NEEDLESS TO GO TO HOLY GANGES
Baba said, "You need not go that far for it. This itself is our Prayag bank. Have strong faith in your heart" – Shri Sai Samartha Satcharita, Ch. 4, Ovi 103.
Satyavirta was a lovely little village, situated about four miles to the north of the sacred river Ganga. Here lived a true bhakta of the Lord, called Punidhama.
From his early childhood, Punidama's days had been spent in the devoted service of his guru, in the daily satsang, as also in attending to the needs of the hundreds of pilgrims and guests who came to the village to take the much cherished dip in the Ganges.
One day, two munis came to the village. Punidhama fell at their feet and welcomed them cordially. He gave them food to eat and provided lodging for them. His guests were offered every courtesy that was in his power.
Having rested sufficiently, they prepared to move on to the sacred river.
"How far is Mother Ganga from your place?" one of them asked Punidhama. "How long do you think it will take us to reach there?"
"It may be a distance of four or five miles," replied Punidhama, a little hesitantly.
"Can you show us the best way to reach there as quickly as possible?" enquired the second muni.
"You must pardon my ignorance, holy masters," Punidhama said to them with humility. "I do not know for sure which is the best way to reach the Ganga. I have never been to the river myself. They say it is not very far from here – but I don't know about it!"
The munis were enraged! "Why, this fellow is a sinner – probably an atheist!" they said to themselves. "Living so close to the sacred river, he has taken not a single dip in the holy waters. If only we had known this earlier, we would not have accepted his hospitality."
With harsh words to Punidhama, they left his humble abode, spurning all his offers of assistance, swearing that they would find their way to the river on their own.
Still seething with anger, they headed towards the river.
"Imagine the miserable state of the sinner," they said to each other self-righteously. "Living virtually on the shores of the holiest of rivers, he says he has never been to the river in his life!"
They walked and walked, but just could not find the river. They took wrong turns, headed in the opposite direction, asked for directions, reversed their footsteps – but they simply could not reach the river, which was supposed to be so near!
Wearily, they collapsed by the wayside at the end of a day of fruitless wandering.
In their exasperation, they offered a prayer, "Mother Ganga, show us the way! We have traveled from afar to fulfill the sacred obligation of a lifetime – to take a dip in your holy waters! Please show us the way to quench our intense longing to bathe in your most sacred and cleansing waters!"
That night, Mother Ganga appeared to them in their dream. She said to them, "You have spoken ill of my bhakta and therefore, you are unable to reach me. Punidhama is my true devotee. He does not have to come to me, because the Ganga of true devotion flows at his feet."
The munis awoke, and felt ashamed of themselves. They retracted their steps to Punidhama's abode and sought his forgiveness. Even as they bowed their heads in reverence before this true bhakta, lo and behold, they saw a vision of Mother Ganga herself.