The one who gives birth is always a mother. However, a mother is also someone who nurtures, cares, educates, promotes values, supports, protects her child in her shadow at all times, imparts knowledge of right and wrong, makes sacrifices for the happiness of her child and becomes a source of strength, energy and guidance for the child as it walks the rugged trail of life. I see this persona of divine mother in both Pujya Bade Maharaj and Pujya Bai Maharaj.
It was 1967 when we were walking in the Sthali province of Rajasthan we arrived at a small town and took up residence in a veranda of a rundown Dharmashala. We had been walking the whole day and it was 5pm in the evening. We went to get alms from the town and somehow managed to get only 4 chapatis from one house. We brought the food back to the Dharmashala and all sat down to eat. We were 5 sadhvijis and yet only had 4 chapatis between us. Pujya Bade Maharaj, understanding the circumstances, instantly took a vow not to eat until the next morning (chauvihar pacchakkhana) and told us, ‘All of you please eat.’ She was old, she was most senior and had the authority to say that we should all share the chapatis and yet, she just took a vow! I still remember this moment!
I took the chapati in my hand and was just about to eat when a black kite flew down and snatched the chapati from my hand. Before I could even comprehend what had happened, I saw tears in the eyes of Bade Maharaj.
She had sacrificed her food happily but the thought that I would have to sleep without food because my chapati had been taken away made her heart bleed with sorrow. At that time she was unable to do anything more but her heartfelt tears drenched me to my core and I was filled with unfathomable love for and trust in her.
Today, even after so many years, the love behind those drenching moments immerses me and that divine love becomes my strength, my energy and my protection in every moment of my life.
Pujya Bade Maharaj was more than 90 years of age and had been doing alternate days total fasting (upavas) for 40 years continuously. Despite her practice of austerities, she would work with me in the ‘Kala Mandiram’. That particular day was her upavas. It was about 4pm in the afternoon and I was still working. She was troubled about my health and wanted me to take rest. Hence, she called for Yashaji and said, ‘Yashaji, how much will you make Chandanaji work? She has been working since the morning and she must be tired.’
If she had told me directly, I would not have liked it. Therefore, she applied this unique way to tell me to stop. Her love was exceptional. Immediately, I left work and we both went to ‘Dhyan Meru’ and sat in the veranda. Before Pratikraman, she would recite the Kalyan Mandir stotra. She had mangalvani book in her hands. Her finger was on the 3rd line of the 42nd verse. Suddenly I saw her neck drooping down. I gently took her neck and placed it in my lap saying, ‘Namo Arahantanam, Namo Siddhanam’. She recited with me, her eyes closed, her voice went quiet and her breath stopped. My angel, Pujya Bade Maharaj, for such a divine soul, death is not a sorrow but a celebration.