Upasani Baba Maharaj




Upasani Baba
Mahraj
1870-1941

 


Kasinath, as Upasani Mahraj was originally called, is the
second of five sons in a Maharashtra family of priests
famous for their piety , learning and devotion. He was born
on May 5th, 1870. His backwardness in studies and the
consequent cruelty of the teachers created in him a
permanent aversion for the school. Endowed with a sturdy
physique he appeared to have had a great disregard and
detachment for his own body. As he grew up he was more and
more attracted by the spiritual side of life and observed
all the austerities enjoined by scriptures meticulously.
This included Sandhya (twilight meditation) and worship of
Sri Rama and Maruthi. He soon started practising yoga asanas
and breath control, and reciting Vishnu sahasra namas (the
thousand holy Names of Vishnu). He often resorted to the
burial ground for his devotional practices. His ideal was to
carry on Tapas in a lonely place.

At the same time Kasinath was
painfully conscious of his uselessness to his family as a
bread-earner and opposed all proposals of his marriage. But
his elders forced it on him and he married to a girl of
eight, named Durgabai.

However, his parents were soon
disillusioned in their hope that the yoke of marriage would
render Kasinath more responsible in his ways. Married life
only further hurt his self-esteem. One morning he deserted
his home leaving behind a letter the reasons thereof and
reached Nasik eighty miles away on foot. But soon he
regretted causing anxiety to his aged parents and so wrote
home. Two months later, a letter alleging his mother’s
illness brought him back.

Not long after, his wife died but
very soon he was forcibly remarried. He felt miserable and
again left on his travels. Mostly he was in Poona where he
lived by rendering menial service or begging. He often tried
in vain to quench his hunger with water and margosa leaves
and slept on bare earth. But all the while he sought the
company of holy sadhus. Then one of these, a celebate sadhu,
impressed upon him the merits of celibacy and devotion to
Lord Shiva.

In one of his moods of depression,
an old Marathi lady had taught him the verse which meant,
“Maintain your life, even with water and other things if
needed. Love God and bear your lot. Be patient in
misfortunes and spurn the smiles of fortune. Break the bonds
of desire. (But) never leave the company of
saints.”

After another brief stint at
begging, he made for his home town of Satana. On the way he
saw in a dense wood, with a cave in it, very difficult of
access. He was very tired and with a thirsting spirit
immediately decided to enter the same and there fast unto
death and watch the coming of the end. He climbed a nearby
tree and leapt from the tree-top into the cave.

The cave was four or five feet high,
nine feet long and four feet broad. After two days of
fasting he decided to devote his time for the repetition of
the Lord’s name. So he started silent repetition of sacred
syllables. Soon he attained a high state of mystical trance,
i.e., Samadhi. When he woke up from it he was shocked to see
someone standing by his side and skinning him alive. His
skin was coming off like the slough of a serpent. The shock
of the vision had brought him to normal consciousness more
fully and he found that there was no one there and his skin
was intact. He felt very thirsty. His throat was too parched
to cry for help and there was nobody around too. His body
became stiff, except his right arm which was free to move.
His desire to die was still strong. His thirst too was
intense but could be alleviated when he fell again into
trance. Soon there were clouds and a heavy downpour. Water
streamed near him in the cave, by the time he regained his
normal consciousness. He scooped some water with his right
hand and slaked his thirst. He then massaged all his limbs
till they regained their normal tone.

Three days passed when he had a
vivid vision: Thirsty, he was approaching a stream for
water. Two figures, a moslem and a hindu were by his side.
They pulled off his old skin and displayed to him the
shining body within and said, ‘Why do you want to die? We
are behind you and we wont let you die.’

When the vision passed, he realized
that fate would not let him die. Weak as he was, with great
effort he reached a nearby village of tribesmen, who fed him
adequately. He returned home on 22nd of July, 1890 and
realized that he was in a deep Samadhi state for many months
on end.

