Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
Baba Nityananda holds a very special place in my life. Whenever I see Him, I remember the refuge He provided to me, by opening His arms of sanctuary during a phase in my life, where my closest had turned against me. The silent but comforting manner in which His love embraced me and the safe haven He enveloped me with, within His all-pervasive womb of protection, I will always cherish and be in a state of gratitude and love, in this life and beyond.
Baba Nityananda and Sai Baba of Shirdi are very alike. Nobody knew which religion They were born into. None are aware of Their parentage, birth, religion. Their lives were spent in serving all those who came to Them. They believed in The One and attribute all Their greatness and miracles to The One. They were clear that all religions and paths lead to The Absolute and that one should follow the religion in which an individual was born into, love their Guru and give each moment the respect it deserves. They made it clear that spirituality meant living life to the best of one’s capability, without greed or envy and that giving your be-all-end-all to each moment, with humility and without expectation of the fruits of one’s labour, in complete detachment to rewards and being able to go through what ever life had in store, with courage, calmness and positive surrender to the Wisdom of the Almighty and one’s own Karmic balance sheet was the true mark of spirituality and the only worthy manner to lead one’s life. They both believed in a simple philosophy, ‘do your duty, give your very best and leave the rest to God’.
They Both had a temper when it was needed and neither of Them cared for Their personal food, clothing and shelter but were very particular of taking care of the necessities of Their devotees and both of Them truly loved children. Each moment They were engrossed with The One but always present to the needs of Their devotees. Both of Them believed and lived the philosophy of Sufis and Sages, ‘sleep less, eat less and speak less’.
There was also a deep regard between Them for Each Other. After Baba Sai entered the permanent state of Samadhi, after many years, a devotee prayed to Baba Sai and pleaded with The Master to show Himself in person to the devotee. The Master appeared in the devotee’s dream and told the devotee that, ‘I am still very much present…. if you miss My physical presence, go to Ganeshpuri and be in the presence of Nityananda, as He and I are One’.
Similarly once a devotee opened her house door to find a Fakir who looked and spoke like Sai Baba of Shirdi. He asked for water saying that He was really thirsty.
Sometime later, the devotee went to Ganeshpuri for the first time and Baba Nityananda looked at her and thanked her for quenching His thirst. She inquired as to why had He come in the form of Baba Sai of Shirdi to which Baba Nityananda replied that, ‘You would not have known Me in this form as you had never seen or heard of Me ever, so I came in a form you knew and loved’.
Even Swami Muktananda, who is the foremost disciple of Baba Nityananda, like His Guru, loved Baba Sai of Shirdi. Swami Muktananda had once told a devotee of His who had come to India, assuming Swami Muktananda to be His Master that it was Sai Baba of Shirdi who was the devotee’s Master. Just before Swami Muktananda was about to take Samadhi and the devotee had come to visit Him, Swami told the devotee, “Only Sai, Only Sai, Only Sai.”
When devotees of Baba Sai, would come from Shirdi to meet Baba Nityananda, He would from far tell them to return to Shirdi saying, “Is there any difference between that Old Man (Baba Sai) and Me. We are One”.
But the greatest similarity in Both of Them was the sadness which They both felt regarding the temporal reasons countless devotees visited Them and never really cared to partake what The Masters really wanted to give the devotees; nobody wanted the spiritual treasure, all sought material or emotional gratification. The realisation that nine out of ten devotees only came to Them for material wants and fulfillment of their desires which were temporal and not permanent truly saddened both The Masters. Till the end of Their physical journey, they bemoaned the fact that Their devotees did not come to Them because of love and only for the love or for self realisation of Oneness with The Creator but because they wanted Earthly benefits. It must be heart breaking to be wanted only for all the temporal benefits and not for who They truly were and the treasury of spiritual wellbeing that They wanted to bestow.
Why do we love our Masters? Would we love Them if They were unable to do anything for us? Just love Them for who They are and were and not for any other reason but pure love? The question to ask is this, do I love You because of You or because what you get on the plate that may be of use to me?
