BIRTH OF A DIVINE SOUL:
It was the tranquil hour of eve; the mystical glow of the setting sun enveloped the earth and adorned it with its heavenly hues. Temple bells rang at a distance. The devout put aside their chores and lifted their hearts in prayer to the Lord. It was at this serene hour that the world was blessed with the birth of a divine soul, the pious mother --Ma Haridevi P. Vaswani.
Ma was born at an auspicious time on November 26, 1915 to god-fearing parents, mother Krishnadevi and father, Pahlajrai. Ma was the second of the seven children born to this pious couple.
THE BACKGROUND :
Beloved Ma was born in the well-known Vaswani family. Her uncle, Sadhu T. L. Vaswani was a spiritual luminary - a saint, mystic, scholar, philosopher, poet, visionary, educationist, an eloquent speaker and a humanitarian. The influence of this great soul rubbed on Ma even when she was a little child. Sadhu Vaswani would frequently visit the elder brother's house in Karachi. He would play games with the children and narrate stories from scriptures and world literature. Ma loved to follow him wherever he went. He became her childhood hero. As she grew in years, she felt her destiny was linked to his. She strongly felt the urge to dedicate her life to him to make him her spiritual master. She was drawn to him like a needle to a magnet.
Ma's father, Shri Pahlajrai was regarded as an Ideal man - a person rich in culture and character - a votary of truth. He became the officiating officer of Karachi Municipal Schools. He served the poor and needy. Ma grew in the spirit of love for truth and sympathy for the poor under his care and guidance.
Ma's mother Krishnadevi was a lady of charm and a liberal attitude. Ma inherited a strong will power from her.
A CHILD OF DESTINY:
Ma's qualities of saintliness began manifesting themselves from the early years. Ma was extremely saatvic by temperament - a peace loving child who stayed away from arguments and quarrels. She preferred to remain simple in dress and diet. She showed no craving for material things.
As a child Ma was shy, sensitive, reserved by temperament, yet exceptionally intelligent. She was guileless, trusting and tender-hearted. A scene of suffering could easily move her to tears. She loved to sit in a quiet comer and pray to God even as a child. Her beloved mother, Krishnadevi once said, "Of all the seven children, Hari has given me the least trouble." She was the favourite child of her father too. He wanted his children to receive the best education and so enrolled them in English Medium Schools. Ma studied in St. Josephs Convent, Karachi. Her father was proud of her English accent. He would often call her to recite poems in the presence of visitors. Her tryst with English poems thus began when she was still a school going child.
SUDDEN DEATH OF DEAR ONES:
Ma's Beloved father whom she loved very dearly and also admired him for the fine qualities of character that he possessed, suddenly bid adieu to this world when Mas was only 14.
Before breathing his last, however, he called his younger brother, Sadhu T. L. Vaswani to his bedside. He then placed Ma’s tender hand in his and said, "Do take care of Hari. See that she receives the best education."
This experience left Ma shattered. Barely had ten months passed by when her elder sister, Shakuntala who was very close to her, also passed away. This double loss filled Ma’s sensitive heart with a feeling of detachment and aloofness. Writing was a form of prayer for Ma. Her heart now craved to be in the company of her uncle, Sadhu T. L. Vaswani whom she regarded as her Gurudeva, her spiritual master and to whom she wanted to dedicate her all. Guruma called him “Dada” meaning elder brother out of love and affection. However, her education would not permit that.
Ma's academic career was brilliant. She topped the girl candidates in Hyderabad Sind at the Matriculation Examination when she was not even 15. She came to be known as, "The Sind Scholar."
Ma aspired to become a doctor and serve humanity. She studied Science with Biology as a subject at the D. J. Sind College, Karachi. As a part of her practical sessions, she had to dissect earthworms, cockroaches, frogs and lobsters in the laboratory. This was something Ma could never get herself to do. Her heart was extremely tender, full of compassion -a fountain of love that flowed out to all. It was not at all surprising that she fainted when she was asked to cut a frog during the vivisection.
Since Ma would never reconcile to the idea of dissecting a creature of the Lord, she chose to pass the B.Sc. Examination instead, thus, giving up the idea of becoming a doctor. One may say for Ma that she was destined to be a spiritual doctor rather than a medical one--a doctor who would free men from the ailment of materialism and draw them closer to the Lord.
