Posts Tagged ‘Swami Akhandananda Saraswati’

Kotwal of the Capital – 2

January 3, 2016

Picking up the thread on Swami Prabhudatt Brahmachari ji…

The great sage (Maharajshri) Swami Akhandananda Saraswati has written in his book “Paavan Prasang”, that he considers Swami Prabhudatt Brahmachari to be the one who was instrumental in making him into a public narrator of spiritual Katha. And those in the ‘path’ know that it is to Maharajshri that we owe, in a very large part, the traditions of Bhagavata Katha in the form that we see now, all over India. Brahmachari ji used to hold year-long naama-samkeertan festival in his ashram in Prayag (Jhusi).  He invited Maharajshree to give discourses on Srimad Bhagavatam. It is here that Maharajshree met the great sage Udiya Baba too. (One gets an idea of the great confluence of sages in Brahmachariji’s Jhusi Ashram.)

Maharajshree narrates an incident about Prabhudatt Brahmachari that happened in Ayodhya. After the stay at Jhusi Ashram, Udiya Baba and many of his followers left for Ayodhya, walking. Maharajshree and Brahmachari ji too went with him. In Ayodhya, they found another great scholar-sage, Shri Anjaninandan Sharan, coming to offer traditional welcome to Udiya Baba. (A word about Anjaninandan Sharan ji. He was a high-court lawyer, who later renounced worldly life and retired to Ayodhya, where he compiled the magnum-opus book “Manasi Piyush”. It is a masterly “commentary of commentaries” on Ramacharita Maanas, and has since been brought out as a massive seven-volume set by Gita Press, Gorakhpur. ) Seeing Anjaninandan ji coming, Brahmachariji offered his respects to him by falling on the ground and prostrating to him. Seeing Brahmachariji in front of him, Shri Anjaninandan Sharan too fell on the ground, in prostration to Brahmachariji. Seeing these two sages prostrating, their followers on both sides, threw themselves forthwith on the ground, in prostration. It was an amazing sight. All were on the ground. Only Udiya Baba was standing, and was laughing in merriment.

Just imagine the depth of Bhaava of Brahmachariji, as indeed of Anjaninandanji!

In another context, Swami Venkatesananda, disciple of Swami Sivananda, writes   – “….Prabhudatta Brahmachari, who had quite a number of ashrams in North India. He wanted to do some writing, and felt that he needed complete isolation, undisturbed seclusion; so, he bought himself a houseboat, and anchored it in the middle of the river Ganges. He went on doing his work undisturbed. In the meantime, the ashrams were being run by somebody else.

One day, one of his lieutenants went to see him, and said, “You know, So-and-so who is running the ashram in such and such a place is stealing, cheating, doing this and that!” This holy man heard all that, smiled, and didn’t respond. The man asked him, “What are you going to do about it?” He said, “Nothing. God has not appointed me a magistrate. That is not my job, that is his job.”

Based on the above, one would well think that Brahmachariji would be the last person to include political activism in his ‘job profile’ – and one would think wrong! Even as a youth, he participated in freedom struggle, and was imprisoned several times by the British (once, along with Nehru). Indeed, he was one of those who felt the need to be engaged with political apparatus for causes that he felt right.

In the first elections of free India, he contested as an independent candidate against the great leader, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru! And his election symbol? A boat.

Nehru was aiming to bring sweeping legislative changes in Hindu code, and Brahmachariji took it upon himself to stand against it. And in this stand, he was offered support by Swami Karpatri Maharaj’s party (Akhil Bharatiya Ram Rajya Parishad) and other Hindu political groups. But all said and done, it was never a real contest, with Nehru having a superstar status in the political stage, and Brahmachariji being a Sadhu who knew little of realpolitik. You can’t observe Mouna and do a political campaign, can you! Brahmachari had as much chance as Nehru would have had, had Nehru challenged Brahmachari to a debate on Brahma Sutra or Upanishads!

But the contest was not without its moments!

Here are some excerpts from an article, ‘Cymbals and Symbols’ – a report that was published in ‘Time’ magazine (issue of Jan 28th, 1952).

“By plane, ship, train, automobile and bullock cart, India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had been campaigning all over the country, stirring up votes for India’s four-month-long first general election. He had traveled 23,000 miles, made as many as ten speeches a day, addressed 5 million people. In fact, he had been just about everywhere but in his own constituency in Allahabad. There was no need to canvass Allahabad, he said rather airily.

Last week he got distressing news. His only opponent in Allahabad, 52-year-old Prabhudatt Brahmachari, who wears a luxuriant grey beard, orange-and red-rimmed spectacles, a saffron robe and a long white loincloth, had been quietly building up the vote. Quietly was the word for it: he had done it without uttering a single sound, except an occasional loud laugh.

