'The Light emerges into the Light.'
It was 18th July, 1966. The house at 26/96 Shakti Nagar had a deserted air about it. A single light was attempting to penetrate the gloomy darkness. This same house, which now appeared totally devoid of life, had, only recently been the scene of a never-ending stream of devotees, whose songs of praise to their spiritual Master had filled the air.
Wondering at the strange Silence surrounding the place, I made enquiries and was informed that my beloved Master, Yogiraj Shri Hans Ji Maharaj, was seriously ill and that devotees had been requested not to come to see him. I was shocked to hear this, and involuntarily cried out from the depths of my soul, "Master, we accept any agya (order) which you give, but to tell us not to come to see you! Is that agya or punishment? Without you. we can't live, just as plants wither and die without sunshine and rain: What kind of gardener are you, to first take such great pains to plant the seeds; and then withdraw the life-giving strength of your holy presence just as the shoots of Love are starting to appear!" '
I bowed in his direction and sadly returned home. Thoughts raced through my mind. 'Really, we do give Maharaj Ji a hard time. We forget that after all, he is also a human being and sometimes gets tired or ill. Then immediately the opposite argument came to mind: 'No! Why should devotees bother him? First he draws us to him and then complains that we are bothering him!
Lost in conflicting thoughts of this nature, I reached home, had something to eat and then lay down. It was a scorching summer's day, and sleep would not come. Maharaj Ji is critically
ill! Why, just two days before he had arrived in Delhi on his way to Alwar. He had told me then that he wasn't feeling well, and that his body was simply worn out, but I could never have imagined that he'd be so sick. All that night, my sleep was disturbed by weird dreams and next morning I heard the dreadful news that Shri Maharaj Ji had relinquished his mortal frame. On July 19, 1966, at the holy hour of 3 a.m., the great Yogi had cast off his mortal coil. The Light had merged into the Light.
The news spread like wildfire throughout India. It was printed in the newspapers and thousands of hearts missed a beat. Thousands of eyes streamed with tears. From all over the country, grief-stricken devotees and mahatmas made their way to Prem Nagar Ashram, Hardwar, where Shri Maharaj Ji's last rites and cremation would take place.
So that premies (devotees) wouldn't rush the residence trying to have a final glimpse, Shri Maharaj Ji's mortal remains were taken by car to Dehra Dun, where his family lived. Only two or three days previously, he had left Dehra Dun, blessing the premies as he got into his car. Who could have imagined that this was to be the fina1 farewell? But somehow, in their heart of hearts, the premies there felt that, although Maharaj Ji had left for programs many times before, there was something different about his expression this time.
On 16th July, at 6 a m he left for Delhi. He stopped on the way at Satlok Ashram, Muradnagar, to give darshan. He reached Delhi and left on the morning of the 17th for Alwar, Rajasthan, where premies had arranged a two day program.
Alwar is about 100 km. from Delhi. Maharaj Ji used to do a satsang tour of Rajasthan every summer. Even the desert winds and the scorching heat could not stop him. He would invariably break out in a heat rash, but he was ready to tolerate any hardship in order to make the devotees happy. He never gave a thought to himself. Of course, he was Pure Consciousness itself. It only seemed that he had a physical body. As he was giving darshan, at the Alwar Rest House, it seemed as if he was allowing his cosmic,
infinite Self to be contained by the premies' love in the small space of that building. The hot desert wind was blowing fiercely, and even the birds were searching for a cool place to rest, but the great Master, ascetic that he was, braved the heat, drawn by the premies' love.
As evening approached, the satsang grounds were filling up with people. The atmosphere was ringing with mahatmas' songs, holy and inspiring. Opponents of Maharaj Ji had also arrived. Mahatmas gave satsang. Time passed, but still Maharaj Ji hadn't appeared on stage. The critics shouted, "Call Maharaj Ji! Where is he hiding? Why doesn't he come on stage!" The Alwar premies begged Maharaj Ji go to the program, saying, "If you don't go, we'll be disgraced." Maharaj Ji replied "Why are you bothering me? To save face? Because of a few people who make false accusations? Can't you see that my body is burning like an oven?"
