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Supreme Teacher

SRI VASUDEVANANDA SARASWATHI


(TEMBE SWAMY)
Ganesh Bhat and Ramabai, pious devotees of Datta belonged to the Tembe family of Maanegaon village in Maharashtra. Ganesh Bhat recited the name of Datta always and he frequently visited Srikshetra Ganagapur to worship Sri Narasimhasaraswathi. He spent twelve years at Ganagapur in Narasimhasarswathi Swamy's service. One day Sri Narasimhasarswathi Swamy, in a dream said to Bhat, "You need not come to Ganagapur for my sake from now. As you are a householder go back to your house. Your desire will be fulfilled. I will come to meet you". Lord Datta pleased with the pious and religious nature of Ganesh Bhat and his wife was born to them as their son proving the significance of his name, giving himself to his devotees. That auspicious day was 13th of August in the year 1854 (year Ananda, 5th day of Sravana before full moon), Sunday. The divine child was named as Vasudeva Sastry. He strictly followed all the observances concomitant to 'upanayana', like sandhyavandana, Sri Gurucharitra parayana, study of Vedas, to cook his own food, the daily offering to God etc. right from the day he bore the sacred thread. The life of Vasudeva is the best example how an individual can attain the divine splendour through regular and strict observance of those religious practices. He also learnt astrology and Sanskrit from his Gurus. He was married at the age of twentyone to Annapurnabai. As he studied Vedas devoutedly he attained 'mantra siddhi' (a mystical power of syllables) with the help of which he relieved many people from misery and hardship. As he regularly did the parayana of Sri Guru Charitra, he constantly experienced the grace of Datta. Once he was crossing a jungle and came across a tiger. Vasudeva climbed a tree with fright. Lord Datta, then came as Atmaram Jadiye, a brave man and saved him. Vasudeva longed to go to Narasobavadi but his mother did not permit him. One night Datta appeared
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in the guise of a Brahmin boy in his dream and said, "Your mother will permit. You will get the money and company required for the journey. Go to Narasobavadi." By the time of daybreak everything was arranged and he set out for Narasobavadi. He rested at 'Borugaon' on the way. In his dream that night Vasudeva felt that somebody told him to have darshan of Govinda Swamy, a yogi at Narasobavadi. As they reached Narasobavadi the next day, they were welcomed by Govinda Swamy who called them by their names and enquired about their wellbeing. As the clothes worn by Vasudeva were dirty, the priests did not allow him inside the temple to worship the sandals of Datta. Lord Datta said to Govinda Swamy who lived in the adjoining Math, "Go and see what's happening in the Mandapa. The priests are not allowing the poor Brahmin who came from such a long distance, inside". On the word of Govinda Swamy the priests allowed Vasudeva inside. He worshipped the sandals regularly for a month. One day Lord Datta in a dream said to Vasudeva, "Get Guru Charitra from Sankara Bhatt from Miraj and do parayana". Sankar Bhatt normally never gave his Guru Charitra to anybody. Hence Lord Datta instructed him too to give Guru Charitra to Vasudeva. Later Vasudeva did parayana for a week (Saptaha) without taking food. After some time Govinda Swamy told Vasudeva to worship Datta (Datta upasana). Vasudeva questioned, "Why this upasana in addition to the worship of sun and fire which we already have?'" That night Lord Datta himself gave him the mantra in a dream. Govinda Swamy rose from his bed and said, "My dear Sastry! He has given the mantra. I will teach you how to practice it." Having understood that Govinda Swamy was linked to Datta inseparably Vasudeva accepted him as his Guru and did the practice. One day Lord Datta ordered Vasudeva to live in Maanegaon for seven years. He set off to the village but halted at 'Kagal' in order to buy an idol of Datta. But unexpectedly a stone carver gave him an idol of Datta saying
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that Lord Datta had ordered him the previous night in a dream to do so. As he reached Maanegaon a widow came to him and gave him some land saying that she was told to do so by her husband in a dream. Vasudeva built a temple in that land and the idol of Lord Datta was consecrated. Lord Datta in this idol was always in a cheerful mood to Vasudeva and he used to talk with him. On a birth anniversary of Datta (Datta Jayanthi) a relative of Vasudeva died, but it was not revealed as it would hinder the celebrations. When Vasudeva went to the temple in the morning "Siva! Siva!", do not touch me, you are polluted" said the all knowing Datta. Similarly, on other occasion during a lunar eclipse, the scholars advised the priests of all temples to follow the normal routine of poojas etc., as the eclipse would not be seen in the area. But in the night before the day of eclipse, Lord Datta appeared in a dream and said to Vasudeva, "Tomorrow the eclipse will be seen, hence do not offer alms". Next day it was proved true. On another occasion, Vasudeva along with his mother was staying at a choultry (inn) in Narasobavadi. That night Datta appeared in a dream to both of them and said, "This