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Brief Biography of Swami (Papa) Ramdas (1884-1963)

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What is Swami (Papa) Ramdas’ uniqueness amid Hindu spiritual masters?

Papa Ramadas was a saint, a God realized/ Self realized master, whose life stood as  a standing example of the efficacy of chanting Rama Mantra as a sure means of realization. He was a saint who saw his beloved Ram inside him as well as in every living being outside. He lived an exemplary life of total surrender to his Ram and demonstrated to the world that a life of cent percent renunciation is possible and when such a surrender comes, the Lord takes care of everything for the well being of his beloved devotee.

Papa Ramdas lived a life of a wandering monk carrying no money or possessions with him during his early spiritual life and traveled the length and breadth of India. Later he established his Math Anandashramam at Kanhankad, (Kasargod district) in north Kerala.

He had thousands of followers who came to him for spiritual guidance. He blessed them with Rama Mantra :” Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram“. He recommended a sadhana practice of Nama (Chanting of the name of Lord Rama), dhyana (meditation) and Seva (selfless service for the well being of others) to his followers as the effective means of attaining spiritual progress and God realization in life.

Birth and early years

Vittal Rao (later Swami Papa Ramadas) was born on the auspicious day of Hanumat Jayanti (the birthday of Lord Hanuman) on April 10th 1884 as the sixth son of the Saraswath Brahmin couple Sri Balakrishna Rao and Lalitha Bai, at Hosdurg in Kasargod district of Kerala. He had 9 brothers and three sisters. His parents led a simple life, full of devotion to God and dedication to austerities.

Vittal Rao had his primary education in Hosdurg and went to Mangalore and then to Udupi for higher education. Vittal Rao was a happy go lucky boy, enjoying games and swiftly climbing trees; though intelligent and quick to grasp things, he had no taste in formal education and he failed in his matriculation. As a boy, he was a free thinker, not conforming to mimicking the worldly; he loved simplicity and was pure in heart. He was quite humorous too. He learned English well. He also read bible during his high school days.

After failing in matriculation exams at Christian High School, Udupi, , he returned to Hosdurg and started showing interest in theatre and arts. He went to The School of Arts in Chennai to formally learn painting and screen printing. He then went to Mumbai to learn textile manufacturing at Victoria Jubilee Institute. He did not develop much of interest in it. He developed lots of interest in reading variety of books including English literature and was influenced by books on the life and teachings of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Rama Tirtha. He read Bhagavad Gita and felt highly influenced by it. After finishing the diploma course of three years duration successfully in textile manufacturing, he started looking for jobs. After chequered start in making a career for life, he got a job Spinning Master in Gulbarga for a brief period.

At the age of twenty five, he was married to Rukma Bai. Because of high instability in his career, Vittal Rao was without job many times and it affected his family life too. Five years after marriage,  Rukma Bai gave birth to a female child named Ramabai.

Dispassion

Vittal Rao worked as a Spinning Master in several mills at places like Coimbatore, Ahmadabad, Cuttack etc. He was disturbed by seeing the exploitation of workmen by higher management and got disillusioned with his job. He started his own business of dying clothes in Mangalore. But because of his generosity, compassionate nature and lack of calculative shrewdness, he failed to be a successful businessman and soon accumulated quite a loss. He had accumulated debts to be cleared; he was stressed out and he lead a life of worries, sorrows and desperation. Almost an year passed in this way.

Vittal Rao, the family man under mental turmoil, longing for a journey in quest of God…

In this process, he  developed a deep longing for escape from the worldly life, which had no more attraction for him. He started praying to his beloved God Rama earnestly. He started chanting Lord Rama’s name and spent his time in prayer and meditation.

Thus Vittal Rao was turning inwards, developing discrimination and dispassion and longing for a spiritually dedicated life. Gradually he started gaining mental peace. He turned to simple living and started wearing khaddar; he lost interest in eating and simplified his intake to bananas and boiled potatoes, eating just one time only in a day. He relinquished cushioned bed and slept in mat. He reduced his sleep and spent the night in the contemplation of Lord Ram.

It was at this time that divine grace started working on him. A compassionate friend  volunteered to become his business partner and  paid back all of his the loans!

In the meanwhile, Vittal Rao’s father Balakrishna Rao, having lost his wife, opted to spend his older years dedicated to devotion to God; he went to stay with his eldest son at Kasargod. One day, as he was visiting the famous Udupi Krishna Temple, he got attracted by the radiating divinity of a sanyasi sitting in the shade of a tree in the marketplace. He went and surrendered at his feet. The sanyasi initiated Balakrishna Rao with the mantra “Sri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram“. Sri Rao was overjoyed by the unexpected divine grace and felt very blessed.

Getting Mantra Diksha

Since Balakrishna Rao knew of his son Vittal’s ardent yearning for a spiritually oriented life, he came to Mangalore to meet his son, with his heart full of compassion; he told Vittal Rao about the mantra he had received from the sanyasi and without delay, he imparted the mantra to his son and blessed him.

And that was the turning point in the life of Vittal Rao. It paved the way for Vittal Rao to blossom into Swami Ramdas sooner.

The moment Ramdas received the mantra, he felt enthralled. He felt he was now a bird released from the cage.  He fell at the feet of his father and from that day, he treated him as his beloved guru, who, out of utmost compassion, came to give him the key to his liberation.

From that day onward, Vittal Rao immersed himself in chanting the Rama Mantra day and night. He added “Om” to the Rama mantra that his father gave. Rather, the mantra virtually caught hold of Vittal! The more he chanted the mantra, the more Vittal got immersed in the bliss of contemplation of his beloved lord Rama. Food and sleep became matters of irrelevance to him.

He started seriously thinking of leaving behind the worldly life altogether and take up Sanyas. He fervently prayed to Lord Rama for His guidance. On that day, as he was reading books like The Light of Asia (Buddha’s life), New Testament and Bhagavad Gita, whatever pages he opened and read contained sentences glorifying a life of renunciation. Vittal Rao took this as the answer from Lord Ram for his prayers. He wrote a letter to his friend who helped him out of his financial difficulty informing of his decision. He also wrote another letter to his wife.

The following is the translation of the letter written by Vittal Rao to his wife before he left his home for good. Notice how he addresses his wife in this letter:

To Srimati Rukmabai, Mangalore

Beloved Sister,

From now onward, you will be my sister. I have surrendered myself totally at the feet of Sri Ram. He has redeemed me from my erstwhile life. Taking his holy name on my lips, I am going out into this vast world as a beggar.  You know that I have no other desire in this life except striving for receiving His grace and love. I am dedicating the rest of my life for this lofty ideal. I am ready to face any amount of hardship for this purpose.

We are not going to meet as husband and wife hereafter.  Lead your life dedicated to God and truth and also ensure that Rame (Ramabai) too follows it.

Never give up the spinning wheel. It will give you peace and bliss. Let Rame too do it.

Sriram’s blessings on you and Rame – He protects you both.

Yours affectionately

B.Vittal Rao

27/12/1922

Taking two dhotis dyed in saffron with him along with a cash of about 25 Rupees and a couple of books mentioned above, he left at 5 AM on the next day from Mangalore and took a train that went up to Erode. Thus began his life of renunciation from family bonds, in December 1922, at his age of 38.

Travelling Mendicant Ramdas – ‘In Quest of God’

Vittal Rao then travelled to Srirangam in Tamil Nadu. He took bath in Kaveri river and took up Sanyas by wearing the ochre clothes, leaving his old clothes to the flowing waters of the Kaveri. He prayed to Lord Ram to protect him from the threats of leading a life of a renunciate. He took three vows: 1) To dedicate the rest of his life to the contemplation of Rama and in service of Rama.  2) To consider every woman as his mother  and 3) To carry on with his physical needs by taking food only through begging or when someone offers it voluntarily.

Thus Vittal Rao, having opted to become a lifelong servant of his Lord Ram, took up the name Ramdas.

He donated some money to fellow mendicants. He decided to leave his future course of movement and actions totally to the prompting of Lord Ram or to whatever way the Lord lead him by circumstances, without much of a choice of his own.