The satsang program came to a close. Shri Maharaj Ji had been unable to attend, as his condition had deteriorated. While everyone was asleep, he returned, on July 18th, to Delhi. Although he was urged to go to Dehra Dun, where he could get better treatment, he shook his head and indicated that he wanted to go to Delhi. When he reached Shakti Nagar he didn't go into his own room, but into a small outer room where Shri Satpal Ji Maharaj, his eldest son, used to stay when in Delhi.
His fever was getting worse. Devotees attending him begged, "Let us call Shri Mata Ji! Let us call a doctor or at least, take you to Dehra Dun." But he would hear none of it. He firmly replied, "No! Don't call anybody. Go! Sit outside and don't let anyone come near me! Send everyone home!" But the devotees insisted, so he allowed a doctor to be summoned, who examined him and prescribed the medicine which had no effect at all. His temperature continued rising. Ice packs were applied to his head, but there was no sign of the fever abating. It seemed as if no external remedies would do any good, and Shri Maharaj Ji had already seated himself in a meditation posture. When a Master is consuming his body in the fire of Yoga, what good can external remedies do?
Gurudev sat in meditation and dissolved himself in the Infinite at the sacred hour of 3 a.m. (Brahm Muhurta) on Monday, July 19th, 1966, leaving behind thousands of grieving devotees. When the doctors pronounced him gone, the devotees refused to believe it, because his body was still very warm and moreover, in the case of enlightened yogis, it is difficult to tell at first whether they are dead or in the superconscious state of Samadhi.
Shri Maharaj Ji's driver immediately placed the remains in the car and sped to Dehra Dun. A phone call from Shakti Nagar informed the Dehra Dun residence that Maharaj Ji was on his way, and that his room should be ready.
When the car reached the house, the devotees took one look at Shri Maharaj Ji's body and burst into tears. Shri Mata Ji fainted with grief. Shri Satpal Ji was recalled from Mussourie, where he attended school. The residence was plunged into mourning. Even the birds were silent.
Hoping against hope that he would begin breathing again, devotees massaged his body with aromatic medicinal herbs and oils, as is done to Yogis to bring them back from Samadhi to waking consciousness. But it was all in vain. Still, they refused to believe that he was dead, and sent for three of the best doctors in Dehra Dun who, after examining the body, said, "It's useless to hope. He is no longer with us." Shri Mata Ji again fainted. When she revived, and began to break her marriage bracelets, a voice from within said to her, "Our Marriage is forever. It can never be broken. Complete my funeral rites at Prem Nagar then consign my ashes to the Ganges. So Shri Mata Ji pulled herself together. At first she had intended to throw herself on the funeral pyre, but when Maharaj Ji commanded her not to do so, but to remain behind to take care of the devotees and complete his unfinished work, she told Mahatma Satyanand, "Prepare the funeral. Gurudev hasn't gone anywhere. He has simply manipulated his yogic power to make it seem so. He will return."
Prem Nagar Ashram was Shri Maharaji's labour of love. Its very dust had been purified by the touch of his holy feet. Each and
every tree, from the time it had been a sapling, had felt his loving caress. So it was appropriate that his last rites be held here.
By 3 p.m. on July 19th, premies had reached Prem Nagar by bus, train and taxi. Maharaj Ji's mortal remains had been placed on huge slabs of ice. Standing in line, as silent as statues, devotees filed past to have a final glimpse, to make a final obeisance. As each premie bent to touch his beloved Master's feet, he automatically waited for the familiar "Blessings! Blessings! Stand up!" which now would never come again.
