Kamleshwar [ famous author of Hindi literature & Sahitya Academy prize winner ]
There was a book opening event at respected Amritaji’s place. This book was authored by Ms. Afzal Tausif , a famous author & columnist of Pakistan , who was harassed by military establishment of Pakistan for her thoughts and opinions on various issues. This book was to be launched between few distinguished guests by myself only.
Amongst distinguished guests, Sai Kaka was sitting like the head of a family. His personality was full of divinity yet nowhere was he over pressured by his divinity. Have heard lot about him but this was the first instance to meet him in person. In the past, Amritaji had shared Kaka’s spiritual discourses & contexts with me. After a brief opening ceremony, I sat next to Sai Kaka but while talking to him, not even once he gave the impression that he is a spiritual person but an overall social and worldly personality. In those days, there were lots of political furor on the name of religion. In the midst of discussions, when there was a mention of this issue, Kaka said, “Religion is an individual choice, in groups it is not a religion but a community and where there is community there can be communalism!”
I have read about Sai Kaka in Amritaji’s articles and also in Rajesh Chandra’s book, Puja Ka Diya. He, no doubt is a spiritual person of the highest order and philosophy, at the same time, however one cannot find mysticism in his spirituality. His sayings are concerned with day to day practical life. He did not seem to me a nihilist, he has an affirmative acceptance. He conveys abstract astral philosophical concepts in a simple form connecting with life. He simplifies the deep meanings of various religious books. I inquired about his Ashram. He replied, it is the entire universe! In our society, we live with our families and that’s our tradition. We can transform our extrovert lust to introvert trust as well, so why we need a secluded Ashram for that? I don’t have any aashram! Each home is my refuge and my aashram!
I experienced that Sai Kaka comes from the lineage of Siddhas & Sufis who don’t belong to any cult or community in particular. He is neither a saint nor a mythologist or theologian who is alienated from social issues but is all there like a friend and a guide to all people who are surrounded by today’s worldly issues.
A communist Yogi
“Can a communist be spiritual? How is that possible when Communists declare themselves to be atheists?”
Kaka’s eyes lightened as soon as he heard the question. “How a communist can be a spiritual person..I will explain this by an episode.”
“There was a trustee of Aalandi, the mausoleum of Sant Gyaneshwar, named as Dr YB Phatak. He was a very nice hearted person. One day he saw an unusual spectacle while visiting the mausoleum. “ In Maharashtra , Sant Gyaneshwar is called as mauli, meaning mother. Perhaps he is the only male saint in India , who is addressed as mother by his devotees. When compassion runs deep, the saint becomes like a mother.
So while, Phatakji was visiting the mausoleum of Sant Gyaneshwar, he saw below it, saint Gyaneshwar with another person reciting spiritual texts. The other person who was with him was Shri Vishnupant Chitle. Both are discussing intently. Both were glowing.Phatakji was dumbfounded by what he saw. He couldn’t fathom what mauli had shown him. He was not surprised by mauli’s spiritual recitals but that he was conversing with Shri Vishnupant Chitle.
Actually Vishupant Chitle was a popular communist of that time. His image was that of rebel and an atheist. He was called as card-communist meaning a staunch communist. Vishupant Chitle was considered to be a close associate of Maharashtra’s Shripaad Amrit Dange who was considered to be one of the pillars of Communist Party of India party. After the formation of the state of Maharashtra on 1 st May 1960 , he was one of the members of the first legislative assembly. And seeing person of such an image with Sant Gyaneshwar was indeed shocking for Phatakji.
The very next day he went to Pune from Aalandi, to meet Vishnupant Chitle. When he reached Pune he was shocked to know that Vishupant Chitle had died a day back. I said, “Meri ankh khuli ek zamane ke baad,Tujhe samajh saka tere jaane ke baad”(My eyes opened after a century, I understood you only when you went away)
Kaka said, “Yes, Dr YB Phatak had similar feelings. He understood that what he had seen at the mausoleum of Sant Gyaneshwar that day on the was nothing else but Vishnupant’s soul. Somebody gave him the address of one of the friends of Vishnupant Chitle, Shri Venkatesh Nakhaate. Phatakji traced him in Pune. He was one of those who were familiar with Vishnupant’s spiritual world. Nakhaate ji told him that Vishnupant had told him few days back, “My card has been cancelled. I thought he was talking about the Communist party’s card. But only yesterday I understood that he was talking about the card to this world. He knew that he was about to depart from this world.”
