I looked into the eyes of eternity …
Anuradha Vashisht visits the Gurunath Ashram at Simhagarh and comes back enriched, soaked to the very soul
A hush descends as the jungle creatures sense a human form treading softly over the twig-laden path. The rustling leaves under the feet make a complaining noise as more leap from the trees in protest, ready to be trampled upon. Another lone dry leaf trembles in the chilly winter air as it travels through eternity and gently lands on my path. I too tremble as I bend over to hold it on my palm. Its intoxicating scent triggers an overpowering sense of déjà vu, and sweeps my being away to another time, another era. The wild beating of the heart echoes deafeningly through the woods. And then, the stillness swallows up everything—the breath, the heart, the limbs, the mind, the thoughts and time …
The chimes of a temple bell pierce through the mist of thoughtlessness and bring me back to my senses. It is my five-year-old daughter announcing her presence at the quaint little Shiva temple on the hillock above. Have I felt this in my hand before? The thought darts through my mind as my fist tightens around the little leaf that introduced me to eternity a moment ago. I trot back to the Ashram.
The Ashram. It seemed to have emerged out of my consciousness after slumbering there for hundreds of years. What was it that made it appear so familiar though I clearly recalled visiting it for the first time? Why was it that I felt so cocooned, so assured as I walked barefoot all over the place? I snuggled into its warmth ever more as its air wrapped around my soul and I inhaled, inhaled deeply each moment of my stay.
The Gurunath Ashram has been built over 20 years—an intense labour of love, patience and fortitude—by Yogiraj Gurunath and his soul mate Shivangini, our Gurumaa, and whom we so lovingly call Ayee. Spiritual masters have enlivened this area for over 5000 years, Gurunath informed us.
Ensconced in the valley of Sita Mai in Simhagarh (Lion Fort), 30 kms from Pune, the Ashram is surrounded on three sides by low-lying hills. A small Shiva temple, devoutly built by Satgurunath with his own hands, broods over the Ashram atop the hillock to the Northeast. This is also the direction from which one odd panther has at times sauntered into the Ashram precincts. Two seasonal streams flowing over the jungle terrain from the southwest and the northeast of the Ashram provide it an idyllic setting.
The whole ambience of the Ashram is comfortingly familiar. It is the quintessential ashram of yore where the rishis and munis handed over the wealth of knowledge to generation next and unalloyed wisdom flowed in abundance for the seekers to quench their thirst.
It was one of those ashrams where Krishna could have sat at Guru Sandipani’s feet and accompanied Sudaama to the forest to collect firewood. It could have been the ashram of rishi Vashisht or that of Agastya muni …
Rows and rows of mango trees, tenderly and meticulously planted by the Guru and Gurumaa; fertile scent of the life-sustaining soil; an oasis of green amongst the denuding hills, away from the cacophony of the modern world, so alive and throbbing in nature’s lap; infused with the fervent devotion of the disciples, this tapo bhoomi of a Nath Yogi imparts the Yoga of Timeless Evolution to all sincere seekers of Truth.
We were happy and content in these rejuvenating surroundings, having more than our share of moments of timelessness. We were here to attend the Life and Livingness camp organized by the Hamsa Yoga Sangh. Far from the madding crowd, away from our daily mundane routines, we hopelessly prayed to get caught in a time warp. The serenity of the place was mind-blowing. The mind thus out of the way, meditations became increasingly effortless. The sessions with the Guru were especially electrifying, and we thirsted for more and more.
The day began early, with the Hamsa breathing exercises and other techniques. Thereafter was a supposedly informal session with Gurunath, which invariably took the form of a Satsang. In keeping with the Indian tradition, there was no breakfast; we only took a pick from a variety of fruit, which was sumptuously spread out permanently against a lush mango tree.
Oblivious of the day as it ambled away, we sat enthralled at the spiritual intensives with Gurunath. His blowing of the conch shell to announce the lunch, Ayee’s delightful dishes so lovingly prepared, our own partaking of each morsel, the delicious aam ras from the Ashram mangoes, dinner under clear starry skies, our dimly-lit huts, the curious jungle sounds at nights, everything flowed like a well-orchestrated symphony. Each moment each day we became more and more alive to this music that we played and which played upon us.
The nights were reserved for goshtis, and we scared the chill away with the dhuni (the sacred night fires). This was a very special time, when Gurunath took us to the misty past and erased all boundaries between myth and reality. He related to us his encounters with the Himalayan masters, the yogis who are meditating there for hundreds of years, and but for whom the universe could lose its equilibrium. We sat in awe as he recounted his experiences with ‘Him, of Whom nothing may be said’ (See box).
Gurunath’s narratives deepen with the deepening night and leave us exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. As the dawn approaches tiptoe we are ready to sink into the arms of a rejuvenating slumber. The ambers of the night fires are alive and throbbing when we return much after the sun has come high up.
Evenings were the trekking time. Half an hour of brisk walk with Gurunath through the friendly forest takes us to the place where Lord Ram and wife Sita halted for some time and then moved on their Southward journey. A Shivalingam and some difficult to identify natural stone sculptures here are an eloquent testimony to the primeval links of this place. Close by is the cave where Yogiraj Gurunath has done intense spiritual sadhna for years.
One trek in the dark night is particularly memorable. As we rambled on, he talked about the spirits who rule the dark, and the dakinis, who are said to take human or any other form to mislead you. The eerie silence of the jungle was broken intermittently by the fluttering of a frightened bird or the howls of some jungle animals. The dry leaves crackled ominously under the feet as we struggled to keep pace with Gurunath and held on tightly to the torches. Each listened somberly as Gurunath’s voice echoed through the rough jungle terrain. It was a perfect setting for a spine-chilling thriller. So perfect that when one of the fellow disciples stumbled upon a rock, she was convinced it was a dakini’s hand that gave her a mighty push. The humour was lost upon all till the episode was repeated back at the Ashram.
