I had not met Bhagawan for over a year. The last time I had met Him was in September 2014. I was therefore very eager to meet Him once again. When on 28th December 2015 I received the news that Bhagawan had invited us to a picnic at Pahadpur on the 1st of January 2016 I was very happy. We were four of us at Bhubaneswar; Mishra bhai, myself, Binod and Chittesh bhai who was put up at Mishra bhai’s house for a work assignment.
Binod, a research scholar, is a new addition to our group. I keep on telling selected people about Bhagawan. Some disbelieve, many take it lightly. Binod however came forward very eagerly. He was blessed to have the company of the elders during their visit which motivated him even more. Perhaps he was the happiest when the news about the picnic invitation arrived. His long cherished desire would be fulfilled.
The day arrived and we all started our journey to Pahadpur on 31st December 2015 by bus. We reached Bahalda in the early morning of 1st January. It was mercifully not as cold as we had anticipated, but it was still very cold. We took an auto and reached Pahadpur.
Chittesh bhai always takes great trouble to prepare us for the journey with Bhagawan. During this trip he advised me to be prepared to stick with Bhagawan through thick and thin. He told me how Bhagawan had predicted days when some people would start failing in their devotion to Him. This is a time of testing the devotee’s resolve. Bhagawan is the Supreme. Vidya and avidya are both under His command and are His weapons. During His speech during the 39th birthday celebrations at Pahadpur on 13th February 2015 also Bhagawan has dwelt on the subject and asked His devotees to see Him even within avidya. He is everything and the skillful and alert devotee should observe His Leela and feel His presence during both happy and unhappy times, during health and sickness, within both positivity and negativity. This is perhaps His most important teaching and is obviously the best method to achieve equipoise during our long journey of migration and transmigration involved in the play of creation which is a merciless teacher.
Hindu’s do not believe in a devil. They believe that the Supreme is everything. In Hindi we say, “Kan kan mein Bhagawan” – God exists in every atom. In the Mahabharata we observe the story of the meeting of Sri Krishna with his old friend Utanga, a highly respected Brahmin. Sri Krishna was returning to Dwarka after the Mahabharata War. Upon knowing about the destructive war Utanga wanted to curse Sri Krishna for having caused such destruction. Sri Krishna was alarmed because He was already cursed by many including Queen Gandhari. So to dispel the darkness within Utanga Sri Krishna declared, “I am both pairs of opposites, at once. I am happiness and misery, I am gain and loss. I am success and failure. I am both winner and loser. I am the killer and the killed. I am the virtuous and also the sinner. I am love and hate. I am violence and non-violence. I am the hunting and the hunted; I am the preying and the preyed, the raping and the raped, the criminal and the victim, the attacking and the attacked. I am the ruling and the ruled, the exploiting and the exploited, the abusing and the abused. I am the millionaire and also the slum-dweller. I am Brahmin, and am also the Chandala, the lowliest.” Utanga was very happy to have received this knowledge which is the cream of Jnana Yoga and refrained from cursing Sri Krishna.
As we travelled uphill towards the picnic spot at the top of the Pahadpur hill along with the picnic material we had collected from Ram Dada’s house, I was enthralled at the view of the stony hill and the forest. Gradually we left the village and soon we were completely alone. We could see some cows grazing in a herd. As we entered deeper into the forest there was only silence punctuated by the sweet cries of a number of birds. The stress within us began to dissolve. At a point I and Binod decided to take some rest as we were tired of the climb. So we sat down besides two huge boulders on the chairs we were carrying.
Sitting down we could enjoy nature even more. What a far cry it was from the needless hustle and bustle of the cities! The sweet chirping of birds seemed to be telling us that we should forget our busy lives clamored with destructive desires and a false sense of competition to rest in the lap of nature. The rocks around us were telling us to remain rooted and contemplate on the beauty of God’s creation. The grazing cows were showing us how we could get all the nourishment from nature and remain satisfied without destroying nature with our greed for a materialistic civilization. We know that it is time we listened to the elements because our destructive tendencies are today threatening the entire planet and will end in destroying the civilization which we are mistakenly proud of.