LIFE AFTER GRADUTAION :
By the time Ma graduated, her Beloved Gurudeva, Sadhu Vaswani made Hyderabad in Sind the centre of his activities. He started the Mira Movement in Education by founding the Mira school for girls. Having completed her education, Ma felt like a free bird. She thought her exile, her separation from her spiritual Mentor was over and she would now be able to answer the call of Higher Living. But God had His own plans for Ma. No sooner did she graduate, she was asked to become the First Assistant at the P.P.C.M. Girls School at Sukkur. The family conditions too demanded that she work. She had to, therefore, adorn the mantle of responsibility when she was still in her teens. Ma executed the task with grace and grit. As a teacher she endeared herself to the students, who regarded her as an 'Ideal'. But for Ma this was a period of exile, for she longed to be in the company of her Gurudeva. She prayed for being liberated from the responsibility.
REUNION WITH THE GURU:
Prayers arising out of pure hearts are always answered. After one year of service at the P.P.C.M. School, the post of Headmistress fell vacant at Mira School, the school started by her Gurudeva in Hyderabad Sind. She was summoned to occupy it. Her joy knew no bounds for that would mean a reunion with the Beloved of her heart - her Gurudeva, Sadhu Vaswani.
Ma was just twenty at that time. Though reserved and sensitive by nature, she proved to be an extremely capable administrator. She was like a gift of God to the school. Under her aegis, the school made rapid strides on the path of progress. The staff and students became extremely fond of their young Head. They regarded her as their friend, philosopher and guide. Out of love and affection they called her 'Dadi' which means 'elder sister' - they felt comfortable sharing their joys, problems and sorrows with her.
As the years rolled by the school grew and so did Ma’s responsibilities. The people of Sind were more than happy with the school achievements. They suggested that the school be converted into an autonomous university and work on the lines of Tagore’s ‘Shantiniketan’. But just when the parents were dreaming of a glorious future for their little ones, the Partition of 1947 saw the light of the day. Thousands of Hindus were forced to leave their homes and migrate to India.
Ma had served the school for twelve long years. She had now to bid adieu to it. Her gurudeva, like many Hindus was compelled to migrate to free India.
Ma considered herself fortunate to be chosen by her Gurudeva to accompany him to India along with three others.
RESTARTING OF THE MIRA SCHOOL :
The Mira School was restarted in the year 1950 in Pune. Beloved Ma was once again requested to take charge of the school. This time Ma declined the offer. The twelve years of Principal ship had been years of intense yearning and longing for her. She wanted to serve her Guru, win his grace and be in his company. But she was duty bound – the responsibilities of the school kept her away from him. Besides, her gurudeva would often be on his spiritual yatras. He would travel to Karachi, Lahore, Rohri, Sukkur, Shikarpur, Udaipur, Calcutta, Kanpur, Ceylon, Madras, Jamshedpur, etc. spreading the Name Divine. He would go wherever the call came from as his mission was to wake the slumbering souls and draw them closer to the Lord. These were periods of separation and intense yearning for Ma. She would often shed tears of longing and spend sleepless nights. But now that she had been in his company after the partition, she did not want to be bound by duty once again. However, Ma had to take the responsibility of the school for one year till a worthy person could be found.
MA’S SPIRITUAL JOURNEY :
“It is not easy to live with a saint. You have to crush your ego. You have to become as humble as dust,” Ma would say. “There will be times when you feel you are walking on the razor’s edge or sitting on the edge of a volcano which might erupt any moment,” Ma would express, for the path of spirituality can never be smooth. One has to say die to the body and die to the soul. It is a path of total resignation and austerity – of trials and tribulations. What Ma had to pass through is what St. John of the cross calls, “The dark night of the soul.”
