair of padukas made of stone. He said, "Go and install these padukas at Ganagapur and worship them there. I shall always be present with you".

Thus Basavappa and his wife arrived at Ganagapur. They searched for a house. They found one near the Kalleshwar Temple and stayed there. It is here that they installed Swami’s padukas and started their worship. Basavappa continuously read the Shri Gurucharitra. He was hospitable to pilgrims. But he started to talk less even to his wife.

Years passed by. Basavappa and his wife grew old. Basavappa regretted that after coming to Ganagapur he had not had the privilege to see Swami. One night, Swami appeared in his wife’s dream. He patted her and said, "Child, tell your husband that I am always with you both".

Next day, when his wife narrated her dream, Basavappa said, "You are very fortunate to have seen Swami". But nevertheless he felt miserable that Swami had not appeared to him. He stopped eating food and drinking water. Within a week Swami appeared to him and rebuked him, "Why are you so skeptical about my presence? I am always with you".

The couple worshipped the padukas throughout their lives till their very end. Even today the padukas are where they were installed.

Jatratkar Yogi
Gokulshirgaon is a small village twenty kilometers away from Kolhapur. Samadhibaba an old devotee of Lord Shri Ram stayed there. He had many children but only one daughter survived to adulthood. He got her married. One day he was given certain instructions in his dream, "Your grandson will become a great saint. Take proper care of him". Thus Samadhibaba went to stay with his daughter. Over a period of time she gave birth to a baby boy who was named as Jatratkar. Samadhibaba was extremely fond of this divine child. When he was eight years of age his thread ceremony was performed. When the boy grew to be fourteen years old, Samadhibaba once again received instructions in his dream to send his grandson to Kolhapur to serve Shri Krishna Saraswati Swami. Accordingly he guided Jatratkar to proceed to Kolhapur. After instructing his grandson, as if his life’s work was over, he left for his heavenly abode at the ripe age of one hundred and twenty years. Jatratkar was extremely sad at his grandfather’s demise, as he was very attached to him. After performing the death rituals, he commenced on his journey to Kolhapur.

Jatratkar walked to Kolhapur. He resolved not to drink water nor eat food till he met Swami. It was a great feat for a child to cover such a long distance without water and food. All the way he wondered what Swami looked like. He also wondered if he was as kind as his grandfather. Jatratkar reached the mathi late at night. The entrance door had been locked for the night. He felt sad and sat on the steps in dismay. As if to confirm that he could see Swami only in the morning, a person came out of the mathi and on seeing Jatratkar he said, "Swami retires to bed as soon as the aarti gets over. He will not see anyone till the next morning". The boy was almost in tears. Parched, hungry and tired, he prayed to Swami, "O Lord! I have come from afar with great hope and expectations. When there is no guarantee for one’s life the very next minute, how can I wait to see you till the next morning?" His sincere prayers reached Swami who came out at once. The boy heard his kind words, "Son, come inside". Swami caught hold of his hand and led him inside. Swami sat on his ‘throne’. Jatratkar sat down in front of him on the floor. He kept staring at Swami who lovingly asked him, "Am I like your grandfather or not?" But the boy was already in the trance-state. Swami gave him a spiritual initiation.

Jatratkar stayed with Swami only for a few days. Swami asked him to return to his village. However he regularly visited Swami. He later became a yogi. He had a large number of devotees who experienced the effect of his blessings and his mystical powers. His name and fame spread and he was well known as Jatratkar Yogi. A full book has been written on his life story.

Swami lighted many sparks, known and unknown, who treaded on their spiritual voyage. Some gained fame, others preferred to stay unknown and yet many still continue to enlighten others. The next chapter relates the story of an ordinary ‘Namya’ who became ‘Shri Namdev Maharaj’ – the heir apparent to Shri Krishna Saraswati Swami’s spiritual legacy.

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