"When the life-energy moves in an outward direction, desires are born. There the mind follows, dividing and subdividing into the two, four, and six-fold properties of unconscious cosmic Nature and what we call 'the world' comes into being. "
Bhagwan Nityananda had been a perfect yogi and e janma siddha. In fact, "Nityananda" means "eternal bliss." The word was used to describe the state of mind Bhagwan Nityananda inspired. To a devotee, who sat before him ecstatically repeating "nityanand, nityanand', as he said, "It is not a name-it is a state!" His earlier devotees called him Swami, master or sadhu while the name Nityananda was attached to him only in later years. He is considered by many to be an avatar (incarnation). He was a Sat Purush or Antarjnani, an enlightened being who was always in the Atmic state, even as a child. He is renowned in western and southern
Baba Muktananda described Bhagwan Nityananda as ajanma siddha (the perfect yogi). The basis of the practice of self-realization or Siddha Yoga is "Honour yourself, worship yourself, meditate on yourself, God dwells within you." Bhagwan adopted this teaching from the ancient philosophies of Advaita Vedanta and Kashmir Saivism. Meditation is the most important part of this philosophy and, as time went on, Bhagwan spent more and more time in meditation and spoke very little as a consequence. The practice of Siddha Yoga consists of meditation, which produces a heightened awareness; chanting gives sweetness and joy, seva (service) develops the characteristics of detachment and love, dahshina appeals to our generosity, and contemplation provides understanding of our experiences and inspires us to delve deeper. It was Bhagwan's belief that if one practices in these spheres sincerely, one reaches the goal of self- realization.
Bhagwan Nityananda was born just before the beginning of the twentieth century, sometime in 1896. A woman collecting firewood was attracted to a thickly wooded area by cawing of crows. She found him when he was an infant. She had her own family. Therefore, she took the infant and gave him to her friend who had a barren daughter. The daughter was a servant in the home of a high caste Brahman lawyer, Ishwar Iyer. She named the baby Ram, a synonym for God.
As an infant, Ram suffered from a serious ailment but was miraculously cured. His foster mother took the sick child for walk and saw a dark-complexioned stranger carrying a large bag slung over his shoulder. Thinking that the stranger might be of help she explained to him the problem. The stranger took out a packet from his bag and told her to mix its contents with the flesh of a freshly killed crow, fried in ghee (clarified butter). She was also required to rub the blood of the crow all over Ram's skin. Soon another stranger, a plantation worker, appeared with a dead crow, and he gave it to the mother. The mother was overjoyed. She carefully followed the instructions and within days the ailing child regained full health. However, the child's skin turned permanently dark-bluish brown by the crow's blood.
As the young Ram grew into childhood, Ishwar Iyer, with whom the. woman was employed, developed mystical attachment with the boy. The foster-mother died when Ram was just 6-year old. Ishwar Iyer, who worshipped the Sun deity Bharga, adopted the child in his family. Iyer felt spiritual feeling, as the boy would take him on pilgrimage to the
According to one story, Ram trickled a local snake charmer that ran a dishonest money-grubbing operation. Under cover of darkness, his cohorts would release several cobras into the compound of a selected household. The snake charmer would then appear the following morning to offer his assistance. Moving the snakes, he would depart with both the reptiles and his fee. One day, he tried the trick on Iyer but snakes would not heed his call. The baffled snake charmer soon noticed Ram in the background giggling. He had rendered the trickster's mantra ineffective. The boy then let him collect his snakes with the warning never to bother the Iyer household again. When Ram was 10- year-old, Iyer took him to the holy city of
Iyer sadly returned home and resumed normal life. As he grew older and approached the end of his life, he thought constantly of the boy. Iyer performed his youngest daughter's marriage ceremony at the temple in Guruvayur. There the entire family felt the deity's presence in Nityananda. The young man, who turned up at Iyer's house at the age of 16, knowing that Iyer's end was near, took his foster- father to receive the darshan of Ananteshwar and Lord Krishna in Udipi. In this way, he kept his promise to see him again. Iyer felt ecstatic and kept repeating "nityananda! nityananda!" (endless bliss). Thereafter, Ram was referred to as Nityananda. Later, Nityananda remarked that he had been present at the construction of this temple, approximately 400 years earlier. After sometime, Iyer became gravely ill.
