Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj
The great mystic saint and yogi Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj is hailed as the fourth incarnation of Lord Dattatreya and has an enormous following in the country. Shri Saibaba of Shirdi, Shri Akkalkot Swami Maharaj and Shri Gondavalekar Maharaj were Shri Prabhu’s contemporaries and they interacted with him on matters of deep spiritual wisdom. Shri Prabhu was also associated with the first war of Indian independence in 1857. All biographers refer to Shri Prabhu as a saint of great spirituality and mysticism. He is hailed as ‘Bhaktakarya Kalpadruma’. Stories of his miracles and eye witness accounts, which bear testimony to the manner in which he brought succor to the distressed and the sorrowing, to the afflicted and the wronged, who, ardently and with deep faith sought his spiritual intervention are available.Shri Prabhu’s teaching, basically, lay stress on the path of Bhakti.Alongside, he moralizes in the most remarkable manner on the ‘Vedantic Truths’ concerning the ‘Spiritual Unity’ of beings.
Shri Prabhu uses his theological platform beautifully, to unfold, interpret and even reason out the concept of ‘ Ultimate Reality’. His innumerable poetic compositions are replete with expressions of ardent devotion to the different manifestations of Parabrahma. In the final analysis, he enjoins a meaningful connection between man and man, in a spirit of fellowship and brotherhood, disregarding affiliations of religions, caster of creeds. Such a philosophy invited messianic reverence for Shri Prabhu from all communities and earned him the appellation ‘Sakalamatacharya’. Sakalmata Sampradaya is not a cult or a sect. It is a holistic and an all embracing school of philosophy, which basically rests on the concept of a Supreme Soul that pervades the Universe and in that context perceives a spiritual unity in the entire human race. This school of thought holds an umbrella of eqality over all diversities of religions, faiths, and persuasions. Such a philosophy was readily acceptable to people of all religions, castes or creeds, and to rich and poor, as it held the promise of harmony among all people, transcending all barriers that produced conflicts.
Birth and early life
In a village called Ladwanti, near the town of Kalyan, in the erstwhile state of Hyderabad, a child was born to a pious couple, Shri Manohar Naik and Smt. Bayadevi on 22nd December 1817, the birthday festival of Lord Dattatreya. They had in all three sons and one daughter. Amongst the sons, the middle one was the one who was to make history in time to come.He was named Manik.
As he grew, one and all were attracted to the child, who was fondled not only by his parents but also by his neighbours. His pranks were endearing to everyone. He started collecting a group of his friends and roaming the hills and dales in the vicinity of the town. He was, as it were, a child of nature, more close to the trees, the breeze, the birds and the flowers.
In the course of play He would occasionally, casually disclose his divinity. Once, when one of His playmates, Govinda, failed to turn up for play for a couple of days, Manik went to his house to enquire after him. Arriving there He was informed that Govinda has passed away after suffering from fever for a few days. Manik told Govinda’s mother to stop grieving, as her son was alive. Sure enough, when Govinda’s mother called out to him to go out and play with Manik, he arose as if out of a deep slumber. All present were overjoyed and amazed at this occurrence. This and such other occurrences caused his fame to spread far and wide.
On the whole however, Manik behaved in such a carefree manner that the members of his family were concerned. It was, therefore, decided that at the age of seven his thread ceremony should be performed, so that a sense of responsibility may dawn on this wayward child, who, it appeared, preferred to roam rather than sit and read. When the sacred thread was being bestowed on Him and the sacred Gayatri hymn was being recited in his ears, as was the custom, a strange thing took place. Manik behaved as though all this was superfluous for him and he knew all about Gayatri and the significance of the eternal sound, AUM. He recited the hymn unaided, to the great surprise of the assembled people
Manik was again free to roam in the woods. When he was sent to the school, his attention was to the open sky, the cool breeze, the rustling leaves and the chirping of the birds. He liked to seek teachers in the lap of nature, listen to Nature’s natural education rather than the artificial or contrived lessons in the classroom. It was not surprising therefore, that he was given to sneaking out of the classrooms and wandering in the woods. Nature became his classroom and his very Self became his teacher. His receptivity became keen, intelligence sharp and thoughts synchronized. Manik’s parents worried about his wanderings ignoring the formal education sent him to his uncle’s place.
Manik’s uncle sincerely felt that this boy should grow up like a normal child and should be trained and educated to take up the responsibilities of life. He was deeply frustrated by the failure of his measures in sending this boy to school. He then thought that employment may inculcate a sense of responsibility in him and thus got him appointed as a clerk in the octroi check post on the outskirts of Kalyan town.