I was not aware then of the close connect between Baba Sai of Shirdi and Baba Nityananda. During those days of heart break for me, I was told to go to Ganeshpuri by Baba Sai in a dream. It all began on the seventh of August exactly eleven years ago. I left home and stayed in Shirdi for a few days. I had told nobody about my disappearance. From Shirdi I would visit Meherabad. I would spend time near the Holy Tombs or Mazar of both The Masters, Sai Baba and Meher Baba. It was a difficult period. After a few days I returned to Mumbai and then within a few days, had to leave home again, forever, and then Baba Sai through prayers and in a dream told me to go to Ganeshpuri and stay there till further instructions. I was told clearly not to leave the boundary of Ganeshpuri, or else there would be serious harm done to me.
So I left for Ganeshpuri and stayed in a public dormitory with those who were Baba Nityanand and Swami Muktananda devotees. Both The Guru and His Esteemed Disciple had taken Samadhi. Baba Nityananda had taken Samadhi on August eighth, 1961, while Swami Muktananda took Samadhi on October second, 1982.
With everything going wrong in my personal life, I was in a haze. My life lay shattered and heart sort of put through the grinder. My dearest had been taken away. There was a malicious campaign of slandering against me and even my parents were not spared. I had to get away as per Baba’s direction. I knew nobody in Ganeshpuri but then I knew of Baba Nityananda and His favourite Disciple, Swami Muktananda, through the Latter’s books.
I was still living in Mumbai then, and it was raining when I alighted from the train and awaited for the local bus to take me to Ganeshpuri. I had with me two sets of clothes, the Sai Sat Charitra, Illusions and Tuesday with Mori and very little money.
I reached Ganeshpuri one late afternoon on a wet, cloudy day. The dormitory could accommodate fifty people or so. It was clean. One got three meals and a bed and could avail of the library. It was reasonably priced. In the dormitory there were about twenty men, but each one lost in his own world. Most of them were staunch devotees of Baba Nityananda.
I spent over a week in Ganeshpuri. I would spend time at the Samadhi’s of Baba Nityananda and Swami Muktananada. Mornings and evenings I would attend the various aartis. It was a surreal feeling. Surrounded by Their spiritual Aura knowing I would have to start life from scratch, with those closest to me now considering me as the scum of Creation.
Morning and evening I would hear Guru Mai, the successor of Swami Muktananda sing various spiritual songs in the most beautiful voice ever heard. I had met Her once and the week or eleven days which I spent in Ganeshpuri, She was abroad but Her voice captured on the tape is truly a must hear. It was like spiritual trance Music. Really groovy.
I would eat wherever and just walk and walk and try to keep away from thoughts and heart ache and yes, never leave the boundary of Ganeshpuri. I bought two very hippy kind of tee shirts which were available at a real cheap rate as my two shirts had got wet. I still have those two tees and will keep them with me for the rest of my physical life.
Baba Nityananda’s presence was all pervasive. I would always wonder why I was sent to Ganeshpuri and not Shirdi or Meherabad but then later found out that, there were people sent to sort of hunt me down and harm me as they expected me to be either in Shirdi or Meherabad. I was comfortably secure in the land of Baba Nityananda.
Anyway, on Krishna Jayanti, when all the country celebrates the Birth of Lord Krishna by breaking hundi’s or pots, after the ceremony in Ganeshpuri, I was told that now I could leave for Mumbai and the danger had passed. It was also either the Parsi Zoroastrian new year that day or the next day, I am not certain now and I caught a late evening bus and then reached the home of my parents at night.
I visited Ganeshpuri a number of times after that, especially with my old friends, Meena and Rajan Gwalani and always have Baba Nityananda in my prayers. I have not been There for a while now. In fact not been There for too long time.
Enough of my ramblings. Wake up now.
So who is Baba Nityananda?
Nobody knows to whom He was born or the date He was born or even where He was born. He was found as an infant in a forest. A woman was collecting wood and heard crows cawing their lungs out. It was as though they were attracting her attention and when she reached the spot she saw an infant wrapped in a cloth. She picked up the child and gave the child to a friend who could not conceive a child. The lady worked as a servant in a Brahmin lawyer’s house. Ishwar Iyer fell in love with the child and they named the child Ram.
