Originally posted on June 6, 2012
(An ‘excerpt’ from forthcoming book, ‘The Awakening of Kundalini’ – from Meditation to Realization’ – Dean Das, is the founder of Mind-Yoga Aust, Melbourne.)
My Guru was recognized as a great Siddha throughout India.
Siddha, means ‘perfected one’, in the sense of a person whose individual consciousness has merged with universal consciousness -- a Self-Realized / God-Realized human being.
My Guru’s name was Swami Prakashananda Saraswati (referred to as ‘Babaji’).
During the 1970’s into the early 1980’s, I was afforded the rare opportunity of living with such an extraordinary human being. He lived atop a 4,500 foot high mountain plateau (gadh), Sapta Shringi Gadh, 40 kilometres north of Nasik City, in Maharashtra State, Western India. Babaji’s birth- name was Laxman. In 1917, he was born into a brahmin family in South-West India. At 8 years of age, he had a vision of the Divine Goddess:
‘I was lying in bed next to my grandmother at 8 years of age. It was night. My eyes were closed, but I was not asleep. Then I saw something behind my closed lids. It was a face, a very large face, (like the sister of Balindra, a demon whose face is worn as a mask in Divali, the Festival of Lights). What I see has many arms, in fact 18 arms extended, with a weapon in each hand. Her eyes are wide and blazing bright, and She is dressed in a green sari. She is now gone, and only the stillness of the dark night remains’. (‘Agaram Bagaram Baba’, author, Titus Foster, 1999).
At 16 years of age, following the death of his mother, Babaji left home to live as a sadhu (‘a seeker after truth’). He traversed the length and breadth of India, three times by foot, extending from the tip of Kanyakumari in the South, to Lake Manasarovar in Tibet. Thirty years after leaving his village, Babaji arrived at Sapta Shringi mountain, a Siddha Peeth (‘a place of power’), sacred to the Siddha/Nath yogic tradition, and the home of the 18-armed, Nivasini Devi. Upon entering the Devi Temple high-up in the rock wall, Babaji came face to face with the very same Devi who appeared before him, whilst lying next to his grandmother at 8 years of age. He shed ‘tears of joy’. He had finally come home.
This was in 1955. Thus began Babaji’s 27 year residency atop the Sapta Shringi mountain.
For the first seven years he lived in a cave, and subsisted on the leaves and fruits of the trees. In 1956, he was taken to a tiny village (Yeola), where he met his Sadguru, who ‘casually leant over and pressed his fingers into my eyeballs’. In that instant, ‘I saw a brilliant shimmering light before my eyes. My mind merged into that light, and I entered into samadhi’ (‘absolute absorption’). (The Sadguru was later recognized world-wide as a great Siddha Yogi, a rare exponent of the shaktipat process, the transmitting of ‘spiritual energy’ from Guru to disciple. His name was Swami Muktananda Saraswati of Ganeshpuri).
Following shaktipat initiation, Muktananda sent Babaji back to Sapta Shringi, where from 1956 until 1962, he engaged in intense yogic sadhana (‘inner-work’). In 1962 he attained the ultimate goal, reaching a permanent state of consciousness known as Self/God Realization. Swami Muktananda publicly acknowledged Babaji as a Siddha, and at his Guru’s behest, he took formal ‘initiation’ into the Saraswati Order of Sannyas (‘monkhood’). From then on he was known as Swami Prakashananda Saraswati (‘the Bliss of Self-Illumination’).
MEETING MY GURU
The year was 1975. Following a four and one half hour climb up dry creek beds, ‘we’ (my girl- friend and I), reached the top of Sapta Shringi mountain. It was nightfall. At the foot of the 300 steps leading up to the Devi Temple, was a cluster of small blue-stone buildings built on the outskirts of an impoverished village. This was the mountain ashram of the Siddha, Swami Prakashananda Saraswati.
There is a statement of esoteric import – ‘when the student is ready, the Guru appears’. The manner of meeting my Guru adhered to this principle. I had met my Guru’s, Guru, Swami Muktananda, in Melbourne, 1974. At this time, as a young man, I was undertaking intense sadhana -- hatha yoga, pranayama, and long periods of sitting meditation. The practices culminated in the ‘awakening’ of what is known as the kundalini shakti. Currents of ‘life-force’ energy permeated my body from head to foot, day and night, and at times of meditation, my mind became completely absorbed within itself. Upon my meeting with Muktananda, the kundalini process intensified a hundred-fold. Muktananda instructed me to go to his ashram in Ganeshpuri, India. I did so. Short of a year, I left Muktananda’s ashram (Muktananda was in America at this time). In my meditation, I was instinctively drawn to Muktananda’s Guru, the great Siddha, Baba Nityananada. He had lived in the village of Ganeshpuri, and died in 1961. I meditated in Nityananda’s (empty) ashram on a daily basis. I was homeless, but I knew that Nityananda had many yogic chelas (disciples) living in the surrounding mountains, at the foot of the Mandagni mountain (‘the mountain of fire’). These disciples were naga babas (‘naked, ash-covered’ babas) and dhuni babas (‘fire-worshipping’ babas), who lived in small jungle camps. I was accepted into their midst.
