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Shri Hans Ji Maharaj

Part 1

Shri Hans Ji Maharaj was Prempal & Satpal Rawat's father.

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Part 1: Content

A Panoramic View of Shri Maharaji's Life and Activities
Founding of the Mission
The Problem of Peace and Divine Light Mission - An Answer
Shri Hans Ji Maharaj and Prevailing Religious Sects

A Panoramic View of Shri Maharaji's Life and Activities

(Page 1-17)
Param Sant Satgurudev Shri Hans Ji Maharaj, whose birthday falls on November 8, belongs to the galaxy of saints and seers that this country has been producing from the days of the Vedas and the Upanishads down to the present age.

Born in the hilly area of Badrinath, he was destined to play an important role in establishing the true religion which had been polluted by superstitions, rituals and evil practices which had crept into the mainstream of Indian society with the lapse of time. Born in a Suryawansh, or sun dynasty, he inherited the greatness and the glamour of the Raghu dynasty. He was a descendant from the lineage of Lord Rama's family.

He was a magnetic personality, tall with a glowing face and flowing hair, attractive eyes, broad forehead and a wide silvery smile. He had a very pleasing and impressive exterior which attracted the people who approached him. There was a charisma about him which created awe in the hearts of others. Dressed generally in a "dhoti" and "kurta" he was the living embodiment of truth. He outshined all others and was singularly conspicuous in a crowd. His very presence inspired confidence, emitted brightness, and created an atmosphere of love and peace.

From his childhood he was inclined towards spirituality. He had some mystic experiences which could not be rationally explained. He remained under the influence of reform movements such as the Arya Samaj, but there came a complete transformation in the personality after he met his Guru and received initiation from Him. In later years Maharaj Ji used to relate the meeting with his Guru.

It was by sheer coincidence that Maharaj Ji met the Saint who was to become his Guru. Being influenced by the modern movements of his time he had no inherent faith in the need for a Guru. However, the first meeting with his Guru convinced him that without a teacher, real knowledge can not be attained. Upon requesting his Guru to impart the knowledge of the self to him the Guru replied that he should come the next day to hear more Satsang after which he would be given "Updesh", or initiation.

The next day when Maharaj Ji left his home to meet his Guru, he found that heavy rains had swollen a small stream he had to cross into torrential proportions. Maharaj Ji attempted to forge the stream but was caught by the strong current and was swept away. There seemed to be little hope for his rescue, and at this moment Maharaj Ji had the one regret that he would have to leave life without having received the Guru's knowledge. Suddenly, it seemed as if a hand had appeared and was pulling him up out of the water. The next thing he knew he was Lying on the bank of the stream, safe and sound. He looked around for his rescuer, but no one could be found.

He then proceeded to the home of his Guru, who, seeing him drenched and shivering, gave him some new dry clothes and ordered him to change before he could hear any more satsang. Maharaj Ji was hesitant to accept the clothes from his Guru, since by tradition it is the householder who must offer and not the Guru. However, after some persuasion he accepted the clothes and prepared himself. Satsang was delivered and finally his Guru ordered a Mahatma to impart the four "kriyas". Thus did Maharaj Ji receive "Updesh."

Immediately after receiving this knowledge Maharaj Ji was at a loss to understand its full meaning and import. He left for his home, bewildered and pondering deeply over what he had just been revealed. When he arrived home he picked up a copy of the Gita and began reading it in order to see if this knowledge was in accordance with the scriptures. He discovered that all at once the secrets and full meaning of the 'Gita' had become clear to him, and what was before a mystery was now crystal clear before his eyes. At once he developed a reverance for this knowledge which had the immediate effect of making what was once hidden, quite plain before the eyes.

The next morning he arose early, bathed and sat for meditation with great resolve and devotion, intent upon gaining the experience of that fundamental reality. That same morning, the young Maharaj Ji entered "samadhi" and in that state of trance where all body consciousness is lost, he realised the Divinity. Now, of course, his honour and reverance for the knowledge and his Guru knew no bounds. Full of firm faith and absolute belief that what he had found was the true knowledge, he prepared himself for a life of devotion to his Guru and the propagation of the knowledge.

As a disciple, Maharaj Ji was the example of total surrender. His life was austere and simple, his whole being was bent upon truth and all lesser concerns melted and disappeared before his eyes. His Guru said of him, "I am in Hans' heart, and 'Hans' is in my heart " The differences between Guru and disciple dissolved into basic oneness. Maharaj Ji lost his personal ego and became one with his Guru, attaining supreme cosmic consciousness.

Later, a very close disciple of Maharaj Ji disclosed the following incident. Once, all the disciples of Dada Guru were sitting together in the presence of their master. The Dada Guru lifted Shri Maharaj Ji's hand and declared to his disciples that they should follow 'Hans' after his death. The story had an ironic ending. A small group dominated by one Varaganand disobeyed their Master and after his death declined to follow Shri Maharaj Ji. Varaganand claimed the property of his late Guru and set himself up as Guru in his own right. Shri Hans Ji Maharaj was not attracted to the perishable wealth of this world, having already been bestowed with the divine property of Ram Nam. So, according to the commandment of his Master, he started propagating the Holy Name.

In the beginning he disseminated the knowledge of the Divine Light and Holy Name in Sind and Lahore. From 1930 onwards he began coming to Delhi to enlarge upon his noble mission. He stayed in a small room in Bagh Raoji, situated in the Karol Bagh near the Delhi Cloth Mill. His mission spread from man to man as he patiently kindled the lamp of knowledge in others. Soon a group of persons working in the Delhi Cloth Mill became interested in him and visited him regularly, Those were the days of close association, when Shri Maharaj Ji could give personal attention to the aspirant's progress on the path of truth. His magnanimity and cheerful disposition, along with his selfless dedication to the cause, endeared him so much in the hearts of his followers that he became their object of love and worship.

Shri Maharaj Ji's approach was not at all traditional. He was unique and so were his methods. When the labourers in the Delhi Cloth Mill expressed their desire to realise God but wondered how it was possible for workers who have neither the time to sit in meditation, visit the temple, nor renounce the world, to be able to realise God, Maharaj Ji told them that meditation was something that could be done at all times, in all stations of life and that the Holy Name was above the petty vicissitudes of life. This greatly attracted those people and so encouraged, they looked upon him as the Messiah of the poor.

The 'Premies", who had the opportunity to be with him in those early years were fascinated by his way of life. He would play, bathe and talk with them and share their joys and sorrows, yet the master would make them steer themselves on the path of righteousness. He taught them the mysteries of God by a very common place method, in a down to earth fashion. He did not burden the "Premies" with high philosophy. Rather he took philosophy and made it practically understandable.

He was known for his parables, anecdotes and home spun truths which he used expertly in order to carry home a point. There was nothing scholastic about him for he believed that theory bereft of action was a futile mental gymnasium. His approach was always a realistic one towards worldly life as well as to the life divine. His teachings gave the disciples the ability to artfully harmonise the two. Generally the disciples would assemble in a house of a "Premie" where they would sit in rapt admiration with Maharaj Ji and listen to him speak.

More and more people started coming to him, requesting that satsang be given in dharmasalas. Consequently, from small private gathering Maharaj Ji shifted his base of action to dharmasalas in Delhi and gave discourses to a larger audience. At this time he moved from Karol Bagh to Pahar Ganj, to the residence of a "premie", Lala Jyoti Prasad. The first function of Guru PuJa was held at the home of Jyoti Prasad. After this it became an annual function.

His devotees were so attracted to him that upon hearing he was arriving in Delhi they would leave their work and flock around him. Maharaj Ji would engage in various "Lilas" with his devotees and they would sing and play together. The atmosphere was intimate and full of heartfelt love. So close were the "Premies" to their Guru that when he left them they would weep and return with a sorrowful heart to their homes, waiting for his next return.

As his message spread, Maharaj Ji would give open Satsangs, especially near the bank of the Jamuna River. Maharaj Ji had his own natural and novel way of speaking to the people. He was against all outward show and shunned the pomp that many 'Sadhus' and "Mandaleshawars" would indulge in. He never posed to be a religious man. He simply lived religion. He opposed all outer forms of worship such as counting of prayer beads, penances, fasting and the like.