choultry is completely ruined. Go to another place." The next morning when they came out from the choultry it collapsed. Vasudeva translated the Guru Charitra from Marathi to Sanskrit as instructed by Datta. Datta asked him to name the book as 'Dwi Sahasri' (a book of two thousands slokas). Vasudeva was doubting the significance of the title as the book contained less than two thousand slokas. But Datta clarified that as per the standards of Devi Saptasati (in which half slokas, commentary, mantras were also included), it would become 'Dwi Sahasri'. Once Vasudeva was on a pilgrimage of Datta Kshetras along with his wife and he reached Gangakheda. One night in a dream Lord Datta said to Vasudeva, "On the fourth day from today I would take both of you into me". However, Vasudeva was a staunch follower of Varnashramadharma
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and wanted to take sanyas. He requested Lord Datta to take only his wife. She was infected with cholera and died soon. The night when all the ceremonies were concluded, Lord Datta appeared in a dream in the guise of his Guru, Govinda Swamy and chanted 'Om' in Vasudeva's right ear, asking him to recite it always and to live only on alms. Next day Vasudeva went to the banks of Godavari and before the assembly of so many Brahmins he did all the expiatory acts. He wished that a competent person would come and initiate him into sanyasa. Suddenly as if called by some body, a sanyasi came from the other bank of Godavari, conducted the requisite formalities and initiated him into sanyas and disappeared. After Vasudeva completed the other formalities of being initiated into sanyasa, he searched for the person who had initiated him into sanyas to offer alms but he was not seen. Every body understood that he was none other than Lord Datta. Later Vasudeva was instructed by the Lord to attain the sacred staff from Srimad Paramahamsa Sri Narayananandasaraswathi Swamy of Ujjain. This Swamy belonged to the family of Swamy Narasimhasaraswathi of Karanja. Samardha was their tradition. Since then Vasudeva was renowned as Srimad Parahamasa Parivrajakacharya Sri Sri Sri Vasudevananda Saraswathi Maharaj. As he belonged to the family of Tembe, he was also known Tembe Swamy. He toured north to south on foot and conducted twentyfour chaaturmasas (religious observances for four months). The glory that emanated from Maharaj in those periods and his writings and teachings confirm that he was an incarnation of Lord Datta. Once Maharaj was on foot to Kashi when he lost his way, amidst a thick forest and hillocks. There was no sign of any village nearby. Then Lord Datta in the guise of a tribal boy said, "Are you going to Kashi? Let me show you the way, come with me." Maharaj followed him. They came across a small hillock and after crossing over it reached a village. The boy told Maharaj that he could take rest there and easily go to Kashi from that village and disappeared. The people of the village told that normally it would
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take three days to reach the village but when Maharaj reached there within an hour and half they rejoiced it as the miracle of Datta. During the period of Chaaturmasa at Brahmavartha Maharaj wrote Datta Purana on the lines of Rigveda, in three thousand and five hundred slokas in Sanskrit. At another time he was on the way to Badari in Himalayas. A huge mass of ice obstructed their way. Two persons coming over the ice told them to retreat, as there was no way on the other side and it was dangerous to cross the ice. Maharaj replied that he would never go back without having darshan of Narayana. They disappeared. Maharaj wondered who they were, when Nara and Narayana appeared at a distance for a few seconds. Maharaj conducted a chaaturmasa at 'Pethlad' a village near Indore in Madhya Pradesh during which he wrote 'Datta Leelamrutha Sindhuvu' in thousand 'ovis' - a meter of poetry of Marathi language. During the stay at Pethlad, a night before Naraka Chaturdasi (of Deepavali) Lord Datta appeared in dream and said, "Tomorrow I want an anointed bath". Maharaj replied, "I am a sanyasi. Where shall I bring hot water and scented oil from? As an alternative to anointing bath I will anyhow smear your body with ashes as part of regular practice." Next day, he smeared the idol with ashes, kept it on the pedestal and went for alms. Lord had become angry and wanted to hide in the river Narmada. Maharaj returned after taking alms and went into pooja room to give Datta an offering, when a voice was heard, "Today is the festival of Deepavali but you have not given me the auspicious bath and now you have come to feed me. 1 am not dying for your offering. Here I go... in to the river." The idol was not there. Maharaj immediately ran to the banks of the river searching for the idol, when he heard the crying of a baby from underneath the water. He looked towards the river, where he saw the idol floating on the water glowing with divine light. Maharaj carried the idol as if he was carrying a little child. In the meanwhile the villagers arranged hot water, scented oils and other things, required for the anointment