After a few months, I found myself residing in the camp of a mouna baba (one who has taken ‘a vow of silence’). He and a few disciples were sitting in a circle on the ground, when a non- descript man dressed in shorts and t-shirt appeared, sitting down in our midst. A hushed silence ensued. The man seated next to me said, ‘Ask him anything you like?’ I asked, ‘What is the most important thing for moksha?’ The man responded (in English), ‘Guru’. He proceeded, ‘this time in India you will meet your Guru’ (a personal matter had necessitated me returning to Australia for a brief time). ‘Your wife same Guru’ (my girl-friend was still living at Muktananda’s ashram). ‘Your Guru is not Swami Muktanananda. Your Guru is of a different nature. Your Guru is a simple man, a humble man. He lives at the top of a mountain with many children. Go to Nasik’. With that, the fellow got up and left. (Upon enquiry, I was told that this fellow travelled from Mangalore to live with old-man Nityananda when a 12 year old boy, and upon Nityananda ‘leaving his body’, the bala (boy) yogi headed deep into the mountains.
Now, the name ‘Nasik’ rang a bell! Two days previous, I was sitting in a thatched hut sipping a cup of chai. Behind me on the wall was a large photograph featuring a strong countenanced face, long dark hair, beard, and piercing eyes. A garland of flowers hung around his neck. I asked the chai wallah, ‘Who is this?’ He replied, ‘A Siddha. He lives at the top of a mountain with many children. Like an orphanage’. ‘What is his name?’ ‘His name is Swami Prakashananda. He lives near Nasik’ (by road, Nasik is some 7 hours from Ganeshpuri). The penny finally dropped! I collected my girl-friend from Muktananda’s ashram, and went to Nasik, only to discover that this Swami lived some 45 kilometres the other side of the town. It demanded a four and one half hour climb by foot to reach the summit of Sapta Shringi mountain.
We entered the small doorway into the darkened ashram temple. No electricity here! The room was lit by a single hurricane lamp. An elderly, stubble-faced man stood before me (looking nothing like the photo taken some 20 years earlier). His opening words were, ‘how long you want to stay?’ I answered, ‘I don’t know Baba. I just got here’. He replied, ‘You stay life-time’. He abruptly left the room. I stayed for around 7 years.
The blue-stone ashram accommodated 60 or so children from surrounding districts, aged between 5 years and 14 years, and a school teacher. Babaji had built a school adjoining the ashram. In addition, three times a day, up to 60 village children were fed within the ashram precincts by the three or four resident swamis, assisted by adivasi (‘Jungle caste’) people from the village.
Siddhas don’t ‘teach’ in a conventional sense. Their ‘teaching’ is experiential in nature, and is transmitted through the presence of their being. Babaji’s sole instruction to me was ‘be with me all the time’ (in a physical sense). ‘You don’t need to meditate when you are with me’. He became the object of my ‘meditation’, whilst he laughed, told stories, and joked with visitors, interrupted only by the urgency of ridding himself of the large wad of chewing tobacco causing excessive salivation.
To increase my physical proximity to him, Babaji arranged that I sleep on the verandah surrounding his room. At bed time, leaning through the window, he would joke, ‘Dean Das, nirvikalpa samadhi (‘meditative absorption free of thought’), me, nidra samadhi (‘absorption in the ordinary state of sleep’)’ - - releasing a series of ‘ahh - grrh’ guttural sounds in imitation of loud snoring. Over a period of months, I could not tolerate being in his physical presence. His body was like an electrical ‘power station’, transmitting hot electrical currents that entered my body. The ‘internal heat’ became unbearable! I tried to escape, but as soon as it was noticed, someone was sent to fetch me. Bolts of vital energy (‘kundalini shakti’) crept, leaped, shimmied, and radiated through every pore of my body. Columns of golden-hued light flowed up and down the spine, causing the mind to swoon, it entering a state of ecstatic bliss (‘samadhi’). An hour or so later, I returned to partial body awareness, to find myself sitting in the middle of the hall, my head resting upon Babaji’s wet feet, dampened by the flow of ‘tears of joy’. Babaji lightly placed his hand upon the top of my head, and ‘a soothing cool’ entered my over-heated body.
A Siddha Guru awakens a person’s latent ‘spiritual energy’ (‘kundalini shakti’) through the medium of touch, word, look, or thought. Siddhas have the full array of siddhis (‘psychic powers’) at their disposal. To the casual observer, Swami Prakashananda was a loving, humorous, unpretentious, elderly man.
And, indeed, he was truly that.
But to me, he was a loving father, and at the same time, the embodiment of Pure Consciousness Itself.
(An ‘excerpt’ from forthcoming book, ‘The Awakening of Kundalini’ – from Meditation to Realization’ – Dean Das, is the founder of Mind-Yoga (Aust), Melbourne.