Baba Nityananda as a child suffered from some serious ailment which no doctor could cure. One day His foster mother took Him in her arms and went walking into a jungle and there to her surprise was a dark skinned stranger who gave the foster mother some powder and told her that if this powder was mixed with the flesh of a freshly killed crow, fried in clarified butter and applied on to the baby, and the blood of the crow rubbed all over the child’s body, the baby would be cured. The foster mother nodded wondering where on Earth was she ever going to get a freshly killed crow when another man appeared, another stranger, and gave the mother a freshly killed crow. The mother was still in shock. She looked at the dead crow and when looked up, both the men had disappeared. She followed the instructions and within days the child had recovered but the application of the strange mixture changed the colour of the child’s skin, from light brown to a dark bluish brown skin which remained for the rest of Baba Nityananda’s physical life. If ever anybody asked Baba Nityananda about His birth and childhood, The Master would reply that, ‘A crow came and a crow left’.
Now Mr. Iyer was very fond of the child and when Ram’s foster mother died, the lawyer adopted the child as his own. The good and kind hearted lawyer (that itself is an oxymoron and a miracle) began to take Baba Nityananda for pilgrimages and the child would explain to the lawyer about various paranormal mysteries and spiritual realities. The lawyer realised that the child was not a normal being and got more attached to Ram. When the child was ten years old, on a pilgrimage to Benares, the child told the lawyer that now He would have to take leave as He had to follow His destiny. The lawyer tried his best to dissuade the child but Ram’s mind was made up. He promised the lawyer that He would meet him again but after a while, not before giving Mr. Iyer a divine vision. For the next six years or so Baba Nityananda still known as Ram travelled the length and breadth of the Himalayas and to many He was already known as the great Kundalini Yogi of the Himalayas.
Mr. Iyer kept waiting for Ram. He was in reality heartbroken. But he consoled himself that Ram had promised him that before he died Ram would visit him once more and thus one day, the ailing lawyer saw Ram enter his abode again and in ecstasy he cried out, “Nityananda! Nityananda!” (which means Endless bliss). From then onwards Ram was known as Nityananda. He took the lawyer to the city of Udupi for the darshan of Krishna and the Ananteshwar temple, where Nityananda told Mr. Iyer and later to His devotees that when the Ananteshwar Temple was being constructed roughly four hundred years before, He had been present then too.
They returned home and Mr. Iyer became very ill. He whispered to Nityananda that he had worshiped the Sun God, Bharga all his life and that he wanted to have a vision of Bharga, before he left his body. Baba Nityananda smiled and touched Mr. Iyer’s third eye and the good lawyer, experienced the vision of Bharga and with that vision he passed over. Baba Nityananda then went to Ceylon, Rangoon, Burma and even Singapore. When world war one began, He was forcibly made to enroll into the British army. But when the doctors could not locate His heart or hear the beating of a heart beat nor find a single pulse in His body, they out of sheer fright made sure He was not enlisted into the army. Baba Nityananda’s very life was a miracle. He could heal by giving a leaf to the sick and when the leaf was used externally or internally the illness would disappear. He could materialize money out of thin air to feed the poor or pay for the services of the work which He wanted to be done. He loved to sit in trains and once when a station master refused to let Nityananda travel in the train, Nityananda alighted from the train but the darn train would not move. Eventually the passengers pleaded with Nityananda to enter the train and only then did the train move. Baba Nityananda through His love had many devotees from a young age but many who were jealous. Once two men tied a cloth drenched in kerosene around Nityananda’s hand and lit the cloth up. The Master looked with child like innocence at the burning cloth around His hand but could not understand why the men who had tried to harm Him were in anguish as their hands were on fire. It was only when they removed the cloth from The Master’s hand did they manage to stop their hands from being burnt.
Once somebody tried to kill Baba Nityananda and the assassin was apprehended. The man’s arm which had tried to strike The Master was caught mid air. No amount of effort could bring the arm back to its normal position till The Master decided to have pity on the assassin and touched the arm and it came down to its original anatomical position. But the police apprehended the daft assassin. Baba Nityananda wanted the police to release the man. They refused. So for three days Baba Nityananda sat outside the prison, on a fast, till the police under severe pressure from the devotees released the assassin. The man became a lifelong devotee of The Master.
