Sri Omkarnath Thakur ~ “ya-ya-nam-dige-ya”

28 09 2009

omkarnath002smAt  first Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath would rarely give diksha. When he did the candidate was expected to follow some very intense sadhana with no less than four lakhs of Nam daily. In 1937 he began mauna vrata and with great resolve he sat for bhajan with the idea that the Lord must give him darshan or he would just enter nirvikalpa samAdhi and leave his body.

In less than a months time the Lord appeared before him in the form of Jagannath Dev. Here is a description of the event in his own words:

“That night he first had a vision of bright light, a light stronger than the mid-day sun, but a light, full of life coming from the forehead of Lord Jagannath – the deity of Puri temple.As the light shown on his face, he opened his eyes to the dazzling light and he clearly saw the black image of Lord Jagannath, adorned with dazzling ornaments of diamond and precious stones, and his round eyes were staring at him. He stared back with unseeing eyes not realizing that he was in the presence of God Himself. The stub arms of Lord Jagannath lifted in blessings and from the focused bright light Lord Krishna emerged. Lord Krishna with a flute in his hand and his opague blue body adorned with yellow garment, the neck and chest covered with garlands of flower, danced in front of him. He then realized that he was now in the presence of Lord Krishna and waited for him to speak, his eyes shedding tears, tears of joy, his heart filled with sublime quiet and fulfillment, his body shivering with pleasure and achievement. Lord Krishna, in a melodious voice directed, “Ya-Ya-nam-dige-ya” (go go – preach the Name).”

Omkarnath Thakur was in ecstatic  state and crying he offered his respects in the direction of Jagannath Dev’s Mandir and internally thought, “Yes my Lord, your wish will be obeyed.”

After receiving the command of Sri Krishna he began preaching the glories of Sri Nam and gave diksha freely to any sincere soul without making any particular requests or placing any strict conditions on the disciple to follow.

Sri Mahanambrata Brahmachari’s tirobhav

28 09 2009

Jai Nitai! Jai Jagadbandhu!

Sri Mahanambrata Brahmachari

Sri Mahanambrata Brahmachari

Today is the disappearance day of Sri Mahanambrata Brahmachari. He departed in the year 1999 at the age of 95 at his ashram in Raghunathpur. {actually yesterday was his disappearance day, but due to internet connectivity problems I was unable to post this}

A very brief life sketch:

Sripad Mahanambrata Brahmachari took his birth in the year 1904 in the village of Khalishakota in the Barisal district of Bangladesh and was named Bankim. His father’s name was Kalidas Dasgupta and his mother was known as Kaminisundari Devi. I imagine that most everyone is aware of his scholarship. He started primary school in 1909, but most of his education came by the encouragement of his gurudeva, Sripad Mahendraji. The news that Jagadbandhu Sundar came out of his 17 year seclusion reached the ears of Bankim and was the turning point of his life. He had great  faith in Jagadbandhu and he ran away from home, travelling some 80 miles on foot and managed a darshan of Bandhusundar from a distance. A few months later some internal pulling brought him to the feet of Bandhusundar Prabhu. By the grace of Sripad Mahendraji, who was the main sevak of Prabhu, Bankim got the opportunity to touch and worship the feet of Jagadbandhu Prabhu. Later he heard the painful news of the passing of Prabhu Bandhusundar in 1921.

Bankim’s father passed away in 1922 so he decided to go to Sri Angan, Faridapur the place of Jagadbandhu to become a fully dedicated renunciate sadhu of the Mahanam Sampraday. The guru and founder of the Mahanam Sampraday, Sripad Mahendraji urged Bankim to go back home and pass the Matriculation exam first and then return to become a renunciate. In 1923 he passed his exam and returned to Sri Angan and took initiation from Sripad Mahendraji and was given the name Mahanambrata. Later his guru requested him to study at Rajendra College. It was very difficult to maintain his studies and ashram life. He went through many trials and tribulations, and he managed to pass his B.A. exam in 1928 with honors in Sanskrit. His guru desired that he continued to study and in 1931 he obtained a M.A. in Sanskrit from Calcutta University in 1931. Again, as requested by his guru he studied M.A. in Western Philosophy at Calcutta University and passed his examination. In 1933 while in the middle of awaiting the results of his second M.A. exam, Sripad Mahendraji received an invitation fromt the President of the World Fellowship of Faiths in Chicago, Illinois to send a delegate to represent the Sampraday and deliver speeches. Mahendraji sent Mahanambrata to the U.S.A to preach the gospel and ideals of Jagadbandhu Prabhu.

As one can easily imagine he represented the teachings of Prabhu Bandhusundar beautifully and was a very inspiring speaker delivering four lectures. While in the U.S. he changed his visa to a student visa and enrolled in Chicago University and obtained a Ph.D. in 1937. Afterwards he toured many European countries and delivered hundreds of speeches on Manav dharma, Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy, and the teachings of Prabhu Bandhusundar.

A  section of one of his speeches given abroad:

Now, how to cultivate this universal love? You cannot love the universe unless you love the universal. If you go on loving particulars one after another for an indefinite length of time, you will not be able to love the world as a whole. So, to be non-violent, to be philanthropic, what you are to do is to arrive at the center; so says our Lord. The centre is the Supreme God Himself! we call him ‘Hari’. This word means that the one, like a Great Magnet, attracts the whole universe towards Himself. He is the sum-total of all love. He is the one unity of life, in which we are millions of small units. If we love the sum-total, we shall be able to love everything. With the love of God will come to us the love of everyone in the Universe.
To the vast majority of mankind the body is everything, bodily enjoyment is the alpha and omega of life. This is due to ignorance-the identification of ourselves with the body, which is only an encasement of our real being. When we realise that we are the Spirits-the sons of immortal Bliss, and not slaves of matter, we can easily sacrifice life for the world. When we know that the death of this physical encasement is inevitable, we can make the highest use of it by holding it at the service of all beings. i Behold! For the good of the world at large Lord Nityananda embraced the sinner who caused his I bloodshed and then He turned the sinner into a saint. It was for the good of sinners that Jesus Christ embraced the cross. For the good of humanity Mahatma Gandhi is starving for days together with a smiling face.

