A brief biography
Sri Samarth Ramdas wote: “He should be called a saint who has known God, and who has definitely ascertained what is Eternal and what is Non-Eternal.” Such a one was Sri Gajanana Maharaj.
Sri Gajanana Maharaj was born Gajanan Murlidhar Gupte in the state of Maharasthra in 1882. When he was three years of age his parents became ill and died. His mother Rajubai gave Gajanana into the care of her sister Balubai with the request, “If ever you happen to meet a saint, place my Gajanana on his feet. By the blessings and grace a saint, Gajanana’s life will be happy and blessed.”
When Gajanana was ten or eleven years old his elder brother Rambhau met a great yogi, Narayana Saraswati. He wrote to his family urging them to all go to where Narayana Saraswati was staying. They did so, and while there Gajanana had a vision in which he was instructed by Sri Matsyendranath, the founder of the Nath Yogi Sampradaya (Nath Pantha) in Soham Yoga. Sri Narayana Saraswati declared that his experience was real, and that Gajanana had been a great yogi of the Nath Pantha in a previous life, and would become a guiding light to many aspirants on the spiritual path.
Gajanana was only educated up to the fourth grade, but did not complete that grade, refusing to attend school any longer. He lived with his brother, Narayanrao, who became a famous poet in the Marathi language. Gajanana began going to solitary places for meditation, which became his whole interest. Many miracles and supernatural events occasionally took place around him, but he swore all witnesses to complete secrecy regarding them. He often received spiritual guidance in his meditation.
It is not known at what time Gajanana Maharaj began instructing people in Soham sadhana. He always declared firmly that he was not their guru, and they were all his friends, not disciples. He also insisted that none of them should ever talk about him to others and not even mention his existence. Yet in various ways a trickle of aspirants found their way to him and learned sadhana from him. After a while he settled in the holy city of Nashik and lived in a small room in the back of a ramshackle house. It was rare for more than two or three people at a time to visit him there. He always dressed like an ordinary worldly man and had no marks or trappings of a yogi or sadhu. There were never any kind of religious activities in his room, nor were there any depictions of Hindu deities, though there were some photographs of a few saints. He refused all gifts or money.
In this way he lived in quiet obscurity for some time. It is estimated that in his entire lifetime he instructed less than fifty people in meditation.
Sri Gajanana Maharaja left the physical body and entered into mahasamadhi at Nashik on the 28th of September, 1946.
In 1941 a book was published that included some of Maharaj’s teachings, and after his leaving this world a small book of his spiritual instructions was printed. Some of those teachings are found scattered in the earlier chapters of this book, especially Chapter Three, and the rest of them are included in this Appendix.
Words of Sri Gajanana Maharaj
O my mind, be always repeating the japa of Soham.
If you want to realize the sweetness of sugar or the bitterness of quinine, you must taste it yourself. Any amount of description in words will never make you realize it. Self-realization is similarly a matter of experience, and firm faith alone will enable one to get that experience.
Every human being is ceaselessly trying to acquire happiness or to increase his share in it and to avoid pain, or at least to lessen it as much as possible. But the experience is just the contrary. He is ever feeling the lack of something and is always plunged in misery. Things which are pleasant in the beginning end in sorrow, and misery is always on the increase and gets the upper hand. As man does not really understand wherein lies his happiness, he passes his days in the vain hope of securing happiness some time or other. Death catches him in its grip while his search for happiness is still going on. People do not profit by the example of their companions and fellow-beings, and so continue the same search and follow the same path. They, however, do not stop to think wherein lies real and lasting happiness. A man, if he thinks deeply about this, will come to know that all things in this world which appear pleasant are perishable and false like a mirage. They either cause pain or increase the pain which is already there. No one, however, acquires this insight. On the contrary, everyone is entangled more and more in this snare of misery and finds it difficult to see a way out of the maze.
It is therefore necessary that some royal road should be pointed out so that people going by that path might root out this unending sorrow and pain and reach the destination where there is everlasting peace and happiness. I am putting before the world my experiences in order that people might find an easy, short and sure way of reaching this goal of everlasting happiness. When you get experience for yourself, you will be sure that you are on the right path. You will yourself enjoy full, complete and everlasting happiness and also lead other forlorn and miserable fellow-beings to the same path.
