Ratanji and the distinction of groups and castes
Ratanji saheb belonged to Nanded. Once he started for Shirdi along with his family for the darshan of Sri Sai Baba. Ratanji was a gentle, cultured soul and had great devotion towards Sai Baba. He was a Parsi. His happiness knew no bounds on the day that he was to start for Shirdi. On that day he called his friends for a tea party to his house at about four or five in the evening. Ratanji had many friends. The pride of wealth or arrogance was not present in the least in Ratanji. His friends are also not from a single caste or religion. Some were Brahmins, some Vaisyas, some were of the weaver class while some were of the warrior caste. Some were Parsis while some were Mohammedans. But in that group there is not a trace of hatred or bigotry based on caste or creed. That band of friends was a garden where jasmines and roses were flowering at the same time. Where the perfume of mutual respect and love was in abundance there is no place for the stench of fanaticism based on caste or creed. Not only this, by the mixture of the fragrances of the various castes and creeds meeting in an atmosphere of mutual love and affection; that meeting of good people (Satsangam) expressed a fragrance of its own which extended its influence outwards.
The earth is the place where all the various varieties of flowers bloom. That earth gives birth to and nourishes all varieties of flowers. In the same way the almighty gives birth to and nourishes all the various castes, creeds and nationalities. But the tragedy of today is that not only the various creeds are fighting with each other in hatred, but the split and splintered society of Hindus are also fighting with greater hatred between the various castes. They are not hesitating to destroy one another's wealth, woman or lives.
"The Kshatriya is lower than us. Even then he is trying in vain to equal us. Where will they get that intelligence or majesty from- they who are not Brahmin by birth?" question the Brahmins. The Kshtriyas reply, "To tell the truth, these Brahmins are the real low classes. One rishi was born to a Harijan woman. One rishi's mother was a mixed caste. Vyasa was the son of a prostitute. The fishermen Valya became Valmiki. Did not all these people have intelligence or scholarship? Later these Brahmins have written a false history, changing all the facts and fabricated our holy books. They hid their faults very carefully. They say that the Brahmins were born from the face of Brahma. Have your heard of any thing more foolish? Does any one take birth from the face? You yourself can judge the veracity of their statement! If they insist that they were indeed born from the face are they not equal to the disease inducing bacteria?
Because, only bacteria are ever born from the face, from the snot of the nose and the ulcers of the mouth. Why should we salute such people? Will the insect ever become a lion? Will it ever become God? They have written the majority of today's holy books. In those books they have shamelessly praised themselves. They claim themselves to be gurus and are holding court over the heads of the Kshatriyas. They have written the puranas and have put unnecessary sanctions and barriers on the Kshatriyas."
"The other castes which have listened to the arguments of Brahmins and Kshatriyas say, "These arguments are all lies, a mere show to fool us. To tell the truth they are both thieves. One has committed theft and the other has hidden the things stolen by them. They have combined with each other and gave the punishment to us for the crimes committed by them. Now the old cooperation is gone and they are each making public, the crime committed by the other. But they are cleverly hiding the true facts. They have come to an agreement and fabricated the puranas to say that God has incarnated twice as a Brahmin in the form of Vamana and Parasurama and twice as a Kshatriya as Rama and Krishna. You may say that Vamana and Parasurama, the brahmins were not given the greatness attributed to Rama or Krishna. The crux of the matter lies here itself. Rama and Krishna may be very great but their gurus are brahmins. Sri Rama may be the almighty but he had to prostrate to Vasista. It is as if the Sun wanted to read a book and borrowed an oil lamp for light. In the same way Sri Rama who was none other than the almighty went to Vasista for knowledge. But they did not let God go to Vaisyas or Sudras. How can we describe the extent of the lies told by these two castes? Gautama was born in the Kshatriya caste. But he disliked his caste so much that he went away and established Buddhism. Basava was born a brahmin but he hated the sins being committed by his fellow brahmins so much that he left his caste. It will be funny to hear what the brahmins say about how the Kshatriyas were born. They say that the Kshatriyas were born from the shoulders of Brahma. They made the Kshatriyas take birth like a nit from the shoulders. They say that the Vaisyas were born from the junction of the waist and thighs. We innocently believe this to be true. They made the Vaisyas equal to the worms of the excreta but we are not learning the truth.
They have made the Sudras reportedly born of the feet of Brahma, equal to the mud and bacteria of the fungus-effected feet. The Brahmins and Kshatriyas may have had some differences but until the 19th century, they were together. They are both in this together. The puranas make this very clear. Once a camel told a donkey, "Friend! Your song is excellent! Your song is very melodious." If they hear your song the celestial beauties will leave heaven and come running to you." The donkey was well pleased. It praised to the camel, "Friend what is you say about my song is pleasing to my ears. But, what about your beauty? Even the cupid will look ugly besides you." The Brahmins and Kshatriyas are like this."
Listeners! The four castes are fighting with each other like this, saying that each is superior to the other and they are causing harm to the Hindu society. Nobody benefits by this infighting. The Jasmine, Lily, Marigold, Chrysanthemum, the Rose all grow in the same garden. They do not have enmity towards each other. They do not try to destroy the other. By their being unified and staying in one place the fame of the garden will increase and spread far and wide. In the same way when all the various castes of the society come together in unity and work for the common weal, the society at large will progress in all respects. The Hindus have various castes. The Moslems have the Shias and Sunni's. The Jains have the Swetamber and Digambers. The Christians have Catholics and Protestants. In the same way in the animals and birds there are many varieties. These varieties of life will always be there. But one should not keep harping about the supposed superiority or inferiority of the castes. From the time the ears are pierced at Upanayana (the coming of age ceremony of the male Brahmin) until the time the brahmin widow's head is shaved upon the death of her husband, nothing can be done without the barber.