When we think ourselves disconnected from the universe, we become selfish and our love becomes particularised and narrowed. But when our heart is purified and filled to the brim with the divine nectar of love, we find Him in every- thing. Men are then seen not as men but as the manifestations of God; animals are seen not as animals but as manifestations of God; even the tiger is not seen as a tiger but as a manifestation of God. Then and then only we cannot hurt anyone; we become non-violent. Then all created beings become our family; the whole, world becomes our country. The whole of nature becomes our church, the mother earth its floor And the high vault of heaven its roof. It here where non- violence culminates. It is here where stood Lord Nityananda, the Great deliverer; Jesus Christ, the real Saviour; Mahatma Gandhi, the true lover of humanity.

Now, how to attain this intense love towards the Supreme Being, which is the true source of real life? Lord Gouranga preached that this Universe is the manifestation of Absolute Love. It is a rush from One to manifoldness. When I the Universal consciousness arose the thought current, ‘I am One-I wish to be Many,” He manifested Himself in two aspects; first the Name-the World; then the Form-the World. This sensible universe is the Form and behind, is stands the Eternal Word-“Hari,” which is the matrix of all ideas and forms. So we can reach Him only through the medium of the Great sound manifestation-the hallowed Name. When frequently repeated the vibrations purify the atmosphere, illuminate the mind and fill in and out with the ecstasy of Bliss. Lord Gouranga reached this infinite potency of the Name of Hari. Shout “Hari Hari” or “Haribole” (say Hari) and the vibration will thrill through all hearers and change them into pious devotees. Chant the hallowed Name day and night and be non- violent in thought, word and deed. This is the sum and substance of the holy teachings of Lord Gouranga, the Incarnation of Love, who came down on the holy soil of Bengal some four hundred and fifty years ago. Divine Love assumed body and dwelt with us.

In conclusion, I give you a new message of hope that the time is nigh. The Dark Age is ended. The golden age has already dawned. The New Incarnation of Love has come down on this land of mortals to wipe away all tears from your eyes. There shall be no more poverty, no more sorrow, no more crying, no more craving. The holy city-the new Jerusalem-will soon re-appear on earth, which is prepared as a bride for her long looked-for Eternal Lover-the Supreme Being-“Hari Purusha Jagad-Bandhu”. the New Incarnation of Gouranga Mahaprabhu. Late us all pray:

Oh my beloved Lord! The different paths which we through different tendencies, have taken, let them all lead us to Thy Lotus Feet, just as all different streams, having their source in different places, all mingle their waters in the sea.

May the Blessings of my Beloved Lord be showered upon you all.

He returned to India in 1939 and continued for a while giving speeches as he was accustomed to. Later he travelled in Bengal and delivered Bhagavat path and wrote books. In 1960 he moved into Mahauddharan Math in Calcutta and in 1980 his disciples built him a quieter and more peaceful ashram, Mahanam Angan in Raghunathpur. All this time he wrote more than 50 books and continued to speak and inspire his disciples and followers. In October of 1999 he passed away at the age of 95 and entered nitya-lila. Though his body was quite aged his mind was agile and strong until the very end.  I would recommend visiting for more information.

Jai Sripad Mahanambrata Brahmachari! Jai Jagadbandhu Hari!

Sri Mahanambrata Brahmachari's purna samadhi in Raghunathpur

Sri Mahanambrata Brahmachari's purna samadhi in Raghunathpur

An introdruction to Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath

20 09 2009

Jai Nitai!

The first time I came to Kolkata for darshan of Sri Path Bari Ashram, I was hosted by my gurubhai Subrata Ji at the home of his in-laws in Dakshineswar. I recall that right away a photo of a sadhu that was hanging on a wall caught my attention. He had quite a striking appearance. I asked what his name was and in reply I was told, “Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath”. His picture also graced the family altar. I don’t know why, but I never really got around to inquiring very much about him.

The last time I was in Kolkata was in March of this year for the tirobhav utsava of my gurudeva. One day during the utsava my gurubhai, the Mahanta, Raghunath Dada suggested I go to Mahamilan Math for darshan. It sounded fine to me, though I had no idea what the place was, so I got a rickshaw and after about a ten minute ride I was there. It turns out that it is the headquarters for the mission of Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath. It was a lovely and well maintained ashram with an Asta-sakhi Mandir. It was quite a pleasant surprise to see such beautiful Sri Murti’s of Radhey Shyam surrounded by Their dearest sakhis. Today, I came across some information about the life and teachings of Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath and was amazed by him and his accomplishments, so I thought I would write a little bit about him.

Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath

Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath

The life of this great Mahatma is astonishing and full of miraculous occurrences. To many people he was known as “Nam Avatar” because of his potency in spreading the practice of kirtan and Nam japa. At one point there was even a movement where people wanted to label his as a divine avatar, but he did not allow that to happen. Personally, I feel that he, like Sri Anandamayi Ma that I wrote about recently, is a special manifestation of divinity. I believe he came to spread the glories of Sri Nam as the best spiritual sadhana and in a way that could easily appeal to people following all sorts of spiritual paths and traditions. To aid his preaching he even started his own sampradaya known as the Akhil Bharat Jaiguru Sampradaya, which is still alive and active.

He took birth on the bank of the Ganga in a village named Keota in the Hooghly district on February 17, 1892, and was named, Prabodh Chandra.  His great-grandfather was an astrologer and when he did the horoscope of the child he exclaimed, “Look here! A Mahapurush has come! Blow the conch shell! Wherever this child will go, annadAna, (distribution of prasad) on a vast scale will follow him.” He was born in an orthodox Brahman family. His father was named, Pranhari Chattopadhayaya and his mother was Malyavati Devi. In 1897 as a six year old child he was lying in bed with his father and pointed his finger towards a large window and said, “Father, look! Shiva is standing over there!” The startled father questioned, “Where is Shiva? Where is He, my son?” His son replied, “There He is standing in front of me!” His father then said, “What does Shiva look like?” And the boy replied, “He has a fair complexion, is wearing tiger skin, has matted hair on head, three eyes, in the left hand a trident and in the right hand he has a damaru.” His father didn’t see anything and Shiva vanished. That young boy Prabodh Chandra Chattopadhyaya turned into Sitaramdas later in his life. And his mission since the age of six was to awaken the sleeping masses and show them pointing his finger– “Look, there is Shiva!”

