Dadaji’s Ashram

Dadaji’s Ashram

Although his entire day was spent getting ready to visit this mysterious stranger, Kripalu arrived at 6:30 p.m. – a half hour late. Distracted and upset by his confusion, Kripalu was surprised to see the gate still open, as if waiting for his arrival. The Mahatma, whom he soon called Dadaji but was later revealed as Lord Lakulish, gave a public darshan only on Thursdays, and promptly between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. Latecomers were turned away. When Kripalu rushed into the room, he saw the saint sitting before a group of disciples who were seated on a stone floor. Oddly, it seemed as if the entire group was expecting him. Kripalu learned later that his visit was indeed predicted and that he would move into the ashram to become Dadaji’s foremost disciple. The young man wrote his impressions:

Young BapujiThe ashram was truly a mansion. Yet only Gurudev and I lived on the fourth floor. He spent his entire day in meditation and no one dared disturb him. Everyone serving him spoke softly.

He sat all day long in padmasana but kept the door to his room open so visitors could have his darshan from a distance. The only exceptions to this were when he was teaching me, one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon, and on Thursday afternoons when he gave a public darshan.

Gurudev seldom spoke, but when he did, he always finished the conversation within two minutes, and he spoke to each person in his or her native language. How he knew so many languages and spoke each one perfectly was a mystery to me.

He had at least ten or twelve millionaire disciples, yet his extreme compassion had fallen on a poor youth like me. That was his greatness. He would hardly say a word to anyone else, yet he would spend hours with me explaining the meaning of the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Yogic books, the Puranas, and the great epic poems. Being his favorite, the entire assembly of disciples bowed to me, a simple teenager, in reverence.

Many disciples longed to serve him. Rich ladies traveled fifty miles to prepare his food and no one was allowed to prepare it all. Some would make just the dhal, others just the rice, others the vegetables and others the chapattis. There was even a struggle just to shine his utensils. Some would get only a spoon to shine, others a cup. It was the same with washing his clothes. One lady would get one leg of his pants, another lady would get the other leg. All the work had to be done by a fixed time, too, so everyone would arrive a half hour early so they didn’t miss the chance to serve his high soul.

Then one day Gurudev called everyone together.

“Swami is my chief disciple,” he said. “From now on, in my absence, he will run my ashram.”

Thus, with one stroke, Gurudev graced me above all the others, yet no one resented this, as Gurudev’s word was final. I quickly became systematic and punctual with my new authority and if someone arrived late for his or her service I gave the work to someone else.

“Son,” Gurudev scolded me. “Don’t disappoint anybody. Let each one do the work he or she is assigned. People will often be late.”

On occasion Gurudev would talk about my future to his inner circle of disciples and tell them that I was his chief disciple. Once or twice he did this in front of me and I was surprised because I didn’t have the purity.

“Gurudev,” I said, “Do you want to make this monkey drunk with praise? Nobody can put the ocean in this small pot.”

“My son,” he replied. “I’ve planted a mango seed. In time it will become a large mango tree.”

I said nothing. At that time I believed myself to be the seed of a fruitless tree, yet he believed otherwise. In my short life I had experienced many sorrows and now this great man in his compassion embraced me like a child, so I listened to him. The joy I experienced with him was out of this world. I had never found such happiness elsewhere and was certain I never would.

One day, Gurudev was stroking my head lovingly and I said,

“All the disciples who come here call you Gurudev, but no one knows your name. I don’t know your name, either. I’ve asked many of them, but they all say the same thing: ‘We don’t know his name. He’s God Incarnate. He has many names. All names are His. All sounds are His.’ It’s said in the scriptures that the guru’s name is a great mantra for a disciple. I wish to know your name. Please tell me your true name. I intend to chant it as a mantra.”

“If you wish to know my name,” he said sweetly, “chant the pranav mantra.”

“Is Pranav your name, then?”

He said nothing.

“Oh, how wonderful!” I continued. “What a glorious name!”

So I told everyone that Gurudev’s name was Swami Pranavanandji.

After a few weeks, when we were studying together, he gave me the following advice which I wrote down in my diary:

  1. Accept the existence and uniqueness of God.
  2. Observe the moral codes of conduct known as yama and niyama as much as possible.
  3. Practice restraint, virtuous behavior, service, faith, self-analysis, and commitment to duty.
  4. Study the scriptures and associate with saints.
  5. Pray, sing hymns, chant mantras and practice devotion to God.
  6. Practice asanas, pranayams and meditation.
  7. Observe silence and seclusion.

Then he told me,

“Finally, my son, if you want to be a yogi of a high order, you must study Ayurveda, hygiene and psychology, in addition to the yogic texts. Knowledge of these sciences will make progress on the path of yoga easier.”

The very next day, the numerous doctors and learned men who were disciples of Gurudev began teaching me anatomy, physiology, hygiene, psychology and Ayurveda. They considered this as service to Gurudev and were thrilled.

15 months later…

Bapuji as a young manAnd so Kripalu’s training continued for an intense one and a quarter year. During this time, he fasted for 40 days, studied tirelessly and received Dadaji’s shaktipat diksha initiation. One day, Dadaji announced the two of them were to embark upon a week’s journey together, most of which they walked, sometimes up to 40 miles a day. While the time together was precious for Kripalu, it did not end as expected:

The next morning was the seventh and last day of our walk to Delhi.

