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Nityananda: In Divine Presence (continued)
click here for the first ten chapters
Swami Chetanananda and M.U. Hatengdi. Rudra Press
P.O. Box 13390 Portland, Oregon 97213
Editor, Cheryl Berling Rosen.
Contributed by M
The Chidakash Gita
The Sky of the Heart: Jewels of Wisdom from Nityananda
The Old Ashram: Part III, 1936-1950
The Old Ashram, 1950-1956
The Old Ashram: Part II, 1950-1956
The New Ashram at Kailas, 1956-1961
The New Ashram at Kailas, 1950-1961
Nityananda's Passing: Part II
Remembering the Master
Remembering the Master: Part II
The Old Ashram: Part III
M. Hegde, a young relative of Sitarama Shenoy, was posted to Bombay during the Second World War as an apprentice in the Naval Dockyard. On his regular visits to Ganeshpuri, he was sometimes asked to prepare the Master's tea. During one visit to the jungle ashram, he found himself questioned by Nityananda. Did he wish to improve his prospects? Did he know about the government-sponsored Bevin Boy's Training Program in Great Britain? Hegde said he had read about it in the newspaper but thought himself ineligible because quotas were determined by province and he was not really from Bombay.
The Master told him to think big and apply anyway. The boy did and was accepted.
However, at his medical examination, the local doctor contested his candidacy and declared him medically unfit. When Hegde hurried to Ganeshpuri, Nityananda again advised him to think bigger and appeal the decision. Hegde therefore wrote to the surgeon general and received an appointment. Puzzled at the sight of a healthy young man standing before him, the surgeon general asked the local doctor to explain his ruling. Because he was unable to do so satisfactorily, the decision was overturned.
During his year of training in Great Britain, hegde began dating an English woman.
One time, while the two were strolling in a park, Hegde suddenly saw an apparition of the Master before him. His stern face seemed to say, "Was this why you came to this place?" The apparition disappeared and Hegde began sweating profusely even though it was winter. The look on his face apparently was startling enough to make the woman end their relationship on the spot.
When he returned to india, Hegde went directly to Ganeshpuri to ask Nityananda what he should do next. The master told him to put on a suit and walk up and down one of Bombay's major commercial streets from ten in the morning to five in the afternoon. This was a tall order, but the young devotee resolved to follow his instruction to the letter. Exhausted, he later returned home and wondered how he would get a job by pacing up and down.
Nevertheless, the next day he faithfully repeated his vigil. By noon he found himself staring aimlessly at a notice board outside the Macropolo shop. From the corner of his eye, he saw a foreigner enter the shop. Exiting some time later, the foreigner was surprised to see Hegde still staring at the notices.
He asked the young man what he was doing and Hegde admitted that he was looking for work. The stranger inquired into his qualifications and whether he was prepared to go the Calcutta that night. Gulping, Hegde said yes and followed the man to the Lakshmi office building where he accepted a good opening position plus traveling expenses.
Predictably, Hedge caught the first train to Ganeshpuri. A hundred yards from the ashram, he could hear Nityananda shouting at him to return to the station immediately if he intended to catch the train for Calcutta. And joyously saluting the Master from that distance, hegde set out for his new job.
Nityananda's understanding of life was light years beyond the people around him. Time after time, someone would express concern or sorrow about an event only to have the Master explain, sometimes in exasperation, that many things occur beneath life's apparent surface. Stories abound, of course.
Captain Hatengdi's mother was among those who first sought out Nityananda. In
1924, however, she turned instead to Swami Siddharud in Hubli, being quite taken with the many miracles attributed to him.
Two decades later, as her son's connection with Nityananda evolved, he wrote to his mother and invited her to the ashram. And so it passed that in February
1944, accompanied by a brother and his family, she traveled to Ganeshpuri. Upon seeing her, and with characteristic brevity, Nityananda asked,
unprepared for this greeting, the woman mumbled, "Perhaps twenty years."
"No," came his reply. "Twenty-two. Anyway, where is Siddharud now?"
"He is no more."
"Where has he gone? Can you see himn when you close your eyes?" he asked. When she said yes, he repeated, "Are you so certain he has gone anywhere?"
The Hatengdi family was assigned a room near the baths for the night. That evening Nityananda visited, sitting without saying a word. When one woman quietly asked about his silence, another said that he must be meditating because it was sunset. The Master immediately spoke, "All that was over in the mother's womb."
Another time a couple arrived in Ganeshpuri. After first bathing, they were arrainging to prepare a meal for the Master when they saw him rush across the compound. He shouted at them to leave at once. The startled devotees hurriedly packed and left--just catching a bus to make the rail connection at Bassein. The instant they arrived home, a fierce gale began to rattle the shutters and windows. It was a precursor to a formidable storm that severed railway connections in the region. In fact, had the couple not caught that particular bus and train, they would have been stranded in Ganeshpuri for ten days.
Once again a hardship proved to be a blessing when a devotee and his wife arrived in Ganeshpuri for a few days. After settling in, they hired a horse-drawn cariage to take them to Vajreshwari. But as the wife climbed into the vehicle, she fell and broke her ankle. Witnessing the occurrence, Nityananda told the husband to take her to a certain bone-setter in Bombay as opposed to the hospital. When an anxious friend of the couple asked Nityananda how such a thing could happen in Ganeshpuri, he replied, "She has young children. A fatal accident would have brought distress to them." It was clear to everyone that a fatal accident had been averted.
Around 1950, Dr. Deodhar recalls seeing two cars arrive. From one car servants emerged carrying bedding and headed for the ashram's back door. It seemed that the Bhiwandiwalla family was preparing to stay for some time. Family members emerged from the other car and walked toward the main entrance. One man gingerly carried an inert child in his outstretched arms. Not ten minutes later, the servants returned to the cars with the bedding. Next came the family, the same man holding the child. The entourage drove off and Dr. Deodhar hurried inside. There he learned that the child suffered from pneumonia and had been unconscious for three days. The family brought the child before Nityananda and begged him to open the child's eyes.
Passing his hand over the small face, the child's eyes opened, but moving his hand back, the child's eyes closed. Nityananda then told the family to perform the last rites because the child was dead.
Mistry had been in charge of the ashram's construction work for many years and felt comfortable around his guru. Without thinking, he remarked how unfortunate it was that the child had died in Nityananda's presence. Angrily the Master said, "What do you know about it? This is the foruth time that the child has come from its mother's womb seeking liberation. It has wanted freedom but karmic law has dragged it down again and again into the same family. Now fulfilled, this soul will not have to return." Overcome by curiosity, Dr. Deodhar later questioned a family member, who confirmed that four infants had died shortly after birth--the last one only after receiving darshan from Nityananda.
In another instance, a Bombay couple had their first child late in life. When he contracted smallpox. the parents rushed him to Ganeshpuri. There they placed their beloved son at Nityananda's feet in full view of a group of devotees and ashram children. Aware of the risk to those present, the Master ordered the couple to take their sick child home immediately. The Nityananda stood up and entered his own room. For ten days he stayed inside seeing no one, until one morning he emerged and walked directly to the hot springs to bathe. Following him, anxious devotees noticed a number of skin eruptions on his body. Later they learned that in Bombay the sick child had miraculously recovered.
The following story occurred some time before Dr. Deodhar became a devotee. On his jungle estate near Panval stood a small shrine to Shiva. Installed by his family at this shrine was a certain Swami Ramananda who performed the daily rituals. Once a week the monk went to the Deodhar compound to collect supplies, and one time he arrived as the gamily was deciding whether to escavate an old rubble-filled basement that lay directly beneath the present house.
Listening to the discussion, Swami Ramananda excitedly said the basement held a golden treasure guarded by a large cobra, and he offered to retrieve it for them.
Rather doubtful, Dr. Deodhar said they were not seeking treasure--only a basement. But the family agreed to let the swami supervise the project.
Two days of digging passed without producing any sign of a basement. Meanwhile the family grew increasingly anxious, fearing that the house might collapse. Swami Ramananda pleaded for one more day, and spent the night in the trench breathing so loudly that no one slept. The next morning he climbed out and said they could replace the escavated dirt because nothing would ever materialize. Angrily, he added that a certain langotiwalla (literally "one in charge of the loincloths") was preventing their success, and he would go to Ganeshpuri and demand satisfaction.
The swami said he had known this langotiwalla in Rishikesh. He recalled that in those days Nityananda was already a powerful yogi known to lie on the bank of the Ganges for long periods of time without taking food or water. he explained that, in the case of the basement, Nityananda had obviously "blinded" Swami Ramananda's powers (siddhis). In short, it was not that the basement with its treasure did not exist; it was simply that Nityananda was not allowing the swami to find it.
Now it seemed that Dr. Deodhar was already in the habit of visiting holy men residing in Maharashtra. He had even heard about Nityananda from his patients and wanted to accompany Swami Ramananda to Ganeshpuri. However, when they missed their travel connections in Thana, he returned home. Swami Ramananda continued on, promising to tell the doctor later about his intended confrontation.
Swami Ramananda returned a few days later, a changed man. He admitted to having been severly chastised by Nityananda.
"This is the third time you have used your siddhis in recent years," he told him. "You have far to go in your spiritual work and should know that you will never succeed by using your powers for vain and selfish reasons. Why did you do it?" Swami Ramananda meekly replied that he was only trying to express his gratitude to the Deodhar family. But Nityananda admonished him again, saying that it was the wrong way to do it. He then ordered him to move to a certain spot on the Narmada River and continue his personal practice. The humbled swami left immediately after telling his story and the family never saw him again.
Dr. Deodhar felt compelled to meet Nityananda and became a lifelong devotee.
There is still an air of mystery around Nityananda's age, background, and movements.
For instance, the only information known about his visits to the northern regions is that he traveled north between the ages of 12 and 16 or so, after leaving his foster father in Benares. In 1944 he told devotees of his presence when the ancient Ananteshwar temple was built. He described himself then as having an unkept beard and matted hair. The confines of time and space did not appear to affect him.*
*The Ananteshwar Temple was built in the mid 16th century, making it over 400 years old.
The Old Ashram
Devotees gathered late one evening in 1950 on the west side of the ashram. Here Nityananda sat on a small ledge bordering a six-foot drop into the darkening fields behind him. Silence prevailed. Suddenly in the distance a pair of bright eyes appeared and, weaving its way slowly through the fields, a tiger came up to the ledge and stoppped. The animal then rose lightly on its haunches and rested its forepaws on Nityananda's shoulders. Calmly the Master reached up with his right hand and stroked the tiger's head. Satisfied, the tiger jumped back down and disappeared into the night. Later Nityananda observed that as the vehicles of the Goddess Vajreshwari tigers should be expected around her temple. He also said that wild beasts behave like lambs in the presence of enlightened beings.
Many stories tell of his uncanny ability to understand animals. In Udipi he once told its captors to release a certain caged bird because it constantly cursed them. Another time he reassured a frightened devotee that a nearby cobra was too busy chanting to harm anybody. Others remember a devotee who always came for darshan accompanied by his pet parrot. And in May 1944 Captain Hatengdi heard Nityananda say that a bird told him it would rain in three days, and rain it did.