When three weeks of his arrival at
home, his father died on 8th August, and he performed the
last rites. His grandfather was laid up and young Kasinath
had to attend on him. This inspired Kasinath to take up the
medical profession. Soon his grandfather too passed away,
leaving his family in debts. They had to live henceforth by
the generosity of Sri Balgangadhar Tilak. At this time
Kasinath’s second wife died. Then Kasinath left for Sangli
to learn Sanskrit and medicine. Later he became a prosperous
doctor in Amroati but his spiritual discipline continued. he
invested his savings on a huge real estate which resulted in
a loss forcing him to return to Amroati. But his medical
practice did not revive and so he gave it up and set on with
his third wife on pilgrimage. The couple visited a temple of
Gowri Shankar in the midst of a jungle on the banks of river
Narmada and worshipped the Omkara Linga there. Kasinath
started practicing breath control. Once he lost all
consciousness and his wife was terrified. She revived him by
splashing water on his face but his breathing could not be
restored to normalcy. When he massaged certain muscles of
his body, he could breathe with difficulty. But off and on
it used to be suspended, especially when he tried to sleep
or eat. One visible effect of this was that his belly grew
big. He went to Nagpur and then to Dhulia searching for a
remedy, but to no avail. Finally he concluded that only a
great Yogi can cure him and started in search of one in
April, 1911.

Yogi Kulkarni of Rahuri received
Kasinath worshipfully and assured him that the latter had
attained an advanced stage in Yoga practice. He advised him
to see a great Aulia ( a muslim saint), Sri Sai Baba of
Shirdi. Despite the yogi’s assurance that Sai Baba is above
the distinctions of caste, due to his Brahminic pride
Kasinath continued to search for a Hindu Yogi. An old man
met Kasinath on the road to Rahuri and told him, “Drink
water as hot as your tongue can bear. Avoid cold water, and
you will recover.” Kasinath ignored the advice and marched
on to meet a Hindu Yogi named Phatak Mahraj at Moregaon. On
the way, at Jejuri, he gave up all concern for his body and
spent a week in Samadhi in a lonely place. On the eighth day
when he made for a stream for drinking water, the old man
that he met at Rahuri suddenly appeared before him and
admonished him for ignoring his advice to avoid cold water.
He commanded him to take hot water in the nearby village and
vanished as mysteriously as he appeared. Amazed at the
incident, Kasinath heeded the warning and his condition
improved greatly. But fearing possible relapse of the
trouble he visited Sri Narayan Mahraj of Khedgaonbet, of
famous saint. The Mahraj received Kasinath with great
respect and told him that he was as if coated with gold both
inside and out, that the latter had attained a high
spiritual condition and had no reason for concern. The next
day again, he was told that his business was over and there
was no need to visit the Mahraj again.

He then visited Yogi Kulkarni again
who advised him one more time to visit Sai Baba at Shirdi.
Accordingly when Kasinath visited Shirdi on 27th June, 1911
his malady disappeared miraculously. Two days later he
sought the permission of Sai Baba to leave for home. Baba
asked him to stay in Shirdi for good or come back after 8
days. Kasinath was not prepared for either alternatives.
Baba then said, “Well, go if you like. I’ll see what I can
do.”

Kasinath was mystified to see that
during the next week instead of rushing home, he had been
slowly moving about within fourteen miles of Shirdi. On the
eighth day, at Kopergaon, pilgrims to Shirdi pressed him to
take them to Sai Baba and he did. On seeing him Sai Baba
smiled and asked how long it was since he took leave.
Kasinath humbly conceded that it was the eighth day! Sai
then ordered him to go and stay in the building built for
devotees there.

In the course of time, experiences
of various devotees of Sai Baba cultured faith and devotion
in Kasinath. The finishing touch was however given by Baba
one day. Kasinath was sitting in the mosque along with other
devotees. Sai then told the gathering, that once he saw a
pregnant woman who did not deliver the child even after
years of pregnancy; he later advised her to drink only hot
water which will help her in an easy delivery. The lady
ignored the advice and approached a stream for drinking
water. Feeling that ‘she’ would needlessly ‘die’, with the
foetuses in her womb, Sai Baba again approached her and
admonished her to take hot water from the neighboring
village. So she did and got relief immediately.

