50th anniversary of death (Mahasamadhi) of Mahayogi Nithyananda Swami of Kanhangad and Mumbai.
SHRI VAJRESHWARI DEVI
1:28 PM, Thursday, September 16th, 2010
Mumbai: Bhagwan (Mahayogi) Swami Nithyananda passed away in Ganeshpuri near Vajreshwari, 40 miles away from Mumbai, on the West Coast, in 1961. He had tremendous powers, and his 12 years long Sadhana had been done in Hosadurga in Kerala near a railway track, in a cave where there is a temple worship conducted ever since his death in Mumbai suburbs. He brought West Coast devotees together.
Now a citizens’ Committee has been formed to celebrate the 50th year of Swamiji’s Mahanirvana (as on 2011) with former C.J.I, M.N. Venkatachaliah as its chairman. The anniversary will be celebrated all over India as the Swamiji’s devotees are found in many places, and there are temples constructed in his name (as in Kumbla) for daily worship.
Ganeshpuri, where Swami Nithyananda appeared and lived for many years, will be developed as pilgrimage centre, a press note stated.
Nityananda lived from the late nineteenth century to 1961, making him one of India’s most recent extraordinary saints. Nonetheless, information about his birth and early childhood is sparse and contradictory. It has been said that as an infant he was found in the Guruvan jungle by a harijan woman. This woman sold the baby to the childless Unniamma of Calicut, a simple woman who earned a small income by doing household work for Ishwar Iyer, a prominent solicitor. This kind, devout man took an interest in the youngster, who was named Ram by his adoptive mother. Upon her death, he assumed guardianship of the child.
Occasional remarks made by Nityananda through the years, however, support another version: protected by a large serpent coiled around him, the baby was found on a riverbank and cared for by the kind-hearted but poor Unniamma, here married with several children of her own. Ishwar Iyer, again Unniamma’s employer, took the orphaned Ram upon her death.
It is generally agreed that Ram, as he was then called, left his home with Mr. Iyer following a trip the two took together to Varanasi. He was then perhaps in his early teens and it is known that he traveled widely during this period. While it is impossible to reconstruct an itinerary, it is thought that he spent considerable time in the Himalayas and in many holy places in north India. When his foster father lay dying, Nityananda returned to Calicut to be with him. Following the funeral, Nityananda again departed for a period of wondering in south India, and stories exist of even more far-ranging travel: to Singapore, Malaysia, even Japan.
Around 1910 stories begin placing the young Nityananda in the South Kanara district of North Kerala. This was a time of miracles and of growing recognition that an exceptional being was present. Historically, Nityananda was discovered in Udipi in 1918 by two gentlemen who remained life-long devotees.
During this period Nityananda traveled a great deal. He also spent time in contemplation at Guruvan, the jungle where he was found as an infant. For a time he stayed a few miles nearer the sea at Kanhangad, starting several substantial building projects and working on the rock-cut caves for which the area is famous. By now he was quite well known and an ashram was developing around him. Today we find temples to his honor at both Guruvan and Kanhangad.
In the 1920s Nityananda spent time in Mangalore. Nityananda had many devotees here and it was his custom to stay with a devotee family in the town. During this time, Nityananda allowed devotees to gather around him in the evenings and sit in silence. Occasionally, however, Nityananda would speak from a trance-like state, and eventually devotees began to copy down his words. The many different transcribers spoke different dialects and had varying levels of education. Sometimes his words were not recorded until after Nityananda had stopped speaking for the evening. Years later, these notes, in their various formats and languages were gathered together and compiled by a persevering devotee and published in the Kanarese dialect. The words of Nityananda were eventually translated into English.
In the mid-1930s he settled in a jungle near Bombay called Ganeshpuri. There he remained for almost 30 years, until his mahasamadhi in 1961. His reputation grew steadily during this time, drawing crowds to his tiny place in the jungle. Initially, he stayed at a very old Shiva temple called the Bhimeshwari temple. Built in the sixth or seventh century, the site was overgrown by vegetation and inhabited by snakes and tigers. Nityananda cleared it out and settled into this simple temple, which was just a hollow place lined with stones and covered with a roof. In the center of the floor stood a round stone pillar called a lingham. Villagers would pour water over it and decorate it with flowers and kumkum, the vermilion powder used in worship and ceremonies. The lingham is the symbol of Shiva’s pure potential. And because Nityananda was there, the sixty or seventy miles surrounding Ganeshpuri were transformed from a jungle to a place where the ground was cultivated and educated people came to live.
