Paramapuja Sadguru Sri Swami Janananda Baba
By Dr. Gopalkrishna Shenoy
Sri Guru Charitra
Sri Parampujya Janananda Swamiji has been declared by Bade Baba as Avatar of Lord Dattatreya. It is appropriate to share my experience of how Baba revealed His nature to me through the Sri Guru Charitra. Also, to honor Lord Datta, Guru of all Gurus, I feel it is important that we read at least one Chapter from this book, in keeping with the practice of Gurukripa Yoga. Accordingly, I selected Chapter fourteen, wherein Lord Dattatreya bestows his immeasurable Grace and Blessings on His true disciple, and also he guides the disciple to balance his worldly duties with his seva to his Guru.
We therefore briefly went through this Chapter as revealed to me by Swamiji. There are several versions of this Chapter in print (and, in some books, the numbering of this Chapter may be different) but all devotees of Lord Datta cherish this episode as one of the most touching and consider it as the Source Document for the entire Guru Charitra. In this chapter, all aspects of the Guru-disciple relationship are examined, where the disciple is a common, simple person with whom any ordinary individual can identify. This Chapter expresses the fact that, for one to go across and merge with God, all that is required is Devotion and the will to serve the Master.
In our journey of Guru Kripa Yoga, after experiencing the lives of Appa, Lalita Mauli, Sitaram Shenoy and Sunita Shenoy (whose stories you can read about at this site), a short detour through this chapter of the Sri Guru Charitra will help understanding how one can balance worldly duties with Devotion and service to the Guru. This will also help to remove any concerns or fear of losing one’s connection with the Master, due to the demands of one’s worldly responsibilities.
The very purpose of our offering is to leave you touched, moved and inspired to take this journey with freedom and power rather than doubts and uncertainty. The assurance of Bhagawan Nityananda to stand for his devotees, as expressed in this chapter of the Sri Guru Charitra, will be a guiding force to all.
My Journey through Guru Kripa
Today, April 13, 2006, on the Hanuman Jayanthi festival, singing bhajans to Lord Dattatreya, I began writing the most difficult part of my offering to all my Gurubandhus and fellow Sadhakas. This offering is not to glorify myself, it is just a sharing to express my gratitude to all the Siddhas, and to give an example of how their Grace can cause transformation in an ordinary person like me.
In our offering on Shree Parampujya Janananda Swamiji, I am also taking the opportunity to describe my own journey, along with some reminiscences of Bhagawan Nityananda. This indeed is a very challenging part of the offering because when I declare my experience I become committed to service to God. Every action, every thought, every word that I speak is witnessed by Baba. It is by Acharya Kedar’s prayers to Bhagawan Nityananda to grant me strength and courage in this offering, that I have now reached this stage of being able to share, for the first time in my life, my personal experiences of Guru Kripa.
Trip To Kanhangad
I was just six years old when Bade Baba took his Mahasamadhi. My father had a great fortune in serving Bade Baba most of his life and I used to envy him for this. I used to pray to Bhagawan Nityananda to receive His Blessings to serve him directly in the way my father had done. Bhagawan Nityananda had directed us to two of his disciples, one being Shaligram Swami and other being Swami Janananda. Except for these two, we never went to any other temples or Gurus. After Bade Baba took Mahasamadhi, my father considered Swami Janananda as Bhagawan Nityananda’s true disciple and successor. He believed Janananda Baba was the very manifestation of Bhagawan and took Him as his Guru. My father used to tell me that it is as direct as talking to Bade Baba when you talk to Janananda Swami. So, I was looking forward to having the opportunity to serve Janananda Swami.
During my post-graduation in 1978, I decided to visit Kanhangad. I was passing through uncertainties and the vagaries of my life were unbearable. I wanted to go further in my studies and I also wanted to dedicate my life in service to God. But my family members wanted me to help run the family hotel business. This is something I did not want to do and my Grandfather thought me to have gone mad to lose such an opportunity.
