Incarnation of Shiva
Once some true devotees of Gurudev asked him about his parentage and his place of birth. Gurudev’s reply was: “People go and bathe in the Ganga to purify themselves. They feel happy when they bathe in the Ganga, the holy river. They don’t bother to find out the origin of the river and even if they know about it, it is of no special significance to them.”
Seeing Gurudev and associating with him were rare experiences for genuine devotees. This helped them towards Self-realization. Their souls awoke and they were aware of spiritual heights never attained till then. Unimportant details were of no consequence. As a matter of fact, no one knows of his early life. On very rare occasions, a very few of his true devotees have had the privilege of listening to Gurudev mentioning bits of his early life. He would stop such discourses the very moment he discovered their keenness to know those facts. “You want me to tell you about myself?” He would enquire. “How is that possible, when I realise that I am in everything and there is nothing around me in which I don’t find my own Self?”
Avadhoota Gita tells us “Know me to be that Self who is everything and everywhere at all times, who is eternal, steady, the All, the nonexistent, and the Existent. Have no doubt. The whole universe, beginning with the principle of cosmic intelligence, is not in the least manifest to me. All is indeed Brahman alone. How can there be any existence in caste or stage of life for me?”
Once, when some ardent disciples went to Badagara (North Kerala) in search of Gurudev’s place of birth, he got very angry with them. “What is there in that place?,” he asked them. “Why did you go there?” He said his devotees were his relations. “Who was my mother and who were my brothren?” He said his parents and brothers were those who loved God and worked for God. Jesus Christ had also said words to that effect: “Who is my mother and who are my brothers? For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in Heaven, the same is my brother and sister and mother.” Spiritual relationship is stronger than blood relationship.
Avadhuta Gita tells us: “I never had a mother, father, son or the like. I was never born and never did I die. I never had a mind. The supreme Reality is undistracted and calm. I am the nectar of Knowledge, homogeneous Existence, like the sky. Never do I have father, mother, family, caste, birth and death. How shall I speak of affection and infatuation? I am free from disease. My form has been extinguished.”
Chathu Nair was a poor agricultural laborer in the small hamlet called Thuneri in Calicut district, Kerala State. He married Ummamma (Unniamma), the daughter of a laborer in the nearby village of Purameri. They had eight children. Three died in infancy. He found it almost impossible to save his children from the grip of starvation. It was, indeed, a stroke of luck for Chathu Nair that he happened to meet Shri T.R. Ishwara lyer, who was a well known lawyer of Quilandy. Shri lyer was also a staunch believer in God. They got to know each other quite well. This led to Shri Ishwara lyer’s offering a small thatched hut to the impecunious family. Chathu Nair, his wife and children moved to Kothamangalam near Quilandy. He became an employee of Shri lyer. His wife became a domestic servant in Shri lyer’s household. They were happy. Being a man of religion, Ishwara lyer rose up very early and went through his daily rituals very strictly. His deity was Surya Narayana, the Sun God, and his favorite prayer Aditya Hridaya.”
There are two popular accounts of Bhagawan Nityananda’s arrival on this Earth plane. Nearby the home of Chathu Nair and his wife, Unniamma, there was a temple dedicated to Ayyappa. Both frequented this temple often. On one particular evening, there was a huge storm in the village. That night Unniamma had a vision in which she saw Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva in front of her. They told her to go to the Ayyappa temple the next morning. When she did so, she found a beautiful baby boy inside the temple. There was a huge serpent standing guard over the child. Unniamma was stunned and stood still staring at the divine child. Her husband, who was waiting patiently for her to return from the temple, finally decided to go see what was taking her so long. When he arrived at the temple, his wife pointed to the child.
Chathu Nair immediately rushed off to get Ishwara Iyer. The two men rushed back to the temple. All three watched while the serpent circumambulated the child three times and then disappeared. Bhagawan Nityananda had arrived! Unniamma was given the charge of raising the Divine child.
