Sadguru Upasni Maharaj of Sakori
Born in a Hindu Brahmin family at Satana near Nasik on 15th May 1870, Kashinath became Sadguru Upasni Maharaj with the divine grace of Shri Sadguru Narayan Maharaj of Kedgaon and Shri Sadguru Sai Baba of Shirdi. His father was Govind Shastri and mother Rukhminibai. His grandfather Gopal Shastri was a learned Pundit or a Hindu scholar, with a spiritual temperament. Kashinath was the second of the five brothers. As a child he was very energetic and not very fond of school and studies, but took lessons from his grandfather and studied “Shastras”, which he learned with great interest.
Kashinath as a child had difficult days with his health and education. He often kept aloof, visiting nearby forests and spending time in meditation and “Dhyana”. His parents observed this reluctance for the world in his nature and married him to a Hindu girl Durga, when Kashinath was 14 years old, and Durga only 8 years. But one year after the marriage his wife died. Kashinath was now again in search of his inner quest; in 1885 he married again.
But his inner quest pressed upon him and he again left the normal life and went in search of the inner truth. This time he went to the forest area of Kalyan and came to a mountain called Bhorgad near Nasik, and remained inside a cave for nearly nine months. After spending so much time in a cave in this debilitated condition Kashinath was nursed by the villagers of Gavalwadi, and returned back to his home. Within one year of his return this time his father, grandfather and second wife all died. And his relatives arranged his third marriage.
In 1892, to earn bread and butter for the family he came to Sangli and studied “Ayurveda” the Ancient Indian system of medicine. In 1895 he started working as a physician at Satana and later at Amravati. He also edited a Marathi monthly magazine “Bheshaj Ratnavali ” for three years. By this time he had become very successful as a “Vaidhya”, and had acquired wealth and fame. He also acquired hundreds of acres of land near Gwalior and started farming. But within two years numerous law suits were instituted against him. After having lost everything he came back to Amravati in 1908. Kashinath now completely lost all interest in and attachment to the material world and his search for inner truth became stronger and stronger.
The one day when Kashinath heard of Shri Sadguru Narayan Maharaj of Kedgaon, happening to visit Nagpur, he was drawn to His darshan. He joined the line queue for darshan, but when darshan began, Maharaj spotted him and called Kashinath near Him. Kashinath fell at the feet of the Master, and Maharaj removed a Garland from His neck and put it around Kashinath, before the mammoth gathering. This was the gift of the Sadguru, which rarely one gets and rarely those who witness, understand.
After meeting Shri Sadguru Narayan Maharaj Kashinath journeyed to Dhulia, Paithan and Ahmednagar, for treatment of his breathing trouble that had started in the last few years. At Rahuri he met a yogi named Kulkarni Maharaj, who asked Kashinath to go to Shirdi and meet Sai Baba. He hesitated to go to a Muslim Master for guidance and help, and did not pay much attention to the advice of Maharaj. He however felt the desire to meet Sadguru Narayan Maharaj and in June 1911 traveled to Bombay to meet Him. Sadguru Narayan Maharaj received Kashinath with great love and warmth. He gave him a paan leaf to chew and colored him spiritually from the inside. After this meeting with Sadguru Narayan Maharaj, Kashinath returned to Kulkarni Maharaj at Rahuri. This yogi of Rahuri again urged him to meet Sai Baba of Shirdi, saying that Sai was no ordinary person and was above caste, creed and religion.
On 27th June 1911 Kashinath reached Shirdi and attended the Arti ceremony. When he went to Sai Baba to take leave, Baba insisted that Kashinath should now stay at Shirdi, but Kashinath managed to leave the place. After nearly a week somehow Kashinath returned again to Shirdi. Sai Baba asked Kashinath to give Him “dakshina”, and Kashinath selected an old black coin to be given to the Fakir. Sai Baba first pushed him to little embarrassment for giving an old coin, but indicated that He would give Kashinath the real coin of experience. Every day Kashinath would attend the discourses given by Sai Baba. He felt uncomfortable at Sai Baba’s continuous references to the events in Kashinath’s past life but through these He developed faith that Sai Baba was a true Fakir.
Later with Sai Baba’s instructions Kashinath began to live in a temple nearly three miles from Shirdi called Khandoba Temple, and came to be known as Upasni Maharaj. His fasting made Him just a skeleton, and this “Upas” or the fasting perhaps brought Him the name Upasni. He spent nearly four years in this temple which was full of snakes and scorpions. In February 1912, news reached that Kashinath’s third wife had also passed away, but now Kashinath was Upasni and was free from worldly ties and bondage. Alone in this temple He merged His limited Self with the infinite Knowledge and Consciousness.