There is a simple and royal road to obtain real happiness and bliss–a road which does not require the abandoning of worldly life and of our usual worldly activities. This path is known as Dhyana Yoga or Raja Yoga or Karma Marga.
If you follow this path you are sure to reach the goal. The series of difficulties which a person has to undergo in this worldly life, in due course awakens a desire in him to find out this path leading to unchanging and everlasting happiness. He then tries his utmost to discover this path, but he is almost always groping in the dark. The main object in my writing this is to shed light in this darkness, and to illumine the path for the sake of these struggling human souls.
To thoroughly understand the “I,” to seek for It and to catch hold of It, is the goal of this path. For a human being, whether man or woman, this is not an easy task. A keen desire to find out this “I,” a firm determination to carry on the search for It, great perseverance in sticking to this pursuit and firm faith–these are the steps which an aspirant has to ascend if he wants to reach the goal. Once you reach the high pinnacle you can sit and cast a glance on the panorama of worldly existence spreading out below you.
A person who feels this urge to find out the “I” and thus to enjoy this unrivalled empire of complete and unchanging bliss, is known as a mumukshu [a seeker after liberation–moksha]. To complete this search and to be in the enjoyment of this everlasting happiness is known as obtaining moksha. The path which leads to this moksha is known as yoga. This yoga is merely a means leading to the end. There are different paths leading to moksha which are the different yogas and are known by different names. But the paths other than the one described here are difficult to follow.
To find out the “I,” a person must have firm, unswerving faith. Once he obtains this, he will be able to see clearly the path before him. This is known as Anugraha. When this Anugraha is obtained, he must carry on the japa of the mantra Soham, which is the answer to the question, “Who am I?” The meaning of the mantra is: “I am He,” “I am God.” Keeping this in mind, the sadhaka must carry on the japa with firm faith.
The continuous repetition and meditation of this mantra, Soham, is known as abhyasa (practice). This japa will not interfere with any of your worldly duties. As the contemplation proceeds, the broom of Soham will sweep off the dirt of the innumerable desires entertained through the course of previous lives from the heart, and the heart will then become pure. Owing to this, a sense of detachment will grow and the mind will be entirely free from desires. As soon as you reach this stage, you will be immersed in the bliss of the Self, and then there will be no further necessity of carrying on the search for the “I.”
Supposing you try to keep your mind pure and by continuous contemplation a feeling of detachment grows up in your mind. Still the question remains whether you, the sadhaka, can be said to have progressed. You can get a very satisfactory answer to this question.
Every aspirant must, with perseverance and firm faith, carry on the abhyasa (practice) until he becomes fit to be the recipient of the final experience. His progress will depend upon his practice in this life. But it goes without saying that he is sure to attain the goal sooner or later.
Just look back retrospectively. Consider what was the tendency of your thoughts before you began your practice, what were your defects and what were your merits then, and observe the tendency of your thoughts now. See whether your good qualities have increased and your defects have become less.
The following are some of the characteristics that accompany the stage of the realization of the final experience. Desire, hate, attachment and fondness for sensual enjoyments are conspicuously absent. A feeling of complete detachment reigns. The mind is, as it were, nullified. All disturbing waves of thought subside and the deep calm ocean of peace pervades everywhere. The real object of getting this human life is fulfilled. The real nature of “I” is thoroughly understood. The continuous practice of dhyana and japa leads to this stage. In that stage, the dhyata, dhyana and the dhyeya–the contemplator, contemplation and the object of contemplation–become one, and thereby the real object of devotion is fulfilled.
As the sadhaka progresses, he gets certain powers (siddhis) in the natural course. He, however, must not be attracted towards those powers, but must carry on the practice with firmness. If he allows himself to be attracted by them, he becomes their prey and various obstacles then arise in the path of his progress, which sometimes is altogether stopped.
Now there is a question: Is there any use in carrying on the japa of Soham without faith in its efficacy?
