By Devi Ma
The Gurus of the Shaktipat tradition carry a divine energy the spiritual texts call, ‘the grace bestowing power of God’. Their state of realisation has given them a mystical power that awakens the Kundalini, the dormant spiritual energy that lies hidden within each person.
Shaktipat is a spiritual initiation that sets seekers on the path of yoga and meditation. Without it the spiritual journey and meditation are more difficult. Once awakened, this Shakti, the inner energy, moves through the physical and subtle body removing all of the obstacles to peace and happiness.
Bhagavan Nityananda, known as ‘the sage of Ganeshpuri’ is the source of the spiritual energy that breathes life into the Shaktipat tradition. From a tiny village near Mumbai, Bhagavan transmitted his energy to thousands of people around the world. His spiritual power was so great that he transformed a jungle into a thriving spiritual centre.
His early life is mysterious but we know that he wandered India as a mendicant for many years, before settling in Ganeshpuri. The natural hot springs from an inactive volcano, (Mandagni Mountain) soothed his aching body, and the few villagers recognised his greatness and took care of him. Bhagavan attached great importance to the hot springs, and encouraged everyone to bathe in them.
Bhagavan was an avadhut, a person who is beyond ego-consciousness and has no interest in the outer world. Avadhuts often exhibit eccentric behaviour and Bhagavan was no exception as he often wandered naked and was mostly silent. When he did speak to his disciples, he mostly gave aphoristic teachings like, Bhavana Rakho, that meant ‘keep the feeling’ positive. He was a spiritual genius, and taught the highest philosophy of yoga, which he called Raja Yoga.
In his presence devotees experienced the deepest meditation and connection with the inner Self. Bhagavan’s devotees included people of all faiths–the prominent and the poor, the educated and the illiterate, Muslims and Hindus, and he treated all equally.
It is said that Bhagavan had attained the mahasiddhi, the great power of the Shakti of the Supreme Being, that comes only to those who have attained moksha, perfect spiritual freedom. When he left his body in 1961, this siddhi stayed with his body. To this day, the Shakti vibrates with the same power.
The yogic scriptures talk about an independent happiness called atmasukha, spiritual happiness, that lies dormant within everyone and is attainable for those who seek it. The temporary pleasure and joy we experience in worldly life is but a taste of spiritual happiness.
Atmasukha, is a state of being that we do not know or understand without the company of a great being who has been transformed by Guru’s grace.
The possibility of ultimate happiness is a gift of the spiritual energy that is handed down to seekers from the Gurus of this tradition. To know this happiness is the true purpose and meaning of life.
Bhagavan had many great disciples but the one who spread his teachings in the West, who brought Shaktipat and Kashmir Shaivism, the philosophy of Consciousness to Westerners, was Swami Muktananda Paramahamsa.
Swami Muktananda Paramahamsa
May 1908-October 1982
Baba felt the spiritual urge at a very young age. After a chance meeting with Bhagavan Nityananda at the age of fifteen, and much to his mother’s dismay, he left the safety of his family and set off in search of Self-realisation.
Baba’s desire for liberation, pulled him to an ashram run by the great Siddha Guru, Siddharudha Swami. Under his guidance he studied Vedanta, and Yoga, learned Sanskrit and also understood the true meaning of the eternal. After a number of years he took sannyas and became a swami. Siddharudha gave him the name Muktananda, the bliss of freedom.
After Siddharudha passed away, Baba wandered all over India. He continued his yogic studies and at one point became fascinated with the poet saints of Maharashtra–Tukaram, Jnaneshwar, Namdev, Eknath and Samarth Ramdas. Later in his talks he quoted their poems and abhangas (chants). All his study and austerity was preparation to meet his Guru.
Many years of physical suffering and rigorous discipline passed, and eventually he settled in a place where he could quietly do his spiritual practice. He stayed awhile in Yeola and Suki in the state of Maharashtra, where devotees built him a hut, and cared for him. Spiritual seekers began to gather for his company. However, Baba still felt a spiritual lack but did not know what that could be. He was still searching for the one that would give him moksha, liberation.
Baba had met many false and real saints, rogues and thieves in his travels and not one impressed him enough to become a disciple. Two saints in particular had great impact on him. Such saints are gifted with various mystical powers. One was Zipruanna, a naked avadhut whose practice was to sit on a garbage pile that smelled of roses. Baba spent a lot of time with him. He told Baba that he was not his Guru, and that his destiny lay in Ganeshpuri.