Ma’s spiritual sadhana began years ago when she served the Mira School as a Head Mistress. Ma’s personality was an ideal mix of being an energetic, enterprising person on one hand and of being withdrawn and meditative on the other. While the former helped in managing the school admirably, the latter prompted Ma to discard responsibilities to retire, to pray and meditate. Ma would often plead for freedom from the school’s responsibilities. But her Beloved Gurudeva would never favour that. She learnt to surrender to the will of the Lord which was an important lesson on the path of spirituality. Ma had implicit faith in her Gurudeva. His unfailing love provided her the strength to obey his command. Though a spiritual unrest assailed her heart, she plunged headlong into the whirlpool of activities of the school and fulfilled her duties to the best of her ability.
Ma was very dear to her gurudeva, but like a true Master, he took into his hands the moulding of his favourite disciple.
Gold shines only when it passes through the test of fire. The Master like the perfect goldsmith took to the scouring and polishing of his dear disciple into his hands.
Ma was spiritually inclined and had a high potential for the same. Her gurudeva realizing that helped her attain it through austerity.
A PROLIFIC WRITER :
Ma was a literary genius. Ma’s sorrow and anguish found comfort in writing. Her writings had a Divine expression – a spontaneous outburst of a spiritual urge. Book after book saw the light of the day. She was a poetess of a rare order. Her poems of lyric beauty reflect deep devotion and yearning for the Lord.
FOUNDING OF THE MIRA UNION :
The ex students and teachers of Mira school spread all over the globe expressed their keen desire to keep their association with Ma. They suggested an Alumni Association be formed through which they could keep in touch with the beloved of their hearts. Her gurudeva, too, felt she should form an association of Mira ex girls. Ma thus founded “The Mira Union” and became its Founder-President. The objective of the Union was service..
The members would meet off and on but most of them would specially come down to the Sadhu Vaswani Mission, Pune every year during Sadhu T. L. Vaswani’s birthday celebrations on 25 November. They would hold exhibitions and sell wares. The amount thus collected would be given in the form of “Birthday Purse Fund” to Sadhu Vaswani so that it could be spent in the service of the less privileged.
Guruma always saw a meaning in her Gurudeva’s directives. She was glad that her Gurudeva had directed her to start the Mira union, for through it she was able to serve humanity.
A LIFE OF SECLUSION :
Ma spent much time in prayer and solitude. God was an integral part of her life. She spend a lot of time in reading books on spirituality and philosophy--- in writing and in serving the downtrodden and the depressed, the forsaken and the forlorn. Ma would give the tender love of her heart all. Her pure, gentle life was radiant with the light of love and service.
Ma had a little room on the second floor of the Mira building which was like a temple and Ma spent much time in prayer there. The temple had beautiful pictures of Lord Rama, Krishna, Zorashtra, Jesus Christ, Guru Nanak, Buddha, St. Mira, Guru Gobind Singh and Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa. The place had a Divine serenity. Ma had learnt to play the sitar and the harmonium. She would engross herself in singing devotional bhajans and in doing Nam Kirtan. Fragrant incense would charge the atmosphere with Divinity. In the evenings after the aarati in her little kutiya, she would attend the congregation and meet people who lined up to seek her blessings.
END OF THE JOURNEY :
As years passed by, Ma’s Beloved gurudeva suffered from ill-health. His failing health became a source of great anxiety to his devotees and disciples. If the guru suffered physically, the devotees who loved him immensely suffered mentally.
The dreaded day dawned on January 16, 1966 when Sadhu Vaswani’s earthly journey came to a close. His passing away was a rude blow to Ma. In anguish Ma expressed, “Beloved Dada was a rock upon which I sought to build the house of my life. The rock hath disappeared and the house of this heart lies crushed and broken. Beloved Dada was even as a strong and sturdy tree round which I twined as a tendril and clung as a creeper. The tree hath vanished and this ivy feels forsaken and forlorn.”
Ma felt the very purpose of her existence had come to an end. But, not for long. She plucked courage from the very heart that was depressed. Her gurudeva had always recommended a life of service and not of utter renunciation or complete seclusion. He had toiled till the last day like a labourer in the vineyard of the Lord and served suffering humanity. Ma decided to follow his footsteps. She now took to serving humanity even more and also to writing which helped her escape from the world of sorrow and anguish.