I first reached Udupi where my sister was residing. There I visited Krishna Mutt and then I visited the temple of Lord Ananteshwar (The Endless One). It was at the steps of this temple that Bhagawan Nityananda was often found sitting. He was known at that time as Kala Sadhu (The Dark One).
The Lord Ananteshwar temple is a beautiful temple. Since it was here that my Baba often stayed, I became impressed by the deity inside the temple. There is a Shiva Linga inside that gives a very Divine feeling when you stand in front of the bright oil lamp that remains lit by devotees pouring oil in it. From there I went to Situ Amma’s Mutt (Ashram). Situ Amma was a devotee of Bhagawan Nityananda and Janananda Swami. Bade Baba used call it the ninth Mutt of Udupi. There are eight Mutts in Udupi which are famous and are headed by eight Mutthadish.
I had been longing to have Bhagawan Nityananda’s darshan. Here at Udupi Mutt, I saw my Baba, in the form of His Padukas, and I was finally at peace. When I introduced myself to Situ Amma as the son of Raghunath Shenoy, she received me with great love. After inquiring about my welfare, she told me that I should visit Kanhangad and meet Swami Janananda.
From there I visited Mulki. The Mulki Temple is dedicated to Lord Narsimha and the Goddess Laxmi. Lord Narsimha is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and is called Chiranjeev (The Eternal One) because he appeared without taking birth through a womb. He is therefore free from birth and death and is eternal. He came into existence at the instance of the small child, Praladha, and is considered to be the protector of small children and one who breaks all Universal Laws to help his devotees. Baba Nityananda often expressed that Lord Narsimha at Mulki is indeed very powerful and must be respected.
I had a relative from my mother’s side called Bantwal Narayan Baliga, whom I used to call Grandfather. He was previously manager of Sri Laxmi-Narsimha Temple of Mulki. In this temple, people who are in distress, seek the counsel of a Deity. There is a disciple there who becomes the vehicle for this. While the disciple is in a trance state, the Deity enters that person and, through that disciple, answers their questions and gives them guidance. All his life Bantwal Narayan Baliga had served the Mulki Temple with sincerity, love and great commitment. The Swami of Gowda Saraswati Brahmin, Shree Sudhindra Teertha Swami, had great respect for his selfless service. Even the Deity showed lot of love for my Grandfather.
Since I was not accepting the advice of my family to help run the hotel business, grandfather decided to place me at the feet of that Mulki Deity to ask for guidance. When our turn came to take the blessings of the deity, my Grandfather told the deity, “This child has lost his head. He wants to give up his family business and opt for further studies. You have to now guide him as he has also decided to dedicate his life in service of God.” No sooner than my Grandfather had placed his concern before the Deity, the Deity said “Let the child do as he wishes. Know that God has decided to stand as his support. With God as his Guide, what is the need to worry. I am giving him my choicest blessings and be assured that God will always protect him.” With God now directing my family members not to bother about me, and with the assurance that God is protecting me, all their concerns about my well-being were laid to rest. Thus I was equipped with God’s own blessing and now ready to meet the Saguna Brahman, Shree Parampujya Janananda Swamiji.
My First Darshan of Janananda Baba
I reached Kanhangad in the late afternoon. Janananda Baba was sitting on a parapet near the well close to his room. I went and prostrated before him. I introduced myself, but he refused to accept me. I was wondering what to do because I had no place to go, other than calling on my grandfather, Devrai Pai, who lived in Kanhangad. My visit was to take the blessings of Swamiji and not a social visit to grandfather. I prayed internally to Bade Baba to help me. I did not want to leave without Janananda Swami’s blessings.
The Ashram’s security guard was a man named PT. At that moment, PT came and handed over a post card to Swamiji. Janananda Baba asked PT to read it. The postcard was from my father, Raghunath Shenoy. In it, my father said to Swamiji, “I am sending my youngest son Gopalkrishna to visit you. It is my earnest request, Oh Deva, that you take him into your fold and give him your love.” There was so much love in that letter. A request from Bhagawan Nityananda’s devotee could not be refused. Janananda Baba looked at me and told PT, “Give him the center room and make him comfortable.” He then told me “Go settle down, have tea and rest.” Thus it was my father who rescued me in answer to my prayers to Bade Baba. Now Janananda Swami bestowed love on me like a mother would a son who has come to visit her after several years.