And from then onwards, the wondrous ways of the Lord’s divine play started unfolding in his life. An enthralling life of a wandering monk began;  Ramdas was always assisted, taken care of and lead by some stray sadhu or other  who joined with him voluntarily (different persons at different journeys). Ramdas opted to call such a person as Sadhu Ram. According to him, it was verily Lord Ram who came with him to take care of him.

Ramdas travelled to Rameswaram, Madurai, Chidambaram, Thirupapuliyur, Puducherry and then to Thiruvannamalai. At times he travelled in train without tickets and had to face the wrath  from the Ticket Checkers and Police. But through his radiating divinity and utter humility, he won the hearts of even the toughest officers and underwent no punishment. Rather they turned around and extended help to him to proceed with his travels!

Meeting Ramana Maharshi and Having the Universal Vision of Lord Ram

Along with a sadhu Ram accompanying him, Ramdas went to the meet Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi, who was staying in a humble hut at the foothills of Arunachala (Thiruvannamalai). Ramadas surrendered at the holy feet of the saint and made this prayer: “Maharaj, here stands before Thee a humble slave. Have pity on him. His only prayer to Thee is to give him thy blessing.”

Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi — his mere look is enough

The Maharshi, turning his beautiful eyes towards Ramdas, and looking intently for a few minutes into his eyes as though he was pouring into Ramdas his blessing, then nodded his head to indicating that he had blessed. A thrill of inexpressible joy coursed through the frame of Ramdas, his whole body quivering like a leaf in the breeze.

After this darshan, Ramdas wanted to stay up in the in the Arunachala hill in a cave all alone, engaged in his japa and dhyana uninterrupted. Sadhu Ram made arrangements for it. He spent one month ther, deeply engaging in his sadhana and enjoying a divine bliss of Rama consciousness all the time. Every day, he went down to the town to beg some rice; he cooked it and ate it once a day and engaged rest of the day in his deep contemplation.

And one day, as Ramdas came out of the cave,  got the exhilarating divine experience of seeing everything around him verily the manifestations of Rama and nothing else. Ramdas described his experience thus:

Once, during the day, when he was lost in the madness of Ram’s meditation, he came out of the cave and found a man standing a little away from the mouth of the cave. Ramdas felt an irresistible attraction towards this friend because it was due to the perception of Ram in him. “O Ram, You have come, you have come!” Unconsciously, he ran up to him and locked him up in a fast embrace. This action of Ramdas thoroughly frightened the friend who thought that it was a mad man who was behaving in this manner and so was afraid of harm from him. It was true that he was mad of Ram, a harmless madness that the visitor realised later.  At times, he would feel driven to clasp in his arms the very trees and plants growing in the vicinity of the cave. Ram was attracting him from all directions. Oh, the mad and loving attraction of Ram! O Ram, Thou art Love, Light and Bliss!

Travelling to North India

After this experience, Ramdas continued his journey northwards. He went to Tirupati, Puri, Kolkata and Dakshineswar. He visited Dakshineswar Kali temple, the holy place where Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa had lived.

It is in this room that Ramdas rolled on the floors in an inexplicable divine bliss.

A stranger voluntarily took care of his needs and also led him to the room where Sri Ramakrishna lived;  Ramadas felt that the whole room was surcharged with divine vibrations. A divine bliss ran in his nerves wave by wave. Unconsciously, he started rolling over the floor of the room as if to charge him further with the dust of the room that had been purified with the holy feet of Sri Ramakrishna. The visitor was taken aback by the inexplicable divine madness and joy with which Ramadas was rolling on the floor for about half an hour.

Next he visited Tarakanath, Kashi and then reached Jhansi. There he met a businessman by name Mahadeva Prasad; the Moment Sri Prasad saw Ramdas, he was possessed by a great sense of devotion and surrender to the wandering saint. He forced Ramdas to stay with him and ensured that Ramdas’ physical being is taken care of and some health is restored, which had been battered by total discard due to cold, extreme physical strains, lack of nutrition etc.

Ramdas lived in Jhansi for more than a month. He started giving lectures on Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures to small group of devotees who gathered around him and revered him as their guru. Another devotee by name Ramkinkar became quite close to him.

Visiting Himalayas

Ramdas, the weather-beaten, travelling mendicant

Ramdas left Jhansi for travelling to holy places in Himalayas in the company of Ramkinkar. He visited Haridwar, Rishikesh, Kedarnath and Badrinath. All those places were covered by walk. The beauty of Himalayan mountains capped with snow, the holy rivers, the flora and fauna frequently brought Ramdas to rapture and he felt the presence of his Lord Ram everywhere. Ramdas, surcharged with energy like a Hanuman, climbed huge hills surrounding the holy places and took bath in ice cold waters.

After visiting Himalayas, he travelled to Mathura, Gokul and Vrindavan, Raipur, Ajmir, Junagadh, Dwaraka etc and came to Mumbai. He stayed with his erstwhile brother Ramakrishna Rao there. He continued his journey to Panchavati, Trimbakeshwar, Pandharpur, Bijapur and arrived at Hubli, to meet Sri Siddharoodha Swamy at the behest of his brother.

He stayed in the Mutt of Siddharoodha Swamy and enjoyed the company of the revered saint for a week.

Back home

Siddharudha Swamy, Hubli

By this time, the news of his arrival at Hubli reached his erstwhile family at Mangalore. His erstwhile wife along with the daughter came to meet him at Hubli. She prayed to Siddharudha Swami to impress Ramdas to return to Mangalore with her. As instructed by the saint, Ramdas accompanied her back to Mangalore. However he made clear to her that his return to grihasthashram (worldly life) was unthinkable as his life had been possessed by Rama irrevocably.

He stayed with his eartwhile brother Sitarama Rao and also met his father who was his guru too.

Thus the first phase of Ramdas’ spiritual life of intense period of Rama Consciousness in which Ramdas lived the life of a wandering monk for a period of about one year,  came to an end.

Ramdas explains his temperament and state of being during this one year period as below:

During this period, Ramdas’ mind was totally in peace and his life was one of total surrender. The world was dreamlike to him and was virtually non existent.  He travelled from one place to another like a machine. Lord Rama was obviously taking care of him with love and protection. In his exclusive world, only Ram and Ramdas were existent. There was unequivocal bliss in that state. Ramdas was free from dualities — pain and pleasure, heat and cold, good and bad. His mind was always at peace, rest and silence; it was sort of empty too.

 At times, he would suddenly slip to the external world  with all its associated dualities, but Ramdas would be attentive enough to notice it and withdraw his mind inward again. 

Ramdas disliked crowd. He always tried to escape to places of loneliness. Ramdas was totally free from any fear — fear of any danger or even death. He had the strongest conviction that he was in the protection of his Lord.

Rama’s name was constantly on his lips. He kept chanting it mechanically at all times. North Indian acquaintances that became close to him felt that he was totally free from any attachment. 

Ramdas was virtually like a child; he was extremely humble and obedient towards others. He was taken care of by others as if he was a child and they assisted him in taking bath, dressing up, eating and so on.   

He was never attracted or distracted by anything happening in the world. Both his mind and intellect had stopped working. There  was no more the false sense of “I” in him. It was Rama who occupied that space. Ramdas spoke very little in this period. 

He was simply like a dry leaf, swept this way and that way by the wind.”

Austere Life at Pandava Cave

Pandava Cave at Kadri Hill

From his brother’s house, Ramdas then shifted his residence to the Pancha Pandava Cave at Kadri Hills, two miles away from Mangalore. He stayed alone with bare minimum needs and totally immersed himself in meditation and contemplation of Ram there, for a period of about three months. He ate just fruits and drank milk twice a day. His day would start at 3 AM and after ablutions, he would sit chanting japa and soon lose himself in deep meditation for hours at stretch with little external consciousness. He undertook vow of silence for a week.

It was the second phase of his spiritual quest. During this period of sadhana, Ramadas had visions of inner light; he delved deeper into his Self, transcending name, form, thought and intellect. He could experience the purity, silence and the bliss of his Self inside. Gradually, this state became permanent that there was no longer any fall of the mind into the external world.

