On one of my recent trips I went to visit the ashram of Dayalu Baba, a sadhu residing on the edge of the Salandi reserve forest in Odisha, I noticed his glasses were broken and were missing one arm. He had improvised by tying a string around it, and was wearing them crooked because without the other arm they couldn’t stay straight.
Being a sadhu staying in the forest with no income, he isn’t in a position to buy or repair things like his glasses. In fact, that pair I had bought for him many years ago, and he was still using it even though it had become unusable. I asked baba if we could arrange a trip for him to go to the eye hospital in Bhadrak, which is about two hours away, and he agreed to go after a couple days.
Since he is located in a remote place, it’s a bit difficult to do even a simple thing like this. We have to rent a car, drive two hours to his ashram, then drive two hours back to the city to visit the hospital, then drive him 2 hours back to his ashram, and finally we have to drive 2 hours back to our ashram in the city. So such a small thing ends up taking 8 hours of driving, not to mention the time in between. It ends up becoming an entire day’s work and is quite tiring.
To make sure the prescription was correct, we took him to two regular eye shops, and finally to the special eye hospital where they did a much better job on the eye test. The first two places we weren’t satisfied that they had the correct prescription. Since I knew my own eye prescription, I made sure to test my eyes in each place as well to compare whether they were accurate, but even for me they were off.
Dayalu Baba had a hard time communicating with them and answering the questions during the tests. As they tried different powers of lenses, he wasn’t able to tell which lens was better because he wasn’t used to the whole process, having spent his whole life in the forest. Finally in the Bhumipati Eye Hospital they did a better job, were more patient to make him understand the questions, and got his prescription correct, and I was able to further confirm it when my prescription was also accurate.
Having completed the tests we drove him back to his ashram, and then I placed an order for his glasses online through Lenskart. The local shops were charging much more for less quality frames, and with Lenskart I was able to get the “buy one get one free” offer, so we got two pairs for a total of 2,000 Rs., where as locally they wanted 2,500 Rs. for one pair.
We had to wait a week for them to be delivered to us (as there is no mail where Baba stays), and then again we rented a car to go deliver them to him. When he finally tried them on he was surprised at how clear everything looked.
Most of us take eye sight for granted, but just think how the world would look if everything was blurry. These sadhus tolerate such things in life because they have no means to get simple things like eye glasses. Whenever we go to visit sadhus we try to observe what things they need, whether groceries, or clothes, or anything else, and also always give them a small donation for whatever expenses they may have to deal with. Those of you who have been donating and supporting our ashram over the years are actually supporting all of this.
Two more stories I will mention related to helping sadhus with their eyesight.
There is a mystic sadhu who stays in a small village in Tamil Nadu in South India, and who lives in an inconspicuous garbage pile. I avoid mentioning his name because he doesn’t want people to come to him and has told us not to take any photo or publicize his location. I have been visiting him on and off for around 15 years, and have observed he has a divine inner vision where he can mystically see things happening far away. I don’t want to get too much side tracked explaining it, but I think I have to at least give one example to put the story in context.
One of the early times I went to see him he was in his pile of garbage as usual. While I was about to leave he took an old plastic bottle from the garbage that looked filthy, gave it to me and told me I should go to a saint’s samadhi next door and fill it with water from a government water tap (basically water that runs through open canals). I went to fill the water as instructed and came back to him. He said carry that water with you and drink it as you go home.
We got in the car and began the long drive back to Chennai. About 30 minutes later I tell the devotees I am with that the bottle was really unclean, sitting in the garbage pile, and it had some liquid in it for maybe months, which could cause any type of sickness. In addition to that, the water was from an unfiltered government water tap, which you usually need to filter or boil, otherwise you can get typhoid. So I said we need to be practical and we shouldn’t actually drink the water, we can instead pour the water on a tree so the water isn’t wasted.
We stopped the car, went to the side of the road, found a nice plant, and I poured out the bottle of water that the sadhu told me to drink. We didn’t think anything about it again for many months.
Six months later we again went to visit this sadhu. As soon as he saw me, without saying anything else, he asked, “Why didn’t you drink the water?”
The devotee who came with me didn’t remember I had poured the water out, so he replied, “What do you mean, there was no water. I don’t understand what you are talking about.”
Again the sadhu repeated, “Why didn’t you drink the water?”
The devotee replied, “I don’t know what you are talking about. I don’t recall any water.”
A third time the sadhu again says, “Why didn’t you drink the water?”