As he lay with his head on Nityananda's lap, he expressed a desire to have the vision of Sun God Bharga, which he had worshipped throughout his life. Bharga is the divinity whose outward manifestation is the Sun in our solar system. Nityananda granted his request and Iyer merged into the ocean of spirit.
Nityananda wandered far and wide and visited
Once in Palni, after the morning worship, the priest of the shrine locked the doors and was going down the steps when Nityananda requested him and asked him to reopen the doors so that he could wave lights before the deity (aarti ceremony). The priest was astonished that an ordinary boy would ask a person of his stature to grant such a favour and hence declined. However, Nityananda proceeded as if he had not heard the refusal and somehow opened the locked doors and entered the temple. Shortly afterwards, the priest heard the temple bell ringing. He looked up and saw Nityananda in place of the deity with invisible hands waving aarti lights before him. Then Nityananda came down from the temple and stood on one leg looking upward in a yogic asana (posture). As he stood motionless, a lot of money was poured at his feet. Nityananda gave the money to the leader of the local sannyasis to establish a free meal centre for visiting pilgrims. Later, it came out that the local sannyasis had been praying to the Lord at Palni to be provided with at least a daily meal during their stay there.
At Mangalore, the visiting devotees would often leave money at his feet. He would ask that the money be collected, and after a few days when it was enough he would order a feast for the poor. He insisted on the finest quality of food items to be purchased. He would himself help in preparing and distributing the meals. The food never ran short. Later on, Nityanarida established a permanent ashram at Ganeshpuri and arranged daily feeding of the poor children in the area. The practice continues even now. Many people donated for the feedings. A youth from a well-to-do family occasionally brought some money and gave it to Nityananda. The boy's father thought that his son was being unduly influenced. He, therefore, hired assassins to have Nityananda eliminated. Nityananda was generally found with some of his devotees. One day, he suddenly got up and walked a way from them with a smile on his face. The devotees followed to see why he had left abruptly and found him being held by one of the hired men. One of them had a knife, held above his head with his arm extended upward. The devotees grabbed the man and seized the knife from him. Surprisingly, the assailant was in great pain and appealed loudly to have his arm restored to normal position. It was frozen in the upright position and nobody could bring it down. Ultimately, Nityananda touched the man's arm and it was restored to normalcy. The police arrested the man and his accomplices but Nityananda wanted all of them to be released. The man and his accomplices became Nityananda's devotees. The local officials were impressed by the mystic power of the young eccentric sadhu.
In another incident, some mischievous persons wrapped a kerosene-soaked rag around Nityananda's hand and set it on fire. Nityananda stood there stoically as his hand burned. He was unfazed but he transferred the actual pain to the person who had lit the rag on fire. The person ran about screaming in pain and apologized for his behaviour. Nityananda extinguished the fire and the pain of the person. Nityananda was then 20-year-old. He travelled in southwestern
On another occasion, a person wanted some leaves for his mother who was seriously ill with a lump in her leg. One after another medicine was tried but her ailment continued. Nityananda was approached but he did not offer leaves. The man could not understand but returned and brought his mother to the tree where Nityananda used to be, but the young Master was no longer there. On returning home with his mother, he was surprised to see Nityananda descending the stairs of his home from the attic. Nityananda rubbed the affected area of the mother for a few minutes and she soon recovered. After many such miracles, the reputation of the young ascetic as a healer spread far and wide.
Nityananda was fond of travelling by train. Since many railway people knew him, they would often let him enter the engine car or the train, even without a ticket. Once a new official had him forcibly removed from the train because he was travelling without ticket. Nityananda remained passive even though he had been manhandled, but when it was time for the train to depart, the train simply would not move. Some of the passengers approached the official and explained that Nityananda, who was not an ordinary sannyasi, should not have been ill-treated. Nityananda was escorted and the train started as soon as he boarded.