Like Bade Baba, Swamiji spoke little. The sentences were crypt and he often gave Bhagawan Nityananda’s typical “humkar” when he was pleased by any devotee, or as a sign of content. During my stay at the Ashram, every afternoon I used to visit Sadananda Baba and each day he spoke to me for many hours. Everyday he explained the Gurumahimna. Seeing my state of mind, he described Baba’s leela (Grace-bestowing power), bringing me great peace. So intense and deep was Sadananda Swami’s conversation that I used to remain spellbound and often fell into a trance just listening to him.
In those ten days he brought great understanding in me and all my anguish vanished. On one side was Janananda Baba’s spiritual power and on other side, the discourses of Sadananda Baba became a great support in bringing me, the “lost sheep,” back into the fold. After 17 years of my prayers to Bhagawan Nityananda, asking for His Grace and Blessings to guide me on the spiritual path, Shree Janananda Baba and Swami Sadananda laid out that path for me. The “Pataka” (holy flag or baton), that which was handed over by them, I have carried so far. My experience of Gurukripa Yoga and my commitment to the path, that started on Diwali in the year 1978, has undergone several challenges. But, as Bade Baba said, “If you have a Sadguru as your Pathirakha (in Marathi this means Sadguru as your Savior), then you can never fail.”
Off To My Grandfather’s House
As I was enjoying the unending flow of Swamiji’s grace and Sadananda Baba’s love, I avoided visiting my dear grandfather. I was not aware that this was embarrassing my grandmother. I was expected to visit them. I was a grandson from Mumbai and I was visiting Kanhangad after many years, and it was the festival of Diwali.
My uncle, Dayananda Pai, came to the Ashram to take me away to his house. We stood in front of Janananda Baba. Swamiji was standing in the doorway with both his hands on the door frame above his head. My uncle told Swamiji that he wanted to take me to my grandfather’s house. I said to Janananda Baba, “If you say so, I will go.” Swamiji said in Marathi, “You must visit your grandfather. Your grandfather must be respected too.” He turned to my uncle and said, “You don’t have to worry about him. God is at his beck and call. He will always be protected by God.” I went that night to my grandfather’s house and was given a grand welcome.
My First Diwali Celebration At The Kanhangad Ashram
So here I was in the Kanhangad Ashram, living in the best of the rooms. In the room to my right were Mr. Merchant and Ravi Dhoorandar. In the room to my left were Tai and some other devotees. The other rooms were also full. Most of the disciples were from Mumbai. Many were taught by the late Shree Baburao Khade and were called Sion Mandali (Devotees from Sion), as Baburao was from a place called Sion in Mumbai.
Because I was given the room in the center of the other rooms, this group of devotees got divided into the rooms to the left and right of the room I was in. So, they were planning to ask me to move to a room at the end so that they could all be in adjoining rooms. Although they did not approach me directly, they were planning to approach me through PT. The next afternoon, Janananda Baba suddenly came into my room. All my neighbors were stunned because normally Swamiji never came into any room when it was occupied. He came into the room and looked around to see that all was in order. He turned to me and asked “Are you comfortable?” I said, “Yes my Deva.” He then told me “You must remain in this room. Do not move out.” God knows how he came to know that others were planning to get me to leave the room. When Sion Mandali saw that Swamiji had personally visited my room, their respect for me increased. They gave up the idea of pushing me out of this room. I settled down and relaxed because now I had total support from Janananda Baba.
It was Diwali and many other devotees had come to celebrate this festival with Swamiji. On the first day of this festival one takes a holy bath early in the morning (at 4am). The Sion Mandali had come prepared for the festival. They performed Padpuja of Swamiji. These devotees from Sion were great at all the Pujas, as they had received direct training under Baburao Khade. They had great love for Janananda Baba and Puja was done with great love also. Wonderful Bhajans were also sung.