After sometime we again started climbing the rocks and finally reached the picnic spot which was a level place overseeing the stiff rocky cliff of the hill. Mishra bhai and others were already there. They had put down the utensils they were carrying and were searching for twigs to be used as fuel. Two small children were also helping them. It was very enchanting to watch the little ones who were completely attuned to their surroundings. It was a perfect place to listen to the nectar of Bhagawan. In the Achyutananda Malika (a set of Oriya predictions about the Kali Yuga and the Kalki Avatar) it is mentioned that the Kalki Avatar Sri Chakradhar would remain outside public gaze and would play with His devotees in far away forest and caves. I was happy to be a part of that predicted gathering around Him.
Bhagawan is a mystery to all of us. How can we explain Him and His Leela? It is all beyond us. He was born of extremely poor parents. His Mother’s struggle and sacrifice as She carried Him in her womb for twelve long years can never be imagined by us. How She must have suffered the criticism of the villagers who were unable to comprehend the event! Her pregnancy had also baffled the doctors who examined her periodically. Bhagawan’s suffering during his early childhood will also be beyond our capacity to understand. He lost His parents early. We know that He was very attached to them. His struggle with His relatives, His struggle during the period He received His education is unknown to many. His own friends turned against Him as He was struggling to establish the base of Dharma. Singlehandedly He has set about the system we are witnessing now. Despite all the scorn thrown at Him and the insurmountable obstacles in His path He is constantly engaged in the task of fulfilling the world’s destiny. He works in mysterious ways. We can only stick to Him and follow His instructions for our own good.
Soon Shakuntala Ma arrived and Biren Dada arrived shortly afterwards. Biren Dada I was meeting after a gap of many years. He has come out with a small booklet on the many predictions about Bhagawan. Predictions of Achyutananda Malika also form a part of that booklet. The world has to be informed that Bhagwan has arrived and that the predictions have come true. This yuga is a far cry from those days when the world used to wait anxiously, praying day in and day out for Him to arrive. Today men have become so powerful with worldly knowledge, skills and instruments that they have become arrogant and feel that the Supreme does not exist. They are ready to refute the very concept of God and take delight in their contempt of God’s words. It has become fashionable to abandon both morality and spirituality and anyone taking the name of God has become an object of ridicule.
It is predicted that things will become even worse in the year 2016 and that ego and arrogance will reach greater heights. Logically it should happen that way. When one travels to the tip of a mountain and cannot follow the rules, one falls to a great depth and is smashed to pieces. The same fate awaits our materialistic civilization which feels it has conquered everything but in reality it is living under the long shadow of death which is waiting to pounce upon it.
Preparations for cooking began as slowly people started arriving. Women and children were dressed in their best eager to welcome Bhagawan. There were little babies who were still breastfeeding. While their minds would not be able to comprehend the event, their souls would rejoice and gain from the company of Bhagawan. Infants and children are blessed souls who will carry the forward His work. It was a pleasure to watch the innocence and charm in their faces. It was a blessing to share their unalloyed joy.
Bhagawan arrived at around 1pm. He was accompanied by Mamata Ma and Bandita Didi. The place for Him and the devotees to sit was prepared by that time. He sat on the chair and looked around Him. The devotees went up to Him and offered their pranam. His eyes fell upon me and He wanted to know when I had arrived. I informed him that we four had arrived together only in that morning. Soon Amar Da arrived with his family and his wife went and offered a photograph in an envelope to Bhagawan. Later when Bhagawan saw the photograph He was very happy.
Slowly we all settled down. Bhagawan was dressed in a light pink shirt, creamy white pants and a red and black jacket. As usual He was looking very handsome. The newcomer Binod was introduced to Him. Bhagawan looked at him intensely for some time – something I have noticed Him do when any new person formally meets Him. I think within that small time He sees the past, present and future of that person.
When He came to know that Binod was researching about climate change, Bhagawan became interested in the subject. He started inquiring about climate change and its effect upon agriculture. He was informed that both agriculture and fishery – the prime livelihoods of coastal people have been affected. The elderly villagers of Pahadpur narrated how erratic rainfall was also affecting the crop in the region. Bhagawan was told how increasing ocean temperature was causing changes in flow of ocean currents in the Pacific region which is responsible for rainfall and other climatic factors. He was also told that this effect has become very strong and would affect rainfall even in the year 2016 at which Bhagawan appeared concerned. He understood every word of what was being said and was quickly internalizing them and commenting upon them displaying His profound intelligence and way of dealing with any subject matter. Bhagawan is always in ease with both science and spirituality and shows very keen interest in all subjects that come up for discussion before Him. I personally have never seen Him brush aside any issue as insignificant.