In 1925, Nityananda settled briefly in the Kanhangad area and began the construction of the Sunrise – Sunset caves. It was a mammoth project which needed expertise and lots of money. Baba Nityananda began carving the caves from the rock hills of the area and in a short while forty such caves were dug which had six entrances, three facing the east direction and three facing the west direction. The payment was done in a more unusual fashion. Baba Nityananda would direct the foreman and his men to a certain tree where the right amount of money would be lying on the ground at the base of the tree. Sometimes Baba Nityananda would get all the workers lined up, open and close His empty fist and money would fall into the empty palms of the workers, exactly the money owed to each, depending upon their expertise and seniority.
The work on the caves was completed around 1933 and Baba Nityananda again took to travelling. Three years later He entered Ganeshpuri never to leave the place till His Mahasamadhi on eighth august 1961. Baba Nityananda loved children and made various schools and playgrounds and made certain the children were taught music, languages, sports and cultural activities. He, like Baba Sai of Shirdi truly loved children.
The miracles never stopped and once He had readied Swami Muktananda to spread the message of Oneness and to give Shaktipath, the power to awaken the Kundalini Energy by touch, sight, sound, He began to prepare others of His Samadhi.
Baba Nityananda was never seen in prayer but always in prayer and made His very life a prayer. He was always with The One and very often would say aloud the all pervasive word, Aum, which according to Sages is the all pervasive sound of Creation and the sound the cosmos sings while it moves at an amazing speed through the ether of Creation.
Baba Nityananda would once in a while speak about Lord Shiva, Lord Krishna and Lord Ayappa who is also known as Lord Murugan and Lord Kartikya, the son of Lord Shiv and Maa Parvati. Baba Nityananda had a strong connect with the Goddess Energy. In fact Maa Bhadrakali, it is said, was always with Him.
Baba Nityananda was very clear that each and everyone needed a Guru or a Master to move forward on the path, reach the destination and merge in the ocean of Oneness. He made it clear that all should follow their respective religions and if they had a Guru, be true to their Guru, love the Guru and know that it was eventually the Guru who would lead them to salvation by helping them navigate through the sinking sand of maya and karma, illusions and the law of cause and effect.
Once He had plucked out a hair from His head and showed Baburao Khade the root of the hair and said in His deep voice that, ‘If you have faith of the size of this hair root, it is more than enough’.
He was very clear that there was no need for renunciation and hard chore penance. One needed to perform one’s duties with complete sincerity and to strive for excellence was virtually an act of spirituality for Baba Nityananda. Thus, do your duty, striving for excellence and leave the rest to one’s Master. He often emphasized the need of respecting elders, helping those who were poor, lending a helping hand to the underprivileged and those in need, a special need for educating those who had the desire to be educated but dint have the money for education and then if you had the time, it should be spent in what He called sadhana.
Now His very concept of sadhana was also different. It could mean prayer, meditation, chanting, reading works of Masters, Holy Books and also spend time in devotional music, in the form of Bhajans and Sufi music. He was of the opinion that one of the ways to spiritual oneness was via Music, again something similar to what Sai Baba of Shirdi believed in completely.
Both The Giants were not much in favour of giving lectures on spirituality and They would speak a few lines and it was left for the spiritual seeker to go to the heart of the matter and follow the vision and foundation that was built in those few lines. And He was as unorthodox as Baba Sai.
For those who were already high up on the spiritual ladder, only then would Baba Nityananda go beyond religion and Guru and guide the aspirant according to the needs of the seeker. Like, once He told Shaligram Swami, to go to Haji Malang (the Shrine of a powerful Sufi Saint) and Alandi (where Lord Dynashwar Maharaj’s Samadhi resides).
It is a known fact that the Goddess walked along with Baba Nityananda. Though He rarely revealed much about Himself, He had divulged that He had stationed Maa Mahasati at Ankola as Goddess Mastikatta and Maa Bhadrakali who had followed Him, He had stationed at the outskirts or beginning of Ganeshpuri. In fact there is a beautiful story of how Maa Bhadrakali came to stay at Ganeshpuri. I have often spent time near Maa Bhadrakali in Ganeshpuri and She is truly alive there.