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and performed the anointment ceremony. The villagers questioned about the idol worship of Maharaj even though he was a sanyasi. Maharaj replied, "Everyman must do the worship of a form (Saguna). All the shastras command man to do Sagunopasana. They should be followed as one would follow the royal order. A king should live like a king in a palace. If he lives like a common man he is not honoured. Similarly Lord Datta who is a king of kings should be worshipped with all the honour. In what other way can we show our veneration to his greatness? Without this - the sagunopasana, one cannot climb to nirgunopasana or attain Supreme knowledge." Maharaj explained the importance of sagunopasana. After the darshan of the sandals of Datta on Girnar Mountain, Maharaj came to Prabhasa Teerdha. Here Maharaj, as ordained by Lord Datta wrote the commentary for nine chapters on 'Dwisahasri' Gurucharitra, though the original written by him at Maanegaon was not with him at that time. Later the commentary of remaining fourteen chapters was completed at Dwaraka. Maharaj later described that it was not in his capacity to write the commentary in the absence of the original but Lord Datta had written through him. During the chaturmasa observance at Mahatapura he compiled all the stories of Datta Purana in to a book entitled 'Datta Mahatmyam' in a regional dialect. During the same period he also wrote a Sanskrit book 'Trisati Gurucharitra' in three hundred slokas. During the stay of Maharaj at Brahmavartha, a scholar by name of Sastry from Gwalior questioned him, "Which sastra permits a sanyasi to do idol worship?" "It was not mentioned in shastras but that idol of Datta is not leaving me", answered Maharaj. The scholar said in disbelief, "you leave that idol, that's enough". Maharaj agreed to the proposal. Next day after his bath Maharaj left the idol of Datta in the river Ganges and returned to the bank. Lo! The little idol of Lord Datta, which should have disappeared in the water, came and stood before Maharaj. The incident was witnessed by
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the scholar from Gwalior, the pride he took in nirgunopasana was gone and he understood the efficacy of sagunopasana which had been accepted and encouraged by Lord Datta himself. Maharaj foretold Appa nigideekar, a Brahmin from Karnataka that he would soon die from plague. Soon the symptoms of plague and signs of approaching death appeared in him. As he had a strong desire to take sanyas he informed Maharaj. The merciful Maharaj gave him 'instant sanyas'. Seated in a lotus posture and while he was being initiated with the chanting of 'Omkara', he left his body. It was possible only to a competent Sathguru like Tembey Swamy to grace such a superior way of leaving the body, which was natural only to mahayogis. Later Maharaj was also infected with plague but at that time Lord Datta ordered him to write 'Sama Sloki Guru Charitra' in Sanskrit comprising six thousand seven hundred and fifty slokas. Propelled with the divine power of Datta, Maharaj completed the sacred book inspite of his severe illness. Maharaj left Vadi and traveled to the North. While he was heading to Ganagapur on the way he halted at Kamalapur. In his dream, that night he saw a huge man, his arms touching the knees, telling him, "You are touring the country, writing poetry, but you do not care about me." To know whom he had seen in his dream, Maharaj prayed to Lord Datta. "Do not you know him? He is the Swamy of Akkalkot. It seems that he desires you to come to him and wants you to wirte his story". Maharaj replied, "My palate is dedicated to the sacred feet of Lord Datta, if you reveal me his greatness O Lord! and order me, I can write this book". Maharaj thought of going to Pandari first and then to Ganagapur from Kamalapur. But the Lord ordered, "You go to Ganagapur via Akkalkot. After the darshan of sandals at Ganagapur, stay there for three days. At Ganagapur a devotee - Tukaram is waiting for my darshan in a human form for the last three years, living only on fruits. I want to give him my darshan through you. Hence leave for
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Ganagapur at once." Maharaj on the way was affected with dysentery, but he continued his journey. He visited Akkalkot and had the direct vision of Swamy Samardha. Later he also saw sant Gajanan Maharaj of Shegaon. It was also described in the history of Gajanan Maharaj. Maharaj reached Gangapur, had the darshan of nirguna padukas at math but Lord Datta would not appear. Maharaj went to Papavinasa Teertha, stayed there three days with a firm resolve to have the darshan of Lord Datta. Then he heard. "You will see me at Sangam". Maharaj had darsan at Sangam. He asked, "You have promised hither to that you would always stay at math in Ganagapur, then why did not you give your darshan at math." Lord Datta replied, "Math is polluted now a days, so as I could not stay there I came over to Sangamam". As ordained by Lord Datta, Maharaj gave darshan to Tukaram, wrote an "ashtaka" which prevents all miseries, and gave it to him. On his way to Ganagapur river Krishna took the form of a lady and sought Maharaj to compose a eulogy about her. By the grace of Lord Datta, Maharaj composed extempore, a eulogy of fiftyone slokas named as 'Krishna Lahari'. While he was reciting the slokas she stood before him and listened to his