About Shri Gurudev (continued)
Bhagawan Nityananda spent several years in Guruvan, located about 5 kilometers east of Kanhangad. In those days Guruvan was a jungle inhabited by wild animals and poisonous snakes. There was no water. One day Bade Baba struck a rock with his hand and water started to gush out of the barren rocky hillside. Water has been flowing from that place ever since. This water is now a stream that forms into a pool. It was named “Papanashini Ganga” by Bade Baba. Many go to this place to bathe, as it is considered to be as holy as the Ganges.
Bhagawan Nityananda said that, in the past, many Siddhas had come to live in Guruvan and took Mahasamadhi there. For this reason, he created a circle of eight stone pillars/lingams signifying the Ashta Siddhis. Guruvan is rightly considered a Thapobhumi. Later, Swami Janananda Baba, the one who Bhagawan Nityananda had appointed to run the Ashram and all administrative and financial affairs, cleared the land at Guruvan and turned it into a beautiful garden with a temple and rest house.
After completing construction of the caves and the Kanhangad Ashram, Bhagawan Nityananda set off on tour, leaving the Ashram to be further developed and run by Swami Janananda. Nityananda Baba then visited most of the holy Shrines in India. Later he was seen in Mumbai, Akroli and Vajreshwari, before settling in Ganeshpuri, where he spent the remainder of his years before taking Mahasamadhi there on August 8, 1961.
Devotion and Surrender
na kasthe vidyate devo na pasane na kardame /
bhavesu vartate devas-tasmad-bhavam na samtyajet //
The deity worshiped through the image does not reside
in the wood or stone or clay of which the image
is made, but in the feeling of the worshiper. For this
reason the feeling of devotion must never be given up.
It is said that God exists in your feeling. It is the cultivation of this feeling of Love and Devotion for the Master and for God that is at the heart of all spiritual transformation. Devotion is the nectar of Supreme Awareness. It is that which causes God to come looking for you.
There are many stories of the mad lovers of God, those disciples who, through their own mad love for their Guru, drank the nectar of Self-Awareness constantly. Devotion is the fire that spiritual practice is cooked in. For the yogi, this devotion takes the form of intense longing for and Love for the Acharya. Directing all of one’s feelings towards God, and especially the feeling of Love, is the bridge by which one crosses over the bondage of this worldly existence. This is the Truth.
Listen! Your spiritual attainment will always be equal to the level of intensity of your feeling. Progress on the spiritual path is completely dependent on the intensity of your Faith, the intensity of your Devotion and the intensity of your identification with the Master. You become what you think on the most. In the same way, the greater your intensity of identification with the Sadguru, the more of the Guru’s power (the Grace-bestowing power of God) you will absorb into yourself. Bhagawan Nityananda was the personification of Bhakti, this Devotion that makes one mad with Love for God. He gave so much to so many. Baba Nityananda granted people’s desires for objects (people, places and things), healed their illnesses and granted them the fulfillment of their dreams. Baba gave people what they wanted in the hope that they would want what he had to give. In this way, he was so compassionate, especially towards the poor and the indigent.
But what he really had to offer, his most worthy gift, could not be found in the fulfillment of any limited desire or materialistic gain that most sought his darshan for. His greatest offering to his disciples was the guarantee of God-Realization. It is this Liberation that he was ready to bestow on anyone who would be a true disciple by cultivating an intense longing for him in their own hearts. What many did not realize is that, with this Devotion in their hearts, he would have gone to the edge of the universe looking for them.
The Lord Is Waiting For You
In the Bhakti tradition, there is a highly revered Saint known as Pundalik. Pundalik has come to be known as a symbol for Supreme, Unconditional Love. His heart was so open and his Love forgot no one. Pundalik’s devotion caused God to go looking for him.
Now, Pundalik lived in Maharashtra and he was not always a Saint. His profession was that of a local goon who used to harass people. He mistreated and abused his own parents and cared little or nothing for anyone except himself. One day Pundalik met a Saint who initiated him into the path of Bhakti Yoga. Pundalik began his spiritual practice but was unable to change his evil ways. He could not still his mind and was not able to experience any inner peace. So, he went back to his Guru, the Saint who had initiated him, and asked for further instruction. His Guru told him to serve his parents and assured him that, in serving his parents wholeheartedly, with complete unconditional love and surrender, he would attain eternal peace. Pundalik followed the Saint’s command and began to serve his parents’ every need. He looked after them and nursed them. Through his service to his parents, Pundalik learned the art of Devotion and caused Lord Vitthal to go looking for him.