Among the many distinguished visitors seen in Ganeshpuri was a certain swami from Shirali. This enlighteded yogi was the ninth guru of a small community that had demostrated an enviable performance record in all spheres of endeavor for nearly a century. A shining example of kindness and humility but too mild mannered to exercise his authority, the gentle guru found himself dominated by a committee of lay advisors. For many years he had expressed a desire to visit Ganeshpuri but the trip was always thwarted by the committee.
Finally asserting himself in 1951, the swami departed on his pilgrimage. He was accompanied by a Shirali entourage that included three Nityananda devotees-Mrs. Muktabai, her brother, and his wife. The trip's organizers, still unenthusiastic about the trip, drove the swami to nearby Akroli where they started to hurry him from the car to the nearby hot springs. Buth their guru asked where Nityananda was. Hesitating, they admitted to being several miles from Ganespuri. The swami demanded to continue on, saying he would only bathe at the ashram. And so the group continued on.
Now it seemed that on the previous day Nityananda announced that a visitor would arrive at eleven the next morning. He then asked a devotee to heat some cow's milk and set it aside. When the swami and his entourage arrived, precisely at eleven, they proceeded directly to the hot springs. However, Mrs. Muktabai ran to the Master's room and excitedly exclaimed, "Deva, our Swamiji has come!" Nityananda replied, "Everything is known. Milk has been put aside. Place a chair on the temple's outer veranda, put a shawl on it, and offer the milk to the swami."
And so it passed that the swami had his bath, he worshipped at the Bhimeshwar temple, and he gratefully accepted the milk.
He then rose and proceeded to the ashram's western hall. As the swami and his lay followers passed the room where Nityananda sat, the lay followers, still determined to prevent a face-to-face meeting, silently bowed before the Master's door and conveniently blocked him from view. Oddly, the swami no longer asked about Nityananda. He simply sat in the hall repeating over and over, "We are feeling blissful here and do not feel like leaving." (To avoid saying "I," mathadipathis customarily refer to themselves in the first person plural.) Although pleased that he seemed to have forgotten about Nityananda, the lay advisors still worried. They tried to hurry him by saying that he would miss evening services in Shirali if he did not leave immediately. The swami replied, "Why the concern about being late for one service? We are in a state of bliss and do not feel like leaving." However, eventually they persuaded him to leave, and the motorcade departed.
Staying behind, Mrs. Muktabai again rushed to Nityananda's room, this time to say with sorrow that the swami had left without seeing him. The Master replied, "You are wrong--the meeting did occur. But his coming to Ganeshpuri was unnecessary. It could have happened anywhere and so many people tried to prevent it." She then knew that the encounter had been on a subtle level, leaving the swami in a state of bliss and immobility. She also realized that the Master himself had made the swami temporarily forget about him. Several other Ganeshpuri devotees belonged to this community and Nityananda had always told them that the swami was a good sanyasi and a true yogi.
When the party from Shirali was ten miles from Ganeshpuri, the swami awoke as if from a reverie and exclaimed: "Oh, but we did not meet Nityananda!" His advisors responded that they had driven too far to turn back. To this the swami said, "I believe he came to Shirali once but we were quite young at the time. We have long desired to meet him." But as was their custom, his advisors chose to ignore the swami's gentle hint.
Meanwhile Mrs. Muktabai's brother was upset with the subterfuge. He returned to Ganeshpuri the next day and told Nityananda what had occurred on the return drive, adding that he personally would bring the swami to meet him. But the Master replied, "It is unneccessary because the meeting took place. Moreover the good man suffers from diabetes and is unfit for another tiring journey. Remember that he is a Mathadipathi and must listen to his people.*
*Math (pronounced mut with an aspiration at the end), means monastery. A mathadipathi is a leader of a math or monastery; an abbot.
One day Mr. Mudbhatkal's Muslim landlord told him that he had always wanted to meet Nityananda but ill health prevented him from traveling. The devotee promised on his forthcoming visit to Ganeshpuri to bring his landlord some prasad. However, when he found a large group of visitors from Bombay seated before the Master, he timidly decided to wait until another day to mention his landlord. At the end of his visit the devotee went to bow before the Master, still conscious of his broken promise. As he turned to go, Nityananda called him back and purposefully handed him a coconut.
His landlord's desire was fulfilled.
Similarly, a devotee from Santa Cruz tells of a childhood journey to Ganeshpuri in the company of a group that included a follower of U. Maharaj. Learning of the disciple's intended visit, his guru gave him a coconut to offer Nityananda. When the group neared the ashram, it found Nityananda leaning against the wooden gate waiting.
The moment he saw them he said, "The coconut has been received"--as if to say a thought was as good as a deed. And we know that in the Mangalore days he told devotees that inner salutations expressed with purity of feeling and motive (shuddha bhavana) made physical obeisance unnecessary.
During this time Shankar Tirth, a sanyasi who had wandered for years without finding inner peace, first appeared. Hearing one day about Nityananda, he journeyed to Ganeshpuri where, upon receiving darshan, he finally found happiness. Asking the Master where he should stay, he was told to occupy the nearby Nath temple that Nityananda had restored two decades earlier. Shankar Tirth did so but the next morning, visibly shaken, said he had experienced such frightening nightmares of attacking cobras telling him to leave--that he asked to live elsewhere. Instead Nityananda told him to go back to the temple and announce on whose orders he was there. The sanyasi did this but returned the following day with the same story. Again Nityananda told him to go back and tell the treatening forces who had sent him. This time his announcement produced peace and quiet.
A year or two later the shankaracharya who had initiated Shankar Tirth into his particular order of monks was camped at Banaganga. When he sent word for the sanyasi to report for final initiation, Shankar Tirth asked Nityananda if he should go. He was told that it was unnecessary, and so he informed the shankaracharya that he would not come.
The Old Ashram: Part II
Another Shankaracharya visited Ganeshpuri in the mid-fifties. Details of his visit reached Captain Hatengdi in an unusual way.
In fact, it was in 1977 at a harikatha, which is a scriptural story told in song and narrative, that he heard the story:
The shankaracharya of Puri was spending his chaturma in Bombay. Traditionally, a chaturma was the four months of
monsoon during which a wandering sadhu would stay in one place, but these days it referred to a period of special study. At
the end of his time there he visited the Dattatreya shrine in Vakola, where he expressed a desire to visit the Vajreshwari temple.
Having just written a book on Shakti, he wanted to visit the shrine of the goddess before it was published. The then young
harikatha performer was hired to drive two men, the elderly shankaracharya and a shastri learned in the scriptures, to
Vajreshwari. The old swami was not very stong and had to be helped up the steps leading to the shrine. Afterward, the
shankaracharya suddenly uttered a desire to see Nityananda and the three companions found themselves unexpectedly en route to Ganeshpuri.
When they arrived, the Master was resting on his narrow bench with a few people seated before him. The three new visitors
quietly joined the others. Silence reigned. After some time the scholar stood up and announced who they were. He said that the shankaracharya had written a book on Shakti and that they had come for Nityananda's blessing. No one else spoke, and the silence continued. At some point the Master raised his head and nodded to an attending devotee, who left and quickly
reappeared with a mysteriously prepared tray of fresh flowers, fruit, and coconuts. The attendant respectfully placed the tray
before the shankaracharya and withdrew. Although it was clear that Nityananda had been expecting the holy man, he still did
not speak. Several minutes passed before the scholar again stood up, this time to say that what was transpiring in silence was
new to him. He nevertheless recognized that the flowers and fruit represented Nityananda's blessing and announced that his
party would take its leave. Bowing deeply, the three visitors left the silent ashram.
In 1954, G.L. Rao was staying with Shankar Tirth in the Nath temple opposite the Vajreshwari temple. One afternoon
Godarvarimata, a holy woman from Sakori, drove up to the temple and asked whether she could be taken to Ganeshpuri.
Shankar Tirth asked Rao to accompany her. They found Nityananda resting in his room with his feet extended onto the cement platform. Rao announced the arrival of the visitor. who sat down near his feet, and Nityananda grunted in acknowledgement. Wishing to be hospitable, Rao asked whether he could bring Godavarimata something to drink, and Nityananda said yes. While Rao was away, the Master came out of his room and sat on the platform. Godarvarimata stayed for two days, later saying that Nityananda had given her the darshan of her guru. She had originally come to ask Nityannda to grace a Vedic ceremony in Bombay with his physical presence. He refused, saying he would observe the ritual from Ganeshpuri--but she continued to press her invitation. When finally he replied that "one has to come only if one is not there already," she stopped asking. Later it was reported that on the final day of the yajna the holy woman was granted the darshan of Nityananda.
In 1954, Sitarama Shenoy suffered a heart attack in Vajreshwari and died. Grief stricken and inconsolable, his wife was
determined to take the body to Ganeshpuri. Accordingly she hired a car, had the body placed in it, and proceeded toward the
ashram. A quarter mile away, the car stalled and would not start up again. At this point the driver announced tha he would
neither repair the car in the dark nor help carry the body the remaining distance. Undeterred, the widow left the body with the
driver and set off for the ashram on foot. When she was still some two hundred yards from the gate, she heard Nityannada
shouting, "Go back and perform the last rites!" She pleaded with him but was ordered away.
The devotee Rao was present that evening and asked Nityananda why he had not revived her husband as he had done
some years earlier. The Master responded that their children had been young then and needed a father, and in compassion the
Divine Force worked that way. However, present conditions were different. His interference, he said, would cause people to
stop going to Chandanwadi, Bombay's crematorium, and come to Ganeshpuri instead.
Nityananda often tested a devotee's mettle, as in the instance of a Brahman devotee who came weekly to read the scriptures
aloud in the Master's presence. After several visits he asked to be cured of his tubercular condition and constant cough.
Nityananda agreed and told him to eat a small frog fried in ghee every day. A strict vegetarian, the Brahman was horrified--but having asked for Nityandna's help, he dutifully complied with the instructions. Soon his lungs improved and he developed a taste for frogs in the bargain.
The Master never took credit for the endless instances of healing that occurred around him. In fact, he often directed
devotees to rely on their own traditional medical physicians. When pressed, he attributed everthing to the Divine Force. He
would say: "This one had no desire to do good deeds. Everything that happens does so through the will of God."
Nityananda was tolerant of his devotee's humanness; his actions indicated that one's heart was free to turn to God only after the basic human needs were fulfilled. He made no demands, issued no commandments, and frequently concerned himself with their worldly comfort. In return, all he asked was that followers be prapared to receive that which he offered in such abundance.
This is a story of an attorney from the distant state of Kerala who regularly visited Ganeshpuri on weekends. As the years
passed, however, the devotee felt keenly the loneliness of his unmarried state and finally announced he wanted a wife. listening, Nityananda pointed to the surrounding throng and said, "Take one from here." The prospective bridegroom instantly froze, concerned that his mention of a private problem had triggered a casual response. Bewildered, he sat as the people around him slowly dispersed until only one man remained, likewise from Kerala. Eyeing the attorney, he told Nityananda that he and his wife were having difficulty arranging a suitable match for their daughter. Nityananda pointed to his devotee.