One Plank. Back in 1921, Brahmachari, like Nehru, came under the spell of Mahatma Gandhi, but Brahmachari became a Sadhu, or holy man. He took vows of silence and celibacy, was jailed several times by the British (once along with Nehru), set up a camp on the banks of River Ganges to study the Hindu epics, and wrote the first 60 volumes of a 180-volume biography of Hindu god Krishna! One day last October he cried out : “Hey nath Narayan!” (meaning, “Oh, Lord God,” the holy man’s only departure from silence). And an attendant brought him his Shaeffer fountain pen and paper. He wrote: “If today I participate in an election, it’s because my inner voice bids me to do so.”

“Nehru, he said, is a ‘black Englishman [who] studied in the West…’

“Holy Man Brahmachari toured Nehru’s constituency in a 1931 Dodge sedan accompanied by a troupe of Hindu singers. To the chanting of Hindu psalms, he danced on the platform, rhythmically tapping a pair of small brass cymbals. A disciple read from a pamphlet he had written…”

“Hearing that Brahmachari’s pamphlet had sold 76,000 copies, Nehru came rushing back to Allahabad last week…”

The article adds – “This week, as Allahabad voters went to the polls, Nehru seemed to have his constituency under control again. The whole country was pretty much his, too.”

In that election, Nehru got 233571 votes, while Prabhudatt Brahmachari got 56718 votes ( click here for election results site )

Here is a picture of Brahmachari, that was carried in the Time article referred above.

 

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He lost the election all right, but never lost his sense of political purpose.

One of the most important causes that seized his heart was the protection of cows.

(Indeed, the deep regard for cows in Indian consciousness can be understood from the fact that the election symbol of the mighty Congress party was a pair of bullocks carrying a yoke. In 1967, the Congress party had a split. While the original party continued with the old symbol, the new faction led by Indira Gandhi chose the symbol of a cow with suckling calf).

Brahmachari was one of the leaders of the movement against Cow-slaughter in India. This became a life-long battle for him with the powers that be. He toured the length and breadth of the country for his campaign. In 1966, he formed SGMS (Sarvadaliya Gorakshana Maha-abhyaan Samiti ) which included people from all sides, even some Congressmen. He announced that a huge Satyagraha would be held on 7th November 1966, followed by a hunger strike. It is estimated that lakhs of people came to Delhi for this Satyagraha. Sadly, the situation turned out of control, there were reports of vandalism, police resorted to firing, resulting in six or seven sadhu-s dying, and many were imprisoned. The Home Minister, Gulzari Lal Nanda, had to resign his post.

In 1967 he went on an indefinite fast on the issue of Cow-slaughter. He broke the fast after 80 days after Government intervened and gave some assurances.

It is said that Prabhudatt Brahmachari had four deep desires

  • To build a temple of Hanuman in Delhi, with a 40 foot tall Hanuman idol
  • To build a temple of Vishnu (60 foot tall idol) in Indraprastha (Delhi – perhaps the Purna kila region)
  • To put an end to cow slaughter
  • Release of Ramjanbhoomi

Of these, there is but one that he could see happen.

The Hanuman in Delhi… The Kotwal of the Capital….

All said and being done, one may agree or not with his political positions. But one cannot deny that he was a great ascetic who sought to bring his voice to bear on the political landscape. And he did that using Gandhian method of non-violent Satyagraha.

Signing off this post with a poster of Paul McCartney (of the Beatles) – lending his golden voice to the cause of the Moo!  (There is this video too of his too, titled “If slaughterhouses had glass” …Click here to see on youtube… )

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Paul mccartney

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** To be continued **

Teerth Yatra … To the land of Yamuna and Ganga… – 2

April 12, 2015

We start now from the Ganga at Narora, to the hermitage of Hari Baba, the “Baandh” (dyke) that he built on the Ganga, near the village of Gavaan-badaayoon…

Hari Baba (1884 – 1970) was one of the great sages of twentieth century India. He was a Jeevanmukta, one who has attained liberation while still alive. He was the humblest of humble servants of God. He attained self-knowledge at an early age, and thereafter was immersed in the path of devotion to God. He advocated the path of Bhakti, with special emphasis to Samkeertana, singing of God’s name. It was he who mobilized communities of villagers to build a dyke in the land of Ganga, to save hundreds of villages which used to be submerged in floods year after year. And this was done without any Government funding or help… It was done by common people from villages all around, singing the name of God, as appropriate to their path and religion.

When singing God’s name, he would always be seen with the “ghantaa” – a gong bell struck with a mallet… At all times, his eyes would be downcast, towards the heart….

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Hari Baba

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How is one like us to even comprehend the glory of this sage…

Let us see what Maharajshree (Swami Akhandananda Saraswati of Ananda Vrindavana Asrama) had to say about Hari Baba…

“Among all the sages that I have had Darshan of in my life, Sri Hari Baba Maharaj, was a distinctive Mahapurusha, completely non-worldly.

People knew of him as “Baandh waale Baba” (The sage who built the Dyke on Ganga), or as a sage who preached the way of Keerthana (singing the name of God). However, I have seen him as a personification of complete non-attachment. In his life, he had no attachment whatsoever with anyone. He may offer worship, do Saashtaang-dandavat prostrations (full length on the ground, like a stick, with eight parts of the body touching the ground), and then he may well quietly walk away. He may make someone sit on the Simhasana (altar of God), and look upon him as God Himself, and then again, he may thereafter stop meeting or speaking to that person. He could well detach himself in a moment from his greatest of devotees, and just walk away.