Kaka said, “Nakhaate ji maharaj is still alive. He is in Pune. Meet Dr.NK Bhide, he will give you Nakhaate ji’s address.”He went on. “Vishupant Chitle was a known extremist of his time. He was a card-holder communist and used to address gatherings where he used to talk about Das Kapital and Carl Marx. He would talk about the Italian and Russian revolution. His talk would often cause a rush of adrenaline in the audience. But behind the scenes, he was an absolute spiritual person, a complete yogi. You can imagine his spiritual evolution by the fact that he had often visited Gyanganj. In fact he had an exceptional medicinal knowledge that he had received from there only. The medicines given by him used to treat patients almost magically.”
“He was in contact with yogis at Gyanganj. In fact he had some disciples as well. But very few people knew about his spiritual life. He himself didn’t want to disclose it to many people. So apparently he remained a communist only throughout his life.” In fact one who is not a revolutionist cannot ever be spiritual. Being a revolutionist shows that a person a brave and enthusiastic and can accept the right and wrong in one’s life.”
“You tell me, wasn’t Meera a revolutionist? She left her palace and mixed with ordinary folk to perform keertans. Not only that she broke all traditions and accepted Raidaas as her guru. Wasn’t she a revolutionist? The things that Kabir said in his time are in any way less than what Karl Marx said many years later. Saints like Gyaneshwar, Gora Kumhaar, Sena Nai, Eknath, Tukaram, Naamdev, Chokhamela, Konapatra and Sakhubai etc. created a revolution in medieval times called as Bhakti Movement. But I would call it a revolution for creating an egalitarian society. These people were not too educated but they created a revolution of their own. If you read these sants, you will be able to find ideas of Karl Marx, Lenin and Mao in their writing.”
Listening to Kaka’s words, I could also see a revolutionist in him. “Vishupant Chitle’s episode had affected me so much that I went to Pune to meet Dr NK Bhinde and Nakhaate ji maharaj.” “Meeting Dr Bhinde was like meeting a living legend. This meeting becomes even more significant when it takes place at his ancestral home which is about 240 years old, constructed in the year 1760. The carved sofa on which we sat talking was about 175 years old. His home is like a Pune’s cultural heritage. It is a rare example of South Indian vaastu. His house is registered as a heritage at Pune’s state corporation.”
I went to pune, met Mr. Bhinde but probably the life of Vishnupant was not to be revealed right now. Dr Bhinde told me that Nakhaate ji Maharaj had died a week back. I was also disappointed that I couldn’t meet Vishnupant. But Dr. Sahib gave me important insight in his life. Vishnupant Chitle was born on January 4 th 1906 in Satara district. He used to stay at Nrisinghbari. When he was 3-4 years of age, then he his parents took him to meet Tembe Swami. Tembe Swami was very strict and didn’t even let people touch his feet. But that child went and sat on Swami Tembe’s lap. But Swamiji was unperturbed. He stroked child’s head and said, “He is my child.” Such words from an accomplished person like him were big deal for all of us.
“Since his student life, he was involved in country’s freedom struggle and used to participate in revolutionary activities. He became a Marxist. He is considered as one of the founders of Communist party. He had been involved in all the revolutionary campaigns since the last 100 years. He used to stay with Shreepaad Amrit Dange. He was considered to be the stature of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Lenin, Mao and Marx were his ideals.” “There aren’t any written evidences of his spiritual life. But there are some contemporary people who knew about this aspect of his personality. One of them was Nakhaate ji maharaj, who died a week back. Nakhaate ji maharaj used to tell how Vishnupant went to Kailash Mansarovar once. There he met a yogi there. Yogi said to him, “You are in some way related to Swami Tembe.” And then yogi gave him some medicinal knowledge and only then let him go”.
Dr Sahib tells that, “Nakhaate ji maharaj used to say that Vishupant was very much spiritually evolved. He used to guide Gulwani maharaj’s disciples after his permission.”
After Vishupant died on 20 th May, 1961 , what Dr YB Pathak saw at Gyaneshwar’s mausoleum, that you heard from Kakaji only. Then Dr NK Bhinde smiled and said, “Kaka is also not less a revolutionary himself. I thought I was very close to him and knew him too well. But he kept this secret from me as well. Only when I read your book on Kaka, only then I realized how far he had gone. Actually when Baba Muktanand died and Kaka left the Ganeshpuri ashram, I feared that Kaka will be lost in the world.”
Dr Bhinde is almost 20 years elder to Kaka. He is appointed as the Head of Department at All India Ayurscience institute, New Delhi since 1990. He had first met Kaka with Baba Muktanand at Shri Gurudev Ashram near Ganeshpuri Ashram. Kaka was an adolescent at that time. Dr Bhide was saying, “But Kaka was not lost in the world when he left the world. He kept on doing his meditation. I have come to know this only now.” And then he said very politely, “Kaka has outshone me. The experience that I have been waiting for years, kaka has undergone that already. You are lucky to be with him….”
