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Jagadguru Bhagwaan Gopinath Ji

by Prof. J. N. Sharma

Jagadguru Bhagwaan Gopinath Ji was one of the most eminent saints who have ever graced the sacred land of India. Unlike the other saints, he was called Bhagwaan in his lifetime as all the six attributes which that word stands for were seen in him. He was a jeevanmukta, having attained mukti or liberation while still in the gross body, to which he was not attached in the least. His spiritual state was what the Shaivites call Shaambhavi avasthaa (the state of Shiva Himself) and the Vendandns, Brahmisthiti (the state of ever dwelling in Brahman, or God without a form).

With his spiritual power, he did a lot of good to spiritual aspirants, house-holders and the country. He had a peculiar way of bringing sinners around to the path of virtue. Though utterly detached, he, in his later life, showed much concern for the country and its people. Now, according to S.N. Fotedar, his biographer and one of his senior disciples, he also exercises a beneficent influence on the modern age and its concepts.

Gopinath, one of the several brothers and sisters, was born in a middle-class Kashmiri Pandit family at Banamohalla, Srinagar, Kashmir on 3rd July, 1898. His mother, Shrimad Haara-Maali, passed away when he was only twelve, and his father, Pandit Narayan Joo Bhan, when he (Bhagwaan Ji) was in his late twenties.

Gopinath was educated only upto the Middle Standard, but had absorbed well whatever he had been taught at school. He would very rarely, though utter beautiful English sentences even in later life, when he used to be absorbed in the Self most of the time. He was also conversant with Sanskrit, Persian, Hindi and Urdu.

When Gopinath was only 10, Pandit Narayan Joo Bhan reliquisted the possession of his residendal house, along with most other belongings, to his step-mother. The family continued to live in Srinagar, but had to shift residence from place to place.Thus, Bhagwaanji lived in 11 different houses, besides his ancestral house. These included the house of a niece of his at Chondapora where he gave up the mortal frame on 28h May.

The family being in dire financial strains Gopinath was asked to take up some work so at the young age of about 15 or 16, he started working at a local printing press as a compositor. He, however, gave up that job after three years. In his 20, he ran a grocer's shop, here he seemed to be generally absent-minded, being absorbed in meditation. The family pressed him to marry, hoping that marriage would bind him to the world, and so he would be a permanent financial support, but he was adamant in his refusal.

As a young man, Gopinath stood out for his bravery, fearlessness and hatred of dishonesty. Another notable feature of hls youth was his longing to visit the great saints of that time. The ones he visited included Swami Baalak Kaw, popularly known as Baalji, Swami Jeewan Saheb and Swami Zana Kak Tufchi, Gopinath remained a celebate all his life.

He regarded lust as the greatest obstacle to self-realisation. Here is an incident worth mentioning in this connection. Some friends once forced the youag Gopinath to visit a coutesan, along with themselves. At the very sight of her, he felt such a revulsion that he called her a witch and reprimanded her in very harsh language. Then, he advised, her to live a virtuous life. However, thinking that poverty must have forced her to take to a sinful life, he in his characteristically compassionate manner, threw a rupee-coin towards her before leaving her room.

His hatred of lust was noticed throughout his later life was well. Once, among the many visitors, there was a woman sitting before him. At the very sight of her, he started beating her with nis long iron tongs, and chased her away. Returning to his seat, he told the others that the unchaste woman had visited two friends that morning, and then had come to him steeped in sin.

He felt happy whenever a celebrate came to see him though he never asked a house-holder disciple or devotee to give up his wife and children in pursuit of Self-realisation.

Bhagwaan was above all considerations of caste, creed and nationality. From 1947 onwards, the people of all creeds would go to see him and he would shower his live and compassion equally on all. Once he said, in answer to a devotee's question. Is Hindu one and Muslim another?

Unmistakable spiritual leanings were discernible in the child Gopinath from the early year of seven or eight. That he visited some great saints in his youth. Most probably, he did so to find out a guru who would initiate him formally. It was not generally known who his guru was. However, much investigative work was done in this regard by Sh. S.N. Fotedar. One piece of irrefutable evidence on which he based his conclusion that the great saint Swami Zana Kak Tufchi was Bhagwaanji's guru is that it was confirmed by Pt Baal Ji Wangnoo, the younger brother of Swami Aftaab Joo Wangnoo, Bhagwaan Ji's senior co-disciple.

Bhagwaanji started with the spiritual discipline known as Panchaanga-upaasanaa, that is, meditating on the five deities, Ganesha, Surya, Narayana, Shiva and Shakti. Later, his ideal was the Divine Mother Shaarikaa, whose vision he had, for the first time, at the age of 27. Gradually, he shifted to nirguna-upaasanaa, that is, meditating on the Supreme Reality without a form. His interest in wordly affairs, including domestic matters, dwindled till in the early thirties, he took to intense saadhanaa: (spiritual discipline), shutting himself up in a room, which no one, except mostly his, was to enter. An earthenware lamp was kept buming there all the 24 hours. He did not allow even the room to be swept. His concentration was so intense and he grew so unaware of his body that a rat nibbled a hole in a heal of his. It is not possible to say what type of spiritual discipline it was, but it caused his body to swell and made him vomit blood, sometimes. During this seven-year period of saadhanaa, he would take no food for long periods extending even to six months. Sometimes, however, he would take food in very large quantities.

He came out of this terrible ordeal with the full realisation of the Supreme Reality.

In his later years, Bhagwaanji took to another type of spiritual practice. He would emit vibrations from some parts of his body, e.g. the knees and the intestines, and through his chillum smoking. The vibrations seem to have been in tune with (to-us, mysterious) cosmic vibrations.

Bhagwaanji kept a dhooni(sacredfire) burning before him and offered oblations into it off and on. He continued with this practice even while he stayed at some holy shrines in, or outside, Srinagar.

Ekam Sat vipraah bahudhaa vadanti (The Reality is one but the wise call it variously), so says the Rig Veda. The paths leading to It are also various. Having realised the Reality, Bhagwaanji respected all these paths. He defied categorisation as a Shaiva, a Shaakta a Vaishnava, a Vedaantin, and so on. Discerning people could find the characteristics of all these in him. He uttered 'Aum namah Shivaaya ' at the time of giving up the gross body, and yet a copy of the Bhagavadgita (a vadantic text, which also he regarded as a guru) used to be always by his side. Calling Aum the throat of the Godhead, he once said that nothing was possible without it in the spiritual field. It is known that he put two of his prominent disciples on the path of the upaasanaa of Narayana with a form. However, he seems to have preferred to guide his disciples from the upaasanaa of God with a form to that of God without a form.

Having attained the hlghest spiritual state, Bhagwaanji, as already stated, used to be absorbed in the self most of the time. But he could easily come down to our level of consciousness to answer questions, or, to give permission to someone to leave. Immediately thereafter, he would rise to his own state. He talked little and that, too, in such low whispers as to be almost inaudible.

Generally, he did initiate a disciple directly by word of mouth. He did so by a mere glance, by giving him a little bhasma or prashad, or by allowing him to have a puff at the chillum. Once, a European's kundalini was awakened by just having a puff at his chillum. With a mere touch of his iron tongs, he shifted a senior disciple from meditating on Narayana with a form to meditating on Him without a form.

What was exactly Bhagwaanji's spiritual state? A pointer in this direction is that a devotee of the Divine Mother Raajnaa had a vision of Bhagwaanji seated before Her at the Khirbhawaani shrine at village Tulamulla, Kashmir. The devotee was a great saint and would have visions of the Divine Mother off and on. Our question is, however, clinched for ever if we considcr that Bhagwaanji himself said when an aachaarya from outside the State wanted to know from a devotee in his (Bhagwaanji's) room at what stage of spiritual evolution Bhagwaanji was. While the devotee wondered what to say, Bhagawaanji recited the sixth verse of the Fifteenth Chapter of the Bhagavadgita, which, translated into English, reads:" The Sun does not illumine it, nor the moon, nor fire. That is my supreme abode, reaching which one does not return (to this world of birth and rebirth).

Bhagwaanji did not perform miracles deliberately. Miracles often happened where, out of compassion, he helped someone or the country. A very brief account of a few of them is given below.

Bhagwaanji helped a devotee to realise the concept of time relative to man and Lord Brahmaa (The devotee had some reservations about this). Bhagwaanji enabled him to live three life-cycle in only some earthly hours! And in each cycle he reached a mature old age!

Bhagwaanji helped two devotees separately to have a darshana (vision) of the Divine Mother of the Universe in the form of two girl children. A third was helped to have Her darshana in the form of dazzing effulgence equal to that of several suns.

From 1947 onwards, Bhagwaanji took much interest in what was happening around him. He used his spiritual power to help the country. In 1948, our soldiers saw him, at the front and just in front of them, directing them to fire in this or that direction though at that time he was seated in his room in Srinagar. His body was no hurdle in his going anywhere. Once he said that he was himself present at the battle-front, and so there was no danger to Kashmir though, again, he was physically in Srinagar. During the border was with China (1962), he once left his residence and returned the next day. His body was quite cold. He had caught a chill and had bronchitis. In answer to a question by a devotee, he said that he had gone to Tibet to settle the matters. In a few days, there was a lasting cease-fire. He kept a close eye on the 1965 war also.

Bhagwaanji was a tattvajnani (one who has all the knowledge about the elements). By a peculiar type of saadhanaa he had gained control over the elements. During a pilgrimage to the holy cave of Amarnath, he brought rain to a drought-hit area. On some occasions, he stopped rain when it was likely to cause suffering or death. He was able, due to his control over the elements, to know which organ of a person's body was diseased, and to cure it. With a mere look or the bhasma from his dhooni, he cured dreaded diseases like cancer, epilepsy, and the diseases of the heat, the kidneys and the stomach, besides many other physical ailments.

He brought the dead back to life temporarily of permanently, as the situation demanded. Once, he asked someone (probably, Mahaakala, the god of death) to wait till the next day to revive the dead father of a girl whose marriage (lagana) was being performed just then. The man came back to life, blessed the newly-wed couple, and died for good at about noon the next day. Once, two cooked fish, chewed and swallowed by Bhagwaanji himself, were vomitted by him in their original form, that is, as two live fish, because the situation demanded that the fish sprang into the nearby spring and swam away !

Once, Bhagwaanji visited Mata Jawalamukhi Shrine at Khrew in Kashmir. There were five or six people with him, so his sister cooked rice sufficient for seven or eight people. But may more started coming to have Bhagwaanji's darshana and, finally, food was needed for 50 people. Finding herself in awkward predicement, Bhagwaanji's sister talked about it to him. He asked her to keep the pot of cooked rice covered while taking helpings out of it. And, lo and behold! All the 50 people were fed, and there was still some food left in the pot!

Now something about how Bhagwaanji used his spiritual power to help householders in solving their domestic problems. Once he fasted for a month with the specific purpose of extending by a year the life-span of man, whose children still needed his attention. Could it be that the food Bhagwaanji would have taken for a month sufficed the man in question for a year and so he continued to live, even though the stock of food he was destined to take in that birth had been exhausted? Several times, he made a peculiar offering to Mahaakala to save the lives of certain people. Sometimes, he prevented road accidents even at far-away places. His blessings helped people in arranging and performing the mairiages of their daughters. As a result of his blessings, some people suspended from their services, got reinstated.

It has been already mentioned that, after attaining the highest spiritual state, Bhagwaanji in his life-time, was never hampered by his gross body. He could be present at some other places, too, while he was in Srinagar. No wonder, then, that, after giving up the gross body, he has been helping spiritual aspirants in, and outside, the country. He may appear in his astral body before them or in their meditation.
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