The second account of Bade Baba’s arrival is the following; It is said that around 1897-1900, in late November or early December, an elderly woman was out picking flowers and collecting wood in the dense jungle near Quilandy, now called Guruvan. As she approached a nearby tree, she heard two crows cawing loudly. It was as if the crows were purposely making a ruckus to get her attention. So, she followed the cawing of the crows and found herself standing in front of a bush. Under that bush was a baby boy wrapped in a white cloth.
The woman picked the child up and took the baby boy to the safety of her home. Having a large family of her own, she decided she would have to give the child away. In her village, there was a woman named Unniamma who was not able to bear a child. The boy was given to Unniamma to raise.
Both Chathu Nair and Unniamma brought him up as their own child. When the boy was one year old, under instructions from Sri Iyer and his friend, Anantha Narayana Shastri, the boy was named Rama, the name that denotes the realization of bliss. The simple naming ceremony was done in the Ayyappa temple. Could anyone have foreseen that little Rama would one day become Sadguru Nityananda Bhagawan?!
Little Rama lived in that humble home with the other children. Both Chathu Nair and his wife were very much aware that the little boy was not an ordinary child. Very often they noticed extraordinary attitudes in the boy. Ummamma gave all her attention to him, but such care had to be limited because of their poverty.
One day, Chathu Nair, having split wood all day, returned home with a high fever raging in him. He knew he would die. He made young Rama sit by his side and told his wife to bring him up with utmost care. They were his last words.
With six children to feed and care for, Ummamma the widow had to pass through hard times. But even so, when she looked at Rama, there would be a kind of ethereal joy and hope in her heart. Ishwara lyer too had a special regard for Rama. He would insist the boy be brought to his house and there he played with Shri Ishwara lyer’s children.
When still a little boy, Rama fell seriously ill with infantile liver disorder. The boy cried all night and his foster mother did not know what to do. A very rich and powerful landowner went to the poor widow’s home one morning and bitterly complained that it was impossible for him to sleep at night. Ummamma was so helpless that she could not say anything but wept. The arrogant landlord suggested to her to cast away the child in the river nearby. What could the helpless widow do but try to pacify the angry man?
All that she could do was to take Rama in her arms and go to all the three temples and pray for his recovery. Her prayer was soon answered. One day while returning home from the temples with Rama in her arms, she met a stranger. He asked her to stop. It was still early dawn and so Ummamma could not see the man’s features properly. He appeared to be a tapper, with the tapping knife hanging by his side. On the other side hung the bamboo barrel to collect toddy. He had a crow in his right hand. He addressed the widow, “Don’t be upset. The child will be cured of the malady. Take this crow home. Kill it and collect all the blood in a vessel. Rub all of it on the boy’s body. Then fry the meat of the crow in ghee. Give a spoonful to the boy every morning.”
So saying the man vanished. The woman looked all around but could see no trace of the man. Who else could it have been but the Victor of Death, the one and only Lord Shankara! Ummamma did as she had been told. Every morning when Rama got his spoonful of fried flesh he would ask her “Mother, why do you give this to me alone? Why not to my brothers and sisters?” Even at that tender age, he was so full of compassion and consideration for others. She told him that it was a medicine for his ailment. Very soon the boy was completely cured and he became healthy and strong. There was a distinct change in his complexion. His entire body became peculiarly dark. He retained his dark complexion until he took Mahasamadhi.
In his early boyhood, Rama was a healthy and alert child. Everyone loved him. When he was six, his foster mother, Ummamma passed away. From then on, Ishwara lyer looked after him. Being a devout Brahmin, he was all love for Rama, the little orphan. The boy became like a son to him. He began to notice very special and exemplary qualities in the boy. Early dawn would see the boy bathing in the Kothamangalam temple tank. While smearing the sacred ash on his forehead, in deep concentration, he would worship the rising sun. Ishwara lyer could see in ample measure, Rama’s insistence on physical cleanliness, total truthfulness, compassion and fearlessness. His love and reverence for the boy increased.
