This book rolls out the vignettes of life of sages who steered humanity out of demonic clutches of decadent society. Their life-sketches offer a didactic tenor to reprimand our society to mend its inane ways. Every chapter bearing life-sketches are dotted with quotations to portray the essence of the sage'slife-aim. Thereafter a list of prominent books on the sage is mentioned. J P Vaswani dedicates this book to the present Dalai Lama. The author fondly remembered as Dada is now a nonagenarian. As a lad of 20, he had mustered to go to meet Ramana Maharishi in 1939. And surprisingly they spoke for forty minutes at a time when Maharishi hardly spoke to anyone. Dada also bears the fervid memory of Meher Baba that he recounts in this book. Dada is an ardent follower of Sadhu Vaswani who made it clear: ?Rishis are not the monopoly of India alone. They have appeared in all countries, in all periods of history?. And so Dada handpicks twenty of such savants, some famed and some incognito, from round the globe through the advent of history find a reckoning in this book.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu led the vanguard of Bhakti movement of India. His clarion call of ?Hari bol? suffused amidst the hearts of masses. With his followers propagating it far and wide the fervour for Krishna permeated worldwide. An anecdote puts it about Nimai (Chaitanya'smaiden name) and his mother. When the mother offered her son homemade delicious sweets, the little one would instead stuff his mouth with clay. Nimai would then credulously say that her sweetmeats were clumps of transformed clay. Such was the innate insight of Chaitanya.
The Roman Catholic friar, St Francis of Assisi finds a special mention even after more than eight centuries. He was a man born in opulence but gave up the ghost to ordain himself with the ?vow of poverty?. He inducted a new order of monks. His unbound benevolence to animals and environment made him the ?patron saint of animals?. The book cites several anecdotes to reckon his munificence towards the poor. When he was asked to marry he said, ?Yes, a fairer bride than any of you have ever seen?. He meant ?bride? to be poverty that he inflicted upon himself aplomb. The book offers nuggets of his sayings ? ?It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching?.
Ramana Maharshi, the exalted soul of the Arunachala throbbed with a mystic fervour and a far-fetched invigorating philosophy. He towered as a simple, saintly soul sans erudition but yet profound enough to permeate across the impregnable. Dada says, ?He spoke very little, but his profound silence communicated great truths and insights to those who could attune themselves to his vibrations?. During the encounter with Ramana Maharshi, Dada was told, ?Self-realisation is the goal of life?.Religion is not a doctrine but self-Realisation?. Maharishi Ramana maintained ??Your own self-realisation is the greatest service you can render to the world?. Dada relates young Ramana'ssojourn to attain sainthood ??Many days passed. When he was found, his body was covered by vermin. But he was totally unaware of his physical condition. Ants had made a home on his body?.
Ba?al Shem Tov was a scholar of Hebrew Scriptures. ?Tov broke the stranglehold of the conservatives to assert that ?God was not the prerogative of the scholarly and the elite, but accessible to the poor and the illiterate?. He ushered in the Cassidic movement upholding piety in Judaism among the Jews. The book also cites Joan of Arc, her apocalyptic vision that prodded her desperado act to salvage the ?ramshackled, demoralised, dispirited French army score such a remarkable victory against them?. Dada hails Ralph Waldo Emerson as the Rishi of America. Emerson masqueraded the Gita in the west.
Sri Ramanuja proponent of Vishistadvaita philosophy gave a fresh lease of sanctity to the flagging Sanatana Dharma. His Brahma Sutra Bhashya, commentary on the Brahma Sutras remains a path breaking achievement. The life of Swami Sivananda, the founder of ?Divine Life Society? reminds us how a mundane doctor splurging opulence in a quirk of fate develops an aversion to start a new life of penance and lead a mission to assuage sufferings of his fellow beings. The book relates at length the mythological account of King Kaushik getting transformed into Rishi Vishwamitra. This account is filled with didactic fervour of how an avaricious king gets reformed into a brahmarishi.
Dada had personal experience of Shri Meher Baba. Meher Baba had spent forty years in silence not uttering a single word. He had met with two severe accidents.? His left leg was broken, and right hip joint was shattered? and yet he endured all this excruciating pain without vocalizing a single word. ?He communicated most forcefully through the language of the heart ? the language of love!? C D Deshmukh was his ardent disciple who compiled a five-volume compilation of ?Discourses of Meher Baba?.
Shah Abdul Latif, a mystic visionary of the seventeenth century composed Shah Jo Risalo in Sindhi language. His tomb at Bhit in Sind is a sine qua non pilgrimage for all Sindhis. But he was no ?provincial poet: he was a world-poet with a world-message?. Dada has showcased several saints who are known among a particular community despite rendering a pervading influence. Bhakht Tuladhar, Gora Kumbhar, Nandnar are such unsung saints. Narsi Mehta stood the avant-garde of bhakti movement in Gujarat. It was he who composed the mellifluous poem ?Vaishnava jan to tene kahiye? that later mesmerised Gandhiji. Narsi Mehta taught bhakti marga and kirtan to be the epitome of sadhana.
A ricocheting quote attributed to St Francis of Assisi goes ??Where there is charity and wisdom there is neither fear nor ignorance. Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation. Where there is poverty and joy, there is neither greed nor avarice. Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt?. The lives of these twenty sages corroborate the veracity of this fact.
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