Blessings….

He was a Muslim gentleman, who managed the lodge where I stayed in Madurai way back in early 1990s. We all knew that he was unmarried,and had no immediate family as such. Every Ramzan, he used to share the mutton gruel that he used to get from the nearby mosque, with all the lodgemates, including me. Most of us were happy go lucky bachelors, and sometimes, when we used to go to movies, we used to come back very late – and even in that night, after scolding us for arriving late at the lodge, he used to feed us with the gruel. And even though we would have eaten our dinner, just because the old man shouldn’t feel bad, we used to take the food that he shared.

After a while, I left Madurai on transfer, and while I left, he told me, that he will always remember me. I thought he was joking. But when a postal cover arrived in my Madras home some months later, I assumed it was only a letter – In it, was Madurai Meenakshi Amman Prasad, sent by him.

Periodically, he used to send me the prasad, and I used to show the cover to all my friends, proudly, declaring, “This is the essence of Indian secularism. See? The person who sent this Temple prasad, is a Muslim” – and I used to proudly display the cover, with my name written on the front and his name written on the back.

Another lodgemate who stayed with me around the same time, later told me that this muslim gentleman used to go upto the gates of Meenakshi Amman temple, and give the money and the puja materials to some known acquaintance of his, to go and do the archanai. He used to wait outside till the acquaintance came back with the prasad so that he can send the prasad to me by post. I was wonderstruck to know then that this person crossed the barriers of religion in a very nice manner to send Meenakshi Amman’s prasadam to me. I was touched to the core of my heart.

Over the years, the regularity of the prasadams kept decreasing, and I knew that he was getting older. I rang him up one day, and told him that he should look after his health, and not bother about these things anymore. He replied that in doing so, he was deriving some joy,and that he will do it as long as he can. I knew it was only a matter of  time before the prasadams stopped, so I kept quiet.

Some months back, I got the information that due to infirmity and old age, he was unable to perform his managerial duties, and that he was admitted to an old age home near Salem.

Last month, with my family in tow, I went to Salem to meet him at the old age home. He was very happy to see me. He had a bed in a room for about 20 inmates. Many of the 60 odd inmates came and thanked me, for having come to visit him. Some of the stories that we then heard,moved us very much. There were a number of people, who HAD families,but were living in the old age home, because their family did not want them. My wife and son were continuously shedding tears on hearing the stories.

We stayed for some time, and left. While leaving, he gave some chocolates to my son, and said, “Just because I am in an old age home,you think I will not have anything to give you? Please wait” – With his trembling hands, he reached into an old bag underneath his bed,and pulled out a packet and handed it to me. With my tears blurring my vision, I could not see clearly what exactly he had given me – and only when I came outside the old age home, I saw the packet clearly –it was Madurai Meenakshi Amman’s prasadam.

Visionaries….

There is a beautiful story of a blind Indian Saint, who falls into a dry well. He remains there for several days, calling out to his Lord, Krishna. Krishna comes with Radha to him, and after divinely restoring his vision, rescues him from the well. Krishna then asks the saint as to what boon he would like. Replies the saint, “Please take back this vision, Krishna, and give me back my blindness, since, after being blessed with your vision, I do not want to see anything else in life”

Sant Surdas, (1479 – 1586) was this saint, who was known for his devotional songs of Lord Krishna. He is credited to have written more than a lakh songs out of which only less than 10,000 songs are still preserved in various folklore and temple plays. His name, signifying the ‘‘dasa” of  melody, was given to him in his later years. In Childhood, he was simply called, “Sur”. He suffered a great deal in childhood because of his blindness, which made him realize that the love of this world was unreal as compared to the love of God.

He took Shri Vallabharachary as his Guru when the latter was passing the river Yamuna, who instructed him to sing “Bhagavad Lila”, songs about the Lord. Surdas then started to live in Vrindavan with his guru, who initiated him to his own religious order, and later made him the official singer at Srinath temple in Govardhan.

Sant Surdas profoundly influenced the Bhakti movement in India during those days. Surdas’s songs find a place in the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs. His greatest work was Sur Sagar, a collectionof more than a lakh songs ON GOD.

What a phenomenal achievement for a blind boy from Mathura! Even though he was blind, certainly, he was a visionary, who clearly SAW GOD.

There are many more such visionaries, who, even when blind physically,could see the INVISIBLE GOD.

Sant Gulabrao Maharaj, known as Pradnyachakshu Madhuradwaitcharya Gulabrao, (1881 – 1915) became blind when he was a mere child of nine months. But he became such a distinguished scholar and saint who could see the future effortlessly. In Sanskrit, Pradnya means intelligence,and chakshu means “eyesight”. Even though he was blind, he has written more than 25,000 stanzas of poetry and has authored more than 130books on various subjects.

Another saint, St Lucy, (283-304)  is the Patron saint of Blindness of the early Roman Catholics. Legend has it that Lucy was put to unimaginable torture because of  her devotion to Christ. During her torture, her eyes were gouged out, which was restored by God to reward her devotion. The Church has named Lucy the patron saint of the blind and those with eye-trouble. St.Lucy’s courage under very trying circumstances is undoubtedly the greatest triumph of her devotion to Christ.

Another Saint from Belgium, (near Brussels) Saint Alice (1204-1250) is also venerated as the Patron Saint of the Blind and Paralyzed. She was afflicted with leprosy and was confined away from society, where she suffered intensely and became blind. Legend has it that the Lord appeared to her in a vision and cured her. She later founded a separate order of the nuns.

Didymus the Blind (313 – 398) was a well known person figuring in manyof the historical stories of his time. He was a famous  Coptic Church theologian of Alexandria. And yet, he was able to learn and master many sciences which require eyesight, such as geometry. Didymus is associated with many works of the Bible.

Yet another very famous and recent Christian Saint is Therese Neuman,(1898 – 1962) the stigmatist. In 1918, she became blind, and later was miraculously cured.  She has changed millions of people through her miracles.

Therese Neuman is mentioned in the spiritual classic, “Autobiography of a Yogi” of  Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda. In the same book, there is a story of a blind disciple of  Sri Sri Lahiri Mahasaya – Ramu, who gets his physical vision miraculously, after chanting Lord Rama’s name as directed by his great guru.

Even when blind, these saints were having full spiritual vision, that they can be rightly called, the “visionaries”