Meera Bai, Original Vaishnava Lifestyle, Om

[Continued from a previous conversation]

Guruji: “All the shrines and ashrams Yogananda Paramhansa built are beautifully placed in natural surroundings. Really remarkable, though I have just heard about them, never visited them personally. There is some atmosphere there! Also, if you compare their [accomplished yogis] photographs from their young age and their old age, you’ll find they looked more beautiful in their old age. It is as if they were getting more beautiful as they were getting older. This happens with everyone who practices yoga. Don’t you feel some change in yourself? You look very different now then when you had started doing yoga.
These days I am getting a lot of compliments for my skin. It feels good to hear such things in old age (laughs).”

Q: “Have you heard Kishori Amonkar’s Meera bhajans, for example, “Mharo Pranam”? Aren’t they beautiful?”

Guruji: “Yes, they are amazing. They were also divine people. Not the singers; they are just repeating what has been left behind, but the original people were wonderful! Just imagine the feeling Meera Bai must have had when she sung those songs, when even today, after centuries have passed, when we hear those songs they are able to evoke such strong emotions inside us. Have you heard the poetry of Neeraj? “Karwaan guzar gaya, gubaar dekhate rahe” (the caravan had passed, we caught only the dust). Rafi has also sung this song, but he could never produce the same effect as when Neeraj used to recite it, even though Rafi was a great singer in his own right. Similarly, Harivansh Rai Bachchan was a great hit when he recited Madhushala on stage. Manna Dey has also sung those poems now but it doesn’t create the same magic.

“Now keeping these examples in mind, try to imagine the sensation in the atmosphere when Meera Bai, Tulsidas, etc, used to sing their compositions. And that kind of ambiance was created because they were sung with the actual true feelings of the composers themselves, and were not just plain recreations of the originals. People used to get lost and overwhelmed! These days people have become millionaires by cashing on their compositions, but the true were those who lived centuries ago. They were truly exemplary.”

Q: “Why did Meera Bai take birth? Was it to set an example of some kind as she was a great devotee of God from a very early age?”

Guruji: “First of all, as she was born in a royal family she can’t be regarded as an ordinary soul. It won’t be wrong to say that her emotional state of mind was much heightened as compared to any ordinary person. And I strongly believe that the level of her devotion cannot happen without a direct experience of some kind. She definitely had some direct experience in her childhood. Only after a direct experience can the live of a person change so dramatically. You simply cannot cultivate this level of devotion. The way you cannot cultivate love, you cannot cultivate devotion. It just happens, and when such an extraordinary incident happens to somebody, history remembers them!

“Such experiences are always kept secret. She never propagated her experience. She just stayed in her bhava (divine emotion), and she is still remembered as a great soul. I really like her. Meerabai, Tulsidas, Soordas, all of them wrote extraordinary compositions. They suffered in life because of their devotion. People who fall in deep emotions, like Majnu, who fell deeply in love, may get ruined materially but still leave a deep impact. These people were not happy even on the family front. This is a striking similarity between Meera Bai and Tulsidas; Meera Bai’s husband Bhojraj died very early and she gave birth to a stillborn baby girl. These incidents in life must certainly have resulted in a lot of bottled-up emotions. Tulsidas’s wife used to mock him, and his son Tarapati died in his childhood. It was only after these incidents that their poetry truly developed rasa (taste, emotion) which was absolutely miraculous. These people certainly had seen God. It is impossible to become a poet of this level all of a sudden without a blessing from God.

“I never believed in these things earlier but after coming to Vraj (almost 11 years in Oct 2004), I have since realized that these divine mysteries we hear about do exist. There is truth in people seeing God or experiencing some kind of contact. An ordinary person can’t even imagine what those people must have seen or experienced. He’ll consider those men and women as crazy or insane.

“People who are at an advanced stage in Yoga practice experience it for sure, and even those people who have reached the zenith of any one emotion experience it as well. This is what we remark in India as kripa (blessing). Who confers it, to whom, when, and how it happens remains unknown. There are no set of rules to predict it. It’s just the matter of purity of heart.

