Source: Sai Satcharitra
A group of Ramadasis sang kirtans in front of Sai Baba. As they concluded, Dada Khelkar came to the mosque and Baba asked him to talk about Jabala, Maitreyi, and Shandili. Sai Baba asked
Radhakrishna Mai to arrange for their food and accommodation.
Dada Khelkar volunteered to make a narration. Baba consented. Dada Khelkar gave them a lively discourse on Jabala, Maitreyi, and Shandili.
Jabala had a son called Satyakama. He went to a teacher and asked to be taught. The teacher said he needed to know if his student was of the right mettle, for teaching could be imparted only to the high-born. So, he asked him about his lineage. Satyakama went to his mother and asked who his father was. The confident mother told him she had had many paramours then, so she was not sure. “Tell your teacher, you are Jabala’s son,” she said. “That should suffice.” She was unashamed and unapologetic. She stood tall. How many mothers have the confidence to tell their children to be known by their name?
Maitreyi yearned to learn philosophy from Yajnavalkya. She got married to him, for then it would be easier to establish the student-teacher relationship. One fine day, he called his wives and declared that he would like to divide his property between them, as he was renouncing the world to seek the Supreme. Katyayani, his first wife, took her share. “Will your riches give me what you are going to seek?” asked Maitreyi. When he said it would not, she said she didn’t want his wealth, and that she too would renounce the world to seek enlightenment. Yajnavalkya thought it would be too much for her. “When you have renounced me, how can you decide my actions?” she replied and went ahead with her quest.
She had married him to learn. She kept that spirit right through. How many wives know the partnership in a marriage is of equals, even if one is a teacher and the other the taught?
Shandili was a sage. She had practiced severe austerities and earned much merit. Once, Sage Galava and Garuda, Vishnu’s mount, were traveling together on a mission when they stopped near her ashram for the day. Sage Shandili hospitably welcomed the visitors.
The next morning, when they woke up to continue their onward journey, Garuda found to his despair that his wings were severed from his body. Those massive, powerful wings lay inert by his side, and he was reduced to an immobile, powerless lump of flesh.
Sage Galava looked at him with concern. “Sage, did you nurse any bad thoughts about this ashram?” he asked the hapless eagle. “Oh no,” replied Garuda. And then added, “I just thought her place should be in the heavens with the gods, with Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma.”
Garuda felt that his thought had accorded her the highest praise. But when Garuda fell at Shandili’s feet and apologized, she said, “I do not need to associate with anyone, God or man, for my greatness. I am I. Derived from me. All that I have achieved is due to my strength, conduct, and austerity. Do not insult me by thinking I belong elsewhere. I belong where I am. Do not denigrate any woman similarly.”
She was her measure. How many of us know of or believe in our infinite potential? Garuda got back his wings.
Sai Baba appreciated Dada Khelkar’s narrative and called upon his devotees to make Jabala. Maitreyi and Shandili as their role models.