Kashinath was now Sadguru Upasni Maharaj. A few things in His behavior were very peculiar. He would mostly remain naked except for a gunny sack flung around his waist. Even Mahatma Gandhi came to meet Him at Sakori and found him sitting with a sack cloth around. Gandhi was amazed to understand the divinity of the consciousness of the Perfect One. In this temple Upasni Maharaj had various experiences of the three worlds. Sai Baba visited Khandoba temple on one occasion to meet Upasni Maharaj during this period of fasting, and finally sent a devotee with coffee and food for him. The long fast ended, and Upasni Maharaj started taking food in small quantities. This gradually improved His health and activities.
By 1914 Upasni Maharaj was fully conscious like a normal person, while retaining the knowledge of the three worlds, the gross, the subtle, and the mental. Meher Baba explained in His famous book “God Speaks” about the three worlds.*
Sai Baba would now send His devotees to Shri Sadguru Upasni Maharaj for darshan. In 1914 Shri Upasi Maharaj left Shirdi for the first time after several years and traveled to Sindi and Nagpur. Here also He would beg for food and live away from cleanliness and comforts. But the smell of the rose attracts, and thus people started visiting Him to pay homage and would worship Him. The Hindu social life of 1915 was full of the feelings of cast and creed barriers. To end this barrier of castism, in February 1915, Shri Upasni Maharaj moved to a poor man Namdeo Mahar’s house in Kharagpur. Maharaj belonging to a high brahmin caste voluntarily stayed in a cow stable, and ate food in the house of Namdeo who belonged to a lower and untouchable class. The high caste disciples of Maharaj were forced to come to Namdeo Mahar’s house to seek Maharaj’s blessing, and be prepared to receive a warm welcome by Namdeo. After some time Maharaj went to Nagpur and then returned to Shirdi to inhabit once again Khandoba’s temple. But the atmosphere at the temple was different this time, as devotees began to gather in larger numbers, and happy times began. The seeker who lived a life of hard penance at this temple, was now a Master. The beggar of truth was now the King.
Gradually it became customary for those who came for Sai Baba’s darshan, to also visit the Khandoba temple and meet Upasni Maharaj. Even Sai Baba would ask some of the disciples to go to Sakori, and Maharaj was now being known as His spiritual heir. It so happened one day that a Swami came to meet Sai Baba. This arrogant Swami considered himself next to none in spiritual knowledge. Sai Baba soon asked this Swami for a favor “Will you please go to Sakori and bring me four hundred rupees from Upasni, as I am in urgent need of money” said Sai. “It is very important”, He further added. The Swami proudly walked up to Sakori, expecting a warm welcome, being an Ambassador of Sai Baba. Upasni Maharaj was as usual sitting naked under a tree when this arrogant Swami arrived, and started demanding for four hundred rupees. Upasni Maharaj got up immediately as if the matter was really urgent, and before the Swami could understand what he was going to receive so urgently, Maharaj grabbed the Swami and beat him up. The shaken Swami returned to Shirdi to find Sai Baba, smiling over the warm welcome at Sakori. Indeed the Swami had received the real blessings.
This was December 1915, and Merwan, a young boy from Pune who was God absorbed, after Hazrat Babajan kissed him on his forehead, came to see Upasni Maharaj. When Merwan approached Maharaj, He was as usual sitting naked, near the Khandoba temple. Maharaj welcomed Merwan by throwing a stone at Merwan, hitting Merwan on the forehead, exactly at the place where Babajan had implanted a kiss. Merwan started bleeding, and prostrated before Maharaj. Only Masters know their ways. This welcome from Maharaj left those who accompanied Merwan in great shock and surprise, but Maharaj and Merwan both were unaffected. Maharaj greeted and embraced the bleeding Merwan and took him inside the Khandoba temple where they stayed together for two days in solitude.
This welcome gift of Maharaj brought Merwan down to the world of duality, which he had lost after the kiss from Babajan. Merwan became a disciple of Maharaj and later on various occasions stayed at Sakori. He traveled with Maharaj to many places, throughout India. Year after year, Merwan’s consciousness became more normal. One day Maharaj told Merwan that He had given the key to Merwan, and He had become what He was, a Perfect One. Wandering to many places, Merwan, came to Ahmednagar, and His first disciples began calling Him Meher Baba. From Ahmednagar in the early twenties Meher Baba started His spiritual mission.