Everything seemed settled until their families sent the potential couple's horoscopes to a group of astrologers who
unanimously pronounced the match unsuitable. When informed of this, Nityananda without a glance at the offending charts
pointed out that a certain aspect nullified the negative signs correctly discerned by the astrologers. When this information was
relayed to Kerala, the astrologers agreed, amazed at their failure to notice this vital detail, and the couple married.
A longstanding devotee from the Mangalore days was a woman whose ill-tempered husband never allowed her to handle any
family financial matters. In fact, she had never dared to ask him for money. Then one day following their recent move to
Bombay, the wife asked her husband for some rupees. He demanded to know why. She replied that she wanted to visit nearby Ganeshpuri and he quipped, "And what will you achieve by going there?" Seconds later he literally threw a five-rupee note at her. Normally she would never have touched money so humiliatingly offered, but determined to see Nityananda she picked up the note and departed at once.
Reaching the old ashram at a little past noon, she found the devotees restless and the atmosphere tense. The Master had not
taken his afternoon meal and as a result no one had eaten. They told her that when he was approached earlier about his food,
Nityananda had become very upset and sent the questioner away. The devotees implored the woman to speak to him, and she approached the small room where he sat across from the Krishna temple. Seeing her, the Master visibly relaxed and asked, "Well he hasn't changed yet." His faithful devotee replied, "I don't know whether people ever change their inborn habits--but I have brought some food for you. Will you eat now?" And he did.
Late one evening in 1955, Nityananda asked his attendants to count the money in the Krishna temple donation box. When told the amount, he asked them to remove all but a quarter of it. The next morning worshippers found the box broken and the
money stolen. When informed, the Master nodded. He said that on the previous night he had noticed a starving man silently
praying for enough money in the temple box to feed him. And so Nityananda obliged him with an adequate amount.
The New Ashram at Kailas
In 1956 a new ashram at Ganeshpuri was inaugurated and named "Kailas" after the Himalayan mountain home of Shiva. Here Nityananda lived for five more years--until two weeks before his mahasamadhi. Changes accompanied the new living situation. The Master's devotee attendants now monitored acces to his private quarters and put darshan on a schedule. Visitors wishing to see Nityananda at other times were forced to make special arrangements.
Early one evening Nityananda sat in the middle of the inner platform with a pile of pillows at his left. Before him a window revealed steps leading to the terrace. Suddenly the young head of an important monastery in Udipi appeared at the entrance.
He was accompanied by a number of followers, one of whom announced to Nityananda's seated devotees that their swami required a mat to sit on. The devotees watched the Master for a clue as to how to proceed--but he continued to gaze out the window without acknowledging the visitor in any way. Finally the swami respectfully pushed the pillows againsst the wall and seated himself on the platform's edge. He then addressed Nityananda in Kanarese.
"Why do they call you God?" he asked.
Looking to his left, the Master replied, "Everyone is a God including yourself and those sitting here."
"But they call you an incarnation," insisted the young man.
Nityananda answered, "Does an incarnate ever make such a pronouncement? Does a jnani ever project himself as enlightened?"
"Yes, Krishna does in the Bhagavad Gita."
"No, Vyasa does so in telling the story--Krishna does not."
"But," the swami argued, "Krishna showed the universal form of God to Arjuna. it is recorded in the Gita!"
"How can the Absolute's form be seen or shown?" the Master said. "Vyasa wrote it to inculcate faith among the devout."
Trying to open an intellectual debate, the youth then raised certain points mentioned in the Gita. However, always impatient of such dry discussions, Nityananda waved him aside, saying: "What is in the Gita? From beginning to end, it is simply advice to renounce, renounce, renounce! To renounce worldliness and its inherent desires."
Considerably moved, the swami rose and thanked Nityananda for his darshan. But when he left, two of his followers stayed behind. The Master shrugged and said, "When there is yoga, there will be darshan."
A week later, the Master mentioned his young visitor. He hinted that in a previous incarnation the swami had been the elderly priest from Udipi who, recognizing the then youthful Nityananda's divine presence, had ordered the villagers not to harass him. This past connection had brought him to Ganeshpuri and Nityananda foresaw a bright future for him.
On another occasion, a small band of renunciates came and stood before him as he rested on the inner platform of his room.
Nityananda nodded to them from his sleeping posture and they left without a word. When some of the devotees present expressed their surprise at not recognizing the renunciates, the Master said devotees did not just reside in Ganespuri. he said some lived in jungles, some in cities, and others in foreign lands.
Mrs. Kaikini of Dadar was a faithful follower of a great scholar who held audiences spellbound during his brilliant lectures on Jnaneshwar's famous translation of the Bhagavad Gita. Each year she was amoung those who accompanied him to Pandarpur on an annual pilgrimage known as Wari. Because Mrs. Muktabai occasionally attended these lectures, she became firends with Mrs. Kaikini and eventually invited her to Ganeshpuri. However, Mrs, Kaikini demurred, saying that it did not sound like an atmosphere she would enjoy. She admitted hearing that Nityananda was taciturn, gave no meaningful talks, and often rebuked visitors.
Some time later, just before the annual Wari, Mrs. Kaikini missed one of her scholar's regular lectures. Instead she went to a talk by a rival who, new on the scene, was beginning to attract a following. As fate would have it, her scholar/teacher had both noticed Mrs. Kaikini's absence and heard of her attendance at the other lecture. He angrily proclaimed that she was never again welcome in his presence or at the Wari.
When Mrs. Kaikini heard this, she was deeply shocked. To be punished so severely for what she considered a minor transgression was more than she could bear. Friends feared for her mental balance and Mrs. Muktabai again asked her to come to Ganeshpuri. This time Mrs. Kaikini agreed.
Their party arrived to find Nityananda sitting on his bench. When Mrs. Muktabai told him what had happened, he responded with characteristic brevity. "In divine wisdom (jnana) how can there be difference (bheda)?" The two young women took this to mean that if Mrs. Kaikini was truly listening to the saint Jnaneshwar, would it matter which lecture she was at? Then the Master pointed to the ground and shouted, "Besides, this is Pandarpur. There is no need to go in Wari!" He repeated this and as he did, Mrs. Kaikini's relief was immediate and she returned home calmed and at peace.
The following year as the month for the Wari approached, her anxiety returned, and she decided to go to Pandarpur on her own. But when she started to pack she fell ill. By the time she was well enough to travel, it was too late. The following year followed a similar pattern. Again, as she began to pack she became ill. Only then did she recognize the signifigance of Nityananda's words--and from that moment she no longer felt compelled to attend the Wari. Some years later she suddenly weakened and took to her bed. Stopping her son from rushing for a doctor, she said "Please don't. I see Nityananda standing thare and he has come to take me." Within minutes she passed away.
Narayan Shetty, popularly called Sandow Shetty, was a familiar figure in Ganeshpuri in the last ten years of Nityananda's life.
He was a big, gregarious man looked up to int he ashram--although he sometimes went too far acting the buffoon. Now it happened that he was quite fond of fruit, expecially those brought as offerings. Often he would seek the Master's permission with silent gestures and then slyly slip the best ones aside for himself. When a few devotees objected to such audacity, Nityananda retorted, "Never mind. His desires are simple--let him have the fruit."
Some years after the Mster's passing, Sandow was hospitalized following surgery. Captain Hatengdi, going to visit his friend, found him semi-conscious and speaking as if to Nityananda. "Remember, Master, that you promised me a place," he muttered. "Don't forget." And to the shock of the doctors who expected a full recovery, he died.
Once a famous singer visited Ganeshpuri at the invitation of a devotee. While fans and critics alike considered the man outstanding in his field, they agreed that he was also a little arrogant. Upon entering the ashram to perform, the man found a group of tribal people seated around the Master reclining on his bench as usual. Mud floor, an uncultured audience, and Nityananda's apparent indifference instantly upset the artist who decided his talents were wasted on this gathering. Without a word, he turned and went to his room. Later that evening a woman from a distinguished school of music arrived and performed for over an hour. Overhearing her, the disgruntled artist decided that he would perform the next day. To his dismay, however, that morning he could not utter a single note. He fearfully approached Nityananda who said, "Sing? Why not? God gave you the voice--sing his praises. Why should you care who hears and who does not?"
Please note that Indian music is an ancient science intended to enhance the individual's communion with the Infinite. Fame and wealth are incidental to its spritual aspect. For this reason most songs relate in some way to reuniting the individual with the Supreme.
A year or two after K.S. Lulla began visiting Ganeshpuri, Nityananda took him aside. he told the attorney to go to Kanhangad and then to Dharmasthala to receive darshan at the famous Manjunatha Temple. he also told him to travel by air. This was the devotee's first trip to that part of the country and he planned it with care. He first proceeded to Kanhangad and from there to Mangalore. He then intended to take an early taxi to Dharmasthal and return to Mangalore in time for his 11:30 a.m. flight to Bombay. Accordingly, he rose, procured a taxi, and arrived at Dharmasthal at six in the morning. But when he tried to enter the Jain shrine for darshan, he was stopped. The attendant priest informed him that he could receive darshan only after first participating in the ritual puja--which would occur at noon. Lulla explained his predicament but the priest was adamant, explaining that tradition required this protocol of even the highest in the land. However Lulla persisted and was finally taken before the hereditary head of the temple, who simply repeated the temple rules.
Nityananda's devotee in turn repeated his plea, saying, "Bhagawan sent me for Lord Manjunatha's darshan but my return flight is at 11:30. If you cannot help me I will go back and explain to Bhagawan why I did not receive darshan." Intrigued, the gentleman asked to whom he referred. When Lulla said "Nityananda of Ganeshpuri," the priest was told to let him enter the temple at once.
Lulla quickly returned to Ganeshpuri to tell his tale. To his surprise, however, the devotees already knew of the successful pilgrimage. He then learned that at the exact moment of his entry into the Jain temple in Dharmasthal the Master had smiled in Ganeshpuri, announcing, "Lulla is having darshan of Manjunatha."
This incident is unusual because Nityananda seldom urged participation in traditional ritual or public worship. Instead he often said that for it to lead to liberation devotion should not be demonstative but practiced secretly. "Gupta bhakti--mukti!"
Once a devotee spoke of her spiritual experiences to friends in Bombay and implied that she was developing rapidly. On her next visit to Ganeshpuri the Master asked, "What do you do when you season food? Don't you cover it for a time and let it simmer?" This, he explained, allows the flavor to permeate the dish rather than escape into the air. Similarly, spiritual experiences should be kept private until one has evolved enough to speak of them without arousing the ego.
A cooking analogy is not surprising considering Nityananda's knowledge of the subject. He sometimes instructed a cook on how to grind the masala and what spices to use. It was customary for his devotees in Ganeshpuri to each prepare a dish as a daily offering to him. And Nityananda would always know if an ingredient was missing or make suggestions about blending spices or some aspect of its preparation. He once told a devotee that as a person became more spritually evolved, he or she would instinctively be able to cook well and combine ingredients in the right proportions without having to measure them.
