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PART VII-2 FAMOUS DEVOTEES: Part 2
CONTENTS: Pantmaharaj Balekundrikar · Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati · Rangavadhut Maharaj · Gandamaharaj · Dattamaharaj Ashtekar · Narayan Maharaj Kedgaonkar · Balamukunda Saraswati · Gulawani Maharaj · The Story of Shaktipat Yoga · Bibliography
There is a village called Balekundri about twelve kilometres east of Belgaum now in north Karnataka. There is an ancient temple of Rameshwar and some lakes here. Pantmaharaj was born in the family of the village Kulkarni (village clerk), a pious and duty conscious family for generations. His real name was Dattatreya and was the eldest of the six sons of Ramchandrapant Kulkarni. He also had six sisters.
Pantmaharaj was born in September 1855 at his maternal grandfather’s home in Daddi, a village in the same district on the banks of the Ghatprabha River. Daddi is located among hills in beautiful surroundings and thus Pantmaharaj grew up in an atmosphere of natural beauty. His early years were spent at Daddi with his maternal uncle Shripadpant. His uncle taught him to respect truth, honour all that is good and holy, maintain good moral and courteous behaviour towards others and shun evil through the medium of stories from Puranas and other religious literature. Piety and devotion were in his blood from both sides of his family therefore he grew up in an atmosphere of high moral standards.
His uncle saw to his early education which was in Marathi. At the age of fourteen he came to Belgaum for studying in the English high school. His family at that time was poor. But being a person of determination, in spite of the many difficulties caused by the poverty Pantmaharaj passed the matriculation examination as well as the public service examination. While he was studying in Belgaum his father, himself a devotee of Shri Dattatreya, made him read books like Gurucharitra, Dattamahatmya etc. related to Dattatreya tradition and impressed upon him the importance of devotion in life. That was how his devotion to Shri Dattatreya became well founded at a very young age and he became a seeker.
After he passed his matriculation examination, he worked as a teacher in an English school. He called his younger brothers one by one to Belgaum and arranged for their school education. In 1882 he was married to his maternal uncle’s daughter. Three years later when his father Ramchandrapant died the burden of maintaining the family fell entirely on him but in whatever little income he had he not only managed to maintain his family but helped in the education of the children of his friends and relatives as well as children of poor people. He not only looked after the education of these children but oversaw their moral character and behaviour also. His wife was co-operative and so were his brothers. In 1890 his younger brother started earning and that eased the financial situation considerably. While he was in service he used to spend the evening hours in discussions on Vedanta with people who visited him and in Bhajan at night. He resigned his job in 1903 and spent the subsequent two years in quiet meditation. In 1904 his wife died. His detachment was such as to make him remark that Guru asked him to marry and Guru had relieved him of the burden. Pantmaharaj himself passed away a year and a half later in October 1905 at the age of fifty-one at Belgaum. His disciples and devotees took his body in a giant procession to Balekundri and cremated in the mango orchard there. An Oudumber tree was planted there as a memorial.
Pantmaharaj’s Guru was a great yogi named Balappa or Balavadhut who had renounced the world and was living in the hills of Kardiguddi near Balekundri. He met his Guru through his cousin and uncle who were disciples of Balavadhut. In the course of time Balavadhut realised the worth of Pantmaharaj, passed on to him the secret knowledge he himself had received from his own Guru Ramavadhut. After making Pantmaharaj his successor in the matters of management of his sect he went to Shri Shailam never to return. According to Pantmaharaj, Shri Dattatreya, Shripad Shrivallabha, Shri Narasimha Saraswati and his own Guru Balavdhuta are the same. Shri Dattatreya seat is in the heart of his devotees. The experience of oneness with him can be achieved only through the path of love. His path is known as Avadhut path. The beliefs held by followers of this path are:
“Sadguru accepts us with all our sins and merits. Once he accepts us all are equal and we are no longer affected by our actions i.e. we do not have to enjoy or suffer their consequences. We see our sadguru everywhere, in Hindu, as well in other religions. We are "Raj yogis", i.e. we don't torture our bodies by strenuous fasts, complicated pujas or long penance but we stick to our custom and do all the rites as prevalent in our society, remembering our Sadguru every time. Sadguru has emphasized His teachings by showing the God in us, which is same in everyone, in spite of his deeds. Sadguru is like a "Kalpataru" (the mythical wish tree, which grants all the wishes). He always looks after his true disciple.”
One has to abandon pride and ego, observe brotherhood and equality beyond gender, caste and creed and avoid ritualism. One should enjoy peace in the heart with belief in Adwaita. Pantmaharaj insists that good health should be maintained through proper diet, control of mind, behaviour and speech. One should desire for good. Avadhut path is superior to Vedanta path because nothing binds you and liberation has no value because both are unreal. It is a path of pure devotion and love, unqualified love for peace, instead of dogmatic knowledge and is open to all whether irrespective of caste and gender. Guru takes care of everything.
His Ashram at Balekundri near Belgaum exudes peace. A visit to this Ashram is very refreshing and the treatment a visitor gets there proves the power of the teachings of Pantmaharaj.
Pantmaharaj knew many languages: English, Marathi, Kannada, Hindi and Sanskrit and was well read in the spiritual literature in these languages. Many Shastris, pundits used to come to him to get their difficulties explained. Because of his wide reading as well as his own spiritual standing he could easily satisfy them. He has composed more than three thousand poems in the praise of Shri Dattatreya incorporating the Adwaita (monism) philosophy. For him Shri Pantmaharaj did not see any difference between Guru and God or Guru and Dattatreya. He wrote in Marathi as well as Kannada. The collection of his poems is published as Shri Datta Prem Lahari (Waves of love for Shri Dattatreya). An audio-tape of his songs is also available and is worth listening. His various other writings have also been published.
SHRI VASUDEVANANDA SARASWATI
Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati or Tembeswami has made a deep mark in Datta-parampara. The credit for locating the birthplaces of Shripad Shrivallabha and Narasimha Saraswati and developing them and carrying the Datta-parampara to Gujarat goes to him. He travelled a lot spending the four month Chaturmas period during the monsoon season at various holy places. Wherever he went aspirants gathered around him and many became his disciples. Thus he has disciples over a wide geographical area. Some well-known devotees were Rangavdhut Maharaj, Ganda Maharaj and Gulawani Maharaj. We shall read about these saints later. He was a very learned person.
Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati (Tembeswami)
Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati belongs to the orthodox class of Datta devotees and probably the most orthodox of them all. One may notice that most of the Datta devotees mentioned so far come from the Deccan plateau part of Maharashtra and Karnataka states. Tembeswami comes from Konkan, the coastal part of Maharashtra.
He was the son of Ganeshbhat Tembe and Ramabai, both ardent Datta devotees. They lived in Mangaon, a village near Sawantwadi (a princely state in the pre-independence era) north of and adjoining Goa. Ganeshbhat had spent many years in Ganagapur for worship of Shri Dattatreya and became very detached towards the worldly affairs. He sought to become a sanyasi but was instructed in a dream by Shri Dattatreya to complete his family duties first. He returned home, resumed his family life. The son Vasudev was born to him on August 13, 1854. The family subsisted on income from priestly duties which did not suffice to make the ends meet. Vasudev’s grandfather Haribhat had to resort to farming for additional income. Grandfather Haribhat was his main support because his father Ganeshbhat had left home to live in Ganagapur leaving the domestic affairs to his brother who unfortunately looked after his own interests better.
Vasudev was a very intelligent child with a sharp memory. He could remember anything that he heard just once. His grandfather started Vasudev’s education at the age of five. By the age of twelve Vasudev had already finished learning and Shastras under the guidance of Shri Tatya Bhataji Ukidave. He studied astrology under a well known master called Shambhushastri Sadhale. His grasp of the subject was so good that once when a person came to Shambhushastri for finding an auspicious time for rituals connected with entering a new house, Vasudev disagreed with his teacher’s recommendation because he found that what his teacher had calculated was actually a very inauspicious moment. He was bold enough to tell this to his teacher who was enraged to see himself proved wrong and immediately terminated his relations with Vasudev. The details of this encounter became well-known in the village and people started consulting Vasudev now realising his capability, sincerity and love for truth
Vasudev was a well-behaved person. From childhood he had a detached nature and used to be quite austere in his behaviour e.g. he used to bathe and perform Sandhya thrice daily as prescribed for Brahmins, recite Gayatri mantra 1000 times, read Gurucharitra and followed the religious disciplines prescribed in it for Brahmins. He only took fresh, sattvik (pure) vegetarian food prepared by himself or by his mother after the usual offerings to sacrificial fire ((Vaishvadev), the cow (Gogras) and the crow (Kakabali). If during the meal any impurity in the occurred (according to smritis) like hearing the voice of a woman under menstrual cycle he would leave his food and fast for the day. Observance of fast on Ekadashi (11th day of lunar calendar) was very strict, without even taking a drop of water. He never used to wear shoes, not even wear sandals or use umbrella.
As a result of his austerities and religious practices he soon acquired mantrasiddhi i.e. occult power through mantras. To give an interesting example of this power, once he was travelling on foot to the nearby village with a fellow priest when they saw a snake going ahead of them. The companion asked Vasudev whether his mantra would work on it. Vasudev took a little dust and reciting a mantra sprinkled it in a circle around the snake. The snake could not cross the boundary of the circle however much it tried. The duo went ahead to the village, finished their work and returned home forgetting all about the snake. Next afternoon Vasudev suddenly remembered and returned to the spot with his friend. The snake was lying exhausted within the circle. Vasudev released the snake with an antidote mantra but felt so much repentance for troubling an innocent creature that he never used it again. Another time he tamed a wild cow at his sister’s place by a mantra. Once he helped local police by providing an accurate description and modus operandi of a particularly evasive gang of robbers. He used to helped people in distress by relieving them of their chronic ailments. But he never used his powers for monetary gains. He was by now so much respected that people called him respectfully as Shri Vasudev Shastri.
Vasudev was married much against his wish. He married at the age of twenty-one to Annapurna, daughter of Babasaheb Gode from neighbouring Sawantwadi. She was rather plain looking with defective foot, but of a good-natured person and devoted to her husband. She herself had a detached nature and her spiritual status was also high for she used to easily go into trance. Annapurna never got along well with her mother-in-law. Vasudev’s mother used to inflict a lot of verbal and at times corporal abuse on her. Vasudev Shastri though he sympathised with his wife never uttered a word in his wife’s defence out of devotion for his mother whom he did not wish to offend. Annapurna felt neglected and sometimes would rebel by not cooperating in the various religious rituals, which formed an integral part of such a major portion of her husband’s life. He even tried to become a sanyasi but was advised that it was not the right time.