The answer to that is that the repetition of the japa will always be useful, even though done without faith. No doubt all the shastras and saints lay stress on faith, and hence the above statement will appear contrary to their teachings. However, if you go deep into the matter and observe minutely, you will easily be able to reconcile the two statements. Without having faith–although it may be in the subconscious mind–no one will be induced to practice the japa. As soon as a person begins to repeat the japa, faith is there accompanying the japa like its shadow. If we carefully follow this argument the seeming contradiction will cease to trouble us. A real mumukshu or devotee will never be deceived by the seeming contradiction, and will never allow his mind to be disturbed and turned away from the path.
As an illustration of comparing Dhyana Yoga with other yogas, let us take the case of the nine-fold path of Bhakti (Devotion). In this all the organs [jnanindriyas and karmindriyas] have to be utilized in the service of God. In the repetition of mantra or the contemplation of God, however, only the mouth, ear and mind are utilized. It is not necessary to make a comparison with all the other yogas. This illustration will convince anyone why Dhyana Yoga is by far the easiest. In the Yoga Sutras 1:28 we find: “Its japa and fixing one’s attention on its meaning.” Patanjali makes clear the method to be followed.
The aim of all yogas is the realization of the Godhead. The state is known by various names such as Sayujyata, Soham, Aham Brahmasmi, or Sakshatkar. To reach this goal, firm faith, persevering effort, complete devotedness, concentration and a capacity to persevere are necessary. If a sadhaka carries on practice in this manner, he is sure to reach the goal of Self-realization sooner or later, according to the merit acquired by him in previous lives. If a sadhaka does not carry on the practice for a sufficiently long time with firm faith, but leaves it in the middle, being tired of waiting, he will never attain Self-realization.
The sadhaka alone, who has gained this aptitude for spiritual knowledge in his previous life, will develop a liking for this practice leading to oneness with Brahman, and he alone will ultimately enjoy everlasting bliss. All dross is sure to be swept away from the heart of such a sadhaka by the constant japa of Soham. If the seed of Soham is sown in such a field, it is sure to sprout into a beautiful tree which will be laden with the fruit of the bliss of Self-realization. Such sadhakas will be enjoying unchanging bliss and will very easily cross the river of worldly existence. When a sadhaka reaches this stage he can very easily control his mind, intellect and ahamkar. The power generated by the constant repetition of the Soham mantra is sure to lead to the complete liberation of the sadhaka.
The mantra of Soham is the inner, subtle sound produced by the incoming and outgoing breaths. Everyone is breathing and producing this sound, but no one is conscious of it. Hence no one practices this japa. But if anyone carries on the practice by fixing his attention upon this japa, he will be sure to obtain its fruit. I carried on the japa with perseverance and firm faith, and later this practice became my nature.
My brothers and sisters, if you also carry on the practice with firm faith and assiduity, you too will get experience in a greater or lesser degree. From amongst all who thus try, only those whose practice reaches perfection will get Self-realization. Faith, perseverance and continuous effort lead to success and realization of the Self. If your efforts are weak, or if you abandon the practice in the middle and ask why you do not get experiences which others get, it will be a senseless question not deserving any answer. “There is no firm conviction and the mind is wandering everywhere.” If such is the state, abhyasa (practice) will be useless and will be of no avail. Hence you must have firm faith and realize your oneness with Brahman through the power of the mantra.
The Dhyana Yoga of the Nath Pantha which has been handed down from Matsyendranath acts like a light which clearly shows the right path. I say this from my own experience. As the sadhaka has to repeat the japa of Soham and also to meditate, this path is known as Dhyana Yoga. With firm faith, having turned back the course of thoughts from the outward world to inside himself, a sadhaka has to carry on the japa and meditation for a long time. As he progresses, he gradually reaches perfection and realizes that his own soul has been his sadguru. This stage is known as oneness of jiva (the individual soul) and Shiva (the Supreme Soul). It is also called Sakshatkara. A sadhaka then naturally enjoys the bliss of the Self and becomes devoid of desire for anything else. This path is also known as Dhyana Yoga or Karma Marga, because a sadhaka gets Sakshatkar after progressing through many steps. He also attains complete knowledge, hence it is called Jnana Yoga. I therefore again and again say that people should have recourse to this simple path of self-deliverance.