Nityananda's personal knowledge of the culinary art was legendary. G.L. Rao recalls that the Master once repared a superb festival dinner for him. Serving Rao most of the food, he saved a little for himself on a sheet of newspaper. This he mixed with some curry, at a few bites while still standing, and then threw away the paper. Captain Hatengdi had a similar experience in
1945 when Nityananda prepared some rice and a regional potato dish peculiar to his devotee's native region. Carrying it to the guest room, he handed it to him. Moving a descreet distance away, the self-conscious devotee began to eat as the Master watched. Though delicious, it was an enormous portion and only after some time did Nityananda suggest that he could stop eating. Another year passed until one day, as they sat together, the Master remarked, "It is good to know how to cook."
Captain Hatengdi took it as a casual utterance until thirty years later he found himself forced to learn the elements of cooking.
The New Ashram At Kailas
Nityananda could be very modern in his views. Once a devotee with a growing family brought his fifth and youngest child to Ganeshpuri. Oddly enough, no one else was around. The Master gave the baby his blessing and played with him for a while--and then turned to address the father. "Why must you reproduce like the cat family? Go and have an operation.
Another time, on an evening in 1947, he broke ashram silence to speak about Prohibition. "How is it possibe to stop a poor man from drinking?" he demanded. "What can one offer a weary man who trudges home everynight with little to feed his family and even greater debts? How should he forget his worries and fall asleep? Currently, every household in this region brews its own liquor from plantains. Make drunkenness a crime--but not drinking. Until people are properly fed and have healthy recreation, drinking will exist."
In another instance a mutton shopkeeper decided his hereditary avocation was unclean. After much thought, he shut down his butcher shop and reopened it as a general store. The new enterprise, however, was a failure and the man sought the Master's advice. Nityananda's advice was simple--the man should follow his true avocation and not be swayed by external considerations. In speaking to his devotee, he used the word dandha in referring to the duty a person must perform in this lifetime.
Lastly, there was a boy who wanted to become a pilot. When his devotee parents disapproved, he appealed to Nityananda--who took the son's side. The Master told the parents not to worry about his safety. Accidents, he said, were more likely to occur on the ground. But another crisis arose when, during the boy's eye examination, doctors detected a condition that inevitably would lead to blindness. In despair, the boy returned to Ganeshpuri where, again, Nityananda said not to worry. He then gave him a small bottle of oil to massage regularly onto his scalp. And three months later, when he retook the eye exam he was declared completely fit.
M.D.Suvarna, who took most of the later photographs of Nityananda, remembers one of the more remarkable visitors to Kailas. Swami Chinmayananda first came for darshan sometime around 1956. He returned often and frequently spoke of Nityananda to his own disciples, always calling him the living stithaprajna of the Bhagavad Gita--one who never wavers from consciousness. One day in 1960 he decided to take his students to Ganeshpuri. Organizing a group of musicians for the occasion, the Master received them with the honor due a visiting religious dignitary. He first invited Swami Chinmayananda to address the combined assembly from a terrace of the newly opened Bangalorewalla building and then told the swami to use the wisdom and power of Saraswati to spread the message of the Upanishads. Humbly, Swami Chinmayananda replied that he and the others present were spiritual infants compared to the great yogi. He also said that anyone attempting to describe Nityananda to the world would be trying to write "a saga of one hundred Christs living together, each exhibiting his wondrous powers to ameliorate the sufferings of the poor."
Physically, Nityananda was showing signs of age. By 1957 his teeth had deteriorated so much that two devotees threatened to fast if he did not have them removed. He finally agreed but, refusing the then typical anesthetic injection of cocaine, experienced considerable pain and bleeding. When the two devotees later offered him some food, he refused. "How can one eat when the teeth have just been removed?" he said. "You may not realize it, but yogis do experience pain. The difference is they pay it no heed."
The relationship between the spiritual and the physical was sublimely simple--at least for Nityananda. When some devotees complained that travel conditions and old age hindered them from more frequent visits, he countered that his physical presence was unnecessary for their spriritual growth. "Devotees will find this one wherever they meet and talk. Fish are born, live, and die in the holy Ganges without attaining liberation, but devotees have only to think of the guru." He had been saying this for years.
And when asked about the benefits of performing selfless service, the Master would reply, "Who wants it? God? Of course not--people only do it to get something in return. you should dutifully do your own work to the best of your ability without seeking a reward. That is the highest seva you can render. The only thing required for spiritual growth is a detachment from worldly pleasures. If you don't listen to this, you will fail in the end.*"
*The Master said this over and over again throughout the years. He said that the thoughtless state, the state of detachment is the highest state. How can there be desire in the state of detachment? It is not the world the yogi gives up, it is desire for worldly sense pleasure. The true yogi is full and content whether he is a pauper or a rich man. If pleasurable things come your way, experience them, but never go looking. Always be content in yourself wherever you are and whatever your circumstances.
One day a devotee saw that Nityananda's feet were extremely swollen and asked about it. "People come here for some benefit," he told her, "and then leave their desires and difficulties at this one's feet. While the Ocean of Divine Mercy washes away most of these tensions, a little is absorbed by this body--a body assumed only for their sake."
Whenever Nityananda intervened on a devotee's behalf, he always gave destiny the upper hand. During the monsoon of 1959, a long line of devotees and petitioners waited outside for their turn to enter the ashram. The wife of an old Gujarati devotee pleaded with Suvarna to be allowed inside. As the doorkeeper was about to open the doors, Nityananda shouted at him to stop--and he did. But as the woman kept calling through the window and Nityananda continued shouting at him, Suvarna grew agitated. Throwing open the doors, he nervously admitted a group that included the Gujarati couple. She waited until the others had departed and then begged Nityananda to heal her husband, who was obviously gravely ill. He was silent for some time before saying, "Take him first to the hot springs and then to the dispensary for an injection." Greatly relieved, the woman thanked the Master and, half carrying her husband, left. However, en route to the kunds she spotted the dispensary and, deciding it more convenient to stop there first, took her husband inside for his injection. They then proceeded to the hot springs where, upon entering the water, the old man died.
It was in the early 1920's, following his studies in England, that Dr. M.B. Cooper received from a Himalayan saint the secret preparation for a drug with broad curative properties. The doctor spent the next decades studying the compound, which yielded astounding results. In 1959, after hearing his friend and colleague Dr. Deodhar speak of Nityananda, Dr. Cooper asked to accompany him to Ganeshpuri. he wanted to talk to the yogi about the future of the drug.
Arriving, they found Nityananda seated in his room. Dr. Cooper gazed in silence as tears streamed down his face. After a time Dr. Deodhar led him away to a restaurant where, over a cup of tea, he reminded his friend about mentioning the drug. Dr. Cooper shook his head. "You come here so often," he said, "that you only see his outer form. But I saw a dazzling crystal in his head! In a split second I was overwhelmed at his pruity and acutely aware of my own separation from the Divine. I could only stand before him and cry."
Dr. Cooper was correct. Nityananda's unconcern with his physical body was reflected in his devotees constant awareness of it. And they were perplexed. By 1945, although he ate very little, the yogi was clearly--and mysteriously--putting on weight. In those days overnight guests cooked for themselves, always offering something to Nityananda--who declined more often than not. In fact, meals were not orginized in the ashram until the early 1950's when the old west room was converted to a simple kitchen. Nonetheless, by 1960 his body had grown to huge proportions. his eating habits had not changed. If anything, now being toothless, he ate less.
Alarmed, four devotees finally voiced their concern. The first was Sandow Shetty, who as a youth had been fond of gymnastics and feats of strength. The Master told him that his heaviness was due to lack of exercise. The second inquirer was Rao, who will be recalled as suffering from chronic malaria. Nityananda told him that his swollen stomach was a result of a malaria-induced enlarged spleen. The third devotee, a practitioner of pranayama breathing exercises, was told his size was a result of breath retention. Finally Mrs. Muktabai came to him full of concern for his health and comfort. To her he said that the love of his devotees had settled around his gigantic belly. Regardless of cause, by the time Nityananda took mahasamadhi in August 1961 he was once again thin.
Feeding the poor was a standard occurrence at Kailas because the food offerings brought by visitors to Ganeshpuri were distributed to local poor children. In later years, as the number of devotees grew, so did the piles of flowers and fruit baskets.
Most were distributed as usual, but Nityananda allowed some to rot and then ordered them buried. One day Sandow Shetty ventured to ask about this apparent waste. He was told, "It does not go to waste. Those for whom it is meant are consuming it."
In 1958 Nityananda asked that the poor children of Ganeshpuri be fed on a permanent basis. And it was done. Within three years a hundred children a day were receiving morning meals; within twenty years the numbers surpassed 700. Today, besides the children, meals are served several times monthly to the region's adivasi, nearly 2,500 tribal people shunned by other communities. The ashram coffers are always full, not surprisingly, with unsolicited donations for food.
August 8, 1961
On the afternoon of July 25, 1961, a weakened Nityananda asked Gopalmama, his attendant, to arrange for a chair to carry him to the nearby Bangalorewalla building. He said he would remain there a fortnight (14 days), and exactly two weeks later the yogi took mahasamadhi. His bed still stands in the building's main hall and is revered as a shrine.
Confusion was evident in the months preceding his passing. One rumor had Nityananda moving to the city of Bangalore, a plan primarily fostered by Lashmansa Khoday, who oversaw construction of the Bangalorewalla building. He went so far as to charter an airplane. Hearing of this, devotees rushed to Ganeshpuri to argue that it would make Nityananda less accessible to them. Nityananda said he had no intention of leaving and that "an assemby of sages" had already suggested that "it be here only."* But unable--or unwilling--to understand the implications of this statment, Khoday and others continued with their plans. The day before the scheduled flight, however, the Master developed diarrhea and the trip was cancelled.
*Nityananda was referring to Masters from the subtle realms, such as Siddhaloka.
In hindsight, his move to the Bangalorewalla building appeared premeditated. It was the only building in Ganeshpuri large enough to encompass the multitude who would soon come to see him one last time. Remodeling the old ashram was likewise timely. In early June Nityananda learned that it was still unfinished; the voluntary backers had postponed the roof until after the monsoon season. But the yogi insisted that there was no time to lose. He ordered them to lay the slab immediately and to use ashram funds if necessary. These instructions were followed, and it was in the rubuilt section of the old Viakunt ashram that his earthly remains were later interred.
Of the many signs revealed to devotees in those last months, most were misinterpreted or ignored. For instance, Mrs.
Muktabai recalled that shortly after his move to the Bangalorewalla building, Nityananda told her there would be a major pilgrimage to Ganespuri in two week's time. She wondered, but never thought to ask, why so many people would come during the monsoon. however, one person understood--a woman devotee from Dadar called Mataji by her followers and Mantrasiddhibai by Nityananda.
In May 1961, the day before she arrived for a visit, he experienced a discharge from his ear. He did not complain and the secretion was odorless, but devotees nonetheless called in a respected specialist. Although he had never met his patient, the doctor prostrated himself and refused to prescribe any medication until Nityananda promised to recover. The Master nodded his assurance and the doctor gave Gopalmama some capsules with instructions for administering them. He then departed. The yogi accepted a capsule, saying he did so because the good doctor had shown great sensitivity. But later he refused a second one. "One is enough," he explained. "His bhavana has worked." Mantrasiddhibai, learning of the discharge, began crying and begged Nityananda not to leave. She interpreted it as a sign that he was cleansing his system of toxins--and for only one prupose. The Master admonished her, "Why cry? Stop it. Greater work is possible in the subtle plane than in the gross." To the others, including Mrs. Muktabai, he said he had injured his ear long ago in a fall in the Kanheri caves.
