By Kinkar Vitthal Ramanuja

(Excerpts from Shri Vithhal Uvaach)

When it was in season, nature yielded langra and himasagar varieties of mangoes in abundance at the Sai Bona ashram. Vitthal Maharaj made it a point to generously distribute them to whoever came by to seek blessings. Children would be especially delighted. He said, “Lots of mangoes grow here. Some we use in the ashram, and we distribute the rest to everyone; people staying around and all devotees who come. And yet there are many more left which are taken to the market close by. You see, there is very little sense of proprietorship around here. Whoever wants, takes the fruit without any hesitation. It doesn’t matter whose grove it is, you can just take what you like; no one says anything. And I guess it’s fair too, if the real maalik (he pointed heavenwards at God) doesn’t mind, then who are we to grudge? “There is an old man who comes daily, he often sits under that tree; he sweeps all the mangoes before anyone in the ashram can have a go at it. He grabs them in a big bag and starts his work right in the morning. This has been going on for many days. When I ask the ashramites: any fruits fallen beneath the trees today? They say no. It’s the old man of course! What to do? But I am a shrewd one; the other day I got up a little early, got there before the old man, and picked the mangoes. The old man had to return empty-handed." Maharaj laughed triumphantly. Imagine! He was pulling a fast one on a thief who had been stealing his own mangoes! Ever heard of greater innocence than this! And this reminds us of what Vitthal Maharaj always quotes from Sri Ramakrishna. There are two types of paramahamsas: the jnani and the premi. The jnani is self-centred; he feels that it is enough to have Knowledge for his own self. The premi, like Sukadeva, after attaining his own realization, teaches men. Some eat mangoes and wipe off the traces from their mouths; but some share their mangoes with others.

Q. Maharajji, in spite of many queries that have been answered doubts that have been cleared, the mind still seeks the final answer that will put mind to rest? What is that final answer or stage perhaps?

A. Prapatti at the lotus feet of Shri Guru.

Real puja of Guru Padukas: The devotee of Vitthal Maharaj had realised the futility of doer-ship. He had a strong desire to offer a pair of sandalwood padukas to Maharaj. He went to Omkareshwar ashram, placed the padukas at Vitthal Maharaj’s feet and started reciting the Guru Paduka Stotram. No sooner than the first line of the stotram was uttered, his eyes filled up and his voice choked. By the time, the next few lines were reached, he was weeping profusely! Tears rolled from his eyes incessantly. Vitthal Maharaj happily exclaimed, तुम्हे तो पाठ का फल पहले ही मिल गया! (You have already received the fruit of the recitation of the Stotram) “Dasharathi Dev had also composed the Guru Paduka Stotram,” Vitthal Maharaj said and read it out. It had a unique rhyme and rhythm. “Thakur was a poet, but Dasharathi Dev, his Guru, was a very great poet. His compositions in Sanskrit are most beautiful.” At this point, Vitthal Maharaj went inside and got Thakur’s padukas and touched them with the sandalwood padukas brought as offering– “these padukas have now got charged by the divine contact with Thakur’s padukas.” “But Gurudeva, let me worship you in them...” “No, I cannot accept such worship. Worship Thakur’s padukas, worship your Ishta Deva’s feet…Besides how can you really worship Guru’s feet. Do you know what that means? If a true devotee worships the padukas at his home, it causes his Gurudeva sitting a thousand kilometres away to lapse into samadhi…that’s real worship.” These words simply stunned the disciple sitting in front of Maharaj. Maharaj continued: “Once Thakur had visited a devotee’s house for a spiritual discourse. People were gathered for His darshan. A gentleman approached Him seeking permission to worship His feet there and then. He wanted to meditate on Thakur’s feet and His padukas. Thakur refused. The devotee insisted. Thakur said, ‘Don’t do this! You’ve called so many people for Naam Samkirtan and dinner. If you get into worshipping me, your program will be ruined. But the disciple wouldn’t budge. He was an earnest disciple and he started worshipping Thakur with all devotion; tears rained from his eyes. And Thakur went into samadhi. Instantly! The puja was received instantly. Thakur was able to return from that state only after four hours! When He came out of His trance, it was already night and people had waited and waited long and gone home without the benefit of seeing Thakur or hearing His discourse. Thakur told the disciple, ‘You see, I told you not to do it. See how you’ve disappointed the guests!’” Vitthal Maharaj paused and continued. “When I say that these padukas touched by Thakur's padukas are charged, you look sceptical. I wish you could understand the real power that lies in the Midas touch of Thakur’s Sri Padukas! You people should realise that the Guru always gives. He indeed gives much more than you can imagine. The thing is, you should be able to receive.”

Q. Since my Guru is not there now, can I learn from you?

A. Why do you say your Guru is not here? What if he has left the body? Your Guru is very much here. Everything is Guru murti! He comes in many forms. They say, Guru paave bhed bataaye—as soon as you have a Guru, the mysteries are unveiled to you. He is one who will reveal the secret.

Q. I take my mother and father as Guru. Is this not sufficient?

A. Mother and Father are indeed Gurus, but only for this birth; the relationship with the Guru, however, is the one that spans across several lifetimes. Parents are guides in worldly matters, but they don’t possess mastery vital to guide the disciple for his/ her progress in spirituality. A satguru provides that. A living Guru is therefore must.