Lord Vishnu is a manifestation of Lord Shiva. One of Vishnu’s incarnations on this Earth plane is Lord Krishna. Many believe Bhagawan Nityananda to be a reincarnation of Lord Krisha. Bade Baba spoke about Krishna when, in a meditative trance, he said “Uncle Arjuna, come here. Listen to what Grandfather Krishna has to say,” as he dictated the verses of the Chidaakasha Geeta to Tulsi Amma.
In Pandarpur, many have had the vision of Lord Vitthal. Vitthal is a manifestation of Lord Krishna (also known as Krishna standing on a brick) who appeared to the poor people of the region of Pandarpur (and elsewhere), often with the goddess Lakshmi, Lord Vishnu’s consort.
Lord Krishna was deeply moved by Pundalik’s total Devotion for his parents. The goddess Lakshmi asked Krishna “My dear Lord, who is your greatest disciple in all the Earth?” Krishna replied, “Of course, it is Bhakta Pundalik. He is very dear to me. Let us go and visit him tonight.” Both Krishna and Lakshmi went to Pundalik’s house, appearing there as Lord Vitthal and Rakhumai. It was late at night and Pundalik was busy massaging the legs of his parents. While doing so, in his mind, Pundalik was also composing and singing devotional songs to Lord Vitthal. In this way, while serving his parents, he constantly remembered the Lord. His Seva to his parents had become worship of God.
In the middle of that night, Lord Vitthal knocked on Pundalik’s door, intending to give him final Liberation and to take him to Vaikunth (Vishnu’s abode). Pundalik asked “Who is it?” Krishna replied “It is I, your beloved Vitthal. Come. Let’s go. The time has come for you to join me in Vaikunth. Your liberation is at hand. Drop your body now. I am here to take you and I cannot go without you.” Pundalik got very excited. All his life he had waited for this moment to come. He had spent years longing to merge with the Absolute and he really wanted to be free from this cycle of birth and death. Even the greatest of renunciants do not get such an opportunity for God-Realization, even after thousands of years of penance. Now, here was Parabrahma, God himself, standing at Pundalik’s doorstep to take him across. He was going to allow Pundalik to merge in Him.
Pundalik thought to himself, “If I go to meet Him now I will be Liberated. I will merge with Him. But how will those who do not know Him experience His Grace? I can’t keep His Love for just myself. I should share His Love with others. I want His Divine Love to spread to everyone. I must do my part. I cannot leave now.” So, Pundalik said to Lord Vitthal, “O Vitthal! I am very busy serving my parents and they are still awake. Let them fall asleep and then I shall join you.” After saying this, he threw two bricks in the doorway for Vitthal and Rakhumai to rest on. It is said that, still today, Lord Vitthal is infinitely awaiting His Bhakta (devoted servant) Pundalik. Through his love and service to his parents, Bhakta Pundalik brought the Lord of the Universe to that region. Lord Vitthal appears to his devotees in visions, even today, still standing on a brick. The Lord is forever awaiting his true disciples, making himself available to all those who cultivate Devotion and Surrender in their own hearts. He is standing on the brick with both his hands resting on His hips. This is due to the Supreme Love of His disciple, Bhakta Pundalik.
Who Will Become Like That Pundalik?
Shri Bhagawan Nityananda was a Janma Siddha, a being who was born God-Realized. He manifested himself on this planet out of Love and Compassion for the suffering of those who are ignorant of the Truth. He did not have to come here. He did not have to take a physical form. He did so out of Love for those seeking God. Bhagawan Nityananda spent his entire life serving the needs of his devotees, very much in the same way Pundalik served his parents. Only he became mother, father, brother, sister, healer, caretaker and Guru to thousands of people all across the globe.
His powers were that of the Absolute, of God himself. Yet he kept nothing for himself. He remained in that one loincloth and shawl, sleeping on that same wooden bed, completely devoid of any desire for materialistic gain. When his body wore out, he had the power to heal it and remain here in physical form. Instead, he left us with a very important teaching, one that, by remembering it, causes Him to instantly manifest in the heart of a true mad lover of God.