In April of 1943, in Jagannath Puri a sadhu was going around the Mandir of Jagannath Dev with a large group doing Nam Sankirtan. He was lean, had crown of matted hair adorning his head, a beard and a divine appearance. On his chest he wore the wooden sandals of his gurudev. Some local people joined his party and they were distributing some pamphlets. The sadhu did not know what was written in the pamphlets, nor were the local crowd known to him. After asking, he came to know what was being announced in those pamphlets–his own presence at Ankara Math in Cuttack at the akhaNDa nAm kIrtan. He was greatly surprised, and he found out from further questioning that they had come to know of his arrival in Orissa at this precise time from a 400 year old book maintained in the Ashram. One of the pancha sakhas of  Mahaprabhu, Achyutananda, had predicted that a preacher of the Mahamantra wearing his Gurudeva’s sandals around his neck, would come to Jagannath Puri at that predicted time for preaching and spreading Sri Nam. As soon as he heard this, he went into samadhi. The detailed descriptions of his family name, the story of his life, as well as his sect etc., were all written within that book. Not only him, but the descriptions of other great saints, both predecessors and contemporaries and their lives were described in that book. The book had said about this sadhu, “God Himself will assume the body of a man and appear as an incarnation through him. You should wait for his arrival.”

The sadhu who appeared before the eyes of the omniscient saint, Achyutananda four hundred years ago, is the loving guru of thousands of devotees, Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath.

Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath

Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath

Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath with Sri Anandamayi Ma

Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath with Sri Anandamayi Ma

Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath

Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath

Samba Sada Shiva Kunj ~ Ashram of Sri Haidakhan Wale Baba

18 09 2009

Kanchopi Topa Baba Jai Nitai! While reading a book about Sri Haidakhan Baba last month, I learned that there was an ashram dedicated to him in Brindavan. I immediately became interested to visit the ashram so the following morning off I went to Brindavan for darshan. The ashram is in the vicinity of Lala Babu Mandir.

Haidakhan Baba, who is also known by many other names such as Kanchopi Topa Baba, is considered by many to be the same person as Mahavatar Babaji who initiated Lahiri Mahasay in 1861. This account is quite famous because it is well documented in Paramahamsa Yogananda’s  autobiography. He received the name “Haidakhan Baba” because he was often seen in the Kumaon region of the Himalayan foothills in a village known as Haidakhan. These appearances mainly occurred between 1800-1922.

In the autumn of 1922 Babaji went on Kailash Yatra and on His return stayed at Ashkot
near U.P. – Nepal border as a guest of the king, Shri Karman Singh. After a few days he
told the king that the time had come for him to leave. The king carried the palanquine in
which Babaji was sitting. After a few miles, Babaji sent the king back and continued his
journey with a few attendants of the king and other devotees. When they approached the
junction of the Kali and Gori rivers near the border, in the presence of these people,
Babaji disappeared in the river squatting in Padmasan slowly changing into light form.
Before leaving, he told all that he would reappear again for the benefit of human beings.

In the autumn of 1922 Haidakhan Baba went on Kailash Yatra and when he returned he stayed at Ashkot which is at the border of Nepal and Uttar Pradesh, as the guest of the king, Sri Karman Singh. After a few days he told that the time had come for him to leave. The king carried the palanquin in which Baba was sitting. After they had gone about 4 Km Baba asked the king to return home. Baba continued with just a few devotees. When they got to where the Kali and Gori rivers meet, Babaji entered the waters and slowly changed into a ball of light while sitting in padmasana. Before leaving he said he would reappear for the benefit of humankind.

Mahendra Maharaj

Mahendra Maharaj

After Baba’s disappearance a siddha yogi named Mahendra Baba began to preach about him. When Mahendra was 5 years old a yogi came to him and gave him a prasadi laddu. He was very attracted to that yogi and always prayed to him. When he got older he left home in search of this yogi, but his parents searched for him and dragged him back home. After he graduated he again went in search of this yogi. He underwent many hardships to find him. During his travels he received a divine message that he should go to Almora and look for him there. In 1949 in Almora he saw some photos of a Mahatma and recognized them as the same person that he had considered to be his guru all these years. He was told his name was Haidakhan Baba and he had an ashram named Siddhashram. When he went to the ashram Babaji wasn’t there so he locked himself in a room with a vow that until he meets Haidakhan Baba he would not come out of his yogic posture. Baba appeared to him and gave him guidance and blessings for his future work. Mahendra Baba then came to Brindavan and established an ashram called, “Samba Sada Shiva Kunj.” Soon many disciples gathered around him, including all the former disciples of Haidakhan Baba.  Mahendra Maharaj was known for his strict discipline with his disciples and for his yogic siddhis. He referred to himself as “Charanashrita Baba”, a servant of Haidakhan Baba. He told everyone that Haidakhan Baba will reappear. He  said that Haidakhan Baba is Sada Shiva Himself.

Mahendra Maharaj, developed both Haidakhan Ashrams. He built a small temple in Kathgaria Ashram and installed Babaji’s murti. On the previous night of installation day in 1957, four days after Shiv Ratri, over a thousand devotees had gathered in the Katgharia Ashram and were doing continuous prayer throughout the night. Around midnight a divine jyoti appeared in center of the devotees and stood still a few feet above ground. From this light Babaji gave darshan in his physical form wearing a kurta and topa which had previously been his favorite form of dressing . After giving darshan for a couple of minutes this light entered into the murti which was to be installed the next day. After the installation ceremony, selected devotees who were permitted by Mahendra Maharaj to touch the murti could actually feel the heart of the murti was beating.

Presently, this murti is installed in the Brindavan ashram. Every year this installation day is celebrated in Brindavan. Mahendra Maharaj performed many miracles, which he always insisted were due to the blessings of Haidakhan Baba. Illiterate people became highly learned scholars and composers, devotees who were on their death bed were brought back to life, poor people became wealthy, and childless couples begot children.

