G G and Vimal Shelke, Bangalore: “I have to pay the builders and I have no money; I will not take food till they are paid.”
G G and Vimal Shelke, Bangalore
“I have to pay the builders and I have no money; I will not take food till they are paid.”
In 1963, my brother Captain Shelke told me about a young Swamiji who was resident in the Electric Colony in Kesare, Mysore. I was very skeptical about meeting Him because I did not know who He was and what philosophy He represented. However, he kept on insisting and within a course of time I agreed to go. My wife, Vimal, my children and I accompanied my brother to the home of an Electric Board employee, Sri Srikhantaya. Sri Swamiji used to stay there with this old man.
I went into a room and He called me but I did not want to go near Him, so I stayed in the back. Then He called my daughter, Savita, and then He called the little kids who were playing there. He wanted some fruits, but the children had eaten the fruits and were afraid to come forward. He sent my daughter to look behind Lord Ganesha’s photo and when she did, she found an orange which Sri Swamiji subsequently gave to her. Since that day Savita calls Him, Orange Swamiji.
After this meeting, I began visiting Him with many spiritual questions in my mind. I asked Him some questions and He gave the answers. Then to some questions He said I would get the answers myself. He said that we must ask our own selves, who is Sri Swamiji? What does He do? And the answers will come to us. Then we must ask Him if those answers were right or wrong. That day I boldly told Him that I want to know who He is. He simply replied, yes! I thought of leaving Him, but something kept me back, there was some belief there, so I decided to stay and learn from Him. My family and I visited Him in the electric colony for a few times and then He shifted to the present Mysore Ashrama.
In 1966 we began visiting the ashram on Sundays to participate in the homas. My children used to go on Saturdays and Sundays. I saw people putting money in the Hundi and Sri Swamiji would take the money and share it to devotees. After some time I told Him that He must open a bank account and start saving some money for the ashram. He listened to my request and I opened a bank account and began depositing the money that was placed in the Hundi.
I used to walk daily to the ashram with milk for Him and my friend used to tease me and ask me why I go there, but I ignored him. In the following years, I had the divine opportunity to present to Him on the occasion of His birthday, a pair of sandalwood padukas to commemorate each one of the Datta Kshetras that He intended to install. When the sixteenth Datta Kshetram was completed and inaugurated, somehow sandalwood became very difficult to acquire. Receiving those sixteen pairs of sandalwood padukas was His divine plan only.
In 1969 we were living in Vontikoppal, a suburb of Mysore. I was a banker by profession. One day Vimal called me from home saying that she was not feeling well. I told her that I had a lot of work to complete and could not leave. After work I took a doctor and went to my home. Vimal did not want to see the doctor but insisted that I take her to Sri Swamiji. She could not walk, so I held her feet and my brother held her shoulders and we carried her to the Ashrama. When we arrived there bhajans were going on. We laid her in a corner and sat down.
When the bhajans were over, Sri Swamiji asked, “Who from the Shelke family has come to see me.” I got up and Sri Swamiji followed me to my wife. I held her hand to help her up but Sri Swamiji told me to leave her alone. He took a Tulasi mala from around His neck and began rubbing on it till it formed a ball. Vimal was too weak to even stretch her hands to take it from Him so He put it in her mouth and told her to swallow it. After ten minutes she sat up and felt better. Then Sri Swamiji told Vimal, “The place where you are living now, someone had passed away earlier there, the place is not good, and I will not send you back to that house.” I took Vimal to my brother’s house for the night and the next day my children and I vacated that house. I found another house shortly after.
One day the construction of the old Datta Temple was going on, it was a Saturday around noon and Sri Swamiji was called to have His Biksha. He said, “I have to pay builders and I have no money, I will not take food till they are paid.” No one knew what to do. Mr. Krishnamurthy, the manager of the ashram, said that the banks were closed. Sri Swamiji said, “Someone will come.” No one knew what He meant. At around 2pm Vimal and my children arrived at the Ashrama. On that day Vimal made a monetary offering to Sri Swamiji, she lay three hundred rupees at His feet and left. She was unaware of the situation. Sri Swamiji took the money and gave it to Kusumakka and told her to pay the workers. Kusumakka went for a while, paid the workers and returned. It was exactly the amount needed for the payment. Sri Swamiji then took His food.
