“Yogananda! Your idea appears to be well-founded indeed. It may well be that Gurudeva’s view is also identical. Adhyayana may demand two people being present in a place but it is in the fitness of things there should be only one person for thapas, namely the tapasvi alone!”
“Nityananda! I have also been thinking over it for the last two days. It is now two months since we embarked upon a tour of the entire country with the blessings of Gurudeva and we have been travelling together following the disciplinary rules of Sanchaara Samadhi. Except during bhiksha, we have no contact whatsoever with the people. In spite of it, the mind is aspiring for absolute solitude. During the intervals of our meditation, there is a tendency on our part to break our silence for at least one or two hours. We become extroverts in some way or the other. We must put an end to our sensory perceptions through talks and walks and try to observe absolute silence at all times. In order to experience the bliss of concentration on the Brahma, it looks as though we have to move in different directions at least for sometime”.
“In a way, you are perfectly right, Yogananda. For a sadhaka, inseparable silence and solitude are like bosom friends. If the organ of speaking works less, external contacts with the world can be eliminated and the mind derives strength for constant thinking of the Brahman. You may do like that. But in my heart, this is no more than sadhana. For a person who has the qualities of the head and the heart and who is endowed with higher experiences, it makes little difference if he is in the midst of people or away from people. His mind is still and does not waver. If only he experiences the happiness of real bliss once, then his mind can, even in the midst of exercises of serious problems of the world, can turn itself away from them and become introvert effortlessly. All that is needed is a little caution.
“You may be right. But to me, it appears there is danger of the mind yielding to the pressure of the problem world end exposing itself to serious disturbances. Why should we put our hands in quagmire and proceed to have them washed? There is no need for the quaking bog or bogging down your hands or for the cleansing process”.
The foregoing conversation was taking place between two Bairagis seated on the platform in front of a temple in the midst of a beautiful stretch of forest, on the banks of the river Narmada. Both were young. They were disciples of Swami Sahajananda who had his ashram at the foot of the Himalayas. After their studies in Vedanta, the two disciples had set out on their pilgrimage regulated by the rules enjoined on them by their Guru. Although they had been together for two months, they used to observe silence for not less than twenty hours a day.
Among the Vedantins of North India, there was a practice among the disciples to set out, after being blessed by their Guru, on a tour of the whole country as pilgrims. It was called Sanchaara Samadhi. But although the physical body underwent exertion during such travel demanding constant care and protection, the mind pursued the sadhana of non-involvement and negation of movement characteristic of some aspects of experience in samadhi state. The approach of the nomad was nonchalant. There was no rule or rigidity regarding the distance to be covered or the precise work to be turned out. He might even be not conscious of what he did in the immediate past. If he was exposed to some experience, he would just pass through it without any reservations. For all the deeds of the physical body in continual motion on pilgrimage, the only witness was the nonchalant mind and this particular characteristic of stillness was the invisible wealth of the mind.
Yogananda’s detachment was of a very rigorous type. Since his mind was very much attuned to the direction of sadhana, he would always clamour for the glamour of solitude. Nityananda, as his name implied, was a picture of absolute tranquility. His sadhana was of a vigorous type and appeared to register an exalted level of progress. His inner frame of mind was such that it was beyond the susceptibilities of a wavering and faltering frame and certainly beyond the bondage of illusion.
As already stated, there was sufficient exchange of views between the two. Yogananda’s pressure was mounting. Nityananda said finally, “The purpose of Sanchara Samadhi is not mere sadhana, pure and simple. It is, on the other hand, the Agnipariksha of Atma sakshatkara within us. Our fateful lot may not be in acceptable forms to us. The purpose of travel is to test the tranquility, the reality and the natural disposition of the mind. ‘Raagadveshou vinaa praaptam bhunjaamyatra shubha-ashubham’ is its moola (main) mantra. All right! Since your wish has been one of aspiration for solitude, let your desire be fulfilled! Which way do you wish to travel?”
Yogananda replied, “I travel towards the East. You may proceed towards the West”.