Once, when he was coming back from the Jamuna River followed by some of his admirers, he saw a Mauni Baba sitting on the sandy bank with crossed legs, answering the questions put to him by writing on the sand. Maharaj Ji approached and sat before the Mauni Baba. He folded his hands in prayer, raised his eyes to the heavens and spoke, "Oh God, Thou who art omniscient and all powerful, perfect and the creator of all, I see that even Thou can make mistakes. For why have you given this Baba a tongue when it seems as if he has no need of it?" At this, all were startled and the pretensions of the Mauni Baba collapsed into anger as he shouted, 'What ! What is this you are saying?' At once all the spectators broke into laughter. Maharaj Ji told the Baba that silence of the mind is more important, in fact indispensable, on the path to God, while silence of the tongue is but an outward show. One who does not still the mind by meditation, but only outwardly controls his senses by force, is a hypocrite.

In addition to Delhi, Maharaj Ji would also visit some areas in U. P. In Hapur, Maharaj Ji gathered many followers from the surrounding villages. He would often go and stay in one place for about a week at a time. Once, while visiting a village, a farmer who was his disciple saw Maharaj Ji approaching and left his plough and ran forward to greet him. He touched the feet of his Guru and requested him for satsang. He laid a cot and spread his best cloth for Maharaj Ji under the shade of a tree. But Maharaj Ji refused to sit and told the man to return to his work in the Fields. The farmer obeyed and Maharaj Ji walked with his disciple and gave Satsang as he ploughed the fields. After the farmer completed his work they both left for the village. It was a superb practical lesson in Karma Yoga.

Once Maharaj Ji was invited to Simla by a Brahmin disciple. Many people gathered in his house to hear Maharaj Ji's Satsang. For three days Maharaj Ji continued to draw huge numbers of people to the house with his discussions on the Holy Name and the oneness of all religions. In the household of the Brahmin there was a "Shudra" sweeper, who would sit apart from the crowd and listen to the Satsang. On the third day the sweeper approached Maharaj Ji and said that if this Nam was so beneficial, and if the name of God was one for all, could he too be permitted to receive initiation. Maharaj Ji accepted the sweeper, and gave him 'Updesh' of the Holy Name. When the Brahmin disciple learned that his servant was also a disciple of Maharaj Ji, he became angry and told Maharaj Ji that he could not accept the fact that a sweeper was allowed to receive "Updesh" and pollute the higher castes with his company. It was unthinkable to him that a brahmin and a sweeper could enjoy the discipleship of the same Guru. Maharaj Ji simply said that it was not his fault that he gave the knowledge of the Holy Name of God to the sweeper, the blame must be placed on God. For God places divinity in the heart of every man, the Brahmin and the "Shudra" alike, and there was nothing Maharaj Ji could do to alter this fact.

Shri Maharaj Ji was very much against caste distinctions, and would Pounce on those who displayed superiority because of their caste. In the court of the Lord, he said, it is actions that make a man superior, and not his caste. Maharaj Ji would also criticise Karpatri, a religious Guru who opposed the opening of the temples to those of the "Shudra" caste.

Maharaj Ji explained that if God, the purest of the pure, the Most Holy, the Light of all lights, could become polluted by the touch of a "Shudra", then such a God was far less important than the "Shudra", who worshipped him. A deity who practices discrimination is not worthy of our reverance. The name of God is to purify us, but if God is susceptible to pollution by the "Shudra" how can he have the power to purify us? It is only the un-pollutable who is able to purify. God must be all pure, and all purifying, so it is complete nonsense to think of his becoming stained by the touch of a mere mortal, no matter what his caste may be.

Maharaj Ji would often refer to a particular story from the life of Lord Rama. The story depicts Rama's love for a humble devotee belonging to a low caste. Once, during Rama's exile from his kingdom there lived a "Shudra" woman by the name of Bhilini in the midst of a forest. She served her Guru by sweeping, collecting firewood and doing other domestic duties. So devoted was she, that her Guru upon his death bed called Bhilini to him and said, "O Bhilini, have patience and be devoted to Lord Rama and you will be graced with His Darshan in your very home."

Consequently Bhilini lived in constant expectation of Lord Rama's arrival. She would get up in the morning to collect fruits for him, tasting each one to see whether it was sweet enough. She daily swept the very route that Lord Rama would have to take in order to arrive at her humble hut. Now, in that forest lived many "Rishis" who having renounced the world had built Ashrams for themselves, and lived a life of meditation and asceticism. Bhilini lived apart from their abodes, for even amidst the forest all shunned her. They considered her of a low caste and did not wish to have any contact with her.

The day at last arrived when Lord Rama, passing through the forest, bypassed all the Ashrams and went to the hut of Bhilini. She was overjoyed, all her dreams and expectations had at last been realised, and eagerly she put before Lord Rama the bowl of fruits which she had been so long and laboriously collecting. Lord Rama was pleased with her offerings and ate all the fruit. He gave a few to his brother Lakshman who was amazed that Lord Rama could eat the fruits of a Shudra woman, and surreptitiously threw them away.

In the forest was a single polluted pond which deprived the inhabitants of a supply of good drinking water. The "Rishis" approached Lord Rama and begged him to walk into the water, believing that the pond would become purified upon contact with his feet. Rama replied that they, who were great Rishis, purified by years of asceticism in the forest should be able to purify the water themselves. An attempt was made, and the "Rishis" entered the water, still the pond remained polluted. Now Lord Rama walked into the water, hut he too failed to clean it. At this point Lord Rama called Bhilini, assuring the "Rishis" that if she were to enter the ponds the water would become purified. Bhilini entered, and sure enough the pond became crystal clear and drinking water was restored to the forest.

Maharaj Ji would emphasise this story in order to point out that those who considered the lower castes to be polluting were in fact going against the ancient holy books of India, infidels to the ideals of Lord Rama, and destroyers of the true foundations of Indian religion.

"No one asks about caste in the court of the Lord.
One who remembers God in his heart, attains God."

Just as the sun gives its light to all and water quenches the thirst of all, so God is one for all. Whosoever remembers and searches for Him will find Him. In the words of Jesus, "Knock and it shall he opened, seek and ye shall find."

Maharaj Ji would always glorify the path of devotion and love in his Satsangs. He would say that the devotee is very dear to God, the intense love of a devotee causes God to incarnate Himself. Lord Krishna left the delicious dishes of the King Duryodhan and took plain vegetables in the house of a poor devotee. Indian religious scriptures are full of such stories which glorify the greatness of a devotee. Even Guru Nanak refused a sumptuous meal at the house of a rich merchant to dine in the home of a true devotee who could only offer him a dry crust of bread.

The highest achievement on the spiritual path is the manifestation of Divine Love in the heart of the devotee. Once manifested, God Himself runs after the devotee.

By the year 1950, Maharaj Ji had acquired a large number of Followers. Usually Maharaj Ji would make tours and stay in the homes of devotees, giving Satsang in the evening and personal interviews to those who approached him in the morning. Wherever he went there was always a stream of people coming to have his "darshan" and hear his discourses.

After 1950 Maharaj Ji shifted from Pahar Ganj to New Delhi at Bara Khamba Road, in the home of a "Premie". Maharaj Ji had attracted the attention of the people by this time, and had collected such a large gathering of disciples in Delhi that they started meeting together in his absence as well as in his presence. At this time the first few disciples had left their homes to become part of the band of missionaries who renounced the world in order to devote themselves entirely to the propagation of his mission. They were the first Mahatmas, wholly obeying his commands and dedicated solely to him.

Whereas, previously Satsang was given only when Maharaj Ji arrived in Delhi, now, regular weekly Satsang meetings were held in Delhi at the homes of "Premies". The disciples either gave Satsang themselves or would invite the Mahatmas of Maharaj Ji to come and deliver Satsang. Gradually they organised themselves, and a small community emerged consisting of Maharaj Ji's disciples and admirers who faithfully revered him as their Satguru. They willingly obeyed his every command and sought to propagate his Word amongst others.

Shri Maharaj Ji inspired them to spread this knowledge of the Holy Name and Divine Light, by affirming that it is the greatest service that can be done by man and is the greatest philanthropy. Quoting Guru Nanak, he affirmed,

"He who meditates on the Holy Name and helps others also
to meditate upon it shall achieve salvation."

To start with the simple method of word of mouth dissemination was followed to propagate the message of Maharaj Ji. Now, however, the "premies", who were organised to some extent and eager to make known the greatness of their Guru to the general public, arranged open scheduled Satsang meetings in public grounds on Maharaj Ji's arrival in Delhi. Pamphlets were written, handbills distributed and other literature given to the people so that when Maharaj Ji arrived in Delhi He spoke to large gatherings in the public parks. The general public came to know that Maharaj Ji was a man who spoke the language of the saints. His popularity increased and the public at large became aware of his activities and beliefs.

Organisation, in this manner, thus spread from Delhi to larger areas in U.P., especially in Lucknow, Aligarh and in the Punjab. Maharaj Ji sent Mahatmas to various areas who continued his Satsang, and who requested him to grace them by giving Holy discourses at large programmes which were well publicised in advance.