The basic detachment in his nature increased due to a domestic incident. Once on the day after Ganesh Chaturthi he found that the preparations for the daily worship were not properly done. He remarked about this to his wife. But this enraged his mother who had an irritable nature and did not get along well with her daughter-in-law. Her angry talk saddened Vasudev who immediately concluded the Ganesh Chaturthi celebration that day itself instead of the usual five days. Noting that treating his mother like God as told in the Shastras is futile he came to the conclusion that worldly life is difficult. Contemplating on God only can lead to happiness. One day a Brahmin came in his dream and instructed him to go to Narsobawadi. He had no money for undertaking the journey but fortunately he received a fee of two and half rupees as fees from a client for a horoscope which enabled him to go to Narsobawadi. Vasudevashastri was about twenty-six years of age now.
Initiation by Shri Dattatreya At Narasobawadi he met a great spiritual person named Govindaswami who arranged for his stay. Eventually he requested Govindaswami to initiate him as his disciple by giving mantra but Govindaswami refused saying that he was not the right person for him and a proper person would give him the mantra at proper time. That night around midnight, with the intention of sitting for japa (rosary or continuous repetition of a deity name or mantra) he washed his feet in the nearby River Krishna and came to the temple of Shri Narasimha Saraswati Padukas. But seeing the door closed he decided to leave after a pradakshina (circumambulation). Just then he saw a tall effulgent person in ochre clothes and made his obeisance to him. The person asked Vasudevashastri who he was and what he was doing there when there was a rule that after the last Arati nobody should visit the temple. Vasudevashastri replied that he was new there and did not know the rules and that he would not do so again. Once more he made a namaskar with folded hands and suddenly the person vanished. Vasudevashastri realised a little late that this must have been Shri Dattatreya himself. That night at dawn Shri Dattatreya came in his dream and gave him the mantra. Next day onwards he set for himself the routine of worship of Shri Dattatreya and meditating on him followed by the study of the Upanishads. Later he was instructed, again in a vision, to practice yoga as an aid in Self-realisation and to obtain a particular book on yoga from a certain Brahmin in Sawantwadi also informing where he would be found.
He was later instructed to return to Mangaon with an assurance that Shri Dattatreya would always be with him. On the way back to Mangaon he was presented an idol of Shri Dattatreya by a goldsmith. He built a small temple in Mangaon to install it. Now he set on a new routine of worship and meditation, living on alms of uncooked food. He used to cook whatever grains he received without adding spices or salt and eat it after making its offering to God first. Slowly local people also started coming to the temple for worship. Vasudevashastri remained in Mangaon for seven years. During this period he was inspired to translate the famous Marathi book Gurucharitra in Sanskrit so that it can be read all over India.
Annapurna became pregnant but his mother did not like it was nasty to her. Vasudev Shastri was pained at this and was wondering what to do when one day he was instructed by Shri Dattatreya to leave Mangaon that day itself with his wife taking along the idol also. He packed up and asked his wife to leave behind everything except her mangalsutra. They left carrying only the idols and one change of clothes and reached Sawantwadi an hour later. Vasudev Shastri did not eat food cooked by others so he cooked his own meal after begging and his wife took her lunch at the house of Ukidaveshastri. Then they proceeded to Narsobawadi. This was in 1889. Vasudev Shastri was now known as Buwa.
At Narsobawadi Buwa met Shri Govind Swami and Shri Mouni Swami and settled in the Dharmashala. In due course Annapurna gave birth to a stillborn child.
Sanyasa On receiving instructions from Shri Dattatreya he left Narasobawadi with his wife and went north from. In 1891 his wife died while they were at Gangakhed. On the thirteenth day after her death Vasudevashastri opted for sanyasa and was initiated by a sanyasi on the banks of Godavari. Next he was ordered to proceed to Ujjani and receive the monastic danda (sceptre) from Shri Narayananand Saraswati. Now we shall now call him Swamiji. Swamiji was ordered by Shri Dattatreya to go on foot as he had always done, to Ujjani via Washim, Umarkhed, Mahur, Khandwa, Badhawai, Onkareshwar, Mandaleshwar and Balwada. Staying in a Datta temple in Ujjaini, he went to Shri Narayananand Saraswati Swami Maharaj and solicited the sceptre. Shri Narayananand Saraswati Swami Maharaj ritually presented the sceptre to Shri Swamiji and bestowed upon him the Yogpatta (monastic name) of Shri Vasudevanand Saraswati. That day, on repeated entreaties of his Guru Swamiji partook of the food at the monastery, thus violating the Shri Dattatreya’s Lord’s orders. As a result, he started continuous vomiting which ceased only after Shri Narayananand Swami prayed Shri Dattatreya and asked for His forgiveness. Throughout Swamiji’s life, he had to strictly obey the Divine orders and any deviation invited punishment from the Lord. Swamiji spent his first Chaturmaas with his monastic guru at Ujjani that year. Thus began the itinerancy of Swamiji. The purpose of his life was revealed to him by Lord Dattatreya when he ordered him to travel all over India and preach the Sanatan Vedic path and bring back the people gone astray from it. He traversed the country for the next 23 years following strictly the harsh discipline of the Sanyas Ashram. Throughout this phase he used to receive instructions from Shri Dattatreya about doing certain things and was punished if he did not obey them, something like father and son. He always avoided cities.
He hardly had any possessions. He only carried His possessions included 4 loincloths, 2 robes, the sceptre, a Kamandalu (wooden or bamboo water vessel), occasionally a woollen cloth, a book of Upanishads, a case of worship utensils, two idols of Datta and a cord to draw water and again occasionally some paper and writing materials. He had no other belongings. He washed his clothes and utensils himself and never accepted anyone’s service or anyone’s touch. If anybody touched him, he used to take a bath. Similarly, he used to take a bath every time he passed stools.
Samadhi Swamiji spent his final days at Garudeshwar in Gujarat. He took samadhi sitting before the idol of Shri Dattatreya, in 1914 at Garudeshwar, where he had stayed for a longer time towards the end. His body was then left in the river Narmada. He was ill during his final days but he refused to take any medicine because he never gave any importance to the body.
Even though he himself was orthodox this never came in the way of helping people from other communities including Muslims. He had many disciples, prominent among them were Gandamaharaj, Rangavadhut, both from Gujarat and Gulawani Maharaj from Pune. The latter has collected and published Swamiji’s writings.
Rangavadhut was a disciple of Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati (Tembeswami). He is one of the main forces behind the strengthening of Datta-parampara in Gujarat. He was born in 1898 and was named Pandurang. His father Vithalpant Valame had migrated from a village in Ratnagiri district in Konkan to serve as a priest in the Vithal temple belonging to one Sakharampant Sarpotdar at Godhra in Gujarat. His mother’s name was Rukmini. He had a brother named Narayan younger than him by two and a half years.
Pandurang was of enquiring mind from childhood. Once he saw a funeral procession and pestered his father with questions about life and death and how to get rid of the problem of life and death. To the last question his father answered him that the name Shri Rama gets rid of the problem. This answer made a deep mark on him.
Unfortunately, Vithalpant died of plague when Pandurang was only five years old, leaving the burden of the two children on Rukminibai. She returned to her mother’s place at Devale in Ratnagiri district. After his thread ceremony at the age of eight his mother took him to Narsobawadi where he met Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati (Tembeswami) who, as soon as he saw the boy said, “Oh, this boy belongs to me.” When Pandurang heard this he prostrated at the feet of Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati. That started his spiritual path and back home he started regularly reading Gurucharitra, a copy of which was available with his maternal uncle. On material plane he had the responsibility of his mother and younger brother.
Pandurang was intelligent and knew Gujarati, Marathi, Hindi, Sanskrit and English well. He studied up to B.A., but before he could appear for exam he came into contact with Mahatma Gandhi and joined his Gujarat Vidyapith and later Navajeevan Prakashan, a publishing institute founded by Gandhiji. He wrote on nationalist topics in the journal “Navajeevan”, but his heart was in the spiritual field. He waited until his younger brother Narayan was old enough to take care of himself and their mother. Then with mother’s permission he left home for spiritual pursuits. His original intention was to go to the Himalayas. Before going there he met many saints. A saint named Dhuniwale Dada suggested, implying it as a divine wish that he should to go to the jungles of Narmada. He came to Baroda where Mouni Maharaj, a disciple of Shri Swami Samarth of Akkalkot gave him more exact instructions to go to Nareshwar on the banks of Narmada in Gujarat. He found the place with the help of his friend Daskaka. It is a holy place with a historical Shivalinga supposed to have been installed by Shri Ganesha himself. That was the year 1924 in the bitter December cold when Pandurang alighted from the train at Nareshwar Road station (known then as Malod). Walking in the dark night he reached the Nareshwar temple which was in a thick jungle in those days, full of poisonous snakes, scorpions and wild animals. The place was used for cremation and people were afraid to go there even in daytime. Today the place is totally changed with modern amenities for the pilgrims.
He settled under the neem (margosa) tree in front of the temple. Later, Daskaka visited him and built a small room for him and named it Dattakutir. Surviving on whatever alms came to him he started a course of one hundred and eight readings of Dattapurana written by his Guru Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati. He did not have money for the concluding rituals (Udyapan) but was instructed by his Guru the equivalent task to finish the circumambulation (pradakshina) of Narmada in one hundred and eight days. Before setting upon the task he got the intuitive message that he should go to south. He did so and met Gandamaharaj, another disciple of Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati, who had also received a message that a young acolyte will come to him. Gandamaharaj, himself a Gujarati, had written “Gurumurti Charitra Grantha”, a biography of Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati in Marathi. The two disciples met and the task of correcting and polishing the biography was assigned to Pandurang. Pandurang then started his task of circumambulation of Narmada from Omkar walking 25-50 miles daily through the difficult jungles and hilly territory. As desired by his Guru he completed the circumambulation in 108 days.
After return, he finished editing the “Gurumurti Charitra Grantha” and had it printed at Bharuch where he himself wrote a short biography of Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati consisting of 108 shlokas. He then returned to Nareshwar.
By now he was well known by the name Rangavadhut and many devotees came to him. Slowly Nareshwar developed from a forest place to a town. His mother came to live with him in 1935. She was accompanied by Narayan who was ill and passed away soon after. Slowly, Dattamandir and Dharmashala (rest house) were built. Regular routines of rituals of worship were established with special rituals related to Shri Dattatreya e.g. Dattajayanti, Gurupurnima, Gurudwadashi etc., and the birthday of Shri Rangavadhut on particular days. The devotees poured lot of money for developing Nareshwar but the mode of living for Rangavadhut himself was a strictly detached austerity. His only possession was his loincloth and he disliked handling money. Rangavadhut Maharaj liked to travel to neighbouring villages so that others also could meet him and thus he could keep the devotional spirit alive in the people there. But because his mother did not keep good health he used to go only with her consent. In 1950, accompanied by many disciples, he went to Ganagapur, Narsobawadi, Akkalkot, Oudumber etc. and also to Mangaon, the place of birth of his Guru, where he celebrated Dattajayanti on a grand scale. In 1967 he went to Nairobi, Campala etc. in Africa on the invitation of the devotees there. He was in Africa for about six months. That was just before his mother died and after returning from Africa he observed the first annual Shraddha ceremony when thousands of people were served meals on the occasion. At Nareshwar his activities went beyond spiritual. He arranged medical camps for the residents of the neighbourhood. In 1968 he left Nareshwar to visit Hardwar and never returned.