Next he could feel that the Self (Atman) that was an internal experience of bliss and light was gradually expanding to cover the external world too. His Self bloomed like a flower and in its light, the whole external world was embraced by pure love and light. This bliss that he experienced this way was much more powerful. Even though he had bouts of this experience earlier too, during his days of austerities in Pandava Caves, it became a permanent nature of him. Ramdas became one with Ram.  Ramdas realized that he had now got transformed into a state brimming with energy, love and bliss. The fruit was totally ripe now. He was now fully ready to share that sweet bliss to all those who came into contact with him.

Ramdas, the Tapasvi, radiating divine love — The fruit was totally ripe now.

 

People started coming in large numbers to have his darshan at the cave. Ramdas interacted freely with them and shared his wonderful experiences with them. He spoke on the glory of God and His infinite compassion. He attracted people from all religions. He could instantly communicate with Muslims and Christians too and spoke with them as though he was verily one among them. His radiating divinity broke all boundaries.

During his stay in the caves, Ramdas wrote all the thrilling experiences of his previous one year journey in the book “In Quest of God” which got published first in the year 1925.

During this period at Pancha Pandava Caves, Ramadas served with love a group of beggars suffering under acute leprosy for a brief period.

Spreading his message of Love and bliss – The second round of travelling

Ramdas’ spiritual life now entered into the third phase. Ramdas decided to take up the life of a travelling mendicant once again. But this time, he was on a different mould. He was bent upon sharing his divine bliss to all those seekers who,  attracted by his divine radiance, mobbed him wherever he went. Ramdas visited Kasargod and Kollur. Through the association with a Yogi, he learned and practiced Pranayama. He had mixed experiences — positive and negative through this practice.  After practicing it intensely for some during his stay at Kudlu (near Kasargod) and grasping its efficacy, he discontinued this practice.

At the feet of God

During his lonely stay at Kudlu, Ramdas got an inner urge to outpour his spiritual bliss through writing: He wrote poems, prayers and articles which later in 1928 got published in the form of a book ‘At the feet of God‘.

Ramdas returned to Kadri Hills and stayed there again for about two months. This time, a young man by name Madhav (later Ramas called him Ram Charan Das) started staying with Ramdas and serving him with love and devotion.

Continuing journey northward

Ramdas began his next round of journey towards north by walk and Ram Charan Das joined him, despite Ramdas’ advising him against it.

Ramdas visited Gokaran, Shetphal and Pandharpur. Ramdas now insisted Ram Charan Das to undertake his own journey independently in order to personally taste the bliss of Lord Ram and understand how His love always protected a hapless devotee. Thus they parted ways.

Ramdas travelled alone to Bijapur, Hubli, Bangalore and then went Mangalore and Ernakulam.  Ramdas was taken care of very well by so many people in all the places he visited. People vied with each other to feed him and take spiritual advice from him. Unlike the past, Ramdas was quite open to talk freely with people on matters of God and spirituality and was giving lectures and invited talks to amidst gathering of devout people.

He again travelled northward to Goa, Mumbai, Wadhwan, Surat and many other places in between.  In Wadhwan, Ram Charan Das joined him. Later, again leaving Das to chart his own course, Ramdas left for Jhansi. There his old acquaintances who had become his devotees — Mahadev Prasad and Ramkinkar were emotionally overwhelmed to see him again and happily took care of him. Ramdas conducted satsang amid his several Jhansi devotees.

He then went to Chitrakoot, Bhanda and Gokar Parvat. He travelled to Lalitpur, Rajkot, Sattarpur, Kanpur and then returned to south. He witnessed the marriage of his erstwhile daughter Ramabai at Kasargod and felt happy to feed about 400 poor people as part of the ceremony.

He travelled again to Jhansi and then to Haridwar and Rishikesh. Purely driven by divine will, he travelled up in Himalayas to Vashistha Ashram which was not easily accessible to travellers. Despite his sparse food-intake, Ramdas was at the brim of his energy; climbing trees, cliffs and mountains were like child play to him and he was in constant bliss as he undertook his lonely journey by foot to various places in Himalayas. Everywhere Sadhus and poor villagers took abundant care of him with reverence.

Ramdas next took his  journey to Pathankot, Jammu and Kashmir. He travelled to Amarnath Cave and had the thrill of seeing the ice linga there. He reached Srinagar and met many sadhus. He returned to south via Amritsar, Sattarpur, Mumbai, Sholapur and finally returned to Kasargod. Several miracles happened by the will of the divine around Ramdas and Ramdas took them matter-of-factly with the mood of a witness. Wherever Ramdas went, crowds swelled; Bhajans, Satsangs and feeding of the poor happened.

First Anandashram — at Kasargod

At Kasargod, Ramdas stayed with his eldest brother Ananda Rao. Ananda Rao was very eager to construct an Ashram for Ramadas and a nice place was located at Bilkunchi hill nearby. A devotee leased the land free of charge. Soon construction of a humble Ashram began there in that picturesque surrounding. The ashram was  inaugurated on 3rd June 1928  in the presence of lots of devotees and well wishers, including the aged father and guru of Ramdas.

Coming into the fold of Ramdas — Mother Krishnabai (1903-1989)

It was in the year 1928 that Ma Krishnabai first met Ramdas, at her 25th age. Soon she surrendered totally at the holy feet of Ramdas and became his foremost disciple and future caretaker of Anandashram.  She got spiritual enlightenment by the blessings and guidance of Ramdas through her dedicated practice and surrender; she was held in the highest regard by Ramdas himself for her life totally  spent in loving and serving all. He wrote about Krishnabai at a future occasion: “Krishnabai’s life presents a practical illustration of how an individual can live a life of spontaneous and intense activity while ever fixed in the Divine Consciousness born of complete self-surrender.” 

Krishnabai, a very pious and God-loving brahmin girl right from childhood,  had a very troubled and grief stricken past. She got married at the age of 12 and widowed at the age of 20, having two young boys to take care of. After a failed attempt of suicide, Krishnabai developed dispassion for worldly life and she longed for peace and spiritual guidance to remove her grief and progress in a life dedicated to God. She got her  Mantra initiation from Siddharudha Swami of Hubli. She also had a few other Mantra initiations from others.  She was very dedicated and systematic in practicing mantra japas, without any selfish motive. Yet not finding peace in her life, she stared searching for a Guru who should be a jivan mukta (as per advice given to her by an astrologer).

Her ardent prayers were answered and her life took her to Kasargod. A few days after the Ashram was inaugurated, the caretakers of Krishnabai, who were devoted to Ramdas brought her to the Ashram. Krishnabai felt instantly at peace at her meeting with Ramdas. Ramdas’ divine attraction brought her back to Ashram again and again and she enjoyed Ramdas’ satsang immensely.

Soon she received Mantra Diksha from Ramdas and started actively engaged in japa as per his guidelines; she continued to be a regular visitor to the ashram ; however, Ramdas did not permit her to stay in Ashram, despite her deep wish to do so. She got closely acquainted with the esrtwhile family members of Ramdas (wife Rukmabai and daughter Ramabai) who too were now earnest devotees of Ramdas.

During the early stages of Ashram, Ramdas stayed fully in the Ashram and several earnest devotees too stayed with him. After about a year,  Ramdas heeded to the repeated plea of his devotees from North India to visit them.

Mother Krishnabai, could not bear the idea of getting separated from her guru and she pleaded to Ramdas not to leave devotees like her to despair through the separation. She wanted to stay in the Ashram permanently. But Ramdas was firm that her duty to her children demanded her presence at home. One day, she left the ashram late in the evening with lot of reluctance. The next morning news came that she had spent the whole night alone at the adjacent hill and she was bitten by a snake in her leg and her leg was fully swollen.

Ramdas rushed to see her at the hills and brought her to the Ashram; he chided her for her obstination  and then arranged to send her back home. After treatment Krishnabai became alright.

Ramdas travels across North India again

Ramdas visited Bangalore, Sholapur, Pandharpur, Anchor and Osmanabad.  Old acquaintances and new devotees surrounded him wherever he went; bhajans and satsangs happened amid huge gatherings.  In Osmanabad, people belonging to cobbler class (considered untouchables those days) invited Ramdas to attend a devotional function at their place. Ramdas visited them along with several brahmin devotees. A massive crowd of cobbler community had gathered there to have a darshan of Ramdas. They conducted pada puja to him and offered prasad that even the brahmins took along with him.

