Chapter 1: The Eternal Grace of the Guru

Deity at the temple of Lord Ananteshwar

On Sunday the 18th May 2008, Chaitra Sudha Chathurdashi, while sitting on the stone steps of the Temple of Lord Ananteshwar at Manjeshwar, Kerala, I felt inspired by the Goddess Manjuleshwari to sing the glory of Bhagavan Nityananda, the Mahavatar of Ganeshpuri, for the welfare of all his devotees and to extend the Guru Kripa Yoga to them.

Words are insufficient to describe the greatness of this Great One, the Parabrahma in human form, Swami Nityananda, of Ganeshpuri. However, sitting below the sprawling pipal tree, next to stone idols of Nagdevta, near the main entrance of the Ananteshwar temple, I embarked on this humble seva of extolling the glory of the Eternal One, my Gurudeva, Bhagavan Shri Nityananda, relying only on His infinite Grace.

In his younger days of the wandering years, Baba had spent some time at Manjeshwar, under a huge pipal tree, on the way to the Ananteshwar Temple. It was here, at Manjeshwar, that the sorcerer named Alva offered him poisoned tobacco leaf to eat. In the vicinity, once, some fishermen, out of profound ignorance of the Greatness of Baba, set fire to a string of dry coconut shells tied around his waist, while he was immersed in divine contemplation.

Often a sadhaka is caught in the dilemma of addressing his duty while simultaneously embarking on the path of Guru Kripa. Baba used to often insist that one has to do one’s duty first. Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita also emphasises the need for a sadhaka to do the duty assigned to him. Only when he has perfected and excelled in his duty, is he empowered to successfully walk the path of Guru Kripa.

The Promise


Shri Parampujya Swami Janananda
on the steps of Nityananda shrine

In the year 2004, I was going through a rough period of confusion and dilemma, wondering how one could serve ones’ Guru and yet attend to worldly duties without losing one’s goal of Guru Kripa. In this mundane life, there are many occasions that make one wonder as to how to balance one’s worldly life and one’s Guru seva (service to Guru). While involved in worldly duties, there is a lurking fear that the whirlpool of maya may suck us into its vortex, forcibly grabbing us from the path of Guru Kripa Yoga. The worry that one may falter in attending to the dictums of the Guru looms large, while one has to face the predicament of braving the world, with all its temptations. At the same time, while undertaking this journey of Guru Kripa, the fear of failing in our duties and being ‘left out’ makes it even more difficult to tread the path led by the Guru.

It was at this time that Swami Janananda revealed to me that the grace of the Guru is eternal. It never ever leaves the disciple, even for a moment; even when the disciple forgets. He reminded me that the grace continues to pour, protect, guide and support the earnest seeker. Sadhana starts automatically when one surrenders to the Guru and places implicit and unflinching faith on his guidance.

While I was reading the fourteenth chapter of Guru Charitra of Shri Narshima Saraswati, it was Shri Janananda Swami, in his subtle form, who made me understand the essence of this chapter.

I wish to share this revelation with all, so that those who face this dilemma can be guided in their pursuit and sadhana. The original Guru Leela goes like this:

There was a devotee called Sayamdeo who met Shree Guru in his home town and served Him with extreme devotion and love. The Guru was pleased by Sayamdeo’s seva and bhakti and blessed him saying, 'I am very pleased by your devotion to me. I bless you and your family for your loving seva. You will always be very happy and prosperous. Your future generations shall continue for ages and they shall all lead a very happy and prosperous life. Your ancestors shall all attain salvation'.

Sayamdeo bowed low to Shree Guru and said, 'Gurudev, though you are Trimurti incarnate, due to our ignorance, we perceive you as a human being. In truth, you are all pervading. It is beyond our intellect to describe your greatness'. Thus praising the greatness of Shree Guru, he revealed his predicament. 'Oh Gurudev, I am serving a cruel King who invites a Brahmin to his house every year and kills him. He has invited me today and he is sure to kill me, if I go there. Now that I have seen your lotus feet, how dare he try to kill me?'

As soon as he said these words of concern, Shree Guru lovingly placed his palm on the head of Sayamdeo and said, 'Do not worry a bit. You go to the King fearlessly. He will receive you with respect and send you back to me with due honour. Have faith in me and trust my words. I promise to stay behind till you return safely. Only after your safe return shall I proceed further on my pilgrimage'.

Sayamdeo went to the King, chanting the holy name of Shree Gurudev all along. He trusted the words of Gurudev and believed that no harm shall ever befall him when Shree Guru was his protector. Sayamdeo said to himself, 'What harm the cruel King can do to me when I am blessed by Shree Guru? How dare can snake prey the small chickens of Owl? How dare can an elephant attack a lion? How can God of Death dare to cross the path of a devotee who is protected by Gurudev?'

With full faith in Shree Guru, Sayamdeo entered the house. The King appeared to be very annoyed with him. As Sayamdeo approached him slowly, the King felt very drowsy and drifted to sleep. He dreamt that a Brahmin was repeatedly hitting his chest and chopping his body into small pieces. So frightful was the dream that the King woke up shivering. He realised that the Brahmin in his sleep was none other than one who was kept waiting outside. He went out and fell at the feet of Sayamdeo seeking forgiveness and said, 'Oh dear Master! Who dared to call you here? I am very sorry to keep you waiting. Please return to your home'. So saying, he honoured Sayamdeo and showered lavish gifts on him.

