The New Life: ‘Sant Mali’ of Sarnath

Picture of the bungalow and surrounding garden where Baba stayed at Sarnath and where the gardener also lived (Photo – 2010)

[Baba started on foot for Sarnath [from Benares] with the men and women companions on Thursday, December 1, 1949. Sarnath is the most sacred place to Buddhists all over the world. Sarnath is connected with the times of Gautama the Buddha, being the place where, after his full Enlightenment in Bodhgaya, he preached his first sermon and initiated his first five disciples.]

During the stay in Sarnath, the old gardener brought fresh tangerines, radishes, mint and coriander every day. The companions ate the tangerines with gusto at every meal, peel and all. The gardener’s offerings were particularly welcome since fresh vegetables had been scarce during their travels.

Baba took a special interest in this old man and nicknamed him ‘Sant Mali’, which means saintly gardener.

One day, Baba sent Goher to find out whether the gardener needed anything. She returned shortly with the answer that he required nothing.

Baba sent her again to inquire further and she pressed the gardener, “Do you need clothes or anything else?”

The old gardener replied, “Thakurji gives me clothes.”

Goher persisted, “But you must be needing firewood or something?” “Oh no, even that Thakurji gives me,” he replied.

Goher finally concluded that Thakurji was the owner of the bungalow who provided for all of the gardener’s needs. When Goher related the story to the women, she indicated that the owner was generous to the gardener.

Mehera said, “How can his landlord be generous? Look how little the old man has, how little he eats and how he has to sleep out in the open.”

Goher admitted that Mehera was right about his austere lifestyle, and then in the course of the discussion she happened to mention the name Thakurji, which Mehera suddenly remembered was one of the many names given to Lord Krishna in northern India. Everything became instantly clear: the old man was saying that it was Krishna who provided for all his needs.

That night was extremely cold. While the companions shivered under blankets, the gardener slept outside on his cot with only a cotton sheet covering him.

In the morning, Baba said to Goher, “Now you must go and tell the old gardener that a friend wants to give him something, and ask what he needs most.”

Goher related Baba’s message to which the old man replied, “What should I ask for?”

“Ask for something, anything!”

Eventually, the gardener said, “I want a box of matches.”

Goher told Baba, who said, “All right, we must call him. I want to give him a blanket.”

Goher went outside and summoned the gardener to come with her to see Baba. As they approached, Mehera, Mani and Meheru watched from the veranda.

As soon as they reached Baba, Goher held out a folded new blanket as Baba told the old man that He wished to give him a present. He then asked, “Why only a matchbox? You must ask for something more.”

“But Sahib, I don’t need anything more. Thakurji gives me everything.”

Baba persisted, “I want to give you prasad, a gift from me. Take this blanket.” He also handed him a box of matches. The old man was deeply touched that Baba had personally given him these gifts. He said, “I am blessed. This is a gift from Bhagwan [God].”

During the whole exchange, the old man gazed at Baba without looking down at his presents even once. The women watching this felt that the deep respect the old man showed to Baba was his unconscious acknowledgment of Baba’s divinity.

They were also amazed that he wanted so little when Baba had been prepared to give him the world. The gardener then bowed reverently and left.

– “Meher Baba’s New Life”, Bhau Kalchuri, p215


“People always make a mistake when they talk of leading a simple life. To live such a life is infinitely difficult. Outwardly, a person may wear plain garments and have a simple diet, but this is not living a simple life! The spiritual life is lived when a person is free of all desires, thus becoming completely open and guileless.”(, p1305)


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