The way Dr. Pandlaskar heard of the mahasamadhi was decidedly odd. Early that morning the doctor's nine-year-old son had confronted his parents with the words: "What are you doing here? Go to Ganeshpuri. He leaves today because the assembly of sages says that he alone can help in the forthcoming ashtagraha yoga. Astrological indications are for great evil to the world in general and to India in particular." The parents were so astonished at the boy's bizarre words that they reprimanded him for talking nonsense. But that evening they heard of Nityananda's passing and departed at once. The boy was so affected by his experience that he did not fully recover for years. His message was thought to refer to the conjunction of all planets in a single sign, the next occurrence being in February 1962 when all eight entered Capricorn, the sign of India.
It was a hot May afternoon in 1961 when M.U. Hatengdi first heard what he called a telepathic bell announcing that Nityananda would soon take mahasamadhi. This is his story: Fearing the yogi had already discarded his human form, I tried not to think about it. The next morning I reluctantly opened the Delhi paper even though it would hardly mention a nonpolitical event in Bombay. All the same I was relieved to find nothing in the obituaries. The prospect haunted me for the next three months. I grew insecure about my own spiritual practice even though Nityananda had told me there was nothing to read or study. Even worse was the thought of being unable to contact him in a physical form. I had not yet heard of his assurance that greater work was possible on the subtle plane, and since 1948 my visits to see him were infrequent and largely in the public eye. No longer did I quietly sit with him in private. True, he once said that when a child learns to walk, the mother, still watchful, must allow it freedom to run around. Perhaps he should have added, even if the child tries to hang on to the mother! I knew his grace was with me wherever I was stationed in the Navy-but I also knew that I could contact him if necessary.
Unable to leave the naval station, I made a plan. Knowing that Mrs. Muktabai still went to Ganeshpuri every two weeks, I wrote asking her to report on Nityananda's health after each visit and enclosed some self-addressed envelopes. Her letters began arriving regularly, the first few indicating that he was well. Her third or fourth letter, however, referred to some debility as well as talk of his undertaking a trip to Kanhangad. This con- fused by did not worry me. He had told me in 1944 that he would remain in the Ganeshpuri ashram, and even if he changed his mind, I was used to traveling great distances to see him. Besides, I was planning a visit in early August and it was the mid-July. But my anxiety continued and it was an unhappy period for me. The last letter from Mrs. Muktabai was dated August 4 and reached me on August 7. It was a dark and rainy evening and I grew des- pondent reading it. She wrote me to come at once because the Master was very weak.
Back in December I had made a small altar in my hime. On a corner shelf lit by the first rays of the morning sun I kept a framed photograph of Nityananda along with flowers from our garden and a silver lamp. The lamp held just enough oil to burn for an hour and it was my custom to light it every evening at sunset. The day after the distressing letter I came home for lunch to find the little lamp already burning. In turn, the picture was decorated with flower garlands and flanked by two vases, each containing sweets traditionally prepared on the festival of Ganesh's birth. When I asked my wife why she had arranged such a display, she said she had simpley felt like it. I had never shared with her my fears about Nityananda's passing and so her demonstration was all the more remarkable. She lit the oil lamp at nine that morning and it had never gone out. She collected every flower in the garden including the water lilies, something she had never done before, and then prepared the modaks--all this without knowing why. The mystery was solved the next morning when I learned of the mahasamadhi. While I was so absorbed in the world, the Master sent this sign of his blessing from nine hundred miles away.
Nityananda occupied a room directly above the entrance of the Bangalorewalla building. For the first three or four days, though weak, he walked a little. July 27 was his last Guru Purnima, a day on which Hindus traditionally honor the teacher, and he addressed the assembled devotees for nearly 45 minutes in a surprisingly strong voice. He said that the boxcars of a train going up a hill might slip backward without sand thrown on the tracks for traction. To maintain a lasting connection with the engine, each boxcar must forge a bond of unshakable faith and conviction. Everything else he said would happen automatically. He then mentioned plans for building a hospital in Ganeshpuri.
A day or so later, with only Madhumama present, he stood on the balcony watching the sun set in a sky that was unusually clear for July. Nityananda said, "Anyone wanting to see the sun should do it now for tomorrow he may not be seen." The following morning dawned cloudy and stayed that way as a noticeably weaker Nityananda was moved to the main hall. There he stayed until he died.
On August 7 around four in the afternoon he asked for B.H. Mehta, popularly called Babubhai Lokhandwalla. Mehta, who was in a restaurant having tea at the time, learned of the summons and hurried to the main hall. There the yogi handed him a large parcel wrapped in a piece of cloth and asked him to look after Kanhangad. The bundle contained cash, gold, and other valuables that Mehta eventually used, along with funds he collected, to build the two Kanhangad temples above the rock-cut caves and at Guruvana.*
Guruvana is the area of jungle where Nityananda was found as an infant. A temple dedicated to Nityananda stands there today, along with many other temples in India dedicated to the Master.
For months devotees had noticed in Nityananda a growing sadness that often approached tears. We can only surmise that the great yogi felt as Krishna did in the Bhagavad Gita when he said he granted supplicants what they prayed for. But more often than not, the only thing they wanted was worldly success or material gain. Too many fools, he said, passed his dwelling without asking for the liberation he offered. Likewise people brought Nityananda their earthly cares. These he relieved hoping to inspire in them a hunger for the spiritual gifts he was empowered to bestow. But in the end, like Krishna, he was disappointed. Some people actually came to Ganeshpuri for a lucky number to gamble on. They might count, for instance, how many of his fingers were visible at a given moment or the number of steps he took. Usually this was when Nityananda threw stones or shouted.*
*This is only my view from the heart, but it is understood what Nityananda meant by "More work can be done in the subtle."
Nityananda, while incarnate, was with people, all the people who asked for the liberation he offered recieved it. As in the case of remarking to Rao that he was enjoying the incense, even though it was being waved in front of a hole over one hundred miles away, he showed that he was wherever there was devotion. Though in the gross, he suffused the lives of all who desired what he offered through his permanent establishment in the subtle. Having merged with the formless Absolute, yet he projects subtle form from the realm of Siddhaloka now, and suffuses and permeates all who seek him within and without. In this way, only the earnest seeker with a pure heart can find him, and the numbers he can reach are limitless. By pure it is not meant a person with perfect behaviour, but rather, perfect love for the master, a perfect desire to merge with God Shiva, and his gift of divine liberation and understanding. All who desire may fall under the protection of the Siddha lineage and the Bhagawan Nityananda, the essence of love.
On the evening of August 7 the engineer Hegde felt drawn to Ganeshpuri. Traveling alone, he gained entry to the samadhi hall with some difficulty and found Monappa at Nityananda's bedside. The doctor had just announced that there was no need to worry and was walking out with Sandow Shetty--when he dropped his medical bag with a thud. Opening his eyes, the Master asked what the noise was and then inquired who was at his feet. hearing that it was Hegde, he told Manappa to leave. Hegde started to massage the Master's feet and was alone with him until four that morining. A little after midnight Nityananda startled him by speaking:
People only come here for money, and the more they get the more they want. Their greed is boundless. Sometimes they arrive hungry and with only the clothes on their backs but soon they start demanding luxuries like cars and houses. One would think that with their basic human needs satisfied, they would seek something higher. Something spiritual. But they persist. There is little point in allowing this body to continue. Tomorrow I will take samadhi.
This last sentence he repeated three times. Hegde was stunned because, while Nityananda was very weak, doctors had found nothing clinically wrong with him. Most devotees fully expected him to recover. Soon he began calling for Swami Janananda, demanding to know why he had not come. When Hegde begged him to postpone his mahasamadhi, Nityananda replied that he would if asked by someone with selfless devotion and love. After all, was not Pundalika a great devotee who made the Lord of Pandharpur wait for him? And was there no such person here? One would be enough to put off the samadhi. With such a person present, he said, not even God could leave without permission. He would be unable to break that bond of pure love. And pointing his index finger at Hegde, Nityananda asked, "Can you offer this one selfless devotion?" But Hegde tearfully replied, "I don't know."
Nityananda's Passing: Part II
August 8, 1961
In the remaining hour or so, Nityananda asked for certain other devotees by name but they arrived to late. He told Hedge not to worry, and at a quarter to four again muttered something about Swami Janananda, who also came too late and only after receiving a telegram. Hegde asked if he could help but Nityananda said he needed a sanyasi. At around four o'clock he sent the engineer to bathe. Returning, hedge offered to pour some coffee into the Master's mouth but the devotee in the next room woke up and told him to stop, saying that his plan was to bathe and then prepare Nityananda's coffee himself. And the yogi waved the engineer aside. But when the other devotee went for his bath, Hedge ran down to the hotel and asked the grateful manager to prepare some special coffee. Quickly Hedge carried it back, served it to Nityananda, and then departed, leaving him in the care of the others wishing to attend him. Among them, sometime ofter seven, were several women devotees from the early days, including Mrs. Wagle, a professional nurse.
In the early days Nityananda had served sugar cane juice to visitors. When Mrs. Muktabai had once asked why, he said, "Why? Because it is this one's juice." However, that morning Nityananda requested coffee and food for those present, something he had been doing for several months. Coming from Bangalore, Lakshmansa Khoday arrived around this time.
Among those assembling since six that morning was Chandu, a lonstanding devotee who had come some days before.
When Nityananda suddenly asked him for some kasthuri, a type of musk oil, Chandu began to weep. Years ago in Kanhangad he had told the devotee that before leaving this world he would ask him for kasthuri. In an attempt to calm him, Nityananda asked his old companion if he knew of a train that could carry then to Kanhangad. Chandu answered, yes, there was a scheduled train. But when the yogi asked, "How can this one go without strength in these legs?" Chandu was silent.
C.C. Parekh had arranged for a lift to Bombay. He planned to leave by seven that morning, tell his staff that he would remain in Ganeshpuri a few more days, and return to the ashram that afternoon. However, as he entered the car, he suddenly stopped. Asking his friend to wait, he hurried to the hall--where he was shocked to find the Master struggling to breathe. He administered oxygen at once and Nityananda's breathing improved, but Parekh decided not to leave. Remaining at the head of the bed, he was soon joined by Dr. Nicholson, a devotee and respected eye specialist from Bombay. Dr. Nicholson's wife joined them shortly, having telephoned a doctor at the neighboring sanatorium. Soon he arrived, examined Nityananda, and prescribed some medicine. But it was too late. Nityananda had them remove the oxygen mask and, breathing normally, asked Parekh for some water. Then at a quarter of nine he asked Lakshmansa khoday for some lemon juice. Khoday offered him fresh coconut milk instead, which he accepted. He took nothing more.
