BHAKT GATHA – BHAKT SANDIPAKA JI
On the bank of the sacred river Godawari, there was an Ashram where many students were being trained. Learned Maharishi Shri Vedadharma Ji was the Spiritual Head of the ashrama at the time.
Once, Shri Vedadharma Ji gathered his students and addressed them, “If you really love me, do as I tell you.”
All replied, “Gurudev, we shall act as per your instructions because the one who does not obey one’s Spiritual Master does not deserve salvation.”
The Wise Saint said, “I have committed sins before this birth. The effect of many of them has been wiped off by my deeds but still some are left.
I will not get salvation till I have suffered the consequences of my deeds. I, therefore, wish to go to Kashi, stay there and get rid of those sins. One of you will accompany me to serve me during this period. One who is strong enough should alone undertake this difficult task.”
The sage continued, “It is better to get rid of one’s sins as long as one has good health, otherwise these sins spread like poison. During this period, I may become blind, lame or even a leper.
Whosoever accompanies me will have to serve me for 21 years in that condition. Whoever is resolute should only accept this responsibility.”
All disciples were stunned. Minds of some were covered with doubt. Some were scared at the idea of serving a blind, lame and leprous Master for 21 years. No one spoke for a while.
Suddenly, one young disciple, Sandipaka, a simple-minded youth blessed with innocent and ardent love for his Spiritual Master, said “Gurudev, I resolve to serve you devotedly and see that you get rid of all the sins you attach to yourself, though I know you are Lord Incarnate and above sins.
Nothing can ever tarnish your name, fame or status.”
The learned Saint was much pleased with his words. He said “One should suffer the evil effect of one’s sins oneself and should not allow a son or a pupil or anyone else to suffer for oneself.
The sins will not be wiped off unless they are taken upon one’s own body. It is a very difficult task to serve a diseased person.
So, you will have to accept difficulties even more than myself. If you are still firm in your resolve, please take me to Kashi and serve me there.”
Sandipaka assured his learned one of his resolve and soon he took him to Kashi. The Maharishi took a bath in the sacred river and worshipped Lord Visweswara.
As time passed, he developed symptoms of leprosy all over his body and started losing his eyesight. His body was putrefied, and pus, blood and germs flowed out of it.
He also began to get fits. Sandipaka took every pain to nurse his Divine Master with great devotion. He used to bring
alms for him, feed him and serve him daily, thinking him to be the Lord Himself, with full belief that his Omnipotent was engaged in a divine play.
Maharishi being in diseased condition became irritable by nature and often got angry and spoke harshly with Sandipaka.
Someday, he would not take food, another day he would abuse him cruelly for bringing insufficient or un-delicious alms. Someday, he would throw the food away in anger and despair.
Someday, he would even beat him severely. At other times, he would complain that he did not clean his body, wounds, clothes covered with stool and urine properly and consequently he was much troubled by the flies. In this way, Sandipaka faced a severe test all the time.
Yet, Sandipaka tried his best to bring wholesome and delicious food as liked by his Divine Master. He never went out to any temple or anywhere else in Kashi.
He just did not think of anything other than devotion, service and nursing to his Spiritual Master whom he continued to respect and worship as the Lord. Though the Spiritual Master got angry every now and then, he did not mind at all and never answered back.
Seeing such devoted service with love and faith on his part to his Divine Master, Lord Visweswara appeared before him and told him to ask for a boon and blessing.
Sandipaka replied, “Without the permission of my Holy Master. I cannot ask for any boon from you.
” He then came to his Holy Master and said “Lord Visweswara is pleased to offer me some boon. If you permit, I shall pray to him to remove your physical sufferings and restore you to normal health.”
On hearing this, Maharishi flew into a rage. He said to Sandipaka, “Don’t pray to Lord Visweswara for my health. If I do not suffer these pangs, I shall have to suffer them in the next birth, and this would affect my path to salvation.”
Sandipaka returned to Kashi temple and told the Lord “My Holy Master does not like to accept any boon from you. Forgive me Lord.”
Lord Visweswara was surprised and communed this to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu accompanied by Lord Visweswara approached Sandipaka and said, “O Sandipaka! We are pleased with your devotion. Ask for whatever you desire. We shall fulfil your wishes.”
Sandipaka said. “O Lord Narayana! It is amazing that You are so gracious to me when I never even worshipped you whereas You never shower Your grace on those who do meditate on you for years together. Please tell me, why are you so pleased with me that you are prepared to grant any boon to me?”
Lord Vishnu said, “Whatever devoted service you have done for your Divine Master, has been received by me, I love such dedicated disciples. I am indebted to such devotees of the Divine Master. I am drawn to them like a magnet.”
Sandipaka said, “O Lord! I have full faith that I shall attain all knowledge and devotion from my Divine Master, even salvation through him, my Master is Trimurti – Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesha, all rolled in one.
Hence, whatever boon you wish to bestow upon me, I can get the same from my Divine Master. Lord Vishnu was pleased to hear this. He said, “Sandipaka, you are the best among upon me so that I may serve my Master with steadfast devotion.”
“So be it”, said the Lord and added, “You have fully comprehended the greatness of a Divine Master and have realized the ‘Parabrahma’ in him.
The title Divine Master contains only two words, yet it is the ocean of nectar and bliss. One, who has a dip in it even for a moment, will surely cross this worldly ocean. One, who abides the form of Divine Master in his heart, wins respect in the entire world and attains the pleasure of the Lord.”
When Sandipaka went to his Divine Master, He asked, “What did Lord Vishnu give you?”
Sandipaka replied, “I asked him to bestow the strength upon me to serve my Holy Master with more devotion and he blessed me accordingly. I really wish I could serve you always, even better and be able to please you with my devotion.”
Learned Maharishi Vedadharma Ji was extremely pleased. He said, “You are a rare jewel among disciples. Henceforth, the whatever you say will come out true. The miseries of those who come to you, would come to an end. You will always be full of divine wealth.”
The same moment, the body of the Maharishi became healthy and bright. The Divine Master had to test and elevate his disciple spiritually.
Sandipaka experienced dazzling brilliance both within and without. Grace of his Holy Master had smiled upon him to enrich him and uplift him spiritually and transform him from a common worldly being into a Saint, a rare blessing.
Such implicit faith, love and devotion for the Holy Master will illumine the lives of aspirant for devotion for all time to come.