I was new to all this, so I kept my distance. In my mind I was feeling uneasy that I had not come prepared for the occasion. I had no money to offer as part of the Puja either. Ravi Dhoorandhar knew my father and so did Mr. Merchant. He called me and put the Arati offering in my hands to wave at Swamiji. Janananda Baba was in Samadhi. His eyes were drawn up into his head and he was in a trance. My eyes were full of tears. Although I had brought nothing with me to offer, I still had the honor of performing the Arati. Such was Swamiji’s Grace.
The following day was Laxmi Pujan Day. Tai brought lots of earthen oil lamps. I remember these lamps because there was a time when we (the Shenoys) used to light lamps like this in Ganeshpuri when Bhagawan Nityananda was still in the body. That evening, the Sion Mandali lit the entire stairway over the caves with these small lamps. In the dark (there was no electricity in Kanhangad during those days) it looked so beautiful. Janananda Baba came out to see it. I looked at Swamji and thought to myself “Oh! I have come empty-handed. I have no lamps with me.” Just as I had this thought, lightning exploded across the entire sky. The lightning was seen coming from various directions in rapid succession. It filled the whole sky and the entire Ashram began to glow. In front of this Divine light what lamp could I light? It would have been like trying to light the Sun with a torch! Such is the greatness of a Sadguru. He never lets his disciple down. Just to satisfy me he would go to any extent!
Janananda Baba told me to stay in the Kanhangad Ashram for ten days or more. I spent my time with him, Sadananda Swamiji and my grandfather, Mr. Devrai Pai. Then one day, Janananda Swami called for me and said, “Now you have to go back to Mumbai. You have work to do. You must first do your duty and come here when you find time.” I bowed low and took his permission to leave with a heavy heart. It was like separating from one’s mother. I returned to Mumbai and took admission for my doctorate degree at the UDCT Institute in December of 1979. From here began my long association with Janananda Baba and Bhagawan Nityananda’s devotees.
The First Blessings
Around 1962-63, Janananda Baba visited Mumbai and stayed at Sion. The building he stayed in was called Ganga Niwas and it was located near the Sion Fort. The building belonged to Baburao Khade and Swamiji used to stay in his house. I used to visit Janananda Baba daily after school was out. My mother used to prepare the sweet from Sago (sabudana in Hindi) and milk known as Dudhpak. Swamiji would eat these.
Janananda Baba faced many hard challenges throughout his life. He walked through the entire Himalayas. Due to this, his feet used to swell and ache. During this visit, another boy named Nitin Patil and myself, we used to massage his legs. Every afternoon I used to offer this Seva. One day, Swamiji called for several garlands and, with his own hands, he garlanded me on all the four sides, in all directions. He also garlanded Nitin Patil. In this way, Janananda Baba glorified our seva. My father was overjoyed. Normally, we offer a garland to the Guru. Here was the Guru garlanding his devotees. Bade Baba had garlanded Ratnakar Shenoy (it is there in the photograph taken when he visited our house in Girgoan, Mumbai. Bade Baba is seen lifting a small child in both his hands). My father insisted that I go home with the garlands around my neck. This was the first expression of Divine Love that I received after Bhagawan Nityananda’s Mahasamadhi.
Days Full of Grace in Ganeshpuri
When I was small I used to love visiting Ganeshpuri. Even at the age of four, whenever my father planned to visit Bhagawan Nityananda’s Ganeshpuri Ashram, I used to pack my bags too. I was not given a name until I was four years old. All requests to name me were turned down. My family was told that I was too young to identify myself with any name. So, during one of our visits to Ganeshpuri, Bhagawan Nityananda called for a dancer. He asked him to dance on the ground in front of the Ashram. There was solar eclipse on that day. That same day Bade Baba called me by the name Gopalkrishna. At the age of four He gave me my name and, in celebration of my christening, He called the dancer to dance. Normally, auspicious celebrations like this do not take place during an eclipse. But Bhagawan Nityananda chose to name me on that day. Thus I got my name when I was four.