Is it reasonable to look down upon the barber saying that he is a low caste? A lady may be of the brahmin caste but if her child passes urine or excreta does she not clean it? In truth, she is doing the same work as the low caste man. Looking at it this way, no matter what their caste; all mothers are low caste. To not recognize this truth and feel disgust at another individual, who has taken birth like us from the human womb, just because he is a remover of excreta is illogical. It is unjust. Think it over. Do not twist the story of the various castes being born from the various parts of the body of Brahma. The purusha sukta has taken the society as a whole as an individual and gave a poetical representation of the work of various castes. The castes themselves were created by the work they did rather than any perceived superiority or inferiority. Do not give way to this aberration.
This society is a temple to God. Vyasa had spread the dharma in this society. Adisankara had placed some mattresses, arranged the windows of good conduct and morality, and put Valmiki as the curtain on the windows. The sastras have painted the temple. In this way many mahatmas have made arrangements for us to live happily in peace and harmony in this society. But after Sri Sankaracharya, dharma suffered. To rescue the society and to resuscitate true spirituality Sant Tukaram and many other mahatmas have incarnated. They have brought the lamps of karma, Bhakti and knowledge, poured the oil of sincerity, devotion and faith into the lamps, and lighted them. But all this has been lost now. The differences based on caste, lack of faith are the dust and the six enemies of lust, anger, covetousness, delusion, pride and envy are the rubbish, which has filled the temple tarnishing it.
That is why, my patient listeners, I pray to you with my hand joined in supplication; let us all get together and get brooms to sweep the pollution out from this temple of God. Let us make it gleam again with love. If the brothers of a family fight they both become bankrupt; their lawyers grow rich. Let us open our eyes before we too suffer the same fate. Let us remove this mutual hatred from this society, which is our temple, and live together in happiness as brothers. By such behaviour, we will all be happy and we will all benefit. Do not delay. Do not keep postponing the good day. Let us start now and explore the truth.
Please consider me as one of you. It is a result of my accumulated merit that I have been able to talk to you of these things today. You need a broom to rid this society, which is a temple to God, of all the rubbish and the dust of differences and hatred based on caste, creed. Use me as that broom. That is my prayer to you.
Let us now come back to our story. All the friends of Ratanji were sitting with him at his house for the tea party. At that time a mahatma came there. He was Maula saheb, who used to roam along the banks of the Godavari River at Nanded. His face was shining with the super natural glory of godliness. Ratanji and his friends courteously welcomed Maula sahib and made him sit in the seat of honour. They provided him with courteous hospitality. The party was over. Ratanji garlanded Maula saheb to honour him with faith and devotion and presented him a coconut.
Maula saheb said, "Ratanji, do not wait any longer. Start immediately for Shirdi. As you see Baba, convey my salaams to him. You will not find a fakir equal to that excellent yogi, Sai Baba anywhere. You will realize his divine power over time your self. Not only that. The time is now ripe for your desires to be fulfilled." Maula saheb blessed Ratanji and left. Ratanji was very happy with the Maula saheb's darshan as he felt it a good augury. He started immediately for Shirdi.
Ratanji reached Shirdi and saluted Baba reverently. Baba looked at him in a kindly manner and said, "Oh you have come? Very good. I was thinking about you. Your troubles are over. You do not have to worry any more. That is all alright, but have you brought me any dakshina?" Ratanji replied with devotion, "Baba, you just have to command me and I will give any amount within my means as dakshina." Baba said, "Do not worry; I do not want a big amount. Just give me five rupees. That will be enough. By the way, as you have already given me three rupees and twelve annas out of the five; you owe me just a rupee and four annas. That will be fine". Ratanji was perplexed. He thought, "I have never come to Shirdi or met Baba before this meeting. When did I ever give the three rupees and twelve annas to him as dakshina?"
He made no demur but gave what Baba asked. But the thought was still haunting his mind. He was raking his brains trying to understand Baba's meaning but to no avail. On the second day Baba said, "Ratan, what are you thinking? I came to your house on the day you were starting for Shirdi. You gave me a light repast and looked after me well." Ratanji did not still understand what Baba meant. He took leave of Baba and returned to Nanded. But he continued to think of Baba's words. One day, he was going over his accounts and saw the account for the day of the tea party, when he had honored Maula saheb. The expenditure that day came to just the amount Baba said was received by him. Ratanji was ecstatic with happiness. Later by the grace of that mountain of compassion, he got children too. What can one lack when one has found a kalpa vruksha called Sai Baba?
Listeners! Baba has taught us a moral in this incident. He has taught us that no matter where his devotees are, he will protect them and give them all that is auspicious. He also taught us that the expenditure incurred in satsang and in the looking after the saints reaches him. When we do the worship of saints and mahatmas it is as if we have worshiped Sri Sai Baba. That worship reaches him too.
Ratanji's friends had all sat together without any feelings of ill will or hatred even though they were of different castes and creeds. Baba was pleased with that. The hospitality extended to Maula saheb was received by Baba too. So my dear listeners, open your eyes quickly! The differences and hatreds based on creeds and castes are not at all helpful to our progress.
(SRI SAIGURUCHARITRA - by devotee Ganpatrao Dattatreya Sahasra-buddhebetter known as Das Ganu Maharaj)