During his Hardwar pilgrimage he took only four or five people with him. After visiting many holy places, he gave meals to many Sadhus at Hardwar. On 19th November 1968 he complained of some pain in the throat and left his body. The trustees of Nareshwar establishment brought the body to Ahmedabad by plane and then by a decorated truck to Nareshwar where the body was cremated after appropriate ceremonies.
Rangavadhut Maharaj wrote many books. He is known for his Dattabavani, a brief poem of fifty-two shlokas in Gujarathi in the praise of Shri Dattatreya.
Real name of Gandamaharaj was Keshavaram Desai, a Gujarathi Brahmin from Talangpur in Surat District in Gujarat. He had studied only up to fourth standard. He was strongly bent towards spiritual path. His behaviour from childhood was incoherent like a mad person and was therefore known as Ganda meaning an idiot. His father got him married in the hope that responsibility would cure him but it was of no avail. He left home and wandered all over India in search of a Guru and finally met him near Surat, at Shinor situated on the banks of Naramda, in Bharuch district of Gujarat. The Guru was Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati who, recognising the spiritual flame in him, said, “Ao Ganda” meaning “Come Idiot”. Being called by his pet name by a total stranger surprised him. When Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati heard his story he told him, “Ganda, your parents are old and your wife is without support. You go back to your home, take care of your wife and parents and that is your present duty.” He permitted Ganda to meet him anytime whenever he was in Gujarat. Ganda reluctantly returned home but after a few days he was free of the responsibilities and he returned to his Guru who gave him shelter and guidance. After some time he was worthy enough to be initiated as a sanyasi and was renamed Yogananda Saraswati, but people called him Gandamaharaj. Though a Gujarati, he wrote the biography of Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati in Marathi, which was later edited by Rangavadhut as told earlier. On instructions of his Guru, Gandamaharaj left Gujarat and set up his ashram at Gunj on the banks of river Godavari in Maharashtra. He spent his time in spiritual pursuit and finally took samadhi at Gunj. Anniversary of his samadhi is celebrated regularly at Gunj.
His birth name was Narahari Vasudeo Diwan. He was a Deshastha Brahmin from the town of Buvache Wathar near Kolhapur. The Samadhi of Saint Eknath’s grandson Uddhavaswami is situated in this village. His mother Muktabai also was a descendant of Saint Eknath. He was born in 1894 and was the third child of Mr. Vasudeo Diwan who passed away when Narahari was eleven years old. He studied up to fifth standard of Marathi in a place called Shirale. At the age of thirteen he left home to go to Narsobawadi but telling his family that he was going in search of a job to Sangli. In Narsobawadi he met Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati (Tembeswami) and felt a spiritual inspiration rising within him. After a few days he felt an impulse to go to Ganagapur. At Ganagapur, Narahari lived on alms and served Shri Dattatreya through daily worship etc. During his stay at Ganagapur he had an attack of cholera and was on the verge of death when Shri Dattatreya appeared before him, told him not to be afraid and himself poured into Narahari’s mouth some tirtha (holy water). Instructing him to return home after he recovered Shri Dattatreya disappeared. This encounter with Shri Dattatreya caused his mind to turn inwards. As per the instructions Narahari returned to Buvache Wathar and served at the samadhi of Uddhavaswami for some years. Later he went to Pandharpur where he met a great saint called Shri Harihar Maharaj. The latter initiated him as his disciple and both went on a pilgrimage of the Jyotirlingas and then to Girnar. At Girnar they met Shri Dattatreya. Shri Harihar Maharaj then dispatched Narahari to study yoga under Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati (Tembeswami). Here he achieved Self-realisation.
In 1918 he received instructions to circumambulate Krishna River on foot. The river originates in a temple at Mahabaleshwar (now a holiday resort) in Western Ghats and meets the Bay of Bengal at Macchalipatnam in Andhra Pradesh. Certain restrictions are required to be observed in this task like not going farther than eight kilometres from the river and taking bath in the river daily. In many places no trodden path exists and one has to traverse thick jungles infested with wild animals. The total journey from source to the mouth and back is more than 2500 kilometres but when the instructions come from Almighty He also sees them through. Narahari finished his task successfully and felt completely satisfied. He returned to Ganagapur where Shri Dattatreya appeared to him in person and he was in the state of samadhi for seven days. In the course of time Narahari began to be called Dattamaharaj.
He then went on a pilgrimage to southern part of India and after visiting many holy places reached Tanjore in 1920 where he camped in a math. He read a lot of spiritual books like Upanishads and Tantra. He used to experience Self-realisation while reading a particular book and realised that there was no knowledge beyond Self-realisation. In Tanjore he gave spiritual guidance to many people. He also met a Videhi person, (i.e. an advanced Self-realised person who is oblivious of the bodily affairs) in whose company Dattamaharaj enjoyed the bliss of the Self and his concentration was sharpened to such an extent that he had no awareness of the surrounding world or of time.
Dattamaharaj returned to Buwache Wathar in 1923, emaciated, with long hair and beard, dressed only in a loincloth, carrying only a cloth, bed sheet and Kamandalu (the wooden tumbler) as his only material possessions but with peace and love evident in the eyes. After morning bath and sandhya, he would sit in deep meditation for three hours. It is said that while in this state he would often float a few centimetres above his seat. As prescribed for sanyasis, he would go for alms at mid-day. He also read the book Dattamahatmya daily. Later he went to Ashte near Sangli where he gave spiritual advice to many seekers. He did not initiate any disciples, but he could know by intuition the spiritual worth of a person and shower his grace on him without initiation. In 1926, on the sixth day of bright fortnight in the lunar month of Falgun, after the evening worship, Dattamaharaj sat in samadhi keeping people away and by yogic process left his body. Leaving the body through samadhi is not legal in modern times and it took some time before people could get post-facto permission and take further action about post-death rituals customary for a yogi. His body was buried along with his kamandalu and copy of Dattamahatmya.
NARAYAN MAHARAJ KEDGAONKAR
Narayan Maharaj was born in 1885 at Bagalkot (Bijapur District in Karnataka state) in a family of Datta devotees. His father Bhimrao and mother Lakshmi died when he was a child. He was brought up by his grandmother at Nargund. From childhood itself Narayan liked to meditate and attend Bhajans and Kirtans. He even used to go to a cave at Nargund in order to meditate without disturbance. He was fortunate to get spiritual guidance from one Shridharbhat Ghate at Nargund. This included Suryanamaskar (Obeisance to Sun with physical exercise similar to push-ups), japa of Gayatri Mantra, reading Gurucharitra etc., besides the daily rituals prescribed for a Brahmin. Unfortunately he had to leave his grandmother’s house due to domestic problems and live the life of a wanderer at a tender age of ten. During his travels he received blessings from Siddharudha Swami in Hubli. He then came to Belgaum where he received initiation from Shri Vidyananda Swami of Belapur. Narayanmaharaj then came to Arvi near Pune. Wherever he went he used his occult powers to help people. Now he received divine instructions to go to Ganagapur. By now people had experienced his occult powers and he had many devotees. A rich landlord helped him to go to Ganagapur where he remained engrossed in the service of Shri Dattatreya. Later he returned to Arvi and from there to Supe where he built a small hut on an island and lived there. On this island he found Shri Dattatreya Padukas under an Oudumber tree. He had many more devotees by now and was now called Narayan Maharaj. Since for reaching the island one had to get down at Kedgaon station people started calling him Narayan Maharaj Kedgaonkar.
One day, Mr. Wodehouse, principal of the Deccan College Pune had gone on the island for hunting. He met there Narayan Maharaj who produced water at the spot indicated by him. This impressed Mr. Wodehouse so much that he published the account of this miracle in newspapers. Because of this his fame spread far and wide. People began visiting Kedgaon in numbers. By now an establishment devoted to Datta worship was established and became well developed on the island. In 1913 an idol of Shri Dattatreya was installed. Narayan Maharaj went on pilgrimage to northern holy places including Nepal where he received large gifts and donations. His occult powers impressed wherever he went. On return he started a new era of performing worship rituals which attracted many towards Datta worship. In 1942-43 he became anaemic and weak. After his sixty-first birthday in 1945 he decided to go to Ootacamund for recuperation and he came down to Bangalore where he performed the Atirudra ceremony at the Mallikarjuna temple. When the Brahmins had sat for their meals at the end of the ceremony, Narayan Maharaj decided that the ceremony was over and he left his body. He was cremated there itself and his ashes were brought and installed at Kedgaon. Thus ended the sojourn of a great Datta devotee who left many devotees behind.
Narayan Maharaj used to speak little and was very humble and polite. Even the British used to revere him. Purohitswami (see later) tells of his experience when he met him in Mumbai as follows. Narayan Maharaj had camped in the house of a danseuse. People began to criticize but he never bothered. That house later became an ashram due to the holy presence of the great saint. When Purohitwami went to meet him there was another visitor, a high court pleader who was completely drunk. He vomited and spoilt the saint’s clothes but while everybody else present there was annoyed Narayan Maharaj did not get angry and instead continued blessing him. The pleader later became an ardent devotee of Narayan Maharaj.
The story of Balmukunda Saraswati (Kolhapur) is an interesting example how the higher powers operate. In Kolhapur there was a pious and learned Brahmin named Naraharishastri Pathak. He was well read in the Vedas and other Shastras like astrology. He was an ardent devotee of Shri Dattatreya. With the intention of having a vision of Shri Dattatreya he set upon the task of reading Gurucharitra 151 times. His faith and dedication bore fruits because after 108 readings itself he had the vision of Shri Dattatreya who offered a boon. The boon Naraharshastri asked was that the service to Shri Dattatreya should continue in his family. Shri Dattatreya was pleased and told him that he would take birth in his family and that he need not continue with the remaining 43 readings which would be completed by his grandson. His son Vamanrao continued the pious tradition and to Vamanrao was born Ganesh the father of Balamukunda Saraswati. Ganesh’s mother died when he was five months old and soon after his grandfather also died. Ganesh studied the Vedas and Shastras and continued the family tradition. He married but his wife died soon after marriage. This made Ganesh detached towards the world. He left home with the intention of taking sanyasa. He wandered to Belgaum where he met Pantmaharaj Balekundrikar to whom he requested to be taken as a disciple telling him about his intention to take sanyasa. You have read about Pantmaharaj earlier and how his Guru Shri Balappa or Balavadhut went to Shri Shailam and never returned. Shri Balappa came in Pantmaharaj’s dream and instructed him not to initiate Ganeshshastri and to send him back to his home. He also told that he himself (i.e. Balappa) had been instructed by Shri Dattatreya to be reborn as Ganeshshastri’s son. Accordingly Pantmaharaj asked him to return to Kolhapur advising him to do his worldly duties first. Ganeshshastri returned and married again, his second wife’s name being Saraswati.