The other was Hari Giri Baba, who also had unusual habits. Sometimes he was dressed and sometimes not. He collected rocks in his coat pockets and insisted they were rupees. He embraced Baba with total love and devotion and told him, ‘Cast away your ochre clothes and wear silken garments instead. You are no longer a sannyasin, but a maharaja, a king. You shall not ask but only give.’
Both saints encouraged him to go to Ganeshpuri indicating that his future lay with Bhagavan Nityananda. And so eventually Baba made his way to Ganeshpuri.
In the first few moments of seeing Bhagavan, Baba remembered his first encounter with him. At this meeting, Bhagavan stroked his cheeks and gave him a gift of food. Bhagavan’s affection instilled a knowing in Baba, that here was a master who had the power to stop his restless wandering and bestow inner peace. Bhagavan had the strength to dam the raging desire for liberation and direct it toward God. However, uncertain about his relationship with Bhagavan, he returned to Yeola.
Baba was not the most compliant disciple, as he was used to his independent lifestyle. However, after some time he could not ignore the inner prompting to see Bhagavan again.
Baba went to Vajreshwari, a village a short distance from Ganeshpuri, and stayed in a small hut beside the Goddess Temple. He began to visit Bhagavan regularly. These visits softened Baba’s resistance and he became more accepting of Bhagavan. His desire to be in Bhagavan’s company intensified.
On August 15, 1947 Baba walked to Ganeshpuri for Bhagavan’s darshan. This day would mark spiritual history for Baba, for it was the day when Bhagavan transmitted the Shakti to Baba.
On this day Baba waited outside Bhagavan’s room when Nityananda appeared and walked toward him wearing wooden sandals. He said, ‘will you take these sandals and wear them?’
‘I will take them, Baba said, ‘but I will worship them, not wear them.’
Bhagavan then gave him a teaching on the significance of the mantra om namah shivaya. As Baba listened he fell into a meditative trance. When Bhagavan returned to his room Baba was still intoxicated. On his way home he stopped for rest under a tree when the Shakti from Bhagavan overwhelmed him. He was suddenly immersed in the all-pervasive light of Consciousness. He perceived that this light was his true nature and also the true nature of everything in the universe. It was Baba’s first experience of seeing and feeling the divinity of all things, and recognizing that the same divinity was also his own Self.
Upon receiving Guru’s grace Baba realised that, although there are many paths to God, there is only one that is crucial to realisation. He wrote,
There is, however, one which is above all these and which one achieves by the Guru’s blessings alone. The Shastras describe it as Siddha yoga, because it does not involve practices pranayama, yama-niyama, recitation of sacred books, study of religious texts or even performance of yajnas.
All that is required is the grace of a Siddha Guru, a perfect master.
The specialty of this yoga is that while all other yogas involve a certain amount of effort on the part of the aspirant, the process of Siddha yoga is automatic … it begins to happen by Guru’s grace.Swami Muktananda Paramahamsa by Amma
Baba’s spiritual fortune took a radical turn when he accepted Bhagavan Nityananda as his Guru. After nine years of intense spiritual practice the gradual awareness of his finite self diminished and permanent identification with his Shiva nature emerged. Baba has said that in his moments of realisation the knot of ignorance broke, and he became one with Bhagavan. The restless spirit had merged with his Guru and a natural happiness replaced it.
After Baba’s realisation Bhagavan told him that he should settle in Ganeshpuri. Bhagavan built a small hut for him on five acres of land, now Gurudev Siddha Peeth. It was not until Bhagavan’s death, in 1961 that Baba began to manifest his spiritual power. His disciples and devotees gathered at his Ashram and in his presence the desire to know God arose.
True to Hari Giri’s prediction, Baba became king-like as his spiritual power grew stronger. From a three room hut, the Ashram evolved into a palatial refuge where devotees from all over India and the world came for spiritual sustenance.
In the 70s many Westerners from Canada, USA, Europe and Australia heard about Baba’s spiritual greatness and made the pilgrimage to the Ashram. The Ashram expanded as eager seekers made their way to their Guru. Swami Shankarananda was one such seeker.
From 1970 until 1982 Baba toured the world. There seemed to be an urgency in him to share Shaktipat and the philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism. He gave himself completely to this work until his death in October 1982.
Many Ashrams and meditation centres flourished around the world during this period. Baba left a spiritual imprint on hundreds of thousands of people. He had great compassion, brilliant understanding, and preternatural wisdom. He was truly one of the great Siddhas of the last century.
This article was inspired by the book Swami Muktananda Paramahamsa by Swami Prajnananda