I took blessings of Dr Narayan Krishna Bhide and went. This meeting happened in the year 2000. About two and a half years later that another close associate of Vishnupant Chitle was in Pune. I again went to Pune on 20 th may, 2003. It was strange coincidence that it was the death anniversary of Vishnupant Chitle.
In the evening I again met Dr Bhide and got the details of this another associate. The next day I went to this respectable person called Shri Haribhau Kulkarni. He was fair complexioned, medium height, with broad forehead, bright eyes and had a skin disease on his legs. I had long conversations with him in the morning and the evening. He is well versed in Hindi, English and Marathi. Overtly he too has been a “communist associate” or a comrade of Vishnupant Chitle and has worked with Shreepaad Amrit Dange. He has been an editor of Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s “Kesari” and is still associated with that magazine. Dr SJ Joshi introduced me to Haribhau Kulkarni and told him about our transaction motive. I questioned him for the sake of starting the conversation, “Why is the communist agitation weakening all over the world?”
He smiled and asked , “You want to talk about communism or Vishnupant?”
I was delighted that he was ready to talk on my topic of interest and that there was no need for any official introduction to start the topic. I said, “I want to talk on Vishnupant. When did you meet him?” “We met in 1957. Actually we were active in the same Communist agitation. Those days I became ill and was suffering with many ailments like amnesia, polyuria, hypoglycemia, asthma and eczema on my legs. I tried many remedies but I was not getting cured. Then someone told me to meet Vishnu, who is a doctor himself. I was surprised at this. Initially I thought that comrades were kidding, but the way he had said so made me think about it. Then I went to Vishnu and showed him my eczema. I improved drastically under his treatment.”
Haribhauji then showed me his eczematous leg. “These are the remains of that disease.” “So he had entire medicinal knowledge?” I asked, “Well not in the conventional sort of way. It was like a mystery science for him. He had learnt it from a yogi in Tibet . From the year 1930 to 1932, he stayed in Tibet for his journey to Kailash Mansarovar. Those two years of his life are a mystery to all of us. What all did he achieved in those years and what did he do, that nobody knows. This “medicinal knowledge” is the thing he acquired during those days.”
“Once Nakhaate ji’s daughter was down with high fever. She was given treatment at various hospitals but couldn’t find relief. When Vishnupant saw the girl, he said instantaneously, “The problem lies in the head.” At that time nobody took him seriously but after the investigations it was revealed that one of the nerves of her head had sustained injuries. She was ultimately treated by Vishnu only. The girl became all right.” “There was a reputed physician in Pune, called Dr VN Bhende. He had claimed to have treated many incurable cases. Once Dr Bhende asked Vishnu to teach him his medicinal system. On this Vishnu said, “I will teach you the condition that after learning my system, you will leave your system. You will burn all your certificates and remove the designation of doctor before your name….”
“Dr. Bhende couldn’t gather that much courage and Vishnupant’s knowledge remained limited to him only ”.Even comrade Dange had a huge faith on Vishnupant’s medicinal knowledge. In the year 1960, Maharashtra ’s Chief Minister was Yashwant Rao Chauvan. At that time Shreepaad Amrit Dange was in jail. There he fell ill and requested the Chief Minister to let him consult Vishnupant. The Chief Minister gave the order to jail supervisor to let Vishnupant meet Amrit Dange. Then Vishnu went to the jail to meet Comrade Dange. I and Nakhaateji were also present there.”When reminiscent of the tales of his friend, Shree Haribhau’s face would show various kinds of emotions. His face would often light up while describing the incidents. “Whom did Vishnupant consider as his guru?,” I asked.
Haribhau ji said, “I had also asked the same question to Vishnu once. Vishnu used to give his answers curtly. In fact, sometimes we wouldn’t even understand the meaning of his answers. On this he had answered, “Traditionally none.” What he meant was that he has not received any formal training from any guru. But what he has learnt unofficially he has not revealed it. But there is one thing that I noticed was that he didn’t address Gyaneshwar by name of Mauli but called him “Aapla maharaj”. Only Vishnu could have addressed Gyaneshwar like that.”
In 1957 he was chosen for the Maharashtra ’s Assembly from Kasbapeth, Pune. During one of the sessions, one of the Assembly members remarked that the mausoleum of the saints had occupied unnecessary land. In counter, Vishnupant had given a historic speech in which he had thrown light on the importance of mausoleums of saints. A communist putting such strong views on mausoleums of saints was an unparalleled event.”“When he didn’t have a formal guru then Vishupant wouldn’t be having a formal disciple too?,” I asked.