From then onwards, his journey on the pathless path was within the folds of Mother Nature. As he breathed in the fresh, unconditioned atmosphere, a new wave of awareness came over him, spreading before him the universality of the Divine presence in every thing he saw, touched or heard. One by one the mysteries, long concealed, came to be revealed to him.
Shri Krishna's assurance seemed to echo in every action of his. "He who see Me everywhere and sees all in Me, I am not lost to him nor is he lost to Me" (Bhagavad Gita VI.30). Consequently within himself and without himself, in nature, in creatures, in trees and streams, hills and dales, in the wise as well as in the foolish, in the saint as well as the sinner, in those who love and in those who hate, he saw only the same Divine essence, the Brahma.
In jungles, hills and woods
The family members accepted the strange behaviour of Shri Manik, it nonetheless created anxiety in their minds, especially when he would wander from place to place without notice. Shri Manik was looked at with due respect. An aura enveloped his personality.
He preferred to stay in solitude and alone concentrating on the Supreme Self. He went to nearby places such as Manthal and especially to Ambilkunda or Amritkunda. Shri Prabhu told his family members in most compassionate words about His Mission in life. "With the Grace of Shri Dattatreya I took birth in your family. Your desire for a child was duly fulfilled. I stayed with you as long as it was necessary. Now that I have been initiated in Brahmavidya, wisdom of Brahman, My life is devoted to humanity. I will now have to wander from place to place to spread the message of the Compassionate Datta, Datta-Dayaghana, so that the misery of human beings can be alleviated. Therefore, it is futile to grieve for my loss. I will ever be with you. Go back to your home and leave me to fulfill my Mission. Whenever and wherever one needs me, I will come. This is certain; this is my promise."
In Search of the Self
Shri Prabhu was greatly attracted to the hills around Manthal where the environment was quiet and peaceful and conducive for communion with the Supreme Self. He lived for many days immersed in the blissful state of realization. Some time he would come down from the hills and roam around the town. His behaviour was some so different from normal ways of life, that people would shun him as though he was demented. The wise ones, therefore, recognizing Shri Prabhu as a great Yogi honoured and worshipped Him, which Shri Prabhu accepted as though all this was natural for Him. But at the same time like a simple, unassuming child of nature, He would distribute the things received by him among the assembled persons.
Often when in spiritual rapture, He would sing and dance and many of his bhajans were the product of such ecstatic moods. When He sang these bhajans, which in Marathi are known as "Abhanga" he seemed to be inseparable from "Datta-Dayaghana" his chosen deity.
Shri Prabhu moved from place to place like a free bird or breeze, which knew no bounds. In the bosom of Mother Nature, he had all the satisfaction and contentment which the world of the attachment and possessions would not give.
During one of his wanderings, he arrived at Chalakpur, a small town near Kalyan and stayed at Lord Hanuman temple for few months. People thronged in thousands for His darshan and to seek His blessings. The entire atmosphere was surcharged with religious fervour. Bayadevi, Shri Prabhu's mother and Nrisimha, His brother came over to Chalakpur. All experienced the overflowing Grace of Shri Prabhu and no one went back empty handed. Such was the compassion of Shri Manik Prabhu. Shri Manik Prabhu further proceeded to Mailar, which is one of the ancient holy places. Lord Shiva is worshiped here as Marthanda Bhairava and is also venerated locally as Khandoba. During this period, his fame as an Avatar of Shri Dattatreya spread further in the surrounding areas. Later Shri Prabhu left Mailar with some of his close associates to visit Holy places like Parali-Vaijanatha, Tuljapur, Pandharpur etc. From Pandharpur he went to visit Shri Junglee Maharaj at Poona and from there onward to Girnar to have communion with Guru Shri Datta, the compassionate one. Sourcing His power from the Primal source, He traveled further to Gangotri, Haridwar, Badari, Kedar, Prayag, Varanasi, Gaya, Puri, Mahur, Tirupati, Gangapur and to many Holy river banks and hills on the way.
This travel established in Him the unique feeling of all-pervading nature of his Self and the manifestation of the Supreme Brahma in everything which he saw, touched, heard and breathed.
Finally he came to Kalyan, his hometown. He decided to live there for some time to consider the steps to give shape to his mission, for the time had come when the first step was to be taken.