The crowd of mourners increased by the hour. People were sobbing, "What will become of us now? Why has our beloved Lord abandoned us?" Some tried to comfort others, but who wanted comfort! They wanted their Maharaj Ji who, as their friend, had danced and played with them; who, as their Guru, had initiated and guided them and who, as their enlightened Master, had clarified the most esoteric religious mysteries for them. They tried, by their tears, to call him back, he who was their mother, father, friend and all-in-all. They felt helpless and forlorn. What can an orphan do but cry?
On 20th July even the sun, hidden behind a blanket of cloud, refused to shine. Prem Nagar was plunged into an atmosphere of grief and mourning. Thousands of souls cried out in anguish.
The mortal remains of the beloved Master were placed on the sandalwood bier. For the premies, their world was about to be consumed by the flames. Mahatma Daya Bai, who was a close disciple of Maharaj Ji and who was more than 60 years old at the time, related that when she reached Prem Nagar she was horrified to hear that Shri Maharaj Ji's body had already been placed on the bier. She was grief-stricken and silently prayed, 'Oh Master! Won't I be able to touch your feet one last time? How will I be able to reach you through that crowd? Who could be more unfortunate than I?' But what did she see? Shri Maharaj Ji got up from the bier, came over to her and said, "Don't cry: Come on, touch my feet." She bowed and bathed his feet with her tears. Whenever she related this incident, she would begin crying all over again.
The priests began their chanting according to Vedic rites. At 6.20 a.m. Shri Satpal Ji lit the funeral pyre. The body was consigned to the flames. Now Shri Maharaj Ji was hidden from view, forever. The holy dust of his feet, for which premies used to jostle each other, would never be available again.
An unearthly, heavenly fragrance filled the air. After all, this was no ordinary corpse. It had housed one who was the Divine Light and Holy Name Itself! Within an hour, the body had been consumed by the flames, but the premies remained hands folded prayerfully, rooted to the spot. The curtain had fallen on the earthly drama of Paramsant Satgurudev Shri Hans Ji Maharaj.
21st July: The Dehra Dun house was shrouded in mourning. Mahatmas and premies, tearful and lost in thought, sat around or wandered aimlessly. Mahatma Prem Vivekanand burst into tears and cried, "Mata Ji! We have been robbed of everything. All we had, all we could depend on, was Shri Maharaj Ji. Now what will we do?" Shri Mata Ji was also close to tears, bur she composed herself and replied, "Listen, when a child's father dies, doesn't his mother take care of him?" This is how Holy Mother consoled the grieving devotees. The future began to look less bleak. They began to think, 'We are not orphaned. Our Mother's blessing is with us!' Messages of condolence began pouring in. Here is a Selection:
When I received the heartbreaking news of Shri Maharaj Ji's untimely demise, everything went black. Could it be true? Am I dreaming or is this one of the Lord's cosmic tricks? Throughout history, the Lord has embodied Himself as Rama, Krishna, Balarama, Parasurama, etc. and has relinquished these forms also. Even divine Incarnations had to leave their bodies, as did great monarchs like Shivi, Dadhichi, Moradhwaj, Yudhisthira etc. Only because I know all this was I able to believe your sad news. Even while I was choked with grief, the words 'Om
Shantih, Om Shantih,' welled up from within and I fell to contemplating that the body must return whence it came.
Sister, a divine Power has departed from our midst, the likes of whom we will never see again. The Lord of the universe gave us the opportunity to be with him for a short while. It's due to our spiritual poverty that we weren't able to recognize Him while we had the chance.
Your family priest,
4th August, 1966.
Respected Mata Ji
I received yesterday your letter dated 26/7/66 informing me that Shri Hans Ji Maharaj had left this mortal world for his divine Abode. The physical demise of such enlightened souls is no common occurence. I deeply regret that I was unable to attend either the funeral or the memorial service. How can I find the words to comfort you? You lived with Maharaj Ji and know everything about him. You must now comfort your children and devotees. When next, in Dehra Dun I will come for your darshan.
Uttar Pradesh Congress.