Nityananda was an avadhut. An avadhut is a great mystic who has risen above body-consciousness, duality and conventional standards. The term is described in one text as one who is free from the consciousness of the ego, roaming free like a child over the face of the earth. An avadhut does not identify with the body, mind or emotions. Such a person is said to be pure consciousness in human form.
In Nityananda’s own words:
“Avadhuts know that birth and death are illusions of the body.
They are no more identified with the body than ordinary people are with their garments.
Avadhuts have no sense of “I.”
They see everything as projections of the Self,
Viewing all with equal pleasure.
No matter where they wander, they have no sense of duality.
If food is available, they eat-but they do not ask for food.
Those who offer them poison and those who offer them milk are the same.
Those who beat them and those who love them are the same.
Avadhuts recognize the universe as father, mother, family.
They contain the entire universe and the universe is merged in them.”
Sutra 109, from The Sky of the Heart
Nityananda had no purpose in the world and no message to bring. Why he appeared is unknown to anyone except perhaps himself. He was born to the austerity in which he lived his life. Simplicity and detachment were his essential nature-not something trained for or contemplated. His greatness was completely natural to him.
Nityananda never promoted a particular life-style, philosophy or perspective. He did not teach any method and he did nothing to establish an organization around him. People came to him and he blessed them, he uplifted them, he gave them whatever they were able to take from him. It was just that simple and that free.
Nityananda brought tremendous peace and betterment to the simple people; the poor and the destitute were especially drawn to his simplicity and lack of judgment. As time went on, he touched the lives of countless people of all classes. He sought no one’s approval or recognition. He lived in the jungle where people had to seek him out. Nityananda dedicated his life to the presence of the Divine and lived each day as a beacon of that presence.
From his presence, miracles of healing, of understanding, of the bestowal of peace and joy flowed. The credit for these things he gave to God and to the faith and devotion of the seeker. He would say, “Everything that happens, happens automatically by the will of God.” Therefore, everything was possible. Miracles occurred naturally around him because of his continuous state of perfect Self-realization. He was always in union with the inner Self, and the need for this union was at the heart of his teaching. Like ancient sages from many traditions, he said that anyone who merges the individual into the universal is enlightened.
For more detail about Nityananda’s life, see Nityananda: In Divine Presence, a collection of stories about Nityananda collected by Captain M.U. Hatengdi, one of his principal devotees, and Swami Chetanananda, and published by Rudra Press, the publishing division of The Movement Centre.
Selected Sutras, Part I
These sutras were selected from The Sky of the Heart: Jewels of Wisdom from Nityananda, published by Rudra Press, the publishing division of The Movement Center. The accompanying commentaries are by Swami Chetanananda.
The real sunrise is in the sky of the heart;
It is the best one.
Just as the water jar reflects the sun,
So the entire universe shines
In the heart-space of the Self.
When you are in a train, the whole world
Appears to pass by.
Similarly, the whole universe can be known
Within the Self.
Atman is used interchangeably with Self in these Sutras. Atman refers to the universal Self that manifests as a proliferation of rays emanating from itself. These rays are not different from the nature of their source, but only take on the appearance of separateness. Kundalini is the supreme conscious energy manifesting as an individuated person (jivatman). Paramatman is the Absolute. Both are Atman. It is the merging of Atman into Atman, like the merging of waves into water, that is the goal of spiritual practice: the union of the individual and the Divine. The Absolute, the Supreme, Paramatman, Brahman, the Self are all synonymous with Atman in these sutras.
The image of chidakash is also central to Nityananda’s teaching as given in these Sutras; the word is formed of the roots chit, consciousness, and akasha, space or sky, and is thus poetically translated as the sky of consciousness. It is synonymous with hridayakasha, sky of the heart. Chidakash is an experience; it is a state of consciousness in which perception is objectless and limitlessly vast, a state in which the individual and the universal are in complete union. In various disciplines, this experience of Oneness may be called samadhi, turiya, nirvana or shunya.