From there, Ramdas proceeded to Mumbai, Wadhwan, Rajkot, Ahmadabad, Agra and Jhansi. He briefly returned to Kasargod to see his seriously ailing father and then started again to the disappointment his close devotees at home. Ramdas travelled to Chennai, Nagpur, Jhansi and Rawalpindi. Everywhere his old eager devotees were overwhelmed to meet him again and enjoy his divine company. Next Ramdas went to Srinagar and then returned to Rawalpindi. Then he visited Dhanbad, Katrasgarh, Chennai, Kumbakonam, Ernakulam and finally returned to Kasargod.

Krishnabai leaves her family and returns to Ramdas

During the period of his absence, Krishnabai lovingly took care of and nursed the aged and ailing father of Ramdas and also Rukmabai who was suffering from Asthma.

After his return, Krishnabai had to accompany her relatives to Dharwar, which she did extremely reluctantly due to her unwillingness to part with Ramdas. She went to Mumbai, entrusted her children to her close relatives and then took  a firm decision to leave worldly life and return to Ramdas. She arrived at Kasargod by train virtually empty handed and decided to walk straight to the ashram all alone in the night. By a divine miracle, she was guided to the ashram in total darkness through a mysterious light emanating from her feet; thus, she presented herself before Ramdas unawares at about 9 PM at the Ashram! Ramdas was undertaking a vow of silence and fasting those days and he burst out into laughter upon seeing Krishnabai there at those odd hours. Krishnabai too had a hearty laugh!

Ramdas wrote in a piece of paper “Mother, you have come to your own home now; the ashram shall, in future, be your permanent place of residence“. Krishnabai felt a great relief and joy on seeing the welcome note.

Krishnabai comes into the fold of Ramdas permanently and dedicates her life to serve him and the Ashram.

As expectable in a conservative society, a young widow leaving behind her family and staying permanently and interacting actively with Ramdas, created slanderous talks and gossips. Other residents in the ashram were threatened by their families and most of them left. Regular visitors to the ashram too started dwindling.

Krishnabai’s self-realization

Krishnabai immersed herself to active sadhana under the guidance of Ramdas at the Ashram. When Ramdas asked Krishnabai as to what sort of spiritual attainment she was keen to get, Krishnabai replied: “Papa, I want to be one with your eternal and infinite Being and know you and I are one. Besides, nobody should know that I have realized your immanent and transcendent Being.

Ramdas engaged Krishnabai to practice deep meditation for the first time. With total dedication and mental strength Krishnabai immersed herself deep into her inner being and soon realized her individual self merging with Universal self, which, according to her experience was nothing but the all pervading formless aspect of her beloved Papa Himself. This happened in the year 1930. After she got that experience, Krishnabai lost interest in all her service activities including serving Papa and she was content to remain immersed in divine bliss.

Kasargod Anadashram abandoned

During a brief period, when only Ramdas and Krishnabai stayed alone at the Ashram, thieves and thugs came to the Ashram at one night. One of them tried to misbehave with Krishnabai; fortunately, by chanting Rama nama loudly, both Ramdas and Krishnabai got protected by the power of Lord Rama and the thieves ran away, totally scared.

This incidence made Ramdas to take a decision that such a secluded place away from any residences nearby was not safe for women devotees. He decided to abandon the ashram and leave Kasargod immediately, leaving future things to unfold as per the will of Rama. But Krishnabai pleaded to him again and again not to forsake her and she begged him to take her along wherever he opted to go. After refusing for a while, Ramdas ultimately decided not to forsake his ardent disciple. He took her to Hosdurg and stayed with devotees.

New Anandashram comes up at Manjapathi (Ramnagar), Kanhangad

Based on the suggestion and requests by earnest devotees, Ramdas decided to start a new Ashram close to Manjapathi hill which was also close to Kanhangad town and yet a picturesque and extremely peaceful place, surrounded by natural greenery, fertile fields and the hills.

Anandashram (1933)

Ramdas wrote to all his acquaintances across India for their help in starting the new ashram. Money flowed in generously from eager devotees. Without any delay, construction of the new ashram premises started. The new Anandashram was inaugurated on May 15h, 1931. Ramdas dedicated the Ashram to the service of the people cutting across all barriers of caste, religion, age, sex or creed and the two guiding principles of the Ashram would be Universal Love and Service. Krishnabai gradually was able to a return to a state of active life (yet blissfully remaining in sahaja samadhi state)  and was in the forefront of the inaugural function and all the other activities of the new Ashram. She was a born administrator and showed her mettle in facing all hardships with smile and serving everyone with love and care like a mother.

Ramdas considered all religions equal and respected all the great spiritual masters of the past. The Ashram sported the pictures and portraits of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Saradadevi, BHagwan Ramana Maharshi, Saibaba, Jesus Christ, Sri Aurobindo, Lord Buddha, Jorastra, Swami Vivekananda, Gurunanak and Ramdas’ own guru — his father.

Soon Rukmabai and also Ramdas’s father and Guru left their worldly life.

Soon the Anandashram became the center of attraction to so many devotees; people and spiritual aspirants from all walks of life came to Anandashram to take part in japa, meditation and satsangs. Several distinguished Sadhus from other religious maths too regularly visited the Ashram to be in the divine company of Ramdas.

‘The Vision’ magazine

The Ashram’s monthly English Magazine ‘The Vision’ with Ramdas as its editor started its publication in the year 1933. The magazine continues to be published even today.

Ramdas’ second round of travelling experiences  were written by him in the form of a book ‘In the Vision of God’ which got published by Anandashram in the year 1934.

Ashram expands

Ramdas’ physical body had got considerably weakened on account of his incessant travels totally ignoring proper food and rest; he was affected by rheumatism and exhaustion. Krishnabai took extreme care and concern on his physical frame by providing him with essential minimum comforts and rest which he was all along negligent of. Ramdas, by this time was also free from his erstwhile tendency to wander with total freedom  except for two tours done during 1931 to 1938, done in the company of his caretakers. He stayed put in the Ashram between 1938 to 1949. Consequently, more and more of his devotees and new visitors started visiting the Ashram and the Ashram had to expand.

Ramdas made it a point to feed the poor in large numbers particularly at the times of religious festivals, cutting across all barriers of caste, religion or creed.

From the generous contribution from devotees, new buildings to house the printing activities, kitchen, guest house, residential quarters for the staff, Cowshed and so on.

An elementary school under the care of the Ashram (Sri Krishna Vidyalaya) was started in the year 1942. In the year 1946, Sri Krishna Udyogshala, an institute for vocational training was started. A small hospital was also run by the Ashram from 1952.  (All these institutions were handed over to Government in later years).

Coming into the fold of Ramdas — Swami Satchidananda (1919-2008)

It was in the year 1947 that  Ananta Sivan at his age of 28 met Ramdas at the Ashram for the first time. As a young brahmin boy of 5 to 6 years, Ananta Sivan had lost his mother and did not have a happy home at his childhood. After his education he joined defence services. He had deep spiritual inclination and was searching for meaning to his life. After having a few bouts of depression, he was guided to meet Ramdas by divine dispensation. He was instantly attracted by the divinity of Ramdas and the bountiful motherly love from Krishnabai. He felt that his real home was Anadashram and he became its permanent resident from 1949.

Swami Satchidananda with Mother Krishnabai 

He served Ramdas as a secretary and took care of his personal needs. He also assisted in the hectic activities of Krishnabai. Due to an inner urge, he felt the need to go to Himalayas and do intense spiritual practice so as to qualify himself better for a truly devoted selfless service at the Ashram. Despite Krishnabai’s objections, he went to Rishikesh and started practicing meditation in solitude.

Swami Satchidananda

However, after about 8 months, he was called back by Ramdas to accompany them on an Indian tour. Circumstances developed in such a way that he could not return to Rishikesh and he understood clearly that his life and spiritual progress was linked to serving Ramdas and being a right hand to Krishnabai in her administrative work. Parallely progressing in his spiritual quest, Ananta Sivan was given Sanyasa Diksha with a name Satchidananda. He too became a self-illumined disciple of Ramdas and the future head of the ashram after the departure of Ramdas and Krishnabai from the world.

