By U.N. Tankha
As the nation once again sees religious strife in some pockets, with politicians discussing aspects of culture, history and personal views of right and wrong, it is perhaps time to recall two holy people, centuries apart, whose spiritual ways were so similar – even as they represented differing religious orders.
Their lives perhaps conceal messages that a billion people could use.
Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, the patron Sufi Saint of Delhi, ran a perpetual kitchen where hundreds would be fed round-the-clock. Unbidden, grain and other food items would arrive. His injunctions were two: to feed all who came and not to store any money. The exercise was like the flowing in and the flowing out of a river.
On a hot noon in June, Hazrat Sahab was giving a sermon to his devotees from the shade of a tree. Suddenly it occurred to him that many outside the penumbra of the shade would be feeling very hot indeed. As soon as the thought framed itself in his mind, the sun’s glare focussed on him and those outside found themselves in the cool of the shade.
Once a nobleman who had been a victim of misfortune, visited him in despair, faith shaken. Hazrat Sahab said, “Take example from that Hindu who has lost all and yet holds on to his sacred thread in abiding faith.”
Shree Shree Anandamayee Ma (1895-1982), easily among the greatest 20th century saints, hailed from the Kheora village of East Bengal, now Bangladesh. For 50 years (1932 to 1982) she travelled incessantly all over, mainly northern India, generally staying at a place for not more than a few days, gathering scores of devotees and bringing succour to the affected. Many were cured of physical and mental ailments, many got out of the mire of poverty and tens of thousands were turned towards the path of Truth.
She was a picture of bliss, exuded grace and when she sang on occasions in her bhav, souls were awakened.
On many occasions, as a boy in the 1950s, I was witness to a couple of miracles. Ma would stop falling or impending rain if it would have disrupted the ‘pooja' to be held outdoors. She would do this by briskly taking a short walk outside and if it had started to rain and a devotee had unfurled an umbrella, she would generally brush it aside. And within minutes, the sky would clear and the pooja would go on without a hitch. When someone pointed out what she had done, she folded her hands and said “Narayan, Narayan” taking no credit for the happening.
And yet there were occasions when she had no khayal (feeling) to do so and the pooja would be disturbed. On one occasion it rained heavily and gusts of wind brought down the shamiana but without any injury to anyone.
For her to do or not, was part of ‘leela' or a play of the divine. Her mahavakya was ”Jo Ho Jaye” for whatever takes place is God’s will and for the best. “With sorrow he takes away sorrow and with pain he takes away pain”. And who suffers when he alone is sporting with himself and there is no other.
Once when she was visiting the cancer-stricken Sanskrit scholar Mahamohpadhyaya Gopinath Kaviraj at Bombay’s Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital, she turned inside a ward where an Arab fakir lay on a bed in the last stage of a terminal illness. She passed her hands all over his body and stepped out of the ward with a gaze of kripa (mercy) upon him.
Such communion is rare, but perhaps is symbolic of a higher level of spiritual harmony, far away from the acrimony India is witnessing.