In 1925, Nityananda settled down in the Kanhangad area and began construction of the Sunrise-Sunset caves. This project involved building a road up to the area and clearing the surrounding jungle. The sudden activity in the area was noticed and some of the local officials asked him with what authority he was doing so. He told them that soon there would be government offices at the site and that he was clearing the area for them. The answer seemed to satisfy them and they left him alone. Subsequently, in course of time, this came true. After the preliminary clearing and roadwork was over, Nityananda began carving the caves from the rock hills of the area. Forty caves, in all, were dug with six entrances, three facing east and three facing west so that there was always light within the caves no matter what time of day it was. Many local people were hired to assist in digging the caves and the way they were paid was most unusual. Nityananda would direct the foreman to a certain tree where he would find just the right amount of money lying at its foot. At other times, the workers would line up and walk past Nityananda and as each man went by, Nityananda would open and close his empty fist and down would drop the exact daily wage for each man.
A man came to Nityananda and asked him that if he was such a great holy man, let God be revealed to him. At first, Nityananda simply ignored the man but this only made him more demanding. Eventually, Nityananda grabbed an umbrella and aimed it at the man's toe. He screamed and lost consciousness and was taken away to a hospital. The doctor in the hospital came to see Nityananda and went back to inform the police that he appeared insane and possibly dangerous. The police came and took him away to the local magistrate. The magistrate concluded that Nityananda was out of his mind and had him locked up. After a while, Nityananda told one of the jailers that he had to urinate. He was given a container to use, but it was soon filled up and started overflowing. They brought him another and it too was quickly filled. Next, they brought a large water pot and he soon filled that as well. The authorities concluded that he was indeed an extraordinary individual and should not be locked up, and released him. He returned back to the construction site in time to disburse the afternoon wages.
After the caves were completed around 1933, Nityananda spent several years travelling once again. Once, three Muslims came and stood reverently before him. They had just returned from a pilgrimage to
By 1935, Nityananda had a very large following of devotees. In 1936, he moved to Ganeshpuri outside
His self-abnegation was complete. He wore nothing but a loincloth, and sometimes not even that. During his time in
During his life, he always set an example by rendering service to others through feeding of the poor and other activities. His devotees knew that he placed a high value on serving others. Once one of them asked him w ha t would be the result of performing seva (service) for Satpurushas such as himself. In an angry tone, Nityananda said to him, "Who wants seva? Does God ask us to be worshipped? It is the man who does so, to get something out of him. Go back and do your duty without desire for fruit, i.e. reward for your actions, and without sacrificing efficiency. That is the highest seva (service) that you can render. As for spiritual progress, the essential thing is vairagya (detachment from worldliness). Without that there can be no progress."
The number of people coming to his Ashram increased greatly but many of them came just to secure material benefit, such as better house, more money and motor car. Often these wishes were granted through the blessings of Nityananda, but instead of being satisfied, the people would just return to ask for more. Nityananda is reported to have remarked that only few persons were interested in what he had truly come to give them-spiritual enlightenment. On August 7, 1961, Nityananda was alone with one devotee and he told him that he would be leaving the body the next day. The devotee was intears and asked him to change his mind or at least postpone the mahasamadhi (final resting). Nityananda replied: "It is possible only if a few devotees come forward and make a request." He wanted only those devotees to come forward who were imbued with desire less devotion, bhava (feeling) and prema (love), and even if one such person could be found, he would change his mind. Nobody came forward who had no desire. The next day, Nityananda took a deep breath and then the last so that his chest was fully expanded. He straightened his legs, put his hands over the abdomen, and then was not seen to move anymore. Before shedding his physical body, he said: "It (the state of mind) should be like a lotus leaf, which, though in water, with its stem in the mud and flower above, is yet untouched by both. Similarly, the mind should be kept untainted by the mud of desires and the water of distractions, even though engaged in worldly activities."