Some misguided Mullas, who could neither understand nor digest the popularity of Shri Prabhu in their blind orthodoxy, decided to counter the effect of Shri Prabhu's message on the people, amongst whom many were also Muslims. With a view to embarrass Shri Prabhu, they brought some plate covered with shawls, ostentatiously full of gifts. They wanted to embarrass him and make him look insignificant in the eyes of his devotees. They, therefore, surreptitiously brought beef in the plates instead of fruits etc. and offered the plates to Shri Prabhu with a false pretence of devotion. However, from a Yogi nothing is hidden and nothing can be hidden. He saw through their game and yet, graciously accepted their offerings by touching the plates. He then asked the contents to be distributed among the assembled peoples as Prasad (blessed food). When the shawl was removed what every one found was fruits and sweetmeats.
The Prasad (blessed food) was distributed to all the assembled people. The miscreants were humbled and felt ashamed. They fell at the feet of Shri Prabhu and asked for his pardon. All that Shri Prabhu did was to bless them to have good thoughts and follow the noble path, which the Koran (Holy scripture of Islam) has prescribed for them.
The area where Shri Prabhu spent much of his human life was ruled by a Muslim King and the population was also predominantly Muslim. Therefore, the above incident created a lasting impression on them and they considered Shri Prabhu to be an Avatar of Mehaboob Subhani, a Muslim Saint, which belief they can now hold. The Manik Prabhu Sampradaya also reciprocates this faith.
In the festivities at Maniknagar both Hindus and Muslims take part with equal enthusiasm. This is indeed the unique example Sakalamat Sampradaya, equality and universality of religions and faiths. A Yogi sees no difference between the various manifestations of the Lord, and for him everything that is in the world is but the manifestation of the Lord.
Large followings need a focal point to gather together. Shri Prabhu felt the need to have such a spiritual centre. Till now he was wandering from place to place in his own state of constant awareness of the Supreme Bliss. The descent of the Lord is not only for the sake of destruction of evil but also for the establishment of righteousness. Lord Krishna said "For the protection of the good and destruction of the evil, for establishment of righteousness, I come into being from age to age". (Bhagavat Gita IV.8)
Later while traveling with some devotees He stopped near the confluence of the two rivers. There as Shri Prabhu sat under the Audumbar tree (Lord Dattatreya is believed to dwell under this tree) in ecstatic meditation, the decision to establish the spiritual centre at that very place was taken. Thus was established what is today known as the village of MANIKNAGAR.
The time and place selected by Shri Prabhu for establishing the spiritual centre near Humnabad seemed significant as well as ideal. Those were the troubled times, both politically as well as religiously. He selected the confluence of the two rivers for establishing his spiritual centre, as if to emphasize that he wanted to bring the two communities (Hindus and Muslims) together. In his visionary mind he saw these two streams of great faith come together and live life of peace and understanding. How prophetic his vision was can be seen by the fact that even today both the Hindus and the Muslims flock to Maniknagar each year, to honour the great founder of the Universal Truth, the SAKALAMATA.
Originally, a small hut was constructed to establish the GADI, or the Spiritual Seat, which in time to come was to be associated with the living spirit of Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj. Sitting on the Gadi, he would give Darshan to audience and His very Darshan would give peace and contentment to all who visited Maniknagar. Shri Prabhu's mother, who had till then endured separation from her son, came to Maniknagar with the rest of the family.
In the Durbar, the people gathered would bask in the aura and the benevolent grace of Shri Prabhu. The entire atmosphere would be surcharged with spiritual splendour. Shri Prabhu would cast his compassionate glance on all, making everybody participate in the bliss, which he was experiencing.
People from far and near would come with their doubts and Shri Prabhu, even though he had not received formal education in the scriptures than the philosophers in his Durbar and was able to clear all doubts with great ease. Sometimes he would reply even before the questions were asked. Such was his authority, wisdom and spiritual insight. The graceful presence of Shri Prabhu that his very Darshan would assuage all the misery of a person.
He treated all devotees alike and wanted true devotion than outward austerity echoing the words of Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita (IX.26) "Whosoever offers to Me, with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, that offering of love, of the pure heart, I accept".
Devotion to the Guru should be like that of the child towards its mother. Whether the mother is nearby or not, the child is ever confident that the mother will listen when it is in distress. If such confidence and faith is there, then Shri Prabhu's Grace will ever be with us to guide us and tide us over the difficult times. Many devotees have experienced this expansive Grace of Shri Prabhu even when they have been in places far from Maniknagar. For surely Shri Prabhu does not reside only in Maniknagar but in the heart of all the devotees as well.
