Narendra Maharaj was spreading his tentacles all over Konkan, Gova and Western Maharashtra quite rapidly. People rushed to Nanij for treatment in thousands. ‘Narendra Leelamrit’ (exhilarating pursuits of Narendra) a book written on this Maharaj and published in the name of his wife had become a point of heated discussion. This book contained the innumerable miracles performed by the Maharaj that surpassed all the marvelously incredible stories so far told and retold. The ANS strongly objected to the claims of miracles made in this book because they boost superstitious mind set. The ‘Janajagaran Samiti’ (association for awakening) of Konkan too had started a movement against this miracle mongering. The ANS movement took a firm stand. They demanded that since he has never explained the miracles he is supposed to have performed as advertised in the book, Narendra Maharaj should come forward and verify publicly the truth of his miracles so loudly extolled by his devotees. The whole of Konkan was agitated about this public confrontation with the Maharaj. The atmosphere was tense but also full of curiosity. The district administrator and the chief police officer held a joint meeting with ANS and the devotees of the Maharaj and decided upon the rules to be followed during the question-answer session. Accordingly ANS was required to give 7 questions in writing which the Maharaj too will answer in writing. 25 members from each side should attend the meeting. The Maharaj insisted on receiving the list of question immediately during this meeting itself. ANS took the stand that since the questions will be based on his book, ‘Narendra Leelamrit’, there is no need to submit them in advance. Finally it was decided to give the list of questions fifteen minutes before the programme.
We, 25 ANS activists reached the venue in the afternoon. On the hill where the Math is situated ten thousand devotees had gathered. They had come from faraway distances although this was not an occasion of any pilgrimage, for, it is said that the Maharaj had issued a ‘whip’ to all his devotees to be present at the occasion. There was massive Police ‘Bandobast’. At 11.45 we handed over a list of questions to a representative of the Maharaj in the presence of the Tahasildar. It was immediately taken to him. At 2 minutes past 12 o’clock, Narendra Maharaj arrived at ‘Kunjavan’ (venue of the programme) with note pad containing his written answers to our questions. We were welcome by a Physician from Kolhapur on behalf of the Maharaj. He told us that Narendra Maharaj is a follower of the glorious path of spirituality inherited by the Indian culture.
Next I started asking questions, in fact reading the questions from the list one by one; and Narendra Maharaj answered them in that order. Thus 7questions were asked and answered. But before the questions were asked I presented the following preamble to the programme explaining our stand. I said:
‘Dear Narendra Maharaj,
For the last two years we have been challenging you through public meetings and letters in the news papers to validate your claims of miracles that you performed and are described in the book ‘Narendra Leelamrit’. But you have failed to answer any question all this time. So I am compelled to ask you these questions in writing publicly. If you could not answer these questions satisfactorily or avoided to answer them and abandoned the meeting it will be declared as your inability to do so. With this public clarification I am going to ask the questions.
You are expected to give a quick, precise and written answer. Journalists will be given Xerox copies of your written answers so that no one will have any reason to complain. We are meeting here to obtain explanations to the objections raised by ANS against you, time and again. If Maharaj wants to ask any questions to ANS he is most welcome at the ANS Central Office at Satara, where all his questions will be answered in writing. The date of the visit for this purpose should be fixed in this meeting. Now the questions-
The book, ‘Narendra Leelamrit’ has been published by Mrs. Supriya N. Sule, the wife of Narendra Maharaj, on behalf of the Narendra Maharaj Trust, Nanij of which Shri Narendra Maharaj is the trustee. So whatever is written in the book must be authorized and official. In the first line of the preface of this book, it is mentioned that Narendra Maharaj is the latest incarnation of Gajanan Maharaj. Does Narendra Maharaj too claim to be the incarnation of Gajanan Maharaj? However Shri Gajanan Sansthan of Shegaon have declared that the person who claims to be the incarnation of Gajanan Maharaj is a fraud. What is your opinion regarding this?
In chapter 19th, first edition of ‘Narendra Leelamrit’ on page 200, it is mentioned that Mrs. Madhavi Mohan Limaye, sister in law of Mr. Limaye was given a blow after which the white spots on her skin disappeared. Mrs. Limaye in her hand out to the news papers as well as in her public speech has declared the above account as a blatant lie. So we want to ask Narendra Maharaj, why does he lie so blatantly and is it proper to give a blow to a lady in this manner?
In this book it is mentioned that the relatives of Shri Subhash Kadam and the sister in law of Shri Pandurang Bhandari were revived to life by the Maharaj after they were declared dead (chapter2, page 14 and chapter 9, page 79 both 1st edition.) ANS repeatedly had asked for evidence that these individuals were declared dead by a qualified doctor after examining them properly and that the Maharaj revived them to life after that. But no such evidence was offered for the last two years. If Narendra Maharaj fails to provide any evidence regarding this claim even today the Samiti will deem this too to be lie. Does the Maharaj have anything to offer by way of clarification in this regard?