Ramdas undertakes World Tour

Anandashram Trust was formed in the year 1954.  Ramdas accompanied by Krishnabai and Swami Satchidanda undertook a world tour from August 1954 until January 1955.

His world tour covered Switzerland, Germany, France and England at Europe.  At france (Gretz) he visited Ramakrishna ashram and met Swami Siddeshwarananda.  At Sussex in England, he met the famous Christian mystique Henry Thomas Hamblin. Papa also visited Shakespere’s birthplace. Ramdas conducted Satsangs and spread the message of Universal love and God consciousness in all the places he visited, which were attended by avid spiritual seekers cutting across religious barriers.

His tour continued to USA and Hawaii; He then proceeded to Japan and met the famous Buddhist scholar D.T. Suzuki there. The tour continued to Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaya, Singapore, Cylon and back to India.

During world tour – Swami Satchidananda with Papa Ramdas

 

End of Papa

On the evening of July 25th 1963 at Papa’s 80th year, he had a severe heart attack.  He was collapsing and Mother Krishnabai and Swami Satchidananda managed to take him to his cot. While lying down there, he  suddenly sat up chanting “Hari, Hari, Hari Ram.” With the name of God on his lips Papa breathed his last.

At the feet of Ramdas…

While his divine presence without his physical body continued to be felt in the Ashram, Krishnabai carried on with the running of the Ashram with her motherly love and care and continued to guide avid seekers in the spiritual path of Nam-Dhyan-Seva for the next 26 years. After her passing away, Swami Satchidananda took care of the Ashram and continued to inspire avid seekers till he breathed his last in 2008.

Reverberating ever with the chanting of Ram nam and surcharged with the subtle presence of these three great spiritual masters, Anandashram continues to be the place of attraction for sincere seekers of Spirituality at Kanhangad, Kerala.

….Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram….

-=0O0=-

REFERENCES:

  1. Anandashram – official website
  2. In Quest of God – by Papa Ramdas — free pdf download from Anandashram website
  3.  “Introduction to The Essential Swami Ramdas” by Susunaga Weeraperuma – free pdf: World Wisdom, Inc.
  4. In the vision of God – by Papa Ramdas — free pdf download (from Anandashram website)
  5. My beloved Papa Ramdas by Swami Satchidananda — From Divine Life Society web page
  6. Guru’s Grace — Life of Mother Krishnabai – Free pdf download
  7. Video — Swami Ramdas’ World tour

 

 

How do you get Mantra Diksha from Sri Ramakrishna Math?

Please approach your nearest branch of Sri Ramakrishna Math and tell them about your intention of taking Mantra. The monk/ manager in the Math would normally ask you about your background knowledge about Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda. You are expected to have some reasonable exposure by reading their books and have a conviction about Sri Ramakrishna as a divine Avatar.

Mantra diksha is given only by one or two designated senior most monks of RK Math (President / Vice President of Belur Math) and as and when such a monk visits the branch (may be a once or twice in a year), you can get intimated. They will also display a board in the Math premises about the visit and giving of Mantra diksha. You have to fill up a form asking your biodata and about your interest on Ramakrishna. You can thus get registered to be a seeker of Diksha. They will intimate to you when and how to come and the things you have to bring in the morning. (Flower garland, fruits to offer, a pair of dhoti & angavastra to be given, Guru dakshina (as per your wish), any donation willingly given etc).

Please note: Ramakrishna Math will initiate you only in Sri Ramakrishna mantra. If you want to be initiated in any other mantra (like Shiva mantra or Narayana mantra) they won’t.

You are expected to come with empty stomach early in the morning.

The ceremony will be a common session for all the seekers of diksha for the day. There will be a bhajan session and then a formal puja to be performed by you etc. The Diksha guru would give a small introductory lecture; ask for any clarifications from the gathering. He will give the mantra commonly to all in a closed hall/ room. (not individually). Then each individual will be invited to come to the Guru and he will be asked to chant the mantra to the Guru so as to ensure that it has been grasped properly and pronounced properly.

As a regular practice, you will be advised to chant the mantras at least 108 times per session twice a day. The more you do, the better. An instruction slip will be given to you giving further guidelines on Mantra chanting, and advice of doing manasa puja, meditation etc.

Then you will individually offer a pada puja to the guru after garlanding him and making the offerings brought by you.

The session will end sometime in the noon. Immediately, you will be offered a glass of juice (Panakam) first and then a sumptuous prasadam to eat.

Picture showing Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa offering informal Sanyas to his young disciples Narendra, Rakhal, Bapuram and others.

If God’s name is powerful, then will not be fine if I chant “Ram, Ram” or “Shiva, Shiva” etc? Why do I need for any Mantra diksha from a Guru?

Several spiritual masters unequivocally state that God’s name has power and chanting God’s name definitely has the power to purify our mind. When something unpleasant or inauspicious is said or heard, you might have noticed that some old people will quickly utter ‘Rama Rama’ or ‘Shiva Shiva’ and symbolically cover their ears.

When it comes to mantras, they are mostly given by qualified gurus to their disciples through a formal diksha (initiation). Such mantras mostly contain Om or other bijakshraras (like hrim, klim etc) and also additions like namo or namah.

The specific phrasing of mantras have been received through divine communion by our ancient rishis and they have been passed on across generations by various sects of Hinduism through guru-sishya parampara.

Even though we are familiar with several mantras like Om Namah Shivaya or Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya etc, Mantras are normally communicated in secrecy by the Guru to the disciple. A disciple is expected to keep his mantra a secret and not to reveal it to any other person.

If a person does not presently have access to any Guru or Satguru, then he can definitely take up chanting of Rama Nama or Shiva Nama and keep doing it with total devotion and faith. It will definitely bring in the spiritual benefits.

Satgurus and avatara purushas are capable of initiating different disciples with different mantras depending on the disciple’s taste, mental leaning or attraction to a specific ishta (personal God) and spiritual bend of mind.

According to Satguru Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma), a sadguru while initiating a disciple with a mantra, transmits a little of his Prana shakti (vital force). It is like adding a little butter milk to milk to create curd. Chanting of mantra subsequently by the disciple is like churning the curd to obtain butter (realizing God).

It means that getting a formal mantra diksha from a sadguru is the best to gain the maximum benefit of chanting a mantra.

What does Swami Sivananda say about getting Mantra Diksha from a Satguru?

To receive the Guru-Mantra from a realised saint and Sat-Guru is the rates to good fortune and the most precious of the divine blessings that may be bestowed upon the aspirant. The full glory of this Mantra-Diksha, specially when it is done by a realised soul, can hardly be imagined even fractionally by the initiated who has not yet a proper idea of what the Mantra and Mantra-Diksha really imply.

A most tremendous transformation begins to take place in the innermost core of the conscience of the initiated or the receiver of the Mantra. The initiated is himself unaware of this fact because of the veil of ignorance or Mula-Ajnana that still covers him, even as a poor man sleeping soundly in his humble cottage at night, carried silently and deposited upon a royal couch in the Emperor’s Palace, remains completely unaware of his transfer, because he is still in deep sleep. But nevertheless, this  transformation start with initiation, and like unto a seed that is sown in the earth,  ultimately culminates in the grand fruit of realisation or Atma-Jnana.

To reach fruition, even as the seed has to pass through a process of developing into a seeding, a plant, a sapling and then a full-grown tree, even so the Sadhaka, after receiving initiation, must make earnest and continuous effort in the form of spiritual Sadhana if the Diksha is to become blissfully fruitful as Self-realisation. This part is the Sadhaka’s sole responsibility in which task he will doubtless receive the help, guidance and grace of the Guru in the measure of his firm faith and loyalty to him.      

                                  (Excerpts  from the book Japa Yoga, By Swami Sivananda)

 

Free download of e-book: Japa Yoga by Swami Sivananda :

download pdf Japa Yoga

 

Does Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) give Mantra Diksha? If so, mantra of which God? When does she give Diksha?

