JAI SAI MASTER!!!
Dattatreya manifests himself from time to time as the different saints or enlightened teachers in all religions, but the most complete incarnations have been Sripada Srivallabha (14th century), Sri Nrisimha Saraswati (15th century), Sri Manikya Prabhu (17th century), Sri Akkalkot Swami and Shirdi Sai Baba (both of them belonging to the 19th century) and Sri Ekkirala Bharadwaja (20th century).
These sadgurus were the most complete avatars of Lord Dattatreya as they possessed the qualities of being avadhutas (liberated souls), they were all stotriyas and all of them preached religious harmony. While the first four incarnations have been celibate saints, the last, Sri Sai Master, has been a householder saint in the ken of Agasthya Maharshi, Vasishtha Maharshi, etc.
Attitudes and the mindset of the people can typically be divided into 4 categories, because of which the caste system arose. In our ancient texts man’s life was divided into four stages with different sets of laws to be followed for each stage keeping the goal of liberation always in mind. The four stages were: brahmacharya, grihasta, vanaprastha and sannyasa ashramas. Those who were particularly strong and determined intellectually, were unhindered by worldly ties and materialistic pursuits, were allowed to take up the sannyasa ashram directly after the brahmacharya phase. Such an ascetic pursued liberation alone, while in the grihasta ashrama the same goal was pursued along with a help-mate; thereby the wife became the saha-dharma-charini (comrade in life and an equal participant in performance of and in reaping fruits of good deeds). The code of laws or the dharma of the grihasta ashrama was equally rigorous.
In this modern age however, such an ideal householder’s life has fallen from its pristine state and is looked upon as an impediment to spiritual life. For most others, it is only the means of assuaging sexual desires legitimately. As Francis Bacon says succinctly, “He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either by virtue or mischief.” Swami Vivekananda bemoaned the fact that people were playing down the householder’s life as a weak dispirited and burdened existence, which is completely reverse of what this ashrama was meant to be. It was the strongest ashrama and provided the rest of society – the brahmacharis, the aged and the ascetics with shelter and sustenance. Support in the society for any individual or enterprise was provided only by the householder as he was the only earning member in the social structure, which in return benefitted the grihasta couple with inner purity.
In this context Sri Sai Master’s life is unique, because the resurrection or the rejuvenation of the grihastha ashrama is evident even today in their lives. In the ideal grihasta ashrama the husband was trained and assigned the role of a guru and the wife was the disciple, she understood his aspirations and selflessly performed her duties just as the ideal disciple. The same was the case too with our beloved Sai Master and his wife Divyajanani Alivelu Mangatayaru.
Their life is exemplary of the ideal household with their residence being ever vibrant and dynamic. Everyone irrespective of caste and creed was invited and welcomed to their home especially during their hours of worship. Such was the love and warmth offered that there were not less than a score people on any given day during meal times. There was also a plateful of food kept outside the house for any stray animal to appease its hunger. Charity was their middle name. Any student who was in need of books or money for paying the college fees was immediately taken care of. Nobody who came there left their home empty handed. Either a person’s gastronomical hunger would be satiated or a solution to his problems would be suggested. Whatever be the case however, they would certainly be introduced to Sri Shirdi Sai Baba and his greatness in a manner that would be of far more value in dealing with travails big and small that would traverse their lives. Sai Master would often be called to different towns for discourses, lectures, foundation laying ceremonies of temples, pilgrimages with his devotees etc. which were unfailingly attended by him often at his own expenses. Two young children and an ailing wife did not make for a comfortable living even at the best of times. Yet, there was nigh a line of worry on their radiant faces, their faith in the Lord so firm that his grace shown bright through the many divine miracles which occurred every day in their lives.
Divyajanani Alivelu Mangamma assisted Sai Master in all the books that he wrote, proof-reading and even re-writing some portions where required. She never attempted to restrict his frequent trips out of town, inspite of her illness as she was completely aware that his was a cosmic mission for the welfare of all beings, so she never by thought, word or deed tired to tie him down. For his part he tried any and every form of medicine to relieve her of her illness. It was always with her consent that he left on his tours openly acknowledging her cooperation.
This divine couple’s two children were brought up with great love, patience and care. Giving and sharing were encouraged which was not difficult in such a large household. The children’s antics and pranks were joyously shared with all many times over just as the kids were encouraged to repeat their lessons to all for which they were and much rewarded with adulation. Because of the parents reverence, regularity and punctuality towards God and worship, the children naturally imbibed the same love for their chosen diety.
As can be perceived this couple led very ordinary lives. There was nothing spectacular or extraordinary in their seemingly mundane existence. The daily chores of cooking meals, housecleaning, preparing for worship, caring for children, nursing the ill, looking after house-guests, etc. were all acts which strengthened relationships and human bonds, enhanced togetherness, co-operation, discipline -qualities typical for carrying out these tasks. These activities were tangible and meaningful, brought joy to all and it was thus very fulfilling. It also subtlely played the cosmic drama on a smaller scale- that of birth and death, the cycles of growth and decay that we see everyday in the natural environment. It was very much in harmony with the dynamism displayed by the universe.
Through such a routine was brought out the oneness with all the beings in the universe and thus lead the householder couple on the path of inner purity. It was conducive for spiritual practice which is the ultimate goal of human birth. Nowadays however technological advancement has lead to disorder in our natural environment and depletion of our natural resources not to talk of the social decay that it has caused. The single-minded pursuit of objects of leisure only reveals the unfulfilling, unsatisfying lives that people are leading, the total alienation of people from each other inspite of cell phones and jet planes. The sole reason for this being the nature of our work, which is neither useful for society nor is it a part of the harmonious order of the ecosystem.
And thus to bring back the joy of family, the love that encloses all its members, the contentment that pervades the family and allows it to grow in the direction of spiritual practice did the great spiritual Master Acharya Sri Ekkirala Bharadwaja arrive.