For many years Mahendra Baba preached that Haidakhan Baba would return to transform this world. He described what he would look like and said he would appear in 1970. Mahendra Maharaj entered mahasamadhi in 1969. When his body was being carried in the procession to the cremation ground, thousands of devotees were shedding tears. At that time the hand of the body lifted itself and blessed all the devotees. This sight is even now remembered by some residents of Brindavan.

Sri Haidakhan Baba 1970-1984

Sri Haidakhan Baba 1970-1984

In 1970  Babaji appeared in a cave, that has been considered holy for thousands of years, at the foot of the Kumaon Mount Kailash, across the sacred Gautama Ganga opposite a remote village called Haidakhan. He had no known parents or family. He appeared as a youth of 18 or 20, yet he displayed great wisdom and divine powers. The Haidakhan villagers sometimes saw him as an old man with a long white beard, as a young man with a long beard, or as a beautiful young man with no beard. Two men who spoke to him at the same time described him differently. He was seen at different places at the same time. He knew the scriptures, yet there is no evidence of his having been educated. He ate almost nothing for months yet his energy was boundless. In September 1970, he climbed to the top of Mount Kailash, seated himself in siddhasana at the small temple there without leaving his seat for 45 days and nights, meditating most of the time, talking occasionally, and started teaching the message that he has brought to the world.

There is so much more to tell about all three of the Haidakhan Babas. It is all very interesting, but I am not going to attempt to present such a huge amount of information in this post. The Haidakhan Baba that appeared in 1970 left this world in 1984. For all those interested in learning more there is a lot of information available online that can easily be found and many books in print as well.

Entrance to Haidakhan Baba's Ashram

Entrance to Haidakhan Baba's Ashram

Sri Murtis of Haidakhan Baba and Mahendra Maharaj

Sri Murtis of Haidakhan Baba and Mahendra Maharaj

Close up of Sri Haidakhan Baba

Close up of Sri Haidakhan Baba

Another murti of Sri Haidakhan Baba at the ashram

Another murti of Sri Haidakhan Baba at the ashram

Haidakhan Baba's asana

Haidakhan Baba's asana

Sri Sri Ma Anandamayi Ashram in Brindavan

14 09 2009

Jai Nitai!

Anandamayi Ma1The other day I visited Brindavan and while riding in a rickshaw I noticed a sign that said Sri Sri Ma Anandamayi Ashram. I had the driver stop and made him wait  while I went inside for darshan. I didn’t really know much at all about Sri Anandamayi Ma. I know a lot more now as I spent several hours today reading about her life and teachings. For the most part, my only previous exposure to her was from reading about her in Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahamsa Yogananda. The chapter describes his first meeting with the “Joy-permeated Mother.” She made quite an impression on me then and now I wonder why I never really looked into her life and her teachings before today. That wonderful picture of her in the book where she appears to be more or less peeking out from behind Yoganandaji like a child is still vivid in my mind.Ma and Yoganandaji

I am extremely glad that I had the rickshaw driver stop. I could have very easily just passed up going into her ashram  because I was running late in hopes of catching darshan at another place. As it turned out my timing at Anandamayi Ma’s Mandir was quite good. The doors to the deity rooms were closed when I arrived because Thakurji was eating, but within five minutes the doors were opened for a quick aroti before closing again for the rest of the afternoon. I had ample time to take some photos.

The Mandir is set a good distance off the road making for a quiet setting. It is located on Mathura Road across the street from Ramakrishna Mission. The sign above the entrance to the Mandir has the Maha-mantra written on it and also Nitai-Gaura and Om Namah Sivaya.

A brief biographical sketch of Ma:

Sri Anandamayi Ma took birth in 1896 in Kheora, East Bengal (now Bangladesh) and was named Nirmala Sundari Devi, meaning “Goddess of flawless beauty.” Her father was named Bipinbihari Bhattacharya and her mother was Mokshada Sundari Devi. Her father was a Vaisnava kirtaniya and as a child Nirmala would frequently enter into ecstatic states of consciousness while hearing her father’s kirtan. In 1908  she was married to Ramani Mohan Chakrabarti at the age of thirteen. For five years after her marriage she lived in her brother-in-law’s house where she was generally found to be withdrawn into a meditative state. In 1918  she moved to a town known as Bajitpur. At this time she was found to be even more withdrawn in deeper spiritual states. From what I gather, even though she was a model child in so many ways because of her tendency to enter these trance-like states many thought she had a mental illness.

Her marriage ceremony took place when she was thirteen, but it wasn’t until she was seventeen that she went to live with her husband in Ashtagram. Their marriage was always one of celibacy. When her husband would come to her with sexual desires it is said her body would take on the qualities of death and she would become faint. Life as her husband couldn’t have been an easy task. Sometimes after returning home from work he would find her laying on the kitchen floor in an unconscious state and the food burned.

On a full moon night at midnight, she went through the actions of spiritual initiation—initiating herself.  She said, “As the guru I revealed the mantra, and as the disciple I accepted it and started to recite it.” Because of his wife’s behavior, members of her husband’s family suggested that he remarry.  He apparently had love and faith in her. He must have viewed her behavior as signs of great spirituality instead. He asked her when and from who he should take initiation. She gave him a date of five months in the future when she would initiate him. A friend asked her for proof that she was qualified to initiate her husband. She then touched her husband on the top of the head. He went into samadhi for several hours, declaring later that he experienced indescribable bliss. When she gave him diksha she changed his name to Bholanath and he later became a great saint in his own right.

For six years she led a life of intense sadhana in Ashtagram. Many view it simply as lila , believing that she had integral knowledge of reality from birth, and there was nothing for her to personally attain. For the sake of all who would later come to her for guidance, it was necessary that  all the kriyas and sadhanas of every religious tradition spontaneously be manifested in her person. Practices that take most sadhakas lifetimes to perfect played through her body in a matter of minutes. In later days, she was immediately familiar with the problems and practices of anyone who came to her for advice, regardless of what culture or religion they came from.