I have learned with deep sorrow of your grievous bereavement and send my heartfelt condolences to you in your sad and sudden loss. May God give pin the strength to carry on as well as possible in this sad world. May all be with you and yours in sorrow and sympathy.
July 27, 1966
Dear Smt. Rajeshwari Devi,
I am sorry to hear of the sad demise of your husband Shri Hans Ji Maharaj. Accept my heartfelt condolences in your bereavement. I join you all in wishing that he finds rest in the all-pervading Absolute.
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan,
August 5, 1966.
I received your note dated July 20th. On behalf of the staff and students of Cambrian. Hall, please accept our deepest sympathies in your recent sad and irreparable loss. We extend our sympathies also to your son Mahipal and the members of your bereaved family..
With kind regards,
Dehra Dun Cantonment.
Early in the morning of July 22nd, the Dehra Dun household arrived at Prem Nagar. As soon as the family reached the cremation site, where Shri Maharaj Ji's mortal remains had merged with the elements, there was a renewed flood of tears. Once again the place was plunged into sorrow. Shri Mata Ji picked up a handful of ashes from the site and declared, "My children and devotees? This is your hour of trial. Don't give the world cause for ridiculing you! Don't allow them to say that the disciples of Hans fell from the path as soon as a crisis arose. Today you must swear on
his holy ashes that, bound together in unity and. love, you will continue on the path he showed us, thus pleasing his spirit. My children! Touch this holy dust and promise that you will follow my agya and spread his Knowledge. You are the heirs of this great soul who sacrificed his life and bore all kinds of hardship to spread the message of devotion to God."
On the way from Dehra Dun to Hardwar, Shri Maharaj Ji had appeared to Shri Mata Ji. Now, with power and authority, she repeated to the premies everything that he had told her and added, "Guru is an all pervading, eternal Power that is always with you. Never think that you are abandoned. Inspired by his blessings, I will devote myself to completing s unfinished work. You must also promise to help me spread his fame and glory. Those who are unwilling to do so are free to go home."
Her inspiring words lifted the thousands of premies present out of the terrible gloom into which they had sunk and filled them with a new hope and enthusiasm.
A Patna premie, Shri Krishan, didn't believe the bad news even after receiving a telegram. He says, When we received that telegram, many Patna premies went to Hardwar, but I didn't. However, when I sat for meditation, I saw the entire funeral like a movie in the Light. Then I realized that the news was indeed true."
In fact, Shri Maharaj Ji had been dropping hints for a long time, but the premies refused to accept it, totally enamoured as they were by his bewitching personality. For a year prior to his death, he had been dancing and singing, "0 mind! This life is like fleeting fair. The pursuits of life will not last forever." He had been suffering from rheumatism and his feet used to swell, but he never gave a thought to his body and remained as busy as ever with satsang programs. He was also afflicted with arthritis of the knee, which gave him a lot of trouble. One day, he arrived, at a program. As he got out of his car, he showed the premies his poor knees and laughed, "See, even divine Masters have to suffer the results of their previous actions! My body is old now and I want to get rid of
it. Then my problems will be over, Old clothes should be thrown out and new ones put on." Gurudev was not at all attached to his body. Leaving it meant nothing more to him than changing clothes. He had realized his true identity as pure Spirit. Once, at Shakti Nagar, he said, "Don't think that I am this body. Guru is not a body. He is Living Consciousness." I couldn't help saying, "That's true, but we are very much in love with your physical form, too. We, like Krishna's milkmaids, like to lose ourselves in contemplating your manifested form!"
God, in the form of Holy Name, is omnipresent. Manifesting Himself a body, or relinquishing it, is mere Sport for him, but He is like a giant tree, whose shade brings comfort to thousands of Creatures, and it is quite natural to love His physical form: Where are those large, lustrous eyes now, which used to brim with love and compassion? Where is that broad, majestic forehead, glowing with spiritual light and power? Where are those alluring locks of long curly hair? Where are those tender holy feet, which premies yearned to touch?