THE BAL-KUNJ :
Ma started an association for the children called ‘The Bal-Kunj’. She had great faith in the youth and believed them to be the torch-bearers of India’s cultural heritage. Guruma believed that when they are inspired with the lives of great men and women, they become upright citizens of the country. This was indeed a yeoman service that guruma rendered to the society. More so, because the children went to convent schools and lacked in knowledge of Hindu religion ---India’s tradition and culture. Beloved Ma had a special way with the children. She loved them immensely and took personal interest in their development.
BOOKS / WRITINGS OF RARE PRICE :
Reading and writing were an integral part of guruma. She now took to writing about the life and teachings of her revered Gurudeva. She first wrote a book for children, “A Saint of Our Times” which contained the pictorial biography of the childhood years of Sadhu Vaswani. The book was very well received and was prescribed as a Rapid Reader in many schools. This inspired guruma to write recollections and reflections concerning her Gurudeva. She was the first and probably the last (since nobody has attempted after that) to write a full fledged biography of Sadhu T. L. Vaswani in English. The exhaustive and engrossing biography is an encyclopedic work – a reading which is an education in itself. In the words of Swami Ranganathananda of Ramakrishna Math, “the author is eminently fitted to write about Sadhu Vaswani. Genetic relationship as niece and spiritual relationship as disciple and personal attendant gave Hari the privilege of years of close and intimate association with the subject of her book, which only a few other biographers have commanded; she pours into this privilege her gifts of head and heart and a capacity for narration; and the resulting product is a moving story, unfolding itself chapter after chapter, of the life and work, of the dreams and visions and achievements, of a creative personality who was as much a humanist as a saint, as much an intellectual as a loving devotee, and who lived a modern life in the full blaze of the modern age.”
Reviews and opinions on the biography poured in incessantly.
Yogi Shuddananda Bharati said, “Miss Hari P. Vaswani has done a significant service to modern India by her lucid biography. The style and substance touch my heart and play before me the visions and voices of the “prophet of sweetness” as I love to call him (Sri T. L. Vaswani).
The Sunday Standard reported, “In a Saint of Modern India we have the remarkable biography of the late Sadhu T. L. Vaswani whose writings and discourses have influenced countless people to follow the spiritual way of life--- Hari P. Vaswani deserves to be congratulated on her magnificent work.”
Prof. Merle Curtis’s beautiful review ran thus, “Hari P. Vaswani seems to have caught and reflected the character and spirit of (Sri T. L. Vaswani) in a book of dedicated love and appreciation. The book has a personal touch that adds to its interest and value; yet it also seems to give its readers a heightened sense of dedication to education, to the dignity of the human being and the beauty of which life is potentially capable.”
As for guruma, her joy knew no bounds when the book was released. She remarked, “My life’s work is over.” Ma felt the message of her master – the message of love and service would now reach the aspirants and light their path to spirituality.
Subsequently Ma wrote a number of books in English and in Sindhi, her mother tongue. Several articles, poems and thoughts of rare price saw the light of the day.
MA – A DIVINE CHARISMA :
Always clad in a plain white cotton sari, Ma was simplicity personified. Her beautiful face always wore a fascinating smile. It had a Divine glow, for she led a simple life – a hidden life of prayer and austerity. She glorified the Name Divine with every breath of her being. Ma sure was a noble soul, an evolved soul; she had an aura round her. To be in her company was like experiencing the presence of God. To receive her tender touch was like being electrified – like experiencing a current running through your very being. Ma’s gentle pat on the back or a touch on the head would leave one feeling truly blessed.
Ma was a fountain of love – love emanated from her very being – love for all men, all religions, and all creation. She had an understanding heart – A Mother Heart which made her so lovable and approachable. Her gentle, humble, utterly giving and child like nature attracted all. Ma’s genuine concern and caring ways left an indelible mark on the minds of all who came in her contact. They felt drawn towards her like iron filings to a magnet.
SPREADING THE MASTER’S MESSAGE :
Guruma traveled across the length and breath of the country and the globe spreading in her words the wonderful teachings of her wonderful Master. Her mission was to share the message of her beloved Gurudeva with as many as she could and as long as she could.