“Now let’s consider Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He had an experience in Gaya when he was looking at the feet of lord Vishnu. After that, he got the darshan of lord Vishnu and Balram. People generally say these were divine visions, but I feel they were actually the experience of seeing God face to face (darshan). How amazing it is that the whole Vrindawan transformed into a vaishnava pilgrimage when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu arrived here! I would never believed it, but after living in Govardhan for a long time now, my awareness has definitely increased. I do feel it’s true that when he used to do kirtan (sing devotional songs), the entire nature used to sing with him! Imagine the beauty around with the birds singing alongside with him and the trees dancing on his rhythm. The entire nature would get tuned to the melody of his devotion (“saara vatavaran kirtan-may ho jata tha“) and sing alongside “Hare Rama Hare Krishna” with him. That effect can still be felt in and around Vraj.”

Q: “Then guruji what exactly is the feeling of the people of ISKCON who get overwhelmed while singing devotional songs. Are they also spiritually accomplished?”

Guruji: “See, this is again the same difference between the original and subsequent followers, as we discussed earlier. ISKCON is an extension of Gaudia sect, which is a cult of Bengali gaudias started by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The life-style of original vaishnavas as I have observed was extremely simple and were forever distant from commerce. But now-a-days, with ISKCON, the original culture has gotten buried under something entirely different and new.

“The gauriyas who went to stay in ashrams in an early age had to follow a very strict discipline. They had to chant “Hare Ram Hare Ram Ram Ram Hare Hare, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare” 125,000 times every day. It didn’t matter how long it’d take, 4hrs, 6hrs, or even more. Now a person who is doing these many chants everyday and following an extreme diet along with offering his devotion and work to God, how can he not develop strong bhava (divine emotion) in his heart?

“The second kind of vaishnavas are grihasta (householders) who far exceed in number the ones living in ashrams (hermits). They mainly belong to the Bengal region. I am telling you, the way they talk with you is so sweet, they’ll win over your heart! And they won’t even try to convert you! You will find the sweetest people in that region. The gauriya cult was the most beautiful region ever before the coming of ISKCON, and it still is beautiful as the original vaishnavas do not have any strong ties with ISKCON. Only those vaishnavas who are materially inclined get in touch with ISKCON. Others are the homeless gauriyas who cook food for them. So I must say that some of the principles are still followed in ISKCON, like only the gauriyas can cook food for them. But otherwise the simplicity in the lifestyle, which was the main characteristic of vaishnavas, is nowhere to be seen in ISKCON followers. You should definitely observe that and you will love it.

“I still remember a family from my childhood (around 30yrs back). The man of the family was a vaishnava and lived in Vrindawan. His son was going to America for his PhD in Atomic Physics. They used to have around 15-20 cows and they fed them raw barley everyday. They would make their roti (Indian bread) out of the raw barley grains passed in the the cow-dung! They’d separate the grains from the dung, clean them, dry them, and grind them into flour to make rotis. This is such an amazing thing to know! I didn’t understand it when I was a child but now when I look back I am awestruck by their simplicity. Imagine the boy, who was so well educated and going aboard for higher education, who used to carry hay along with his wife for the cows and clean their dung. You couldn’t guess how highly educated they were by looking at their simplistic lifestyle. They were the nicest people I have ever met in my life! They also had this everyday routine of doing a certain chant. The father of that boy had become a complete renunciate, and thus he was following the strict rules of the vaishnavas who become hermits after following the life of a householder. Even today I get emotional when I think about him. This is what I call real life! So full of simplicity, having no demands at all! The old man is no more now and I am not sure about the whereabouts of his son. But I am highly confident that his roots and principles were so strong that he must be doing good wherever he is living right now and following the same kind of simple life even now. He went abroad for 5 years along with his wife, and both of them were highly educated.

“So this was the real beauty of the original vaishnavas, their utter simplicity. Now with outside influence, that beauty is getting lost and is not seen very often. But even today if you go visit some of the vaishnava villages, you’ll love it there. Nadiya village and a few areas in Vraj still have that feeling of pure simplicity and devotion. ISKCON is just a fashionable part of it that became popular.

“Like that, there’s a place here in Vraj called Tatiya Sthan, founded by Swami Haridas. I have also met their previous mahant (leader, principal) who is not living anymore. This place is still what it was 500-600 years back when it was founded. Even today they don’t have any electricity or water pipes, and every single tree is very old and maintained to look the same as before. They are also following the same routine as laid down by their founder. There is a very positive and weird feeling about the place. You feel completely at peace in your heart the moment you step inside that place. Amazing stuff!”