I can see Bhagawan Nityananda even today, as clearly as I can see my near and dear ones. Being a close devotee of Bade Baba, my father was respected and, as his son, everybody in Ganeshpuri loved me. I remember clearly my days in Ganeshpuri. I can see myself standing in that shed where there was a blue railway coach presented to Baba. It was in Kailasa.
My father used to make me stand close to Bhagawan Nityananda. Bade Baba used to sleep on the concrete slab with gunny bags as his mattress. He used to stare into my eyes for long periods of time and hold my chubby cheeks between his middle and first finger. I used to stand there for what seemed like hours. To prevent me from slipping away, my father used to stand behind me so that I did not have any chance of stepping back from Bade Baba’s grip. The mosquitoes used to attack my tender legs, but fear of my father, and the notion of possibly slipping out of Baba’s fingers, made me stand still. My father’s intention was to make sure that I got the maximum Grace of Bhagawan Nityananda. I received Shaktipat from Bhagawan Nityananda on several such visits like this.
In those days, Bhagawan Nityananda used to distribute clothes, books, sweets and other items like this to local children. Although there were attendants ready to do it for him, He was particular about distributing these to the children himself. Bhagawan Nityananda used to cut the clothes with his own hands and distribute this clothing to each child, making sure to measure out the right size. However, one day my brother and I got clothing meant for making Saris for young girls. People made fun of us because we got what was meant for girls. One of the attendants brought this situation to Bhagawan Nityananda’s attention.
Bade Baba took the clothes back and gave both of us cotton shirts. The one my brother received was blue. I got the one that was ochre color. When I put it on, it was too big, reaching all the way down to my ankles. I looked like a baby monk. I was disappointed because it was too long for me to wear. Little did I understand the meaning behind getting this gift from Bhagawan Nityananda. Years later when Janananda Swami gave me his own ochre kafni (long robe), what Bade Baba was trying to convey to me all those years earlier, finally dawned on me. I still have that shirt. It is very precious to me. I often I take it out just to feel His Shakti. These days were full of joy and fun with love flowing everywhere.
The Kailas Ashram
In Bhagawan Nityananda’s Kailas Ashram there were several attendants. I remember Karia Anna who had a hotel named Ramesh Bhuvan in Ganeshpuri. I remember Appanna who used to smoke beedis, Manapppa who was good in Ayuvedic medicines, a person named Lokananna who remained a great devotee of Bade Baba’s throughout his life. I remember Madhav, a G. S. B. Konkani who spoke fair and soft, Gopal Anna or Mama, as he was called, Mr. Nadkarni who used to do the accounting, Captain Hattangdi who used to visit in his Navy Uniforms, Madhav Hegde who was tall and hefty. He stayed at Bhatia Bhavan in the Portuguese Church in Mumbai. He is now above 90 years old.
Then there was Baburao Khade, Gajanan Mhatre, a security guard and a real great devotee, Vidyadhar Patil, Ramniklal from Gujrat, Babubhai Lokandwala who was instrumental in building most of Bhagawan Nityananda’s temples, Babanna Shetty of Chinchpoli, Mumbai. There were many others who were visitors and also permanent residents in the Ashram. I enjoyed their company. I also remember Shaligram Swami, Mabala Swami, Kutiram Swami, and Shankarteerath Swami. In the photograph of Shree Janananda Baba taken when he returned from Nasik one can see what Mabala Swami looked like. He is standing to the right of Swamiji wearing a long robe and he has a light beard. They too treated me with love.
My childhood days were thus full of Divine Grace and good company. During our visits, we used to go to the rear of the Kailash Ashram and call out to Appanna. He used to open the door to let us in. We never presented ourselves until Bhagawan Nityananda asked, “Where are you Raghu?” My father then took all of us in front of Bade Baba. Out of respect, my father never stood directly in front of Bhagawan Nityananda. He stood partially hidden behind the pillar that was in front of Baba’s famous easy chair. He covered his mouth with a towel while speaking to Baba, lest any saliva fall on his Deva. My father stood with his body bent slightly forward in Pranam. We children, however, took the liberty of running about and Bhagawan Nityananda would laugh while watching us children play.