His faith and devotion to Guru remained firm and steady – he would wave the fan-whisk of worship to someone, but contemplation would be on his Guru. Dedication to Vedanta became second-nature to him even from the time of his youth. In his conduct, he was the mirror-image of Lord Sri Ramachandra. When he was immersed in Samkeertana, there would be the manifestation of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. While his speech, smile, glance would be dripping with affection, absolute samyama (self-restraint, a self-fettering, eyes-closed approach to the world) was also patently seen in him. Such was he, that on coming to his vicinity and protecting presence, even pretenders would become true devotees. The service that has been rendered by him to poor people, farmers, and villagers is indeed matchless.

I have seen in His life, the ideal life that a satpurusha should lead. As a Jeevanmukta (self-realized sage) adopting appropriate role-play with one and all in his dealings in the world, in the same manner was the persona/role-play of Hari Baba in all his activities. He filled his time with the God’s-name, Satsangha (the company of sages and good people), and with the lore of sport of God.

By his remembrance, one’s heart becomes cleansed.

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It was to his Baandh that we were proceeding to.

As it happened, the initial idea was to visit the Baandh on Saturday, the 4th of April. That was a full-moon day (Poornima) and also Hanuman Jayanti. A very auspicious day. The plan was to reach Brindavan on 3rd evening, stay overnight, proceed to Hari Baba Baandh on 4th, and keep the return plan open. Perhaps return on 4th or 5th.

As one came closer to the date, I was coordinating with Brahmachari R on the logistics, and called him when I was in the car, returning from work… He told me that there was an issue. A monk from Udiya Baba asrama had mentioned that 4th was the day of Grahana. He wanted to know if that was indeed so. I said ‘yes’, 4th was indeed the day of lunar-eclipse. He wanted to know the exact time of eclipse. Thanks to technology, I browsed the Net and called him back, confirming that it was sometime in the evening, between 6-40 and 7-15 PM. Further conversations, back and forth, and it was decided that it would not be wise to travel on the day of eclipse. The Shastra-s do not advise that. On a grahana day, all temples would be closed too, till the eclipse was over. So it is that we preponed the trip by a day. Siva and I reached Brindavan on 2nd (Thursday) and left for Baandh along with Swami G and M, Brahma R, and Bobby the guide, on 3rd of April, which was ‘Good Friday’.

As we drove from Brindavan on 3rd morning, we talked about the day. It was the festival of “Panguni Uttiram” (Uttara Phalguni), indeed a very auspicious day. It was the day of Sita-Rama wedding, as per Valmiki Ramayana. It is the day that Rama decided as auspicious to start off on the march to Lanka. It was the day Arjuna was born. It is the birth day of Lord Ayyappa, the son of Hari and Hara. It is a day sacred to Lord Subrahmanya, the son of Siva, who was born in the bed of reeds in the banks of Ganga. And we were going to Ganga… We were going to the bandh on Ganga which had been built with the name of Rama and the chanting of Mahamantra. A dyke that was known as “Baandh Bhagavan” – God himself. It was Bhageeratha, Lord Rama’s ancestor, who had brought Ganga down from heaven to the earth…. From Krishna Yamuna, we were proceeding to the Rama Ganga…

Signing off this post with a youtube share of Soota’s narration from Ramayana… An audio recording about the ‘Birth of Rama’….

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Sri Rama Jaya Rama Jaya Jaya Rama!

<To be continued >

Teerth Yatra … To the land of Yamuna and Ganga… – 1

April 5, 2015

Thu, April 2, 2015…

Siva and I started from a very hot Delhi-Gurgaon at around 4 : 45 PM for Brindavan.

We took the Mathura Road (the old road to Mathura, that goes beyond Faridabad),  a road which is rather like a poor, neglected second cousin of no one knows who. It plays and important role but has little recognition. There aren’t many milestones and the roadside amenities are ‘kya bataoon’.

We were expecting to reach the Brindavan turn by around 7 15 PM. Many phone calls from Brindavan to check out where we were etc, and we finally hit the turn around 7 45 PM.

And soon we ran into ‘as heavy a traffic as heavy can be’. Just to move less than 500 metres took us the best part of an hour. Looks like everyone in Delhi and everyone’s uncle has taken a car and come over to Brindavan for the long weekend. There was no way we were going to get out of this one and find our way to our Asram – the most sacred Ananda Vrindavan Asram, the abidance of Maharajshree (Swami Akhandananda Saraswati). By the infinite compassion of Swami G, a young man was sent to guide us. He found our car in the melee, jumped in, and then systematically guided us through some lanes known only to native Brindavanians and we arrived in the Asrama by 9 45 pm. Happy to say that we were not agitated at all because of all this. After all we had come here to log out of time.