At nine-thirty Gopalmama noticed that Nityananda's body was radiating a lot of heat. Speaking for the last time, he repeated what he had said often that summer: "A sadhu became a swami. The swami become a deva to some, a baba and a bhagawan to others.* This deva will now enter constant samadhi." Ten minutes later he took several very deep breaths, the final one expanding his chest fully. He straightened his legs, the one arthritic, as far as he could, clasped his hands above his navel, and lay perfectly still. After a time Parekh called Swami Muktananda and others from the adjoining room to take charge of Nityananda's body.
*sadhu--literally, good; holy man.
*swami--literally, master of one's Self; title given to monks of the orders organized by Shankara.
*bhagawan--godhead; one who possesses the six treasures; one who is full of light.
*Deva--Literally, a shining one; a God. This is the last reference that Nityananda made of himself.
Between that afternoon and the following evening, there was much discussion about where to inter the holy remains. The devotee responsible for the Kailas ashram's construction proposed building a subterranean room there. Other devotees suggested a site on the hill behind the present museum building. Another group wanted it to be where the yogi's body now rested in the Bangalorewalla building, a proposal that Khoday offered to oversee. However, the site ultimately chosen for the samadhi shrine was the recently reconstructed old ashram building. Nityananda had always said that sages gathered there, and it was remembered with what urgency he had ordered the slab roof installed during that summer's monsoon.
On the morning of August 9 Captain Hatengdi arrived at his office to find a telephone message. Calling home, he learned that Mrs. Muktabai had sent a telegram saying that Nityananda had taken mahasamadhi the day before and interment would be in three days. He somehow managed to reach Bombay at eleven that night only to learn that the ceremony would occur the next morning. At that hour there were no trains or taxis and he spent a dismal night waiting for the morning train, which he caught.
He pulled into Bassein, now the Vasai Road, around five-thirty to find 150 other people stranded en route to Ganeshpuri. The state transport office was still closed and the area was deserted--except for a growing crowd of anxious devotees. Captain Hatengdi joined the line, resigned to what seemed inevitable. He was 25 miles away and would never arrive in time to see Nityananda one last time.
As he stood musing, five people stepped out of line to flag down a solitary taxi. But the driver refused to make the trip and they trudged back to the throng. By now the hopelessness of the situation drove Hatengdi to pace up and down--from the station to the fork in the road. To the right lay Ganeshpuri; to the left, Bassein and the fort. Pacing this 200-yard strtch several times, he again came to the fork in the road. This time, however, he saw an old but empty seven seat vehicle approaching from Bassein. He hailed the driver, who agreed to take Hatengdi and six other devotees who quickly piled in. The driver kept remarking on their good fortune. It seemed he rarely came this way and had been surprised to find himself at the fork in the road. At seven-fifteen he dropped them off at the Bhadrakali temple.
Captain Hatengdi, overjoyed to be there, had no idea where to find Nityananda's body. He managed to push through the crowd and five minutes later saw the body being carried from the Bangalorewalla building and placed on a jeep. At that moment the sun broke through the drizzle to light up the Master's face and Hatengdi rushed forward to catch hold of the vehicle. The hour-long procession would circle the buildings before proceeding to the old ashram's eastern entrance. As the entourage slowly began to move, the sun seemed to bow out and the drizzle resumed. The body had been arranged in the lotus position and sat in an easy chair conveyed by means of two logs tied to the chair arms. Hatengdi did not release his hold on the jeep until the chair was lowered and carried into the low building.
The old ashram was filled to capacity and there was no possibility of entering. So Hatengdi went first to bathe and then to pray. By now he knew the samadhi shrine was situated right where he used to sleep following the ashram's move to Kailas. He finally and truly understood Nityananda's earlier words to him that "this spot alone was good."
Nityananda's life exemplified nondualism. He made no distinction between people, never caring about their religion, their sex, or whether they were poor or wealthy, backward or educated. He was the common man's friend, the spiritual aspirant's guide, and the devotee's constant companion. He taught that devotion to God went hand in hand with the performance of one's earthly responsibilities. In fact, he demanded that people work in the world, saying that work properly done was the same as worship. He felt people should be of the world without being worldly. He particularly favored charitable works as opportunities to serve God. Always fond of feeding the poor, he built a small school in Ganeshpuri and a dispensary in Vajreshwari. Even while crediting the will of God and karmic law for the suffering of individuals and nations, he never let this justify callousness toward others.
He did not want followers. But when they came, he only asked for purity of motive and faith (shuddha bhavana and shraddha) and the freedom to do his work from within. His greatness lay in the key he held to the inner consciousness of the faithful. His power radiated without effort or notice on his part. Words were unimportant to him. Free of earthly ambition, he distributed whatever gifts people brought him. It says in the Bhagawatam that the divine power of such a guru remains hidden, manifesting itself for those who truly desire Truth. With Nityananda, this was so--and his manifestations were many. While emanating steadily from the spiritual plane, his divine presence reflected the viewer's inner state of consciousness. While some saw in him the terror of Kali, others found the compassion of Vajreshwari. Dualism was always unmasked as an intellectual pursuit that toyed with separate aspects of the same reality.
In his final months Nityananda complained that people only came to him for material gain. "What sort of grace is possible in such cases?" he would ask before adding, "They don't need a guru--they need a soothsayer." He called it an abuse of his physical presence, likening it to spiritual window shopping. Where was their spiritual aspiration? Why ask the ocean for a few fish when, with a little effort, one could have the priceless pearls on the ocean floor?
He spoke of the antarjnanis, self realized beings who lived in the world and experienced pain like everyone else. The difference between them and the rest of humanity was their ability to detach their minds from their suffering. Once established in infinite consciousness, they became silent. And, while all-knowing, they lived as if knowing nothing; while manifesting simultaneously in unlikely places, they appeared idle. They viewed life as if it were a movie--from a state of detachment. For Nityananda, being detached from life's circumstances, pleasant or otherwise, was the highest state. He was an antarjnani.
Let the mind, he said, be like a lotus leaf floating on the water, unaffected by its stem below and its flower above. While engaged in worldly pursuits, keep the mind untainted by desire and distraction. Keep the mind detached and faith in God firmly established in the lotus of the heart, never letting it be swayed by happiness or despair. Devotees will find themselves subjected to various tests, he said--tests of the mind, of the emotions, of the body. With every thought that pops into the mind, God is waiting for a person's reaction. Therefore stay alert and detached. See everything as an opportunity to gain experience, improve oneself, and rise to a higher level. Desire alone causes suffering in the world. Humankind brings nothing into this world and takes nothing away from it. This ashram, for instance, is full of things for devotees to use when visiting, but if this one (Nityananda) leaves he will take nothing with him. Whatever is need will come. This one is not flattered when important persons come or distressed when devotees fall away. Whether visitors come or not, whether they bring offerings or not--it is the same. This one has no desire to go anywhere or see anything. Let one's thoughts and actions reflect one's words. This ashram's practice is not in doing good deeds. This ashram's practice is learning to be detached.
Anything else that happens does so automatically by the will of God--although this one will speak when somebody is genuinely interested.
The Shrines of Ganeshpuri
Since ancient times Ganeshpuri was considered a holy place and Nityananda often recounted episodes from the ancient Puranas attesting to this. Of the area's numerous shrines, several were built and maintained by Nityananda and his followers.
The old Bhimeshwar temple, situated near the old ashram, was one of these. Dr. Deodhar recalled than on a visit around
1950 he noticed that the silver cobra--the Naag--was missing from the temple's linga. But he kept forgetting to tell Nityananda. This continued for some time until one day he asked another devotee to mention it for him. Hearing the belated news, Nityananda said, "Have you come here just to tell me this? Deodhar always forgets!Tell him this one said to have the Naag remade--but this time in copper." He then gave detailed instructions for its size and features, directing the devotee to use a thread to show the dimensions. Finally, he said he wanted it installed on the following Monday--four short days away.
Receiving these instructions, the doctor hurried at once to the marketplace where he was directed to a certain artisan. This man, the district's only coppersmith, announced the project would take him ten days to complete. Anxiously, Dr. Deodhar explained the urgency and the coppersmith agreed to finish it by Sunday.
When he arrived to pick up the Naag, the doctor saw that the cobra's eyes did not glisten as instructed. The coppersmith explained he had left off the shiny beads, fearing they would fall out and leave empty sockets. At that moment a statue of Shiva was carried in from the workshop, its eyes brightly painted and shiny. The men looked at it and decided to do the same for the snake. Nityananda was satisfied with the results and kept it in his room until the installation, which occured the next morning.
An unusual feature of the Bhimeshwar temple was the continuous trickle of water from the ceiling at the rear of the dome. It had begun seeping from a number of places behind the main linga sometime in the early 1940's after Nityananda moved to Ganeshpuri. As time passed the amount of water increased, even during the hot summers. Captain Hatengdi heard this from his uncle who added that Nityananda had cautioned him not to step on the small lingas that sprang up wherever the water fell. And indeed, two discernible lingas were forming in two water-filled holes directly behind the main linga. Projections of various shapes also appeared in a rough semicircle around them. Whenever Nityananda mentioned the water, he would laugh heartily at the thought of scientists coming to investigate the phenomenon. It is said that once the yogi left the old ashram for Kailas in 1956, the water slowed to a trickle and stopped completely the day Nityananda's statue was installed in the Samadhi Mandir temple.
On one of his monthly weekend visits in 1945, Captain Hatengdi noticed a small shrine 200 yards from the road to the ashram. Nityananda said he built it for the village deity, or gramadevata, because the spot had the power of samadhi. And it was here that Swami Muktananda later made his ashram.
The current Krishna temple stands where once there was an old stone relic of Nandi, the bull of Shiva. Its presence had always been a mystery. Captain Hatengdi recalls watching Nityananda sit on it occasionally, both feet dangling down its left side. When they began building the temple, workers tried to move the stone--but it would not budge. hearing of this, Nityananda ordered them to break a coconut near the bull. Once they did, two of them easily lifted the great stone. At the Master's instructions, they then removed the bull's head, placing it on the cow statue that stands behind Krishna.
With the Krishna temple finished, Nityananda immediately turned his attention to the Bhadrakali temple. He would set a specific day for its inauguration and the work had to be completed. In this instance, Mistry had a single day to make the goddess's statue and, per Nityananda's instructions, he used the same cement mixture employed earlier for Krishna. But when it was finished, the priest anxiously said her face was not attractive enough. This, Nityananda reassured him, would be taken care of--and ordered the statue covered with a white cloth. At the following morning's consecration ceremony the cloth was removed to reveal a changed face that satisfied even the priest's aesthetic expectations. Later, when asked why the hurry to build this particular temple, Nityananda replied that Bhadrakali had followed him from Gokarn, desiring a place in Ganeshpuri. And she was not prepared to wait!
Besides those actually built by him, numerous shrines were dedicated to Nityananda after his mahasamadhi. The first temple built on Kanhangad rock opened in April 1963, the one in Guruvana in May 1966. The rock temple was commissioned by B.H. Mehta from funds he collected.
Known as Samadhi Mandir, the samadhi shrine was the creation of Prabhashankar Sompura, who designed the renowned Somnath Temple as well as the two Kanhangad temples. The samadhi shrine with Nityananda's earthly remains is located on the site of the original Ganeshpuri ashram. Rising a hundred feet into the sky, the shrine and hall capped by a 24-foot high dome have an imposing beauty. The Tansa River flowing a short distance away adds to the tranquility of this holy site.