Another interesting development in this period was that the 'Hansadesh' monthly magazine was started in Delhi in order to offer Maharaj Ji's ideas to others, and to educate the people in the right path of knowledge. The unique feature of the magazine was not only the articles written by Mahatmas and others on spiritualism, but also that the discourses of Maharaj Ji were given. Thus, Maharaj Ji's name was becoming popular and was established firmly as an outstanding figure in the field of religion.

Now let us look at those who followed Maharaj Ji. The priestly class, the Brahmins, regarded Maharaj Ji with supercilious indifference, thinking they had nothing to gain from Maharaj Ji, since he had no formal knowledge of Sanskrit nor displayed any form of erudition. As he criticised the traditional modes of worship, more specifically their own practices and false pride in bookish knowledge, their numbers in the Mission were few.

The western educated, sophisticated, aristocratic class were also not attracted to Maharaj Ji, because they were engrossed in the pursuit of material happiness and were sceptical about the very existence of God. Moreover, they were against the idea of Guru, too full of their own self pride to achieve the innocence of heart which makes devotion possible. Echoing Christ's analogy, Maharaj Ji believed, "it is easier for camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to attain the kingdom of heaven."

Generally the devotees consisted of the lower middle class living in the cities, as well as workers, labourers and farmers from the villages. Maharaj Ji glorified the innocence and humility of the poor. He said the world is for the wealthy, but God is for the poor. Poverty becomes a blessing in disguise, he said, keeping the mind aloof from the snares of the material world. These, the poor, the ignored of society, the abused and forgotten were given the divine gift of Maharaj Ji's grace. Their life was enriched by his love and light, their darkness was removed by the dispelling knowledge of the Divine Light. From their poverty they rose to the inner fountain of bliss which made them immune to the outward sufferings of life. Maharaj Ji was a support to the faltering, tottering and staggering section of humanity. He gave them Ram Nam, showing them the divine within, and asked them to meditate upon it.

By 1960 Maharaj Ji's mission had spread to all the northern states of India. He had large numbers of followers in Gujarat, in Bombay, Maharashtra, Bihar, Calcutta and even in Nepal and Kashmi. During this period Maharaj Ji organised two peace conferences and an all-religions conference at Ram Lila ground and the Constitution Club in Delhi. Many VIP's attended these conferences, which were given wide publicity. The then speaker of the Lok Sabha, Mr. Ayanger, presided over the all-religions conference in the Constitution Club. It was attended by the leaders of many religions, who voiced their own opinions and beliefs. Shri Maharaj Ji spoke of the oneness and the fundamental unity of all religions and said that it was due to ignorance of the Holy Name and Divine Light, praised by all great saints and seers, prophets and Avatars, that false Gurus have arisen and in their ignorance created different sects preaching that there are different paths to God Realisation.

At this time numerous public programmes of Maharaj Ji took place in different places in India. He was taken out in processions in Allahabad and Lucknow, followed by thousands of people. They were very impressive and mammoth processions. The press began covering the programmes of Maharaj Ji and made commentaries upon his discourses.

The fearlessness of Maharaj Ji became proverbial as was his love for the poor. The unprecedented love and devotion that so many demonstrated for Maharaj Ji created interest and curiosity among the populace. His popularity made other religious Gurus aware of him and this was the beginning of criticism. Other so-called Gurus sought to protect their own superiority by depreciating the ideas of this rising, saint Shri Maharaj Ji.

Because of the enormous numbers of the devotees and their presence throughout northern India, the necessity was felt for the creation of some link between the devotees of different areas. The possibility of beginning an organised mission was entertained. Ultimately, after discussions and deliberations between the disciples the mission was named Divya Sandesh Parishad or The Divine Light Mission and registered under the Registration Act in the year 1960.

The Mission was an organised expression of thousands of Shri Maharaj Ji's admirers whose lives were transformed by the initiation he gave and who were intent upon spreading his message and teachings in as well as outside India.

Shri Maharaj Ji did not at any moment wish to establish a new sect or creed. He had no parochial approach to religion. His was a teaching which transcended caste, colour or creed. He addressed humanity directly. And like all great saints, his message was for the good of all.

As the number of followers were increasing by leaps and bounds a few selfish and cunning people also insinuated themselves into the mission. During this period, many jealous people and organisations filed false cases in order to defame the name of Shri Maharaj Ji, and to erode his rising popularity and prestige. These were the years of great strain and hectic activities for Maharaj Ji, when even some of his own disciples became ungrateful and betrayed him. He emerged spotless despite all these trials; in fact his lustre increased. He dealt with the culprits in a most masterly manner. Some, who repented sincerely after their misdeeds, were forgiven. He was extremely merciful to all and would not inflict pain upon anyone. Shri Maharaj Ji would say, "Who can be more merciful than a Guru ? The Guru is the very ocean of mercy."

Shri Maharaj Ji spent the youthful years of his life devoted to the cause of enlightening the people. He worked and travelled day and night, giving Satsang, personal interviews, directing his band of missionaries and setting the Mission on a sound footing. He used every method to impress upon the people the utility of this human frame saying that if we do not use it for spiritual enlightenment our humanness has gone to waste.

Shri Maharaj Ji's last procession was taken out in Bombay in Jan. 1966. He was taken out in a procession wearing the pitambari and the crown. In the evening, a large Satsang meeting was held. Mr. Cherian, the Governor of Maharashtra, Mr. Vishwanath Das, the Governor of U.P. and Dr. K.M. Munshi, the Ex-Governor of U.P. were present. Shri Maharaj Ji gave an inspired satsang and revealed himself to others. Addressing the huge gathering, he said, "You know not the value of this human frame. It is the greatest blessing of God to you. You are wasting your breaths in the pursuits of worldly life. Let every breath be spent in meditation on God. You know not the greatness of the Guru. Lord Rama was an incarnation of God, enjoying 14 types of divine powers. Lord Krishna was an incarnation of God, having 16 types of divine powers. But I am all perfect, and am the master of all 64 divine powers. None can match the greatness of the Guru." The people were bewildered by these type of revelations.

In the last two to three years of his life, Maharaj Ji was all dance and bliss. Taking the tamboura in his hands, he would sing and dance on the platform, giving peace and bliss to the devotees who delighted in these lilas. Like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, he was in a state of divine ecstasy. He said, "O men of the world, I proclaim, I announce, none but Guru can save mortals from the clutches of death and Maya." His own devotion to his Guru was exemplary, and this is what he taught to his own disciples. He was selfless and others under his tutelage learned the great art of selflessness. His only support was the Holy Name, or rather he was the Word made flesh. His knowledge was great but greater was He himself. And greatest of all were his services for the people.

On 16 July, 1966, Shri Maharaj Ji shed his mortal coil in Braham Muhoorta, at 3 a.m. The people were in a state of extreme despair, losing themselves in an anguish of misery over the loss of their beloved Guru. To thousands on that day, the grief of the child left parentless was experienced. His followers felt adrift and anchorless without his presence amongst them.

Just as we discard our garments when they are worn out and old and replace them with new ones, so did Maharaj Ji reject his ageing body to change his outer form, passing into the frame of Sant Ji Maharaj. For Guru is the Holy Name, and this Name is immortal. Death does not touch it, nor time destroy it. The body is the home of the Divine and He simply left his old body to take up a new one.

Guru never dies, He is immortal, all-permeating, divine. He lived, and lives, and will live forever in the hearts of all. For the Guru always lives in the present.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It is only a few years since Shri Hans Ji Maharaj has passed away from our midst so perhaps it is too early to arrive at a precise evaluation of his contribution to India's spiritual heritage. It will, however, be readily agreed that he enriched the mental and spiritual horizon of millions of men and women who came into contact with him. He showed them the practical way to make themselves immune to the storms and stresses of life.

A great teacher of moral and ethical values which he undoubtedly was, Shri Hans Ji Maharaj will be primarily remembered for the practical technique of spiritual freedom which he made available to all, irrespective of caste, colour or creed.

Shri Hans Ji Maharaj remained an inveterate opponent of the senseless rites and rituals and the pretensions that were enjoined upon the people in the name of religion. These succeeded only in dividing the people into warring groups causing much avoidable distress and destruction. The religions of the world as we know them today are a miserable caricature of the one and only true religion, the Eternal religion based upon the Holy Word which is within every human being and which transcends the barriers of race and religion, time and space.