Sunanda D. Bhagawat from Nanij and Geeta Radye from Mekhi had lost all their hair and become bald. But because of blessings by the Maharaj, the former lady started growing hair on her head within three days and the latter took seven visits to overcome her baldness. This claim is made in the 5th chapter of the book (page 42-43, 1st edition). To verify his power in this connection, we want to send 5 bald individuals to the Maharaj. If they start growing hair on their pate about a hand span in length, within three days or after 7 visits, as mentioned in ‘Narendra Leelamrit’, ANS will surrender to the Maharaj and become his devotee. But in case, it does not happen, the Maharaj will have to apologize to the people for deceiving them. Does Maharaj agree to this? If the Maharaj claims that only his devotees can benefit from his blessings and not the ANS workers, he may name five bald individuals from his devotees attending today’s meeting and arrange to grow hair on their heads within 15 days or accept that the Maharaj is deceiving people by spreading false stories of his miracles. What is the response of the Maharaj?
On page 181 of chapter 18 of this book one more incredible claim is made. It says Narendra Maharaj knows a Mantra that annuls the effect of poison after snakebite and he has taught this Mantra to Arvind Pandit. We request the Maharaj to prove this power of his publicly in the meeting. Maharaj will choose the devotees himself and Samiti will provide poisonous snake. The devotees who offer to be bitten by the snake and the Maharaj who claims to save them with his divine power will be solely responsible for whatever consequences that may occur. The names of the devotees willing to undertake this test can be declared and the date of the experiment be fixed in today’s meeting. Does Maharaj agree to this?
All the content of the book ‘Narendra Leelamrit’ which is being sold everywhere, must be pertaining to Narendra Maharaj, since it is published by the wife of the Maharaj on behalf of the Narendra Maharaj Trust, Nanij. The Maharaj should accept this fact (regarding the ridiculously exaggerated claims) or withdraw the book from the market and apologize those individuals who suffered by believing in his divine powers and compensate for their loss. Does the Maharaj agree?
In the ‘Narendra Gatha’ journal of August 1998, published by your trust, it is mentioned (on page 15, 19) that a world war will break out on 19th of July 1999. Only those people who are the devotees of the Maharaj and those whom the Maharaj wants to save will survive the disaster. The Maharaj should reveal whatever scientific evidence he has regarding this and in case it does not happen tell the public what punishment he should be served with for raising panic and deceiving people. The Maharaj refused to keep his promise of giving answers in writing right at the beginning. But since the whole programme was being video filmed, ANS did not insist on written answers.
In answering the first question Narendra Maharaj accepted that he does not call himself the incarnation of Gajanan Maharaj; but, he added ‘the people think me to be his incarnation. This book is a compilation of the experiences of my devotees and the stories told by them.’ In the next question he totally refused to have given a blow to Mrs. Madhavi Limaye. (However as soon as we left he announced to his devotees that he had to give a blow to Mrs. Limaye for her spiritual enhancement.) Answer to the third question was quite peculiar. The Maharaj explained, ‘those individuals were not declared dead by the doctor; the villagers thought that they were dead. The doctors had given up all hopes and the relatives of those individuals fell at my feet and would not leave me. I told them that I was helpless and they should go back. However the person whom the relatives mistook for dead, gradually recovered. I don’t know the causality of this entire episode.’ The fourth question too was answered in the same manner; i.e. Maharaj himself does not claim any miracles or miraculous powers. The miracle happens to be the experience of the devotees. All his answers denied any miracles whatsoever. Now whether this is accepting defeat or trying to escape from the challenge will have to be left to the reader to decide. While answering the 5th question he said, ‘look here, I am a spiritual man. Thousands and thousands of people come here. There are cases of snake bites too among them. I do not keep and account of who recovered from the bite and do not claim to neutralize the poison of any snakes. Let the people decide whether the magazine ‘Narendra Leelamrit’ should continue or be withdrawn from the market; who am I or you to decide it?’ To answer the 6th question, he explained, ‘the Gathas- anthologies of the works of many saints are compiled by their devotees on the basis of their own experiences.’ The last question he answered somewhat differently. He said, ‘regarding the third World war, I received clear indication during my spiritual retreat that it will break out in the middle of 1999.’ He also clarified that there is no intension of spiritual scaremongering in this and it is, to the contrary, an attempt to establish peace. To top it all, Narendra Maharaj declared that he too is working to eradicate superstition; and the veterans among the ANS activists should guide him in this effort. The Maharaj who arrived with his notepad for answering our questions looked terrified; his hand holding the note pad was trembling; his teeth clattered and he kept asking for water all the time.
After the question-answer session of the challenge process was over, we returned to Ratnagiri. There in the press conference we exhibited the filming of the whole episode. Next day many newspapers published the news on their front pages to the effect that the claim of miracles by Narendra Maharaj was totally defeated.
Dr Narendra Dabholkar