A nice room had been allotted to us.

Lovely pictures of Udiya Baba and Maharajshree blessed us from the stately wall.

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Asram had kept dinner for us. Happy after Roto-Sabzi we retired for the night… Siva was busy with his iPad, and I put on Maharajshree’s discourse on my laptop and listened…

Electric power was playing “now I am here, now I ain’t” the whole night. The sky tore apart with some terrific sequences of long thunders. And it rained….

We were up by 4 am, to get ready for the Yatra of the day.

I do the morning ritual of sending whatsapp greetings from Brindavan to my near and dear whatsappians. I browse the net for a suitable picture, and settle on this one, because it brings to mind the magic of ‘Brindavan’ to anyone’s mind. The rain of the night was not in my mind.

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Krishna`

Just before 5 30 am, there was a knock on our door, and we were overjoyed to have suprabhaat darshan of Swami G, as he walked in smiling. We did traditional saashtaang namaskara to him. He had come to fetch us… Time to leave…

I then ran with Brahmachari R to have darshan of Nritya Gopala, the main deity in the Asrama. This idol of Krishna was sculpted in accordance with the direction of Maharajshree many years ago, based on a vision of Krishna that he had had.

Here is a picture of my darshan of Nritya Gopala.

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We then went to the other shrine, of Lord Siva – Bhava Bhaveshwar Siva.

We then went to our car – a Toyota Innova, seven seater.

And all seven seats were manned. Front was the Praveen, the driver, and Siva.

Middle were two Sanyasi Swami-s, Swami G and Swami M, both very senior monks of Maharajshree order.

Last row, were Brahmachari R (Brahm R), myself, and Bobby. Bobby was a local person who ran a tourist car agency. He knew the roads of UP.

We moved at 5 40 AM or so. The plan was to visit Hari Baba Baandh in interior UP, by the banks of Ganga. But right now, we were negotiating the inner lanes of Brindavan, and soon were driving past a bridge on the river Yamuna

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With Swami G’s permission one chanted Purusha Suktam and Narayana Suktam and had the joy of an appreciative nod from Brahma R. As soon as that was over, Swami G pulled out a CD for being played in the car stereo. And soon we were listening to an audio discourse from 1960. This was a discourse by Karpatri Maharaj, a very great scholar-sage of Kashi.

A couple of photographs of Karpatri Maharaj, young and old.

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Swami Karpatri Maharaj was a sage of great vairagya. Born sometime in early 1900s, he took to serious spiritual life and study at an early age, spent time in solitary spiritual practice, living in the regions of Ganga and Himalaya, and was recognized as a Paramahamsa even before he was initiated into the monastic order at the age of 24. He was a great scholar and has written over 40 books and hundreds of articles. He was an Advaitin who rooted in Sanatana Dharma and was very much in the Shankara order of sincere Saguna Upasana in daily life. He was instrumental in convincing his Guru. Swami Brahmananda, to accept the position of Shankaracharya and revive the Northern Shankaracharya Peetha of Jyotirmath, the seat of which had lied vacant for over a century and a half. The present Shankaracharya of Dwaraka and Jyotirmath, Swami Swaroopananda Saraswati, was a student of Karpatri Maharaj.

Along with his severe ascetic life and spiritual practice, he was also a social activist. He even founded a political party, the Ram-Rajya Parishad in 1948, and his party fought elections. He was in the forefront of the movement for abolition of cow-slaughter, and was jailed for many months on two occasions. One may have differences with Karpatri Maharaj’s orthodox positions on issues, but no one would doubt his spiritual stature, courage, selflessness, and resolve.

Sharing a youtube video that one came across on Karpatri Maharaj.

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Coming back to our drive from Brindavan….

We were listening to a series by Swami Karpatriji, titled “Gopigeet’ – the songs of Gopi-s….. Appropriate theme for a journey from Brindavan….

Now, in interior UP, you are best advised to go with a local guide, and for us, the guide was Bobby. There is nothing permanent about the state of roads or rivers, in the sense that what was fordable last month may not be navigable this month. And so you have to be alert and figure out the best alternate route of the day. With these and such in mind, Bobby took us via Hathras, and then on to Aligarh… Aligarh seemed to be a place frozen in time, like Old Lutyens Delhi. Old British style buildings, bungalows, the college campus, government offices – all speaking a silent language of long gone Sahebs…

Going past we reached Dibai… The roads were quite all right… The weather was nice and the scenery beautiful. Fields of wheat, orchards of mangoes… Nature’s call answered in the natural way, parked by the fields, spmewhere near a handy hand-pump… Life is good. Siva had picked up some nice Bananas from Aligarh, and that was our breakfast for the day. It must be said that it was Siva and I who seemed more keen on appeasing our hunger. The two Swami-s, Brahma B, Bobby and Praveen seemed quite unconcerned. Power of simple living…

Meanwhile, a few phone calls, and folks at Hari Baba Asram were informed of the two Swami-s and group’s being on the way to the Baandh.

