Dada Gavand describes with remarkable precision exactly what he did that led to his waking up. This is one of the clearest and most informative depictions of spiritual practice that has ever been written.
Dada Gavand's autobiography, Intelligence Beyond Thought, contains a remarkably informative description of what he did that led to his waking up. This portion of the book is one of the clearest and most precise depictions of sadhana, of spiritual practice, that has ever been written. He shares with us the whole concrete experience so we are able to see not only what he did but also how it felt. We also see the ferocious intensity and motivation that were required to make the practice work. He put his whole life aside to focus on this one thing, his sadhana.
Dada has no interest in scriptures or concepts about enlightenment. But he does emphasize a few words to which he gives special meanings, including ‘aloof’ and ‘polyangular’. We think these words deserve the reader's close attention.
The following excerpt from the book contains nearly the entire description of his sadhana. We include parts of chapter 2, all of chapters 3 and 4, and part of chapter 5. This is a small portion of the book, which contains 28 chapters. The title ‘How Dada Gavand Woke Up’ does not appear in the book.
The autobiography begins with Dada’s portrayal of himself as a dutiful eldest son who took his family responsibilities very seriously. At the age of 38, in 1955, he decided to sever those ties. He said good-bye to his family and traveled to a remote area in search of a secluded place where he could live alone and meditate. His journey took him to Sajjangad, a small mountain in rural Maharashtra, where he spent his first night in an inn for pilgrims. Ringing bells and loud prayers kept him up most of the night.
FIRST THING NEXT MORNING, I realized that I had to find another place. I could not stay in that busy area with so much commotion. I was worried, too, that in such a popular spot someone might recognize me and inform my family. So I walked around the mountain, exploring the whole area. Much of it was uninhabited and quite a jungle. In a small residential area I asked the people if they knew of any solitary place to live in, but no one could think of any such place.
As I continued exploring around the mountain, I came across a small hut consisting of just one empty room about 7 × 9 feet in size, with a small door and tiny window. Somehow I felt attracted to it and the surrounding area. No one lived nearby. It was quite a distance away from the temple with all its noise and people. My excitement grew as I contemplated living in this solitary little hut.
I rushed back to the ashram office where I found the temple manager and asked him if I could stay in that hut. He flatly refused, saying that it was not at all fit to live in. He pointed out that he had plenty of convenient rooms at the ashram. That remote place posed some risks, he warned, with nobody nearby. The ashram could not assume responsibility for someone staying there.
Disappointed, Dada left the man's office in a dejected mood, but the next day he went back and tried again.
Suddenly he asked me, “What type of sadhana are you doing that you need a special place?” Generally spiritual practice consists of repeating ‘mantras’ a certain number of times per day, plus chanting, reading holy books and doing other kinds of worship or ‘pooja’.
I replied that my way of worship was simple and somewhat unconventional. I intended to stand back and observe my thoughts, desires and emotions with a view to understanding my true nature. For that I wanted a totally quiet place.
The manager refused a second time. Dada left but once again, he returned the next day.
At this third meeting, I saw that he softened a little. Finally he said, “Well, if you will be entirely responsible for yourself, then you can try it for a few days.”
Jubilantly I thanked him and immediately went to the hut and cleaned it up thoroughly. So after three days of patient pleading, I had somehow been granted my wish. Finally, here was my quiet and solitary spot on a mountain top! At last, in this noisy and restless world, I had found my quiet nest!
Intense longing of many years
And revolt of spirit has brought me here.
In scorching sun and gusty wind,
I climbed the mount to reach your door.
Alone, determined, devoted one.
With bleeding heart and battered soul.
Lifting heavy steps one by one,
To meet the mysterious, the unknown One.
After this, I experienced a great relief, feeling completely relaxed and totally unburdened. Thus began my stay on the mountain. I was determined to spend minimal time on my daily chores. I made a make-shift stove or ‘chulah’ using three stones. Dry twigs were available in plenty around the but and served as fire wood. I cooked my rice early in the morning, ate half of it then and saved the other half for the evening. That left me with the whole day to be with myself. There was nothing for me to read, no prayers to chant, and nothing to keep me occupied. I had seen the limitation and thus the futility of all that.
To live with nothing to keep my mind occupied and nothing special to attract me was at first very difficult. It required intense watchfulness to keep my inwardness and not be active outwardly. I had to be alertly aware most of the time, so that it would not be easy for the thought-mind to indulge in its usual ways. Only when my concentration lapsed and I became a bit more dull would the thoughts, desires and emotions find their easy way in. Looking into myself every moment, discovering all the subtle wanderings of the mind, became my way of living.