In 1924, Bholanath was working as the manager of a large garden estate in Dacca, and the story spread by word of mouth that there was a special Mataji living in the gardens who was absorbed in a divine state. People became attracted to her, and soon a large following had gathered around Anandamayi Ma. Many of these people remained devoted to her for the rest of their lives. The garden estate became the center of daily kirtans and festivals. She didn’t give formal speeches, but answered everyone’s questions and guided all according to their inner needs. Although she had little formal education, she spoke by the authority of her direct perception, and her spontaneous replies impressed even the scholars and pandits that heard her.

In 1932, Ma left Bengal and for the next fifty years she wandered throughout India, never staying in any place for long. She was led by the needs of the many devotees that surrounded her. She was also led by the inner call of mankind to manifest spirituality. She gave comfort and guidance to anyone that came to her. She had a divine attraction that drew people to her. People found a joy and inner awakening in her presence, and many felt that she was someone  known to them eternally. There are hundreds of stories of Ma’s guidance and blessings– many accompanied by supernatural manifestations. Many ashrams began to spring up in her name. Even some political leaders of the time came to her. She was loved and respected by Mahatma Gandhi, and Prime Ministers Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Many famous saints realized her divinity and even openly proclaimed it.

Anandamayi Ma departed in 1982 in her ashram in Dehradun. Her body was enshrined in a  marble samadhi in Kankhal, south of the pilgrimage center of Haridwar.

Some of Sri Anandamayi Ma’s teachings in her own words:

This body tells of one sovereign remedy for all ills: God. Trust in Him, depend on Him, accept whatever happens as His dispensation, regard what you do as His service, keep satsang, think of God with every breath, and live in His Presence. Leave all your burdens in His hands and He will see to everything; there will be no more problems.

All this, which is His creation, is under His dispensation, in His Presence, and is verily He Himself. In whatever state He keeps anyone at any time, it is all for the good, for verily everything is ordained by Him, and is of Him. Relative happiness, which is happiness depending on anything, must end in grief. It is man’s duty to meditate on God Who is peace itself. Without having recourse to that which aids the remembrance of God, there can be no peace. Have you not seen what life in this world is? The One to be loved is God. In Him is everything–Him you must try to find.

To a human being the most noble, irreproachable line of conduct should alone be acceptable. It is a matter of great rejoicing if anyone strives to mould his life upon this pattern. Only actions that kindle man’s divine nature are worthy of the name of action, all the rest are non–actions–a waste of energy. Any line of behavior that fails to quicken the divine in man should be eschewed, no matter how enticing it might appear; but any that helps to awaken man’s inherent divinity must be resolutely adopted, even though it be seemingly uninviting. Man’s calling is to aspire to the realization of Truth, to tread the excellent path that leads to Immortality. What appears delightful to the senses later develops into a hotbed of poison, generating inner turmoil and disaster, for it belongs to the realm of death.

In whichever direction you may turn your gaze you will find One Eternal Indivisible Being manifested. Yet it is not at all easy to detect this Presence, because He interpenetrates everything. As a King is known by his majesty, as fire is known by its heat, so the Unmanifest reveals Himself through the world of manifestation. The analysis of the substance of all created things, if carried sufficiently far, will lead to the discovery that what remains is identical and equally present in all creatures: it is He, it is That, which is styled as Pure Consciousness.

If in the midst of the diversity of the world of appearances you make a sustained effort to do all your work as a faithful servant of the Almighty Father of the Universe, love and devotion for Him will awaken in your heart. As the confining prison walls of the ego are broken down, you will become more and more persistent and wholehearted in your pursuit of Reality. Then all the manifold pictures you perceive will merge into one single picture and all your divergent moods and sentiments will be engulfed in the one great ocean of Bliss.

The Universal Body of the Lord comprises all things–trees, flowers, leaves, hills, mountains, rivers, oceans, and so forth. A time will come, must come, when one actually perceives this all–pervading Universal Form of the One. The variety of His shapes and guises is infinite, uncountable, without end. Just as ice is nothing but water, so the Beloved is without form, without quality, and the question of manifestation does not arise. When this is realized, one has realized one’s Self. For, to find the Beloved is to find one’s Self, to discover that God is one’s very own, wholly identical with one’s self, the innermost Self, the Self of the self. First of all it is necessary to become acquainted with Him Whom you wish to invoke. Constantly think and talk of Him, look at his pictures, sing His praises or listen to sacred music, visit places of pilgrimage, seek solitude or associate with the holy and wise, so as to become familiar with Him. When this has been achieved, you may call Him “Father” or “Mother”. Some relationship of this kind has to be established with Him, because people of the world do not feel affinity unless their bond is defined in such a manner. You are accustomed to ties of kinship in worldly life; this is why you have to bind yourself by some sort of relationship in the spiritual field as well. Even though at the start you may not feel deep devotion, learn to invoke Him unceasingly and with perseverance by repeating His Name, or by any other method, until gradually He will fill your heart. However, prayer, meditation, alms offered in His Name, and so forth, are necessary even after the bond of love has been forged, so as to keep it unimpaired. In this way the awareness of Him will become your second nature and never leave you to your last breath. This is what is termed communion with God.

Listen! Do not let your time pass idly. Either keep a rosary with you and do japa; or if this does not suit you, at least go on repeating the Name of the Lord regularly and without interruption like the ticking of a clock. There are no rules or restrictions in this. Invoke Him by the Name that appeals to you most, for as much time as you can–the longer the better. Even if you get tired or lose interest, administer the Name to yourself like a medicine that has to be taken. In this way you will at some auspicious moment discover the rosary of the mind, and then you will continually hear within yourself the praises of the great Master, the Lord of Creation, like the never ceasing music of the boundless ocean; You will hear the land and the sea, the air and the heavens reverberate with the song of His glory. This is called the all–pervading Presence of His Name.

Silent japa should be engaged in at all times. One must not waste breath uselessly; whenever one has nothing special to do, one should silently practice japa in rhythm with one’s breathing. In fact, this exercise should go on continually until doing japa has become as natural as breathing.

It is of great value to read sacred texts and books of wisdom. Speak the truth. Bear in mind that God’s Name is He Himself in one form; let it be your inseparable companion. Try your utmost never to remain without Him. The more intense and continuous your efforts to dwell in His Presence, the greater will be the likelihood of your growing joyful and serene. When your mind becomes vacant, endeavor to fill it with the awareness of God and His contemplation.

