In those days most of the ashramites spoke Marathi. The Indian princely states had only recently dissolved. The official language of the princely state of Dewas had been Marathi. As a result, the dominance of Marathi was still intact there. Most of the visitors to the ashram also conversed in Marathi. I had just come directly from Punjab. I had been living in Himachal only for a short time. I was absolutely unacquainted with Marathi. How was I to understand it? I couldn’t understand even one word. When Maharajshri returned from Nepal, I noticed that he spoke very good and fluent Marathi. People would talk amongst themselves and I would simply stare at them. The customs and practices, eating habits, clothing, language — everything was so different from Punjab. Of course, people would try to talk to me in Hindi, but I did not even know how to speak Hindi properly. On listening to my Hindi mixed with Punjabi, people would laugh. But what could be done about that? Slowly I began to understand the languages.
While living in Himachal Pradesh, I had grown accustomed to living without work. On coming to Dewas, I had a great deal of work. Every morning, I would accompany Maharajshri for a walk, then make tea for the ashram, then go to the bazaar for purchasing. In those days Maharajshri had a cataract in his eyes, so I had to read the newspaper to him and then get started on the activities of the ashram. I did not even know how to request initiation. I thought Maharajshri knew I had come for initiation and that was enough. “Whenever he feels it’s time,” I thought, “he will tell me.”
Eventually that day dawned. The bramhachari from Garwhal was also awaiting initiation, and so was a gentleman from Bombay. Maharajshri told me, “Tomorrow is the initiation for these people. You too, sit down with them. I said “Yes,” but did not understand the meaning of “sitting down.” When I asked someone I was told, “Tomorrow is your initiation. You also sit down in the cave. Go and get your stuff.”
I said, “Stuff? What stuff?” I was completely unaware of such things and utterly ignorant.
He said, “A garland, flowers, fruits, sweets, a coconut, the material for puja and anything else you wish to bring, along with dakshina [a monetary donation].”
Now I realized that I did not even have a single paisa with me. While coming to Dewas, with the couple of rupees remaining from the forty rupees I was given, I had bought a small metal pot for water and a towel. Now where was I to get my offering? Was all this stuff essential for initiation? There was a gentleman who served Maharajshri, whom Maharajshri liked a lot and who also was fond of me. I, in turn, respected him greatly. I always had his support. On speaking to him, he gave me a rupee to go to the bazaar and buy whatever I wished. I went to the bazaar and bought a garland for four annas. With twelve annas left in my hand, I wondered what else to buy. Finally I decided that a garland was good enough and returned the twelve annas to the gentleman. The Garwhali baba gave me two bananas and an apple. My plate was decorated.
The next day, early in the morning, everyone came to the cave as scheduled. The man from Bombay had gathered so much stuff that half the cave was filled with it. The Garwhali bramhachari must have spent around a hundred rupees or so. I was sitting there with a plate containing two bananas and an apple. After the puja, Maharajshri started reciting some shlokas [Sanskrit verses]. Then he placed his hand on the head of each initiate. Even before Maharajshri had returned to his seat, my body leapt three or four feet up in the air with great force and fell down with a big thud. After that, very rapid kriyas [automatic movements] began. My veins tightened. I began to frown, tremble, sweat, cry and shout. After sitting for a while, Maharajshri left, but the intensity of my kriyas showed no signs of diminishing. Gradually all the other people got up and left, but at noon my kriyas still had the same intensity. At times I would start dancing and at other times I would roll on the ground. My eyes wouldn’t open. The call for lunch struck my ears, but who wanted to get up? I was experiencing a unique bliss, even as I cried and screamed. The whole cave seemed to be spinning.
Around noon someone brought me outside the cave. I emerged as if I were in a state of intoxication. How could I eat my lunch? I just slumped down. I remembered an incident of the past. There was a babaji, a mendicant, in Nangal. In those days I was working there at the Sanatana Dharma Association Library. One day I met the babaji there. Afterwards he told someone, “That boy is good but his lock is closed, someone needs to open it.” Had this closed lock been opened? Was Maharajshri the one who opened the lock?
Then I recalled an article by Swami Ramtirth, where he had written that all the sadhaks of the world are false. The only true sadhak is God alone. At the time, I couldn't understand the essence of that article, but now it seemed as if the mist before my eyes were thinning out. A human has pride, and with this pride he does his sadhana [spiritual practices involving conscious effort], but because it is done with pride, the effort is rendered useless. What is the need of pride in spiritual practices? God is the only one who can make his Shakti [power] turn inward and, through the medium of the mind and the body of the spiritual aspirant, perform spiritual practices for the benefit of the aspirant. God, nevertheless, does not feel proud, does not impose obligations, does not expect praise and does not demand a reward.
The memory of the banks of the Sutlej, in Himachal Pradesh, came back. Solitude, peace and beauty were there, but I had no idea about these experiences. I began to feel that the joy I had experienced there was merely a perception. Will todays joy also end up being simply my imagination and my perception? I had been hearing that the awakening of the Shakti is very rare. Worshippers and ascetics perform long penance for this in forests, their eyelids droop as they study the exercises, the yogic postures and pranayaam [breath control], but still Shakti is not awakened. Yet all this happened to me in the wink of an eye with such ease. Should one call this fate or a result of Maharajshri’s kindness? Possibly both. I was so fortunate.
