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Book Review: The Whole Thing, The Real Thing; Brief biography of Shri Grudeva

March 2, 2017

 

The Whole Thing, The Real Thing; Brief biography of Shri Grudeva

 

English version by Prem C. Pasricha from the Hindi book by Rameswar Tiwari. First Published in 1977 by Delhi Photo Company, New Delhi, India

Printed at Thomson Press (India) Limited Faridabad, Haryana

Genre: Spirituality

 

 

“Ram Naam Satya hai. Lord, Thy Name is Truth.” The seven year old heard those words chanted as he watched his, now dead, hundred year old grandfather being taken away. The grandfather had been “his most beloved companion, playmate, friend,”

 

For ease I will use the name Maharaj Shri to talk about the boy who came to be revered as a holy man.  His given name when he was formally ordained at the age of thirty-six into the ascetic order was Shri Swami Brahmanand Saraswati Maharaj.  

 

The story of his life is not a traditional biography but a collection of “his life’s experiences as narrated by him to his many devotees who took notes of what he said.” He used those life experiences to illustrate what he was teaching his devotees. But Maharaj Shri was a recluse and not in the habit of giving lectures or teaching so the book is short and details of his personal life is sparse. But that’s not the point of the book.

 

This book attempts to show that it is “about a man who found a way to intelligent self-completeness, a way to live wholly in tune with the WHOLE…” It starts with the seven year old who, by the time he was eight years old, had left home having made a decision to “devote himself entirely to spiritual development”. To me that means he was looking for union with God where every moment his WHOLE mind was one with God. And I use the word God because that is my description of that Force or Truth which is all there is and which we cannot describe. There are many paths to God, Truth, or whatever descriptor you use but only one God/Truth.  So someone from India may have a different name for God than I do.

 

If you are someone looking for the same union with God in your life this book will inspire you. In the stories related we see how Maharaj Shri lived wholly in tune with God. While this is clear from the beginning my favorite story tells of the young disciple leaving the ashram of his guru (Swamiji) with the other disciples to listen to an eminent speaker on Indian philosophy. Halfway there he realized he had all the knowledge he needed from his Swamiji and returned to the ashram on his own. Seeing his devotion Maharaj Shri’s Swamiji sent him off to study on his own returning to the ashram only on a weekly basis. Some weeks later a messenger was sent to ask him if there were any rooms vacant where he was, and the reply was no. However, the messenger saw many rooms vacant. The young Maharaj Shri, on his return to the ashram was asked the question by his Swamiji and the reply was, “As far as I’ve been able to understand, Guruji, you do not live in the houses made of stone and clay. You live subtly in the hearts of your devotees. Shricharan, all the space in my heart is already occupied by you. The day I surrendered myself to you. I emptied every nook and corner of my heart and filled it up with love of you. No room lies vacant here…”

 

There is one part of his life, however, that I cannot understand and it makes me pause and wonder about how and why my image of someone completely in tune with God differs with his actions. Not only did Maharaj Shri not allow himself to be touched by women, he did not even permit meetings with women or the “untouchables” of Indian caste societies, the poorest of the poor and the most denigrated. Why, as a holy man in union with God, would he not view all people as one with God and himself? He says to a woman who requested an opportunity to meet with him, “The potter molds a water pot, gives birth to it. The water pot finds its way to the Holy sacrarium. But the potter stands outside, not permitted to enter the Sanctum.” My feeling is that as a holy man he would have wanted to share his knowledge to all who seek in earnest so that they may enter the Sanctum too. Perhaps he was a man of his times in that his cultural traditions conditioned him against these things. But if this is the case, how could he be truly in union with God?

 

Despite my misgivings about Maharaj Shri’s prohibiting women and untouchables I found the book inspiring and uplifting. It reminds me that I am working to empty every nook and corner of my heart to fill it with the love of God and be WHOLE, of one mind with God. I would recommend it to anyone interested in doing the same. It is short and easy to read.

 

A friend lent me a copy of this book but if you are interested in this book the only place I’ve found a reasonably priced copy is at Vedicbooks.net and a very expensive copy at Amazon.com. However, your local library may have a copy, you never know!

 

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