It was the 8th of August, 1961. Bhagawan Nityananda was asleep in the main hall of the Bangalore Walla Building in Ganeshpuri. It was about 4am in the morning. On the street, just outside of the Bangalore Walla Building, was a small beverage stand run by a devotee who suffered from a lifelong skin disease. Day in and day out, this man served coffee and tea to those coming and going to the Ashram to have Bhagawan Nityananda’s darshan. For years, he had one secret desire, that a cup of coffee that he made would be served to Bade Baba.
Now, one of Bade Baba’s lifelong devotees was a man named Madhav Hegde. Hegde had regular access to Bhagawan Nityananda. On this morning of August 8th, between 4-6am, Madhav Hegde (also known as Engineer Hegde) told the beverage stand owner to make a strong cup of coffee for Baba. Knowing that this might be his only chance to have his secret desire fulfilled, the beverage stand owner made the best coffee of his life, excited that Bhagawan would, at last, drink his coffee. He knew that, since Hegde was one of Baba’s old devotees, his coffee would surely reach Baba.
Hegde took the cup of coffee and entered the room where Bhagawan was resting. Bade Baba noticed Madhav Hegde and acknowledged him. Hegde then gave Bade Baba some of the coffee to drink. The wish of the beverage stand owner was finally fulfilled. As Madhav Hegde watched Bhagawan Nityananda carefully, he understood in his heart, that Bhagawan Nityananda was about to take Mahasamadhi (leave his body). With tears in his eyes Hegde said, “Oh Dear Deva, can’t you postpone giving up your body?” Baba replied “Yes, it can be postponed if you bring at least one Bhakta like Pundalik. Only one who is like Pundalik can postpone my leaving.”
What Bhagawan Nityananda meant is, if even one true disciple, if even one mad lover of God who is willing to sacrifice everything to love and serve Him for love’s sake alone, would come and ask Him to stay, He would remain in His physical form. In those days many of the people who came for Baba’s darshan were only interested in His blessings for some materialistic gain. Few came out of Shudha Prem (pure love).
Again, Bhagawan Nityananda assured Madhav Hegde that he would postpone leaving his body if even one disciple like Pundalik would come and ask him to do so. Then he demanded that such a person be brought to him. Baba then asked Engineer Hegde “Are you like Pundalik?” Madhav Hegde said, “No, Deva. I cannot make that tall a claim. I am a worldly man.” Hegde then wept like a child.
Bhagawan Nityananda is Lord Vitthal. Lord Vitthal often appears to people in the form of a cowherd, dark in color wearing a loincloth, a coarse black blanket on his shoulder and a stick in his hand. Bade Baba also wore a loincloth and, in earlier days, had a blanket on his shoulder. Bade Baba came to the rescue of his devotees at the time of their suffering. But to realize Him, to attain His state, all one needed to offer him was True Love.
Bhakti is the easiest way to know and merge with God. The Lord is waiting for you. With Bhakti, with this burning desire and complete longing for the Master, you cause God to come looking for you. Even today at Pandarpur (Maharashtra), he is still standing on the brick waiting eternally for those mad lovers of God. In Pandarpur, thousands and thousands of devotees visit the temple of Lord Vitthal everyday to adorn his Murti (statue). How do you greet the Lord at Pandarpur? First you hug him, embrace him and then kiss his feet. In the temple you are permitted to touch Lord Vitthal’s Murti, irrespective of who you are. God is open and available to all, regardless of race, color and creed, and regardless of what you may have done in the past.
In Ganeshpuri, the Lord is waiting for you in the form of Bhagawan Nityananda. Even today you can go and feel His divine presence there. On the celebration of Gurupurnima (the day that disciples celebrate and glorify the Guru) people are allowed into His Mahasamadhi Shrine. They hug the Murti of Him and wet His feet with the tears of their Love. Many have observed the ecstasy that wells up inside these devotees as their eyes fill with tears. The whole atmosphere becomes full of Love, and one can sense that Baba’s eyes get equally filled with Love. All Bhagawan Nityananda wants is the Love of his disciple. In that Love, Bhagawan and the disciple become one.