Venabai’s devotion to the Guru
Once, Samartha Ramdas went to Miraj, a village of Maharashtra. There he saw a young widow reading a sacred book near a Tulsi plant. He asked her, “Which book are you reading?”
“Eknathi Bhagwata”, she replied.
“You have selected a good book. But do you understand the Bhagavata Dharma (Dharma or behavior and attitude required of a devotee of the Lord)?”
“How can a simple girl like me understand such things, and who will explain them to me? I was just glancing through the book.”
God and God-Realized saints readily shower their grace on sincere, credulous and guileless people. Samartha was pleased with her sincere reply that emerged from an innocent heart. He silently showered blessings on that girl through his gracious glance and left. This aroused in her heart a strong desire to know the Bhagavata Dharma. She requested an elderly gentleman to explain the same to her but he said, “Daughter ! The saint, who met you, is a living God. He is an embodiment of Bhagavata Dharma. He is the only person, who can explain the Bhagwata Dharma in right sense to you.”
As she heard these words, she recollected the benign image of Samartha; and she yearned for the darshan of Samartha like the rain bird for the rainy clouds. The law of demand and supply is applicable to God. God or the Guru is automatically drawn to one whose longing for God is intense. The cry of Venabai’s heart reached Samartha and in the course of his wanderings, he arrived at her place. Vena worshipped him with devotional love, and prayed to him for Mantra-Diksha. Samartha was pleased at her yearning for God. He initiated her into a Mantra, and resumed his journey. Nevertheless, Vena became so engrossed in Divine Love that she spent whole day doing japa of Guru-Mantra, kirtana, meditation and remembering her Guru. After a few days, Vena came to know that kirtana and satsang of her Guru, Samartha was going on at a temple of Divine Mother Amba at Kolhapur. Vena went there immediately. Every day, she would listen to her Guru’s satsang intently and lovingly; look at him with a fixed gaze and render service there. When Samartha led the devotees into kirtana, she would become so engrossed that she would lose control over her body. When the time came for Samartha’s departure, Vena prayed to him to take her along. In order to test her spirit of surrender, Samartha showed his disinclination citing fear of public censure. Venabai said, “Gurudev! Worldly people don’t know how I can attain liberation. It is of no use to hear their talks. If you don’t take me along with you, I will depart this life. Death is better than living without a noble goal.”
Samartha was highly pleased at Vena’s firm determination and he assured to take her with him at the appropriate time.
A few wicked men overheard their conversation and poisoned the minds of Vena’s parents-in-law. They reacted impulsively and sent Vena to her parental home. The selfish world showed its real face even there. Vena’s parents, out of fear of public censure, administered poison to her.
Vena faced imminent death due to the effect of poison to and faith in the Guru was amazing. Her love for God was commendable. Even when she was on the verge of death she was tormented by the pangs of separation from her Guru. She was worried as to how she would get her Gurudev’s darshan and his pious company. Drawn by the disciple’s call, Guru Samartha appeared in Vena’s room. Though writhing in severe pain, Vena paid obeisance to the Guru. The Guru showered his grace placing his had on Vena’s head and her body was infused with new life.
When her parents opened the door, they were surprised to see Vena cheerfully hearing instructions from her Guru. They prayed to Samartha to forgive them for committing such an evil act out of selfishness. “Your Holiness! We have committed a heinous sin out of fear of public censure. With your grace, we have got back our daughter, Vena.”
Samartha smiled and said, “Your Vena! Your daughter Vena died, when you administered poison to her. The girl you see now is Venabai, a disciple of Samartha. Now she will accompany me for rendering devotional services to Lord Rama.”
Parents tried a lot to dissuade Vena from going, but her heart was filled with disenchantment to the world. She did not stay even for a minute and left.
Living in the company of her Guru Samartha Ramdasji, Venabai served Him with great devotion and readiness. She spent most of the time in cooking meals for Him and the people who came to hear his satsang. But she also spend some time in hearing satsang, doing Kirtana and meditation with total absorption. Everybody was pleased with her devotion to service. In due course of time, with the effect of her intense spiritual sadhana and services, she became accomplished in the Bhakti-Yoga (Yoga of Devotion). With the grace of the Guru, the secret of Bhagavata Dharma was revealed in her heart.
Once on the occasion of Rama Navami, Vena sought Guru’s permission to leave the mortal coil and merge into Rama Tattva (the Absoulte Brahman). Samartha said, “I shall myself direct you to do the same at the appropriate time.” Venabai humbly agreed.
After a few days, Samartha suddenly said, “Vena! After listening to your kirtan today, I shall permit you to attain Nirvana (overcoming of the wheel of birth and death, and a final exit from the world of becoming)”.
Venabai had assimilated the grace overflowing form Guru’s heart. She paid obeisance to the Guru and got engrossed in kirtana. The kirtana went on for a pretty long time. It seemed as if the surging waves of the ocean of devotional joy had attained to the climax. Coming to know that these were the last moments of Venabai’s life, all were in tears. Towards the end of kirtana, Vena was absorbed in Bhava Samadhi (super conscious state attained by devotees through intense divine emotion). Samartha too got engrossed in Samadhi for some time and then said, “You have lit the eternal flame of faith and devotion to the Guru and thereby illuminated the path of Bhakti to countless men. Your life is fulfilled. Go happily to live at the feet of Lord Rama.”
Filled with love and blessedness, Venabai said, “Gurudev! Ocean of compassion! In my life, if I ever found real happiness, real Knowledge and real bliss, it was when I was near your feet. Your feet are Lord Rama’s feet for me. I will find real peace only near your feet.” With these words, Venabai placed her head at Samartha’s feet and saying ‘Ramdas, my mother’ merged into the Rama Tattva.
Great was Venabai’s faith and devotion to the Guru! Her Tulsi plants grew into a grove; which reminds us of the immortal story of her Guru-Bhakti even today.
- Rishi Prasad –July 2013