There was a question as to whether we should have Ganga snaan first and then visit the Baandh, or visit the Baandh and then go for Ganga snaan. The question was put to the senior Swami, Swami M, who did not immediately respond, leading one to wonder whether he had heard the query. He evidently had heard, for after being lost in silence for a minute or so, perhaps looking within for guidance. he spoke… He said that it would be better if we had Ganga snaan first, and then go to Hari Baba baandh. For Ganga snaan, there were a few options. After some discussion, Swami M decided that it was best that we go a few kms further on, to Narora. For in Narora, there was a pucca ghat, facilitating ease of bathing…

Time was around 9: 30 am, when we reached Narora.

Narora, in District Bulandshehr, has always been well known in hinterland India as a place of pilgrimage to Ganga. In recent times, it has been in the news for the Atomic Power Plant built here in 1991-92. [ One shudders as one remembers the two accidents in the plant, one in 1993 and the other in 1999 (For a brief on that, click here )… One feels good that the plant has since won some awards for environment preservation… ]

Narora is also famous for Sri Sangaved Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya , a great centre for traditional learning. Among other great scholars, Swami Karpatri Maharaj graduated from here….

Coming back to our Ganga anubhava…

Even as we grihast (house-holders) were scrambling around to unload our bags and bathing gear, the two Swamis and Brahmachari R had vanished. Before we could say “Har Har Gange” they were already in the river…

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Ganga at Narora is magnificent. Here is a very short video clip…

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We must have been in the waters for about half an hour or so… Sometime after 10 AM, we walked back to the car. Swami M had some Prasad for us… Puffed rice and sweets… He asked me to cup both my hands together and poured a generous helping, which could only be eaten by taking the cupped-hands directly to my mouth, and lapping the eats, animal like… Back to one’s elements!

Large cans of Ganga filled, we got back on to the car and the road.

Destination Hari Baba Baandh…

<To be continued>

A Brindavan Thanksgiving – 3

December 9, 2012

We go along with Swamiji to Maharajshri’s Anandavrindavan Ashrama. Ramey drives the Scorpio expertly, and parks the car inside the Ashram.

There is a book shop right there in the courtyard. Swamiji gifts me a copy of the book Valmiki Ramayana pravacan of Maharajshri. From the book I come to know that Maharajshri had narrated this Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu) in 1976.  In book form, this was released just this year, in 2012, on Guru Poornima day. I feel really blessed to receive this.

Swamiji takes us around the Ashrama. Swamiji has advised me to remove my spectacles, to save them from monkeys… Even if it is that I see less clearly, I am engulfed by a wave of happiness as I walk around the holy place. It is Ananda Vrindavan after all.  At one entrance, Swamiji spots a monkey clamber off after borrowing someone’s footwear that was left outside. A call goes out and rescue operation is started! It is the joy of Kishkinda!

From Ananda Vrindavan, Swamiji takes us to Sri Krishna Ashram, the ashram of Maharajshri’s Guru, the most holy Sri Sri Udiya Baba,

We walk across to the Ashrama.

Krishna Ashram 1*

After entry, on the left we find a shrine, where an idol of Sri Udiya Baba is installed.

Krishna Ashram 2

Doctor Swami steps in and chants a verse from “Sree Poornananda Teertha Stava”, composed by Maharajshree… Poornananda Teertha was the Sanyasa name of Udiya Baba…

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Udiya Baba (1875 – 1949) was a Paramahamsa, a supreme sage, firmly established in the Non-dual state of Self-Abidance. He was a a parivrajaka, and would not stay in any one place for too long. He would walk all along the banks of Ganges, moving from one place to another. Sometime in 1937-38 he came away to Brindavan and this Ashrama, Shri Krishna Ashram, was constructed as a place for him to stay.  From Maharashri’s book, we come to know that the foundation stone (shilanyas) of the Ashram was laid by the great sage Gwaria Baba. Gwaria baba was a bliss-soaked sage, an adept in the path of “Naada Brahma” – divinity of music. He was also a great devotee of Sri Krishna, and had the “sakha” (Friend) attitude to Krishna, and considered himself his cowherd friend….Hence the name Gwaria, or cowherd… Floating in bliss, this mendicant monk walked the land of Krishna, sharing music and joy….

So here we are, at Shri Krishna Ashrama, the presence of Udiya Baba…

Speaking of Baba’s idol. Maharajshri says – “On the Shivaratri of Vikram Samvat 2019 (1963 AD), the festival of installation of archa-vigraha (idol) of Maharajji (Udiya Baba) was celebrated. Many people who have seen the idol say, ‘This is not just an idol. Indeed this is Udiya Babaji Himself!'”.

Let us have a close-up view of Baba.

Krishna Ashram 3

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Describing Udiya Baba’s stay at Shri Krishna Ashram, Maharajshri says – “From morning 3 AM till night 11 PM, the stream of satsangha would flow nonstop at Shri Krishna Ashram. The dignity of Raasa-Leela that was maintained in the Ashram, is remembered till today. There were all arrangements for both methods of spiritual discipline – the realization of Formless God, and that of God with form. Shri Maharajji (Udiya Baba) would be personally present in all the Ashram programs. Even the disciples in his inner circle failed to understand the secret of what (path) he was. Was he a Shaiva or Shaakta? Was he a worshiper of Rama or Krishna? Or was he a Vedanti?”

