Sai Experiences of Muktaram – Part 1 of 3
Some of the Sai devotees have stayed loyal to their devotion for the span of their entire life. Prominent amongst them is Muktaram.
He originally belonged to Khandesh. His house was about one and a half mile from Raver. He first came to Shirdi around 1910-11. After passage of some time, he gave up the land he owned, his house, mother, wife and children (Sarva-Sang-Parityag) and moved permanently to Shirdi to be near Baba. Baba gave him the name 'Muktaram'.
At that time, there was another Sai devotee in Shirdi who was walking on the path to Virakti. His name was Balaram alias Balaram Mankar. Muktaram started spending his time in the company of Balaram. Baba was guiding these two on their Adhyatmik(spiritual) progress and was not willing to make these two sit in Shirdi only. He made them undertake travel to various areas. But, Shirdi was the central point for all their journeys and from time to time they returned to Shirdi.
In planning their return to Shirdi, Baba had the intention of giving them Adhyatmik guidance as well as achieving their Aatmavikas(self-development).
From 1914-15, Muktaram moved his residence permanently to Shirdi. He spent his maximum time around Baba. He sat near the Dhooni in the Masjid. His practice was to arrive in Dwarkamai in the early morning and continue there, upto the Aarati at the noon. He took his breakfast and lunch along with Baba. He managed with whatever food that Baba gave him.
After lunch, as directed by Baba, he used to move to a small tin shed adjacent to DixitWada. He had kept a Dhuni incessantly burning there. As per instructions of Baba, he stayed near this Dhuni till Baba asked him to come out. Even in scorching heat of summer, he continued to sit for hours together near the burning Dhuni in the small tin shed. People around him wondered, how he was able to bear the heat. The reason was the power (Shakti) he had gained from his staunch devotion (Bhakti). Muktaram was thus incessantly trying to turn his Antarang and Bahya-rang towards the path of Almighty. His only aim in life was to live in the way shown by Sadguru.
Baba had given him a Kafni and a cloth to tie around his head and that was his daily attire. There was a resemblance in his way of living, style of speech and gestures and those of Baba. However, some people thought that he was imitating Baba and therefore, the respect that they felt for Muktaram gradually gave place to misunderstanding and hatred. This got expression in some of the articles published as well as stories circulated about Muktaram.
There are two distinct versions of the event immediately before Muktaram's death. One version shows his in a rather bad light while other one clears the air.
A few examples of former type appear in Shri Sai Satcharita as well as in a magazine called 'Shri Sainath Prabha'. This magazine began publication in 1916 from Pune and Shri Sunderrao Narayan was its editor. The magazine was managed by Daxina Bhiksha Sanstha of Raobahadur Hari Vinayak Sathe.
Some of the stories which show Shri Muktaram in a bad light are:
(1) Muktaram felt that he was able to copy the ways of behavior of Baba. Therefore, after Baba took Samadhi, he started feeling that he could take the place of Baba. Slowly, there came a change in him. One day, he sat on the mattress (near the railing), on which Baba used to sit. Many senior devotees protested against this; but he replied, "It is Baba Himself Who has asked me to sit on this mattress. I am His heir." However, in a short while, he felt as if pins were pricking him from below and blood started oozing out. He vacated the seat and moved to another place. But, the pricking and blood continued. In about 7-8 days, he laid down his life in great pain, but after seeking forgiveness of Shri.
(2) A similar story appears in the Don Shabda (two words-or foreword) to Shri Sai Satcharita. It says that two days after Baba took Samadhi, Muktaram went and sat on Baba's seat in Dwarkamai. Thereafter, he died a painful death as narrated above.
(3) The moment Muktaram's feet touched the seat of Samartha (Sai Baba), he had an unbearable pain in his stomach. Later on no medicine or remedy was unable to help him. He prayed before the seat of Samartha for forgiveness; but to no avail. After two days, he died a painful death.
It was but natural that anyone who heard or read stories of these versions would see Shri Muktaram in a bad light. To dispel the misunderstandings and bad publicity, one of the Sai devotees wrote a detailed letter to the editors of 'Shri Sainath Prabha' under the pen-name of Mitra (friend) which was published in the April, 1919 issue of the magazine.
( to be continued)