Q: “Guruji, how could they follow such strict discipline?”

Guruji: “It’s a matter of love. The people of Tatiya Sthana still live as sadhus (hermits) and their discipline is very different from the householder vaishnavas. The man from my childhood I told you about was following all the principles of householders before he took renunciation. He was married, educated, kept a job, and supported his family. But after he took renunciation, he followed the rules of the hermit stage. The brilliance and peace on his face was just amazing to see, and I still remember it. It was simply wonderful.

“I understand ISKCON has propagated itself a lot, and has built beautiful showcase kind of structures as their temples, but I don’t find that mesmerizing beauty in it that the original had.

“But then again there is another interesting thing. There are a lot of foreigners living in Vrindavan who have decided to take their last breath there. They have come to Vrindavan to die only! So how can I say that ISKCON followers don’t have any spiritual feelings? You’ll find good people in them also. But the commercial majority in ISKCON is what I find unappealing. Formerly there was no commerce in the name of Krishna. The devotees were simply devotees.”

Q: “Guruji, don’t you sometimes feel that our present condition is the result of our past life and karma, so why should you help us out?”

Guruji: “See, there are two sides of the same coin. The past life influences your birth, like the family you are born into, and the kind of physical body you carry. But at the same time its also due to the past karma that you have come to me to learn Kriya Yoga. Not everybody find their way here.

“The spiritual bond that forms between me and my disciples during initiation flows the energy of whatever is happening with me to them as well. This is the most interesting thing. I didn’t realize it earlier but now I can see it very clearly.
There is also a flip side to this situation. There are a lot of new people coming these days who are trying to become my disciple because they think that their financial and family problems will improve after becoming my disciple.. But I don’t entertain such people. The objective with such people is completely twisted as none of my old disciples ever came to me for becoming millionaires. They had a genuine motivation to learn yoga. But even then, their situation in life substantially improved.

“It all depends on the motive. The people who come to me with a wrong motive end up spoiling my mood, but a genuine person’s life definitely improves. There is this man who came to me from Delhi – he is a disciple of mine. He was here on Shivaratri. His daughter’s finger got completely ripped off – it got stuck somewhere and she tried to pull it off which teared the ligaments and the bones came out. She had her exams after 15 days and the doctor wasn’t too hopeful of the finger ever recovering. He told this to me when he came here. I couldn’t give a lot of attention to what he said as there were a lot of people around. I was in a very spirited mood, so I just said “Don’t worry, everything will be fine”. When he took her daughter for a change of bandage, the doctor was shocked and told them that the finger was absolutely okay and it didn’t need any further bandages! The girl wrote her exam papers with her own hands and didn’t face any problem at all in writing. She has come here to visit me and I’m noticing that her finger does show some swelling but all the movements have restored. The vibrations of the discipline I follow here in the academy flow to all my disciples. Even though I’ve always been careful about my routines and discipline, ever since I have understood this principle, I’ve become extra careful. So many new discoveries are happening slowly and gradually.”

Q: “For example, OM that appeared in Shivalinga?”

Guruji: “Now that the OM has appeared in the Shivalinga, it’d be interesting to see what happens next. It becomes visible when we offer milk to Shivalinga through the bull’s horn, and due to the accumulation of the milk the form gets revealed. It appears as if it is engraved on it. It’s nice, but you can’t stare at it for long as the eyes starts warming up and they turn blood red, and you also start feeling drowsy after a while. The entire mental activity kind of stops when staring at it.”

Q: “Guruji, when does a person start understanding OM? Is it at the highest developed state of the mind?”

Guruji: “Definitely. It is the symbol/word of God, and I feel that this is how Shiva-ji appears in form himself. The Shivalinga is already considered His form, and now with OM appearing on it, it is as if Shiva-ji has put His stamp over His own form. Another amusing thing is that the OM looks quite similar to the one showing in the MRI scans of my brain.”

“So how can we interpret this?”

“Well, I am not able to interpret it as of now. All I can quote here is a phrase in Hindi which describes it beautifully, “sab unki kripa hai yeh” (this is all His grace). I think I need more discussions with people so we can find an answer to it. You should also think more about it so we can discuss.”

“May be it’s date of appearance has some significance?”