Devotees from Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chenai, Rajkot, Gandhidham, Bhopal, Junagadh, Nagpur, Amravati, Bikaner, Ajmer and Jaipur and from London, Washington, Canada, Jamaica, Dubai, Spain, Miami, Singapore, Hong Kong, Manila, Colombo, etc. would organize her programmes and be thrilled to be in her midst – to have her sacred darshan. Ma was an eloquent speaker – a wonderful oratress.
To listen to Beloved Guruma was not only a blessing but a rare privilege. Her discourses had a poetic and a literary touch. She had a brilliant command over the language and her voice had the power to inspire awe and devotion. Her words of wisdom coupled with practical tips made them very appealing.
Guruma was a crowd puller. Thousands would throng to listen to her. But the beauty lay in the pin drop silence that they would maintain, for none wanted to miss out on what was music to the ears and a celestial treat to the soul.
Beloved Ma’s objective of yatras was two- fold that of spreading the Holy Name and of serving humanity. Benevolent Ma would sanction large amounts as donations for noble causes – for education – a cause dear to her heart, for the homes of the physically challenged and the less privileged, for the elder’s homes and for institutions like the ‘Nari Shalas’ which helped poor widows to earn a livelihood.
Wherever Guruma went she spread the sunshine of joy. She strongly believed in the Truth that everything is given to us as a Trust by the Lord – our time, money, energy and our very breath to be used in His service ---in the service of the needy.
People would even approach Ma with their worldly problems. Ma would listen to them patiently and then give them valuable tips. Guruma had the unique ability of analyzing problems. She could logically go to the root cause of problems and then offer solutions in simple capsules. Those who would come crying to her would go back laughing. Guruma helped build a number of broken homes too.
Beloved Guruma served humanity and the cause of her Master for over seven decades, making this earth plane a veritable heaven – transforming lives and drawing them closer to the Lord – removing sorrow and replacing it with joy.
Guruma would often say, “Make your lives beautiful. Let in the light of love and service in your lives.”
At other times Ma would say, “I wonder how people have the time to hate when life is even too short to love!”
Guruma indeed was a spiritual preacher par extraordinaire.
A LIFE OF UTTER DEDICATION :
Guruma led a life of utter dedication – a life of fruitful service – a full life – a rich life till the ripe age of 91.
Beloved Ma had come in direct contact with her Master, Sadhu Vaswani. She had served him with matchless devotion, drunk deep from the spiritual fountain that he was and in turn attained spiritual heights. Beloved Ma became an Awakener, a Path Pointer – awakening slumbering souls and lighting the path of aspirants on the spiritual path. Beloved Ma had collected precious gems from her Master’s treasure trove which she passed on to fellow pilgrims. Ma glorified the Name Divine and served humanity with every breath of her being like a devoted disciple – a true messenger of the Lord. And then a fortnight before dropping her physical form Guruma said, “Kanha ke ghar jana hai, Dada ka bulawa aaya hai” – meaning “I have to go to the abode of Lord Krishna – the call has come from my Gurudeva.” Beloved Ma kept saying this to all of us who met her but none of us realized the truth of these words. Beloved Ma had got a premonition. Beloved Ma was such a spiritually evolved soul that she could predict her own death.
And then the dreaded day arrived on June 13, 2007 when this great soul – this rare saint of God bid a quiet adieu to this world.
Guruma’s face wore a fresh and serene look. It reflected an earthly charisma and charm that filled the atmosphere with rare peace and sanctity. Her lips wore a sweet smile as if they were greeting the Lord himself for; methinks the Lord himself had come to take back this worthy messenger---this true devotee who had laboured hard in the vineyard of this world till the end. The doors of the abode of Lord Krishna; her Ishtadeva had now flung open unto her. The soul was united to the Oversoul!.
In the passing away of revered Guruma, humanity loses a prophet of love and compassion – an angel who came to heal and to bless – a Light House – a Guiding star – a Divine Messenger, for such illuminated souls visit this earth plane but once.
Sadhu Vaswani Mission loses a strong pillar – a Spiritual Preacher – a Saint of a Rare Order – a Divine Soul who moved about in human garb performing miracles and spreading the message of love and peace.
Beloved Guruma – the world’s spiritual Mother – the Holy Mother – the beloved of a countless hearts is no more in the physical form but her legacy – her aura shall forever and ever remain!