Paratpar Guru (Dr.) Jayant Athavale is at times humorous and serious at times while teaching Spirituality to seekers and giving appropriate perspectives for the welfare of the samashti (Society)
His Guru, H.H. Bhaktaraj Maharaj, too would at times speak humorously; but there were spiritual lessons in His humour.
The words of Saints and Gurus are Divine assertions, which always have a lesson for the samashti. Such humorous incidents were also a part of our seva & seeker-life at the Sion Ashram in Mumbai. This article is on some such incidents. Do not stop at merely appreciating the humour; rather, treat these as lessons in spiritual practice. – Mr. Dinesh Shinde
1. One who thinks of welfare of the individual’s materialistic life
1A. A carpenter who had come to fix a wooden plank ignored H.H. Dr. Jayant Athavale’s suggestions : Once, a wooden plank was to be fitted on a wall to keep boxes. A carpenter came for the job. While he was at it, H.H. Dr. Athavale would come intermittently and suggest something like – ‘Use a bigger size nail so that the plank takes the load’. The carpenter replied, “Don’t worry, be happy”. We said to the carpenter, “Do not speak to Him like this; just obey Him”. Yet, he kept repeating this.
1B. The plank coming off along with the nails : Upon hearing the carpenter, H.H. Dr. Athavale smiled meekly, as if He was aware of what was to happen. After the plank was installed, He asked seekers to place some boxes on it. Two seekers placed boxes, while others did their own sevas. The seekers had placed just 2-3 boxes on the plank, when it came crashing down along with the nails. Upon hearing the sound we gathered there and saw that the plank had fallen on the seeker doing seva underneath.
1C. H.H. Dr. Athavale merely smiled at the carpenter and spoke in carpenter’s own words : We rushed to the seeker and removed the plank and the boxes that had fallen on him. By then, H.H. Dr. Athavale too arrived and as usual asked in His soft tone, “What happened ?” We narrated the incident to Him. He asked us if the seeker was injured. Then, looking at the carpenter He exclaimed, ‘Don’t worry, be happy’, and began to laugh out aloud. The poor carpenter’s face fell.
1D. Giving spiritual perspective even to the carpenter : The carpenter then followed H.H. Dr. Athavale’s instructions and installed the plank. We then placed all the boxes on that shelf. Upon completion of the job, while giving Prasad to the carpenter, H.H. Dr. Athavale said, “Whenever someone suggests something, you must listen to him. You saw what happens when you did not ! We (in Spirituality) ask and serve. If in future you commence spiritual practice, this perspective will help you”. This was a proof enough why He is called Gurumouli (Guru as a mother). Be it a seeker, a spiritually enlightened individual or a common man, H.H. Dr. Athavale guides everyone for his / her emancipation and ensures their lifetime well-being. What is most important is to be obedient to a Saint’s or a Guru’s advice. If anyone thinks otherwise, their condition becomes like the carpenter’s.
2. Making everyone aware that a seeker is hiding facts
2A. A seeker coming for seva after his office hours hides the fact that he eats before coming to the Ashram and H.H. Dr. Jayant Athavale praising him for doing seva without eating anything : A seeker would come to the Ashram in the evening after his office hours for seva. Whenever he would go to H.H. Dr. Athavale for seva, He would first give him something to eat. ‘After working the whole day, he must be hungry’, H.H. Dr. Athavale would think. The seeker would eat whatever was offered without saying anything. At times, he would start seva without eating anything as he would come to the Ashram after eating. However, since H.H. Dr. Athavale did not know of this, He would praise him – ‘See his yearning. He starts seva right after coming from office’.
2B. H.H. Dr. Athavale seeing from His balcony that the seeker is eating at a roadside stall before coming to the Ashram : Once H.H. Dr. Athavale was standing in His balcony in the evening when He saw this seeker coming. The seeker was not aware that H.H. Dr. Athavale was watching him. As he approached, he stopped at a road-side stall and began to eat some snacks. By then, H.H. Dr. Athavale called seekers in the Ashram and said, “See him. He is eating and we thought that he is performing seva on an empty stomach !”