compositions with contentment and then disappeared. He observed the fourteenth chaaturmasa at Narsi village. The place of discourse would get so crowded with devotees that it was difficult for them to have darshan of Maharaj. For the benefit of the devotees, Maharaj bore two bodies and he gave darshan one inside the premises and with another body he sat outside under a pipal tree. The people who had darshan inside, were astonished to see him outside also. At another time in the same village a woman has seen Maharaj with a baby of six months in his lap who was sucking it's left thumb and chuckling with joy. He told the woman, "You are very fortunate and virtuous as you have seen Datta with your eyes". Once, in Narasobavadi the palanquin festival was under way and there was a stampede. Suddenly the idol of Datta fell on the ground from the hand of a priest. Treating it as a bad omen and afraid of an impending disaster the
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priest went to Narsi to see Maharaj and prayed to suggest a remedy. Then Maharaj asked Lord Datta, "Why did you fall from the palanquin?" The angry Lord said, "The priests are not following the principles laid by you, more over they are so ungrateful and blaming you. They are throwing forbidden things on my sandals, I am unable to bear them. A good system is to be evolved for such things not to happen again. Whenever there is a disturbance to the righteous order, difficulties would surely arise. You have to punish them". Maharaj then told .the priests of Wadi to have good conduct, to attend all the religious duties diligently and to recite the 'Datta Karunashtaka' with a sense of remorse for their wrong doings. Kuruvapuram is a small island in river Krishna. It was a holy place where Sripada Srivallabha lived. Maharaj also lived there for some time. As the priests were not following the religious observances of Brahmins, he wanted to leave Kuruvapuram in disgust. Then, Sripada Srivallabha in the guise of a bachelor came to Maharaj and said, "This land was donated to me by a washerman. The revenue from the land is being used for the lamps and offerings. Hence the source of the food and the way with which it is prepared is pure. That is why; I am taking the alms, why do not you? Do not mind the practices of the people, accept alms." From then he took alms from the houses of the priests. A cave in a hillock at Kuruvapuram was suitable for meditation. But a snake resided there. Maharaja requested the snake to leave the cave and go to some other place. The snake was so gentle that it took shelter near a peepal tree. When Maharaj was in meditation the snake regularly came for the darshan of Maharaj. At Baroda, Maharaj lived in Garudeswar near the banks of river Narmada. Some Muslim devotees came to Maharaj and told him about their sufferings. Maharaj gave them a few medicines and told them to recite few stanzas from the Khuran regularly. The Muslim devotees were bewildered as the Maharaj uttered those stanzas from the Khuran which were not known
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even to them who read khuran everyday. At Gurudeswar prasad was distributed every night after bhajan. One day devotees attended in large number. Sabnis, the organizer of the temple doubted that the quantity of prasad would not be sufficient for all. After the prasad was distributed to half of the people Maharaj told them to put the vessels before him. When he removed the lids of the vessels the prasad was full in all the vessels. The money offered to Maharaj was kept in a box and Sabnis used it for expenses of the Ashram. Everyday more than two hundred devotees visits the ashram. One day Sabnis was worried about the next day's expenditure as there were only three rupees left in the box. Maharaj said, "Do not worry! Every thing will happen according to the 'will' of God". Next day the shopkeeper who supplied provisions from the city came and asked for payment. Maharaj looked at Sabnis and told to give 'that' money. When Sabnis opened the box - it was full of gold coins. Once at the river Godavari near a village called 'Ganga masale' Maharaj cautioned every body not to get into water and he went to take his bath. But some men not heeding his caution, got into the river. One of them was washed away in the flow of water. Others searching for him dragged him to the banks. But by then he died. Maharaj said, "Why do not you listen to what I say and invite problems for me?" He prayed to Lord Datta and sprinkled water over the corpse. He was brought back to life. The amazed people celebrated the occasion. Once during his journey on foot Maharaj had the darshan of Sri Nrusimhasarswathi Swamy - the Sankaracharya of Sringeri, who felicitated him and said to his disciples, "This mendicant is Dattatreya manifest in human form." When Maharaj was touring the country he visited Tirupathi, Srikalahasthi, Venkatgiri, Nellore and Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh. He observed Chaaturmasa in 1908 at 'Mutyala', after which he came down to Hamsaladeevi. At the confluence of the sea he took bath. He also visited
