THE AIR EATING SAINT - J.K. SIVAN
It is a must to know about many great saints and Mahans who have appeared on this Punyaboomi, Bharat, and repeatedly we should remember them. Especially for this reason only, I am writing again about Pavaahaari Bhabha. ( paav aahaari: He who had only the air as his food)
This is about Swami Vivekananda's meeting with him.
Pavhari Baba was, a poor Brahmin born in a village near Varanasi. When he was a boy he left home to Ghazipur and learnt sanskrit grammar, logic philosophy etc from his uncle. He wandered leaving Ghazipur to various places, in search of realization of God. He practiced intense austerity and yogic practices and mastered the Advaita Philosophy. On his return to Ghazipur, he dug an underground hermitage by the riverside and meditated. He lived without food and ate at times, some neem leaves and a few chilies offered by some devotees. He earned thus the name ''Paav aahaari bhaba''(air-eating father). He avoided meeting people. Never talked to anyone.
After hearing about this saint, Swami Vivekananda moved to a place closer to the Baba's hermitage and started severe ascetic practices. He also fell ill during this time and suffered physically. He had come to the Baba to learn and be initiated into Raja Yoga and felt that he was not making any significant progress. The Baba hardly spoke and even when he did, was very circumspect and indirect. This went on for many days and Swamiji was getting increasingly restless.
After trying manydays, Swami Vivekananda met this Bhaba one morning and was struck by the Baba's personality.
Swamiji says "Through supreme good fortune, I have obtained an interview with Babaji" on February 4, 1890,.
I see the whole matter is inverted in its bearings! While I myself have come, a beggar at his door, he turns round and wants to learn of me! This saint perhaps is not perfected – too much of rites, vows, observances and too much of self-concealment. The ocean in its fullness cannot be contained within its shores, I am sure. So it is not good, I have decided not to disturb this sadhu for nothing, and very soon I shall ask leave of him to go. I am no longer distracted and satisfied to give himself to single-minded meditation.''
I will tell you an interesting story about Pavahaari Bhaba:
One night a thief entered the underground hermitage of Pavhari Baba to steal some valuable belongings from the place. Baba was sleeping at that time and the thief started stealing and collecting goods in a bundle.
As the thief finished his act of stealing and was ready to leave the place with the stolen goods, Baba woke up. The thief got frightened, he threw down the bundle where he collected all stolen goods and started running. Pavhari Baba promptly picked up the bundle from the ground and started chasing the thief.
After a long chase, Pavhari Baba finally caught the thief. The thief thought that Pavhari Baba was going to beat him badly. But surprisingly, Pavhari Baba folded his hands before him and then told in a humble way—
''Sir, I noticed you worked hard to collect these goods from the hermitage, but somehow you could not bring this bundle with you. So, I have taken this for you. Please accept this. These are all your Narayana (God).''
Saying this Pavhari Baba handed over the bundle with stolen goods to the thief. The thief stared at Baba with disbelief and surprise. He was wonderstruck and started feeling ashamed for his act.
Swami Vivekananda, when he heard this story did not believe it. He was wandering in the Himalayas and one day he met a Sadhu. After some conversations with the Sadhu, Vivekananda wad quite surprised and astonished when the Sadhu told him—
''I was the thief who attempted to rob Pavhari Baba's place. When Pavhari Baba chased me and handed over all the goods he had and called me Narayana, I could not believe it, I started realising how mean I was and the crime I was committing. Then I renounced everything and came to this place of the Himalayas and started meditating"".
Pavhari Baba died in 1898 ending his mortal remains by self immolation in his underground cave. He decided there was no further need for this body and offered it to Agni. People around smelt burning flesh and knew what had happened in the underground cave hermitage of the saint, from where smoke was coming out with the burning flesh smell.