Kasinath immediately realized that
it was indeed his story, and the old man who advised him to
drink hot water was Sai Baba himself! He realized the truth
of Sai Baba’s characteristic statements: “I will not allow
my devotees to fail; day and night I think of them,” and
“I’ll never leave anyone in the middle.”

To clear the remaining doubts in
Kasinath’s mind even while he was so wondering, Sai Baba
addressed him thus: “There is runanubandha between us. Our
families have been closely connected for thousands of years.
So we are one.” Tears of gratitude rolled down Kasinath’s
eyes.

Another time Sai Baba hinted at this
contact between them through many former lives in his
characteristic cryptic laguage: “Two birds lived on a tree
on the verge of a well. One of them fell down and was about
to be drowned. The second one jumped down and saved it
though it nearly lost its own life in the
effort.”

That this strange parable of Baba is
a definite hint at something that had really happened in a
former life of both of them – Sai Baba and Kasinath – is
borne out by another experience that Kasinath’s elder
brother had much earlier. When the latter visited Tapovanam
at Rishikesh in 1898, hemet a sadhu who told him, “There was
a tree. Two persons went up. One fell down and the other
went up!” When asked of the significance the latter simply
said, “You will know.” In 1912, Upasani’s brother visited
Sai Baba at the mosque and Sai Baba literally repeated the
same statement. Thereby Upasani’s brother realized that Sai
Baba must have appeared before him at Rishikesh in the form
of that sadhu, but he did nothing more to know the details
of the incident of the two birds.

In short, Sai Baba showed a marked
favor to Kasinath and this made several of the devotees
jealous. Kasinath stayed in the village shrine of Kandoba
and kept alone most of the time on the orders of Sai Baba
who said, “He must simply sit quiet in the temple doing
nothing.” He told Kasinath, “Have nothing to do with
anybody. Your future is excellent. No other has such a
future.”

But the annoyance caused by the
jealous devotees of Sai made Kasinath long to go away from
Shirdi. He sought Sai’s permission through Shama again and
again. But Baba always said that he had to ‘clear his
accounts’ with Kasinath and did not permit him to go. He
told the devotees, “Everything I have got has been
completely given to him.” He told Kasinath in 1911,
“Hereafter you need not come to me frequently. Come only
occasionally. You should not however talk to me. Nor will I
talk to you. After 4 years you will have the full grace of
Lord Khandoba.”

Kasinath still longed to return to
his sweet wife and petitioned to Baba occasionally for his
permission, but Baba somehow managed that it did not come
off. In January, 1912 Kasinath’s third wife died and he was
very much upset. Baba consoled Kasinath saying that He
Himself took care of the peace of her soul and added, “I am
fully responsible for you.”

The four years that followed were
most eventful to Kasinath. It is punctuated with bitterest
tears and the sweetest joys. Once for example, Sai said to
Kasinath, “I shall be coming there, but will you recognize
me?” Kasinath used to cook his food and offer it to Sai Baba
before eating it himself. One day a black dog followed him
and craved for the food but Kasinath thought of feeding it
only after offering it to Sai. On his arrival at mosque Sai
said, “Why come here? I was there?” Kasinath said, “But
there was none except a black dog.” “I was that dog,” came
Sai’s reply.

Kasinath resolved not to repeat the
error of not recognizing Baba again. But the next day he
found a sudra beggar staring at the food eagerly as it was
being cooked. Kasinath drove him away with harsh words.
Later when he went to Sai with food, the latter drove him
away and refused to accept food. The words of Sai, “Wherever
you may look, I’m there,” were deeply impressed on
Kasinath’s heart. Henceforth he lived in a steadier
awareness of his Guru’s omnipresence.