Binod told Him that the ocean was surging forward in many places in the Odisha coast threatening coastal populations. Mishra bhai informed that more than cyclones, the surging of waters can do more damage – the findings of his research on fluid dynamics. Bhagawan said there is a prediction that the ocean would come up to the 22 steps of the Jagannath Temple at Puri. He was told that actually the prediction was that there would a fierce incursion of the ocean during midnight which would be so vicious that the foam of the waves would pass above the Temple top. That would mean that the waters would come inland for many kilometers. Bhagawan nodded gravely in agreement but did not say anything.
The subject of resorting to unfair methods to obtain degrees was raised by Mishra bhai when Bhagawan inquired about his experience of teaching in colleges. The students were no longer interested in learning. They had become accustomed to skipping classes. Others also joined in saying that the standard of education in government schools had come down. Earlier students tried to understand and memorize the subjects. Now they resort to copying though strong steps are being taken to stop the practice. Earlier education was for obtaining knowledge but now it is for earning money.
Bhagawan brought up the subject of village festivities. He mentioned Tussu and Makar. Bhagawan is known to be an art connoisseur and He himself is an excellent singer and player of various musical instruments including the flute. He wanted to know from the elders why the fervor of the festivals was coming down. The elders said Tussu was always considered to be a festival of the lowly. Makar festivities were connected to agriculture and its methods. As agriculture was being affected and the young were turning away from it and the traditional practices were being abandoned in favour of modern practices, the festivities too were being affected.
The festivities celebrate the various facets of climate and the rural livelihoods and today both are changing. Festivities also involve music and dance and these too are suffering because traditional art forms are being neglected. People were earlier dedicated towards learning the art forms. Gurus used to visit the village and reside with the villagers while they trained them in music, musical instruments and dance forms. People used to devote themselves wholeheartedly in practice until they achieved perfection.
The lack of water was a major setback for agriculture, they said. Not only are rains erratic, a perennial stream that flowed down the hill at Pahadpur had also dried up. Bhagawan wanted to know the reason. He was told that the local administration had tried to stem the stream leading to its death. The money was spent on bridging the stream and now money is required for breaking the check dam which ironically is not forthcoming. The villagers said that money is being spent on damaging the environment but it is not available for healing it.
Bhagawan wanted to visit the stream and we all followed him to the spot. It was downhill and the place was perilously full of rocks which we had to negotiate very carefully. Coming to the place we saw that it was now just a small pool. The moist places around it suggested that the stream had perhaps gone underground. However it was evident that the stream had been very badly affected. The name of the stream was “God’s Water”. The elders said that earlier too once the stream had stopped flowing. People respected the water but there were some who came and built a brewery there. Then the stream had stopped. The locals then started performing puja at the site and the stream emerged again. Till this day the villagers perform puja when the rain fails them. Very recently they had performed a puja and there was rain within two days.
They also narrated the story of an old destitute woman who visited the village in the distant past. She wanted tobacco and was highly pleased when she was offered it. She had blessed the village saying that no one who lived there would be ever denied basic food and clothing. Then she wanted water but vanished before the water could be served to her. Till date the villagers remember her blessing because the villagers have never seen acute poverty in spite of being extremely remote. They feel she was a Goddess who had visited them.
Bhagawan then narrated the village story of two daitya’s who lived in the region. One lived in this hill and the other lived in an adjoining hill. The daitya living here went and burnt down the other hill which still retains the black mark. In response the other daitya came and stomped his feet in this hill and a very big boulder here was pressed into the ground and it still remains half buried. Bhagawan thus stressed that villagers tended to see nature as a living entity and this was entwined in their belief and stories. They were very respectful of nature, which is a necessary virtue. Nature responds to good treatment and respect. It is always there to provide and help but if it has been ill treated it can stop providing. He left us questioning ourselves when he wondered why nature punished all while it was a few who committed mistakes. I wondered if that was because the others preferred to be mere witnesses rather than protest and take corrective action.
