A wonderful gift has come to Maharaj ji from Russia: an antique wooden icon of Mother Mary holding Jesus with three hands. It is carved in such a way that the third hand seems quite natural. Swaranjit Singh has had it beautifully framed. It was given to Maharaj by Stepan Pojenian and his mother. It was Stepan who helped to arrange Maharaj’s trip to Russia with Swaranjit in 1989. Stepan is the director of a company that has imported classic Western movies to show to Russian audiences, such as “Gone with the Wind.”
Maharaj is explaining that 1989 trip and the icon to Russian devotees Lena and Gerald Shagedanov:
Stepan said he revered his mother as God. Doctors said her eyes could not be healed. He asked, “Can you bless her?” The hukam came from Maharaj (Guru Gobind Singh) to put a small kirpan on her eyes and have Stepan read Jaap Sahib. She later told her story to professors in a function at a big college in Moscow: “When Stepan was reading Jaap Sahib, I felt my eyes were being cleared with light. Light rays can come from reading Jaap Sahib. I am a living example. The doctors all said that my eyes could not be cured.”
She asked, “What can I give to you? I have nothing precious enough. But there is the most beloved thing in our family inheritance.” This 150-year-old carving of Mary was in their family for generations, as their most beloved possession. They have presented it to us.
Then Maharaj ji recounts fond memories of his trip to Russia:
We also went to Leningrad. Two big cars and two big videomen were sent with us. Gorbachev’s secretary and his environment minister also met me. What we prophesied at that time later came to happen in Russia [He warned them not to proceed too quickly with economic and social reforms, because if they did, the Soviet Union would fall apart—something unimaginable at the time, but it happened].
Then I also spoke on television. They said, “There are 18 crores people in Russia. Please give them your message. What is religion and what is work?” [He told them that communism is actually like Guru Nanak’s spiritual programme: Work hard to support yourself and also share with others. But communist leaders left out the third essential point: Always remember God. Without a spiritual base, communism could not last. Guru Nanak’s programme is to work hard, share with others, and always remember God.]
At one time, Christianity was the greatest religion of Russia. There were so many churches and seminaries. They have the most beautiful railway station. In the whole world, the Russian people are most loving to me. We went to a market, and people kept sending things for me to eat. I said, “I can’t eat so much. I can only touch them.” I loved it so much that I felt I had returned to my old home. People were very loving and respectful.
In Tashkent, there was such a lovely grape arbor with long clusters of grapes hanging down—very tasty. A minister and Gorbachev’s secretary had lunch with us there. I said, “This is a very rare place.” They said, “It is the most beautiful place in our country.” They kept telling me to eat more grapes. They were very loving people.
It was very cold in Moscow. Ladies brought me coats and blankets, thinking I needed them. I especially loved the Russian circus.
I told them that the wealth of Russia is its buried minerals. I said, “You have no machines to extract them. It is a treasure there for you. When you take it out, you will be the richest country in the world. You also have an inner treasure which is safe inside you. When you take it out, you will be very rich spiritually. The treasure of love and enlightenment is greatest with you.”
At this point, Lena asks, “What if Russians read Jaap Sahib?”
Maharaj says, “Then their inner treasure of gyan (enlightened wisdom) will be opened. There is great joy in the inner wealth of gyan and love. That wealth will not disturb you. It is the outer wealth that disturbs.
Lena asks, “So what to do with the inner wealth?”
Maharaj answers, “Enjoy it but do not be attached to it. Stay happy. Enjoy. Laugh and play.”
Lena persists, “It is hard for Russians to understand Jaap Sahib.”
Maharaj tells her, “They will. When God wills, He will give gyan from inside. When Light comes, darkness leaves.”
Lena: “At the end of Jaap Sahib, the feeling is that duality is finished and there is only One, and all people are one.”
Maharaj: “That is the meaning of Jaap Sahib.”
Lena: “If even one person is connected with God and people are looking at him, then they are also connected with God.”
Maharaj: “You have understood the essence. It is difficult for people to understand.”