As I thought about this my pride awakened. Now I could be called a sadhak! But at once my delusion of pride was broken and I became cautious. “What’s this? Why this pride? And that, too, for something you haven’t done.” I began to sob. Possibly this was a kriya, too. This is how a kriya happens. Anywhere, anytime, when you are just sitting. My head bowed down at the feet of Maharajshri. Truly the scriptures and the saints haven’t sung the praises of the Guru in vain. Now both the external and internal forms of the Guru were there in front of me. To understand the true nature of a Guru, the blessings of a Guru are essential. One should continue his efforts but acquisition is solely due to grace.
I kept thinking about all these things or, rather, all these thoughts arose within me. Associated with these thoughts were knowledge, experience and emotion. Hurrah! Hurrah! O my Gurudev, by receiving your grace, I have been blessed with divine fulfillment!
But suddenly — what happened? Sparks of impurities began to explode inside me. Waves of passion started rising in the deep ocean of my mind. Only a moment ago I was sitting in an ecstatic state, then suddenly — what happened? One moment I would be detached from impurities and observe them, the next moment I would start flowing in the current of my impurities.
For a while I remained in this enigmatic state of attachment and detachment. My mind would fill with sorrow, then a ray of light would burst out. It seemed as if someone were throwing all the dirty things out of the house. But there was so much dirt! How long would he be occupied with this cleaning? I hoped he wouldn’t tire out. And again my mind grew calm.
When we went for the next morning walk, Maharajshri initiated the following conversation: "Our lineage began with Swami Gangadhar Tirth Maharaj. A resident of Puri [a town in the state of Orissa], Swamiji was a spiritual aspirant who loved solitude. He thought, ‘It’s a frighteningly dark age. The wrath of indulgence, pride, selfishness, lust and anger is everywhere. Everyone is in an extremely unstable state of mind. Even if they wish to remember God, they are unable to do so. Hence they are caught in the whirlpool of this ocean of desires. They also do not have any support and, even if they do, s only imaginary. However, if they somehow get a direct spiritual experience, a strong support will be available to them. Their spiritual practice will progress with its help. I am a sanyasi [renunciate]. I hope to find someone through whom the people can be given this experience.' Finally he found this person in the form of Swami Narayan Tirth Dev Maharaj. Swami Gangadhar Tirth Maharaj’s resolve had great power because he did not desire anything for himself, neither wealth nor grandeur nor prestige. This is the nature of a true renunciate. As a result of the strength of Swamiji’s resolve, spiritual aspirants initiated in Shaktipat are seen in all parts of India today."
Maharajshri continued. “The inner awakening of the Shakti not only provides support, but also gives strength for action, gives direct experience, places one in the frame of mind of an observer, and purifies the mind. Devotion is impossible without all this. By his divine grace, Swami Gangadhar Tirth Maharaj made arrangements for the well-being of mankind in spite of being detached from worldly activity. From this, one comes to know the great concern he had for the common masses.”
Upon hearing this I asked, “Does a renunciate have to refrain from all kinds of action? To run an ashram, give initiation, give sermons and so forth — aren’t all these activities for public welfare?”
Maharajshri replied, "There are different categories and different levels of renunciates. One person is slightly detached, another is more so, while a third is totally detached. The more detached a person is, the greater his renunciation.
“Many whom you consider renunciates are not renunciates at all. Desire to have disciples, attachment to the ashram, the desire to succeed, and pride in oratory or writing are typical of a worldly person, not a renuncíate. Sanyas' [renunciation] is an ashram [the fourth stage of life according to Hindu scriptures] and detachment is a state of mind. Renunciates who are full of pride are not renunciates at all.
“Someone who genuinely has a desire for public welfare, who does not have the feelings of attachment, ambition, love, hate, and so forth, or who has them but has overcome them with discipline, can surely be considered a renuncíate. To him who is totally detached, all actions seem to be traps, however pure, sattvic [harmonious] or obliging he might be towards others. Hence he always prefers solitude. Swami Gangadhar Tirth Maharaj was such a great soul, an absolute renuncíate. He did not involve himself in anyone’s welfare or misfortune, nor did he visit anyone. He was not interested in anything other than spiritual practices. Due to his prarabdha [destiny], Swami Gangadhar Tirth Maharaj had to sustain his body, but while doing so he lived a life full of spirituality.”
My next question was, “The Guru blesses the disciple by giving him his divine power. Does this mean the Guru loses some of his own power?”