Nityananda was seated in the prominent enclosure of the Ranga mantapam of the celebrated Meenakshi temple in Madurai. The radiant face of the youthful and handsome Bairagi had been attracting the respectful attention of devotees proceeding to the shrine. The serenity of the atmosphere was disturbed by a girl in dishevelled hairs and one who could scarcely walk but was literally being dragged by two persons, who were forcibly taking her round the temple. The girl’s awkward steps were characteristic of her hysterical expressions of laughter and cries attributable to the mentally deranged. Sometimes, she would disengage herself from the two who held her arms and push them down to the floor. Despite her emaciated body and thin frame, her strength would appear to be illimitable. Nityananda turned his attention to the girl who was making pradakshina of the shrine. Attracted by the obvious divinity of his face, the two not only offered prostration to him but also helped her to fall at his feet.
“Nityananda was overwhelmed by the distressing situation of the girl and made kind enquiries about her;
“Who is she? Why is she like this?” He asked them.
“She is the daughter of one Bhaktavtsala Chettiar, a wealthy man of this town. She was married two years ago. Since then, she is possessed of an evil spirit. Her attainments are no more than crying, shouting, laughing and sometimes even stripping herself wildly and running out of the house stark naked. We have exhausted all the remedies available in this world through medicines, mantras and yantras. We have finally brought her here for offering service to Sree Meenakshi Devi. The husband also hails from a wealthy family. If she is cured of her malady, both the families will be redeemed”.
Nityananda pulled up his yoga danda and placed it on the girl’s shoulder. She gave vent to a sudden hysterical cry as if she was overwhelmed by an electric shock.
The evil spirit that had taken refuge in her body surfaced itself and said, “Mahatma! I am blessed by your darshan! Protect me! I shall not trouble her any more. I shall go away. Please show me a suitable place”.
“I shall transfer”, said Nityananda, “a portion of the strength of my tapasya to you. Thereby you will get rid of this devilish form and get into an exalted state. Do not worry. Leave this girl alone. For the time being, seek refuge in the banyan tree opposite to us. You will be liberated soon”.
The banyan tree shook violently. The girl got up and prostrated before the Mahatma.
The news of the miracle spread all over the town as yogic attainments of sadhus, saints and mahatmas. The whole population of the town has assembled there before, the evening. People afflicted with various disease, afflicted by devils and their disciples and people torn by domestic quarrels- all had wended their weary way to the Mahatma’s place to seek his blessings.
Bhaktavatsala Chettiar was delighted beyond words with the transformation on the life of his daughter as a result of the Mahatma’s grace. Even if he surrendered all that he had at the Mahatma’s feet, he thought, it would be too inadequate. The moment he came to know about the news, he rushed to him and took him to his house in a palanquin. He started his seva to the Mahatma with great devotion. He had made elaborate arrangements for the unfortunate families seeking his darshan. Within few days, his house had many volunteers who were ever ready to attend to the Mahatma’s daily oblations. Hundreds of people would gather for participating in metaphysical disquisitions, bhajans and pujas every morning and evening. The news of Nityananda’s greatness spread everywhere and reached even the King of Madurai.
Nityananda Yogishwar soon became the Rajaguru (King’s perceptor). A palatial building was made available to him. Even the queen and queen’s entourage were allowed to have his darshan and offer sevas. In the same way, citizens were also freely allowed to meet him. In place of the loin cloth and the Kamandalam (earthen pot of water), costly silk dresses and vessels of gold and silver not adorned Nityananda’s articles of use. At the main entrance to the mutt, sepoys armed with open swords were keeping vigil.
Four years had passed. As a result of the Mahatma’s influence the entire state had acquired a unique colour. From the highest officials to the common citizen, qualities of kindness and mercy and ideals of love and service were evident in everyone. In each of the principal cities, pujas, bhajans, healthy discussions and metaphysical discourses were drawing huge crowds. It would even be said that there was no place devoid of charitable gestures for free distribution of food. The whole country was presenting a picture of plenty and prosperity with bubbling enthusiasm.
The city of Madurai could boast of four choultries in the four corners and food was freely served for pilgrims and travellers. The poor and unfortunate members of society were also attended to and looked after. The sadhus and sanyasis were given special and warm treatment commensurate with their attainments. The choultries had an able administrator who was educated and kind-hearted. As all the guests were satisfactorily looked after, there was no cause for complaint whatsoever.
Yogananda who toured all the eastern states amidst the avowed discipline of silence in mountainous regions, forts and forest area noted for their resplendent natural beauty, came to the city of Madurai. He found that all the temples in the outskirts of the city which were in dilapidated condition once had been beautifully renovated. As soon as Yogananda entered the choultry, the administrator prostrated before him and offered him warm welcome. Yogananda quenched his thirst with a cup of water. Within a short time, special meal was also ready to be served.