Nityananda bestowed shaktipat (spiritual awakening) on his disciple, Swami Muktananda, who was later called Baba. He instructed Baba to build an ashram a few miles away from his own residence. This became the mother ashram for Siddha Yoga meditation, now known as Gurudev Siddha Peeth. Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, the current head of this lineage of Siddha Yoga masters, continues to honour Bhagwan Nityananda as the contemporary source of the Siddha Yoga lineage. The temples built in memory of Bhagwan Nityananda in Shree Muktananda Ashram in
Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, as head of the Siddha Yoga lineage, continues a sacred tradition of making shaktipat available to seekers. Under the guidance of her teachings, students of Siddha Yoga embrace the spiritual practices of yoga, including meditation, chanting, contemplation and study, and selfless service as the means to the goal of self- realization. The teachings of Siddha Yoga spring from the timeless scriptural traditions of Kashmir Shaivism and Vedanta, as well as from the experience of the enlightened Siddha masters. We perform the Siddha Yoga practices to touch and expand the inner mystical state, until we become established in our experience of yoga or oneness with God. The Siddha Yoga practices include meditation techniques, chanting, service, retreats, and others. Each of the practices gives us another distinctive feature of our essential nature- the serenity and heightened awareness of meditation or the sweetness and joy of chanting. Each practice develops our virtues, such as detachment and love from serving selflessly, and generosity from offering dakshina. Continuous study and contemplation of the teachings provide an understanding of our experiences and inspire us to delve deeper. Each one of us finds our own unique combination of these practices according to our own inner wisdom. Many students of Siddha Yoga also discover that performing the practices with a community of seekers at Siddha Yoga meditation centres, ashrams, and Siddha Yoga retreats, enhances the effect of the practices.
As stated, Nityananda passed away on August 8, 1961. A temple built in his memory stands ample testimony to the reverence he enjoyed from people located even at far off places. A trust was formed later in his name, which administers the temple and the various charitable institutions connected with it. Bhagwan Nityananda was especially interested in the care of children and he formed a charitable trust called Prasad Chikitsa at nearby Tansa valley. He procured food, clothes and shelter for the children of the
Bhagwan Nityananda's life exemplified non-dualism. He made no distinction between people. He never cared to know 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 worldly responsibilities. In fact, he demanded that people work in the world, saying that work properly done was the same as worship. He felt that people should be of the world without being worldly. He particularly favoured charitable works as opportunities to serve God. He was always fond of feeding the poor and built a small school in Ganeshpuri and a dispensary in Vajreshwari.
Nityananda wanted everybody to recognize divinity in everything we see and everyone we meet. He wanted people to face every situation in their lives with the unwavering strength and delight that come from the certainty of the divine presence within us. Within each of us, behind the mind, the body, the ego, is a divine power. We practice yoga to recognize this divine power, the Self, and harmonize all our actions, thoughts, and words with it, he said. The key to this divine vision of ourselves and the world, he added, is shaktipat, or spiritual awakening; when we receive shaktipat, we gain entry to our inner spiritual realms. Then, through our practices, our own spiritual awareness unfolds.
Simplicity and detachment were the hallmark of Bhagwan Nityananda's nature-not something trained for or contemplated. His greatness was completely natural. He never promoted a particular lifestyle, philosophy or perspective. He did not teach any method and did nothing to establish an organization around him. People came to him and he blessed them, uplifted them, and gave them whatever they were able to take from him. He brought tremendous peace and betterment to the simple folks. 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 their 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 to him. It is said 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. 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 Vajr eshwari. Dualism was always unmasked as an intellectual pursuit that toyed with separate aspects of the same reality.
Bhagwan Nityananda 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. 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 Bhagwan Nityananda, being detached from life's circumstances, pleasant or otherwise, was the highest state. He was an antarjnani. As mentioned learlier, he said, let the mind be like a lotus leaf floating on the water, unaffected by its stem below and its flower above. While engaged in worldly pursuits, he advised his devotees to keep the mind untainted by desire and distraction. They were asked to keep the mind detached and have faith in God firmly established in the lotus of the heart, never letting it to 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, they were advised to stay alert and be detached. They are to see everything as an opportunity to gain experience, improve themselves, 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.