Shri Hans Ji Maharaj worked tirelessly to make the people realise the meaning of the Holy Word, that primordial force linking all humanity together into an indivisible brotherhood. He wanted them to fashion their affairs so as to live in accordance with the laws of this ultimate principle of truth which is the Holy Word and Divine Light. He guided them to turn their searchlight inward and seek the truth within their own self by the grace of a realised soul.

While Shri Hans Ji Maharaj naturally extolled the way of the Word as the birthright of every human being, he was nevertheless keenly alive to the grim realities of the world, the appalling poverty and ignorance of the people, the iniquitous social and economic injustices and the social inequalities based on tradition and religion, birth and privilege. That the people should be forced to 1ive in a manner little better than animals was an affront to human dignity, and he demanded that all men should have ready access to the minimum necessities of life. He decried the extremes of ivory tower seclusion on the one hand and the ruthless pursuit of material pleasures on the other. While a plentiful supply of worldly goods must surely be secured to wipe away the tears of the poor and the distressed, their lives can truly be enriched only when they are in conformity with the spiritual law.

In short Shri Hans Ji Maharaj was a dynamic personality. His sincerity was so transparent that those who came to scoff would stay to pray. He had pleasant manners and was invincible in his arguments. He was convinced that there is but one Dharma, there is only one God for all. He wanted to demonstrate the basic unity of all religions by constructing a Kalyan Bhawan, a temple of all religions. Should such a Kalyan Bhawan be constructed after his design it will serve as an appropriate monument to his greatness and his contribution to the unity of religions.

In the field of religion, Shri Maharaj Ji's contribution was tremendous. His followers, whose numbers run into lacs, left the traditional mode of worship and followed the inward, eternal path to spiritualism shown by the seers of all time. He simplified religion until it became a direct experience of the spirituality within. The outer forms of worship, such as rites and rituals, melted away. Guru became their entire object of worship. Shri Maharaj Ji quoted: "Different religions, sects or creeds sing the glory of their own path. Guru reveals the essence of all and shows us the Divine path. "

Shri Maharaj Ji decried the superficial differences among various religions accrued from the lapse of time because of selfish motives of the people. Different religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, Mohammadanism and Confucianism started after the death of their individual prophets. In the example of Christianity, it was only after the death of Christ that an organised religion came into being. But what was the religion of Christ? What was the knowledge which he imparted to the people and his disciples? The same is also true in the case of Buddha whose doctrines never became formalised under the name of a separate sect until after his death. All wise men agree that their doctrines are fundamentally one. It is only the subsequent interpretations given by the unenlightened ones that caused the difference in opinion between religions. We see its result in the fanatic crusades which have taken place in the name of religion. If religion cannot unite people it must be discarded. If it cannot make man transcend Maya it is to be shunned. If it does not give direct realisation it is not worth the name of religion.

The intellectual class in India has made religion a very complicated affair. Giving a philosophical interpretation to religion they have made it a pastime for intellectual argumentation. Instead of having a desire for an intuitive realisation of the ultimate reality, they prefer to give a fine exposition of religious scriptures and principles. But still, falling in the clutches of Maya, they are being swallowed by death because however intellectually advanced they may be, spiritually they are in the dark and lack the experience of practical realisation. Shri Maharaj Ji used to emphasise that no one can get enlightenment by reading the scriptures or making commentaries upon them.

Maharaj Ji always used to caution people about this jungle of words. He described the plight of these intellectuals by giving the following story:

Once a man trained a flock of birds in the art of avoiding the hunter and his traps. Carefully he instructed his birds how they were to avoid the snares laid by the hunter. He told them that if they saw corn spread upon the earth it was only the hunter's lure, left there in order to attract them so that they might be caught in his nets. Again and again he tutored them in the methods of the hunter, how they were to avoid his corn, how they might escape falling into his trap. Eventually the birds had mastered their lessons, and feeling that they were now able to live a life of freedom and safety, the man released them into the world. The birds sang their lessons, repeated their instructions again and again. "Ah ! We will avoid the corn ! We will escape the hunter's trap ! We will remain free and far from harm." But while so singing, they happened to see some corn on the ground and forgetting their instructions they instinctively alighted upon it and were thus caught by the hunters net.

These birds learned the lesson of what happens when we do not practice what we preach. In the same way the intellectuals may speak of the spiritual path, but if their minds and lives are still entrenched in the world then all their theory is worthless for their life remains bound to Maya, and they are never free. Real spirituality is freedom and one who practices it reaps the true reward.

So Maharaj Ji emphasised the practical aspect of religion. He was living example of a Karma Yogi and made his disciples understand the need of first living religion and only afterwards to speak of it. Thus, religion became a way of life with his disciples.

Shri Maharaj Ji brought about a change in the social pattern of his disciples. Ties of social customs and castes were cut asunder. Persons belonging to different castes forgot the barriers that had been indicted upon them and developed a spirit of brotherhood. From Brahmin to Shudra all experienced the spirit of equality. Bound together by a common knowledge, they shared each others joys and sorrows. During large programmes all used a common kitchen. They mingled freely with each other without any inhibitions or social taboos. In fact, caste was no consideration at all in the 'Guru Darbar'. What mattered was sincerity and devotion. The atmosphere in 'Guru Darbar' was so infectious that a man found himself immediately affected by it, forgetting all barriers and experiencing the inner divine oneness of all. 'Guru Darbar' is a society of enlightened persons devoted to a common, revered Guru. The Guru is the symbol of peace, unity and oneness. Imbibing these divine virtues, they were able to practice them in their daily lives. When the "Premies" met together there was a spontaneous reaction of love, sincerity, humility and voluntary service. People would go out of their way to help one another. They soon developed a community feeling and were ready to undergo a loss of creature comforts happily, content with the environment and the company.

The most important impact of Maharaj Ji upon his disciples was that their life became meaningful. They discovered the secret of living and the purpose of their life. Life became a gate to salvation, a chance of attaining the highest good - Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram.

Shri Maharaj Ji directed his devotees towards a determined goal. He gave them the compass of the Holy Name and Divine Light to keep their ship of life on the right direction amidst all the stresses and strains of everyday life. They gained freedom from the pressures of the world, for the world no longer became their aim of life. The goal of the spirit was before them, and in working for its attainment their life gained lustre and beauty and true meaning.

In the wake of western materialism the mind of the average Indian became swayed and swallowed by the lure of material progress. As a result of this, he was separated from his ancient heritage and culture, which stressed the spiritual life and warned men of the dangers lurking in a material life. Though Shri Maharaj Ji believed that the Indian should enjoy the fruits of the modernisation of society, he strongly stressed that man should not forget his spiritual life in the mad pursuit of pleasure and should build his life upon a strong foundation of the spirit in order to meet the divergent influences that the modern age presents.

He did not believe that man should live according to the old rites and traditions simply because they were time-tested. But he believed and trusted in the eternal truths that forever lead man to the right path. He honoured the great seers of every age and urged the people to follow their path to spiritual perfection.

Shri Maharaj Ji used to say, "O Man ! What have you made of yourself?" Civilisation, the creation of man himself has become a problem for him. The basic greatness of man is being dwarfed by the colossal structure of the society around him. Man, the master of all creation here on earth is helpless, he is lost to his inner voice, distracted by the cacophony of the society which surrounds him. Let this structure be seen as a mere construction and let man return to the spirit wherein man's greatness lies.

Shri Hans Ji Maharaj preached the path tread by the great and urged humanity to follow in their divine footsteps. He urged us not to simply glory the greatness of the saints but should strive to attain their state of mind. Learning from the lives of the great, we should aim at the total transformation of the lower nature of man, and to attain the state of mind where the pure spirit shines and is continually manifested by us in our daily life.


(Page 18-20)
In the introductory chapter light has been shed on Shri Maharaj Ji's gradual path to popularity, and his being accepted by thousands belonging to all castes and creeds as their Satguru, or spiritual master.

Shri Maharaj Ji realised the necessity of following a modern technique for propagation, and wished to provide for his followers an organisation in which they could work for the betterment of mankind. Therefore, in 1960 the mission was named the Divine Light Mission and registered at Patna. For the first time membership in the Mission was recorded. This allowed Maharaj Ji to see the definite growth of membership, enabling him to make practical plans in accordance with the wishes of the members. At Present the Mission has its branches all over India as well as in England and South Africa. Its membership runs approximately into one lac.

