Shri Devi Das was wise, an Aristotle of his times, and he knew how to use wealth. His entire fortune was spent for the good of people in need. He gave away almost all that was left to him–lands, buildings, bazaars, gold, silver, jewellery, cash–and rejoiced in the renunciation.
Wealth had little meaning for him except when it could be given away to provide help to people in need. It was not a squandering of wealth, but rather a spiritual investment for him. Wealth had become a means of spiritual attainment. It was a new lesson to the world, which frowned upon wealth as corrupting and evil. His only use for wealth was the good it could do to others. And it was all the more remarkable that he did this when he was still a young man, surrounded by the temptations of the world.
There was a time when a man came to him and said: Devi Dasji, you have that large-haveli – mansion- in the town. Can I use it for the marriage of my daughter? I have no place to house the bridegroom’s party.
Shri Devi Das gave him the key to the haveli, and the man celebrated his daughter’s marriage there. Later the man came to Shri Devi Das to return the key. However Shri Devi Das said to him:
Ham dee huyi cheez ko vaapas naheen lete!”
“ I do not take back what I have given! Keep it! The haveli is yours!
And it was thus that Shri Devi Das gave away his wealth and property to those who were in need.
His was a life of action that went beyond moralizing and preaching. He showed the world what a wonderful thing wealth could become if it alleviated human suffering and brought man closer to man. In the process, perhaps, he went too far and having little regard for himself, ultimately gave it all away. It was a purposeful renunciation, wealth was made meaningful. It could not overpower him. On the contrary, he controlled it. Wealth had become a means of spiritual attainment for him.
Here was materialism under the dictates of spiritualism. Here was the flesh under control of the spirit. The element of the divine existed in this rich and powerful youth. He had realized that real happiness did not lie in the perishable things of the world. Real happiness lay only in God-realization.
His spirituality manifested itself as love–love for humanity. Was it possible for a man to feel real sympathy and affection for a total stranger? A man could feel as much for his own kith and kin. But could he go out of his way and experience the same feelings for the humanity around him. Logically, it would be difficult, almost impossible. A man loves his son almost spontaneously. There is the bond of the flesh. But what would induce him to love a total stranger equally? Herein lies the essence of spiritual realization. Only those who have experienced such a feeling can tell us. Their actions reveal to mankind that they have transcended the human plane. Shri Devi Dasji was such a person. God realization was being made manifest in all his thoughts, words and actions.
He loved everyone including his enemies. He did not adhere to any one religion, but had equal respect for all faiths, for he considered them all as different paths leading to the same goal, like the different rivers running down to the same ocean. He was brave, fearless. He was wise, an intellectual of the first order. He contained in himself qualities that were altogether godly and spiritual. A Great Soul had appeared in the midst of mankind.
And he came to be known as Shri Babaji Maharaj. But he was not to be an end in himself. Through him would come the final fruit of God’s evolution–the Avatar. In 1902, he left Batala and went to the hills of Abottabad, in district Peshawar, Punjab. It was there that the most important event in his life took place.