The Supreme Father, Mother and Friend–verily God is all of these. Consequently, how can there be a cause or reason for His Grace? You are His, and in whatever way He may draw you to Him, it is for the sake of revealing Himself to you. The desire to find Him that awakens in man, who has instilled it into you? Who is it that makes you work for its fulfillment? Thus you should try to arrive at the understanding that everything originates from Him. Whatever power, whatever skill you possess—-why, even you yourself—-from where does everything arise? And does it not all have for purpose the finding of Him, the destroying of the veil of ignorance? Whatever exists has its origin in Him alone. So then, you must try to realize your Self. Are you master even of a single breath? To whatever small degree He makes you feel that you have freedom of action, if you understand that this freedom has to be used to aspire after the realization of Him, it will be for your good. But if you regard yourself as the doer and God as being far away, and if, owing to His apparent remoteness, you work for the gratification of your desires, it is wrong action. You should look upon all things as manifestations of Him. When you recognize the existence of God, He will reveal Himself to you as compassionate or gracious or merciful, in accordance with your attitude towards Him at the time–just as, for example, to the humble he becomes the Lord of the Humble.

Through breath energy, Consciousness pervades Matter. Everything that is alive breathes. When breath stops, you die. Physical life depends on breath. Through Prana, matter becomes alive. Desires and wandering mind make the breath impure. Therefore, I advise the practice of concentration on breathing combined with taking any one of God’s Names. If the breath and the mind become one–pointed and steady, then the mind expands to infinity, and all phenomena are included in that one all–inclusive point. If you think of God with the breath it will purify the prana, the physical sheath and the mind. If you breathe while thinking of God’s Name, you will feel the call of His grace.

The Self, or God is unknowable to the ordinary intelligence, but He is not unknown to us as the life–breath. If one uses the rhythm of one’s breathing as a support in meditation, this increases one’s power. Therefore, one should daily sit in a meditative pose in a solitary place and turn the mind inward, and repeat the mantra in rhythm with one’s breathing, without straining, in a natural way. When through prolonged practice, the Name becomes inextricably linked with the breath, and the body is quite still; one will come to realize that the individual is part of the One Great Life that pervades the Universe.

I say to you that I am a little child and you are my parents. Accept me as such and give me a place in your hearts. By saying “Mother”, you keep me at a distance. Mothers have to be revered and respected. But a little girl needs to be loved and looked after, and is dear to the heart of everyone. So this is my only request to you: to make a place for me in your hearts!

A  few of my favorite quotes from Sri Anandamayi Ma:

“Remember, one is born to experience various kinds of joys and sorrows according to one’s desire. For the time being, God comes to you in the disguise of suffering. He is purifying you in this manner. The suffering is for your own best. A mother gives a slap to her beloved child for its own good, in order to keep it on the right path. When a fond mother gives her baby a bath, the child may scream desperately, yet the mother will not let the baby go until she has thoroughly washed and scrubbed him.”

“Just as fire burns away all dross and rubbish, so the three fold suffering purges man’s heart from all impurity and results in a growing single mindedness in his search after Truth. When he becomes deeply conscious of his weakness and tormented by the thoughts of his undesirable impulses and distressing characteristics, when afflictions like poverty, bereavement or humiliation make him feel his life is futile, then and then only does he develop real faith and religious fervor, and becomes anxious to surrender himself at the feet of the Supreme Being. Suffering should therefore be welcomed. Never does the soft moonlight appear more soothing than after the scorching heat of a summer day.”

“Leave aside every other thought, Just say Hari! Hari! Have faith in Him and cross the sea of the world.”

Some may be wondering why I have given so much attention to someone who is not a Caitanya Vaisnava. Actually, she never claimed to be of any particular sect and has been seen to  engage in practices from many different paths. As I mentioned earlier in this post that I spent several hours yesterday reading about her. After all my study my heart was deeply touched by what I read.  Her words and simple loving nature made a big  impact on me. I was struck with a great urgency to dedicate myself more fully to my gurudeva and the sadhana he has given me. I felt tremendous inspiration to surrender myself to the lotus-feet of my guru and to take complete shelter of him and Nitaichand, giving up my false sense of ego and just relinquishing my entire self to them, clinging to nothing else.

She was imbued with so much love and divine shakti. She created a desire in countless numbers people to embrace spiritual life, leaving behind the pain and futility of material pursuits and attachments. I believe she was a divinely empowered person whose task was to generate an urge and interest in the general populace to pursue a life of surrender to the Supreme. Everyone is at different stages in their spiritual development. Not everyone will have the adhikar to immediately appreciate and pursue raganuga bhakti sadhana and the esoteric teachings of our acharyas. Few people have the adhikar to perform yoga sadhana, and many may find it hard to perform karma yoga and work selflessly for the benefit of others. Fortunately for all of us the chanting of the Names of Nitai Gaura and Radhey Shyam are within everyone’s ability and there are no rules even involved in the practice. Sri Nitaichand in His infinite mercy empowers various souls to come and uplift the jivas in various ways and in different capacities. In whatever condition a jiva finds himself Nitaichand is there with him reaching out His hand, offering love, beauty, and eternal ananda.