Ever since its inception, the Divine Light Mission has been actively engaged in the propagation of the tenets of Universal Love and brotherhood of man and of the imperative need to serve the poor and the oppressed. Above all, the Mission has initiated thousands of men and women in the country on the practical way of attaining the knowledge of Truth. It has imparted to them quite freely the Holy Name of God, through which the Divine Light can be experienced. The following are among others some of the chief objectives of the Mission:

1. While material prosperity is good and essential it is equally vital that the moral and the spiritual conditioning of the society should be strong and sound. The pursuit of the one to the gross neglect of the other will only result in social inequalities with all their attendant consequences of political and economic injustice, class hatred, exploitation of religion for personal ends, perpetuation of unjust privileges based on birth and colour, and so on. Science and technology should, therefore, serve to eradicate poverty and bring in prosperity to a society that is already spiritually well-entrenched. If the West has achieved remarkable results in raising its living standards but has sadly neglected the spiritual texture of its social fabric, the East is paying heavily for ignoring its material resources while engaged in its exclusive preoccupation with matters pertaining to the spirit. That society endures most which displays a judicious balance between things temporal and things spiritual.

2. The Mission aims at achieving the unity of nations and the oneness of mankind by instructing them on the technique of utilising the universal primordial Force, that is, the Holy Name (Word) which is the same as the Divine Light and which pervades all human beings thus bringing to the fore the eternal principle of unity in diversity. It is only the spiritual bond of the Holy Name and the Divine Light that can knit together the diverse peoples, even as the thread holds together flowers of varied colours and scents into a gorgeous garland. This very Holy Name is called 'Gaibi Awaz' in the Quoran and Shabd Brahmam in the Vedas and the Upanishadas, Satya Nam in Guru Granth Saheb, Ram Nam in Ramayana, Avyakt Akshar in the Gita, Word in the Bible. Thus in principle all religions are one. It is only because of ignorance that different sects and creeds have cropped up. The Mission is resolved to restore the essential unity of all religions which is doubtlessly vitiated by differences in dogmas and doctrines, rites and rituals and it is equally true that they are further aggravated by their perverse interpretations, by fanatics and those with vested interests. It cannot be however, denied that there is a fundamental unity underlying all religions. Great prophets and gurus have never failed to emphasise the eternal truth which constitutes the core of all religions namely the presence of Holy Name and the Divine Light within Man and his need to unite himself with it. As a visible demonstration of this universal principle inherent in all religions, the Mission proposes to construct in Muradnagar Distt Meerut at Satyalok Ashram a temple of all religions which while depicting the places of worship belonging to all important religions will also portray the Holy Name and Divine Light on which they are founded. The Maulvi sitting in the Mosque will be explaining the Truth of Gaibi Awaz and Illahi Noor on the basis of the Quoran, while a pandit sitting in the shrine will be explaining the secrets of the Ram Nam and Param Prakash while a Church Father in the Church will be pin-pointing the importance of the Word and the Divine Light. Thus there will be a harmonious blending of the different religions and the divergent tones and interpretations because of ignorance will disappear.

3. The Divine Light Mission stands for peace. Peace is indivisible and real external peace is determined by the internal peace that one enjoys. Disgruntled individuals and dissatisfied nations can never promote lasting peace in the world. Ignorance of the self is the root cause of all evils and unrest and this ignorance can be removed only by acquiring the knowledge of the Holy Name and the Divine Light. War exists in the mind of the man and it is from there that it is to be uprooted. Even if all the destructive weapons are thrown into the sea the deep-war ring tendencies cannot be removed from the mind of the man without the knowledge of the Divine.

4. With a view to improving the tone and content of education besides enlarging educational facilities for all especially the poor and the backward the Mission proposes to establish and maintain schools and colleges and grant scholarships and stipends to deserving students. It was in the year 1969 that the first step was taken in this respect and Hans Madhyamik Yidyalaya was started at Satyalok Ashram. The school stands for the propagation of not only material sciences but also spiritual science. The school was opened by Balyogeshwar Shri Sant Ji Maharaj. The school runs up to 8th class and will be soon raised to a Higher Secondary School. The Mission plans to develop it into a full-fledged university in due course of time on Vishwa Bharati pattern where men of all nationalities, religions and castes may sit together to understand the mysteries of nature and spirit.

5. It is also the object of the Mission to make provision for the relief against distress caused by ill-health or natural calamities by establishing and maintaining hospitals and maternity homes and dwelling houses. The Mission has already set up a hospital at Satyalok Ashram which provides free medicines to the adjoining vi]lagers. Unfortunately Mission does not enjoy any of the medical facilities provided by the Government. The hospital has proved a blessing for inhabitants of the surrounding area. Doctors having no mercenary motive serve the patients as a religious duty as directed by the Patron of the Divine Light Mission. The Mission has a plan to develop this hospital with all modern facilities.


(Page 21-22)
With the rising evidence of violence and hatred that is shown in this modern age there appears and reappears the question of how to establish peace on earth. This search is by no means a new one. We may think that the present age is the worst in the annals of mankind, yet from the beginning of recorded civilisation, man has always been engaged in wars and bloodshed against his fellowmen The modern crisis assumes alarming proportions in the possibility of total annihilation of the mankind with the invention of ghastly nuclear weapons. Man has now invented for himself a method of war in which the entire world can be extinguished. Man has thus reached the apex of his destructive genius. On a smaller scale we may descend from the world-wide doom which hangs above our heads and find equal strife in the national conflicts that beset the globe. Nations fear Nations and this mutual distrust motivates them to multiply their arsenals. The idea of brotherhood of man and of God appears a mere illusion.

In the same manner there exist conflicts and clashes between individuals and a cut-throat competition among them to oust each other in grabbing power, wealth and fame. We separate ourselves into a religious faction, political party, educational system and financial bracket. Man fears man and has no inherent faith in the goodness of man. He lives for himself and dies for himself and finds no happiness within or without. He continues to live the same narrow existence of hate and strife. The society, the Nation and the world merely mirror his own unhappy state of affairs. He finds himself as a small drop in this vast ocean of multitudes and feels alienated and helpless to fashion the world as he likes. He is unable to conceive of the fact that he can do a lot to improve himself and the society around him. In fact the individual is the hob of a society and its goodness or badness depends upon the individual. It is not until the individual finds some sort of satisfaction with his life that the global problems can even begin to be improved. For, with satisfaction comes an end to strife, the end of our constant struggle for "the more". The pleasures of the senses give only fleeting satisfaction and sometimes end in pain. We have equated passing pleasures with the happiness that we seek. We never seek to experience a non-painful eternal state of happiness. If this happiness is discovered then mankind is transformed and all theory about how to bring about peace is realised in practice. The attainment of eternal happiness which ends all hatred and propensity for war in the individual cannot be gained through the finite changing phenomenon of life. It can only be attained through the unity with the eternal truth named as God.

All the arguments of those who would say that God cannot be realised, peace cannot be experienced in its essence, are swept away before the very real answer that the Divine Light Mission gives to man. We would have cause to despair if there was no way to experience this inner peace at all times. But the answer is available and hope reigns supreme.

What the Divine Light Mission offers man is a knowledge of the eternal happiness that is within him - the Light and the True Name of God. This happiness is something which has existed for ever, and will continue to exist. Neither it is momentary, nor it can be taken away from him. It is the only real security, the only real love. The Divine Light Mission imparts this knowledge of the inner self of man which when known and practised brings about that fundamental transformation that can change the world.

Happiness or joy is the knowledge of true being. It is the attainment of this happiness which frees man from al1 his conflicts, all his inequalities, all his hates and all his fears. When man is awakened to the Divine within, he loses his base-humanness and finds spiritual happiness. It is only a satisfied man, a contented man which can promote peace in this war and conflict torn society. This is only possible if we are given the knowledge of the True-self. This knowledge is only available through the grace of a realised soul. One must approach a realised soul before this knowledge can be imparted. Therefore the burden of the responsibility for world peace lies upon man. If we wish a transformation, we must go forward to be transformed. The answer is within us and cannot come from without. The Divine Light Mission offers the knowledge of the True Self. Shri Sant Ji Maharaj is the true Guru who gives freely of his grace to those that approach him for the knowledge of the Sat-Chit-Anand, or being- consciousness-bliss. We must but ask and it shall be given. We must but constantly practise and make ourselves perfect. We have a responsibility to ourselves and to the world. It is merely' folly to shirk this responsibility and wait for the total destruction of mankind as an inevitable factor.

Shri Maharaji and The Prevailing Religious Sects

(Page 23-35)
From time immemorial, India has been a land of saints and seers who have contributed immense wealth to the cultural heritage of India. Indian culture is primarily spiritually orientated and stands for the attainment of the noblest truths in the life of man. The material civilisation of India is based on a spiritual foundation and the sociopolitical life has its roots in the tenets of religion and their revelations. The Vedas and the Upnishads are only the records of the revelations of the seers in the state of trance, or samadhi.