Additional temples didicated to Nityananda range from simple altars adorned with his photograph to more elaborate temples such as the one built by M.L. Gupta in Koilandi near Calicut. With its large hall, this shrine wits where the young Ram once roamed with his adopted father Ishwar Iyer.
Nityananda hated being photographed and only a handful of images from the early days exist. Most of the photographs we have of him were taken decades later by M.D. Suvarna.
Devotees often wanted a picture of Nityananda with their families. Typically the young Nityananda discouraged people from revering his photographs and actually admonished them for doing so. Mr. Krishnabai felt that since he had obliged the photographer in her own compound she might be permitted to keep his picture in her house. Accordingly, she asked the photographer to send one to her mother's house. When she arrived to pick up the framed photograph, it was nighttime.
Mangalore still lacked electicity in those days and with only kerosene lamps burning Mrs. Muktabai did not notice Nityananda sitting in a dark corner. As she was asking her mother about the picture, the yogi exclaimed, "So you want a photograph, do you? You will find it in the dung heap!" Running outside, she looked to no avail. It was then that her mother said Nityananda had smashed the framed picture with a rock. The shards, of course, now lay buried in the dung heap.*
*Nityananda frowned on such things, as he did not want his image to become an object of retail commerce.
Photographs of Nityananda only became readily available when M.D. Suvarna, orignally a press photographer, came to Ganeshpuri in the early 1950. He and a colleague, learning of Nityananda's growning popularity, knew people would soon be demanding photographs. But when they arrived at the ashram, Nityananda thundered at them and they retreated in haste.
Suvarna, however, decided to try again. This time his persistence was rewarded. Permission was granted, after considerable pleading, under the following conditions: there should be no disturbance, no fuss, no posing.
Suvarna first traveled to Ganeshpuri as photographer but he soon became a devotee. Whenever work brought him to Bombay, he made a point of visiting Ganeshpuri on Thrusdays and shooting a roll of film. The resulting images consistently portray Nityananda's mystical power, compassion, and inner bliss. Some are so good that they may be mistaken for posed portraits. Others show considerable variance in Nityananda's physical appearance from picture to picture, a fact pointed out by the sculptor, Mr. Wagh, who utilized them for the altar statue in the samadhi shrine.
As an experiment, in the late 1950's Mr. Suvarna exposed several hundred feet of motion picture film, taking snippets at odd moments and later splicing them together. It was the first time he had handled such a camera and his results were remarkably good. Oddly, however, on occasion the developed film was completely blank. For instance, once he wanted to photograph Nityananda returning from his morning walk, After having a hole bored in the wall of a nearby hotel, Suvarna waited with his pre-adjusted camera and took several shots of the Master passing. But the developed film was blank. he repeated the experiment--with the same result. Suvarna recalls Nityananda sometimes asking him, "What is the value of so many pictures? Are you still not satisfied?" And then he would smile.
One last time, on a particularly important occasion, Suvarna's cameras unaccountably malfunctioned. it was August 10,
1961, two days after the mahasamadhi. The body had been placed in an easy chair, mounted on a jeep, and driven slowly around the Ganeshpuri compound, a procession that, despite a steady drizzle, Suvarna managed to capture on film. Then the body was taken inside the old ashram for burial. From different vantage points in the room, Suvarna and his cousin each took a roll of film during the ceremony. But later they discovered that not one exposure came out.
Shri Nityananda Arogyashram Hospital at Ganeshpuri
The beginning of Shri Nityanadna Arogyashram is in a way conected with the late Dr. M.B. Cooper and the herbel wonder drug revealed to him by a Himalayan saint long ago. Through vibrational guidance and his own genius he successfully prepared an injectable solution from the original formula, which he initally prescribed for tuberculosis. However, Dr. Cooper knew the Himalayans took it both to combat disease and to maintain health, and further research proved the compound's broader curative properties. As a result, over the years he helped patients suffering from asthma and other lung ailments, skin diseases, arthritis, cysts, as well as tuberculosis--even advanced cases. He named the remedy mahawaz--"the great sound"--because of the cosmic sound that seemed to direct his research.
Dr. Deodhar had been Dr. Cooper's assistant since the late 1930's. A decade later he became a devotee of Nityananda and, after seeking the Master's advice, left general practice to concentrate on mahawaz. He was told the remedy would be successful if administered through an ashram hospital but that such a project would require great patience and perseverence on his part.
Eventually, Dr. Deodhar and B.C.S. Swamy, a fellow devotee, brought Dr. Cooper to Ganeshpuri. Upon first seeing Nityananda, the doctor was overwhelmed and had to leave. But he returned later with an ampule of mahawaz to show the yogi. Again, Nityananda said it would succeed. A few months before the mahasamadhi Dr. Deodhar and Mr. Swamy presented a proposal for a hospital to be built at Ganeshpuri. Nityananda immediately approved the idea and asked for a map of the ashram's property. He indicated where he wanted the future hospital built, giving them the piece of land along with a cash donation. he said to proceed in three stages, indicating with his hands and saying, "First small, then big, and then very big!"
In 1963 the Nityananda Arogyashram Trust was formed, and in December 1966 the hospital's foundation stone was laid by Swami Chinmayananda in the presence of a distinguished audience. Today one of the district's finest hospital buildings, its spacious and airy rooms are within walking distance of the samadhi shrine.
Dr. Cooper donated the mahawaz formula to the Trust. Although he and Dr. Deodhar received fabulous offers for this formula, they were determined to maintain its availability to common people. Similarly, his daughter, Dr. M.H. Pavri, and his son, Mr. Cooper, gave up their rights to any entitled royalties. Upon the death of her father in August 1980, Dr. Pavri assumed responsibility for the hospital as well as for the manufacture and development of the herbal extract.
So Say The Stars
There is considerable interest today in Vedic astrology, and ancient science predating its Western counterpart by millenia. To this end readers may be interested in a horoscope prepared for Captain Hatengdi in March 1970. (Incidentally, the Western word ''horoscope'' is of ancient Greek derivation and refers to ''looking at time.'') In such instances, sages with intuitive wisdom chart all possible permutations and combinations to develop the pattern of a subject's life.
In India these are called Nadigrantha readings. Full of great detail, they include the names and charts of individuals influencing the subject in good or bad ways, often refering to previous incarnations. However, such readings are primarily useful in understanding a subject's past and inherent tendencies. Present and future predictions often prove unreliable because of the ongoing play of human will and divine intervention. In Captain Hatengdi's case, at the age of 28 he was shown to meet a great being who would affect his life quite favorably. There was a lengthy description of this being, which we include here in an edited form.
He came to the world for the sake of his devotees, a great yogi. Nothing is known of his birth or his age. He has Fed thousands of sanyasis and sadhus. While ever in samadhi, he talks. While ever with the Atman, he is never in the body. He talks directly to God. Long-limbed with a vibrant personality, he sometimes goes naked and some- times wears a loincloth. Although few recognize him, he is God in human form.
He is called by a name beginning with the letter N. He sits near hot springs and a Shiva temple and does not engage in outward activities, giving the impression of doing nothing. Money he takes from his loincloth as needed. He removes difficulties and occasionally pre- scribes medicines. Ignorant people never see his true nature.
While these words cannot possibly relate his greatness, a devotee will come in due course and describe him prop- erly. Others who write about him will succeed only if they are inspired by him--and then only if he wishes it.
Eventually books will be written about him and many will make money in his name.
At the time of this reading, he is no longer in human form. His many devotees include highly evolved sanyasis and members of royalty. Numerous ashrams and shrines are built in his honor--but he never recognized or initi- ated disciples. No one was fit to receive the knowledge of God from him. Although he has taken mahasamadhi, his blessings remain with his devotees. When you think of him, he is with you. Anyone who approaches him with purity of motive is granted their wish.
How can we describe such a being? He might deliver harsh words or actions, saying "Matti, matti--it is of no consequence,'' but blessings always fall on the recipient. He sees with equal-sightedness, treating everyone the same regardless of social position. But people pursue him with material desires--not with spiritual aspirations. Still, his guiding light is always available to both the devout and the spiritual seeker. Sadly, most devotees never really knew him. No one was powerful enough to succeed him or receive what he could grant. But he still blesses the devotees--and he remains without disciples.
Remembering The Master
Captain M.U. Hatengdi, retired Naval Secretary at Naval Headquarters in New Delhi, was a long-time disciple of Nityananda. This chapter is his story.
I remember first seeing Nityananda when I was five years old. It was 1920 and he was in the cattle shed of the late Colonel V. R. Miraijkar in Mangalore. Many years later the famous surgeon recounted that on returning home after eight years abroad he had argued with his mother about the young Master to whom she was devoted. He did not understand how a woman so fastidious about cleanliness could tolerate him. This was because in those days the reclusive, rail-thin youth was as likely to be found on a doormat or a dunghill as anywhere. The colonel's mother ordered her son to mind his own business. He regretfully told me that decades passed before he recognized Nityananda's greatness for himself.
In the early 1930's Nityananda still wandered South India and a long time passed before I saw him again. In fact, it was only when I felt an urgent desire for a spiritual teacher that a cousin who visited Ganeshpuri whenever he traveled to Bombay agreed to take me to the ashram. And so it passed that on June 10, 1943, I had my first darshan with the Master. The experience evoked in me feelings of reunion with a long-lost friend and an unusual inner peace. I remember not being nervous despite his silence that morning. Later as he stood on the tiny porch outside his room, I boldly asked him three questions. He gave suitable answers although the third concerned mundane matters and his response seemed to imply that I should have known better than to ask it.
After that I saw the Master every Sunday for a while. On one visit a young man ran up to me outside the ashram and asked if he could come. Saying that I thought everyone was welcome, I brought him along. Nityananda was away but we soon saw him approaching from the direction of the river. He seemed to be shouting at the stranger by my side. Entering the ashram, the Master shouted again, asking the startled man who had brought him, and then told him to leave. Turning to me, he said, "Never put yourself out to anyone here. People come with different predilections (vasanas) and it's not for you to interfere." My subsequent strict compliance with this directive brought me problems later on--but no matter. I now understood the necessity of keeping to myself and not becoming distracted from my spiritual practice.
On these early visits the Master was often away when I arrived, and it might be an hour before he appeared. I always waited anxiously until I saw him because there were few people about and the ashram felt empty. unaware of his habitual and sudden disappearances, I thought that perhaps he traveled to Kanhangad periodically and so I asked him. He replied, "This one won't go anywhere in the future--only here." As if to avoid further queries he added, "Moreover, traveling these days is difficult." This was during the Second World War when civilians were advised to travel only when necessary. After that Nityananda was always present when I came, either sitting on the cement porch or in his room.
The years from 1944 to 1948 were golden for me. happily stationed near Bombay, I spent a weekend every month in Ganeshpuri, often alone with the Master. He always greeted me affectionately in Konkani, asking "Have you come?"