Dada’s stay in the hut on Sajjangad Mountain started quietly, but local residents soon became suspicious and a police inspector came to question him. Dada managed to convince the inspector that he was harmless, and nobody ever bothered him again.
So the days passed quietly in subdued silence. However, my recent conversation with the inspector about my identity and my past triggered a fresh chain of thoughts. I wondered at this sudden opening of the floodgates after a period of quietude. Several thoughts and memories stormed my mind. First I began to remember my mother. Floods of anxiety swept over me: ‘What would her state of mind be? What would she be thinking, now that I had not returned after a few days? She must be worrying a lot and would probably be fasting. My mother and brother will be searching for me everywhere. I wonder if they have sought the help of the police.’
Such strong thoughts about my mother kept returning. My mind did not recall anything else, such as leaving behind my property, money and other possessions. Concern for my mother always remained my strongest thought. At times I cried intensely, with tears streaming down. The memory of my mother remained constantly with me.
During quiet moments I gradually began to discover that in addition to the image of my mother, many other accumulated experiences, memories and psychological-emotional bonds were hiding quietly inside me. Even when I had no conscious image of my mother and when I was not doing anything in particular, other thoughts emerged, just pouring out. They were not even much related to what was happening at the time. I saw the thought process going on actively and constantly, regardless of the actual situation!
The strong image of my mother made me aware of these other thought activities in my mind. I grew more inward, more watchful, to find out what was happening inside. I saw that beyond these obvious thoughts some other subtle, hidden emotions and attachments at deeper levels were also present. As they came one by one I witnessed them attentively. I observed that the mind is not one homogeneous unit, but a rather fragmented bunch with many different levels of thoughts and emotions. Many underlying feelings and subterranean currents were seeking conscious recognition.
In this intense watchfulness, I saw that my mind was much more complex than just an instrument for decision-making. A portion of the mind always hides somewhere. I had never been in touch with the whole mind and all its hidden aspects. Gradually, I started making contact with the submerged layers, which had been unknown to me until then. It became a hard task of perseverance and patience to see those deeper, unknown layers.
The pain of leaving home and the haunting images of my mother had unintentionally forced me to look inward and search from where the pain emanated. The enigma of what I saw there shifted my focus of watchfulness entirely. This inquiry no longer entailed experiencing enlightenment. Now I had no goal in view, and I did not even think about God, Heaven, Spirit or the other-dimensional energy mentioned by many mystics. The challenge became my own self, me, the mind.
So, naturally, the focus of day-to-day living was to be aware and conscious of all the constant mind activity, the whole internal psychological structure and its operation. This ongoing challenge required that I maintain total awareness, to be open and attentive to every inner movement of thought, to be watchful and honest about the play of my own mind. Awareness is just that: to watch with objective attention and to sense oneself within and without. One has to watch impersonally, without trying to alter anything and without words or thoughts. One has to see things as they are, without any bias or reaction, hopes or fears.
In the beginning, one’s watching is fragmented, as one part of the mind watches another. However, gradually, with increased sensitivity and alertness, one steps out of the field of thought and watches with one’s whole being. The body, mind, senses and sensitivity are jointly involved in a unique amalgamation as one unit, to make full contact.
My heightened awareness and my passion simply did not allow me to be distracted and kept me right on the track. Looking constantly within, with alert awareness, became the way of my life. My mind could no longer hide in fanciful ideas or escape in wishful thoughts, plans or pursuits. Without any fixed routine or discipline of any kind, just to live simply, attentive in the present became my way of living in the mountain hut.
During this period I hardly slept. Everything in my mind became active. With intense watchfulness I observed all that was happening in the chasm of my mind. Even though I lay down, sleep did not oblige me. I saw that sleep is just an escape for the active mind, to hide for a little while.
Thus began my game of observing aloofly and understanding honestly and frankly, the wonder of the uncharted territory of mind. I could not lean on anyone or ask questions. With no books to guide me, no prayers to satisfy me, no chants to lull me, and no activities to escape into, I faced only my complex mind — the totality of the internal psychological structure — directly and squarely at every moment.
From Intelligence Beyond Thought. Copyright 2006 Dada Gavand. Used by permission.
Photo of Sajjangad by Vinathorat.