Haribhau said,“ Yes, you are absolutely right. He didn’t have any disciples but then he was a spiritual guide to many people. In fact you can consider Smt Jog to be his true disciple. One day Smt Jog went to Maa Anandmayee. By that time, Vishnupant had expired. And Maa Anandmayee had the told her, “Your guru was truly great. He still takes care of you. Just follow what he had told you.”
Haribhau continued, “There are many people in Pune who have sighted Vishnupant even after his death. Dr Ashok Marathe has had the experience six times. ”Did you have any experience like that?” I asked. He remained quiet for a while and then said,“ I wouldn’t mention my experience here but I would like to tell you an incident.”
“In 1987, a woman came to my house. She had a paper in her hand in which my address and a rough map was drawn. She said, “I want to meet haribhau Kulkarni.” I said, “Here I am. Who has sent you here?” She handed over a bundle in my hand and said, “ This has been sent by Vishnupant Chitle. He was the one who told me your address.” I stood shocked before her. And then asked her, “When did you meet him?” She told me that she had met him in Shirdi. She then told me the entire episode. “I was standing in the queue of the temple for my turn. One man called my name from behind. When I went to him, he asked me what the trouble in my life was. He then told me some solutions. Thereafter he gave me this packet and your address. This packet has a napkin, a coconut, a tulsi mala and three rudraksh beads. One of the beads is for you while the rest two is for two of your friends.”
While she was giving me the description, the woman saw the expressions on my face. “Is Vishnupant not alive?” Then I told the woman, “You encountered his soul at Shirdi. He died way back in 1961. But please don’t disclose to anyone.” Then Haribhau ji showed me that letter that he had preserved in his almira. He read out a few lines from the letter which was in Marathi. Then also gave me the translation of those lines.
I asked, “For whom were the rest of the Rudraksh beads for? ”One was for Nakhaate ji and the other was for Ashok Marathe. All the three of us had decided not to disclose this incident to anyone. The woman still resides in Pune.” I asked, “Did Vishnupant ever gave you any instructions?”
“He had told me only one thing-that one shouldn’t ever hurt anyone. And the other thing he used to tell me was that he could touch the pinnacle in one moment. Now I realise that he didn’t have to reach the pinnacle. Because he was forever at the pinnacle of consciousness. The third thing he used to say was, “Communism has proved to be a good veil for me behind which I can hide my true self.”
“Do you consider Vishnupant as your friend or as a guru?,” I asked Haribhau. He said spontaneously, “I used to consider him neither a friend nor a guru. We had a physician- patient relationship. That was how we had come close and I still consider him as my physician.” I was smiling and wondering that even there is no official relationship here but it is very much there.
“Tell me about the family life of Vishnupant,” I wanted to know.
“Vishnupant was born in Satara district of Maharashtra. His father was with the Kolhapur police. His father was transferred to Shirol. There in Narsoba Badee, Swami Tembe used to stay. Vishnupant’s mother used to take him to Swami Tembe. He had an elder sister too named Morak Akka. Vishnupant also taught in a school for a year. PL Deshpande was one of his students. In 1982 he was a ground member of the Communist party. Later he came out in the open. He was chosen from Kasbapeth Assembly in Pune. He never married.” I bid bye to Haribhau Kulkarni.
One day I asked Kaka, “How could you gauge spiritual evolvement in a person who always hid himself behind the veil of communism?” Kaka said, “I met Vishnupant for the first time in Gyanganj. As soon as I met him I got the vibe that he is one of greatest saints in Maharashtra .” “One day I was at Dr Bhide’s place. We were discussing Gyaaneshwari. In one of the books of Gyaneshwari, there was a photograph. As soon as I saw the picture, I realized that I had met this person in Gyanganj. I asked Dr. Bhide, “Whose photograph is this?” he told me that it was Maharashtra ’s popular communist, Vishnupant Chitle. I told Dr. Bhide, “But he was not only a communist but something more.” The Dr.sahab told me that he had seen this photograph in Nakhaateji’s home as well. And more information could be gathered from there.”
“Then we went to Nakhaate ji’s home. There I not only saw Vishnupant’s photograph but also felt hi presence. Nakhaate ji was one who gave the first detailed insight into the spiritual life of Vishnupant Chitle. Since then Dr Bhide started investigating more about him which has been complied by you.”
I am wondering if all this is happening due to Vishnupant Chilte only.