Maharajshri replied, ‘The Guru does not give any power, he simply directs his kind attention toward the disciple. The power, Shakti, is already present in every being and there is no need for any external power. There is no other power existing outside. A living being needs the Guru-Shakti [ the power of the Guru] only to awaken the dormant power which is extroverted, directed towards the world. The power and giving the support of that power are two different things. Out of sheer kindness the Guru extends support to the disciple. The Gurus power returns to him after awakening the dormant power within the disciple. This is Shaktipat. Many spiritual practices are prevalent these days that seek the support of the chitta [mindsj of the saints; the biographies of saints are studied. People discuss incidents pertaining to the lives of saints, they sing divine songs composed by them. But all this is carried out with a sense of emotion, with conscious effort and with ego. This is not Shaktipat. Shaktipat, the descent of power, takes place only when it is conducted by a Guru. One does not seek the support of another mind, it is given. One gets the support of the psychic power of the Guru only when the Guru, out of his own resolve, extends his psychic power. This is Shaktipat.”
My next query was, "But people will consider kriyas to be a bout of madness.”
Maharajshri answered, “People do call it madness, but this is due to their ignorance. Kriyas appear to be madness, but if you think about it, there is a big difference between the two. People can see the body, but not the psyche. The infinitesimal changes that take place in the psyche do not meet their eye. The world is based on sight, whereas spirituality is a subject of the invisible. The world attempts to understand everything by direct experience or proof. If it cannot understand something, it is labeled madness, whereas, in reality, this itself is its own foolishness.
“There is one similarity in the kriyas during sadhan [effort less spiritual practice] and madness. The basis for both are samskaras [accumulated impressions]. These impressions do not become thinned out through madness, whereas in sadhan they come to an end. In madness the intellect is agitated, whereas in sadhan it remains normal. In madness there is a possibility of something unfavorable happening, whereas in sadhan there is no such possibility. The acts of madness cannot be stopped until the bout of madness comes to an end. On the other hand, the movements occurring during sadhan can be stopped at will.”
Once again I commented, “When you were in Nepal, one day a sadhak was doing his sadhan in the cave. He was having kriyas — loud screams. At the time a policeman was walking behind the ashram. When he heard the screams he thought someone was being beaten. He climbed over the fence and came inside. He sternly asked who was being beaten and by whom. Many attempts were made to explain the facts to him but he was unable to understand. On hearing the commotion the aspirant came out of the cave. The policeman asked him, “What was the problem? Why were you screaming?” He said that he was doing his sadhan. When the policeman asked what sadhan meant, everyone started laughing. During sadhan such problems can arise. There are other people in the house; there are neighbors. People can interpret things in their own way. They will surely say, ‘What kind of spiritual practice is this?”
On hearing this Maharajshri laughed and said, “This is indeed a problem for spiritual aspirants who experience very intense kriyas. At times it is difficult to control them. Here the ashram is far from town. There is a cave tor doing sadhan, so one can do sadhan here with a free mind. The kriyas will also happen freely. Where such a facility is not available, the kriyas automatically get controlled, either due to embarrassment or out of fear.
So there is no reason to be afraid. Some aspirants have extremely violent kriyas and they can get out of control. If such a situation arises, it is the task of the Guru to reduce the intensity of the kriyas and bring them under control.”
Maharajshri continued, “I remember when I received initiation, in Rishikesh in 1933. At that time I. too, did not know much about initiation. I had intense and strange kriyas, such, possibly, as no one else has had. I haven’t met anyone with such an experience. Many people were convinced that I was mad. I rented a room in the city. Looking at the intensity of my kriyas, the landlord asked me to vacate the place. I felt there was no need for me to control the kriyas and even if I tried they wouldn’t submit to my control. Now I feel that, if at that time my kriyas would have been under my control, then it would have been very beneficial for my sadhan. When kriyas become extremely intense it is like overflowing water spilling out of a vessel. The higher the intensity of the kriyas, the greater is the loss of power. The occurrence of intense kriyas is not a bad thing because whatever qualities are dominant in the mind will be expressed in kriyas, but it is also very important to have control. One should be able to stop kriyas at will. Hence my instructions to spiritual aspirants are to develop control along with the progress of their kriyas.
By now we had returned to the ashram and so our conversation ended here.
This article is reprinted from the book Churning of the Heart, Volume 1. Copyright © 2002 Swami Shivom Tirth and Swami Shivmangal Tirth.
Landscape photo copyright © 2015 Wayne Wirs.
Swami Shivom Tirth (1924 ‒ 2008) was a noted guru of the Tirth lineage of Siddha Yoga. In his later years he gave up public life, left his ashram, and lived in an isolated place where he wrote many books.
By Swami Shivom Tirth
The author, Swami Shivom Tirth, heads several ashrams in India and one in rural New York State. The first volume of this three-volume set describes Shivom’s experiences as a young student of his guru, Swami Vishnu Tirth. During this period Shivom acted as Vishnu Tirth’s personal assistant, accompanying him on daily walks each morning. This book records the content of their conversations. The format is in large part question and answer, as two great minds, young and old, disciple and teacher, explore the universal lessons of Hindu wisdom. Common experiences such as social conflicts and simple everyday decisions become the source of profound insights about the nature of reality. Shivom brings to the work a humble but determined curiosity, which lends to the discussions a simplicity and clarity that make them accessible to readers outside the Hindu tradition. Churning of the Heart is of particular interest to readers seeking authoritative information about the yogic tradition known as shaktipat.
This page was published on September 2, 2016.