By: Seetha ‘Priya’
Shankaracharya Hill comes into view as we approach Srinagar from the airport. The conical temple on top of the densely forested hill overlooks Dal Lake and in the mild afternoon light, it is shining like the crest jewel of the goddess. The vista brings to mind the image of Viveka Chudamani, Crown Jewel of Reason, which is the title of a famous poem that Adi Shankaracharya composed in his relatively short but meteorically brilliant lifespan of 32 years.
This metaphor of a glittering medallion for a scholastic topper seems doubly apt because the crowning glory of the Acharya’s academic achievements was his accession to Kashmir’s Sarvajna Peetha, seat of all knowledge. Also called Sharada Peetha, after the Goddess of Learning, after whom the state got its name in the old days, the shrine is now located in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. So, we visited the Shankaracharya Hill.
This is said to be the place where the master meditated to compose his Saundarya Lahari, Waves of Beauty, says Anandagiri’s biography of Adi Shankara.
The 21st shloka of Vishnu Sahasranama is –
Marichirdamano Hamsaha Suparno Bhujagothamaha
Hiranyanabhah Sutapah Padmanabhah Prajapati
Lord Vishnu is the crest jewel as He is radiant (Marichi), punisher (Damana) of the evil and I am in Him, and He is in me (Hamsa) and has beautiful wings (Suparna). He reclines on the best of serpents (Bhujagothama) and is the source (Hiranyanabha) of all austerities (Sutapah) and holy (Padmanabha) and is the father (Prajapati) of all beings.
Sai Baba wanted to groom a person to be his disciple who would carry on his mission. He wanted to mould a spiritual guide. Possibly he could have transferred his powers to one of his followers. He did not do this. In fact, he enabled Kashinath Krishnaji Joshi to materialize Udi from nothing but this was only to enable him to help the needy! For a disciple, a Guru bestows on him everything of himself, his power, strength of spiritual achievement and the divine grace! Unfortunately, Baba did not nominate his disciple!
A devotee may not necessarily become a saint’s disciple. The eligibility to become a disciple is not his devotion or his personal service. It needs a Guru’s grace, because only a true and fully graced disciple can carry ahead his Guru’s mission! For that a Guru bestows on him everything including his achievement and knowledge of the Supreme! Sai Baba did not establish an ashram or a Mutt! His mission was to transform atheists into theists and humans by winning their hearts with display of his divine powers and thus get their obeisance and devotion! To continue his mission, he wanted his disciple as an accomplished Sadguru! He wanted to strip him off his desires, attachments, lust, and ego putting him on a sack cloth of renunciation!
The name of this disciple-designate was Kashinath Govind Upasani! He was the second of five sons born into Brahmin family in the village of Satana in Nasik district. He was born on 5th May 1870 and his parents were Govinda Sastri and Rukmini. A great saint Uddhav Maharaj of Mulher gave a dream vision to Rukmini that he will be taking birth as her son!
Upasani did not have any formal education. Right from childhood he had a religious temperament of observing rituals, fasts, meditation etc., He had an outlook that he and his body are different! Upasani’s family life was short-lived. He had three marriages and all of them died. He learnt Ayurveda at Sangli and for some time practiced at Amaroati and earned good money. He also published an Ayurvedic magazine ‘Bheshaj Rathna’. Whatever money he earned as a Physician, he invested it in land in Gwalior but incurred heavy loss as the tenants cheated him!
He was penniless and virtually in rags. In his itinerant life, he heard a singing voice which he could not explain. He had a vision in which a Hindu and Muslim stood on either side and quickly removed his complete skin. Though his skin appeared dull and dirty his inner body gleamed with divine luster! He went to Khedgaon and met Narayan Maharaj. The Hindu in the dream vision was none other than Narayan Maharaj. Narayan Maharaj virtually ignored him and advised him to meet Sai Baba at Shirdi! He avoided meeting Sai Baba till 1913.
Sai Baba was happy to see Upasani. He wanted to groom him as his successor. He put him on an internship for four years at Kandoba Mandir. But he did not stay there. He ran away two months before the stipulated term.
Sai Baba felt sorry that his disciple did not complete the four years of internship to become his disciple! So, he declared that ‘there is no heir or disciple to him, and he will continue to look after the welfare of his devotees. When he casts off his mortal coil, the bones in his tomb will be ever vigilant and take care of his devotees!’