Once Sri Swamiji gave Vimal and I a ring and said that we would see Him in it. After our daily morning pooja we would actually see His face in the ring. To this day we still get His darshan in the ring. Another time I found a picture of Lord Ganesha in a calendar; I cut it out and framed it. I kept the photo in my pooja room. One day my son saw Sri Swamiji with a white vastram in the feet of Lord Ganesha. He told us but we did not believe him till we went and saw it for ourselves. Sri Swamiji gives darsan to His devotees in unsuspecting places at unsuspecting times.
Sri Swamiji used to make impromptu visits to our house in Mysore. Sometimes, He would come late in the night, around midnight, and in order not to wake us, He would remove His padukas and tip toe into the house. He would come and play with the children, sometimes wrestle with my sons. He was a part of my family. He encouraged the children to come to the Ashrama on Saturdays and Vimal and I should go on Sundays. One Saturday it was late in the night and the children did not return from the Ashrama. My wife got worried and kept pestering me to go to the ashram. I told her, “Why are you worrying about them, they are with Sri Swamiji.” Then at midnight Sri Swamiji brought them home in a car. He went straight to my wife and said, “Why are you worrying about them, they are with Swamiji!” He repeated the said words I had spoken a while ago.
My family and I moved to Jaya Nagar in Bangalore because of my work. On one occasion I had to go to Pune on a business trip, so I left my family for a few days. We had the practice of putting money in the Hundi and offering it once a year to Sri Swamiji on His birthday. We never counted the money. Vimal felt somehow that some money was missing from the Hundi. She hesitated to open it up and check it for she was afraid that I might get angry at her. I did not like to count the money; I used to take whatever was in there and lay it at Sri Swamiji’s feet.
Curiosity overtook Vimal and she opened the Hundi and she discovered that some money was missing. She blamed our son, Satish, who was about seven years then. Satish repeatedly told her that he did not take the money. She wanted him to go to Mysore in front of Sri Swamiji and speak the truth. I returned from my business trip and no one told me anything. We all went to Mysore Ashrama to see Sri Swamiji. We were all sitting right in front of Him and for some reason He seemed to be avoiding us. We sat all day there, Satish went and had a good lunch and came back and Vimal was upset with him. She was not taking any food till she got the matter settled. Then at 5.30 pm Sri Swamiji came and asked Vimal what was wrong. She explained the whole incident to Sri Swamiji and He said, “Your children are good children, they are not like that. It was me! I came and took the money.” Satish began poking fun at Vimal, for he was telling the truth all the time.
In 1972 we began construction on our present house, here in Bangalore. We invited Sri Swamiji to do the ground breaking ceremony. He came took a coconut and broke it on a particular spot and said that there will be no dearth of water here. As He broke the coconut, water began to ooze out of the ground. At that time much water was not available in the surroundings area, so this was a great blessing for my family and the water flows to this day.
In October of 1977, the house was completed but we did not move in fully, we were in the process of shifting from the rented house in Jayanagar. Sri Swamiji visited Bangalore and told us that He will be visiting our new house. We scrambled to get there before He did, we did not have sufficient time to prepare for His visit. Vimal did not want to buy any food from the stores for Him but to offer her own preparation. She had a small amount of sooji flour and she managed to get forty sweets from it thinking that will be sufficient for Sri Swamiji and His guests, which were about seven to eight devotees.
She prepared the pooja items and waited. He came to the house and was accompanied by about seventy devotees. We panicked thinking how shameful it would be if we did not have enough food to offer our guests. Vimal told me to break each of the sweets in two so we would have more to share. I told her not to do it, just offer it to Sri Swamiji. He came and walked through the entire house saying that this is not Shelke’s house but His house. He went into the kitchen and I offered Him the tray with the forty sweets. He accepted it and began sharing them out, one by one until there were seven left in the tray; six, for my family members and one, for Sri Swamiji. This is His house, His food, and His children; there was no need for me to worry. On His way out of the door, He said to me, “Get prepared for a big function in this house, coming soon.” One year later in 1978, on the same date October 17th my daughter’s marriage function took place in this house.