Upasni Maharaj began residing in Sakori, a place nearly five kilometers from Shirdi, during July 1917. When Sai Baba dropped His physical form in 1918 Sakori, a small poor village, had already become spiritually rich, with the presence of Upasni Maharaj and a growing fleet of disciples. Maharaj looked after the last rites of Sai Baba as His chief disciple. Maharaj always welcomed hardships. Once in 1921 He locked Himself inside a small bamboo cage. The cage was too small for such a stout person like Maharaj and He was most cramped inside. He said He suffered for the release of His disciples, and was standing as a surety in the divine court for their release. Over thirteen months He confined Himself in that small cage, practically fulfilling all His daily needs from there. The disciples performed His “Arti” and listened to His discourses from within the cage. At last on 31st January 1924, Maharaj released Himself from the cage, and stepped out of it to greet a small child named Godavari.
This small child Godavari Vasudev Hatavalikar later became the inheritor of the spiritual wealth of the Sakori Ashram. In their first meeting itself the Sadguru removed the garland from His neck and placed it around the girl’s neck, astounding His devotees. Maharaj also visited many places around India, including Hyderabad, Bombay, Kolhapur, Indore, Benaras, Surat, Nagpur, Jabalpur, Katni, Ahmednagar, Poona and many more.
For nearly seven years after the first meeting with Shri Sadguru Upasni Maharaj, this young Zorastrian Merwan whom Maharaj had struck with a stone in the first meeting, kept coming to Sakori regularly. Merwan stayed at Sakori for as long as six months on some occasions. But once Merwan became Meher Baba and started His spiritual mission the Master and disciple did not meet in person for nearly 20 years. Meher Baba was known as Sadguru by His early disciples, until in 1954 at Meherasthana in Uttar Pradesh He declared Himself to be the “Avatar of the Age”, for whom the world was waiting. He explained the entire theory of creation in His most famous book “God Speaks”. In this book He revealed the secrets of the evolution of creation and the development of consciousness. He explained the journey of consciousness from energy, to matter and from matter the development of the form. He further explained that after attaining the Human form consciousness starts journeying inwardly and attains spiritual heights, and ultimately the Realization of the Self.
The spiritual journey according to Him is divided into seven stages of inner evolution also called the planes of consciousness. The lower planes are full of miracles while the seventh or the highest plane is of God Realization, where one becomes one with God. Such realized Souls are of immense spiritual benefit to others, as they are Perfect.
Meher Baba explained the philosophy of creation simultaneously in three principal schools of thought ” Sufic”, “Mystic” and “Vedantic”. He unified the terms of the three basic thoughts and their common references in a parallel manner. He always warned His disciples to keep away from miracle specialists. He clearly explained that the real miracle is the realization of the Self, and all other worldly miracles are just eye wash.
Whenever Shri Upasni Maharaj came to Ahmednagar or Pune, He always visited Meher Baba’s house. But both did not meet each other in person for many long years. On persistent insistence a personal meeting of the two great Souls was arranged, at Dahigaon Village, near Ahmednagar on 17th October 1941. A cottage was built for this meeting, and a car was sent to bring Maharaj. On Maharaj’s arrival Baba and Maharaj walked towards the cottage which was a short distance away from the road. There were strict instructions for the disciples of Meher Baba or Maharaj not to look in the direction of the cottage under any circumstances. After this meeting in seclusion, Maharaj left for Sakori, (Click here to see the last photographs of this meeting) and a few months later in the early morning on the 24th day of December, in the year 1941, Maharaj dropped His physical body at Sakori. The customary rites were performed at Sakori the next day. Meher Baba sent seven disciples including Kalemama from Ahmednagar to attend the last rites of the Sadguru. Also you may read the original pages of Kalemama’s diary devoted to the anecdotes of his personal meeting and darshan of Shri Upasni Maharaj nearly five times. The pages of the diary are large in size and may take time to load. Click here for Kalemama’s Diary mentioning his meeting with Shri Upasni Maharaj.
Shri Upasni Maharaj’s ashram at Sakori was later blessed by His close women disciple Shri Sati Godavari Mata. At present Sakori is a place of worship for thousands of devotees who come there all the year round. Meher Baba also occasionally visited Sakori after Maharaj dropped His body. Meher Baba had the longest association with Maharaj, amongst the five Perfect Masters. Sakori and Meherabad (the location of Meher Baba’s “Samadhi”) are both in Ahmednagar District, on the Shirdi-Ahmednagar Highway, and are now places of world pilgrimage. Meherabad and Meher Baba’s “Samadi” are open for Darshan from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.
Indian Classical Composition on Shri Sadguru Upasni Maharaj
(Raag Madhuwanti by Meera Kale – Guru Maharaj Upasni Sakori ke Dhyani)
23.80 MB MP3 26 minutes live recording at Meherabad Theatre. Audio quality not very good.
A translated version of Rumi’s poem says more than words can think of saying about the inner oneness of the Masters and their disciples :-
During the day I was singing with you.
At night we slept in the same bed.
I wasn’t conscious day or night.
I thought I knew who I was
but I was you
– Rumi –