Nityananda also called this “heart-space of the Atman” the Brahmarandhra, and the sahasrara chakra, the thousand-petaled lotus; for him, these were all the same. They all refer to that secret point in the head where the light of consciousness shines in its purest form. When an individual’s kundalini energy is completely roused, it merges into this place in the head. The awakening that occurs in our understanding at that time reveals our complete and total unity in the Divine. When we realize that we are in God and that God is in us, then there is nothing outside of us. All knowledge is accessible from within.
Why do you hold an umbrella?
For protection from the rain.
The illusion of duality is the rain—Maya,
Truth is the umbrella,
And a steadfast mind is the handle.
Truth is in everything but few people realize it.
Maya, the cosmic power responsible for our
Sense of duality, comes from the Self—
The Self does not come from Maya.
The prime minister is under the king,
But he is not the king.
The mind is not the Self—
It is a reflection of the Self.
The mind is two grades below the Self.
The mind has an end,
But the Self has no end.
The mind is often deluded,
But the Self is not deluded, and not subject
To three forms of manifest reality—
The dense, the dynamic, the still.
Such qualities apply only to the mind.
The mind is to the Self
As the river is to the sea.
The Self is the sea, its water measureless.
The Self is without beginning or end.
The Self does not come and it does not go.
Wherever you turn, it is there.
Nothing else is seen.
The Self is there before you and it is there
Even before you were born, there was creation.
Only you are unaware.
The three primary gunas are sattva, rajas, and tamas. Collectively, they are Prakriti, cosmic Nature, the “stuff” of all manifestation. They are simply three different forms of manifestation: still, dynamic and dense. Sattva guna is pure space, pure light, pure peace. Tamas guna is the opposite; it is density, darkness and inertia. Rajas guna is fire and dynamic activity. They are at once hierarchical and not hierarchical, since the peace exists in everyone, everyone has dynamic capability, and there is also inertia in everyone. It is just another way of speaking about the spectrum of manifestation. Tamas guna (inertia, thickness) is one end of the spectrum, sattva guna (pure light) is the opposite end, and rajas guna is the meeting of the two, for when pure light and pure density meet, the result is fire. Yet upon reaching sattva guna, there is no more hierarchy. In the pure state of sattva guna, everything is seen as equal; there is no separate mind, no chakras, no nadis—nothing is separate. Sattva guna is pure and perfect balance.
In man, these gunas are found in a state of instability. Sattva causes moments of inspiration, meditative calm, quiet joy, and disinterested affection. Rajas brings out constructive activity, energy, enthusiasm, and physical courage as well as ambition and rage. Tamas is associated with the lowest qualities such as sloth, stupidity, helpless despair, obstinacy and the like.
The source of liberation is Shiva.
The linga in the head is Shiva.
It is all Om.
Enlightenment is the most important thing.
Without channels for the flow
Of subtle breath in the body,
There is no sound.
Love and devotion are the oil,
The channel is the wick,
Discrimination is the lantern.
Flame, light and glass are the channels;
The air hole is the Brahmarandhra,
The still point at the top of the head.
The form of discrimination is intelligence.
The source of liberation is pure consciousness, the awareness of our real Self. The linga in the head is the seat of this pure consciousness. The linga is a stone symbol in the shape of an egg which is the iconography for Shiva as Absolute Potential. It is egg-shaped to represent the unity of the universe—its internal consistency and its formless presence in all direction. Thus, the linga has no corners or edges; it is all Om. It has no face because pure consciousness has no face. The linga in the head corresponds to the medulla oblongata, or brain stem, at the junction between brain and spinal column. This is the still point in the head, the place where the ida, pingala, and sushumna meet. For Nityananda, the Shiva linga, the Brahmarandhra, the prana linga, the sahasrara are all the same: the Abode of Shiva, the doorway to God.
There are three important channels
In the subtle body.
Sushumna is the sun channel in the center,
Ida is the moon channel on the left, and
Pingala is the star channel on the right.
In color, the sun nadi is red,
The moon nadi is blue, and
The star nadi is green.
They join in the sky of the heart.
In time, the Om sound is heard in the head.
This sound, though truly one and undivided,
Can manifest as many–
The roar of the sea,
Notes of the flute, violin or harmonium,
Beating of drums or bells, even
The buzzing of bees.
These are the ten sounds of the
One subtle sound, indivisible.