One day Baba Nityananda asked His devotee Mr. Hingwala who dealt in asafoetida or hing and thus the name Hingwala, ‘Kya Bhadrakali ka pooja karna?‘ (Do you want to worship and please Maa Bhadrakali?) The devotee thought it was a simple request and agreed to serve Maa Bhadrakali. So Baba Nityananda also called Bhagavan by His followers told Mr. Asafoetida to perform the Rajas Upachar Pooja.”
Mr. Hingwala assumed it was a normal pooja and inquired as to what was so special about this pooja, so Baba Nityananda told Hingwala to go to Benares, where there lived a family of learned priests and tell them to perform the pooja. Off went to Benares Mr. Hingwala, met the family and when he told them about the Rajas Upachar Pooja and after hearing his requests the priests, who have their own quaint sense of humour began to laugh and in their own spiritual way informed Mr. Hingwala that he was off his head to suggest such a pooja. Hingwala then spoke of Baba Nityananda and His need for this pooja to be performed and the Head Priest wanted to meet Baba Nityananda. So back to Ganeshpuri and the priest saw the tall and huge Guru who was clothed only in a langot, a traditional Indian underwear and was not very impressed. The priest first spoke in traditional Sanskrit, and Baba Nityananda replied in the same language. Thus our priest switched to a dialect only spoken in Benares, and The Master replied in that very dialect. Our man Hingwala stood and understood not a single word but after a while he nearly had an out of body experience when he saw the priest dive and touch Baba Nityananda’s feet, completely lying horizontal on the floor.
Well Hingwala had another shock to follow when he came to know the price of the pooja. It was to cost nearly seventy thousand rupees, and in those days it was a huge sum. The reason being that the pooja would take all of nine days. It required each day, huge quantities of various wood, countless coconuts, clarified butter or ghee and various other miscellaneous things apart from gold and silver and it would need learned priests. The pooja is performed in honour of Maa Bhadrakali and it is done in a manner as one treats a Queen. Thus, from the moment the Queen of Heaven were to wake up till She is put to bed, how one would treat the Queen, one has to perform the pooja in the same manner. This way Maa Bhadrakali is pleased, invoked and evoked and She comes alive in the statute and remains in that place the pooja is performed. All items used are made of gold and silver. Thus from the mirror to Maa’s comb, throne, bed, bathing bowl, tooth brush, crown, everything is made of either gold, silver or some exquisite material. Every evening She is taken out to meet Her devotees and just like a Queen who goes with her entourage, Maa too has to go out with Her large number of followers, which comprise of men on foot, on horses, camels, elephants, wild animals like tigers and lions, chariots and palkis. Maa visits Her devotees and is bejeweled and is dressed in Her finest clothes.
Thus everyday large quantities of various kinds of wood, innumerable coconuts, often more than thirty kilograms of clarified butter or ghee were needed for the pooja with the flames sometimes reaching many feet in the air. On the last day, Maa was taken in all Her finery to meet Baba Nityananda, for many, Lord Shiva Himself, who sat in Kailash Bhavan and the palki was placed at His feet.
So Baba Nityananda then looked at Hingwala and told Him, ‘Bhadrakali sthan mangtha hai, dega kya?’ (Maa Bhadrakali wants a place to reside will you give Her a place?). Hingwala nodded in affirmation. Then Baba Nityananda told Hingwala, “Mother wants to be in your wife?” Hingwala nearly passed out till he was explained that Mother wanted to speak through his wife. So that night Mother Bhadrakali came in her dream and told her that everybody had offered Her clothes but as the statue was placed into a wall there was no way anybody could drape the sari around Mother and that was not the way to do things. So next day when Baba Nityananda was told of the dream He with a dreamy look, smiled and said, ‘Make another statue of Maa for the sole purpose of draping all the saris and finery on Her’.