Now let us see how a man should act in worldly life so that he may progress spiritually while leading a life in the world. To him I say, “My good friend, do not leave your family. Continue to do your worldly duties as you are doing now. Only begin the practice of Dhyana Yoga and carry it on and stick to it with perseverance. You can thus kill two birds with one stone. You will be able to lead a worthy worldly life and also to progress spiritually. Try it and you will be convinced of the truth of what is said above from your own experience.”
Now let us see how this can be accomplished. No human being can ever escape from the necessity of doing actions. There are, however, two different ways of doing these actions. In the one, we do all actions with the desire of achieving some object as a consequence of those actions. If our object is fulfilled, we become happy and full of joy. If, on the contrary, we fail in achieving our object and are unsuccessful, we are cast down and we become full of sorrow. Thus we see that the real cause of our happiness or sorrow is not the actions themselves, but the object or motive behind them. If we then abandon the object and do not pay any attention at all to the consequences of our actions, but do them from a sense of duty only, we shall never fall into the clutches of sorrow and our peace of mind will never be disturbed. Actions done with the desire of achieving some object are known as sakama and those done merely from a sense of duty without any object in view are known as nishkama.
Now if we cast a glance at the worldly experiences of our own and of others, what do we see? Do we find that all our actions are successful and that our desires are in every case fulfilled? Do the actual results of our actions correspond to the expectations entertained in our mind regarding them? No. On the contrary, we find that in the majority of cases we are unsuccessful and have to swallow the bitter pill of disappointment. There are various obstacles which intervene and frustrate our desires. We sometimes overcome some expected obstacles and triumph over the difficulties. But almost always we succumb before unexpected obstacles and difficulties. In such circumstances we get confounded, and getting submerged in the slough of despondency are completely at a loss to know what do. We are sometimes quite tired with our life and wish that it were ended. Why is it so? It is because when we do actions with some object in view, all our attention is directed towards the object, and once that is frustrated the equanimity of the mind is entirely disturbed and we become a prey to sorrow and despondency.
If on the other hand we do actions merely from a sense of duty without paying any attention to the result, and taste the fruit of those actions quite naturally as it comes, we shall not be affected either by joy or sorrow and our peace of mind will never be disturbed. This is because vasana (desire) which is the root cause of all sorrow is nullified. To do actions in this manner is known as Nishkama Karma Yoga. If a person follows this method while leading his life in the world he will surely attain Self-realization. Such a person need not renounce the world. Only he must follow this method with great perseverance and firm determination. He must only have the will to do so, and his efforts will surely be crowned with success.
All actions, therefore, which are done by us without any desire of obtaining the fruit, and simply from a sense of duty, are nishkama. Such a person is known as a Nishkama Karma Yogi. He easily achieves success in spiritual matters, and in course of time attains the bliss of the Self.
While practicing Nishkama Karma Yoga or Raja Yoga, many a time various miracles take place at our hands. This stage is known as the stage of siddhis (powers). There is a danger at this time of our becoming either afraid or triumphant or proud. Very great care must be taken at this time. Otherwise we shall become as blank as we were at the beginning of our spiritual career. If we make use of these powers for obtaining fame or wealth, our spiritual progress will be entirely stopped and we shall stray away far from our goal of acquiring the knowledge and realization of the Self. If we however consistently maintain the attitude that we are not the authors of these miracles, we are not responsible for them and they happened naturally, these siddhis will not operate as obstacles on our path and we shall easily attain our goal and gain complete peace and happiness.
I therefore humbly request you all, whether you are mumukshus or sadhakas: Think of all things with an independent and unbiased mind, through practice root out all likes and dislikes and acquire a sense of complete detachment. With Nishkama Karma Yoga carry on your worldly duties, and through meditation and practice become one with the universe and enjoy everlasting bliss.