“May be. We do see an onset of fighting happening all around, and since Shiva-ji does the dance of destruction (tandava), there might be a relation here. If the fights are happening with the will of God, it won’t stop any time soon. Another important thing to note here is the fight with the third biggest oil producing country in the world precisely on the third day of the third week of the third month of the third year (17 march2003). It feels as if some magician was consulted to plan this. It all feels very strange.”

Q: “Here (USA) in a day-to-day life, it is very easy to ignore all these things. Nobody thinks of what is driving things actually.”

Guruji: “Yes, but with growing awareness around the world, it is getting impossible to ignore underlying causes. After all, the entire humanity is one single unit, though we are distributed all over the planet. If something happens in one place, its consequences will be borne everywhere.
I agree that an average person is not aware of this connectivity but it does exist. If you get stung by a thorn in your foot, the entire body feels the impulse which doesn’t even spare the brain. You can not ignore your foot then.

“And I feel this is just the leftover vibrations of Mahabharat. It also happened in the Middle East region, and now it is it is now being taken down again with a war. As you know, when all the vegetation of an area gets burnt due to very high temperature, it gets converted into petroleum. So that is what happened in that area and all that was left was petroleum and sand (desert). So peace will get restored in the world only after the entire petroleum stored in this area will get burnt and destroyed. There will be a sudden peace after that. What happened, does this worry you? (laughs).”

[20090802] Conversation recorded on : March 29,2003

Mysterious Gwalior: Amara Mountain

Guruji: “.. If that place appears so desolated today, can you imagine how would it have been a hundred years ago! In fact, there are a lot of such deserted places around Gwalior, discovered and inhabited by people who were seeking solitude. This reminds of an interesting experience I had at Amara mountain in Gwalior.

“In our college days, me and a friend of mine used to leave home in the morning with lunch pack and a water bottle, and roam all day on the mountains to return home in the evening. The friend’s name was Padam Upaddhyaya. One of those days, we went climbing up the Amara mountain above the Gupteswara temple. We climbed for more than 3-4 hours straight. When it got too hot in the afternoon, we decided to climb down to go back home. There was a groove made by dried water stream climbing down the mountain to Tigara road so we decided to walk alongside that. By the way, we saw white crabs and small turtles in that area. Climbing down, we saw a small cave. It had Aum painted on the wall and a trident stuck in the ground outside. There was also a dhuni (sacred fire place) nearby which seemed to indicate there must have been a sadhu living in that cave, but we didn’t see anybody around.

“Climbing further down, almost half-way down from where the road was also visible, we came across a small room – about 6×8 feet and made of stone blocks. Since we were very tired and were not in good spirits because of the heat, we decided to stop by and check it out. Looking inside the stone room, we saw a old man sitting cross-legged in one corner. He had a long white moustache and white beard, and his hair were twisted in a knot at the top. His hair and his beard were normal but his moustache was exceptionally long! And hee had really large eyes with which he was glaring at us. We were a little taken aback because of his appearance when we peered inside the room. But anyway, we sat down at the doorsteps and asked him: ‘Baba, can we have some water?’. There was a earthen pot in the room and a copper lota (tumbler) next to it.What he did next was interesting. You remember how beggars with their legs amputated move? He didn’t break his cross-legged position, but moved with the support of his hands to the water pot and fetched us water, all the while constantly glaring at us. After drinking water, we asked his leave but he gave absolutely no response except constantly glaring at us. We left and reached home at around 4pm in the evening.

“Around 5 or 6 days later, the strangeness of the encounter struck us. I said, let’s go find him again. Starting that day, for almost about a month we kept trying to find that stone-room but were never able to. We found the groove on the mountain along which we had climbed down, the cave with aum and the trident, but the room made of stone blocks had simply disappeared! On the spot where the room was supposed to be, there was plain mountain and nothing else. We had taken bearing climbing down from the top and the path we had taken earlier was very clear as well, and we tried many times even going back and forth but there was no sign of the room.

“We never figured out whether it was a spirit or a siddha who was practicing his austerities on Amara mountain and perchance we got to meet him. At that time we were college students so we had no knowledge about these things. Now it feels it must have been a spirit. Amara mountain is a very strange place in some ways.”

[20090801] Recorded: June 18, 2004

Mysterious Gwalior: The Fort

A: “I was reading a book about the history of Gwalior. It mentioned that the Gwalior fort was built by Raja Mansingh at the request of a siddha named Gwalipa.”