Ganeshshastri had ten sons but none survived. Ganeshshastri became sad at this bad luck and was thinking of leaving everything to go on a pilgrimage when Shri Pantmaharaj came in his dream and asked him to complete the remaining 43 readings of Gurucharitra assuring him that his bad days were over and Shri Dattatreya would take birth in his family. Accordingly a son was born to him in 1907 and was named Anant but was later called Mukund. The boy could not sit, walk or speak until he was four. Doctors also did not give any hopes. The parents were worried. Then one day Shri Dattatreya came in Ganeshshastri’s dream and asked him to perform seven more readings of Gurucharitra. After that the boy not only became normal but he also became the leader of the children while at play.
One day Mukund told his father how he had taken birth in his family. Next day he left his home to live with his devotee to whom he had promised (in earlier life) he would live with her. Her name was Akkubai. She lived in a part of Kolhapur known as Shahupuri. Mukund came to Akkubai’s door shouting, “Here I come, mother!” and when she opened the door she found this handsome boy on her doorstep. Ganeshshastri had followed the boy to Akkubai’s house and tried to take him back but the boy did not budge saying that this was his home and he was going to live there. His father had to return without him.
The story of Akkubai is quite strange. She used to live with her husband and two daughters in Panhala, a fort once governed by Shivaji the Great, about 15 Km from Kolhapur. Her husband was a Gurav (a nonbrahmin priest who looks after the daily worship in a temple) who fell into bad habits and began torturing her. Not able to tolerate it she attempted suicide by drowning in the nearby lake. As she was about to jump, Shi Swami Samarth appeared there asking her not to do so and to meet Shri Krishna Saraswati at Kolhapur. But how to reach Kolhapur? There were no buses in those days. Just then a bullock cart came and gave her lift to Kolhapur. It was being driven by Sadhubaba, a Muslim fakir who lived in about 700 AD and has his darga (samadhi of a Muslim saint) nearby. On the way she stopped for food at the bridge on the river Panchaganga. Just then a mendicant approached her and asked for food. She was hesitating to give him her food because she was not a Brahmin but he accepted it. When she asked his name he turned out to be Shri Krishna Saraswati, the very person she was going to meet. Shri Krishna Saraswati took her under her protection and that is how she came to live in Kolhapur with her daughters. She lived first by selling vegetables and later milk. A saint named Dhondibuva had told her one day that Avadhut (Shri Dattatreya) would come and live with her but at that time she did not understand its meaning. He had also told her not to go after money but she did not listen to him and later suffered losses.
She came to her mentor Shri Krishna Saraswati for explanation but he laughed and said that what had happened was good and she should not forget Shri Dattatreya. One day Shri Krishna Saraswati came to her home and threw out all her possessions leaving her only two dresses and a blanket and telling her to remember Shri Dattatreya constantly, for he was going to come and live with her. She began waiting for that day and when Balmukund came she realised it had come. She prayed to Ganeshshastri to let the child stay promising to take complete care of him adding that these are the connections of earlier lives. Ganeshshatri was nonplussed but let the boy stay. Perhaps there is no other situation like this in the lives of parents anywhere.
Ganeshshastri’s wife would sometimes insist to bring Mukund home and when he saw Mukund eating from the hands of a non-Brahmin he used feel pained. Such a thing was unheard of and taboo in those days. One day the boy insisted that Ganeshshastri also should eat that food. Ganeshshastri became angry and refused as it was against the rules. But Mukund made him sit down by the side of Akkubai and kept one hand on her head and the other on the father’s head. And then the father saw light and waves of bliss and began seeing Mukund everywhere and in everything. There were no caste differences anywhere. Everything was only light. Ganeshshastri confessed he was ignorant and had experienced what the Vedas have described. Then the three had meals together. Sometime later, Mukund did visit his mother at her insistence for a short while. She passed away soon after.
Ganeshshastri left for Varanasi against the advice of Mukund and being fed up with the world tried to commit suicide by jumping into the Ganges. But some unseen hands brought him to the shore. It was Mukund who took him to the Vishveshwara temple in Varanasi where he saw that there was no duality between Mukund and Shiva. Mukund suddenly vanished and Ganeshshastri returned to Kolhapur.
Akkubai made improvements in her house spending whatever money she had and turned it into a Math. By now Mukund was known as Balmukund Saraswati and was recognized as an avatar of Shri Dattatreya though there were people who did not believe so. He brought many to his fold and guided them, helped to remove material problems of his devotees and performed many miracles in the process. Balmukund Saraswati left his body in 1957. His samadhi which exudes is at the Walawalkar Estate, Udyamnagar in Kolhapur. Members of the Walawalkar family were ardent devotees of Shri Balmukund Saraswati. A free dispensary is being run at the place where his samadhi is situated.
Gulwani Maharaj is known for the Shaktipat system of initiation. First let us review briefly some information about the various systems of initiation in order to understand the importance and implication of the Shaktipat system. There are many ways by which a Guru may initiate his disciple: through Mantradiksha (prescribing a mantra secretly in the disciple’s ear), by Sparshadiksha (by touch), by Swapnadiksha in which Guru appears in the disciple’s dream and initiates him.
With Mantradiksha the disciple is expected to repeat the mantra for a given minimum number of times at prescribed times of the day. With Sparshadiksha, practised in the Siddhayoga system, the Guru transfers his energy into the disciple by touching him and awakens his Kundalini. This is called Shaktipat. (In Maharashtra this is practised at the Ganeshpuri Ashram of Swami Nityananda in Vajreshwari about 150 Km from Mumbai). But the peculiarity of the Shaktipat technique used by Gulwani Maharaj is that it can be done without touch, from a distance of even several thousand kilometres and even through a letter.
About Kundalini Awakening of the Kundalini force which lies dormant in every individual is considered as an important milestone in the spiritual progress of a seeker. Kundalini may be awakened through certain practices of Hathayoga or by receiving energy from one’s Guru as mentioned above. This latter practice is naturally associated with worship of one’s Guru and is an advantage of the system of Guru-worship. There are instances where Kundalini has been awakened accidentally but that is rare and sometimes dangerous.
Shri Gulwani Maharaj Swami Loknath Tirth Maharaj
Chakras Once Kundalini is awakened, certain nerves in the spine get activated. (Sixth chapter of Dnyaneshwari gives a detailed account of what happens when Kundalini is awakened. See V.V. Shirvaikar in Bibliography). A life force progressively rises upwards from the base of the spine towards the top of the head activating certain centres which are traditionally called Chakras. Muladhar Chakra is the lowermost Chakra residing at a location near the base of one's spine near about the sexual organs and at which the dormant Kundalini is located in all persons. This is what is activated first. There are six more Chakras above the Muladhar. These are: the Swadhishtan Chakra located a little above the Muladhar Chakra and below the navel, the Manipur Chakra near the navel, Anahat Chakra near the heart, the Vishuddha Chakra at the throat, the Adnya Chakra in between the eyebrows and the seventh and last is the Sahasrara Chakra or Chakra of thousand lotuses on the vertex crown of the head. When the Kundalini is awakened and the Muladhar Chakra is activated the seeker experiences strange vibrations and a feeling of happiness which lasts long after he has come out of the meditative state. As the seeker continues to practice meditation the Kundalini force progressively rises upwards activating the successive Chakras. Each Chakra gives unique experiences to the seeker but the actual experiences may vary with the individual. The Kundalini force enters all parts of the body and purifies it of the impurities accumulated since childhood. Activation of the Chakras accelerates the spiritual progress. Consciousness expands. In time, when the Kundalini force reaches the Sahasrara, the seeker gets the experience of the Divine and is liberated from the influence of mundane subjects. Depending upon the efforts of the seeker and Guru's benevolence the time taken from the awakening and the ultimate realisation may vary between immediate to several years and sometimes lifetimes too.
Hathayoga system Some people try the Hathayoga technique to activate their Kundalini. But Hathayoga practice is primarily a physical exercise which disciplines and tones the body. It requires the discipline of mind too. It is possible to activate Kundalini by this technique, but is considered dangerous unless conducted under an able guide. It is important that the activated force must calm down after some time so that the seeker can go about his worldly duties. It is said that with Hathayoga technique it is difficult to calm down the force without Guru’s help and if the force does not calm down it can be dangerous for the person mentally and physically. Old Nath Panthi yogis used this technique. But its main use of Hathayoga today seems to be to discipline the body so that one is able to sit in a steady posture for a long time.
Rajayoga system In the Raja Yoga system of Pantanjali things are simpler. In this system it is not considered as a physical exercise but an exercise to control the mind. The seeker sits in a “sukhasana” or posture of comfort, (usually sahajasana posture sitting with crossed legs) on a comfortable seat in order that the bodily discomforts do not distract the mind. He then has to silence his mind through meditation, closing his eyes and concentrating in between the eyebrows. Thoughts are not to be suppressed but allowed; they slowly go away and the mind is silenced. If they do not go then it is recommended to observe them like an outsider, which makes them go away. In another technique it is recommended to concentrate on breathing which again makes the thoughts stop. Imagining vast expanse of a calm ocean or infinite space also helps. There are many such ways but the goal is to silence the mind by stopping the internal dialogue one generally has with oneself. Constant meditation together with Guru’s blessings activates the Kundalini someday. Required control of breath occurs automatically as silence is achieved. Kundalini thus activated calms down automatically after a certain time and is reactivated whenever one sits for meditation. It may take years of meditation before Kundalini is activated and many more years and even lifetimes before the force reaches the Sahasrara. It is of course necessary for the seeker whose Kundalini is activated to have simple diet and not to do work involving heavy physical strains or situations of excitement. In general good habits and control of mind must be cultivated.
Shaktipat system In the Shaktipat system (also called Siddhayoga system), once the energy is transferred by the Guru the disciple feels internal changes, his thigh muscles tighten and the sitting posture becomes firm, his spine becomes erect and breath is controlled. All this occurs automatically and involuntarily. The Kundalini is awakened and the disciple sits in that position for some time until he is able to open his eyes to experience joy in his surroundings. The disciple may experience many more things e.g. sounds, light, vision, pranayama actions, certain Hathayoga actions related to Kundalini or he may even laugh or cry. Later, he is automatically timed to sit for meditation, generally in the predawn hours. During this sitting the yogic processes and the necessary pranayama or breathing processes continue automatically during his lifetime. The Kundalini force slowly rises to reach the successive Chakras. His spiritual progress continues even while he follows a family life. Another advantage with this system is that the intense physical pains and mental disturbances which often accompany the Kundalini awakening and may last for several months are absent in the Shaktipat system.