Yes. Satguru Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma) does give Mantra Diksha to her devotees and earnest spiritual seekers. She gives them selectively, at her own discretion, when a request is made to her while taking her darshan. She gives mantra diksha to householder devotees as well as to renunciates and Brahmacharis & Brahmacharinis. She selectively gives diksha to non-Indian, non-Hindu devotees too. Several of her western devotees have taken diksha from her.

What sort of mantra does Amma give?

Amma mostly gives diksha to devotees based on their existing Ishta (personal God) – It could be Shiva, Devi Parashakti, Kali, Rama, Krishna, Vishnu and so on). On some specific cases, she may give an alternative mantra (other than the seeker’s Ishta) too, as she knows the innate nature and tendency of the person whom she is giving Mantra.

There are also cases where a person has already taken diksha from elsewhere (like Sri Ramakrishna Math, for example) and may want Amma to give him mantra again. In some cases, Amma may advise the person to continue with the old mantra.

A lot depends on Amma’s assessment of a person’s samksaras.  For some, she may ask to wait for some more time before asking for mantra.

When does Amma give Mantra?

A person who wants to take Mantra diksha from Amma has to request her when he/ she is taking darshan from Amma. If Amma agrees, the person has to wait till the darshan comes to the end on that night. Amma will give diksha at Amritapuri Ashram as well as at other places where she tours. Diksha will be given only on her darshan days and not on non-darshan days. When Amma is in Amritapuri, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays are the normal darshan days.

Depending on the crowd, Amma’s darshan may end at any time in night — before midnight, after midnight, early in the morning etc. Those who want to take diksha from her are expected to wait till the darshan ends at whatever time.

Announcement will be made in the TV screens calling the persons who are waiting to take mantra diksha to assemble at one designated place near the dais. Amma’s assistants will note down your Ishta Devata or your preferred God and hand over to you a Mantra card containing your mantra (to be kept secret with you and not to be disclosed to anybody) and the necessary instructions regarding preparations and practices of chanting the Mantra.

Before Amma leaves the stage after giving darshan to all the people, she calls the people who are waiting for receiving the mantra. Amma hugs each person and whispers the specific mantra meant for the person into his/her ear. She blesses them by sprinkling flowers on their head and giving them a prasad.  Except for waiting for this time to arrive, there are absolutely no other procedures involved.

If one needs any clarifications or has any doubts, they can always approach the assistants and they will help you.

 

The significance of God’s names in Hinduism – Mantra Japa & Japa Sadhana

“One should constantly repeat the name of God. The name of God is highly effective in the Kaliyuga. The practice of yoga is not possible in this age, for the life of a man depends on food. Clap your hands while repeating God’s name, and the birds of your sins will fly away.”

– Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Unlike Christianity and Islam, Hinduism encourages worshiping God with name and form. Though God is one, he is amenable for worship in numerous names and forms in Hinduism. God’s form and name — both are holy to Hindus.

Hinduism thus has placed a great emphasis on the name of the God; The names of Divine Avatars (God in human form) too are no other than God’s names. Thus Rama, Krishna, Narasimha, Ramakrishna, Ramana et al are divine names for the respective believers. Thus, from a true Hindu point of view, “Jesus” and “Mohammed” (who are treated as Avatars by Saints like Sri Ramakrishna) are also God’s names and those who have faith in them and chant them should get purity and elevation.

“God and his holy name are one and the same” declares Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. A hard core gnyani like Ramana Maharishi too corroborates such a statement. Uttering or repeating (doing japa) of any of God’s innumerable names  is one of the recommended paths of sadhana (religious practice) for aspirants in the Path of bhakthi (devotion to God). Any name of God, added with a seed syllable like “Om” at the front and a “Namaha” at the end, when sanctified by divine sages and passed on to others by him or his qualified disciples, becomes a holy Mantra and the mantra carries a subtle power to purify the one who chants it; It gradually elevates the person to a higher spiritual level.

Swamy Sivananda: “Just as fire has the natural property of burning things, so also the Name of God has the power of burning sins and desires…”

Swamy Sivananda says: “The glory of the Name of God cannot be established through reasoning. It can certainly be experienced through faith, devotion and constant repetition. Have reverence and faith for the Name. Do not argue. Every Name is filled with countless powers. Just as fire has the natural property of burning things, so also the Name of God has the power of burning sins and desires. The power of the Name is ineffable. Its Glory is indescribable. The efficacy and inherent Sakti of the Name of God is unfathomable.”

Here are some popular Hindu mantras that carry God’s holy names:

Om Namo Narayana

Om Nama Shivaya

Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya

Om Saravanabava

Ram Krishna Hari

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare,
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama  Rama Hare Hare

Om Ramaya Namaha

Om Namo bhagavate Ramakrishnaya

Sri Ram Jayaram jaya jaya Ram

 

Developing a taste for Gods’ name develops love on God; Great religious masters do not prescribe any need for personal purity to chant God’s name. Mata Amritanandamayi says God’s name can be repeated even while sitting in the toilet. Repetition of God’s name added with music — the Nama sankirtan has benefits added multifold. There are several Hindu saints and seers who emphasize Nama sankirtan as the be all and end all of devotion to God.

In Hinduism, a very widespread practice followed is to name people predominantly in God’s name. Even though naming children with short, sweet and novel-sounding names is getting widely prevalent now a days, in south, a grandmotheror an elder in the family will ensure that at the timing of naming ceremony, the child is named with at least one of God’s name- preferably a name associated with the family deity.

By calling out your child as Rama or Krishna, Sita, Parvati and so on, you have the opportunity to utter God’s name unknowingly, numerous times in a day. The belief is that whether you call out a God’s name knowingly or unknowingly, you accrue some benefit. According to Hindu mythology, the demon King Hiranya, father of Prahlad, kept uttering and thinking of Narayana with utter contempt but he gained Moksha (liberation) by getting killed in the hands of Lord Narayana who took the avatar of Narasimha.

Vaishanvas (worshipers of Lord Vishnu) never get tired of quoting the story of Ajamila, a hopeless sinner who at his death-bed called out his son Narayana and breathed his last. By virtue of uttering Narayana’s name, he was absolved of his sins and he attained a higher birth. It is quite common to see elderly people uttering “Narayana”, “Govinda” etc while sitting down of standing up or while engaging in any form of physical exertion.

Hinduism does not restrict even naming of inanimate things with the name of God. In olden days in Tamil Nadu (South India)children of poor and middle class families used to play with “marapachchi“, a wooden doll very crudely shaped in human form. Children used to name them with their favourite Gods, dress them with pieces of cloth, treat them as their Gods and play festivals as done in the temples. Thus Hinduism revolved around inculcating Bhakthi and a taste for God’s name right from childhood.

Chanting God’s name and Mantra Diksha

One can take any name of God that is appealing to him and start chanting it. One can also take up any of the above listed mantras and start doing japa at one’s own convenience. Based on his devotion, sincerity and concentration, one definitely acquires spiritual benefits on account of the practice.

But, better still is the practice of getting formally initiated to chanting God’s name from a qualified and empowered spiritual Guru. If the Guru happens to be an Avatara purusha, a jivan mukta (one who attained liberty while being alive) or a Satguru (a guru who has attained spiritual enlightenment) the benefits are multifold. Getting God’s name formally from a Guru is known as Mantra Diksha (initiation).

Mata Amritanandamayi says that when a Satguru gives Mantra Diksha, he is transferring a portion of his prana (vital force) along with the Mantra to the disciple. This way, a very potent seed is sown in the heart of the disciple and this vital force helps the disciple to accrue the benefits of chanting the mantra faster and stronger.

While there is no secrecy associated with God’s name, it is not the case when a formal Mantra Diksha is given. A satguru knows which Mantra is suitable for the taste, temperament and spiritual inclination of the disciple. What is best suited to “A” need not work well for “B”. Hence, it is normally the practice in Hinduism that a disciple should not reveal his mantra to any third person. Matras formally obtained through diksha are to be chanted silently. The Guru may also recommend certain pre-requisites for chanting the mantra (like recommended time for chanting, minimum number of chantings to be made in a day, external purity guidelines before chanting mantra etc).