The grandeur of Shri Prabhu's Durbar proved one thing. When the Lord oversees us, He knows our needs and so ordains accordingly. Whether we ask for little or more, Shri Prabhu knows fully well what is good for us. If there is 'Shraddha' (Faith) in us, nothing else is needed. If there is no Shraddha (Faith) then all efforts and endeavours to please Shri Prabhu are to no avail. He distributed wealth as well as health as needed by the sincere devotees. He was a great Yogi, a great recluse. For him wealth was as good as dust. He saw the Lord in both. Therefore whether he sat on a throne or on an earthen mound, for him it made no difference.
No one was stranger to Shri Prabhu. He knew each one by name as well as his problems. It was the Durbar of Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj and each one returned from there with a satisfied and contented mind, for Shri Prabhu was, indeed, the Kalpavriksh (Wish Fulfilling Tree).
Mahasamadhi (leaving the gross body)
Shri Prabhu himself was not bound by the gross body. He had realized his Self. When he realized that the time had come for him to shed his mortal coil and merge in the Infinite, he considered seriously the future course to be laid down for the mission to continue, which was as important as the manner in which he would discard the gross body. As Shri Prabhu was reluctant to disclose the time of his own departure to all, he took only three or four persons into confidence, those who understood the significance of his Avatar (incarnation). The news was kept in utmost confidence and all the required work was carried on with a smile on the face but with remorse in the heart. He advised them, "You think that once I take Samadhi everything will end and I will no more be available to you. What you will miss is the sight of my Gross body, but my Self, the spirit within, will ever remain with you to guide you without your realizing that fact. There will not be any breach in your spiritual path. Remember that decay and destruction of the gross body is certain. When every breath has already been numbered and assigned what is the purpose of grieving?" Shri Prabhu consoled them; "It is good that my work here is now coming to an end. You will all be able to carry the mission further by the Energy, which I will be leaving behind. What's the use of remaining alive in this worthless body when the work is complete?"
One day, a small boil was noticed on Shri Prabhu's back. He supervised the place where he was to take Samadhi (shedding the mortal coil). The pit was dug in all secrecy and no one in Maniknagar could get even a breath of it. Soon the auspicious month of Margashirsha arrived. People from great distances flocked Manik Nagar to celebrate the annual Shri Datta Jayanti (birth day celebrations of Lord Dattatreya) festivities. Somehow that year was considered auspicious for Muslims also. Consequently, Shri Prabhu's Muslim devotees also came in thousands.
As time passed, Shri Prabhu's health was deteriorating steadily. The small boil was getting bigger and more painful. Yet, Shri Prabhu's face bore no trace of the pain and it was blissful and tranquil as ever. On the tenth day of Margashirsha, Shri Prabhu decided to summon the Durbar, so that people could have his final Darshan. All arrangements were made for Shri Prabhu to sit in as comfortable a position as was possible.
The next day was Ekadashi, the eleventh day of the month. For Hindus it is one of the most auspicious days. It is the day on which, thousands of years ago Shri Krishna delivered the message of Bhagavad Gita to Arjun. This day is observed as Gita Jayanti. This 29th day of the month of November 1865 was the day on which Srhi Prabhu had decided to take Samadhi and merge His Self with the Supreme Self.
Before samadhi He called two sons of His brother Narisimha and blessed them and thus the line of succession to the Gadi (spiritual seat) was laid down for all to know. He made the elder one Manohar the successor to Gadi by transferring His Eternal Energy to him. Thus the Guru-Parampara of Shri Manik Prabhu Sampradya was established for all time to come. The successors to the Gadi (spiritual seat) after Shri Manik Prabhu took Samadhi are:
Shri Manohar Manik Prabhu
Shri Martan Manik Prabhu,
Shri Shankar Manik Prabhu and
Shri Siddharaj Manik Prabhu
Having done this Shri Prabu started walking towards the hut where the pit was dug. With his face glowing with extraordinary spiritual splendour, Shri Prabhu took each step. It was like the space merging within the space leaving no trace whatever. For Shri Prabhu the occasion was joyous for it was like going back to the origin from where He had started. He sat in the pit in Padmasana (lotus posture), forcing His Kundalini to rise and reach the Brahmarandhra. The pit was closed slowly by the close associates, in a mood that was surcharged with spiritual fervour.
The news of Shri Prabhu having taken Samadhi was kept secret till Poornima (full moon day), lest the grieving crowds might vitiate the solemn and serene occasion, in their ignorance if the significance of the event. When they came to the Gadi for Shri Prabhu's Darshan as usual, before they departed from Maniknagar, they were shocked to hear the news. They rushed to the hut in uncontrollable grief. Close devotees and associates had to pacify the crowd.
Shri Prabhu had assured time and again, His continued presence in Maniknagar. He answers the prayers of all who keep Faith in Him.
Official Website : http://www.manikprabhu.org/