Bhagawan’s eyes then fell upon a huge piece of rock that was perched precariously on top of the hill. It resembled a giant with an elongated head in a seating position. The villagers said many believed it to be a natural Shiva linga and offered flowers to it. Bhagawan said it looked more like a meditating sage who had obtained Samadhi and now his body had fossilized to become a rock. Someone told him that archaeologists had indeed discovered giants and also peculiar elongated skulls.
Bhagawan was perhaps encouraging us to adopt creative imagination that could infuse life into inanimate things and they would respond by offering their blessings to us. Was he pointing a way to reverse the climate change that was directly linked to the abuse of nature due to greedy human activities? It certainly did appear so. If so, then we would also have to change our mindsets and education; subjects that had also come up for discussion. Moreover his interest in reviving festivities and traditional art forms also indicated how we could revert to livelihood options based upon nature that could once again lead us towards prosperity while existing in joyous harmony with nature. Such is our Bhagawan!
Coming back again to the sitting spot, Bhagawan this time concentrated on the young girls and children. He asked them to sing songs on Tussu or Jhumur. The young girls responded by singing a song in His praise. Bhagawan listened to the song but He reminded them that it was not the subject which He wanted to hear. The girls made a few futile attempts. Bhagawan gently pointed out the defects in their singing.
Shakuntala Ma was annoyed with the children for not rehearsing enough even after being taught. Here was the Supreme sitting in front and His wishes were not being fulfilled. When the Supreme commands the impossible can happen, she said. She pointed out how songs were being composed for and rendered beautifully for charlatans – those who posed to be religious Guru’s. Bhagawan avoided the subject saying that negativity in religion was also an aspect of it. Earlier also I have observed that Bhagawan was reluctant to be negative about any religious personality despite their severe shortcomings. Was He indicating that even they were (albeit unwittingly) taking small steps towards Him? Traditionally also we have read about the power of the name of God. One who takes it is purified regardless of the intention. Sri Ramakrishna had once said, ‘Sweet bread will taste sweet in whatever manner you consume it,” referring to the power of God’s name.
The singing became better after the seniors joined in. Shakuntala Ma and few other elderly ladies of the village sang very soulfully. Amar Da was requested to sing. He sang a song with full devotion. While into his second song he unexpectedly started shaking violently and rolled on the ground. Mamata Ma was very surprised and shocked at this sudden happening. Bhagawan took it very lightly. He inquired if this happened to him regularly. There are various types of pranam according to circumstances, He said. If the ground is level one went in for sashtanga pranam. If the ground was dirty then one offered namaskar from a distance. So did this seizure occur because the ground was level, he asked jokingly. Amar Da’s wife said this always happened suddenly without any notice.
An elderly gentleman then narrated his own spiritual progress, upon being asked to do so by Bhagawan. He stated how He was guided towards Bhagawan through his spiritual efforts without being aware of His arrival. He said he also felt trembling sensations while taking the name but they never went towards seizures as he was able to contain the impulse. He said he particularly did not like submitting to such impulses. Externally too he seemed a very composed and yet humorous person. Was Bhagawan similarly asking ourselves to become strong and hold our feelings deep within without exposing them? Why then did He ask the gentleman to narrate his experience?
It was 5pm by this time and the food was ready. Everyone was served a sumptuous well cooked meal. Then it was time to say good bye. I went to Bhagawan to offer my pranam. So are you staying back, He asked. I said I had to return the same day. I have noticed that Bhagawan always wants us to stay and enjoy His company and also imbibe His teachings. It is we who attach a lot of importance to this world and return to it. We have to prepare ourselves to remain with Him for eternity.
Thus ended the picnic with Bhagawan. As readers must have noticed, it was no ordinary picnic. Bhagawan had allowed us to gather in a solitary place within His spiritual domain and had fed us His nectar in the form of words, actions and teachings. He had entertained us with holy music from the lips of innocent children. He then showed us the way back to the world by infusing in us the importance of living in harmony with and respecting the natural world around us; animate or inanimate. As we made our way back down the hill in semi darkness stumbling in the rocks that lay on the way the words of Bhagawan and the joy of His company followed us in our hearts. Mahasambhuti Chakradhar ki Jay!
Mahasambhuti is no longer with us. He has gone back to His abode. We live with his memories.