JAGANNATH MAHARAJ, LIKE THE HOLY ONE OF ASSISI
Many years ago a stranger calling himself Jagannath set foot in this temple and made it his home. This kind of unchallenged acceptance of a stranger may seem irregular to a Westerner who expects, we may be sure, to poke his nose into references and certificates before food or shelter is given to man or beast. But in the sanctuaries of India there is an unquestioning acceptance of all, whether they pass on within the hour or stay for a lifetime, perhaps because in God's tavern it is seen to be an impertinence to ask particulars of His guests.
And so Jagannath made the temple his home, with no questions asked. As his stay drew itself out from months to years, those who came often to the temple understood that he was something more than just another sadhu — that he was a saint and no less — and so he came to be spoken of as Jagannath Maharaj.
We know how St. Francis would let no stain fall upon his simplicity, although he was worshipped by thousands. Jagannath Maharaj, like the holy one of Assisi, shows an unexampled integrity of simple living, notwithstanding his fame and the fullest opportunities for an easy life. He is over ninety years old, and yet for years his diet has been and still is, but two bhakris [a coarse and unleavened bread of millet] and one onion a day.
This is astounding when one remembers that although he may have no official position either in the temple or the ashram, he is de facto their figurehead, and that every day good cheer is handed out to hundreds of sadhus, faqirs, and the poor. These meals, moreover, are prepared from the choicest materials, garnished to satisfy a gourmet's palate.
When Baba came face to face with Jagannath Maharaj, the latter seemed to know, or feel, Baba's spiritual greatness — although his identity was not divulged — for he garlanded Baba and embraced him with joy, and later gave him three or four yellow shawls and one shawl each to the men with him. Finally, he went himself to the kitchen and brought back a small packet or sweet puris and gulgule, and handed them to Baba.
This was not, however, the last meeting, for Baba came to him again in November and sat by Jagannath's side while he contacted over a hundred sadhus.
THE WORK OF MEHER BABA WITH ADVANCED SOULS, SADHUS, THE MAD AND THE POOR, 8th June 1948 to 1st August 1949, pp. 1-2
1969 © Sufism Reoriented