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Saptagodavari traveling through Machilipatnam. Then he came to Rajahmundry in 1910 and consecrated an idol of Datta at the branch of Sringeri Sankara Math and named him as 'Bhaktavatsala'. During his stay at Rajahmundry a devotee by name Pundareeka Rao from Nanded came to Maharaj along with his friends. When Rao was returning to his place Maharaj gave him a coconut and said, "Submit this to my brother Saibaba at Shirdi with my due salutation. Ask him not to forget me and look after me always with love. As mendicants we do not pay obeisance to any body but he is different". Later Pundareeka Rao and his friends forgot and ate the coconut on the way. When they reached Shirdi, without any introduction Saibaba asked, "Where is the coconut given by my brother". They described what had happened and told Baba that they would give him another coconut. But Saibaba said, "Nothing is equivalent to the coconut given by my brother." It is curious to note that an orthodox and pious Vasudevananda Saraswathi and a Muslim fakir like Saibaba refer to themselves as brothers. Later Maharaj had the ritual bath at Kakinada sea and came to Pithapuram. The people of Pithapuram forgot long back that their's was the birth place of Sripada Srivallabha. Maharaj after his arrival reminded the people of it. With his visit Pithapuram again became popular as a holy place of Datta. The tour of Sri Vasudevananda Saraswati was the primary cause for the spread of Datta tradition in Andhra Pradesh. Sri Vasudevananda Saraswati toured the entire country and proclaimed the superiority of Datta Marga. He removed the miseries of people arising out of sickness, evil spirits, snakes and calamities caused by other external forces by giving them various mantras and stotras of Datta. He popularized Datta Puranam and Sri Guru Charitra. Sri Guru Charitra was available only in Marathi for nearly four hundred years since Narashima Sarswathi. Maharaj translated this great book into Sanskrit in the year 1903 after which it was made available in other Indian languages including Telugu. The
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transformation of devotion towards a favourite God into the devotion towards a Guru, which was a historical and revolutionary change was effected by Sri Guru Charitra. It was a spiritual triumph in which the role of Vasudevananda Saraswathi was formidable. Here is a very important point for careful scrutiny for all the seekers and favourites of Dhyana tradition, who canvass that idol worship is very immature and meditation is the best way of spiritual practice. Many so called spiritual organizations fiercly campaign the same. A gigantic personality in spiritual arena like Sri Vasudevananda Sarswathi who was revered as the manifestation of Datta, never gave up idol worship and the Lord himself did not want him to do so.

Sri Tembe Swamy once summarised his teaching "Born as human beings our formost duty is to strive for liberation. To achieve this, the mind should be made stable. To make mind steady, the individual has to perform all the duties associated with the ashrama (Brahmacharya, Grihistha, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa to which he or she belongs, as envisaged by sastras. Listening to holy books, remembrance and contemplation of truths should be practiced regularly. One should especially concentrate on listening (sravana). It removes the harmful and irrelevant interests from the mind. Moderate, healthy and sacred intake of food gives rise to gentleness in behaviour (Satva). The degree of gentleness in our conduct can be gauged through the presence or absence of certain qualities. In man - diligence in one's own duties, the punctual performance of daily rituals, honouring the guests, reverence to cows, participating in the activities associated with God like singing bhajans, speaking softly, not harming others, serving the parents etc. the more the above qualities the more gentle we are. In woman - to live in in-law's house happily and affectionately, serving them with obedience and diligence makes her gentle. Whatever profession one may undertake to earn his bread - business, agriculture or employment one should not deviate from the duties as ordained by Vedas and one should
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never fail to follow the orders of Guru. If one does his duties perfectly the innerself becomes pure, then the upasana or practice matures into steadiness. In return it gives peace of mind. Such an unperturbed mind one day, knows itself vividly and reaches the inner reality, thereby leading to the final liberation. Thus the seven steps towards wisdom have been explained in easy and effective manner. Sri Tembe Swamy as already indicated earlier, left the body sitting before Lord Datta on a Padyami day of Ashadha in the year 1914 and reached the Supreme Being. His body, as per the rules of sanyasa order, was left in the deep waters of the river Narmada. A samadhi mandir was constructed at the place where he breathed his last. It is near Garudeswar, fifty miles away from Baroda. It is today a popular holy place of Datta tradition.

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Route to Garudeswar
Garudeswar the place of Siddhi of Sri Vasudevanandasarswathi, is situated at a distance of fifty Kms. from Baroda in the state of Gujarat.

Avadhootha Chinthana Sree Gurudeva Datta.

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