“Swami,” Gurudev said, “If you want to pursue yoga sadhana in the future, you’ll have to become a sannyasi first, and before you become a sannyasi, you’ll have to be prepared mentally to endure all kinds of hardships. Wait until you’ve made full preparation. Asceticism bears fruit only when it’s fortified with the true spirit of detachment. You’re just twenty-years-old. Your spirit of detachment isn’t mature yet. Become a sannyasi only when the true spirit of detachment blossoms in you. That’s why I didn’t initiate you into the life of a sannyasi. That time will come later for you. You must go back to normal life and strengthen your spirit of detachment.” (#4 Sannyas)

I listened to his words, but I was weak and hungry from our long walk to Delhi. Gurudev, of course, knew this but he wanted to collapse my youthful pride, useless on the spiritual path, once and for all. So on our final day, we walked all day without taking any food whatsoever. I became utterly weak from hunger and exhaustion.

At last, a little before dusk we arrived at the outskirts of Delhi. We had been walking now for seven days. We had walked nearly ninety miles in the last three days. In those three days, I had eaten only one meal and I had had nothing to eat in the last forty-eight hours.

Finally, my pride totally collapsed. I simply stopped walking and collapsed under a tree. I couldn’t take another step.

“Swami?” Gurudev asked gently. “Why are you stopping? We’re almost to Delhi.”

I burst into tears.

“Guruji,” I sobbed. “Please excuse me, but I can’t take another step.”

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner? If you had told me sooner I wouldn’t have walked more than ten miles each day. You’re too conceited. It’s not a good quality. You need to be humble, my son.”

“Please don’t blame me for that!” I replied with childish anger. “God alone is to blame! He made my mind a big storage of conceit!”

Gurudev laughed and pinched me on the cheek.

“All right,” he said. “Let’s spend the night right here under this tree.”

I kept crying. I was so hungry and tired that I couldn’t check my tears. Gurudev sat down next to me and with total compassion stroked my head and gazed at me with his merciful eyes. Then he lovingly massaged my legs and aching feet. I was too exhausted to tell him to stop, to tell him that it was I who should be massaging his feet, so I simply closed my eyes and rested until my tears stopped.

After a while I felt better.

“Would you like to have something to eat?” Gurudev asked.

I almost laughed out loud I was so hungry, but all I could do was humbly nod my head ‘yes’ at the question. I tried to stand up, to go out and beg food for my guru, but I was too weak. So Gurudev walked away alone, intent on begging alms for both of us, and all I could do was watch him leave without me.

About an hour later, he returned. In his hand was his old loincloth and it contained about 25 leaf-plates with leftover food. He sat under our tree and scraped the leftovers from various leaf-plates onto one plate. I watched in disbelief. The same guru who had once eaten from golden plates now was gathering scraps together from leaves! He wanted to teach me a completely different lesson.

“Come, my son!” He called cheerfully. “Dinner is ready!”

I was raised a Brahmin and my upbringing told me the food in front of me was unclean and shouldn’t be eaten. Gurudev watched me and then I let go of that thought, too, and ate the food. It tasted like nectar and I ate heartily of the spiritual feast. Then I fell asleep, rested and happy, and I slept soundly through the night.

The next morning I awoke to the rays of the sun caressing my face. I turned to where Gurudev had been sitting in meditation the previous night, but to my surprise, he wasn’t there. His water pot and towels were also missing.

One hour passed. Two hours passed. My concern and anxiety increased. The whole day passed. Where was Gurudev?

I stayed at the same spot for two days. yet Gurudev didn’t return. At last, I decided to leave and look for him, so I walked into Delhi and found the house of Hemantbabu.

“Swami,” Hermantbabu asked surprised, “Guruji isn’t with you? Where is he?”

I gave him all the details of how and when we had arrived in Delhi and how Gurudev had slipped away. Then he asked me to stay with him for a few days, which I did. Finally I said,

“I must return to Bombay. Perhaps Guruji is back at his ashram.”

Hermantbabu arranged for my train ticket and I returned to Bombay. But the disciples there hadn’t seen Gurudev either, though many continued to visit the ashram regularly in hopes that Gurudev would return. They kept his picture in the place where Gurudev used to sit and they paid their respects daily before the photograph.

Then one morning when the devotees had come to the ashram they found only an empty frame. Gurudev’s picture was missing. They were surprised, but decided to replace it with another copy of the one photograph they had of him. Originally they had made seven copies of Gurudev’s photograph and the seven were distributed among his leading followers. So they decided to replace the missing photo with one of those copies. But these copies had also disappeared, too, and on the same day! They were amazed that every copy of Gurudev’s photograph had vanished simultaneously.

When I discovered this I realized that both events—the disappearance of Gurudev from me and the disappearance of his photographs—had taken place on the same morning. When Gurudev’s followers heard from me about his disappearance, they concluded that Gurudev was gone for good. With sad hearts, they disbanded the ashram.

I, too, had a heavy heart.

“My son,” he had told me once, “You see, in this world everything doesn’t happen according to the wishes of human beings. We, too, will have to part company sometime.”

But I had a promise from him and I whispered that promise to myself over and over as tears streaked my cheeks.

“Alright. I will meet you again when you become a sannyasi.”

This was the only hope I had that I would ever see him again, so I left Bombay and returned to my hometown of Dabhoi and re-entered worldly life.

Dadaji Reappears