In his free time, when Ishwara lyer read sacred scriptures like the Ramayana, Mahabhagavata and Mahabharata, the boy would sit near him and listen most attentively, almost rapturously. The devout brahmin not only looked forward, but began to insist on the divine boy’s company. The boy’s presence afforded him a kind of divine bliss. When the boy was not near him, he began to feel a sense of total loss.
On occasion, when Ishwara Iyer and his colleagues in the legal profession would discuss the legal merits of a suit in the presence of their clients, Rama would also be present. Very often Rama would not only join the legal discussions, but also pronounce his own judgement, which would eventually prove to be correct. People began to wonder at the divine foresight of the boy and many began to marvel and talk about him. One day, it so happened that a very famous astrologer who was visiting Ishwara lyer, saw Rama and, after studying the boy for some time, said that he was an reincarnation of the Lord of Kailas, Lord Shiva. He also that it was due to the cumulative effects of all the noble deeds done by Ishwara lyer in his earlier births, that he had been blessed with the rare privilege of spending his life with such a divine boy.
Nambudiripad the astrologer also predicted that Rama would grow up to be a saviour of humankind and a very great Guru. After this incident, Ishwara lyer’s love and attachment for the boy turned into veneration and devotion. When Rama was seven, Shri lyer got him admitted to a school, but the boy’s vehement protests were such that Rama did not receive any kind of formal education in a school. It was all too evident that such a formal education was not meant for the boy who was already a master of Raja Vidya or Brahma Vidya. How could one who already had divine wisdom in him ever tolerate formal school education! Who could ever dare to be the preceptor of one who had the divine spark lit in the soul?
The true characteristic of a spiritual person is compassion. Whenever Rama saw an old man with a heavy load on his head, he would run to the old one, relieve him of the load and carry it to its destination. No one could ever imagine that the boy would one day help to relieve the anguish and suffering of thousands of human beings. The transition of Rama into Sadguru Nithyananda was unimaginable at that time. Helping and soothing people were inborn in the boy.
It was not uncommon for women to lose their gold trinkets when they bathed in temple tanks. Whenever Rama heard of such an incident, he would readily dive into the depths of the tank, retrieve the trinket however small it was, come up to the surface and give it back to the overjoyed person. No one at that time ever could imagine that some day, the same boy would be capable of retrieving divine bliss that humanity had lost. That Rama was a veritable incarnation! He would never accept any kind of compensation for such acts of kindness. When anyone insisted on Rama accepting a reward, he would immediately buy grass with the money and feed the cows nearby. He loved the cows.
On occasion, when he had to be a cowherd, he would take them up to pastures on hills, and there, while all alone, he was observed in a state of total trance-like meditation. People would try to lift him up and awaken him, but all to no avail. The boy was known to spend many hours in such states of meditation, when he would have no contact with the physical world. Seeing the boy in such a state, someone would fetch a tender coconut and pour the delicious water into the boy’s mouth. Once, Shri K. Kumaran of Quilandy did so and that same Kumaran narrated the event to P.V. Ravindran.
Who could ever understand the state of mind of a divine being who could attain supreme bliss !
One evening after dusk, unnoticed, some snake-charmers let loose poisonous snakes into Shri Ishwara lyer’s house, in the hopes of collecting a fee for removing them. Rama, ever alert, saw the entire nefarious operation. When the snake-charmers left, Rama managed to capture all the reptiles, put them all into a wicker basket and let them loose in a nearby forest. The next day, the band of snake charmers visited the house and told Ishwara lyer that they were very certain that there were many poisonous snakes hiding in his house. As could be expected, Shri lyer was very much upset and annoyed and readily gave them his permission to capture the reptiles for a fee. They took out their peculiar flutes and began to play on them, very confident that the snakes would soon gather around. To their utter bewilderment, not a single snake made its appearance. Once again they tried, and then they saw young Rama dancing in front of them. They realized then that their clever ruse had been discovered. Ashamed of the duplicity, to save face, they beat a hasty retreat. When Ishwara lyer heard what had happened, he praised Rama and complimented him for the courage that he had so quietly shown.