"After our youngest son had seen Star Wars for the twelfth or thirteenth time, I said, "Why do you go so often?" He said, "For the same reason you have been reading the Old Testament all of your life." He was in a new world of myth." Bill Moyers, interview with Joseph Campbell










PRABUDDHA BHARATAPrabuddha Bharata | April 2005  






            Glimpses of Holy Lives



          Sadhu Mathuradas


          (Continued from the previous issue)


     'Seek God Alone'


     Keshavananda was a prominent figure in Kankhal. The swami was a man of vast erudition who could count kings and princes among his disciples. Naturally he was influential and had, even in those days, established a prestigious school in the town. All this, however, had been achieved at a cost: the swami had neglected his spiritual life. Moreover, now nearing old age, he had begun to suffer from diabetes. His youth spent in vain pursuits, Keshavananda was compelled to ask himself: 'What have I done with my life?' Though a great pundit, he had failed to get his priorities right.

     Filled with deep regret, Keshavananda approached Mathuradasji for advice. But then, saints are not known for sweet words; they tell it like it is. Keshavananda was thought to be highly 'successful' and 'popular'. Mathuradasji couldn't care less what he was. He rebuked the swami unsparingly: 'A sannyasin's life ought to be a living demonstration of the unreality of the world and the reality of the Spirit. But your conduct has been a travesty of monastic ideals. All you have done is painted yourself in ashes and gone about in ochre robes. You have posed as a world-renouncing sannyasin, but have never lived a sannyasin's life. You may be learned, respected, rich, powerful. So what? Take it from me - you will repent every single action of yours. You have eaten poison with your own hands!' Keshavananda left in a sad, sombre mood, but he had learnt his lesson: A monk must seek God alone; everything else is fraught with danger.


     Stunning a Thousand Scholars


     There used to be a grand festival at Kankhal Sevashrama in those days on the anniversary of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna's birthday. All the sadhus of Hardwar would be invited to a feast, after which there would be a public meeting where mahants of different akharas delivered learned speeches in Hindi and Sanskrit. As can be imagined, on occasions like that the Sevashrama would be alive and buzzing with excitement.

     One such meeting was about to begin, when the noise suddenly died down: Mathuradasji had arrived. He went straight to his easy chair without so much as a glance at the distinguished guests. Sitting there, he observed how the whole ashrama was decorated with buntings and garlands. But they did not interest him. He began to fidget in his seat and seemed to be looking for something. Evidently, he was missing his hookah. Mahendranath had anticipated this. He had purposely removed the hookah from its usual place, because he thought it might hurt the sadhus' sensibilities if Mathuradasji started smoking in their presence.

     Anyway, the moment Mathuradasji entered the Sevashrama, the sadhus fell silent - like a class of noisy children when their master enters the classroom. That was the effect of his spirituality! One ray of light from the Goddess of Wisdom stuns a thousand scholars, says Sri Ramakrishna. So long as Mathuradasji remained seated in his easy chair, there was an uneasy silence. Then he got up to leave. When requested to have his meal at the Sevashrama that day, he simply said he was not hungry and went away just as he had come.


     'Know Satchidananda!'

     One hot summer day, just before noon, Mahendranath and some Sevashrama workers were going to the Ganga for a bath. On the way they met Mathuradasji, who was coming from the direction of the river. He was walking briskly, perspiration running down his body. Seeing how dirty he looked, Mahendranath's companions surrounded him and said, 'Mathuradasji, your body is so covered with dirt! Come along with us; we will give you a nice bath today.' As they were coaxing Mathuradasji to go with them, a clutch of curious onlookers began to gather. Averse to making a scene in the streets, Mahendranath tried to cajole Mathuradasji: 'Come with us, sir, please. Let us hurry. It is almost noon.' Perhaps he should have been less insistent, because Mathuradasji suddenly became serious. Looking at Mahendranath squarely, he said, 'No, you don't have to go to the Ganga. You don't need to bathe in the river.' 'Why not?' persisted Mahendranath. 'Ganga is Brahman on earth, Brahman in liquid form. A bath in the Ganga purifies us.' Mathuradasji cut him off sharply: 'Stop prattling "Ganga, Ganga". What is so special about the Ganga? Ganga water and my urine are the same. Know Satchidananda; everything else is false!'

     The words appalled Mahendranath. He had great devotion for the holy river. But Mathuradasji had spoken with such intensity - undoubtedly from a very high plane - that he was at a loss how to respond. He stared at Mathuradasji in amazement. For a few moments the crowd stood in shocked silence; then it quickly dispersed. Mathuradasji went his way, and Mahendranath and his friends wended their way to the river.

     Mahendranath walked slowly, ruminating: 'Hardwar is one of our holiest places. Lord Shiva and Mother Ganga are its presiding deities. People come here from all over the country to worship them. How could Mathuradasji have uttered such words? Yet, who else could have said it? Had it been anybody else, he would have been chased through the streets and stoned. But when a real saint speaks, people listen. For saints are the voice of God. Mathuradasji has seen the one Reality behind this changing world. That is why he speaks with the authority of a knower of Brahman.'

     Mahendranath remembered an earlier incident when Mathuradasji had silenced a group of self-important pundits with these very words: 'Know Satchidananda!' Taking him to be an ordinary sadhu, they had criticized him for smoking - and that from a meat-eating Bengali's hookah. Their criticism had implied that Mathuradasji had fallen from his position as a sadhu, since he did not observe the rules enjoined on monastics. That day Mathuradasji had shed his childlike demeanour. 'Who is a sadhu? Who is a brahmin? Who is a Bengali? Who is a Punjabi? Tell me, sirs!' he challenged them. As the pundits gaped at each other, out came the words with surprising force: 'Know Satchidananda! That alone is real - everything else is illusory!'

     That is the last word in Advaitic realization: our universe, our egos - even the idea of God - are but illusions; Brahman alone is real.

     'All I Know is Satchidananda'

     It was rare to find Mathuradasji in the above-described moods. A man who always sees God is sometimes like an inert thing, sometimes like a ghoul, sometimes like a child and sometimes like a madman, says Sri Ramakrishna. Mathuradasji's natural disposition was that of a sweet-natured boy. A devotee once asked him, 'Sir, how did you attain such a high state? You must have performed severe austerities, practised a lot of meditation.' 'What state are you talking about?' said Mathuradasji. 'I don't know anything. I only roam the streets.' 'At least you are a sadhu. Which order of the Dashanamis do you belong to? They say your monastic name is Shivpuri.' 'No, I am not a sadhu. Who told you my name is Shivpuri? My name is Mathuradas. Nor do I belong to any order; I don't believe in this order or that. All I know is Satchidananda!' ~




International Yoga Day 21 June 2015
International Yoga Day 21 June 2015









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