Yogananda was delighted with the exquisite arrangements of service to one and all in the choultries which were noted for poor service in the past.
He was anxious to know the secret behind the sincere service offered there. The administrator responded to his queries with all humility and respectfully took him to the Ranga Mantapam and pointed to the picture of their Gurudeva responsible for the awakening and transformation in the attitude of all.
The moment Yogananda saw the picture, his mind began to reel under a revolt and changing scenes of perplexity began to cross his mind. He spent the whole night in deep mental disturbance. The following day, he met Nityananda alone. He tried to control his acute temper and said, “Dear brother! What is this drama? Where is the bliss of Sanchara Samadhi and where is the abysmal fall into royal pleasures? Where is the sacred throne of renunciation? How about the stigma of palatial comforts and enjoyments here? You are a yoga-brashta and guilty of grave derelictions. Not only have you been caught in the cobweb of miracles but also leading people to the hell of illusions. If only our Gurudeva comes to know about you, he will shed a thousand tears. This is thoroughly unbecoming of you. You seem to have forgotten the concept of illusion and compulsions of delusion. I am really ashamed of you…having started on a pilgrimage with you. At this very moment, I call upon you to give up all these royal pleasures and proceed with me, if you really wedded to spiritual pursuits”.
He hurled at him other abuses too! He chastised him very severely. Nityananda remained a picture of patience and only lent his ears to him. Finally he said: “Yogananda! This mental frame cannot either be shaken by your allegation or carried away by people’s appreciation. Thanks to Gurunatha’s grace, the inner core has been enjoying natural bliss. I did not go over here of my own accord nor did I desire royal pleasures. Divine dispensation it was that brought me to this place. For the royal pleasures placed at my disposal, an excuse or cause became an instrument. This probably could explain the inevitability of inalienable comfort and happiness – collectively called prarabdha. Even you cannot prevent its spell. Nityananda is nitya-ananda (a seeker of permanent bliss). He is not so low as to go in search of happiness among factors of anitya or impermanence. You have not been able to understand my inner frame despite long association with me. That is the reason why you have been repenting for me. Who can prevent the lot in store for one?”
“Raagadveshau-vina praaptam bhunjamyatra shubha-ashubham. Whatever comes to pass, it is the body which goes through the experience and I stand as a witness. That is all my function. I am not answerable to anything else”.
“Yes!” asserted Yogananda, “That is the way beginnings speak for themselves. But when one gets caught in the whirlpool of desire and shackles of bondage, one becomes a victim and falls into abysmal depths; having fallen, one tends to look up towards the very height from which one suffered such inglorious fall”.
“Yogananda!”, defended Nityananda, “leave it at that! You have no confidence in my words. What do you want me to do?”
“What else can we do? We have to give up everything and get back to our former direction”, Yogananda was firm.
“Well” said Nityananda, “We shall do so. If people around here come to know about our plan they will not let us go. Tonight, after all retire to bed; you proceed to the garden in front of the mutt. I shall join you quietly. I suppose you have brought clothes for me to change”.
“Yes indeed!” Said Yogananda. “This shoulder bag contains all. Here they are”. He offered them to his willing colleague.
It was about midnight when the two Bairagis were walking briskly in the forest. Yogananda being used to travelling up and down the hills and terrains of the forest was taking quicker strides than Nityananda who walked through the night. Before dawn, they had covered thirty miles. As there was the apprehension of their being followed by people in search of the Rajaguru, they strayed away from the highway and entered another thick forest. They crossed the zenith of the scorching midday sun, but their movement continued.
It was, however, too much for Nityananda’s delicate physical frame which had been used to the recent royal comforts. The rigour of the piercing sun began to tell on him. There was more! His weary feet fell on wild thorns and he began to bleed heavily from both his legs. But he remained a picture of peace and moved along totally oblivious to pain.
They reached the foot of a banyan tree. Yogananda saw the sad plight of his companion and was moved by Nityananda’s physical condition shattered by an arduous journey.
Öh!”, Said Yogananda. “Your body has been rendered rather delicate and subtle by over four years of royal comforts. As you have walked on thorns or piercing stones in the forest, you have been bleeding profusely. You should rest for a while. I shall go and find out a source of water. We shall have a bath and also have something to eat”.
Yogananda went in search of water. Nityananda sat down in Yogasana beneath the banyan tree and was lost in deep meditation.
