A sabbatical with my guru under the pretext of writing my book opened a door to a lost childhood memory.
I was about 8 years old when we travelled to the nearby town of Alandi to visit the Vitthal-Rukmai temple and the nearby samadhi of Sant Dnyaneshwar.
When I turned 7, my mother began a pilgrimage spree taking us all over India to the many holy sites, shrines and temples, and had us take a dip into every river in India. Until my visit to Sant (Saint) Dnyaneshwar’s samadhi, all I remember of that visit was the long, neverending and bumpy bus ride from my hometown, Pune and the pangat at the end of that visit.
A pangat is basically the serving of that which is offered to the deity in the temple (the prasad) to the people who visit. At that time, I remember going into a hut with floors plastered with sweet-smelling cowdung, and a long straw mat that was rolled out for people to sit on. In fact there were two such mats laid out so that people could sit across each other and be served.
The serving was a humble but delicious fare of local Maharashtrian food. I took to the food like my religion. That evening, several people came and went having finished the food on those plates which were made from stitched dried leaves. But I continued to eat. I had taken the least amount of food since I was known to have a small appetite back then too. That day though the food never seemed to finish. My parents relate this incident humorously to this day to anyone who questions my habit of eating very slowly.
But a few days back, sitting way past midnight listening to my guru, whom I shall now on address as Mauli due to her strong connection with Sant Dynaneshwar, sharing incidents from His life, I had a flash recall. I suddenly recollected this vision of having gone underground while visiting his samadhi. In those times, luckily, people were allowed to go to the ‘real’ samadhi of Sant Dnyaneshwar. It was a small underground chamber with red-bricked walls native to this land. I remember being told in whispering tones that this is the samadhi except that we couldn’t of course go inside. I was curious. I wondered, how must he have felt sitting in samadhi? My left palm touched the wall responsively. For a brief second, the wall ceased to exist and I could see Dyanoba sitting there, as still as a flame, meditating. Eyes closed, face as transparent as a still lake, oneness palpable.
For a long time I cried sitting next to her, my Mauli. I felt I had been searching for her/him for many many lifetimes. I felt he was watching me as I was eating and so I never seemed to finish.
She shared these abhangas with me, written by Sant Dyaneshwar sung by India’s Abida, Kishori Amonkar –
The final ovi in his written work, Dynaneshwari, which he wrote to translate the Bhagwad Gita in Marathi for the then common man, talks about Oneness, advaita, and is sung by Lata Mangeshkar here called pasaayadaan –
His profound understanding of oneness was witnessed by many in a famous episode when a cow started reciting the Gita, after his mouth was clamped shut when the brahmins refused to accept him. Or so I remember from the black and white film Sant Dnyaneshwar that I had watched a long time ago in my childhood on Doordarshan.
There is a lot to Sant Dyaneshwar than just stories. His abhangas, in 13th century marathi, sing about finding oneness with the universe and have a sweet profundity to them that can be experienced when you close your eyes and listen to the pakhawaj and cymbals in the temples of Maharashtra. Unfortunately the real samadhi is now closed. The site which houses the samadhi now is not the same that I had visited in my childhood.
It is a different thing reading about oneness and having an intellectual ‘knowing’ of it and experiencing it. Just like it is different relishing Rumi, and have a life situation come up where you experience his words. These abhangas have been leading me through the palace doors of what the heart recalls as oneness. I hope to someday immerse deeper through voice, language and being into this bhakti tradition and relive those moments when perhaps I was one of the lucky ones to have met Dyanoba in that lifetime.