The walkway to the Ashram

The walkway to the Ashram

Sri Sri Ma Anandamayi Ashram

Sri Sri Ma Anandamayi Ashram

Sri Sri Nitai Gaura

Sri Sri Nitai Gaura

Sri Sri Radhey Shyam

Sri Sri Radhey Shyam

Sri Mahadeva

Sri Mahadeva

Sri Anandamayi Ma

Sri Anandamayi Ma

Sri Bholanath Baba ~ Sri Anandamayi Ma's husband

Sri Bholanath Baba ~ Sri Anandamayi Ma's husband


Hari Katha Devi and the path of the Mahajanas

12 09 2009

Prof. Rama Bandopadhyaya and Sripad Vishnu Das Babaji at Samaj Bari Ashram

Prof. Rama Bandopadhyaya and Sripad Vishnu Das Babaji at Samaj Bari Ashram, Nabadwip

I took this photo in March of this year. It is the Mahant of Samaj Bari Ashram, Sripad Vishnu Das Babaji, and Sri Rama Bandopadhyaya. I was told that she was travelling and speaking and she wouldn’t likely be back to the ashram for some time. I was sitting in the reception room talking with Mahant Maharaj when she unexpectedely walked in. I was very pleased to receive her darshan again! They are both disciples of Sripad Ramdas Babaji Maharaj–two of only a very small amount of his sisyas that are still physically present with us. Sri Rama Bandopadhyaya is a very learned Vaisnavi and a Professor as well. Even at her advanced age she still travels through India attracting crowds of Vaisnavas who are anxious to hear her sweet Hari-katha. She  has written a number of books including a commentary on Chapter 14 of the Srimad Bhagavat, the Brahma Stuti, a portion of which will be the focus of this post. I will be adjusting and using sections of an English rendering by my gurubhai, Subrata Adhikary Ji. I selected this section of her tika because I particulary enjoy her comments on Hari-katha.

mahAjanera yei patha, tAte hobo anurata
pUrvApara koriyA vicAra |
sAdhana smaraNa lIlA, ihAte nA koro helA
kAya mane koriyA susAra  ||PBC 14||

“I will remain dedicated to the path outlined by the mahajanas, the great authorities, distinguishing between the Mahajanas of yore and ones of the present day. Do not neglect  lila-smarana and make it the essence of your life through your body and mind.”

In this portion of the commentary she is now dicussing the following verse of the Brahma Stuti:

jJAne prayAsam udapAsya namanta eva
jIvanti san-mukharitAM bhavadIya-vArtAm |
sthAne sthitAH zruti-gatAM tanu-vAG-manobhir
ye prAyazo `jita jito `py asi tais tri-lokyAm ||SB 10.14.3||

Those who, even while remaining situated in their established
social positions, throw away the process of speculative knowledge and with
their body, words and mind offer all respects to descriptions of Your personality
and activities, dedicating their lives to these narrations, which are vibrated by You
personally and by Your pure devotees, certainly conquer Your Lordship, although
You are otherwise unconquerable by anyone within the three worlds.

There are some who, without stuggling in jnana-marg, remain in the same order of life in which they were called, spending all their time hearing with great humility descriptions of Your excellences from Your great devotees. All their actions–speech, thought and their every breath is saturated with devotional fervor for You. You, who are unconquerable by anything in the three worlds are certainly conquered by them.”

Hearing the glories of Krishna’s devotee is more helpful to jiva than glorification of Krishna Himself. This is the reason that Brahmaji is using the term “bhavadIya.”  Brahma has also has used another term, “san-mukaritAM,” which means the glories of Krishna and His devotee should be san-mukaritAM, or in other words one should hear the glories of Krishna and His devotees from the lips of of a Vaisnava.  The effect of hearing Hari-katha from a non-Vaisnava will not be the same. For example we drink milk to attain bodily strength, but if the tongue of a snake contacts that same milk, that milk will become like poison.

Here one can raise the question why it is required to hear the Hari-katha from the mouth of a Vaisnava?  A real Vaisnava will just speak from sastra, and I can just read the sastras myself.  What is the necessity to listen to the same thing from the mouth of a Vaisnava? This is an improper conclusion. It is true that the Vaisnava would be speaking from sastra, but he would not only be speaking the words from sastra-–as saints follow the words of the scriptures for their own sadhana and bhajan, they actually experience sastra. They directly realize what they are speaking and thus when they mix their own bhajan realization with the words from the sastra while delivering  Hari-katha, their speech becomes extremely powerful and has much more of an impact upon the listener.

With the help of a mundane example this may become clearer. Beneath a banyan tree one can find numerous small banyan fruits, which contain small seeds within. Though all the required ingredients to germinate the seeds like soil, water, air and light are available beneath the banyan tree, we do not see the appearance of new banyan saplings growing beneath the tree. Rather we can find that the saplings of the banyan trees are appearing on the edge of roofs, near houses, on top of walls, etc.  The saplings are found to grow where the normal required ingredients for germination are largely absent.  How is this possible that they are growing in places where the main ingredient, soil is absent?  The reason is that when the fruits of the banyan tree are consumed by birds, these seeds  become mixed with the saliva of the birds. When they are digested they are  transformed and they are transferred to those remote locations  in the  stool of those birds. Thus those otherwise dormant seeds grow  wonderfully even without the presence of soil which would normally be necessary for sucessful germination. The new saplings are even sometimes seen growing on stone.

Similarily great Vaisnavas practice the teachings of the words of the sastras in their devotional lives. They digest those words in their hearts and mind and a transformation occurs through their bhajan. When the words of the sasta and bhajan realization are combined and presented in the form of speech eminating from the lotus-lips of a Vaisnava, the power of Bhakti Maharani is manifested and even a greatly fallen person is delivered from ignorance at once by hearing such katha.

Bhagavan Sri Kapila Dev has said that Hari-katha from the mouth of great saints acts like a medicine in the mind and heart of jiva. It cures the disease and weakness of the mind and ears. An example of a disease of the ears is interest or “‘ruci” in hearing mundane talks about wealth and property. Blaspheming others and having interest in hearing about ones own “glories” is another example. With such weaknesss of the ears one is not able to listen to Hari-katha for any length of time.  Just as in the case of a weak patient who is unable to walk for a  long period of time–he requires periodic rests during his walks. Likewise, if one is unable to listen to Hari-katha for a long period of time that is a sign of having a weakness of one’s ear.

By hearing  Hari-katha from the lips of a Vaisnava, the disease of the ear will be cured. At that time one’s ears will not be interested in hearing talks about mundane wealth or material enjoyment. One can understand that their disease is cured if they could go on listenting to Hari-katha indefinitely. We have been speaking of the ears, but the same is true for the mind as well. The disease of the mind is enjoying thoughts of materialistic topics, and the symptom of its weakness is to be unable to think of Krishna. Hearing the glories of Krishna from the mouth of a Vaisnava will cure one’s mental diseases and strengthen the mind as well. That is why Brahmaji is telling, “san-mukaritAM” – hearing the excellences of Krishna and His devotees from the mouth of saints is understod as the easiest way to sustain their life.

