Master of the Month


by Aerna Otatop

Dhuniwala Dada lived under a tree on the banks of the Narmada River. He kept a dhuni, a sacred fire, burning round the clock. He wore no clothes. When people came to see him, he often insulted them or hit them with a stick.

His earlier name was Keshwaranand, and he had been a sanyasi of the Dasnami Order. After he attained Perfection, he said, "Once there was the delusion that I had renounced the world, as much as I could see. Now I have renounced renunciation -- for now I know I always have been free."

The dhuni he kept, and from which his name came (Dhuniwala means fireplace-man) was a round, and he kept it fed with pieces of wood and cow dung. Many sadhus in India keep dhunis; the practice is ancient.There is generally no visible fire, just ashes that smoulder. And many sadhus go naked. Dhuniwala and three of his followers wore no clothes, but he had thousands of devotees who dressed more or less normally.

Dhuniwala was not a sweet-tempered man. He was what the Persians call jalali. Many people respected and feared him. He did not preach or quote scriptures. He taught that all men and women were already free and immortal -- that they just needed to disburden themselves of their ignorance and delusions.

A rich merchant once came to see him, bringing as a gift a costly embroidered shawl for Dhuniwala to sleep in. Dhuniwala threw it in the fire. When the man protested, Dhuniwala scooped up a handful of ashes and gave them to him. He said, 'Here, take your shawl back.'

Most of those who came to see him came for material benefit: they wanted money or health or children. They sought his blessing, and then they would leave.

One man came to see Dhuniwala Dada without any intention of being benefitted spiritually. Dhuniwala, seeing that this man was spiritually prepared, picked up a stick from the dhuni and hit him so hard he lost consciousness.

All the people standing around ran off, fearing that Dhuniwala would beat them as well. The man lay unconscious for three days. On the fourth day he came to. He was fully awakened, what Hindus call God-realised, and what we call a Buddha.

Once a person has attained this highest state of consciousness, he or she very rarely keeps the physical body. The physical body is like a boat to take one to the other shore. Once one reaches that shore, the boat -- the body -- is no longer of any use.

A very few Realised souls do keep their bodies, and from among them, a few become Perfect Masters. This man, who was given Realisation by Dhuniwala Dada, passed on a few days later.

Dhuniwala lived in the very center of India, thirteen miles from Jabalpur, at a place where the Narmada River would occasionally flood and drown a few people. Eventually some rich devotees bought a piece of land at Khandwar, and Dhuniwala moved there with his companions. Buildings were constructed, along with a huge dhuni.

Dhuniwala was generally healthy, and had no use for doctors. But in his last illness, his followers begged him to let them bring a doctor. He said, 'Don't bother him. I can die without his help.' He left his body November 29, 1930.

A Perfect Master always has a chargeman, whose job is to distribute his spiritual treasure to the circle of disciples. Dhuniwala's chargeman was Harihar Dadaji. After Dhuniwala's passing, Harihar lived at Sanawat, a small village four miles from Khandwar, with a few of his own followers -- where he kept a dhuni burning.

Dhuniwala Dada's samadhi (tomb) at Khandwar is visited by thousands of people, and is managed by a trust, which has prohibited naked sadhus from paying their respects.

Dhuniwala Dada