Gulwani Maharaj and Shaktipat Swami Lokanath Tirtha used this process to initiate Gulwani Maharaj into this system and later empowered him to continue the system by which hundreds of people have benefited so far. A brief history of the events that brought this important system basically associated with Goddess Kali to the Datta-Parampara in Maharashtra is given later after the brief biography of Gulwani Maharaj which follows.
Vamanrao was the son of a pious couple Dattatreya Gulwani and Umabai from Kaulavagaon near Kolhapur. He was born at Kudutri on December 23, 1886. After his thread ceremony at the age of seven Vaman went through the traditional education of religious texts and religious rituals. Vaman had a natural talent for drawing and after passing his grade exams in drawing in 1907 he joined the well-known J. J. School of Art in Mumbai.
In the same year, while Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati (Tembeswami) was camping at Narsobawadi, Vaman who was at that time in Kolhapur received a message from his brother that he should immediately come to Narasobawadi with a picture of Shri Dattatreya and a garland of flowers. These items were offered to Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati who liked the photo and rewarded Vaman with a talisman which Vaman subsequently always tied round his arm.
Sometime later, Vaman suffered an attack of plague and was unconscious for ten days. However he recovered and was grateful to Shri Dattatreya for the grace thus shown. As a mark of gratitude he did seven readings of Gurucharitra at Narsobawadi living only on alms. He now became an ardent devotee of Shri Dattatreya. Around this time Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati had camped at a place called Pavani in Vidarbha for Chaturmas, the four monsoon months during which the sanyasis do not travel. Vaman’s brother called him there with his mother. In this visit Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati initiated Vaman as his disciple.
Vamanrao unsuccessfully tried for a job in Mumbai and in disgust left home for Ganagapur with just two dresses and a pot, to serve at the feet of Shri Dattatreya. Here also he performed seven readings of Gurucharitra. He was anxious to meet his Guru and having heard that he was in Havanur region in Karnataka, he rushed there on feet, for he had no money. On the way he learnt that his Guru was at Dharwad and to reach quickly there he sold his blanket to raise money for the railway fare. Unfortunately he reached Dharwad only to learn that his Guru had already left. After trailing him for many days he finally caught up with him at Havanur. Once with his Guru he insisted upon staying with him. The discourses given by Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati were spiritually very beneficial to him. After a few days Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati gave him instructions personally on Gita and Vishnu Sahasranama (Thousand names of Vishnu). He also taught him some yoga postures. Vamanrao continued to accompany his Guru except for short spells which he spent at religious places like Ganagapur. Vamanrao was a good painter. He painted two pictures, one of Tungabhadra and another of one-headed Dattatreya which he offered to his Guru.
From 1917 onwards, three years after his Guru’s samadhi, Vamanrao took up a job of a drawing teacher, first at a municipal school in Barshi up to 1926 and then in NMV high school in Pune until 1942. He travelled on pilgrimage all over India. He also continued practice of yoga and wanted to work towards awakening of Kundalini through the Hathayoga practice. While engaged in these efforts he learnt that his brother disciple Govindaswami, an expert in Hathayoga, was at Hoshangabad. It was arranged through correspondence that Vamanrao would go to Hoshangabad to get guidance from Govindaswami in the matter of awakening Kundalini. This visit to Hoshangabad opened a new chapter in the life of Vamanrao through certain events which had its origins in Bengal. He came in contact with Swami Chinmayananda who, after he took Dandi Sanyas was known later as Swami Lokanath Tirtha. We shall refer to him as Swamiji.
Swamiji was visiting Hoshangabad on divine instructions. Swamiji used the technique of Shaktipat to awaken the Kundalini of the disciple he wished to initiate. In this system the would-be disciple simply sits with eyes closed in front of or near the Guru and the Guru transfers his own energy into the disciple to awaken his Kundalini. No physical touch is necessary. Instantly the disciple’s body starts performing pranayama and other yogic processes like Bhasrika automatically without his control. The process of Shaktipat lasts for about an hour during which the disciple is filled with vigour and bliss. After that the process automatically starts whenever the disciple sits in the meditation posture. This of course is only the beginning and it may take several years before he reaches the stage of self-realisation.
Hathayoga practice did not help Vamanrao in awakening his Kundalini. On the other hand he noticed that many of his acquaintances had their Kundalini awakened by Swamiji by the Shaktipat process. Situation arose when Vamanrao invited Swamiji to live in his house. (See later in the next section). One day Vamanrao requested Swamiji for the favour of Shaktipat and one evening in 1922 Swamiji made him sit in front of him with closed eyes and awakened his Kundalini. A week later Vamanrao left for Barshi. In 1926 he came to Pune in NMV high School as a drawing teacher and took a house in Narayanpeth. His sadhana continued. Vamanrao’s character, his regularity in his spiritual practice etc. had impressed Swamiji very much. Swamiji, by a letter, gave him authorisation to initiate others by the Shaktipat system. Swamiji liked this disciple very much and used to visit him often and stay with him for months.
In 1961 when Panshet dam broke the resultant floods in Pune washed away the Narayanpeth residence. Gulawani Maharaj had to leave the place literally with the clothes he was wearing. His disciples included doctors, architects and engineers. They decided to build a building for him which would be his Ashram and where his Padukas could be installed. They built this large building just off Karve road and named it Vasudevashram after his Guru Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati. It was inaugurated on 27th January 1965. It became a centre for his spiritual activities. Gulawani Maharaj took samadhi on 15th January 1974. With hundreds of disciples living in Pune Vasudevashram continues to be very active in spiritual activities today. Gulawani Maharaj authorised his disciple Kavishwar Maharaj to continue the work. After the death of Kavishwar Maharaj the centre is headed by Shri Narayankaka Dhekne.
THE STORY OF SHAKTIPAT YOGA
When one reads about Shaktipat Yoga one cannot help appreciating how the Divine hand has given to a worthy seeker an easy tool for attaining Self-realisation. How the Shaktipat system reached Maharashtra from the Himalayas via Bengal is briefly described in the following. Reader should note that this system came from the devotees of Goddess Kali and not of Shri Dattatreya. But now, through Swami Lokanath Tirtha and Shri Gulawani Maharaj this system has entered the mainstream of Datta-tradition. In contrast with other systems like Hathayoga which the Nath Sect yogis used to activate the Kundalini, the Shaktipat system does not require Guru’s physical touch and there are cases where the Kundalini has been awakened through a letter.
Shri Gangadhartirtha Maharaj The technique of Shaktipat was started by Shri Gangadhartirtha Maharaj. His original name is not known but he lived approximately between 1840 and 1908 AD. He was simplicity himself never making any show of his powers. Nothing is known about him or his family except that he was a Bajapeyi Brahmin from Ayodhya. He had a detached nature and he left his home to travel in Himalayas in spiritual pursuit. While in Himalayas he encountered a sanyasi who initiated him through the Shaktipat technique. After giving him adequate guidance the two parted never to meet again on material plane. His goal achieved, Gangadhartirtha Maharaj returned to the plains and came to Jagannathpuri in Orissa. He stayed for some time in Govardhanpitha and adopted sanyasa. He then returned to Jagannathpuri and being averse to company he built a small hut on the border of the Chandan lake far away from the city. He had a couple of disciples who used to beg alms for him for he never liked to go in a crowd. Because of this nobody knew about his powers and he was left alone. The technique of Shaktipat would have gone and forgotten with him but fortunately he gained a worthy disciple who was taught the technique. The name of this disciple was Shri Narayantirtha Maharaj.
Narayantirtha Maharaj His original name was Kalikishore Gangopadhyaya, belonging to a Brahmin family from Eastern Bengal, now in Bangla Desh. His father Tarinicharan and mother Navadurgadevi were very pious persons. The family was very poor but generous to mendicants (Sadhus) coming for alms. Kalikishore was born to them on the Kojagiri Pournima day (five days after Dassera) in 1870. Because of poverty he could study only up to sixth standard. Like his parents Kalikishore was also pious and besides had a detached nature. After his thread ceremony at the age of seven he gained the right to Gayatri Mantra. He did Japa of Gayatri Mantra with great dedication. This increased his inner strength which was reflected in his bright aura. When he was about twelve his parents decided to get him married but when Kalikishore learnt about it he ran away from home in search of a Guru. He did not succeed however and had to return home three years later. At the age of eighteen he was married to Sarojinidevi against his wish. He tried many jobs but did not last long anywhere. He finally came to Calcutta where he found a job in a printing press. His visits to spiritual places and people and search for a Guru continued. One day he again left the job and went in search of a Guru. He met many including many frauds and finally reached Jagannathpuri.
In Jagannathpuri he met an acolyte named Karali Brahmachari who led him to Gangadhartirtha Maharaj. The quiet atmosphere and the serene tranquil personality of Gangadhartirtha Maharaj impressed Kalikishore. He realised he had found his Guru. He made his obeisance and sat in peace. Sometime later Gangadhartirtha Maharaj asked him briefly whether he intended to stay. Kalikishore answered in the affirmative. After keenly observing Kalkishore for about a month Gangadhartirtha Maharaj agreed to his request for initiation. On the Akshaya Tritiya day (This falls in April/May) in 1889 he initiated Kalikishore (now in his nineteenth year) as his disciple. First he asked Kalkishore to bring some flowers as Gurudakshina and to shave his head and take bath. After accepting the flowers as Gurudakshina he made Kalikishore sit on the seat before him with eyes closed. Kalikishore first prostrated before his Guru and filled with emotions grasped his feet. After calming Kalikishore Gangadhartirtha Maharaj told him, “I am going to initiate you with mantra and yogic power. You are only to witness. When the feelings which are awakened now mature fully, understand that you have reached the limit of Knowledge. That is the sign of Knowledge.” Gangadhartirtha Maharaj then transmitted his energy to Kalikishore in whose mind the japa of the Guru’s mantra began to repeat automatically and he began experiencing waves of bliss. Gangadhartirtha Maharaj asked him to open the eyes and asked him to continue the japa with understanding its meaning and promised all his wishes would be fulfilled.
After a few days Kalikishore requested his Guru to initiate him as a sanyasi. When asked about his family Kalikishore replied that he had no family. Gangadhartirtha Maharaj kept quiet but next day he called Kalikishore and reprimanded him for speaking untruth and told him the details about his family. Telling that he had initiated him because of his earnest request he advised him to go home and gain knowledge through yoga and sadhana while performing the family duties to his parents, to his brother, sister and wife. He gave him a sound advice which being very useful is summarised here.