Doctor Swami takes us around the Ashram, to the room where Udiya Baba would hold Satsangh….

There is a lovely painting of Baba, covered, but for the face, with ocher cloth. Udiya Baba’s sacred Paduka-s are on a footstool in front…

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Swamiji chants one more verse here…

He then takes us to a door that leads to the Samadhi of Udiya Baba…

Krishna Ashram 5

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Steps lead down to an underground room, where there is the samadhi of the great sage…

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We sit there in silence for some time…

And then we take leave…

Coming back to Ananda Vrindavana, Swamiji sits with us for lunch – prasad.

Afterwards, he takes us to the audio section, where Maharajshri’s recordings are digitized… Discourses by learned scholars are being held all the time at the Ashrama. The complete Shridhari commentary of Srimad Bhagavatam was elucidated over several years by a Swamiji, and that set is available too.. As is the Shaankara Bhaashya of Bhagavad Gita, narrated by another Swamiji, which concluded just the previous day…

We then come back to Doctor Swami’s quarters in the other Krishna temple…. A senior Swami of Chinmaya Mission, along with some devotees, is visiting Swamiji. We too enjoy that Satsangh for some time..

And then, feeling quite fulfilled and happy, we take leave…

As we drive out on the road to the highway, we see a large idol of Durga on the fields to the left…

Krishna Ashram 7

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Driving back from Brindavan… And thinking of Udiya Baba, Maharajshri… Of Shri Krishna Ashram and Ananda Vrindavan… A shloka comes to mind…. Signing of this Brindavan Thanksgiving, with that message….

ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदम् पूर्णात् पूर्णमुदच्यते |
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ||

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ||

Radhey!

A Brindavan Thanksgiving – 2

December 2, 2012

I had spoken a couple of days before to a Brahmachari who assists Swamiji, to check if we could come and meet Swamiji on this day. He had taken my details, and had confirmed to me the previous evening that “Swaagat hai!” – “You are welcome”… And that for the last few months, Swamiji had been attending daily lectures on Shaankara Bhashya of Bhagavad Gita. And that the series had been completed only that day. And so, Doctor Swami was free the next day and we were welcome to come over.

So, there we are, on the way to Brindavan… Nearing it…

Calling the Brahmachari on his mobile phone, we try to fix the coordinates of the Ashram where Swamiji resides… Brahmachariji’s directions are delightfully imprecise, in keeping with general plasticity of time and space in rural India. The directions include references such as “near Hanuman Mandir”, which is perhaps the location marker for any point in any place in upper-interior India! He says we should drive past that and there would be a gate somewhere on the left that would be open, and we should go in. Now, how is one to know which gate. We drive up and down the road, looking for a gate… Surely, as Jiddu Krishnaji has famously said “Truth is a pathless land”. We seek that truth.  But mercifully, not in vain….

We spot a gate with no marking.. We drive in and there is a courtyard, next to an imposing temple structure.. And there are fields beyond that.

The outer portal of the temple…

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We call Brahmachariji and convey what we see. He confirms we are in the right place. He tells us he is away somewhere, and that we should walk in and first have darshan of Thakurji. We tell him that we see no one around.. He confirms that too, and tells us to go right in, have darshan of Thakurji, and then go behind the temple where there are quarters, where Doctor Swami resides.

We walk in, and find an inner courtyard, and a temple..

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We walk into the temple, and there is an inner-inner courtyard, and a sanctum, where stands Thakurji, Lord Sri Krishna, along with his consort… We have Darshan…

Coming out, we go around the temple..

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At the back we find a separate set of rooms.. There I spot a man kneading dough, to make Roti. Looks very appetizing… “Radhey! Radhey!”, he says, smiling, greeting us. We reciprocate his greetings and ask for Doctor Swamiji. He gets up and takes us to the door of a room. Asking for my name, he peers in and announces me. We are asked in, and I meet Doctor Swami.. Maybe five years since I met him last… He is very surprised to see me… It seems that Brahmachariji had told him that one Mishraji had called from Chennai and was coming in. Obviously Brahmachariji had not noted my name properly, and names being as plastic as time and space, had approximated on the sound and had come up with the name Mishra. Now, there apparently was a Mishraji from Chennai who was a devotee of Maharajshri, and so Doctor Swami was expecting him. Instead, it was I who turned up. Well, well, all is well! We are welcomed, and there is a general philosophical discussion on how “Truth” when conveyed from a person to another, can get distorted, like me becoming Mishra!

Swamiji’s room is nice and large.

Above the door, inside the room, is a framed picture of Udiya Baba.