The seeker then came to the Ashram for seva. H.H. Dr. Athavale did not say anything to him that day. The seeker completed his seva and left. The next day, when he returned to the Ashram and asked for seva, H.H. Dr. Athavale gave him seva and said, “You must have eaten already; so you can commence seva”.
Saints and Gurus have knowledge of the past, present and future. They like those who are transparent and speak the truth. Even if you do something behind their backs, it is not hidden from them. Hence, tell them all with a clear conscience; else we will harm our own spiritual practice.
3. Making the seeker aware of his mistakes
3A. A seeker setting an alarm to get up early, the seekers who do seva late night getting disturbed as the alarm had to be switched off by other seekers : A seeker would leave for work at 6 a.m. He would set the alarm to get up early; however, he would never wake up when the alarm sounded. One of us would wake up, switch off the buzzer and go back to sleep. This became a daily routine. Some seekers would remain awake till late, and their sleep would be disturbed by the buzzer. When I told H.H. Dr. Athavale about this, He said, “Ask him to sleep in the room next to mine; you will not get disturbed then”. We told the seeker about this, and he slept in that room.
3B. As the buzzer rang continuously for some time, H.H. Dr. Athavale woke up and switched it off : The buzzer rang at 6 a.m. and kept ringing for 5 minutes. Since the seeker did not wake up, H.H. Dr. Athavale went to his room, switched off the buzzer and woke him up. He then proceeded to his office. When the seeker came to that room the next day to go to bed, H.H. Dr. Athavale asked him, “Who do you set the alarm for ? For yourself or for others ? Do you expect others to wake you up when the alarm goes off ? Go and sleep in the other room”.
3C. H.H. Dr. Athavale told us that the seeker is not aware that he is causing nuisance to others, which means he is not serious about his mistakes : H.H. Dr. Athavale asked this seeker to sleep in a room where he could be alone and keep the volume of the buzzer low so that it does not disturb others. Thinking about others with unconditional love is an important aspect of spiritual practice. H.H. Dr. Athavale told us that the seeker is not aware that he is causing nuisance to others, which means he is not serious about his mistakes. As a result, the mistakes get repeated & harm his spiritual practice. The seeker was cautioned not to repeat mistakes.
Acts such as banging a door, making sounds while emptying plastic bags etc. disturb the sleep of seekers. Such acts reveal lack of virtues such as ‘emotion of love and thinking of others’. We should always be alert and not make such mistakes. It will help us develop the attitudes mentioned here. Else, we will be no different than this seeker, and this can harm our spiritual practice.
4. Making the seeker aware that there is no point in hiding anything
H.H. Dr. Athavale praising a seeker thinking that he does not sleep in the noon, and the seeker not being able to control sleep on a day when H.H. Dr. Athavale did not have His afternoon nap : A seeker would sleep in the noon after H.H. Dr. Athavale would go to sleep and would return and commence seva before H.H. Dr. Athavale was awake. As a result, H.H. Dr. Athavale thought that the seeker does seva late nights and does not sleep in the noon as well. He would praise the seeker. One day after H.H. Dr. Athavale went to His room, this seeker went to sleep in the other room. After 10 minutes, H.H. Dr. Athavale remembered a point and came back to tell the seeker. He realised that the seeker has gone for a nap.
He asked us, “Does he sleep regularly in the noon after I go ?” When we said ‘Yes’, He kept quiet. The next day there was some urgent seva and it was well past H.H. Dr. Athavale’s normal sleeping time. The seeker was feeling sleepy and kept waiting for H.H. Dr. Athavale to go to sleep. When the sleep became uncontrollable, he began to yawn. When H.H. Dr. Athavale saw this He said, “I will not rest today. Do not wait for me to leave. Go and sleep”. The seeker felt ashamed and went to the other room to sleep.
Pretense does not stand the test of Saints and Gurus. Some day or the other the truth comes out and it becomes not only a matter of shame for the seeker but he can become disqualified to perform seva too.