In addition to philsophical exposition, religion is a matter of realisation which is to be lived in day to day life. Entities such as "soul" and "God" are not mere names, but realities to be experienced in this very life. Therefore, the highest goal for the average Indian was the attainment of salvation and the very pattern of his society was created so as to help rather than hinder the citizen on the path to this goal. But with the lapse of time, there developed different religious sects after the names of those very saints and prophets.

With the advent of Islam, and later Christianity, new dimensions were added to the growth of separate factions in religion. Because of the confluence of almost every existing religion within the bounderies of India, an inter-religious competition began, with each sect vying for superiority with one another. The tactics were to point out the weaknesses and the shortcomings of the other factions rather than to remove the differences that were created between them. Islam and Christianity were proselytising religions and because their leaders enjoyed political power in India they forced their religion on others. As a result, the Hindu religion shrank and lost its vigour and strength before the power of the newcomers. A set of rites and rituals developed which eclipsed its pristine purity and brightness.

In the wake of English education and western thoughts and with the propaganda of the Christian missionaries against the Hindu rites and rituals, customs and traditions, there arose many social and religious reform movements in India. Their purpose was to save the Hindi religion from the onslaughts of Islam and Christianity and to remove the irrational, inhuman practices and unnecessary accretions that had gathered around the Hindu religion.

The Brahmo Samaj was the first fruit of the dissemination of Western education in India. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, its founder, was the first Indian to fight against the Pauranic practices, harmful social customs and idol worship which had become the bane of Hindu society. The Brahmo Samaj was the result of a mild resentment voiced by the educated Indians against the Christian Missionaries. Raja Ram Mohan Roy found Christianity, irrational in many respects and also faulty in its theology. He criticised vehemently some of its principles and at the same time wanted to clean the Vedic religion of all its superstitious beliefs and unnecessary rituals which the people had adopted with the passage of time.

He exhorted the educated Hindus to assimilate western culture, to adopt a scientific outlook and rational approach to the problems in the social and religious life which the Europeans had set before the Indians. He was, however, firm that India should continue within the fold of Hinduism, which alone contained the wisdom of all philosophy. Moreover, Hinduism has a universal appeal since it is non sectarian in nature and unifying in its purpose. Therefore, the Brahmo Samaj stood for monoism, a deistic theology and rational ethics. The Brahmo Samaj under Devendra Nath Tagore continued with its base upon Hindu philosophy.

Soon the critical, rational outlook assimilated by the young Bengalis became the criterion for judging whether the Vedas were infallible and revealed scriptures. None of its Verses were spared from their critical analysis soon, many of beliefs of the Brahmo Samaj collapsed because they could not be substantiated nor rationally proved. The result was that by the coming of Keshav Chander Sen some of the fundamental principles of the Brahmo Samaj, based on the Hindu religion were challenged, attacked and finally smashed to pieces. The Brahmo Samaj came more and more under the spell of Christianity taking the principle of eclecticism as its standard. Keshav stood for a synthesis of all religions, taking the best, the purest and the truest from all.

This was the first attempt to find a common denominator between all religions, something which could be acceptable to all human beings. This movement did not attract the general masses in India, for it did not cater to the national aspirations of the people. The movement was far ahead of its time, with the result that though it blazed a trail and showed the path for coming generations, it lost momentum and slowly faded away.

The Arya Samaj, a militant reform movement, arose to fill the vacuum and satisfied the aspirations of the Hindus. It was founded by Swarai Dayanand, a great Vedic scholar and social reformer. Perturbed by the sight of a mouse scampering over a statue of Lord Shiva on Shivratri night he left his house in search of the true Shiva. He wandered from one monastery to another in search of Lord Shiva and approached different spiritual preceptors seeking to understand the true nature of Shiva and the mysteries of life and death, but none could satisfy his inner yearning. During this period he saw in abundance the depravity of the Hindu religion. At last, he went to Virijanand, whose reputation as a great Vedic scholar and spiritual preceptor had already travelled far and wide. Under his tutelage, the real Dayanand appeared. The invisible grace of the Guru stood by him and kindled in him the spark of light which was to illuminate northern India. Dayanand left the home of his Guru, taking a vow to spread the Vedic religion and to fight the Pauranic practices that had crept into it. Dayanand was heard, praised and criticised by many but understood by few. He stood firm on the foundations of the Vedas and disparaged everything which went against the Vedic religion. He attacked the contemporary prevailing social evils calling them the fungus that had grown around the pure form of Vedic philosophy. He not only criticised the priestly class but also defended Hinduism from the onslaughts of the Muslims and Christians. He was a bold, aggressive and confident social reformer who directed Hindu society to return to its pure and natural form as expounded in the Vedas.

The western educated Hindus found that his teachings fulfilled their every aspiration, for the Hindus had developed an inferiority complex due to the introduction of western culture. They lost confidence in the inherent greatness that lay within their own culture and started imitating the West. The Arya Samaj became a popular movement among the educated Hindus not only because of its vehement criticism of irrational practices but also because they found its appeal stirring their national pride and integrity. As a result of the enthusiasm generated by this movement the Hindus looked at their past with pride and believed that the Vedas contained all that was noblest in man's philosophies. In those days the Arya Samajists openly stated that the West had borrowed their progressive philosophy from the Vedas and that the Vedas contained every branch of what is now called modern science. This was too big of a claim but it served the purpose of restoring confidence among the Indian people.

The scholars and the educationists who could display their erudition became more important than the meek and the humble saints due to the influence of these social movements. It was only with the coming of Ramakrishna Param Hans, a bhakta of exalted ecstasy, that the bhakti movement and the spiritual aspect of religion again dominated the Hindu mind. It can not be denied that the philosophy of Vivekananda was more forceful and appealed to a larger section of people than that of the Arya Samaj. In Vivekananda, Hinduism finds its finest exponent, since he was a complete spiritual being having been enlightened by the touch of his Guru. He had a charismatic personality, and being a reservoir of spiritual force he fell upon the people like a hurricane, destroying vanities and perversities which had developed from their unhappy touch with western education. People heard him with wonder as he gave rational explanations to the practices of the holy saints and seers of India. There was no bitterness in his message, no condemnation in his denouncement as we find in that of Swami Dayanand and his Arya Samaj. The Guru resumed his central place of importance in the Hindu philosophy and religion became a matter of realisation, rather than mere quibbling over words and religious debates.

The Brahmo and the Arya Samaj had condemned the need of the Guru for spiritual enlightenment. They insisted that there was no need of a middle man or mediator to God. Vivekananda rebuffed the social reformers by saying that howsoever intellectually advanced a man may be, without Guru there can be no spiritual enlightenment. Many reform movements only used religion as a tool for their desired social reforms, thus ignoring the spiritual aspect of religion which is realisation. As a result man's search for spiritual peace and his goal of self realisation became secondary. Religious texts were used only in a most rhetoric manner to emphasise the need of making the country free and for kindling the national ego. It was forgotten that ego, whether it is individual or collective is harmful to the spiritual growth of the people.

While many social reforms were made by the Arya Samaj, the dormant spirituality in the people was not awakened. The Arya Samaj succeeded in demolishing some of the pauranic practices which had been also condemned by saints such as Kabir and Guru Nanak. But it could not give spiritual enlightenment to satisfy the natural urge of man for inner peace.

With the continued spread of western education social evils were gradually dying of their own accord. When India finally attained the independence even the appeal of nationalism lost its vigour with the Indian people and they started madly pursuing material progress and prosperity. The result was that the Arya Samaj, both before and after independence, was overwhelmed with contemporary politics and became more and more a political rather than spiritual orientated organisation. This was quite natural since the Arya Samaj had never been placed on a spiritual footing.

In 1930, Shri Hans Ji Maharaj had started to disseminate the "Para Vidya", the knowledge of the Braham to the people. His years of service to his own Guru were over, and according to his commandment Hans Ji Maharaj began his life's mission of preaching. In the Mundak Upanishad the two vidyas, or types of knowledge are mentioned. One is called para, the knowledge of Braham, and the other is apara, or the knowledge of the world. They may also be called the knowledge relating to spirit and matter. According to this Upanishad, the Rig Ved, Yajur Ved, Sam and Atharv Vedas as well as all branches of philosophy, grammar, astronomy, and astrology constitute the apara vidya. It is only the knowledge of the eternal soul or Brahm which is called para vidya.

In the Taittirya Upanishad, the Guru praises the "Para Vidya" saying, ''The knowledge which I have transmitted to you is my commandment. This is my advice to you, this is the essence of the Vedas and the sovereign secret, this is the injunction of the Vedas and religious scriptures. Practice this knowledge and live according to it."