Brahmaji has talked about hearing  Hari-katha, but in which way should one hear  Hari-katha? Is it dependent on the person who is about to hear Hari Katha? Is that person independent? In other words can he listen to  Hari-katha according to his own will? Brahmaji is going to answer that now.

No! The person who wants to hear Hari-katha is not independent. The Goddess of Hari-katha is the controller of this and she is supremely independent. Thus the master of language,  the speaker of the Veda,  Brahma has used the term “zruti-gatAM”. Hari-katha is supremely independent. If Hari-katha mercifully enters into the ears of devotee then he can hear it, otherwise not. Now a question may arise.  How is this possible? If I sit near the  Vaishnava while he is delivering Hari-katha, why can I not have access to this? Great saints are telling us,  in spite of sitting in a place where Hari-katha is taking place, unless and until one receives the mercy of Hari-katha Devi he will still not be able to actually hear it.  He would feel sleepy or his mind would wander and think about something else. Eventually his Hari-katha will be finished and he will not be able to taste even a single drop of it.

Then what is the remedy? The solution is that before coming to hear  Hari-katha one should pray to  Bhakti Maharani.  “O! Hey! Goddess Hari-katha Devi! O Bhakti Maharani!  Please be merciful to me! Please manifest your presence in my ears!”  This is the significance of the usage of term “zruti-gatAM.”

In order to attain Hari-katha one should associate with Vaisnavas. Hari-katha is only available near the Vaisnava. Everyone has their own taste.  Wealthy people relish talks about money, and the Vaisnava only talks about Krishna. One can find rotten meat where dogs live, while in a lion’s den one can expect to find elephant pearl, “gajamuktA”, as after killing elephants lions will  keep the elephant pearl in his own den. So, as  one would find rotten talks of wealth near rich people,  precious Hari-katha is only found near the Vaisnava.

vaiSNava saGgete mana, Anandita anukSaNa,
sadA hoy kRSNa parasaGga
dIna narottama kAnde, hiyA dhairya nAhi bAndhe
mora dazA keno hoilo bhaGga (17 Prarthana)

Oh mind! In the association of the Vaisnavas you can constantly and blissfully discuss topics of Krishna!  The fallen Narottama weeps: Alas! my heart has become impatient (because I am deprived of such association)! Why have I ended up in this condition?”

Sri Sri Prema Bhakti Candrika

9 09 2009
Narottam Das Thakur

Narottam Das Thakur

Once a high ranking government official (Judge) stayed in Ambika Kalna in West Bengal for a few days to perform some duties. At that time Siddha Sri Bhagavan das Babaji Maharaja was still manifest in this world. Having heard about Siddha Baba’s glories from the local residents, the judge went at once to see him. When Siddha Baba saw him coming he asked why he had come, and the judge said,  “Baba! Tell me how to prema bhakti can be achieved!”

Siddha Baba immediately said, “Prema bhakti can be purchased for only two anas (a very small amount of money in colonial India at that time)!”

When the judge heard these words of Siddha Baba he was a little shaken and said, “Baba! Why are you joking with me?”

Siddha Baba replied with determination, “It’s not a joke– for two anas you can buy Srila Narottama Thakura Mahasaya’s Prema Bhakti Candrika in Calcutta’s Bata-tala. Always read this and you will attain prema bhakti.”

This is actually a true story.  And the judge completely took the words of Siddha Baba seriously and purchased a copy of Prema Bhakti Candrika. By the strength of Siddha Baba’s order and because of his service to Sri Prema Bhakti Candrika which he constantly recited, he had a complete change of heart. The judge lost all interest in his job and began to stay at home reading Prema Bhakti Candrika with love and attachment. Because he gave up his job his so-called family members lost interest in him and he also became disinterested in them and his home. He began to wander and beg alms to feed himself all the while lovingly reading Prema Bhakti Candrika and offering everything to Sri Krishna. Everyone thought he was insane because of his sudden and drastic change of behavior, but he actually became siddha himself and achieved Krishna-prema through the recitation of Prema Bhakti Candrika on the order of Siddha Bhagavan Das Babaji.

Sri Radharaman Charan Das Dev questioned his guru, Nityananda Vamsh Prabhupad Yogendranath Goswami about the sastras. His guru told him that of all the sastras four are sufficient for acheiving the goal of Krishna-prema and Prema Bhakti Candrika was one of the four books on the list. The very first shloka I ever heard from the lips of my gurudeva was from Sri Prema Bhakti Candrika. He had just given me diksha and was explaining to me the immense power of chanting  (Bhaja) Nitai Gaura Radhey Shyam (Japa) Hare Krishna Hare Ram and told me that I would experience many wonders while chanting it and I should keep those wonders to myself. It’s easy to guess which verse he quoted:

Apana bhajana kathA, nA kohibo yathA tathA
ihAte hoibo sAvadhAna (119)

“I will be cautious and not reveal my bhajana realisations here and there. ”

Among the many teachings and recommendations of Sri Jagadbandhu Sundar Prabhu he advised the one should put the entire Prema Bhakti Candrika to memory. That is how precious he found the teachings of Thakur Mahasaya to be.

So the importance of Sri Sri Prema Bhakti Candrika cannot be overestimated. In fact, some very good arguments can be made that this is the single most valuable grantha for the sadhakas of the Caitanya Vaisnava tradition.

The painting of Sri Thakur Mahasay came from Sripat Gambhila. This is the birthplace of his dear disciple Sri Ganganarayan Chakravarty. Gambhila is also the place where Thakur Mahasay ended his manifest lila while entering the Ganges.

narottama boDo duHkI, nAtha! more koro sukhI,
tomAra bhajana saGkIrtane
antarAya nAhi yAy, ei to parama bhaya,
nivedana kori anukSaNa (39)

“Narottama is greatly unhappy. O Natha! Make me happy by allowing me to perform bhajan and do sankirtan of your Names! The greatest fear I have is that my bad habits and material attachments will not leave me, so I pray to You at every moment for your mercy.”

The image of Sri Narottam Das Thakur was the courtesy of Nityananda Janmasthan from Dhimahi 2007