Nadis are the channels of creative energy, of conscious energy. Within the Self, the vibration of Omkar interacts with itself and gives rise to different currents, just as the constant movement of the ocean interacts with variances in depth and temperature to give rise to the currents that flow within it. The currents, though individual, are still water, they are not different in essence from the ocean itself. Our physical being can be compared to a current in the ocean of Omkar, and the nadis are the channels for the flow of this conscious energy that is the essence of the mind, the emotions, and the physical body. The nadis are the subtle body. And it is awareness of these nadis that leads us to the recognition of our true nature: the Self.
As Nityananda describes, there are three major nadis. The conscious, creative energy of life flows unceasingly through these channels. As listed in the Sutras, these nadis are associated with colors as well as with celestial bodies.
To bring your creative energy under control—
Samadhi is the upward breath, the God within.
With the upward breath established,
You will find the entire universe inside.
In all creatures the upward breath is the same.
The raja yogi is at one with this
Whether sitting, talking, standing, walking.
Raja yoga is the highest yoga.
It is like climbing to the roof of a building
And looking below.
When intellect and wisdom are united,
You will know complete peace,
Formless and without qualities.
Bliss has no qualities.
This state is called jivanmukti—
Knowing liberation while alive!
Selected Sutras, Part II
AT THE PALANI TEMPLE
One of the few authenticated stories from the time before Nityananda settled in Ganeshpuri takes place at the Palani Temple. There Lord Subramanya, a brother of Lord Ganesh in Hindu mythology, is the presiding deity. In those days, Nityananda looked like an eccentric wanderer, his wire-thin body healthy and glowing. Late one morning he was ascending the last few steps to the shrine when the attendant priest, having just locked the doors after morning worship, was descending. Nityananda asked him to re-open the doors and wave a ritual light and incense (arati) before the deity. Astonished that a vagrant would dare make such a request, the priest curtly told Nityananda that the time for morning worship was over.
Nityananda continued on. The priest, expecting him to walk around the shrine and worship at the Muslim altar in the back, was not concerned until he heard the temple bells ringing. Turning, he was astonished to see the doors open, Nityananda sitting in the deity’s place, and arati being waved before him by invisible hands. The vision vanished at once, and Nityananda left the shrine to stand on one leg for some time, steadily gazing upward. Coins poured at his feet, offered, some say, by pilgrims, while others say by an unseen source. In any case, he was accorded all the honors of a Master. When the surrounding pilgrims begged him to stay, he refused and instructed them to use the money to provide a daily meal of rice porridge to visiting renunciates. It was later learned that local sannyasis had been praying for this very thing.
Leaving the Pantalayani area, the young Master encountered an errant gang of youths in Cannanore. One of them wrapped a kerosene-soaked rag on the Master’s left hand and set it ablaze. Nityananda didn’t resist physically but instead transferred the burning sensation to the one who had attacked him. Crying out in pain, the unexpected victim begged for mercy. As Nityananda extinguished the fire on his own hand, the sensation in the other’s subsided. Years later, he explained to devotees:
Those with inner wisdom (jnanis) do not go in for miracles. However, this does not mean that a burning rag tied to their hands does not hurt. They suffer like anyone else but have the capacity to detach their minds completely from the nerve centers. In this way they might remember the pain only once or twice a day.
Early Days in Ganeshpuri
As word spread of Nityananda’s arrival, villagers from surrounding areas began gathering around his hut in the evenings. A large pot of rice porridge, of which the Master would partake, always stood ready for them. Devotees were soon flocking to Ganeshpuri as well. To accomodate them, a building was constructed east of the hot spring tanks.
At first, due to a lack of potable water, visitors only stayed the day. However, once the old well was refurbished, sulfur water was used for everything. One particularly hot afternoon the Master offered a plate of rice with spicy pickle sauce to a visiting devotee. It so happened that the woman foudn sulfur water distasteful and declined the food, knowing that she would crave something to drink afterward. Nityananda again held out the plate to her, saying, “Don’t be concerned. You will drink rain water.” Venturing a look at the blue sky, she still ate nothing. Within minutes, however,a solitary cloud appeared overhead and rain poured down. The Master said, “Go and get your water,” and she jumped up and collected rain water for both of them.
Devotees gathered late one evening 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 stopped. 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 once he 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 that it would rain in three days, and rain it did.
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