My daughter, Sadhana had her marriage date fixed and Sri Swamiji told her to spend some time in Mysore Ashrama before she go to her in-laws home after marriage. When she was leaving the ashram Sri Swamiji asked her what she wanted. She said she only wanted His blessings. He went to the area where He performs the Sri Chakra pooja and took a ruby necklace from there and gave to her and blessed her as she left. He treated her like His own daughter.
In 1985 I got a silver plate for Sri Swamiji, I could not make a trip to Mysore so I told Vimal to take the plate and offer prasadam on it to Sri Swamiji. My elder son Shivraj, who is no more today, accompanied Vimal to Mysore; he was fussing about it and was telling his mother not to give away a silver plate. Nevertheless, my wife offered it to Sri Swamiji with some prasadam on it. He took the plate and gave it to devotee sitting next to Him, telling the devotee, that he wanted one to perform his pooja with this and here it is.
Shivraj told Vimal that she had given it to Sri Swamiji and He gave it away, what was the use. Vimal told him, “Do not think like that, you give it to Sri Swamiji and He will return it to you in some form or the other.” Some time passed and we made a trip to Mysore for blessings on Shivraj’s marriage and Sri Swamiji gave us all very expensive, beautiful clothes which summed to an amount close to the cost of the silver tray that Vimal had offered Him earlier. By the grace of Sri Swamiji, Shivraj realized his mistake in thinking the way he did.
On one occasion I went to Mysore and told Sri Swamiji that I was making a trip to Bombay with my family. I had the custom on informing Him before I go anywhere. He blessed me and said, “I want you to stop in Ganagapur and bring back some mud for me, bring the mud from the place where Datta walks after He takes His bath.” I told Him yes I will and left. We visited Ganagapur and took a bath in the river and wanted to get the mud but did not know where Datta walks after His bath. Just then they saw a tall man wearing a black loin cloth, a hat and He had four dogs with Him. He was singing, Datta Digambara and the dogs were also singing and looking at His face while doing so. We approached Him and asked Him, “Where is the way that Datta walks after He comes out of the river.” The man kept on chanting, Datta Digambara, I offered five rupees to Him and He said that He wanted only two rupees to feed His dogs. I gave Him two rupees and He pointed to a place on the ground. We all looked at the spot He pointed at and when we looked back for Him, He was not there. We looked all around but we could not see Him. We collected some mud from the spot He was standing on for we realized that He was Lord Datta Himself. We took the mud to Sri Swamiji and He put in at the Audumbara Vriksha area in the Mysore Ashrama.
I began suffering with heart problems and one day it got so bad the doctors told me that I had to have the operation immediately. The operation would cost from two to three lakhs. My son Satish and his cousin went to Mysore to seek Sri Swamiji’s guidance. He was not in the country but the ashrams contacted Him by telephone and after Satish told Him about my situation He advised me to, check in a good hospital with a good doctor and not to worry about the money. My family took my medical reports to a doctor in a good cardiac hospital and after four days passed the doctor said that I did not need surgery and he prescribed some medicine. My wife was relieved that I did not need the surgery but we were concerned that I had not checked in to the hospital as Swamiji had advised me to do.
Some time later Sri Swamiji returned from His foreign tour and came to the Ashrama in Bangalore. My family and I went for His darshan. We could not get to the front of the hall because there were so many people, so we stayed at the back. Then Sri Swamiji beckoned for us to come on the stage to Him, everyone thought He was calling them and began to move forward. Sri Swamiji got tired of saying, not you, not you till He shouted, “The Shelke Family!” We went to Him and I told Him about the incident and He said to me, “Don’t worry, I did the surgery myself.” Since that day to now I had no heart problems.
In 1987 our house was flooded with water; it was so bad, that we had to vacate the house. We left the lighted lamp in the pooja room; it was our practice to keep a light all the time. That lighted lamp in the room never went out, it floated on the water and the flame never went out. Vimal used to keep some food items for Datta Bhiksha in a box in the kitchen. The kitchen got flooded but the vessels floated around in the water and the Datta Bhiksha box was completely dry inside, none of the food stuff got wet.
Throughout my life I tried to understand who is Sri Swamiji? What He does and why He does it? I got some answers which satisfied my mind and some questions my mind could not formulate into words but I got the answers by experiencing them. Then there were those eternal answers, which did not require questions to bring them to light. Now, I have no more questions! I have come to the conclusion that Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji is the question and He is the answer. He is all. Jaya Guru Datta
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