0 Death! It is no use begging you to have mercy on us! Did anyone ever escape your clutches? Not only do you snatch the poor from their huts. You don't spare the kings in their palaces, either. Even Alexander, the Conqueror of the world, couldn't defeat you. You make fodder of us all. Even Incarnations such as Rama and Krishna, or saints like Kabir and Nanak whose consciousness, was merged in the Infinite, had to yield to your law. They Surrendered to you what is yours and dissolved themselves in the 'Universal Spirit'. Great souls never interfere with natural laws. When the time comes, they discard the physical frame like a worn-out suit of clothes.
O Death! Do you think that these great Masters are dead, just because they have left their bodies? You can never reach where they live for Eternity! That land is beyond space and time. Neither sun nor moon shines there; it is illuminated by the self-effulgent
Divine Light. Can your dominion extend that far? Such great souls have actually conquered you! As St. Kabir said,
"I've caught Death and made him my disciple,
I've cut off the ears of Fear.
I meditate on the Holy Name.
So to whom should I defer!"
At the command of the Almighty, Who is beyond time, these holy Masters embody themselves forth in this world, then merge back into Him whence they came. Your shadow can never fall on them. They come into this mortal world of their own free will to free other souls from your clutches and make them immortal! Shri Hans Ji Maharaj, too, has concluded his earthly drama, but as the Holy Name he pervades the universe, and even now, whenever devotees remember him, he appears to them.
Maharaj Ji's cook and personal attendant, Kanheya, received Knowledge in 1951 and has served Maharaj Ji and his family ever since. He was the cook at Kankhal and then at Dehra Dun.
At Dehra Dun, Kanheya used to place a special chair on the verandah for Maharaj Ji, so that when he came out of his room he could relax in it. Some months after Maharaj Ji's passing away, Kanheya was busy in the kitchen, when suddenly he noticed Maharaj Ji standing in front of him, saying, "Kanheya! Didn't you put the chair out for me today? Do you really think that I have gone away?"
Kanheya replied, "I'm sorry, Maharaj Ji. I'll just run and fetch it." As he was bringing the chair, he saw Maharaj Ji walking with a cane, as he used to do towards the end of his life. Even now, whenever Kanheya is at Dehra Dun, he puts out Maharaj Ji's chair, hoping that he will come, sit down and call, "Hey, Kanha …"
Many devotees have had similar experiences, which strengthens their conviction that he is telling them, "Even though you can't see me, I'm right here!"
A few days before his physical demise, Shri Maharaj Ji went to Mussourie to visit his eldest son. He was accompanied by Shri Mata Ji and his other sons, but he took Shri Satpal Ji aside and spoke to him earnestly. Shri Mata Ji saw from afar that Shri Satpal Ji was listening intently and crying, too.
When they returned, Shri Mata Ji asked them what, they had been discussing so secretly. Shri Maharaj Ji only laughed and said, "Now I can go in peace. Satpal will finish my incomplete work."
After Shri Maharaj Ji's death, Mahatma Brahmanand went to Mussourie to inform Shri Satpal Ji that Maharaj Ji was critically ill. Young Satpal Ji said, "Why are you hiding the truth from me? Why don't you simply say that Maharaj Ji has gone? He told me everything beforehand."
Shri Satpal Ji Maharaj recalls, "In November 1965 a huge procession was held in Bombay. Shri Maharaj Ji, for the first time, told Shri Mata Ji to sit next to him in his carriage. He also seated me next to him and blessed me. It was then that the thought occurred to me that he was about to bring his earthly life to a close. The thought of separation filled me with deep sorrows."
Shri Mata Ji, who is continuing Shri Maharaj Ji's work; says, "I never feel that he is not here. He still appears to me in the Light. I don't feel that he has gone anywhere. He is right beside me, and it is his power that is doing everything. I'm merely his instrument."
Although Shri Maharaj Ji's physical form is no longer with us, he is still active in a subtle way. He is always there to help and protect. If a devotee calls on him sincerely, He will see him.