Guruji: “I’ve heard that as well. Mansingh built only a few portions of the fort though, what are now known as “Man Mandir” and “Gujari Mahal”. The rest of the fort is quite old. In fact, it is one of the oldest forts in India. By the way, the temple in the fort known as ‘Saas Bahu Mandir’ was originally “Sahastrabahu Mandir”. [Sahastrabahu, “the-thousand-armed” is a legendary figure in Hindu mythology. He is also known as Kartyavirya Arjuna]. Over time, the name Sahastrabahu got corrupted into Saas Bahu (Saas = mother-in-law, Bahu = daughter-in-law).

“This history is not generally well known, but there are clues to prove that it might be true. There’s a village called Jamdwara near Gwalior, where it is believed that Jamdagni Rishi lived and built his ashram. That is the place where Lord Parashuram was born, and where he decapitated his mother Renuka Devi, and that’s where he fought and defeated Sahastrabahu Arjuna. Keeping these legends in mind, it is conceivable that there could be a temple of Sahastrabahu in Gwalior. There’s no deity in that temple which is really strange, but the place is very beautiful.”

“I’ve heard that there’s a maze in the fort where a lot of people have gotten lost over the years.”

“Not exactly a maze, but there’s a yantra like pattern in the garden of Gujari Mahal which sometimes people refer to as maze. There are a lot of hidden passages in the fort though. Some legends say that the fort was built overnight by djinns (genies) ! This is a legend from that area. Some sweet-makers in Old Gwalior (where the fort is) claim that djinns used to come in the night to buy sweets from them! By the way of payment, the djinns would give them round ‘coins’ made of leather, with 1 gram of Gold nail hammered in the middle of it. I have seen such a ‘coin’ in the possession of a shop-keeper. The shop-keepers used to keep the shops open all night long in the hope that the djinns would come buy from them, since the price djinns would pay with this special coin was much higher than the value of the sweets (laugh). That area is quite mysterious in some ways.”

“This book also claims that the current Gwalior is actually the old Goverdhan”.

“That’s very interesting to know! People say that in Krishna’s times, Gwalior was a part of Vraj. The cow herders (Gwaley) used to own all this land, including Gwalior and nearby places like Gohad. These places used to belong to the cow herders of Vraj mandal. Even the mountains of Gwalior are known as Gopanchal mountains. ‘Gopanchal’ literally means a place where gop or cow herder lives. It is definitely possible.

“Also see, there’s a place near Gwalior called “Jaurasi ka Daank” which is actually the place of spiritual austerities of the 84 Siddhas! 84 in Hindi is pronounced Churasi, from which the name Jaurasi came. Datia (a place near Gwalior) is associated with Lord Dattatreya. Its old name is Datteya. The temple of Lord Shiva there, Van Khandeswara Maharaj, is a very ancient temple. There’s a legend that Ashwatthama used to come and worship there. The place was later developed by Datia Swami. But it was already a siddha place.

“Send me a copy of the book you are reading, it sounds very interesting. [“Gwalior” by Arthur Hugh, Vidya Mandir Publications].

“There’s another legend about how the fort of Gwalior came about. There was a king named Surajsen who suffered from leprosy. He did worship of the sun to get healed from his sickness and he did. After that, he built the fort of Gwalior. There’s a kund (reservoir) named after him in the fort, called Suraj kund. In fact, there’s plenty of water at the top of the fort. There are many water tanks which never dry-up and they are always filled with water even though there’s no apparent source of water to them. The fort is quite big – it is about 2km x 1 km. There are also a lot of snakes and pythons in the fort.”

“In the book, there’s also a reference about a police constable who turned into a sadhu and now tells stories to everyone.”

“Yeah, it is a very old story. He was called Baba Lochandas. He used to be a police constable and a very sincere devotee of Lord Hanuman. One day, in his worship of Hanumanji he completely lost track of time and missed his duty at work. Later, he found out that some one else had come and carried out his duties in place of him. That instant itself he resigned from his job and turned into a sadhu. First he used to live near the fort but then he moved to Sanichara (a place in Gwalior). I’ve seen that place where he moved. It is quite remote. For miles, you don’t see any houses or people and at the end of the road there’s a temple on top of a mountain where sadhus have a place to stay. “

[20090801] Recorded: June 18, 2004