Very soon a battalion of sepoys reached that place. Hundreds of horses and security force of more than four hundred men surrounded the area raising tents, all round and furnishing them with all necessary things.
The Yogi in contemplation was not awakened by the din and bustle of hectic activities around. The security chief also arrived at the place soon. He saw the Rajaguru in dhyana and immediately sent a messenger to the King. He raised a special tent for the Yogi and after the latter opened his eyes put him on a bed and began attending to his needs.
Yogananda returned with a pail of water but Nityananda was not to be seen. He saw a circle of security guards with open swords and tents all round. He was not let in. But when the message went in, he was allowed to enter.
Nityananda commanded palatial comforts even in the forest! The security chief was offering service with great respect and humility. A huge quantity of milk and delicious dishes were placed before him. He was soon joined by the King, the Queen and the royal entourage. By the evening the forest looked as though it had transformed itself into a glowing city!
To add to the nicety of the surprising combination of circumstances, the moon was full and shed its milky light on parts of the forest.
Rajaguru Nityananda was adorning an elevated seat. A step below, the King had taken a seat close to him. A completely dazed Yogananda was standing close to the Guru – dazed by the amazing turn of events and dumbfounded by the uncanny restoration of regal splendor and comforts within twelve hours of their sudden departure from the royal abode. Kingly attention had chased him even to the forest!
It was Yogi Nityananda who broke the silence referring to Yogananda he said, “This one is a disciple of my Guru. My brother, he had earned the scared grace of Swami Sahajananda Maharshi of Himalayas. He is a total recluse and his detachment transcends all barriers. Both of us had embarked on Sanchara Samadhi. While he went in the easterly direction, I proceeded towards the west. You are perhaps aware of all that transpired after I entered your city. The day before yesterday, he came to Madurai and learnt that I was enjoying royal care and patronage. He thought I might have yielded to material pleasures of the palace and showered rare kindness on me by advancing his arguments against seeking royal comforts any longer and accordingly hustled me into this forest last night”.
“My inner frame”, continued Nityananda “Is neither happy nor unhappy. There is no attachment either. Like the majestic oil lamp that goes on steadily without a flicker in an atmosphere free from movements of air. I have passed on the prarabdha of external embellishments of royal comforts to my pure physical body. I have enjoyed natural bliss and conditioned my unwavering mind to state of vigilant witness. Neither the royal comforts I had till yesterday nor have the rigours of forest life nor even the restoration of comforts and conveniences in this place disturbed me and my peaceful frame of mind”.
“The jeeva takes his birth and body for exposure to and absorption of the dual phenomena of pain and pleasure. Appropriate circumstances and environments will emerge to shape events in life. Sorrow and happiness, honour and insult, gain and loss besides birth and death are all transitory. Like visitors to the choultry, no comforts are brought and when such people come and go. To what extent do we mingle with them? The duty of the wise is to examine and find out the extent to which we absorb mentally the impressions of experience. That is exactly the reason behind the rarity of the human birth. With our fair weather crafts of doubtful seaworthiness in stormy waters, everything excepting the Ultimate reality via Parabrahman, is impermanent and unreal. That is, they have the character of change and undergo transformation from moment to moment”.
“Bhoga-ayatana”, suggestive of physical comforts and enjoyment is another name given to the human body, which is supposed to pass through trials and tribulations of physical experiences of the destined lot called ‘Prarabhda’.
“The very moment the endurance of the destined lot is completed, the physical frame withers away. The experience may be pleasurable or painful but the enjoyment is inevitable. None can prevent it. But it is given only to a man to succeed in developing detachment to the destined lot and to attain natural peace – Sahaja Shanti. Getting to a peaceful state within-amidst the attractions of material pleasures is verily the Sat-chit-Ananda state leading to fulfillment of the purpose of life. Whether, it is the Yogi (spiritual seeker) or the Bhogi (material seeker) whoever exercises vigilance and takes care of attachments will be fortunate. Everyone, however, is eligible for such consummate experiences. It is the culture and refinement acquired from good deeds or from the blessings of a Sadguru that the genesis of bliss is possible.
Yasya Brahmani ramate chittam
Nandati nandati nandatyeva
And when mind is the seat of the Brahma, there is no fear about extinction of the light of culture. Let the Omnipresent God bless all
“, Nityananda concluded.
Everyone bowed to Gurudeva Nityananda. Yogananda made his exit with feelings of ecstasy and complete satisfaction.