So the first statue was made after a lot of search and hard work. It was made ready and kept in a room. The morning when the room door was unlocked to their horror the statue had crumbled to the ground. Nobody could fathom how a statue could all crumble on to the ground. So the search was back on. One day a drunk man, who looked really nice and happy and drunk to His eyeballs, entered Ganeshpuri. Nobody really knew who He was. He kept hearing about the statue that could not be made of Maa and He told the owner of the restaurant cum hotel, Mr. Kuttiram that He was a sculptor and He could make Maa’s statue. Mr. Kuttiram jumped out of his skin, caught hold of the drunk man, and took Him to Baba Nityananda. Baba smiled seeing the man and told Mr. Kuttiram, ‘Lock Him up in the Temple, with a bottle of kerosene, a patromax lamp, a large bottle of liquor and all material for making a statue. Let Him remain inside till the statue is ready’.
For a long while people heard sounds of Maa’s statue being made. Nobody had much hope. The man inside was locked with a mother of all sizes booze bottle. When the door was unlocked, Maa’s statue was ready and Baba Nityananda told Hingwala to give the man one rupee and four annas and not a single anna more, put the man on a bus and wave the man a goodbye. Hingwala was embarrassed to pay such a trifling amount but he was not going to disobey his Master. He looked at the artist, ruffled into his pocket, got the money out, looked up and the artist was no longer visible. It was as though He disappeared into thin air. It is said that Baba Nityananda had called upon Lord Vishwakarma, who is considered as a celestial sculptor who agreed to come down but on one condition, nobody would see Him work. The booze I assume was on the house as in heaven, one gets one sample brand called soma ras which eventually even a diehard alcoholic might naturally get bored of.
One night before the final installation of Maa’s statue, Hingwala and his family, late into the night, felt as though royalty was moving about with their large gathering, animals and conches and all. Sound of music, that had trumpets, conch, drums, bells, then chariots, animals, soldiers seemed to be walking towards the Temple. Everybody was on the streets, as all heard the sound but could see nothing. Then they saw a beautiful flash of Light move from the sky at a tremendous speed and enter the Temple and vanish. Baba Nityananda in the morning informed one and all that this form of the Goddess was Kailash Bhadrakali who had followed Baba Nityananda from Gokarna.
Ganeshpuri was completely developed the time Baba Nityananda had decided to take Samadhi. Like Sai Baba of Shirdi, Baba Nityananda too was more and more saddened that nobody came for what He wanted to offer but all were only interested in worldly benefits and the worst part of it all was that even after granting their wishes, nobody seemed to be satisfied but only wanted more and more wishes to be granted and still not seek what He truly wanted to bestow; His spiritual gems and gifts.
Thus, on August seventh in Nineteen sixty one, late in the evening, Baba Nityananda told His devotees that the next day He would leave His body. One of the devotees stayed back heartbroken, pleading with The Master to change His decision. He wept and pleaded to such an extent that Baba Nityananda looked at him and said, “It is possible only if a few devotees come forward and make a request; not any devotees but those imbued with desire less devotion, bhava (feeling) and prema (love)….Even one such is enough and the Samadhi will be canceled. When such a devotee is present, even God cannot take leave without his permission, or be able to disengage Himself from the bond of his pure love.”
But as expected there was not one such disciple in the thousands of devotees. Not one who could claim that he or she only loved Baba Nityananda for who He was and not what He could give. It was a sad night for the devotees but I guess Baba Nityananda must have been heartbroken, as the realisation of the fact that in the throngs of countless devotees He had no disciples who could claim to love Him only for Him and not the perks a Master could grant.
Thus the next day, towards noon, Baba Nityananda took one deep breath, a truly deep breath and His chest expanded. He then straightened His legs, covered His hands over His stomach and released His soul to merge with The One.
One of His last insights into the workings of God and Masters was when He told His devotees, when asked as to what benefits would avail those who served Perfect Masters. Baba Nityananda seemed upset over such a self-centered question. He replied in a soft but angry voice, “Who wants seva? Does God ask to be worshipped? It is the man who does so, to get something out of God. Go back and do your duty without desire for any fruit and without sacrificing efficiency. That is the highest seva that you can render. As for spiritual progress, the essential thing is vairagya (detachment from worldliness). Without that there can be no progress. The Ocean has plenty of water. It is the size of the container brought to collect it that determines the quantity taken.”
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha