For a layman, it is difficult to write about the saadhanaa of a great saint who has attained the highest spiritual state. K.M. Munshi and R.R. Diwakar, the biographers of Mahayogi Shri Aurobindo Ghosh, quote him as saying, 'It is impossible to write any biography; moreover, there is no meaning in the writing of the biographies of poets, philosophers and yogis. The reason is that they do not live in their outer actions which are visible to people.' They go on to say, 'Now he is no more amongst us and we have to be satisfied with whatever little we can have from stray hints he and his closest associates have left behind.'
For writing a biography of Bhagawaan Ji, the only material we have is Bhagawaan Ji's occasional utterances, hints and suggestions picked up by me during my contact with him ranging over two decades, and also by other devotees with long personal contacts with him; their information is very useful and authentic at the same time.
Nobody dared disturb Bhagawaan Ji when he was smoking his chillum with eyes transfixed towards the sky. He would come down to our plane of consciousness if questioned, but return to his state of infinite bliss immediately after.
For the sake of convenience, we shall speak about Bhagawaan Ji's sadlhanaa and the related matters during each of the following periods separately:(a) The period from 1908 to 1924 AD(a) The period 1908 to 1924 AD
(b) The period from 1924 to 1930 AD
(c) The period from 1930 to 1937 AD
(d) The period from 1937 to 1947 AD
(e) The period from 1947 to 1957 AD
(f) The period from 1957 to 1968 AD
Fortunately, we have in our possession certain prayers in the Devanaagri, Shaaradaa and Persian scripts copied by Bhagawaan Ji himself. From the information gathered from them and some other sources, we can have some insight into his early saadhanaa
As has been mentioned already, since his earliest boyhood he had been reciting from memory hymns like the Panchastavi, the Bhavaani-Sahasranaam, the Saundraya Lahiri, the Vishnu-Sahasranaama the Shiva Mahimnastotram, the Utpalastotraavali, the Bhagavadgitaa and the Guru Gitaa, besides the Vaaks of some Kashmiri saints. He showed great interest in devotional songs and music, and in Raslilas. which he organized himself. He was lost in ecstasy on these occasions.
From 1920 onwards, he started having a daily parikramaa round the sacred hillock of Haari Parvat on which, besides other shrines, is situated the holy shrine of the Divine Mother in the form of Shri Shaarika Bhagavati. He would sit in the Deviaangan, a plain ground at the foot of the hillock, in a hut open on all sides, smoking his chillum. He remained absorbed thus for many hours before returning home. While running the grocer's shop, (which he gave up in about 1925 AD) one evening he put up the wooden planks of the shop that served as the shutter, but neither bolted nor locked the shutter; he confided to a companion, 'Let us see whether the widow (meaning the Divine Mother Shaarika Bhagawati) really exists.' Then both left for the Haari Parvat Shrine. (It is only a great devotee, regarding the Divine Mother as his Real Mother, who can use for her the seemingly irreverent word 'widow.') At about 11 p.m., the owner of the premises happened to come out on the street. He was bewildered to see the shop unlocked and apprehended a burglary. He mounted guard at the shop for the night, sitting on the wooden platform attached to it. In the morning, Bhagawaan Ji and his companion returned from Haari Parvat and the owner of the house chided them for their negligence. Bhagawaan Ji, however, did not heed the chiding and opened the shop.
The hymns in Bhagawaan Ji's own handwriting lying at the Ashram are:1) A hymn to MahaganeshaThere are also the following in Bhagawaan Ji's own hand:-
2) A hymn to the Divine Mother
3) A hymn to Lord Naaraayana
4) A hymn to Lord Shiva
5) A hymn to the Guru
(1) An Ornkaara in Shaarada, double-lined, round which 'Raama Raama' is written; the space between the two lines is blank.
(2) A double-lined Omkaara in Shaarada round which 'Shiva Shiva' is written; the space round the two lines is blank. Over this Omkaara a prayer to the Guru.
(3) A taantric mantra in two lines in the Shaarda script.
These and other details show that Bhagawaan Ji practised the ancient Sanaatana Panchaanga Upaasanaa to begin with. This pertains to the period when he resided in Shri Ram Joo Paarimoo's house and Shri Keshav Joo Dhar's house i.e. 1914-24 and when his age was between 16 and 26 years. It appears that Bhagawaan Ji had a vision of the Divine Mother, Shaarika Bhagawati, during the latter part of this period. She was his tutelary goddess (Ishta Devi) also.
Just as Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa started with the worship of the Divine Mother Mahaakaali and had her vision, and then began his search for the other realms of spirituality, so was the case with Bhagawaan Ji, too.
(b) The period 1924-1930
During this period, in Pt Dina Nath Bhotta's house at Rangteng, Srinagar, Bhagawaan Ji lost his father. While here, he is said to have observed silence, but he was not a total recluse as he attended to family matters at times, and to the marriage of his younger sister also.
(c) The period 1930-1937
In 1930, Bhagawaan Ji had to shift to the house of Pandit Tika Lal at Rangteng, Srinagar. At this place, he appears to have plunged headlong into intense sadhanaa. He would be found lying on a bed, face towards the wall, with a small lamp burning in his room all the 24 hours. His elder sister told me that during this period nobody was allowed to get into his room except her younger daughter, Chaandaa Ji, and a few other selected people. The room and Bhagawaan Ji's bed were covered with layers of dust which he would not allow to be swept away. Cob-webs and spiders also were there. During this period, a rat nibbled a hole in one of his heels and the hole continued to be there for a long time. He would sometimes take handfuls of Datwa (Stramonium) seeds, opium, paanak and other intoxicants during this period of intense saadhanaa
At times, Bhagawaan Ji would vomit basinfuls of blood and his body was wholly swollen. On one occasion, during this period, his sister reminded him of the intense financial suffering they were undergoing and suggested to him to take to a worldly life. His reply, firm and direct, was 'Our boat is in the midst of an ocean; either both of us will land safely or get drowned.'
During this period, he would fast for months together or sometimes take huge quantities of food. This tapasyaa lasted seven years and he came out of this great ordeal clairvoyant and clairaudient, with a full vision of the past, the present and the future, a siddha with a badly mauled body but a radiant soul. This appears to be the period when he had the saakshaatkaara of Paramaatman or Shiva.
(d) The period 1937-47
In 1937, along with his sister, Devamaali Ji, and his elder brother, Gobind Joo, he moved to the house of Pt Nila Kaul Saraf at Dalhasanyar, Srinagar. They had a separate building overlooking a bazaar. He had his aasana (seat) on the second floor of the building near a window from where the Hari Parvat and the Shankaracharya hill shrines were in clear view. He would smoke his chillum and keep talking to invisible people. He was, sometimes, seen instructing people invisible to ordinary persons like us. While he did not speak well of Mahaaraaja Hari Singh, the then ruler of Kashmir, he was appreciative of Yuvaraj Karan Singh. It was clear now that he was taking an interest in his environment. People started coming to him for his darshana, for the cure of their ailments, for getting some employment or for some other forms of worldly advancement. He would help them. Here, too, he was always absorbed in the Self and had to be awakened, so to say, to attend to the people sitting around him. After a brief reply, he would again get into sarnaadhi At times, he would not respond to the people addressing him. On some days, he would go to Haari Parvat and return after a few hours, or go to other shrines.
A Sikh saint had come from outside the State to see Bhagawaan Ji. He remained with him for about three months, got thoroughly initiated and left Kashmir quite satisfied. There was a devotee of Shri Shaarika Bhagawati, Pt Maheshwar Nath Zutshi of Mallapora, Srinagar. He was a man of dispassion. He husked paddy himself to prepare the rice for his own use. He said that he had received instructions from Shri Shaarika Bhagawati to see Bhagawaan Ji and get initiated by him. Bhagawaan Ji received the devotee well and offered him a meal, a drink and his own chillum to smoke after he had smoked it himself. That was all. The devotee became a siddha. He died only a few years after initiation.
During this period, he would, at intervals, go to the Kshirbhavaani shrine also, where he would spend some days or months. The usual practice is to take a bath in a running stream within the precincts of the shrine before performing the pooja at the holy spring. He did not observe this ritual but would go directly to a hut on the premises of the shrine.
On very rare occasions, he would offer flowers or milk at the shrine. It is, therefore, likely that he used to go to various shrines as he found there the vibrations suitable for his own kriyaa (spiritual discipline) and not to worship any particular deity at a shrine.
During this period, he started the practice of blowing at live charcoals in his kaangri (flre-pot) for hours at a time. He would, occasionally, put oblations into this fire in small quantities. This, presumably, was to gain mastery over the Agni-Tattwa (the element of fire) and/ or, through it, of the other tattwas (elements of Nature).
Bhagawaan Ji's elder brother passed away in 1946. Till then, he had looked to all the requirements of Bhagawaan Ji. On the day his brother passed away, he left for Kshir Bhavaani early in the morning and in the afternoon got his right arm bandaged there, on the plea that it had been fractured. That was at the moment his brother had just breathed his last in Srinagar. He got the bandage removed on the 10th kriyaa day of the deceased. This shows the extent of his detachment at that time.
(e) The period between 1947-1957 AD.
Bhagawaan Ji, along wlth his sister. moved to the house of Pt Maadhava Joo Sathu, to whom his sister's daughter, Chaandaa Ji, was married, in the beginning of the year 1947. Here, too, he continued his spiritual practices, with his chillum as his constant companion At this place, his miracles were often noted. He started offering regularly oblations in his fire-pot (kaangdi), which is commonly used by people to keep warm in the Kashmir winter. He kept on blowing at the fire for hours together. It was now clear that he was emitting vibrations from the various parts of his body-his shoulders, knees etc. He would sometimes raise his shoulder or some other part of his body, and it seemed that he was reacting to some vibrations received by him. This action can readily be understood by those who have some knowledge of Sufism.
During this period, he would often go to various shrines. A very interesting episode of this period may be mentioned to show how clairvoyant he had become. A saintly person used to visit a Shaivaachaaryaas well as Bhagawaan Ji. This person once went to visit the Aachaarya, After some time, he wished to leave and the Aachrya asked him why he was in such a haste to go. On being informed that he wanted to see Bhagawaan Ji, the Aacharya, boasting of his scholarship, said, 'Since when have you started bowing to lumps of muck'? But this observation did not weaken the man's resolve to go to see Bhagawaan Ji. As soon as he took his seat before Bhagawaan Ji, the latter told him, 'Why do you come to bow before lumps of muck? We are not chiselled scholars.' How well has it been said that it is the unsophisticated without much learning that shall be saved, rather than those whose egoes have been inflated by erudition!
During this period, Bhagawaan Ji's birthday used to be celebrated on a large scale. More than five hundred people would be served each with a rice meal. Bhagawaan Ji's family priest would come, perform poojaa and sanctify the yellow rice prepared for the occasion, but he (Bhagawaan Ji) seemed to participate in all this mechanically, and would, off and on, offer aahuties into his dhooni at the time of the poojaa even: he probably submitted to the family priest in order to keep alive the tradition. Musical performances, with the santoor and some other musical instruments being played, were very common on this day and would continue till the early hours of the next morning. He would put a vermilion mark between the eye-brows of all those who called on this day. He also gave them the prashaada of sugar candy and a pinch of ashes each from his dhooni. He was very gracious on that day and all smiles.
During this period, he had a number of devotees. He initiated a devotee by a mere look or by sharing his chillum with him, and very rarely by word of mouth. In fact, all those who came for spiritual advancement received his grace according to their capacity and leanings.
(f) The period 1957-68 AD
Bhagawaan Ji's sister's son-in-law died in 1957 and the deceased's younger daughter, Kishni Ji, approached Bhagawaan Ji to say that they were now feeling lonely and miserable and that there was none to look after them, their mother, too, having died earlier. Straightaway, seizing his chillum and a woollen blanket, he moved to their house at Chondapora, Srinagar, accompanied by his elder sister. He continued to live there till he gave up the gross body on 28th May, 1968.
On going to that house, Bhagawaan Ji started his dhooni in an iron sigdi. He kept it burning from morning till evening every day. At this place also, he would continuously blow at live coals for hours together. Again, at this place, he got a round, widemouthed earthen ware vessel and filled it with water; he placed a brass basin over it with a metal tumbler inside. both of which he also filled with water. He was seen concentrating upon it with a fixed gaze, as if watching the water vapour or something luminous, which we cannot see ordinarily, rising from the tumbler. It is clear that he was dealing with the Jala Tattwa (the element of Water). He seems to have been dealing with the Vaayuand AakaashaTattwas (the elements of Air and Ether) by smoking his chillumin a rythmic way, and emitting vibrations towards the Aakaasha(the sky).
Normally, we can see the three sthula (gross) tattwas, vlz. the earth, water and fire, and only feel the Vaayu Tattwa; but the remaining four sukshama (subtle) tattwas viz., Aakaasha, Manas, Buddhi and Ahankaara, cannot be experienced by our five sense organs. These can be experienced only by those whose intuitional eye (jnaana netra) has opened; they can see the colours, the form, and the actions of those tattwas as well.
The mastery over the tattwas is believed to have given Bhagawaan Ji supernatural powers to cure the otherwise incurable diseases, and regenerate the wornout organs of a human body.
He was a trikaala-drashtaa, one who clearly sees the past, the present and the future. One example of how clearly he could foretell the future is given below:
One Mr Kantha Joo Peshin who was a God-fearing man and used to visit Bhagawaan Ji often, fell ill. He sent a man to Bhagawaan Ji to tell him that the former knew that he (Kanth Joo) was to die soon, but he wanted to know the exact time and date Or his death. Bhagawaan Ji told the messenger that Mr Peshin would die on the following Wednesday at 4 p.m. And he passed away on that day exactly at 4 p.m.
Some of the spiritually-advanced saadhus who came frequently to have Bhagawaan Ji's darshana said that he was a rare siddha. Others said he was at the Avadhoota Avasthaa Still others said that he was a sthitaprajna and there was another class to whom he was a karma yogi. He seemed indeed to combine the qualities of all these in himself.
During this period, musical concerts were held every Sunday afternoon, when the santoor was played and sufiaana songs were sung by Pt Vedh Lal Dar, Pt Badri Nath Kaul and others. Bhagawaan Ji seemed to enjoy the music immensely.