He said, “You must enjoy or suffer your Karmas of which you are not aware of but which I am able to see. As long as the Karmas and desires remain there cannot be any sanyasa. The ochre dress of a sanyasi, his string of rudraksha beads are all external decorations which if they generate an ego will only cause your downfall. A person remains worldly as long as he carries desires in his mind. The right stage for taking sanyasa is after one attains perfection through Knowledge by sadhana with the blessings of his Guru and with the grace of God. Though you are faithful and dedicated it would be a mistake to let you continue with me considering what is written in your destiny and the desire you carry. It is the responsibility of a Guru to act in the best interests of his disciple and because of things which you cannot see but I can, I have to harden my heart and ask you to go back to your family. The care you feel for your family which is hidden in your mind will bring impediments in your sadhana if you do not complete your duties. Though today you have no feelings of lust time may come when they will raise their head and you can fall prey to that lust which has ruined greatest yogis. If you ignore your wife today you will fall in the clutches of some other woman and that will ruin you. It is not that you should abandon your Karmas but that the Karmas should abandon you. There is also another purpose in sending you back home. You also have some responsibility of advancing the Dharma. The initiation towards acquiring knowledge of the Brahman which I have given you is a powerful spark which will cause the light to spread all over India at the proper time. For that you must be a leader and a Guru. For that you must be engaged in your sadhana and remember that you are a mere instrument in this. Sadhana done with the desire of becoming a Guru leads to ego and downfall. You will gain greatly if you do it with a sense of duty, with desire for knowledge, bowing to the Guru principle. Also remember that without inner capability mere outer looks and decorations are useless. I can actually see that by the divine means that I have given you and by my blessings you will definitely be a king in the spiritual field and that splendour will be infinitely greater than that of the worldly kingdom. Your fame will spread far and wide. Do not worry and may you prosper.” He gave him his personal copy of Gita saying that the book contains extreme synthesis of the four paths: knowledge, devotion, action and yoga, and the sadhana assigned to him would lead to the development of all the four paths in him. Asking him to read the book daily he then bade him farewell.
Kalikishore left but instead of immediately going home spent some time in a village called Kanthelu attracted by the natural beauty of the surroundings with a river and a cave near a Shiva temple suitable for his sadhana. However his mother came to know his whereabouts in a dream and arranged through the postmaster of Kanthelu to bring him home. He realised it was his Guru’s doing. Everybody, and most of all, his wife (though she very well knew he was not interested in family life) were happy at his homecoming. He managed a small job of eight rupees per month which barely augmented the family income but which permitted him to continue his sadhana. In 1897 his father died and the responsibility of the family fell entirely on Kalikishore.
Kalikishore moved with his family to a quiet village called Vinitia in Dhaka district in search of livelihood and found a job with the local landlord. His sadhana of course continued. One day he brought a beautiful picture of Goddess Kali and added it to the group of the deities he used to worship daily. He had brought it because he did not have his Guru’s picture and he considered that the power of his Guru was contained in the Goddess Kali. His reading of books on religious and spiritual philosophy like Upanishads continued. He had complete support of his wife in his spiritual endeavours.
It was the Kojagiri Pournima day of 1908, Kalikishore’s thirty-ninth birthday. Kalikishore sat for his evening worship and after the arati and while the final Mantra-pushpanjali was being recited, energy started entering Kalikishore’s body. He began to shiver vigorously, lost consciousness and fell down. The bright aura and the blissful appearance of his face indicated that there was no illness but his lying still with no noticeable breathing frightened his sister. He recovered in a short time but was somewhat tired. He was still sobbing and calling for “mother” (implying Goddess Kali). The entire day and night were spent in this emotional state. Next day he started crying and calling for “mother” again and again. Suddenly he went into trance and had the vision of Goddess Kali who assured him that everything was all right. He remembered his Guru and realised that exactly 19 years 6 months and 13 days had passed since his initiation. He also remembered being told that this active power will lead him to the right place. He wrote to his Guru but he had already passed away.
His occult experiences continued and one day his Guru instructed him in a vision to go towards north-east. Now his fears vanished. One night, around midnight a strong desire to worship the Kali idol overtook him and when he was bathing the idol it started becoming brighter. Others also noted this incident. They realised that his touch caused the idol to shine. He had now developed the power to transfer energy to others and awaken the Kundalini just as his Guru had done to him. It had taken about twenty years to develop this power through an intense sadhana. He remembered his Guru’s words that “You also have some responsibility of advancing the Dharma. The initiation towards acquiring knowledge of the Brahman which I have given you is a powerful spark which will cause the light to spread all over India at the proper time.” A new phase started in his life.
Then, on an auspicious day in 1910 he initiated his wife, sister and younger brother in the same manner he himself had been initiated, by making them sit after bath on individual seats in front of him with closed eyes and transferring his energy to all the three at the same time. His disciples grew in numbers. He decided to build a temple to Goddess Kali, a task in which they all helped. He himself began to live in the temple. One day he got a strong desire for adopting sanyasa. He did that formally from the Chief of the Jagannathpuri Math adopting Narayantirtha Saraswati as the new name.
He came to be well known in the surrounding region and received many spiritually minded visitors from all strata of society and religions. For their sake he established in the temple a spiritual centre and named it Jnyana Sadhan Math or a Math (spiritual centre) for seeking knowledge which in spiritual parlance is same as liberation. The stress in this Math was not on discussions and lectures but on personal experience which Shri Narayantirtha Maharaj was now capable of imparting through awakening of kundalini.
Atmananda Prakash and Yogeshchandra In 1910 an eighteen year old youth named Rohinikumar from Chitalkot in Vikrampur Paragana of Dhaka district came to Shri Narayantirtha Maharaj. Before accepting him as an acolyte (Brahmachari) Shri Narayantirtha Maharaj took a vow of celibacy from him. He was initiated by Shaktipat system and renamed as Atmananda Prakash Brahmachari (see later). But before letting him adopt sanyasa, Shri Narayantirtha Maharaj wanted him to return home and spend time with his family. He was to come back to him after satisfying his family and taking their permission. Atmananda Prakash therefore returned to his home in Chitalkot. Even though only a Brahmachari (pre-sanyasa) Shri Narayantirtha Maharaj had authorised him to initiate his own disciples if found suitable.
Next divine coincidence in the chain of events occurred when Atmananda Prakash returned to Chitalkot. A young man by name Yogeshchandra Chakravarty from Dhaka had left home in search of a Guru and was inexplicably inspired to go to Chitalkot. While wandering in the village he noticed a young man dressed in white in the typical Bengali style walking in the courtyard of a house. He had applied ash on his body. Wishing to make some enquiries from the young man he entered the courtyard and in the first meeting itself the two became friends. Yogeshchandra became disciple of Atmananda Prakash. After taking the vow of celibacy he was renamed Yogeshchandra Prakash Brahmachari. The difference in age between this Guru-disciple pair was only two years. (See later about details of Yogeshchandra). After some days the two went to Vinitia where Atmananda Prakash gave Shaktipat initiation to Yogeshchandra in the presence of Shri Narayantirtha Maharaj. The two remained in Jnyana Sadhan Math for six to seven years in the service of Shri Narayantirtha Maharaj. By 1920 the number of disciples increased so much that the present place became insufficient. After careful considerations it was shifted to a bigger place at Madaripur on the banks of river Medha amidst picturesque woods. There was a very big banyan tree here under which several hundred people could sit for discourses. Shri Narayantirtha Maharaj built a Shiva temple under the tree and created a beautiful garden.
Shri Narayantirtha Maharaj was very careful in choosing or accepting a person for initiation but this was done without regard for his caste or religion. He looked for the sincerity of desire for spiritual pursuit and whether the person has the tenacity to follow the routines regularly. He had the power of detecting falsehood and insincerity. Once a Brahmin who could impress everyone with his learning came to him with a request for initiation but was sent away saying that he would consider it at some other time. Couple of days later a pious Muslim dressed in soiled clothes and who could hardly speak pure language came with the same request and was initiated immediately after fixing a suitable day. he explained this using analogy of a light bulb. He said that an electric bulb will light up when switched on only if wired properly. If the electric fitting is not proper how can the bulb light?
Shri Narayantirtha Maharaj used to be particular about the behaviour of his disciples and insisted that every moment spent in the Math should be spent usefully. He was strict but a kind person. When the Shaktipat initiation is given, if the person to be initiated suffers from any illness it can get transferred to the Guru. But Shri Narayantirtha Maharaj never bothered about it and accepted the illnesses of his disciples. In one such initiation he received an incurable intestinal disease of the disciple but he gladly accepted it and finally passed away due to it in 1935. Before leaving the body he sat in yogic posture, repeated the Upanishadic phrase, “Sarvam Khalvidam Brahmam”, everything here is Brahman, four times and finally uttering Aum, left his body. His wife Sarojinidevi passed away a month later. The disciples constructed Samadhi structures and began their worship. Their daughter and son-in-law continued to look after the Math. The giant banyan tree was uprooted in a cyclonic storm in 1960 and the Shiva temple cracked but was later repaired. The place is now in Bangla Desh and not easily accessible.
Shankar Purushottamtirtha Shri Atmananda Prakash mentioned above was born in 1890 as Rohinikumar the son of Prasannakumar Chattopadhyaya and his wife Durgasundari. His mother died when he was only five years old. He however began to consider Goddess Kali as his mother and used to say that her idol talked to him. Since childhood he used to sit for meditation along with his father and used to go into deep trance. He left school when he was in tenth standard and started spending his time in meditation and meeting holy persons. He had a strong desire to have a Guru and one day the Guru appeared in his dream. He searched for his whereabouts without success. Then somebody advised him to meditate on Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa with the desire of finding his Guru’s whereabouts in mind.
Shri Shankar Purushottamtirtha
He meditated with a photo of Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa before him and one day he came in a vision and told him his Guru’s name showing him what he looked like. Now Rohinikumar began his search again and located Shri Narayantirtha Saraswati at Vinitia. As mentioned earlier he was initiated in 1910. After his return to his Guru in 1926 he was allowed to adopt sanyasa formally through the hands of the Shankaracharya of Puri and was renamed Shri Shankar Purushottamtirtha. On his Guru’s instructions he travelled to Varanasi, Uttarkashi and other places in the Himalayas. In 1932 he established the Shankar Math in Uttarkashi. In 1934 he established another Math called Siddhayogashram in Varanasi. In 1926 he wrote a book titled Yogavani to explain Shaktipatyoga to seekers. He took samadhi in 1958.
Swami Loknath Tirth Now we shall go into the details of the last link in the chain of events which brought Shaktipat yoga to Maharashtra. The story of Yogeshchandra Chakravarty who was initiated by Shri Atmananda Prakash described earlier is again shows guidance by the divine hand. Yogeshchandra was the son of the chief priest of Dhakeshwari temple situated in north-east of Dhaka city. It was a temple with fair income and the Chakravarty family was quite well-to-do. Yogeshchandra was born in 1892. He was an intelligent boy with sharp memory. He picked up the techniques of worship with the relevant chants very quickly from his father. He had the habit of sitting for meditation in some obscure corner or room of the temple. He liked to look after the feeding and watering of the cows in the stable. He used to take part in the singing of bhajans in the temple and become quite entranced. After his thread ceremony in his eighth year he could take part in the worship rituals of the temple. It is customary in Bengal to offer animal sacrifice to the Goddess and goats used to be regularly sacrificed on a platform in front of the temple. The actual killing was done by the chief priest with the help of others. When Yogeshchandra became older he also had to do it. Being part of the tradition nobody feels much about this sacrifice and everybody including Yogeshchandra took it as a matter of course just as it used to be done in the yajnas in Vedic times. Bengali Brahmins are basically fish eaters and so was Yogeshchandra until he was initiated as sanyasi.