The devotee with me had no clue what he was talking about, but I remembered and was kind of sitting quietly embarrassed. After he asked three times, it was clear he wasn’t going to leave us, so I said, “We’re sorry, this devotee doesn’t remember, but you gave me a bottle of water to drink, and I poured it out to a tree because I thought we would get sick.”
Then the sadhu said, “This time, fill up the water and make sure you all drink it.”
And that’s what we did. We understood we had made a mistake, and he wanted us to drink the water from the samadhi to purify us. So we filled up the bottle of water and each of us drank it.
He had given us the water six months before, and I had poured the water out 30 km away from there, but he knew I poured the water out, and he remembered it for 6 months and wouldn’t let us change the topic till we answered why we had poured out the water.
This is just one example, but I have seen him do this dozens of times in various ways. So with this backstory in mind, here is an interesting thing that happened when we visited him recently.
As usual we spent the day and night with him, and in the morning before leaving I saw his eye glasses were cracked, so I asked him if he needed new eye glasses.
He said he did need them, but that he can’t leave the place to go get his eyes tested as he never leaves his pile of garbage and doesn’t mix with people. Even with devotees who come to visit him, we have to stand 10 or 15 feet away from him, as our aura disturbs him if we get too close.
I was thinking how will I know what power of glasses to get if we can’t take him for testing. It was also quite far and remote, and I wouldn’t be able to come back again for perhaps a year.
After discussing for some time he said, “Anyway, I have already been told how long till my eye sight will be cured and restored to normal again. I was given a particular date. Instead of getting new glasses for me, you can pray to Bhagavan that my eyesight is cured and my original eyes see normally. That’s my request, that you all pray to Bhagavan to cure my eyes.”
Seeing no other solution, we accepted his instruction and started to drive back to Chennai. On the way home I had to switch off my mobile phone because the battery was low. Half way back to Chennai I turned it on because none of us had eaten all day, it was already 6pm and everyone was hungry. I wanted to find a vegetarian restaurant nearby where we could eat something. When I looked at the map I saw there was an ancient Shiva temple about 200 meters up the road from us. I quickly looked up the details of the temple and saw it was one of the 275 ancient Shiva temples sung by the Tamil shaivite saints (Nayanmars).
The name of the temple was Panankateeswarar temple, located in the small village of Panayapuram, near to Villupuram.
I told to the other devotees, “Let’s go to this temple first since its so near to us, and we may not get a chance to visit this ancient temple again.”
The temple, being located in a small village, was not very crowded with just a few people inside. We quickly entered inside the inner chamber to have darshana of the shivalinga, and the priest started offering camphor arati.
We asked him, “What is the history of this temple.”
The priest replied, “This is the temple where people come to pray for curing eye problems. There is an ancient inscription in the temple from king Rajendra Chola calling this deity as ‘Nethrodharaka Swami’, meaning the deity who will cure eye ailments.” Having said that, the priest walked away.
We immediately remembered Baba’s request a few hours before, “Please pray to Bhagavan that my eyesight will be cured,” and realized it was another miracle he had performed.
We all prayed to Lord Shiva to cure Baba’s eyesight and then continued on our way back to Chennai.
Somehow by divine arrangement despite me having my mobile phone switched off all day, I chose to turn it on just as we passed this temple, allowing me to see its location in the map, somehow we decided to stop here and visit the temple despite it being late and everyone being hungry, and somehow the first and only words out of the priests mouth to us were, “This is the temple where people come to pray for curing eye problems.” Everything had been magically arranged by Lord Shiva so that we could fulfil the request of the Baba who asked us to pray to Bhagavan on his behalf.
One last interesting thing happened in this incident. As soon as I finished praying to Lord Shiva to cure Baba’s eyesight, I went outside the temple and sat down on the ground. Immediately a dog came running up to me and sat on my lap and wouldn’t leave. In my nearly 30 years in India this happened only one other time, in Tiruvannamalai while doing girivalam pradakshina. Often the divine beings use animals to convey messages.
The last story I want to mention happened around 15 or 16 years ago, which I mentioned once before here. A great saint named Brahma Chaitanya Das who has spent his whole life in the deep forest was suffering from cataract, causing his eye sight to be bad. As a result a few times he had tripped and hurt his ankle as he couldn’t see the stairs properly in the twilight.
At the time he was already around 85 years old. I requested Baba if I could arrange for a cataract surgery to cure his vision. He replied, “My guru has given me these eyes, why should I change them. If my guru chose to give me eyes like this, I will keep my eyes like this.” This is the amazing guru nishtha of Brahma Chaitanya Das, who is called locally as Chakratirtha Baba.