(129) TIRTHAS AND PRASADAS (HOLY WATER AND FOOD)
6th July, 1947
Long back, when there were not many people in the Ashram, one of the attendants of Bhagavan used to wait until Bhagavan had finished eating and then used to have his food on Bhagavan’s leaf. Gradually Asramites and old devotees began asking for that leaf and getting it. So long as rival claims for the leaf did not take a serious turn, Bhagavan did not take much notice of it. A plate also had to be placed before the leaf for washing his hands. As soon as he went away after washing his hands, that water also used to be taken in like tirtha (holy water). In due course, these two practices of the Asramites went beyond the Ashram precincts and spread to Ramana Nagar also.
One day the mother of a wealthy devotee came there during lunch time and stood by the side of Bhagavan.
Seeing her, Bhagavan said, “Why don’t you sit down for meals?” She did not do so. Bhagavan understood the purpose but kept quiet as if he did not know anything.
On the other side, the granddaughter of another devotee, aged eight, stood with a tumbler in her hand. Noticing her also, Bhagavan said, “Why are you also standing? Sit down and eat food.” “No,” she said. “Then why have you come? What is that tumbler for?” asked Bhagavan. After all, she was an unsophisticated child, and so, not knowing it to be a secret, said, “Grandmother has sent me to fetch tirtham.” Bhagavan could not contain his anger any longer and so said, “I see. That is the thing. This child is waiting for tirtham and that lady for the leaf; that is it, isn’t it?” When he thus asked with a commanding tone, one of the people near him said, “Yes.”
“I have been noticing this nonsense for some time now,” he said. “They think that Swami sits in the hall with closed eyes and does not notice any of these things. I did not want to interfere in such matters all these days, but there does not seem to be any limit to them. Tirthas and prasadas out of uchishtam (food and water left as a remainder) and people to take turns for them! Look! Henceforth, I will not wash my hands in the plate, not even anywhere about this place. I will not leave the leaf here and go. I myself will remove it and throw it away. You understand? All of you join together and do these things. This is the only punishment.”
So saying and repeating several other charges for a long time, Bhagavan folded his leaf after eating food and then got up with the used leaf in his hand. However much people there begged of him, he did not give them the leaf, but went up the hill and, after turning a corner, threw it away and then washed his hands there. Eventually the Asramites prayed and assured him that they would stop those undesirable practices. He said, “When everyone removes his used leaf and throws it away, why should I leave mine?” Until 1943, after meals, everyone used to remove their leaf and throw it away. That practice was changed only after this incident.
After all the Asramites swore that they themselves would remove all the leaves and throw them away along with Bhagavan’s leaf, he reluctantly began leaving his leaf there.
But even till today he has been washing his hands outside, near the steps leading into the hall. If anybody requested him to wash his hands in a plate, he would say, “Will you provide all these people with plates? If all the others do not have them, why do I require one?” What reply could we give him?