Shree Sadguru Ramanand Beedkar Maharaj
Akkalkot Niwasi Shree Swami Samarth Maharaj wished that the unique school of theosophy viz. Swaroop Sampradaya (a sect wherein the aspirant concentrates on viewing the 'Atman' - the soul) be propagated once again enthusiastically and hence designated his most ardent and able disciple, Shree Sadguru Ramanand Beedkar Maharaj to establish a hermitage in Pune City (Maharashtra State).
Shree Sadguru Ramanand Beedkar Maharaj was born on November 22, 1839 in a rich family of Shri Balavantrai and Gangutai and was named as Ramanand. His father was working as Chieftain under British rule.
At the tender age of seven, he lost his father. The then British rulers offered a pension of two hundred rupees to his mother; who declined to accept it on the grounds of self-respect and her resolve not to subsist on the help of foreigners.
In his childhood, he went alone on a pilgrimage to Pandharpur (Holy place in Solapur District, Maharshtra State, Western India). Though there was the hustle and bustle of the crowd, it was no less than the Almighty Himself assuming the form of a Badava (a member of the establishment of the Brahmins entertained at the temple of Vithoba at Pandharpur for the service of idol) who guided him and put him straight at the feet of the idol of the deity in the Gabhara (innermost apartment in a temple where the idol of the deity is installed).
When he had gone to Goddess Saptashrungi at the Saptashrungi, Nasik District, Maharashtra State, Western India, the Veeda (a roll of leaf of pepper betel with arecanut, cloves, lime etc. enclosed in it) which was kept in the mouth of the idol of the Goddess as an offering, suddenly fell in his hands indicating great favour of that Goddess rarely experienced.
After his father passed away the family fortune started dwindling and hence immediately after his schooling, he started trading. He earned good reputation in diamond valuation as well as in the trade of gold, silver, precious stones and also scents and perfumes. To gather immense wealth, he traveled crazily in search of yogis [transcendentalists] who could teach him techniques to amass wealth. From one such person, he learnt the practices of the much-desired Art (Alchemy - Art of converting baser metals into gold) and thus became immensely wealthy. He relished the wealth and enjoyed every pleasure one can imagine. However, ultimately he was disillusioned with material comforts. He yearned for spiritual development and did Upasana[worship] with Hanuman as his Lord of the Heart. He was guided by Lord Hanuman to seek the blessings of Shree Swami Samarth of Akkalkot.
In the very first meeting, Shree Swami Samarth tested him by a show of his fiery temper. Shree Beedkar Maharaj became an ardent devotee of Shree Swami Samarth and took regular pilgrimages to Akkalkot. On his third visit, when he was massaging the feet of Shree Swami Samarth at night, a dark poisonous cobra emerged out of Shree Swami Samarth's knee and started hissing at Shree Beedkar Maharaj. However, Shree Beedkar Maharaj courageously continued his service. The next moment Shree Swami Samarth Maharaj got up and slapped Shree Beedkar Maharaj. With this slap, Shree Beedkar Maharaj instantly passed into trance and entered samadhi [superconscious experience] which, lasted for 12 hours. Since the very moment, he experienced himself totally detached from worldly matters. Shree Beedkar Maharaj thus attained Vairagya [non-attachment for worldly pleasures].
Shree Swami Samarth ordered him to undertake Narmada Parikrama, an arduous circular pilgrimage of the entire route of the river Narmada. With only two pieces of panchas (cloth) on his body, he took up this pilgrimage. During this pilgrimage he faced extremely tanning conditions in terms of severe cold, burning hot sun, continuous bare foot walk on the sand, no food or water for 45 days etc. But it helped him to destroy his body identification. Further, during this extensive travel he enlightened many devotees. Finally after 21/2 years of highly eventful pilgrimage, he returned back to Pune where he stayed for most of the part of his life.
In obedience to the order of Shree Swami Samarth, Shree Beedkar Maharaj set up a Muth (temple-shrine) in Pune and worked towards spreading of Swaroop Sampradaya. He enriched many seekers of self with spiritual experiences of a very high order. He spread the spiritual lore with the help of a few ardent disciples like Anna Maharaj Bahutale and Mukundrao Moghe. He blessed Shree Sadguru Baba Maharaj alias Shree Raosaheb Sahasrabuddhe with his grace by placing his hand on the latters head and entrusted to him the task of continuing the tradition of Swaroop Sampradaya.
Shree Beedkar Maharaj propagated spiritualism for the upliftment of his Devotees through simple teachings such as "alertness in day to day material life is the first step towards the goal of spiritualism".
Shree Swami Samarth had warned him thus, "Ramya (Ramanand) serving food to somebody unless he is hungry, will fail to serve any purpose. The food will be wasted". There upon Shree Beedkar Maharaj said, "Anybody can feed a hungry person". It was with such magnanimity that he distributed freely amongst his devotees the wealth of spiritualism. Never would he feel tired of preaching.
He used to say, "People shouldn't take to treachery or perfidy for the sake of material gains. Only by the truthfulness and following principles of the Hindu religion, can a person get earthly and heavenly gains."
"One can recover the material losses by putting in more efforts and doing more work but one can never recover the loss due to corruption of one's character, values and religious principles and when such loss occurs the downfall of the society as a whole, is imminent.
He used to assure his disciples "Just as the cow-dung fallen on the earth, bound to lift some earth with it; you too, who have taken my refuge, shall definitely achieve some spiritual development" (depending upon individual capacities).
In 1913, he attained Mahasamadhi [the last conscious communion with God] in Pune. Amongst his disciples the most noteworthy was Shree Baba Maharaj Sahasrabuddhe