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On the opposite wall, there is a framed picture of Maharajshri…

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Doctor Swamiji is kindness itself. He makes us comfortable, and works out a program for us for the day. He gently insists that we should have lunch that day, as Prasad, in Maharajshri’s Anand-Vrindavan Ashram. We are only too happy to accept… We catch up on our correspondences. Although he has not been expecting me that day, his memory of our correspondence is sharp – a Yogic memory. He talks with Ramey and answers many questions of life and philosophy that Ramey puts him…. Its a wonderful Satsangh…

He tells me how he happened to be in Tiruvannamalai earlier, describing it as the grace of Bhagavan Raamana Maharshi. After Maharajshri had left the body, Doctor Swami had left Brindavan and had taken to the life of a parivrajaka, a wandering monk… In due course, he had come to Tiruvannamalai… On Sivaratri, he was in Sri Ramanasramam, and had Prasad there. He had no place to stay, and was deciding to move on from Tiruvannamalai, when an acquaintance from the Ashram sent word, asking him why he had to move away from there, and that he should continue his stay in the holy town. And quite miraculously, some dwelling was made available, and he found residence with V Ganesan, who is the grand-nephew of Sri Ramana Maharshi. The Ashram agreed to provide for his daily Bhiksha. And that’s how he happened to settle in Tiruvannamalai. After an year or so, he moved to the neighboring town of Tirukkoilur, in the  Gnanananda Tapovanam Ashram… And would often come from there to Ramanasramam…. After some years stay in Tiruvannamalai, on the insistent and loving requests of the monks and devotees at Brindavan, he had come back to Brindavan…. The place where he is staying is a Krishna Temple. Apparently, Maharajshri had some mystic communion with Lord Krishna of this temple, and then some devotees from Delhi had set about to acquire the place. The worship and maintenance is now carried out by Maharajshri’s Ananda Vrindavan Ashram.. Doctor Swami stays here… If I am not mistaken, I think he told me that the picture of Udiya Baba that adorns the wall, was the one which Maharajshri had in his own room earlier….

Signing off this post with a picture of Doctor Swami in his room.

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Notice the black and white calendar behind him on the wall… That’s a calendar published by Sri Ramanasramam, and the picture is of Sri Ramana Maharshi..

Time is past 10-30 am, and we prepare to go now to Ananda Vrindavan…

** To be continued **

A Brindavan Thanksgiving – 1

November 25, 2012

Good morning…

It is sunrise time, and I am in a cab, in New Delhi, headed for the junction of Mathura Road and Ring Road, where my friend Ramey shall meet me…

Ramey and I often head out of Delhi, for day trips to places of pilgrimage. Today we are headed for Brindavan, where I plan to meet Swami Govindananda, a  medical doctor who became a Sanyasi…

I met Swamiji some years ago in Tiruvannamalai, at Sri Ramanasramam. He was with Swami Shantanandapuri, a sage who hails from Vasishta Guha, on the banks of Ganga in the lower slopes of the Himalaya. By divine decree, he stays six months, or so, every year in Ramanasramam. He has composed the Ramana Suprabhaatam, a wonderful Sanskrit composition, as also many other works. When I visited his little cottage in the Ashram, Swami Govindanandji was with him… And I came to know that he was  a disciple of Swami Akhandananda Saraswati of Brindavan, a great sage, reverentially known as Maharajshri (Click here for my earlier blog post on Swami Akhandanandaji). I had read a bit about Swamiji Akhandananda, and I struck up an acquaintance with Govindanandji. Govindandaji was a medical doctor in his poorvaashrama, and is known in his circle as Doctor Swami. Doctor Swami was kind enough to take my address and he sent me a copy of a Hindi book, ‘Paavan Prasang’, the spiritual autobiography of his Guru, Maharajshri. And that gave a glimpse of a whole new treasure in the “Wonder that is India”… Through that book, I came to have a darshan of the North Indian spiritual landscape. And what a landscape! To read of Maharajshri, Udiya Baba, Karpatri Maharaj, Hari Baba, Anandamayi Ma, and ever so many more great sages was such a feast for one’s heart!

(Meanwhile…View from the cab… The Sun has just risen..

Ok… Back to the background story…

Doctor Swami had also given me a copy of “Sri Poornananda Teertha Stava” – a sublime Sanskrit composition of Maharajshri, a Stotra in praise of his Guru, Udiya Baba, whose Sanyasa name was Sri Poornananda. That is such a beautiful composition that I was really drawn to it. This had just been translated to English by Swami Shantanandapuri, in whose room I met Doctor Swami…

Well, its a long story. Suffice to say, by the Grace of God, I could make a visit to Brindavan (with Ramey) some years ago, spend a few days there, and also visit Maharajshri’s Ashram, Ananda Vrindavan… (For a three-post report on that visit, click here).