Another soothing feature in our weeklong stay at the Ashram was Ayee. The supple grace with which she managed the activities at the Ashram was a sight to behold. She provides that quintessential support system at the Ashram, without which we could perhaps only be encountering disarray and confusion.
When Ayee waved at us as we sat in the car for the journey back home, she called aloud: “Look back, look back, so that you return soon.” A good time after I came away from the Ashram I am still wondering. ‘Have I really come back?!’
… and the time stood still
The dark winter night is heavy with an expectant air. There is a silence so melodious that a single rustling leave strikes a jarring note. The quiet flicker of the holy fires leaps higher and higher. One fire breathes in the havan kund, the other sets ablaze the yogi’s heart, as he speaks the unspeakable, describes the indescribable.
As Yogiraj Sat Gurunath communicates and shares his experience of Shiv-Goraksha Babaji, the Deathless Yogi of the Ancient of Days, the flow of words transforms into something so magnificent that the flames merge with the Yogi and there is a subtle feel of a lingering Divine presence. The congregation gets transposed to where time stands still in awe of “He the Nameless One”, “He Who is Lightning Standing Still”.
Yogiraj Sat Gurunath speaks as if in a trance, his face glowing with divine radiance, as he relives his experience. His narrative about his Satguru is an ode sung in all its sublime glory. And he goes into raptures as he describes him:
“He is the collective Elohim, the spiritual essence of the nine Nath Lords combined. He is the great sacrifice who in a countless supernovae explosion infused every atom of creation with His spirit of livingness, wisdom and truth to redeem not only humankind but also all life and matter to their pristine state of consciousness. He is the Light that lights a hundred thousand suns.”
As Gurunath’s voice resounds in the calm of the night, each of us sit snuggled, comforted as the words echo in the recesses of our mind and we try to experience his experience, and for a moment realize the oneness of all experiences.
Shiv-Goraksha Babaji is regarded as a manifestation of Lord Shiva himself. He has bestowed upon humanity the practices to evolve human consciousness, in particular, the divine alchemy of Shiva Shakti (Kriya Yoga). Mahavatar Babaji reveals himself to only a few he chooses and usually remains invisible, guiding humanity through his disciples. Lord Shiva is the founder of the Nath Tradition (Sampradaya), which is a timeless lineage of spiritual masters, connected with Infinite Consciousness through the greatest Yogi of all ages, Babaji Gorakshanath (the same introduced in Yogananda’s ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’).
You awaken to a newer reality each moment in Gurunath’s presence, and experience your Self evolving into a newer Being. Anuradha Vashisht on what his organization is all about.
Towards inner ttransformation
Let not precious moments slip by
Seek now! The ultimate truth
Jivhamsa spread your wings to fly
Immortal realms which death defy
—Yogiraj Sat Gurunath
He is the quintessential Yogi. A rare Living Master, broadly accessible to humanity at large, unlike the Great Himalayan Yogis. Yogiraj Siddhanath Sat Gurunath, the Sanatana Hamsa, belongs to the grand lineage of Nath Yogis, which began from Adi Nath, Lord Shiva Himself.
Gurunath, who has had deep and personal experiences with Shiv-Goraksha Babaji, is the founder of Hamsa Yoga Sangh (HYS), the organization that works as a catalyst for positive change and transformation.
HYS works towards realizing his vision for earth peace and the evolution of human consciousness. His vision for earth peace embraces all humanity in one simple stroke, as he declares:
Humanity One’s Only Religion, Breath One’s Only Prayer
Consciousness One’s Only God
The support system at the Sangh makes an individual’s journey through the materialistic quagmire simpler and self-realization easier. Though a spiritual organization, the Sangh understands the materialistic aspirations of man and, through the Guru’s guidance, helps him realize them, till he naturally moves towards the ultimate experience of merging with the Cosmic Consciousness.
HYS conducts body-mind-soul integration seminars and workshops for professionals, youth and school children, where the simple yet highly effective yogic techniques perfected by Gurunath are taught. Their practice brings in a rapid inner transformation, which helps the practitioner to realize his true potential.
Besides organizing the Guru’s satsangs, it organizes Life and Livingness Camps in the country and abroad. These are intense day-and-night meditation camps, where the seeker gradually transforms in the presence of the Guru, and each moment becomes a revelatory experience. Quite simply and effortlessly, Gurunath reveals to the initiated and the uninitiated alike how “at the level of Consciousness all humanity is ONE”.
More comfortable in the arduous pathways of the Himalayas, he carries the burden of stalking the walkways of the modern world so that humanity moves towards liberation. And yet he carries this burden so lightly, as does the freshly sprung flower carry the morning dew. One moment his childlike simplicity stumps you with its innocence and the next you are looking into the eyes of a yogi who has lived through eternity and knows it all. One moment his words fall gently on your soul, as does soft drizzle on your face in the summer heat of the Great Indian Plains; the next you are chilled to the bone face-to-face with the leaping fires of his hard-core spirituality.
As the playful Ganga loses itself, humbly, to the still, placid waters of the Indian Ocean, so the mental turmoil soothes into stillness, as it encounters his Expanded Still Mind Consciousness. Superlatives, adjectives, are painfully inadequate to describe the indescribable, the unknowable, and yet so intimate, as you awaken to a newer reality each moment in his presence, and experience your self flowering, evolving into a newer Being.