He was not a philosopher nor did he espouse a particular philosophy. There is, however, a collection of sutras dating from the early 1920s in Mangalore. These sutras were collected when devotees gathered around Nityananda each evening to sit in silence, while he was in trance. His devotees took notes of his words. Years later, these notes were compiled and published under the title of Chidakash Gita (Song from the Sky of Consciousness). The sutras show Nityananda's mastery of spirituality. His vision was universal and he used language that common people could understand.
In sutra 51, he says: "The essential knowledge must be attained by everyone." Both the mystery and wisdom of Nityananda's words arise from the same understanding: that everything is one. To fulfil the requirement for liberation and merge the individual in the Divine, we must understand that there is no inherent difference between the two." According to Nityananda, the apparent difference, and thereby the entire confusion and multiplicity of life, in fact, bring simply a misunderstanding. It is maya. The life force, the dynamic creative energy that is the source and sustenance of our individual lives, is the same creative energy that moves in all things and all places. Thus, the study of yoga is the study of Self, of our own life force. The more we study it, the more we realize that there is nothing outside of it.
Nityananda believed that the Absolute, the ultimate reality, the highest of all-this is pure consciousness. Within the sea of pure consciousness, this resonance causes movement, waves, and ripples that interact and mingle, rise and break. All manifestations arise from the movement and interaction of forces precipitated by the resonance, that is Omkar. In sutra 95, Nityananda says, "am vibrates like a storm in the sky ..... The human body is a string of am ... Omkar-Sakti-is the very nature of the Absolute, or God. It is a living energy whose vibration gives rise to the whole universe. Synonymous with the am sound and bhava (its resonance), Omkar is the all-pervasive universal mantra."
Bhagwan Nityananda was a spiritual powerhouse and he expected the people to develop their powers to receive what he was capable of transmitting. While the ocean has plenty of water, it is the size of the container you bring to it that determines how much you collect, he said. Embodying what is ideal and pure, he would say, "one who sees this one once will not forget," implying that the seed of spiritual consciousness sown by his darshan would sprout in due course when correctly cultivated. He denied having an earthly guru or a particular spiritual practice. He adopted no disciples and never intended to establish an organization, although his devotees, most of them common householders, were legion. His silent, unseen mission was to offer relief to suffering humanity, whether people came or not, and to transmit a greater consciousness to those who sought higher values. Grace emanated from his being and from his silent companionship. A lone glimpse of his personality could shatter the ego of the proud and evoke the hope and aspirations of the true seeker.
Those who sought him out for material success benefited while the few who came out of pure devotion found their spiritual evolution accelerated with little or no effort on their parts. Nityananda accomplished this by cultivating in them the divine obsession. While living in the everyday world, devotees imbibed the spirit of the Bhagavad Gita and were gradually processed from within. Seekers and other pilgrims benefited both through the arousal of their spiritual consciousness and by confidently meeting life's challenges with his help. He converted their very breath into consciousness, bringing a gradual inner ripening, which, in turn, led to a restless longing for the divine and a dispassion for worldly things. All this occurred without affecting the day-to-day performance in their chosen fields of endeavour. This is how Nityananda's grace silently worked. In this way, his mighty spiritual force filled the
Nityananda used to say that the true reward for genuine devotion (bhakti) was a still greater dose of pure desire less devotion, not material prosperity or social success. He played the role .of the eternal
Nityananda brought to the world the gift of Chidakash. He was the author of Chidakash Gita and the messenger of the essence of Lord Dattatre, the Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiv a in one form, and of the Dancing Lord Ganesha. The Chidakash is the "heart space over the head." Within this sky of consciousness rises the great orb, Surya- the Sun-the Absolute Godhead. This divine space, where one's individual soul merges with the Divine Soul makes its heavenly home in the upper part of the skull. This space is our true home, our birthright, he said. His qualities of austerity and compassion endeared him to the common people and they consider him an avatar.