One day my elder sisters, Kusum and Ravi, decided to stitch a Kafni for Bade Baba. They brought blue satin cloth and, using the life-size photo that was in our drawing room for measurement, they stitched a nice robe. My father took us all to Ganeshpuri to offer the robe to Baba. My father was proud that his daughters stitched a robe for his Bhagawan Nityananda, his God. We reached the Kailas Ashram. When we were summoned, my father presented the blue satin robe to Bade Baba. With great love, he asked Bhagawan Nityananda to wear it. Baba agreed and put it on. Everyone, including Bade Baba, began laughing. My father was stunned to find that the robe was too long and all measurements had gone wrong. My father took some pins and fitted the robe to a reasonable size. Bade Baba then walked up and down the hall exhibiting the robe that two small girls had stitched for him with great love. The photo is displayed below. You can see the cuffs rolled up because they were longer than his arms.
I want to share another incident. Late one evening a lady came and bowed low to Bade Baba. In her sorrowful voice she prayed “Oh Deva! Release me from this bondage.” Every evening she came and bowed at the same spot and made this same request. This ritual lasted for about a week. Finally, Bhagawan Nityananda called for his attendants late in the night around 10pm. He told them to get large quantity of beaten rice (pova) and jaggary (unrefined sugar). The attendants went into town. They had to wake up the shopkeepers to collect the beaten rice and jaggery. Then they returned to the Ashram.
Bade Baba then told them to mix the two thoroughly. Then, using the sweet Pova mixture, he instructed them to form an image of that woman on the exact spot where she spent several days bowing (satangnamaskar), lying on the floor and praying to him. He then told the attendants to wake all the small children of Ganeshpuri and to feed the sweet Pova to them. Once this was done, everyone went to sleep. The next evening the lady came and, as usual, bowed down with same prayer. But this time she did not get up. She died there on that spot. Bhagawan Nityananda thus gave her salvation and distributed the sweet Pova in her name to ensure her Liberation.
Another incident that my aunt Shusheela Shenoy (wife of Sitaram Shenoy) told me is that, after Bhagawan Nityananda cured Sitaram of heart disease, he told him to stay in Ganeshpuri for few days. After staying in Ganeshpuri, Baba told Sitaram to return to Mumbai. On the day of his expected return, Sitaram’s relatives sent him a car to take him back to Mumbai. However, Bade Baba insisted that he must return on his own by bus and train. So, Sitaram, a man who was declared as a hopeless medical case by his doctor, boarded a rickety bus from Ganeshpuri, traveled to Thane Station, crossed over the bridge connecting the platforms, caught a train and got down at Sandhurst Road Station. From there he climbed the three floors of the Aram Building and safely reached his home. Sitaram’s doctors had declared that he would die if he walked even a few steps and yet, by the Grace of his Guru, he traveled for more than three hours on his own, without any escort. And lived for another ten years!
There was a devotee named Khanolkar who stayed at Mahim in Mumbai. He longed to become a monk in service to Bhagawan Nityananda. He made several requests but Bade Baba showed no inclination to take him as disciple. One day he went to Ganeshpuri with a determination that he would force Baba into accepting him as his disciple. After taking a bath in the hot spring, he went, with his wet clothes to Bade Baba’s old Ashram, Vaikuntha. There he sat to meditate. Bhagawan Nityananda admonished him but he did not budge. Bade Baba grabbed a big stick and hit him on his head. Immediately blood gushed out of the wound. Mr. Khanolkar fell at Baba’s feet. Bade Baba then told him that he should lead his life as householder and take care of his orphaned nieces.
He did as Bhagawan Nityananda said and got one of his nieces married to Susheela Shenoy’s brother, Mr. Anand Kamath. Mr Khanolkar, however, progressed spiritually and people approached him to get their futures predicted. I met him only once around 1979 at his Mahim house. He had a shop in Majhid Bandar where he sold incense and sandal wood oil. We used to buy this oil only from him. We applied it to the sandalwood statue of Lord Krishna that Bade Baba gave us. Bhagawan Nityananda used to apply sandalwood oil to this Krishna murti everyday before giving it to us.
Hari Om Tat Sat