Certain other patterns developed during these visits. For instance, he would point to the room I was to occupy, there being only two--one on either side of his own. The peculiarity was that I always stayed in the rooms by turn without deviation. My activities also followed a routine. First I would bathe in the hot springs and then sit to the left of the entrance. Invariably, he always sat on the first step with the narrow doorsill completely blocking my view of him. He never sat facing me. In fact, he would sit for half an hour or more and then walk around only to return to the same spot. This usually went on throughout the waking hours of my visits, which mostly passed in silence. In the beginning, the moment Nityananda sat down near me I would become drowsy and utilize all of my self-control to stay awake. Gradually this experience subsided. I never asked its signifigance, thinking that sitting near him was simply a form of meditation.
Punctually at ten o'clock every night, he asked me to retire and close the doors. Then, after extinguishing the small kerosene lamp, I lay in total darkness listening to a jungle serenade of frogs and crickets and watching glowworms light the trees with rhythmic regularity. The Master would slowly push open my door at the same time every morning and stand there. And I can't explain how, but my eyes opened every time he stood there in the darkness. As soon as he saw that, he would say, "It's four o'clock," close the door, and walk away. I would rise at once, bathe, and take my place near the entrance. He then joined me for coffee, usually served black and sweetened with ghee (clarified butter) because milk was scarce. The affection he showed me was particularly evident when we sat by ourselves after these morning coffee sessions. Such weekends of peace and happiness made me long for his company, and I eagerly awaited the monthly rituals.
Many people have told me that the Master's presence in their lives gave them a tangible sense of security. I know I always felf that he watched over me and an incident from 1946 illustrates this:
It was dark and the grounds were slippery and treacher- ous. On my way to the baths, I fell and cut my leg on the sharp stones. In pain and bleeding badly, I washed the wound with rainwater until I thought the bleeding had stopped and then had my bath. Later I was evaluating the injury in my room when Nityananda appeared suddenly, poured a little sandalwood oil on the exact spot, and left as he had come--without a word.
I have stated that our time together mostly passed in silence. however, he did occasionally speak and his words to me at the close of my third visit were particularly significant. "In life,'' he said, ''when a person overcomes one obstacle, another presents itself. This process continues until one's experience is complete and the mind is able to face any situation with the right perspective." To me this was a disheartening idea because I was still young and nursed a number of worldly ambitions. To view life as an obstacle course was not a happy prospect. Still, having sought him out for my spiritual development and not worldly gain, I knew there would be no ultimate disappointment. Already I felt blessed with a strong inner security and a longing for more of his grace.
The Master's conversation could appear casual and years might pass before I appreciated his meaning. For instance, he broke one evening's silence by uttering the solitary sentence that the words of Jesus could also be found in the Bhagavad Gita.
This was something about which I was quite ignorant at the time. At other times I discovered that words spoken by him earlier were destined to be fulfilled. Later I heard that when asked how to recognize someone who had attained divine wisdom Nityananda replied that the words of such a person (jnani) were always fulfilled.
In 1944 I suffered a tormenting period of inadequacy regarding my spiritual practice. I did not ask him what I should do in fear that he would prescribe some severe breathing exercises or mantra intonation. One night as we sat together I hesitantly asked whether there was a particular book he would advise me to read. His response was instant: "It's not necessary. But if you must, read the Bhagavad Gita."*
*You may find the Bhagavad Gita online at http://www.bhagavad-gita.com
Nityananda's general disinterest in worldly events never surprised me--but I knew he was aware of them. it was two days after Lord Mountbatten became Viceroy that I arrived at the ashram for my monthly weekend. Sitting near me, the Master said, "While Mountbatten is a good naval officer, he lacks experience in politics." And certainly today an objective historian could substantiate this view.*
*Nityananda's awareness of global events was amazing, particularly in the early days at Ganeshpuri, due to the fact that the jungle ashram was isolated, with no television or newspapers of any kind.
One Saturday night, with India's independence only four weeks away, Nityananda made some weighty pronouncements about the future. First he asked, "What does swaraj mean?" Defining it as ''freedom'' or ''self-rule,'' he said that India needed additional time to complete its training, hinting that considerable begging and suffering remained for our country. He seemed to say that India's continued dependence on outsied assistance would limit our freedom.
he added that greedy parties were forcing the situation in the same way that people try to force fruit to ripen before its time. He even predicted our country's division into several states because of petty rivalries and jealousies. And everything he said has come to pass.
I was unable to understand at the time, being overwhelmed like others by the euphoria of India's potential future and greatness. I remember foreigners saying that with so much horsepower we only had to press the accelerator. Alas, today's reality falls short of yesterday's hopes.
Months later, in September 1947, I again heard the Master speak about a great national leader. He said that little time remained for this individual and he wondered whether he was satisfied yet with his fame and accomplishments. Why, Nityananda asked, did he not simply retire from politics, close his eyes, and think of God--for God would come to him, implying that he was a spiritually advanced soul. He added that a person alone, regardless of greatness, cannot do everything.
Instead we should each treat life as a relay race, covering the bit of track meant for us as fast as possible before passing on the baton. Four months later, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated.
Remembering The Master: Part
On a dark night in June 1945, I was at my usual place by the door to the room nearest the baths. Oddly, Nityananda was sitting behind me some twelve feet away. We were both facing south and peering into the darkness when suddenly he shouted in Konkani, "Who's there?" I had to strrain my eyes to see a person slowly moving toward us. "It is I," the man replied. Another shout erupted behing me, "Who?" demanded the Master. This time the man said, "Satyanarayana prasad." The Master shouted back: "Prasad for whom?" Repeating this a second time, he added, "Is anything known about this place (meaning himself)?"
I had considered Nityananda to be an incarnate personality since I first received his darshan. This incident only strengthened my belief and I wondered why he seemed angry. Turning to look at him, I saw him in a posture radiating such power that I quickly averted my eyes. With great kindness he said to me, "Prasad means something received with God presenting Himself fully satisfied in the chosen form and bestowing the gift. You may have it now." By offering it to me I knew the prasad had been consecrated. Pointing to the stranger, he then added, "That man did not come for prasad but for sankalpa." A sankalpa is a vow taken to perform some action if a prayer is answered, a practice that the Master generally discouraged. As the man began telling his story, my guru admonished him and ordered him to return to the ashram from which he had come.
Several months passed until one evening the Master said: "Mothers are more important--they know what fathers only think to be so. It is the mother who points out the father, brothers, and sisters to the child; this the child believes without question. The mother is to the child what the guru is to the disciple. The guru reveals God to the disciple and enables the disciple to experience His presence."
Sometimes he denied responsibility for his actions--even benevolent ones. One morning in 1946 as we sat in our usual places, a man approached. Nityananda rose, took a stick from the roof, struck him four or five times, replaced the stick, and sat down again. The man left without uttering a sound. Seeing my confusion, the Master said: "This one has not beaten him. He came to get beaten." And it is indeed true that many people believed such beatings to be blessings that would ward off trouble.
This reminds me of a story about the great Vyasa, author of the Vedas, the eighteen Puranas, and the Mahabharata with its beloved Bhagavad Gita. It is in his honor that we celebrate Guru Purnima every July in India. As he sat one evening on the banks of the river Jumna, some milkmaids carrying pots of curds approached desiring to cross over. Because it was dusk and the river was high, they asked the sage to use his good offices to make the river open a path for them. Vyasa asked them for something to eat, partook of the offered curds, and then addressed the river: "If I have eaten nothing, make a way for these milkmaids." The river complied at once. Because Vyasa always identified witht the Absolute (atman) and not with his physical body, his true form had not eaten. Nityananda was often described in the same way.
My visits to Ganeshpuri were infrequent between 1948 to 1954, estranging me from a new generation of devotees. Then, restationed in Bombay from 1955 to 1957, I often felt lost during my monthly visits. In addition, my few overnights were spent in the big hall since the one's flanking Nityananda's room were no longer used by visitors. One was now a kitchen while the other was kept closed and used for storage.
One rainy Septenber night, rather than stay in the big hall I made up my mind to sit outside the kitchen near the Master, who sat there on a bench. At seven o'clock he called to a devotee whom I did not know, asking him to open the closed room for me. I spent the night there surrounded by gifts and other offerings to Nityananda. I departed early the next day, later learning that Nityananda departed the same morning for a new ashram in Kailas.
After 1957, I only visited Ganeshpuri once or twice a year. Because of what I had understood him to mean years earlier, I always kept to myself, courteous but not overly friendly with other devotees. When Nityananda moved his living quarters to the new ashram in Kailas, specific hours were set for darshan. The old ashram's central hall was now usually empty because most devotees gathered in the west hall. On my sporadic visits, I usually occupied a corner of the old hall near the bench where the Master used to sit. My habit was to arrive in the early afternoon and leave by seven the next morning. However, to catch even a glimpse of Nityananda meant knocking hourly at the Kailas doors until they were opened at five o'clock or later. Sometimes special arrangements were made for devotees who had traveled great distances but, a virtual stranger to the new ashram's attendants, I was overlooked. Frustrated, I wondered why the Master failed to make special arrangements for me.
Finally I saw him one evening. He said to me, "Where do you stay these days?" Since he had always seemed to know what I was doing even when stationed to remote areas. I was irked at the question. Petulantly, I replied, "Where else? There." With an admonishing tone, he used his index finger to point to the place I had occupied in the old ashram and said, "Only there is good." I confess that his response was unclear to me at the time. I was too busy thinking that if this were so, why was he in Kailas? But I kept quiet. Only when he left his physical body and his remains were interred near that very spot did I understand.
My last visit before he took mahasamadhi was in October 1960. Late in the evening, and after numerous hourly knocks on my part, an attendant opened the door and asked me to sit beside his chair. The Master was resting in his room. About ten minutes passed while two devotees in the passage were trying to work a new tape recorder. The particular words they had managed to catch were of Nityananda repeating, "Without the guru's grace, nothing happens." Thinking of myself, I wondered whether my five-hour wait was due to a lack of grace in my life. What, I fretted, had I done to merit such treatment. As this thought entered my mind, he emerged from his room to lay down again--this time facing me on the adjacent platform. The only light was above my head and he looked directly at me as I nervously shifted my gaze. Nothing was said. Fifteen minutes later, he slowly rose and returned to the platform in his room. I was disturbed by the enormity of his body and wondered how he managed to breathe. My wonder was even greater because I knew how little he ate.
When I informed the attendant of my intended early departure in the morning, he told me to meet him at the baths at four o'clock. I entered the main hall to receive darshan at six. Finding Nityananda asleep on the platform and turned toward the wall, I bent over to see his face. he opened his left eye and nodded to indicate that I could go. Again no words were spoken. Even when my visits became infrequent, he had always said something to me. This was the first and only time that silence reigned. Perhaps he thought I had reached a higher level of understanding--but if so, I was certainly unaware of it. In truth, I left the Master recognizing that a long struggle lay ahead of me. Nevertheless, today as I remember the golden weekends spent in his divine presence, I am filled with inner peace and happiness. I am eternally grateful.
This ends the book entitled "Nityananda: In Divine Presence."
It is hoped that this small glimpse into the Master's life gives you as much hope, joy, and satisfaction as it has me.
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