Papa Ramadas (Anandashramam) – Here is a standing example of a self-realized master, who attained his goal purely by chanting Rama Mantra (‘Om Sri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram’)

Getting God’s vision

It is said that when a person takes to God’s name in all sincerity, pumps in his heart and soul with total devotion and chants his God’s name untiringly is blessed with the vision of his personal God at the appropriate time. Countless Hindu saints cutting across the numerous sects and sub-sects of Hinduism have had vision of their respective personal Gods.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a very distinguished and unconventional Hindu saint is a sterling example of this phenomenon. His personal God is Kali, the Universal Divine Mother and he had had numerous glorious visions of her. He assiduously followed numerous other sects of Hinduism and practiced spirituality in all paths he came across. He had had divine vision of Rama, Krishna, Radha, Sita, Gouranga and many such divine forms. He practiced Christianity and Islam for a while and had the vision of Jesus Christ and prophet Mohammed too. Negating the form aspect of God, he practiced non-dualistic path of realizing God as Brahman or Atman, the beginning-less and endless entity, the one without second, the one transcending all name and form. He was immersed in Nirvikalpa Samadhi, a meditative state where he had absolved all “I” consciousness and remained blissfully dissolved in the ocean of Brahman.

While acknowledging the importance of God’s name and form at one end, Hinduism at its other extreme end, has the boldness to accept by way of personal verification, that any God form had in vision is at the best a product of mind of the individual who had the vision, though such a mind is the purest of all. Hindu gnyanis (knowers of the ultimate reality) like Ramana Maharishi declare by personal experience that the seer, the seeing and the seen are nothing but one single entity, and knowing THAT is the ultimate truth to be grasped in spirituality.

 

Swami Sivananda’s practical guide to doing Japa Sadhana

Swami Sivananda writes: ” I have given below a number of practical hints of great use for your daily Sadhana. Kindly note and follow them carefully.

1. Fixed hours: Most effective time for Japa is early dawn Brahmamuhurta and dusk, when Sattva is predominant. Regularity in Japa is very essential.

2. Definite place: It is highly advantageous to sit in the same place every day. Do not change it now and then. When you sit there you will have automatically the mood to do Japa. Just as you have a mood to study books when you enter a library or pray when you enter a temple so also you will get the mood to do Japa when you sit in your usual Asana.

3. A steady pose: A comfortable Asana helps to make the mind steady also, controls Rajas and aids concentration. Concentration cannot be acquired by one whose pose is not steady. Keep the Merudand (spine) always erect. If you droop down like an old man while sitting for Japa and meditation your mind will always waver and wander. Have a steady pose all throughout the period of Japa.

4. Face North or East: This exercises a subtle influence and enhances the efficacy of Japa. Sages and Rishis of the Himalayas help those who sit facing North for Japa because they come in contact with them by facing North.

5. A Seat: Deer skin or Kusha-mat or a rug should be used. The Gita says ‘Chailajinakusottaram.’ Have a Kusa mat, a deer-skin over that and a clean white cloth above. This is the seat prescribed by the Gita. Energy is conserved which is otherwise dissipated without a proper seat.

6. Repeat elevating prayers: Invoking the aid of the Ishtam with appropriate prayer induces a proper Sattvic Bhava. In all spiritual Sadhana divine help is prerequisite. Without it no spiritual progress can be attained and control of the wandering, mischievous mind becomes impossible.

7. Clear articulation: Start the Japa pronouncing the Mantra distinctly and without mistakes. Mantra Sakti is quickly awakened, mind is easily elevated and made one-pointed if the pronunciation is clear and distinct.

8. Vigilance and alertness: This is very important. You will be fresh and alert when you commence. After a time unconsciously the mind becomes weary, begins to wander and drowsiness overpowers you. Avoid this state. Some sleep during Japa and meditation and imagine to have attained spiritual bliss. This is mere hallucination.

9. Japa Mala: Using a Mala helps alertness and acts as an incentive to carry on the Japa continuously. Resolve to finish a certain number of Malas before leaving the seat. The mind will deceive you if you do Japa without a Mala. You will imagine that you have done Japa for a long time and that you have done more than the required number.

10. Variety in Japa: This is necessary to sustain interest, avoid fatigue and counteract monotony. Repeat aloud for a time, then hum the Mantra and repeat mentally sometimes. When the real bliss or taste for Japa is acquired then Japa becomes habitual and pleasant. There will be no monotony at all. The variety of Japa is for beginners only. Mental Japa is the most powerful. It directly counteracts the evil Vrittis of the mind and makes the mind pure.

11. Meditation: Side by side with Japa think of the Lord as present before you and picture His entrancing beautiful form. This practice adds tremendously to the efficacy and power of your Sadhana. The mind is fully engrossed in the form of the Lord by this practice and there is no chance for the mind to get hold of the objects of senses which are like straw or chaff before the bliss of the presence of God.

12. Concluding prayer and rest: This is important. After Japa is over do not immediately leave the place, mix with everyone and plunge into worldly activity. Sit very quietly for about 10 minutes at least humming some prayer, remembering the Lord or reflecting upon His infinite love. Then after devout prostration leave the place and commence your work. Spiritual vibrations will be in tact. You will find it easy to remember the Lord even while at work. Combine prayer with your daily routine and occasionally remember Him.

-=o0o=-

Mahatma Gandhi, a saint who happened to be in politics. He had immense faith in the power of Ram Nam. (Name of Lord Rama).

 

Understanding the role and purpose of Guru in Hinduism

The word “guru” in general means a teacher in Sanskrit. In the generic sense any teacher, whether the one who teaches worldly knowledge or the one who teaches spiritual wisdom, is a guru. But normally, from the point of Hindu religion, a guru is one who teaches you spiritual knowledge, who initiates you into a spiritual path or who guides you along the path of a spiritual quest. A highly learned Guru with deep knowledge of the scriptures is also called an Acharya.

Great spiritual masters of Hinduism are of the firm opinion that the human birth is rare and the purpose of the human birth is to attain God or realize one’s atman, which are one and the same, viewed from two different perspectives.

This is the ultimate goal to be attained and it is varyingly termed as God realization, self-realization, attaining the knowledge of Brahman, attaining birthlessness/deathlessness (“Moksha” “Mukthi” “samadhi” “nirvana” “sakshatkar,” etc. in Sanskrit).

Hinduism emphatically states that a guru is a must for learning and experiencing spirituals truths.

The following points will help you to understand the role of a guru in Hinduism.

“Satguru” – The guru of the highest order

Purely from the spiritual point of view, worldly knowledge is considered a lower level of knowledge and even such a “lower” knowledge requires teachers to make students comprehend the subjects clearly. Obviously, the ultimate spiritual knowledge, which is the very goal of life to be attained, requires qualified spiritual masters to teach and guide the earnest spiritual seekers.

Ideally, only a God-realized (or self-realized) soul, who is truly a knower by personal experience, could be the perfect guru. Such a guru is called a “Satguru.” A Satguru is none other than God himself descended in human form or a human who has attained the highest level of spiritual knowledge – who has “obtained” the divine authority to transmit his knowledge to the earnest seekers who surrender to him. According to Sri Ramakrishna, a great religious master, a Satguru is like a huge steamer that can safely carry a lot of people across a turbulent river.

Hinduism advocates the concept of “Avatar” – God descending to earth in human form from time to time to establish righteousness in the world, to satisfy the longing of earnest worshipers and to provide appropriate spiritual guidance to people in a way most suited to the period and circumstances of the descent.

The Avatar and his immediate and handpicked lieutenants who fully imbibe his teachings, who are empowered to carry forward his teachings function as Satgurus. However, it need not be interpreted to mean that Satgurus are always associated with the arrival of avatars.

Multiple gurus may also guide at different levels

But practically, not all spiritual seekers are really keen enough to reach the ultimate goal or fit enough to reach it. But spiritual attainment being the goal of human life, people at different levels of spiritual inclination have to be guided to the path at varying degrees of “capacity of intake” and “capacity of assimilation.”

Reincarnation (rebirth after death) is one of the fundamental concepts of faith in Hinduism. Accordingly, Hinduism recognizes that it may take several births for a seeker to attain the ultimate goal. Bhagavat Gita, one of the greatest books of essential Hindu spiritual knowledge recognizes this fact by stating that hardly one in a thousand strives to attain the highest and even among such earnest seekers, hardly a few are capable of reaching the goal.