His father died at the age of about thirty-two and the responsibility of the family which included mother, younger brother and sister fell on Yogeshachandra when he was only about twelve years old. He began to face many difficulties. There was a draught. The farm-tenants would not give his share of the crop and the income from temple became insufficient for maintaining the family. Somehow he managed his studies up to fifth standard and then found a clerk’s job in a jute factory. During all these hard times he always prayed to Mother Kali for guidance. During the anti-British movement against partition of Bengal he left his job and joined the revolutionaries but found after some time that he did not fit in and left. All the time he continued praying to Mother Kali for guidance and for guiding him towards a Guru. And one night She showed him his Guru in a vision and also the name of the village where he would be found and the signs by which he can identify the house. This was in about 1912 when he was just twenty years old.
Yogeshchandra quietly left his home and family and reached Chitalkot where, as mentioned earlier, he found his Guru Shri Atmananda Prakash. After the Guru disciple pair came to Vinitia Yogeshchandra was initiated in the presence of Shri Narayantirtha Maharaj. Thus started Yogeshchandra’s spiritual sadhana in earnest at Jnyana Sadhan Math. In this Math all tasks were shared by the residents as service to their Guru as in the Ashrams of the Vedic times. The routine included pre-dawn meditation, management of the Math after sunrise, reading of religious and spiritual books after a little post lunch rest, discourse on Upanishads by the Guru followed by discussions and finally collective sadhana. Shri Narayantirtha Maharaj was particular about keeping everything simple and was strict about regularity.
Though spiritually exalting, the life on material plane was very hard, for it was the custom that noontime meals to all residents and visitors would be provided free by the Math and there were insufficient funds. The food came from the grains and other material received as alms for which all regular acolytes and sanyasis went daily in the neighbouring villages. This was augmented when necessary by “arabi” tuber roots which when boiled offered nutritive supplement. Firewood also had to be collected. The responsibility of arranging meals was assigned to Shri Atmananda Prakash who with the help of Yogeshchandra carried it well though it meant a lot of physical labour especially for chopping and bringing in the firewood. They had to walk long distances for alms and during the heavy monsoon rains they even had to often swim across the rivers.
The young Guru-disciple pair spent two years at the Math except for the short time during which Shri Atmananda Prakash was sent by his Guru home to meet his family and obtain their permission for adopting sanyasa. The actual ritual of sanyasa was however arranged much later, in 1926. He was renamed as Shri Shankar Purushottamtirtha. Shri Narayantirtha Maharaj noticed that Yogeshchandra’s spiritual progress was very fast and he needed some independence and solitude for proper development. Soon after, Shri Atmananda Prakash went on a tour of the holy places in Bengal taking Yogeshchandra with him. In the course of time they reached Dhaka where Yogeshchandra was asked to go and live at his home while Shri Atmananda Prakash himself stayed in the Math of Tripurlinga Saraswati. The Math was large and rich and Tripurlinga Saraswati was highly respected even by learned pundits and had many disciples.
Yogeshchandra’s family were surprised and happy to see him back. He set upon a daily program of early morning sadhana, serving the cattle and milking them. He took some milk to for his Guru who was in the Tripurlinga Saraswati Math remaining in his company doing small jobs for him like cleaning the room, washing clothes and utensils, going to post office etc. He would return home in the afternoon and again go back to his Guru in the evening. His mother was impressed by his behaviour and came to accept his new life of a sanyasi. He arranged for his younger brother to look after the family and arrange for the sister’s marriage. One day he brought Shri Atmananda Prakash home and obtained her permission for adopting sanyasa. Shri Atmananda Prakash requested Tripurlinga Saraswati to conduct the Sanyasa ritual for Yogeshchandra and towards the end of 1914, when he was only twenty-one years old Yogeshchandra became a sanyasi and was renamed Chinmayananda Saraswati.
Tripurlinga Saraswati was highly impressed by this young pair of Guru and disciple. He was getting old and wanted a capable person to head the Math. First he requested Shri Atmananda Prakash to accept the position but to his surprise he declined this lucrative offer. The same offer was also made to Yogeshchandra who also declined saying that it would come in the way of his quest. After staying there for about eight months the pair left Dhaka for further travels and returned to Jnyana Sadhan Math for further guidance from their Guru. Again Swami Narayantirtha noted that Chinmayananda’s progress was occurring fast and he needed both independence and solitude. He was therefore asked to search for a place by himself. He found a Shiva temple in a nearby village but returned after couple of months because of the disturbance from the local bad elements.
Shri Atmananda Prakash had gone in the meantime to Varanasi and with the permission of Swami Narayantirtha the Shaktipat technique had now reached Varanasi. Chinmayananda followed him there. Before he left, Swami told him that future of the path depended upon persons like him and God would see that all would go well. Also that he should always feel gratitude for the Guru tradition and pass what he has received from the tradition and Guru to others adding his own contribution.
After reaching Varanasi he sought Shri Atmananda Prakash. The latter took Chinmayananda and a few other disciples to various places in the Himalayas. Both were greatly attracted to Uttarkashi in particular. They returned to Varanasi in 1919 and arranged for Swami Narayantirtha to visit them. He did so and returned to Bengal in 1920 with Shri Atmananda Prakash.
Chinmayananda, now separated from his Guru went first to Rishikesh and a few months later entered the jungles of Tehri Gadhwal for his sadhana. Where all he went and how he survived is not known. But one day he heard in his ears a message instructing him that he should go south. First he ignored the message but when it was repeated twice more, the third time very forcefully, he left the jungles and returned via Uttarkashi, Devaprayag, Hardwar etc. to Hathras situated midway between Aligarh and Agra in U.P. He still had no idea as to where exactly he was supposed to go so he spent his time in an isolated temple. One day while in meditation he got a clear message from the Goddess that he should go further south, that his place of action was towards south and he was destined to spread the Shaktipat technique in that region; that She had blessed his grand-Guru Shri Narayantirtha and the spark which had been handed over to him would spread everywhere and that task was his; that he should not stop there but continue further towards south.
Now that he had received a clear message Swami Chinmayananda picked up his meagre belongings and came to the railway station. He had no money and he did not know where exactly to go. However a wealthy person approached him and asked him where he was going. He replied. “To south”. The man purchased a ticket for Hoshangabad, how and why nobody knows, and gave it to him along with some fruits informing him that the train left at night. Next morning he reached Hoshangabad (about 30 Km north of Itarasi on Central railway in Madhya Pradesh) and walked along the banks of Narmada which is known there as Rewa. He walked to the Mangalwar Ghat, did his ablutions, bathed in the waters. He then walked up the steps of the Ghat to look for a place for rest and shelter. There are many Dharmashalas (Charitable rest houses) for pilgrims there. He enquired of the mendicants and sanyasis sitting around for a suitable place for shelter.
Now, it should be remembered that everybody dressed as a sanyasi may not be so in mind. Many are misguided persons who have missed their spiritual goal for want of the depth of desire for it and fallen in bad company of so-called sadhus or sanyasis who use narcotics and spend their time sitting in groups engaged in idle chit-chat. Many belong to a particular “Akhada ” which a group headed by a chief who, instead of utilising his time in spiritual exercise, spends it in power politics and even fights with other Akhadas. Many young aspirants who have left their home for spiritual pursuit get impressed by their talk and fall into their trap becoming a misguided disciple of an unworthy Guru.
When these mendicants saw this boyish sanyasi they thought he was one of their type and decided to play a joke on him by directing him to a Dharmashala which was believed to be haunted and hence abandoned. They waited until the next day to watch the fun. At night many spirits did try to trouble Chinmayananda but he controlled them by his yogic powers and saw to it that they were liberated from that state by morning. After that none of the Sadhus bothered him. He could live in that Dharmashala undisturbed. Now the stage was set for further acts in the divine play to propagate the Shaktipat system to sincere seekers. In this act one Raobahadur Sadashivarao Parande, a sub-judge recently transferred from Nagpur to Hoshangabad played a key role.
Dadasaheb, as Raobahadur Parande was generally addressed by his family and friends, was a western educated learned person of good nature and moral behaviour, well read in Shastras and also practising Yoga. He had read many books on Tantra system of spiritual pursuit and found that in an ancient book titled Kularnava it was mentioned that Kundalini could be awakened by what was called Vedha Diksha, (which can be roughly translated as initiation by concentrating on the person to be initiated from a distance). He thoroughly studied the book and was looking for a worthy person capable of using this technique. The Tantra system is more popular in Bengal region and he was particularly looking for some yogi or sanyasi from that region who might know the technique. He mentioned this to a Bengali lawyer named Chatterjee who consented to be on the lookout. As fate would have it Swami Chinmayananda one day visited his house for alms and as soon as the call for alms “Aum Bhavati Bhikshandehi” was heard he came out to meet him and realised this sanyasi with a bright aura was a Bengali. He enquired and learnt that he was camping at Mangalwar Ghat. That afternoon he met the sub-judge and told him about Swamiji. In the evening Dadasaheb took a walk to the Ghat, met and bowed to him. After some talks he invited Swamiji to his home for alms.
Next morning, Swamiji came to Dadasaheb’s home. After alms were given Dadasaheb drew him into discussions and asked him if he knew of anybody who could give Vedha Diksha. Swamiji replied in the affirmative and when Dadasaheb requested for his address said, to his utter surprise that being a sanyasi he could not tell a lie and he himself could do it. Now, Dadasaheb had read a lot about the experiences of persons when Kundalini is awakened. How to verify whether Swamiji’s claim was true? He did not want to try it on himself therefore he thought of a stratagem. There was one lawyer by name Narayanprasad Dube who was afflicted by a skin disease which was not responding to medication. Dadasaheb suggested to him that if he met Swamiji then his divine powers could cure him. Accordingly Dube met Swamiji the next day, gave reference of the sub-judge and told him about his problem praying for his grace. Swamiji immediately asked him to come next morning after taking bath if he wanted the experience of awakening of Kundalini.
Next morning Dube went to Swamiji who merely asked him to remove his shirt and cap, wash hands and feet and sit in a normal posture on a seat spread on the ground (This is the sahajasan posture with crossed legs.) He asked him to close his eyes and to let happen whatever happens inside him. He also told him not to get frightened and to open his eyes after it happening stops. Couple of minutes after Dube took his position he started feeling something happening inside by itself. His legs tightened steadying his posture and his spine became erect. His initial nervousness stopped and a pleasant sensation began to flow through the spine. His eyes became tightly closed and he started swaying. After about forty-five minutes he opened his eyes. Swamiji asked him whether he had an experience to which he replied in the affirmative adding that he could not describe it. Swamiji reassured him that the results were excellent and that it would profit him if he came and sat with him for a week. Dube prostrated before Swamiji with great faith and left. He reported his experience to Dadasaheb that day in court.
