-By Justice Markandey Katju
Being a scientific person,I have reservations about many swamis and sadhus in our country. Some of them are in jail, some are advising people to eat samosas or pakodas for solving certain problems, some are muti -millionaires.
However a few are genuine persons, and the swami whom I respect the most, and whom I have been regularly visiting for over 20 years is Swami Prabhudas of Dudhari Barfani Ashram at Bhupatwala in Haridwar. My guess is that Swamiji is about 70 years of age, although he looks 20 years younger. Swamiji is a Bengali, and a qualified doctor. He is an M.D. in neurology from a medical college in West Bengal. After doing his post graduation, Swamiji started private practice in Calcutta, and at a very young age, before he was even 30 years old, had a top practice, with even patients from Europe and other foreign countries. He had a gift of making the correct diagnosis, when doctors much senior to him failed.
Swamiji has remained a bachelor, and has few needs. He told me that he did not charge any fees from the poor, but would charge heavy fees from the rich, most of this money going for providing medicines etc to the poor. He had job offers from hospitals in U.S. A. and Europe where he could have made a lot of money, but he declined.
Swamiji's guru lived in Haridwar, and Swamiji was his favourite disciple. When Swamiji's guru died Swamiji, who was less than 30 years of age at that time, was about to catch a flight for Switzerland to treat a patient there. He got a telephone call from Haridwar stating that all disciples of the deceased guruji (who is known as bade maharajji) had unanimously decided that swamiji should take his place as head of the Dudhadhari Ashram. Thereupon Swamiji cancelled his flight and reached Haridwar, where the ceremony was performed making him head of the Ashram. Since the last 40 years or so he has been head of the Ashram.
For about 15 or 16 years after becoming head of the Ashram Swamiji would start every year on foot in the month of October walking all the way to Kedarnath or Badrinath, where he would stay all alone for several months in a hut doing meditation, and he would walk back in March. In other words, when people were coming down he was going up, and when people started going up he would go down. I asked him how he survived the -20 degree cold weather wearing only a cotton cloth. He said that when his hut was covered with snow it was insulated, like the igloo of an Eskimo, and so inside the hut it was not so cold as outside. He would eat potatos boiled by a gas cylinder ( which had earlier been brought up by his disciples). He would grow a vegetable garden in the snow, and often gave these vegetables to Indian army soldiers who requested for them.
After these 15-16 years of hard tapasya Swamiji discontinued his practice of going upto Kedarnath or Badrinath in winter, and remained in silence (maun) for several years, and it was at this time of maun that I first met him in his Ashram, some 20 years ago. At that time I was a Judge of the Allahabad High Court, and I came with my family to Haridwar during the summer holidays. Someone told me that there is a renowned saint in Haridwar, and he gave me the address of his Ashram. That is how I met Swamiji for the first time. I remember that first time I met him. I would ask some question, and he would write his reply on a slate with a piece of chalk.
Swamiji stopped his allopathic practice after he took sanyas on becoming the head of the Ashram, and for many years he has been giving herbal medicines to people coming to him with some ailment. He prepares these herbal medicines from the forests of the Himalayas, and gives them free.
There are 500 cows in the Ashram ( because of which it is known as Dudhdhari Ashram), and their milk is given free to small children and pregnant women.
Swamiji believes in service to the people. Since many years he had been telling me of his desire to build a huge hospital in his Ashram to treat the people of Uttarakhand, who are mostly poor. Now this 400 bed hospital is complete, and is in operation. No fee is charged, and even food is given free to patients. Doctors from all over the world offer their services free in the hospital A camp has been organized from 23rd to 28th June, in which doctors from all over the world will be coming. Such camps are often organized. There are also some permanent doctors in the hospital on salary basis, and with a residential apartment.
Swamiji was specialized in neurology, but he is often consulted by specialists in other specialities e,g, cardiology, obstetrics and gynaecology, orthopaedics, ophthalmology, oncology, ENT, etc. When the treatment by these specialists fails, they come to Swamiji to consult him. When Swamiji asks them why they are consulting him in a speciality of their own, and not of Swamiji, they tell Swamiji that he has spiritual powers which they do not. Usually Swamiji's treatment succeeds where even the specialists had failed.
Swamiji earlier used to meet people everyday, but now he has restricted this to Saturdays and Sundays, the other days being for his meditation alone. Anyone wanting details may contact Hemantji on mobile number 09897352658. Swamiji himself does not speak on telephone.
Swamiji does not eat cereals, salt or sugar. His diet consists of milk, some fruit and kheera-kakri (cucumber).
Swamiji sometimes disappears for some months. Before leaving the Ashram he tells his disciples not to worry, and that he will be back, but does not specify the date of his return. Probably he goes to some remote place for meditation.
Swamiji never asks anyone for donation. There is a donation box in the Ashram, but no one is compelled to donate. In his Ashram everyone is treated alike. Meals are served in a hall to everyone. One has to eat sitting on a mat on the ground, and after eating one has to clean his utensils.
Here is a man who could have made tons of money, but has devoted his life to serve the people. That is why I respect him, and go to his Ashram whenever I can, and come back charged with the spiritual energy he has filled me with