Shri Maharaj Ji gave the practical knowledge of the 'Para Vidya' which is revealed only through the grace of the guru. His teachings were entirely according to the Hindu shastras and like all saints he condemned pauranic practices, emphasising the spiritual aspect of Hindu philosophy as being one for all. Knowledge for him was simply realisation. He would say, "All wise men and seers of truth agree, on the fundamental unity and oneness of spiritual reality, it is only the unenlightened who disagree and propound different theories about religion." "The mess that has been made of religion", he said, "is more because of the educated scholars who merely recite the scriptures like parrots. They may make wonderful expositions and arguments but have no direct experience of the truth."

He praised Saints like Kabir, Guru Nanak and Ramakrishna Param Hans who attained spiritual realisation and were mad with the ecstasy of spiritual bliss. Such are the real spiritual men. They vibrate spirituality giving those who approach them with a meek and guileless heart their bounty of spiritual bliss.

Shri Maharaj Ji's practical approach to religion and his attractive personality brought persons of different castes, colours and creeds together under his protective umbrella. While he criticised the pauranic practices he would also shatter the vanity of pseudo-social and religious reformers who could never penetrate into the real mysteries of the spiritual life. Soon he gathered around him a large number of admirers and followers. He devoted himself to the propagation of the divine knowledge with a missionary zeal. To him it was the only real service that can be rendered to human society. All other services are but secondary. Feeding the poor, helping the needy, opening hospitals for the diseased are all good social services but cannot take the place of spiritual knowledge which gives man the ability to see the all permeating divinity. Therefore the root and branch reformation of the individual and the society is only possible through the knowledge of the "Para Vidya" - the only panacea for the ills of society. It is through the "Para Vidya" that man can be kept to follow the right path and the divinity in him can be kindled. Otherwise the senses are bound to drag man in the wrong direction. This argument of Shri Maharaj Ji appealed to the people, for, with the rise of westernisation in India, the materialistic tendencies could not be effectively checked, and the people were swept away by the lure of material prosperity, forgetting their spiritual yearnings. It was to awaken this dormant spirituality in man and to connect him with the original source of life divine within that Shri Hans Ji Maharaj preached Ram Nam to all.

Surprisingly the first opposition against him was made by Hindu organisations and the Hindu priestly class. Mandaleshwars and Maha Mandeleshwars as well as the Shankaracharya Gurus, the masters of the traditional Hindu religion, were upset by his frank but valid criticism that they were only following the traditional aspect of religion and not the spirit of it. When he pinpointed the real meaning of the scriptures and exhorted them to know the esoteric meaning behind the words, they became bewildered. He criticised the practices that they followed and made others also to follow, such as idol worship, counting of the prayer beads, doing penances, and making pilgrimages as not at all helpful in the attainment of realisation. He was a fearless, realised saint who followed the path of all great seers, shunning traditions, superstitions and rituals. He emphasised the worship of the living Guru. It was natural that the Hindus, steeped in traditions, would oppose him for his ruthless criticism of these practices.

Criticism against Maharaj Ji by the Pauranic Pandits was spurious and hardly successful in its purpose. For the twentieth century Hindu has already become liberalised and the authority of the priestly class is greatly weakened. Any sensible Hindu who approached Maharaj Ji with an inquisitive mind and an impartial attitude found the importance of his message and the genuineness of his approach towards the Hindu religion. What appealed most to the people was that instead of continuing their fruitless worship without any understanding they could have a direct experience of the divinity within them and understand the significance of the scriptures in their true perspective.

In every age the saints natural rejection of the traditional norms of society and novel and realistic approach to existing problems is always greeted with thunder. The common man, for the most part, treads the well-trodden, known path that has been walked before, and follows like a sheep the direction shown by the masses. It is only the saints that have the courage and the perspective to forge a true trail, and lead others out of the track of tradition. For this the saint, is invariably criticised, condemned and considered to be an imposter while he lives, but is worshipped after he passes away. So was the case with Shri Maharaj Ji. From his humble beginning, he soon won the name of a realised soul and became a public figure. Many people who came to him for knowledge left their traditional religion, their family gurus, their old mode of worship and followed him with a religious devotion which disturbed the leaders of the traditional religion. If any member of a family was initiated by Maharaj Ji the other family members found a distinct change in his attitude. Casting aside the visiting of temples, pilgrimages, he devoted himself to the service and the worship of the Guru. It is the God within the heart that was worshipped. This of course created a disturbance or a schism in the family which resulted in the Family Guru or social group finding fault in Maharaj Ji for inspiring this variation from the known norm. Gradually it seemed that all the pujaris and Mandeleshwars joined together to oppose Maharaj Ji. Though Maharaj Ji's teachings were based on the Upanishads and the Vedas, they differed from the interpretation given by the traditional Gurus who had no direct experience of the truth.

In Allahabad, Shri Maharaj Ji was taken out in procession followed by a large number of admirers and devotees during Kumbh Mela. By coincidence, the Jagat Guru Shankaracharya's procession was also being taken out. He had two large candle lights on both sides of his chariot. Devotees of Shri Maharaj Ji announced that Parm Prakash which is natural and self effulgent is within us and that there is no need of candle light or sun light or any other light to illuminate it. The original Shankaracharya was a realised soul, but later his four ''gaddis" were occupied by men of scholarship and not of enlightenment. Nevertheless, the entire Hindu community looked to them for guidance. Unable to give enlightenment, they became nothing but the exponents of ritual practices, making the Hindu religion a set of laws. Shri Maharaj Ji outrightly condemned the superficialities of religion in the manner of Kabir and Guru Nanak. To substantiate his arguments, he would quote profusely from the Gita and the Ramayana precisely because these are the two most important scriptures to the Pauranic Hindus. The preaching of Maharaj Ji was thus considered revolutionary by the pauranic pandits, Jagat Gurus and Maha Mandeleshwars, the custodians of traditional. religion, for the pristine truth depicted in these texts refute all traditional ideas. Those who came in true contact with Maharaj Ji found that he represented the true spirit of Hindu religion which is practical realisation. A pauranic Hindu thinks religion nothing more than going to temple, saying Ram Ram or Om Namo Shivai. There are hundreds of adjectives of the real name of God which is one for all. The traditional Gurus would instruct their devotees to the meditation of any one of them. Maharaj Ji stressed that when we said Ram Ram we do not really mean Ram Ram, but we mean the real name of Lord Ram which is beyond the alphabet. The usual example that he gave was that of a doctor. Just as the patients address the medical adviser as "Doctor", but do not really believe that 'Doctor,' is his real name, so we call God by name of Lord Ram, but we cannot believe that this is the true name of God, for Ram is but one of the myriad qualities of God, who is all permeating.

Goswami Tulsidas has written many couplets in his Ramayana in praise of Ram Nam, specifying the difference between Ram and his real Name. He stressed the difference between Lord Ram and his Name by the following example. Lord Rama, as an incarnation of God only blessed Ahilya with salvation, but his true name brought salvation to millions of devotees. This was bewildering to the pauranic pandits. It made them think of the hidden, real meaning of the scriptures.

Shri Maharaj Ji belonged to the unbroken succession of saints who from time immemorial have enlightened the people with the true meaning of spiritualism. Two distinct aspects developed in every religion. One is the traditional, full of set rules and rituals. The other is the spiritual aspect which means rising above the traditional periphery of religion and experiencing the direct instant mystic and intuitive knowledge of the all-permeating spirit.

The mystic saints born to every religion have always supported the spiritual aspect of religion. For them, religion was never a bundle of superstitions and dogmas but a reality to be experienced, an entity to be realised and a bliss to be enjoyed. Shri Maharaj Ji thus gave no importance to the traditional norms of religion.

The second socio-religious organisation that opposed Maharaj Ji in a vehement manner was the Arya Samaj, known for its condemnation of all the prevailing religious sects in India. Shri Maharaj Ji, by this time, had attracted a large number of people who were blended into a wholesome community devoted to the ancient spirit of Indian philosophy, purified from all social evils and religious superstitions. There was not only a fusion of their minds and their hearts but more important, they had gained a clear understanding of the importance of all religions and religious books revealed to them through the knowledge given to them by Shri Maharaj Ji.