Initiation of Vamanrao or Gulawani Maharaj Now, Dadasaheb used to be a regular visitor of Govindaswami who was camping in a Dattatreya temple situated on Kharra Ghat in Hoshangabad. Govindaswami was a disciple of Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati like Mr. Vamanrao Gulwani. He was an expert in Hathayoga and therefore Vamanrao had requested him for help in awakening his Kundalini. Actually that was the reason why Vamanrao had been camping in Hoshangabad. When Vamanrao came to Hoshangabad he had brought his mother Umabai with him and also called his three friends Shankarkaka Ajegaonkar, Kashinath Mahajan and Vaidya who were also ardent practitioners of Hathayoga. They heard from Dadasaheb about the recently arrived sanyasi who gave Shaktipat or Vedha Diksha in which the recipient does not have to do anything. They did not believe such a technique existed until Dadasaheb showed its mention in Kularnava book. He also told them about how Dube was initiated that very morning.
Next evening they all went and met Swamiji and were introduced by Dadasaheb. Nobody spoke but all were enjoying the blissful vibrations. In the corner was sitting Dube in a steady position with eyes closed but moving his neck in a circular fashion. He used to visit Swamiji both in the morning and in the evening. After some time he opened his eyes. Dadasaheb found from him that his skin problem was improving rapidly. Swamiji informed Dadasaheb in reply to his question about the nature of experiences that there are thousands of types of experiences which include postures, hand postures (Mudra), sounds, visions, breath control (Pranayama), laughing, crying and so on. Dube also informed them that within a matter of four or five days he was feeling happy and invigorated and his body felt light. They had a doubt about how this could be considered as a sign of Kundalini awakening. Swamiji explained in brief that as per the Kundalini Shastra its location is fixed and it is a form of energy. It is very powerful and induces bliss. Its qualities may be experienced after the initiation. Initially its activity starts in the Muladhar centre at the base of spine near the genitals. Slowly the posture becomes steady and one experiences energy, inspiration and bliss. After the meeting, on the way to home Dadasaheb expressed his wish that such a powerful technique should be spread in Maharashtra.
During the next fortnight many more people came to Swamiji and were initiated. The prospective disciples used to bring coconut, fruits and money as offering but Swamiji did not touch them and gave them back as prasad.
One day a calamity arose, caused by the intrinsic nature of Kundalini power. Purnanand, a resident of Hoshangabad belonging to the Aryasamaj sect (who believe in the Vedas but not in the caste system), was given initiation. Being interested in yoga, he had written to Pandit Satavalekar the well known expert on Vedas who had directed him to Govindaswami. While he was practising yoga under his guidance he had learnt about Swamiji’s presence in Hoshangabad. He met Swamiji with a request for initiation and was asked to come the next morning. As soon as initiation was imparted Swamiji had acute stomach pain and had to rush to the latrine. When he returned he found Purnanand had profusely vomited. After cleanup they sat again but Swamiji again had loose motion and had to go to latrine three to four times. Curious, he asked Purnanand whether he had been poisoned anytime. Surprised, Purnanand confessed that he had been poisoned thrice in the past but had survived. He begged Swamiji’s forgiveness for what had happened. Swamiji replied that in this Diksha nothing remained hidden and Guru suffered as much as the disciple, but the power of Kundalini took care of everything and purified the system. Purnanand was relieved. He bowed and returned. Swamiji did suffer for some time due to this incident. Purnanand became a close associate of Swamiji and began spending more and more time in meditation. This made his wife very angry with Swamiji and whenever she saw him used to sing a song which said, “Man becomes sanyasi shaving head while the home is ruined and his wife becomes as good as dead.”
Now let us return to Vamanrao. He, his three friends and Dadasaheb Parande continued visiting Swamiji and discuss the progress of the initiated persons. But either out of their conservative nature or because they had not yet developed faith in the new system, in spite of the more than dozen examples before them, none of them requested Swamiji for his own initiation. They were critically observing this new process which to them was totally unfamiliar. So far their efforts and their knowledge of Kundalini awakening were limited to Hathayoga techniques which require a strict observation of postures and pranayama. However as they continued their association with Swamiji they developed confidence and Kashinath Mahajan was the first to request for initiation as he had to leave for his hometown. Swamiji promised to initiate him some time later when he visited his hometown since he was still not quite well after the Purnanand’s initiation. However when next morning Mahajan had gone to Swamiji to bid farewell he initiated him through touch. Mahajan was passing through the yogic processes automatically for an hour after the initiation. Swamiji instructed him to continue this sadhana and not to tell his experiences to anyone. But when he met his friends to tell them the good news, Vamanrao insisted that he tell them what exactly transpired. His Guru had told him not to tell anyone and on the other hand he could not displease his close friends therefore he sat again in the posture and automatically passed through the yogic processes again, his whole body gyrating accompanied by a certain fast breathing process called Bhasrika. This resulted in the removal of all doubts from their minds about the new system.
A week later, noticing that Swamiji’s health was still not improving and going out for alms became difficult, Vamanrao, with his mother’s permission, invited Swamiji to live in his home. Swamiji, who had noted the goodness in Vamanrao agreed and thus a new phase started. Swamiji’s health improved fast under his mother’s care and nourishment. He noticed the strict daily routine of Vamanrao including his practice of Hathayoga and pranayama for awakening Kundalini. One day he saw his Guru Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati in his dream who told him that he was not different from Swamiji, his technique of Kundalini awakening belongs to Datta-tradition and also that a lot of work lies ahead for him. One day he requested Swamiji for initiation but Swamiji told him that since he was trying the pranayama system for awakening Kundalini he should continue to do so, it being not proper to interfere in the work of others. He also promised to do the initiation at proper time. Now Vamanrao had only to wait for the proper time. Since 1907 Vamanrao had always visited Narsobawadi on Gurudwadashi day. But this year in 1922 he did not go and remained with Swamiji. On the dwadashi (twelfth) day of the dark fortnight of Kartik month Swamiji had gone for an evening walk with Vamanrao and others. He decided to return home early.
At home Swamiji asked Vamanrao what he had gained by pranayama practice and whether his Kundalini was awakened by it. Vamanrao answered that it leads to feeling of lightness in the body but as yet it had not led to the Kundalini awakening. Swamiji asked him how long he was going to toil like this, to which Vamanrao replied that it depended on Swamiji. Swamiji was seated on a cot and Vamanrao on a carpet on the ground. Swamiji asked Vamanrao to close his eyes and immediately energy entered Vamanrao’s body. His body began gyrating, jumping up nearly half a metre high like a frog. Breathing became very fast but regular. The state lasted for about one hour. Vamanrao was experiencing something he was longing for and had not experienced before. He had achieved his goal.
After about a week Vamanrao left with Swamiji for Barshi making a detour to visit many hilly places in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. They visited the Jyotirlinga Ghrishneshwar, Ajanta Frescoes etc, Janardanswami’s samadhi at Daulatabad and so on. They also stopped at Hingoli, the native village of Shankarrao Ajegaonkar where he initiated Shankarrao’s brother Dattatreya. Swamiji then returned to Hoshangabad accompanied by Dattatreya who wanted to serve his new Guru. Back in Hoshangabad more people were initiated including Dadasaheb Parande. In between he went to Amaravati where Parande was transferred. Later in 1924 Vamanrao invited him to Barshi where a useful and happy time was spent by the local seekers in the company of Swamiji. He was also taken to Pandharpur. Swamiji initiated many people including Vamanrao’s mother Umabai and sister Godavari. On return to Hoshangabad Swamiji wrote to Vamanrao authorising him to initiate new disciples starting with Gopikabai, wife of Vedmurthy Pralhadshastri Joshi. This initiation was done on Ananatachaturdashi day on 12 September 1924.
In 1926 Vamanrao left Barshi and joined NMV high School in Pune. On his invitation Swamiji came to Pune for the first time in 1928. Vamanrao used to live in a rented house at 20 Narayan Peth from 1926 to 1964. Swamiji often came to Pune and live with his disciple at this place months at a time from 1928 to 1951. It is in this place that Vamanrao reached his spiritual heights. He was now called Gulawani Maharaj or Guru Maharaj by his numerous disciples.
Swamiji travelled a lot in Maharashtra. In 1927 he went to Varanasi where he met his Guru Atmananda Prakash, now Shankar Purushottam Tirtha after Dandi sanyasa. On Swamiji’s request he initiated him as Dandi sanyasi on 30th January and was renamed as Shri Loknath Tirtha. He came to Pune many times and lived with his disciples, especially Gulawani Maharaj. His last visit to Pune was in 1952. He travelled all over India and during final years settled in Varanasi where finally on 9th February 1955 took samadhi after suffering from deteriorated health for some months. Jambuvantsingh, one of his close disciples was with him serving him throughout his illness. He had wished to see Gulawani Maharaj in his last moments but out of his love for his Guru he was engaged in performing readings of Gurucharitra to ameliorate the illness but it did not bear fruit.
Swami Loknath Tirtha was a very learned person expert in Shastras as well as Tantras and had attained Siddhis which he rarely used. He believed in the behaviour prescribed in the Smritis and was frankly critical if any seeker behaved improperly. He faced life dispassionately as it came, never accepting anything from anyone more than what was required for bodily survival. Even good people have enemies and once he suffered ill health for months because of some black magic done on him. But he survived all calamities by the grace of his family deity Mother Kali to whom he was extremely devoted and as told by people She also was always present with him up to the last moment. Swamiji initiated hundreds of disciples and the spark was kept alive by Gulawani Maharaj and his successors.
Offered at the feet of my Guru Shri Shankar Maharaj
Dattaparampara by V.V.Shirvaikar, A 10-article series published in the magazine Sai Arpan a quartly magazine from Shri Shirdi Saibaba Spiritual and Charitable Trust, Bombay. July 1997 to Sept 1999.
Dnyaneshwari (The Philosophical Part) by V.V.Shirvaikar On the Internet at URL: www.vvshirvaikar.de/index-main.html
Swamikripa An annual publication issued as Dipavali special giving excellent biographies and biographical material on various saints.
Santakripa (Various issues) Monthly magazine published by Santakripa Pratishthan Pune also various biographies published by them.
Swami Lokanath Tirtha by Achyut Siddhanath Potbhare, a publication of Gulawani Maharaj trust. (in Marathi)
Shri Sant Eknath by G. N. Dandekar, Majestic Prakashan, Girgaon, Bombay 400004. (1974), 85pp (In Marathi)
Gurucharitra (Researched edition) by R.K.Kamat. Keshav Bhikaji Dhavale, Girgaon Bombay 400004.(In Marathi)
Shri Dattatreya Dnyanakosha by Dr Pralhad N. Joshi, Surekha Prakashan, Parel, Bombay 400012, (1974), 606pp (In Marathi
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