Sayamdeo straightaway proceeded to the bank of the river where his Gurudev was waiting for him. He bowed low at Gurudev’s feet and narrated the day’s events. Hearing the happenings, Shree Guru blessed him and expressed his desire to proceed ahead with his pilgrimage. Sayamdeo fell at his feet and with tears in his eyes prayed, 'Now that I have had a glimpse of your Lotus Feet, Oh Gurudeva, I can never ever imagine to remain alive, even for a moment, being separated from you. I too shall join you in your pilgrimage. Just as the river Ganga was brought from the heavens by King Sagar for the welfare of all, you too have taken human form for uplifting humankind. Only your grace can give us liberation'.

Duty first

Shree Guru lovingly blessed him and said, 'Oh Sayamdeo, I have to leave as I intend to travel south. But fear not, my grace shall always be with you, like your shadow. Please perform your duties and strive for excellence in whatever you do, keeping your faith in God. Do your duty to the best of your ability, as if you are serving me, with your mind fixed on God and constantly chanting the mantra given by me. You shall never ever be separated from my Grace. Have faith in my words and give up all your anxieties. All your miseries and wants shall soon fall off and you will shall receive fame and honour from the world that you serve enthusiastically but dispassionately. I promise that I shall return to your village after 15 years. The worldly duties ordained to you as per your dharma shall not take you away from me and soon you shall merge in me. Once I have held your hand, no matter, whatever happens, I shall never ever let you go. You and all your future generations to come, are mine and shall all be happy'.

Swami Nityananda
in Vaikuntha Ashram

This is the essence of truth revealed to me, when I was advised to read the 14th chapter of Gurucharitra. Yes, once Bhagavan Nityananda holds your hands, he will never let you down and you shall ever experience his eternal grace. Once he pointed out to a group of devotees sitting in front of him, 'One who comes here will be permanently of this place'.

His message was very clear. Sadananda Swami (Padiyar Swami of Kanhangad) used to say, 'Do one’s duty first, with full trust and faith in one’s Guru and strive for excellence in whatever one attempts'. While at work, fix the mind at his feet just as a woman while going about her household chores, constantly thinks of her paramour. Chant the Gurumantra, worship one’s Gurudeva and meditate whenever one finds time. The world will not have any influence on such a person. One who pursues such a life shall receive all honour and fame without asking. While taking care to remain merged in namsankritan and continuing one’s sadhana, wait for the Guru’s infinite grace to dawn within the mind. This is what Guru Kripa is all about.

Once that happens, the Guru will guide the follower in his/her sadhana and shaktipat will happen automatically. Surrender to him like a child that trusts its parents. The Guru will ensure that sadhana goes on and the Kundalini shakti rises in all glory and the Self eventually becomes one with Shiva, the eternal principle. This is the assurance given by Baba in his remarkable talk during the Gurupurnima celebrations in 1961. This speech, given only days before his Mahasamadhi, serves as his last gift to us and his last will and testament.

Om Shree Nityanandarpanamastu

The 1961 Gurupurnima talk

Bhagavan Nityananda took Mahasamadhi on 8th August 1961. Eleven days before that, his last Gurupurnima was celebrated in Ganeshpuri. Crowds of devotees flocked to have his darshan, although no one knew how close he was to the end. Bhagavan had recently moved from Kailas Nivas to Bangalorewalla, the place where he was destined to breathe his last. Bhagavan was already very weak and his close attendants were worried that Baba might not be in a position to give the much looked-forward-to Gurupurnima Darshan. However, on the day, despite his frail condition, Baba rose early and gave non-stop darshan from 6am till late afternoon.

Baba generally did not give formal talks. However, on this occasion he spoke for forty-five minutes. There are recordings of Baba’s voice, but this particular talk was not recorded. No one but Baba understood the significance of what was happening. No one had the presence of mind to make detailed notes, but we can piece together several themes from various devotees' accounts, especially the reminiscences of my parents and Padiyar Swami.

As I mentioned, Baba never gave organised lectures, nor did he speak on particular topics. His talks were spontaneous and were usually initiated by the devotees around him. They would ask him to speak to them on various topics and he would answer in his cryptic style. In this last talk, however, Baba seemed to have a strong purpose and a number of points that he wanted to emphasise.

Usually, the flow of his conversation was light and quick, full of laughter and fun. He conveyed information in short bursts. On this day, he was clearly weak and his manner was different. Baba spoke slowly, using long sentences.

Bhagavan Nityananda all but spelled out what was going to happen in the near future. For example, he told his audience that when the gross body is shed, the subtle form is far more powerful to reach devotees. It was easier to help in subtle (nirguna) form than in gross form. The attentive listeners in the audience were comforted by these words, and also frightened.

He spoke about the Balbhojan program of feeding and caring for the children. This was very close to his heart and he wanted it to continue.

He emphasised spiritual practices. But he also emphasised the importance of one’s worldly responsibilities, one’s dharma. He said that first we should pay attention to our duties and only when they are handled, dedicate ourselves to sadhana and spiritual practices.

Mainly, he spoke about guru’s grace and guru kripa. He said that surrender to the guru is ultimate on this path. Once the guru takes your hand, he will never let you down. The guru's concern for his disciples is comparable to that of a tortoise to its young ones. It is believed that although the tortoise floats in the deep sea, its attention is always on the eggs lying on the shore (Kurma Dristhi). Its intense concern and love for the young ones soon leads the eggs to hatch and guides the newborn safely to sea.

He said, 'This One is the engine driver. Attach your bogie (wagon) to the train driven by this One and rest assured that you will be delivered'.

Finally, he told the crowd that everyone who takes birth has to eventually leave his body. This was even true for Lord Krishna and Lord Rama. There was no doubt that Baba was talking to the deepest fears of the devotees. No one wanted to believe, however, how close at hand the final act was.