My Grandfather

Mar - Apr 2006

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My Grandfather Shambhurao Bhave was very devout. Every morning he would spend hours in the ritual of worship offering puja to Lord Shiva. We children would get up early and bring flowers and leaves from the courtyard for his offerings. Grandfather would get me to prepare sandalwood paste for the worship, and then to sit by his side while he recited the sacred mantras. Sometimes while the recitation was going on people such as the village Patel would come to see him. Grandfather would break off his chanting and talk with them, and take up the recital again after they had left. Sometimes he would forget what point he had reached, and he would turn to me: ‘Now then Vinya, how far had I got?’ If I remembered I would tell him, but if I had also forgotten the mantras had to be recited again from the beginning. Sometimes it might be a couple of hours before the recitation was finished.

One morning when I was seven or eight years old, Grandfather had seated himself as usual to begin his worship, when we noticed that a scorpion had settled upon the sacred image. Every one began to shout ‘Scorpion! Scorpion! Kill it!’ Grandfather checked them and then began to intone solemnly: ‘The scorpion has taken refuge with the Lord. He is in sanctuary, let no one touch him.’ The words sounded like a verse from Upanishads! Then Grandfather went on with his puja, offering the flowers, sandalwood and water, and completing the whole ritual, while the scorpion remained motionless throughout. Only when it was all over did he climb down and walk away. The incident made a deep impression on me; one who takes sanctuary with the Lord is to be treated with respect, no matter who he may be.

I remember another thing. A boy who was living with us had helped himself to some gur (jaggery). Granny caught him and complained to Grandpa about him calling him a thief. ‘No’ said Grandpa ‘he is not a thief. What if he did take gur without asking us? This is his home no less than ours, and the gur is also his gur. If he had asked us he would have got it. Now he has got it without asking, but that should not be called a theft.’ Then Grandpa sent for the boy and said to him: ‘ look here, laddie, when you want a bit of gur just ask, and you will certainly get it. But there is another thing, when you took that gur, did you wash your hands?’ ‘ No, I didn’t,’ said the boy. ‘Then in future’ said Grandpa ‘first wash your hands, then ask, then take what gur you want’. From that time the boy was able little by little to overcome his habit of petty thieving.

In later years we had to deal with a lad in our Ashram who used to smoke bidi’s on the sly. He had acquired the habit in a students’ hostel where he had lived previously, though he did his work in the Ashram very well. One day one of the Ashram brothers caught him smoking and brought him to me. I could see that the poor lad was in a terrible fright.  ‘Come’ I said, ‘don’t be afraid. After all, many great men smoke, there is nothing wrong in that. What is wrong is to try to hide it. So I am going to give you a little room where you can smoke openly, and every week a bundle of bidi’s.’

Some of the brothers in the Ashram didn’t like this at all and I had to explain myself to them. ‘ Smoking is a bad habit, no doubt about it’, I said. ‘ We don’t smoke here and the boy knows it but he has fallen into the habit and he has also got into the habit of trying to hide it, which is worse. So it is our duty to give him the chance to break himself of those habits by his own efforts. That is Ahimsa – Non-violence. Non- violence is very patient and long suffering. We should not make an issue of every little thing.’

One day as Grandfather was seated for puja he began to shiver and feel cold; he was in fact feverish. He was not prepared to allow this discomfort to interfere with this worship during the next two hours or more so when the shivering fit started he went straight to the well and jumped in. Granny was startled; the sudden movement took her by surprise. Grandfather, who was a good swimmer, swam around in the well for about five minutes; then he climbed out, dried himself and went on with his puja. I saw this with my own eyes and later I too found, during my walking pilgrimages that no harm comes of getting wet through. Water is a complete medicine in itself, which is why the Vedas have entitled it ‘ the universal medicine’.

For the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi, we installed an image of Ganapati in our home. Grandfather used to make it himself with the help of us children. We would prepare sandalwood paste and he would use it to make the image. After it was installed there was puja and arti (the offering of lights), and for the next ten or twelve days the house had a festive air. But then on the fourteenth day the image was taken and immersed in water. When I was a child this used to make me very sad; we had worked so hard to make it, we had worshipped and honored it for so many days, and then we not only got rid of it, we even celebrated its disappearance as a festival, with songs, drums and music! It was only later that I came to understand the significance of this custom. Hindu teaching links together the worship of the image and the ultimate unimportance of the image. It is not to be smashed violently, but to be relinquished reverently. The practice of invocation- immersion is a symbol of great beauty. We must seek the detachment which will enable us to relinquish when the time comes, our own best creations.

Grandfather observed regular vows and fasts, one of which was Chandrayan in the honour of moon. On the first day of the moon only one mouthful of food is taken, on the second day two mouthfuls and so on, the amount increasing as the moon waxes, until on the full moon day fifteen mouthfuls are taken. Then as the moon wanes the number of mouthfuls decreases one by one until on the day of no moon a complete fast is observed. When Grandfather kept Chandrayan he would offer puja to the moon each day after moonrise and after completing the rites he would eat whatever amount of food was prescribed for that day. But moonrise varies from day to day; it may happen in the evening or at midnight or in the small hours of the morning when I was fast asleep. Grandfather would ask mother to waken me, and she would get me out of bed to sit with Grandfather at his puja. I would be half asleep, but all the same as soon as Grandfather’s puja was finished my hand would be held out for prasad. And Grandfather would put into the outstretched hand a little portion of his own quota for that day.

It is my Grandfather I have to thank for whatever purity of spirit I may possess; that was his greatest bequest to me. He must certainly have shown me all the ordinary kindnesses, given me sweets and so on, but what I can never forget is the inward prasad I received, the impression made on my mind as he kept watch at midnight for a darshan of the Lord. That was his greatest gift to me.
-  Acharya Vinoba Bhave

[Published with glad permission of Kalindi Behan, the original compiler in Hindi (and translated into English by late Marjorie Sykes) of Vinobaji’s Memoirs titled ‘MOVED BY LOVE’ of Brahmavidya Mandir, Pawnar (Wardha).  – Editorial Team]

The glory of king Nripendra of Mahismati had spread far and wide like the scattered glow of the full moon.  The treasury, army, power and beauty - everything was in plentiful abundance.  King Nripendra was just and benevolent towards his subjects who, in turn, held him in great adoration.

Time passed. Old age began to creep in and with this gradually increased the king's inner disquiet and dissatisfaction.  He withdrew into a shell of silence and stopped seeing anybody.  Restless and sad, the king was always seen immersed in brooding.

One day, very early in the morning, the king strolled over to the palace garden.  Sitting on a sphatik rock, and facing east, he got engrossed in deep self-introspection.  Slowly the Sun rose over the horizon.  Its warm and brilliant rays fell upon the pond and stirred the 'thousand petalled' lotuses.  The flowers were soon in full bloom and began spreading their beauty and fragrance all over. 

The divine inner voice spoke: "Can you still not grasp the mystery of the Sun's splendour?  From where does its brilliance come?  Is not the radiating light the Sun's own inner pulsation?  The fragrance of the lotus comes from within.  This whole pageant of life you see everywhere has sprouted forth from within the cosmic spirit.  The source of delight is hidden inside you.  You will have to awaken to its presence.  For this, you have do jivana sadhana. Soon thereafter the king handed over the reigns of the kingdom to his heir (son) and retired to the forest in search of the Truth of his Being.

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