It also leads to the fact that availability of Satgurus at all points of time and at all approachable geographic locations may not be practical. Naturally, people need to be guided by “less than perfect” masters who are quite good enough to guide the majority.

Hinduism is a very vast religion with scope for worshiping innumerable God-forms (who represent the ONE ultimate truth). There exist several major schools of philosophies, several sects and sub-sects that are suited to various tastes, traditions and preferences of religious followers. This naturally leads to a multifaceted system of availability of gurus.

The best starting point for seeking the guidance of a guru is to follow the culture and tradition of the family and in Hinduism, the traditional “family guru” serves this purpose. Generally, a “family guru” is a guru, most normally (but not too strictly) a “Sanyasi” (a monk who has relinquished worldly life) who comes in the Master-disciple lineage of a Satguru or a great spiritual master of yesteryears. These gurus are adept in the particular God they worship and the particular school of philosophy they profess. They initiate the seeker in the worship of the specific “personal God” of their sect and guide him in the fundamentals of religious disciplines to follow.

To avoid distraction and to ensure a better focus for an orderly religious progress, it is normally recommended that the seeker remains steadfast in his trust towards his guru, to the chosen personal God and to the school of philosophy he is instructed about.

But for a more curious and capable seeker, such guidelines are not too binding. Hinduism allows the freedom for one to choose his guru based on his temperament, taste and inclination. Hinduism also permits an earnest seeker to seek “higher guidance” from more than one guru based on his true progress. All the same, it is also emphasized that one should not be running behind one guru after another just because of one’s egotism that refuses to surrender to any form of discipline.

While it is important that one remains ever-devoted to his main guru, one can approach other gurus (called ‘upa gurus’ – i.e. supportive gurus) with due reverence and get specific guidance in some specific techniques of spiritual practice, to learn about alternative schools of philosophies or religious scriptures, to get doubts clarified and get advice on any hurdles faced in the path of progress.

At an exalted level, for the most avid seeker, even animals, birds and inanimate objects can teach a lesson or two in his spiritual quest (which he grasps by keen observation) and all of them are virtually his upa-gurus.

Faith and surrender to the guru are essential

Surrendering unquestioningly to one guru and attaining progress based on this very surrender and trust – this is on one side. Questioning and evaluating a guru and then surrendering to him and, at the same time, providing room for the guru to evaluate him so as to accept or reject him – this is on another side. Both are acceptable in Hinduism.

However, where the disciple is lucky enough (or destined) to end up or surrender at the feet of a Satguru, the Satguru, who transcends names, forms and schools of philosophies, will guide the disciple to the most appropriate “personal god” and school of philosophy best suited to him. What the disciple needs to do afterwards is to surrender his ego at the feet of his guru and remain steadfast in his faith, goal and commitment. It is also said that, in reality, it is the guru who seeks and gets the disciple. An earnest seeker may ultimately end up with a Satguru, though he may have had his initiation earlier from another guru.

Understanding initiation (“Diksha”) by a guru

Getting initiation (“Diksha”) from the guru is an essential element of the guru-disciple relationship. In general, “Diksha” is done by the guru by giving a mantra (a sacred phrase containing the name of a specific God beginning with “seed sounds” like “Om” and ending with “namah”). Gurus of a specific sect give a mantra suited to the specific sect.

For example, worshipers of Lord Shiva generally give a mantra associated with Lord Shiva. A worshiper of Vishnu will normally get initiated with Narayana mantra (or Krishna / Rama mantras).

Even though we are familiar with several mantras like Om Namah Shivaya or Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya etc, Mantras are normally communicated in secrecy by the Guru to the disciple. A disciple is expected to keep his mantra a secret and not to reveal it to any other person.

According to Satguru Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma), a sadguru while initiating a disciple with a mantra, transmits a little of his Prana shakti (vital force). It is like adding a little butter milk to milk to create curd. Chanting of mantra subsequently by the disciple is like churning the curd to obtain butter (realizing God).

A mantra is like a seed sown by the guru into the disciple. It is up to the disciple to nurture the seed to get the sapling, water it and protect it as it grows to a tree till it bears fruits. Likewise, it is the sacred duty of the disciple to repeat the mantra with devotion as many times as possible, follow the disciplines and practices specified by the guru, meditate on the God of the mantra and reap the spiritual benefits.

As for Satgurus, their way of initiation (by giving ‘diksha’ to someone) may take place in several forms. A Satguru is capable of gauging the spiritual capacity, taste and capability of a person and make an initiation best suited to the person. The initiation could be done by a Satguru by a mere touch of hand (“Hasta Diksha”); he may give the mantra in the disciple’s dreams (“Swapna Diksha”); he may initiate the disciple by a mere eye-to-eye contact (“Nayana Diksha”); he may initiate by an embrace (“Alingana Diksha”).

A Satguru is capable of judging which God form is best suited or best liked by the disciple and initiate him with the mantra of that God. He may initiate the disciple in worship of God with form or without form; he may simply initiate a capable follower in the path of self-inquiry.

A Satguru bears the burden of a disciple

Unlike a guru whose responsibility ends with initiating the disciple in the religious path, a Satguru bears the responsibility of the disciple who surrenders to him wholeheartedly. It is said that at the time of giving Diksha, a Satguru transmits a small portion of his vital energy (“Prana”) into the disciple. It is also said that the Satguru absorbs the accumulated karmas (good and bad effects of the disciples’ actions in the past) and makes him a “clean slate” to start his religious quest with full vigor. While the need for “self-effort” to be done by the disciple to attain the ultimate goal can’t be wished away, the Satguru makes the path much easier for the disciple to tread, by removing the obstacles coming out of his past deeds.

It is also said that a Satguru never forsakes his disciple, even if he tends to slacken his spiritual efforts or gets distracted away from his ideal; Satguru’s watchful eyes are always on him to goad him back to his track at the appropriate time.

The guidance from the “inner Guru”

Any religious discipline done by an earnest seeker is to realize God or Atman or Brahman who essentially dwells in the heart of every being. In the point of view of “Gyana marga” (path of Knowledge in Hinduism), everyone is essentially God and what the guru does is to remove the false coverings and sheaths that make one wrongly identify oneself with the body, mind intellect, etc. and ultimately to make one understand “you are that” (“Tatwamasi”).

It may not be practical for everyone to be physically with the guru always, take regular instructions from him and keep getting doubts cleared. It is said that an earnest disciple who lives away from a guru/Satguru, depending on his steadfastness and sincerity in his spiritual efforts, gets his guidance and course-correction right from his inner heart/sub-conscience. This inner voice or guidance is called the Inner Guru (“Anthra Guru”).

Sri Ramana Maharishi, the great sage of Tiruvennamalai used to say that the external guru pushes the disciple’s mental leanings (which tend to wander outwards) towards inside and the Indwelling Guru drags them inwards. It is ultimately the one and the same “Sachidananda” (Existence-knowledge-bliss i.e. Godliness) that works through both as the external guru and the internal guru.

What Swami Sivananda says about the need of a Guru

(Source: Autobiography of Swami Sivananda)

“The spiritual path is beset with many obstacles. The Guru will guide the aspirants safely and remove all sorts of difficulties they have to face. He will inspire the students and give them spiritual powers through his blessings. Guru, Isvara, Truth and Mantra are one. There is no other way of overcoming the vicious worldly Samskaras of the passionate nature of raw, worldly-minded persons than personal contact with and service to the Guru.

A personal Guru is necessary in the beginning. He alone can show you the path to attain God, who is the Guru of Gurus, and obviate the snares and pitfalls on your path. Guru’s Grace is needed by the disciple. This does not mean that the disciple should sit idle and expect a miracle from the Guru to push him directly into Samadhi. The Guru cannot do Sadhana for the student. It is foolish to expect spiritual attainments from a drop of Kamandalu water from the Guru. The Guru can guide the student, clear his doubts, pave the way, remove the snares, pitfalls and obstacles and throw light on the path. But it is the disciple himself who has to walk every step in the spiritual path.”