I started reading Maharajshri’s books, and hear audio recordings of his talks… And Doctor Swami, invisibly helped me all the time. He sent me many more books. When I met him first, he was staying in Tirukoilur, near Tiruvannamalai, in Swami Gyanananda Tapovana Ashrama… A few years ago, he returned to Brindavan, and is now residing there…

And it is to see him, that I am headed now, to Brindavan… As a thanksgiving… Who can gauge the compassion that of Udiya Baba and Maharajshri! It is that ‘ahaituki kripa”, ‘compassion without any reason’, that flowed through Doctor Swami for this akinchana-stranger in Chennai. And I go to meet him, as a small expression of gratitude…

My cab reaches the turn to Mathura Road.. It is 6 am or so.. I reach the meeting point. Ramey is there, standing near his big car, a Scorpio…

I jump in and we are off…

The drive is beautiful…

The Sun is to our left now… And here’s a picture from the car….

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We drive past Faridabad, Ballabgarh.. Places where I have worked in the beginning of my career…. As I look around for memories, Ramey steps on the pedal….  Well the road could use some repairs for sure, but the Scorpio powers its way onward.

And yes, Ramey says “Hi” to you…

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** To be continued **

Maharajshri

July 25, 2010

Today is Guru Poornima.

Today is also the day that the centenary year of a great sage begins.

On 25th of July, 1911, on Amavasya day, a spark of divine was born in the village of Maharai, in the region of Varanasi. Named as Shantanu Vihari, he went on to become the great sage Swami Akhandananda Saraswati.

Known fondly as Maharajshri, he is one of those who represent the best of Indian spiritual and religious traditions. In him was the confluence of all philosophical systems. He was a very great exponent of Srimad Bhagavata, and resided in Brindavan. He was a supreme Advaitin, and a disciple of the great Advaitin sage, Udiya Baba (Sri Poornananda Teertha). He was a supreme scholar of all Shastras, and has written almost 200 books on all aspects of spirituality. He has delivered countless Pravacans on Bhagavata, Upanishads, Gita, Ramayana, and many more. He has been on Yatra across the length and breadth of our country, and has moved with many of the great sages of his time. To say anything about him, is like holding a candle to the Sun.

On this holy day of Guru Poornima, I attempt to share some brief information from Maharajshri’s great spiritual memoir “Pavan Prasang”. This relates to his supreme enlightenment experience.

Five miles from Maharajshri’s village, there lived a sage, Swami Yogananda Puri, in the village of Sahepur. Guided by Swami Yogananda Puri, Maharajshri first completed a Purascharana of Gayatri Mantra (a Sadhana that involves Japa of Gayatri Mantra 24 Lakh times, alongwith associated vows and rituals). Upon the completion of the Purascharana, he was initiated into Krishna Mantra Upasana by Swamiji. Advised by Swamiji that it takes four times the effort in Kali Yuga, Maharajshri applied himself totally to his absorption with the Sadhana… He led a life of tremendous asceticism in Varanasi… Fourth Anushttaana of Krishna Mantra Japa was also completed… However, his spiritual goal of God Realization still eluded him…

I attempt to give below, a translation of an excerpt from his book “Pavan Prasang”, where he describes what happened next, leading to his experience of enlightenment. He has written about this in two different parts of the book, and I have combined the information therein.

“At my place of stay, I locked myself, and deliberated – “What should I do now? Japa, fasts, spiritual practices have all been done to the extent that I possibly can. My attempt at dispassion-renunciation too has ended up in vain. It is indeed impossible to undertake more spiritual-effort than what I am doing now. It appears as if this body is not fit to experience God-realization. In which case, would it be ok to cast off the body? But no. Both. clinging to the body, or casting it off, are signs of attachment to the body identification as “mine”. So what then is the means? Means! Where-from is any strength to come to any “means”! Is it all possible for me to realize God based on my own strength?”

“And then, in one moment, “my” spiritual effort, the means, and all strength of reason got destroyed. My “I” was not cognized anymore. Just as the case of a person who keeps holding on to his “I” notion, and claims that he has realized the Self or Brahman, is a false belief, so also, if a “part” of a “whole” keeps exercising its own strength, and then proudly claims that it has now attained realization of the “whole”, then surely this is but a figment of imagination. Enough of my words, my efforts, my motives! Enough! Enough! Now I can do no more. As soon as I achieved this state of no-effort, no-“I”, then, spontaneously, in the dark house, a Supreme Radiance throbbed forth! In that radiance, the earth, the house, the tiles, the cot, and my body – everything was destroyed. Sans any material substance, sans any spiritual effort, sans any mind-mood, sans any cause, what is this radiance that is being experienced? It was incredible, awesome, and I was somewhat mad with joy! I could neither fold my hands, nor bow my head, nor prostrate on the ground!

And then, in fullness of bliss, I started dancing! My hair was standing on end! Completely filled with joy, I stepped out! When I came out of the room, the first person that I saw was my mother, and I could not keep this experience a secret from her! I exclaimed to to her that I have found God!”

Maharajshree summarizes the experience and says : “When the hold of “I” and “Mine” broke down, when all means had failed to deliver, then out of this “Not”-ness, the Supreme-Goal emerged!”

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Bowing to Paramatma, who comes as Sagduru, I conclude this post with Pranams to all.

Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya!

(To know more about Maharajshri, go to the AnandVrindavan website by clicking here )