The rising popularity and extreme devotion that his followers had for him and the mysterious attraction he had for others soon became a thorn in the side of the Arya Samajists. They started malicious propaganda against Shri Maharaj Ji in a most organised but despicable manner in U.P. and other provinces in India. They published pamphlets and handbills against Shri Maharaj Ji, distributing them among the people to arouse the people against him wherever his programme was scheduled. They even organised public meetings against Maharaj Ji trying to draw the people away from his influence. The pamphlets and handbills written against Maharaj Ji not only used filthy language but made baseless charges against Maharaj Ji, for which at one time they were called to give public apology in the courts at Patna. They tried to mobilise public opinion against Maharaj Ji and tried to involve Maharaj Ji in court cases simply in order to defame him. But Maharaj Ji came out spotless throughout all these trials and tribulations. Generally their criticisms centered around his personality asking how he could call himself an enlightened soul when he had no familiarity with the Vedas and the Upanishads. They criticised that his devotees worshipped him as an incarnation of God and objected to the fact that women were being initiated. They also criticised Maharaj Ji for creating a separate sect and misleading ignorant but innocent people. They also imputed that Maharaj Ji's Mission was an agent of Christianity, and even went so far as to start a rumour that Maharaj Ji was receiving money from Christian missionaries to vitiate the Hindu mind and to take the people away from the Hindu religion. Strangely enough the Sanatan Dharmies and the Arya Samajists who usually opposed each other, joined together against Maharaj Ji.

As far as the charge of being an agent of the Christian Missionaries was concerned it was altogether baseless and ridiculous. Shri Maharaj Ji was neither Christian nor Hindu, nor Muslim in the traditional sense. He was a saint above caste, colour and creed. His message also was for everyone. Shri Maharaj Ji believed in all the eternal principles of the Vedic religion such as the transmigration of soul, the theory of karma and he revered the Hindu Scriptures. It is erroneous to say that there was any Christian influence on Maharaj Ji and his teachings other than the eternal truth which lies within its doctrines. Maharaj Ji saw all these realised souls such as Mohammad, Kabir, Guru Nanak or the Christ as one, teaching the same reality in different languages to different nationalities. Their essential principle was one. Religion is not the monopoly of any one sect. Spirituality, like science crosses prejudices and national boundaries. Man has created meaningless differences between his fellow men for his own selfish motives. Maharaj Ji said, "None should bother about caste or creed. He who remembers God attains Him."

The Arya Samajists criticism that Maharaj Ji was worshipped as Lord Krishna by his devotees, and of his wearing the pitambari and crown were equally shallow. In Alwar, some Arya Samajists came to Maharaj Ji and asked, "Can you give us evidence from the Vedas showing that you are the incarnation of God?" Shri Maharaj Ji replied that he had never said such a thing, that he was but a humble devotee of God. A member of the Arya Samaj replied, "but your devotees address you as the incarnation of God." Maharaj Ji smiled and said, "A devotee should have reverence and faith for his Guru," and quoted a passage from the Upanisads to substantiate his statement. Maharaj Ji then asked his questioners whether they had any Vedic evidence that a rishi like Swami Dayanand should appear to lead the people ? They said that there was no such evidence. Maharaj Ji laughed and said, "Then how can you believe and revere Swami Dayanand as if he were a great rishi ?" The Samajists replied that they did out of reverence. This prompted Maharaj Ji to say that if his devotees out of reverence say that he is an incarnation of God, where lies the harm?

The Arya Samajists did not believe in the principle of Avatar Vad, while Maharaj Ji had full faith in the principle of the incarnation of God. The unmanifest God can only be realised through the grace of the manifested one. He often used to quote the Gita, "Whenever virtue subsides and wickedness prevails I manifest myself. To establish virtue, to destroy evil, to save the good, I come from Yuga to Yuga.'' "Fools deride Me in my manifested human form, without knowing My real nature as the Lord of the universe". Such is Shri Krishna's declaration in the Gita on incarnation.

Since Maharaj Ji's views directly conflicted with those of the Arya Samaj, it was natural that they should criticise him for his belief.

The third important difference between the Arya Samaj and Shri Maharaj Ji was that Maharaj Ji laid great stress on the importance of a Guru. He was of the firm conviction that no man could have spiritual knowledge without a teacher. Braham Vidya can only be acquired through the grace of a Brahmveta Guru, a guru who has realised Braham. The study of the Upanishads make it very clear that no spiritual knowledge is possible without a teacher. I could never understand the Arya Samajists criticism on this point for the entire set of Upanishad is nothing but a dialogue between a teacher and the taught, the Guru and the Disciple. The Vedic philosophy revolves around a Braham Veta Guru just as Plato's Republic centers around a philosopher King. Without a Braham Veta Guru the Vedic philosophy collapses. The most ancient festival in India is the Vyas Puja. In the times of the Upanisads, we find that a saint like Narad, well versed in all branches of knowledge, had to approach Sanat Kumar in order to cross the ocean of sorrow. Criticism of the Guru seems un-Vedic on the part of the Arya Samaj. For them, Guru means a scholar who has read the Vedas and know Sanskrit. But unfortunately, this is a wrong definition of Guru. The writers of the Upanishads were not scholars. They were seers of truth, simply putting their revelations in black and white. Maharaj Ji never displayed his learning, though he was well versed with all the scriptures. What he emphasised was the importance of practical knowledge. 'Shabdam jalm maha ranyam', don't get enmeshed in the jungle of words.'

The Arya Samajists used to make disparaging remarks against Maharaj Ji's personal and family life. They objected to a house-holder being called a Guru. Here too, they seem to be not only prejudiced, but also ignorant of the ancient Indian texts. We have many examples of house-holders who were great realised souls. Janaka was called the Raj Rishi. Not only did he have a family, but also observed all the duties of a king. Yet he is listed as one of the highest achievers in the lineage of great seers. Yagyavalka, the most important Rishi of the Vedic age had two wives, Maitri and Kaityani. Even Guru Govind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikh religion, married twice. A Guru's life and activities can not be superficially studied and understood. There is some divine purpose behind everything that they do. They obey the will of the supreme and are tools in the hand of the Almighty. Lord Krishna in the Gita says that his birth and activities are Divine and no wordly minded man can ever understand him. The Arya Samajists could never understand that the great Karam Yogi set an example for the perfect life of a householder, while dedicating himself to the mission of God. Maharaj Ji rose in the estimation of millions for his marvellous capability of reconciling the mundane affairs of life with the spiritual blending the two into an integrated life of the spirit.

Handbills, pamphlets and booklets published by the Arya Samaj against Maharaj Ji, that were distributed among the people, were of a very despicable nature. A casual perusal of this literature created a reaction of distaste and revulsion in the mind of the reader. These were directed against Shri Maharaj Ji as well as his teachings. The low tactics of the Arya Samaj became insufferable even to the people, consequently earning the organisation disrepute for using abusive tactics. They went so far as to question the character of Shri Maharaj Ji, levelling baseless charges of corruption and defrauding innocent citizen against him.

The Arya Samaj criticized the fact that Maharaj Ji initiated women. Having never risen above the barriers of sex-consciousness, they were obsessed by the idea that women should not be initiated. This also seems to be a very un-Vedic and illogical assertion on their part. In the Vedas and the Upanishads we find many women who excelled as examples of the perfect devotees. Even during Rajput period Meera whose name is still remembered by millions of Hindus, received initiation from her Guru, Raidas. More important than scriptural-sanction is that if initiation is essential for spiritual knowledge then women should not be deprived of this basic right given to all human beings. Initiation in no way interferes with the domestic life of the family. Imbibing of Spiritual knowledge is the first duty of all, for man as well as for women. While Arya Samaj on one hand, made tremendous efforts to educated women by opening Schools and Gurukulas, on the other hand they opposed women's approaching a Guru for spiritual enlightenment - the prime aim of a person's life. Initiation by a Guru does not mean indifference or lassitude to the activities of the house-hold. Rather, initiation makes it possible for a woman and a man to build a home of spirituality, blending their material life with the dictates of spiritual understanding.

So we may see the formidable array of hostile forces which faced Shri Maharaj Ji. Nevertheless, his popularity was increasing. Devotees from all over India had become his followers, and their strength of love was catching the eye of the press. Shri Maharaj Ji's attraction caused the equal reactions of hate and love amidst the people. He simply could not be ignored.

Shri Maharaj Ji belonged to those line of saints, who were the finest specimens of mankind in any part of the world. They built bridges between the orthodox and the heterodox sects the rich and the poor and between groups and communities. They softened the animosities between communities by their syncretic humanism and thus prompted spiritual eclecticism. Their sole concern was to develop the divinity in man and to direct him to his highest goal of self-realisation. Shri Maharaj Ji was an integrating force, knitting together his followers composed of various sects and castes into a beautiful garland of flowers bound together by the thread of Ram Nam, or divine knowledge.

Preface | Part 2 | Part 3
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