Besides such thrilling experiences,
Kasinath had to experience an extreme aversion for food and
he used to throw it away to dogs. Sometimes he went and saw
Sai Baba when the latter was on His rounds. Baba always
assured him, “I am always with you, you need not fear
anything. The more you suffer now, the most excellent and
happier your future will be.” Pivoted on such trust in his
Guru, he stopped eating altogether for one year during
1913-1914. Strangely enough, although he was going without
food and lost considerable weight, he was doing hard manual
work like grinding, road-laying or ploughing fields! It was
on a full moon day in July-August, 1913, that Sai Baba
indicated the near completion of His spiritual dispensation
with Kasinath when he ordered his devotees to worship the
latter in the temple even as Sai Baba was worshipped in the
mosque.

During this period, Sai Baba took
away all the money that Kasinath had brought with him to
Shirdi initially, by asking Dakshina from him repeatedly. So
he had no money left. Soon his clothes became rags, but Sai
never allowed him to put on the new clothes sent by
Kasinath’s elder brother. Baba was teaching him practically
the significance of His own statement, “What man gives never
lasts; what God gives never wears out.”



Upasani had himself put into a cage
for over one year as a ‘penance’



The spiritual training Sai baba gave
to Kasinath was mainly through a number of visions which
gradually brought about a transformation in him. One such a
vision is worth noting. Kasinath had a vision that he
entered a house. Sai Baba who was seated inside beckoned to
him with a view to whisper some instruction in the former’s
ear. But when He was about to do so, a dark counterpart of
Kasinath pulled him away and asked him not to heed Sai
Baba’s words. After repeated warning to the dark figure, Sai
Baba beat him took him to a stream and burnt him on a pyre.
The Sai returned and said that Kasinath was free of sins
now. “You are now free from sin. By our united effort there
is much to be accomplished.” Sai added – “You will yourself
understand without a word from me.” Then Sai Baba’s Guru
prostrated before Kasinath to the latter’s amazement. Thus
ended the vision proclaiming the flowering of Kasinath into
a full-fledged saint, Sri Upasani Baba Mahraj. Similarly, on
another occasion Sai Baba showed the slowing person of
Upasani Mahraj’s spiritual glory to him. Upasani Mahraj
asked Sai, “If this figure is the form of my virtue and if
the one you destroyed was the form of sin, who indeed am I?”
Sai replied, “You are beyond these two. That which
constitutes ‘me’ constitutes ‘you’. There is no difference
between you and me.”

This transformation of Kasinath into
Upasani Baba was not a mere subjective experience to him.
His inner glory started revealing itself in a large number
of miracles which his visitors had witnessed. Sitting in the
temple, for instance, he would describe everything that
happened in the mosque. He knew the innermost thoughts of
all and their past, present and future. In short, Sai Baba
moulded Upasani Mahraj into His own likeness and once told
him, “You must plant trees that will live for many centuries
– from which people will derive benefit,” implying that
thousands will spiritually benefit through him. The
nightmare of his life in the temple amidst countless
scorpions and cobras, the terrible persecutions he had
suffered at the hands of the youths of Shirdi, the jealousy
of Sai’s devotees, the pangs of separation from home, all
vanished like mist before the rising sun.

At the end of three years of his
discipleship in July 1914, one night Upasani Mahraj took
silent leave of His Master and left for Nagpur. He later
went to Kharagpur, Varanasi, Allahabad and other places
where, inspite of himself crowds flocked to pay obeisance to
him. Countless miracles manifested themselves to his
devotees. He visited Baba in 1915 and 1916 and finally in
1917 he settled in Sakori, a hamlet a few miles away from
Shirdi. Sakori today is a great spiritual center where
devotees receive great inspiration and training along the
principles laid down by Sri Upasani Baba Mahraj. Sri Upasani
Baba attained samadhi on 24th December, 1941. A big samsthan
has taken shape there to meet the needs of the seekers who
go there for light.



Also see:

Last
meeting with Meher Baba


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