Let us consider the subject of the Unmanifested (Avyakta). We have to designate all things by some word. This necessity of using some word to designate things is felt by all, whether saints, learned persons or ignorant people. When a child is born, it does not say that it should be called by a particular name such as Govinda or Gopal; but people give it some name. The same is the case with the Unmanifested. A child was born from the Unmanifested and the saints called it Maya. From time immemorial saints have come out of the Unmanifested, assuming a saguna form and having bodies–embodiments of light–in order to teach human beings and to spread spiritual knowledge in the world.
Every human being is sent into this world for the purpose of enjoying the bliss of the Self, while doing worldly actions in a detached spirit, and of realizing the Godhead. We must not to get entangled in the nets of sex and money [lust and greed: materialism]. Thus, our ahamkar will be sattwic and not tamasic. It is the tamasic ahamkar that makes the world so full of misery. If we want to make our whole worldly life full of bliss, we must meditate on the Self through the mantra of Soham.
Such has been my own experience and I feel that this body is not mine. I have reached this stage entirely through meditating on Soham. I cannot say that I have attained this stage through my own efforts. This Soham which has come out of the Avyakta (the Unmanifested) has brought the shakti (power) of the Avyakta with it, and owing to this shakti everything of mine has become Krishnarpana (one with the Godhead). Hence, Maya does not trouble me. I have become one with Soham and I have realized my Self by meditating on it. I am enjoying unchanging bliss.
Every religion has got its own saints and prophets. If a person of whatever religion has firm faith and meditates on the Self, he is sure to go beyond pleasure and pain and to attain everlasting bliss. The mantra Soham is the sole savior. I am absolutely sure of this, not merely intellectually but through self-experience. This does not mean that I have become a saint or that I deserve to take my seat along with the great saints. I only say that all saints have resorted to this very mantra, and when their thoughts become entirely merged in the Supreme Self they become one with Brahman and shine forth in this world. I have not reached that stage as yet, but I am sure that through their grace and through meditation on Soham I am enjoying the same bliss which they enjoy. I have not as yet arrived at the stage of such great saints as Jnaneshwar, Tukaram, or Ramdas. But I am following in their footsteps and taking draughts of the supreme bliss. These saints have boldly declared in their imperishable words that they have been saved by Soham, and that others will also be saved by the same mantra. It is they who handed over to me the mantra Soham which was hidden in the Avyakta in the deep recesses of my own soul. This treasure was with me but I had forgotten the place where it was hidden. The saints pointed out to me that place and from that time I have been continuously contemplating on the Self. Future saints also will preach the same principle.
I am telling others to repeat Soham not on my own initiative, but the saints are speaking with my mouth. This Soham which has come out of the Avyakta is ever present in the hearts of men. Saints become one with this Soham which is in their own hearts and then the Soham merges itself again into the Avyakta.
I therefore think that Soham is the real Karma [action leading to liberation], it is the “I” and the saints have made me realize this “I.” This Soham is the real secret. It is God, it is Karma, that makes us realize this through their grace. Through continuous practice and meditation on the Self a person attains a stage in which actions become automatic. Such actions may be called sakama or nishkama. Just as saguna and nirguna are one, similarly in that stage sakama and nishkama are one. He does not look to the result and is indifferent whether the actions result in loss or gain. He is ready to endure both. He is sure that the body, this earthly tenement, is not his own. Hence he does not not care whether pleasure or pain is the result of that action.
Pure love is the real “I.” It is the real sadguru. When a person becomes an embodiment of this pure love, he has really conquered the whole world. The same thought is expressed by Sri Tukaram when he says, “He who humbles himself before all creatures holds the unlimited (God) within himself.” If you have unqualified pure love in your hearts you will really be blessed with this sadguru’s grace. This love should be absolutely pure without the least malice towards anyone. A typical example of this love in worldly life is a mother’s love. If that love which a mother feels for her child is felt by us towards all creatures, then God will surely come to dwell in our hearts. This love is awakened in our hearts by the words of saints and by coming in contact with them. It is this idea which Tukaram has expressed in the following words: “The nature of pure love is such that it loves without any motive of self-interest.”
Maya was born from the Avyakta and the world was born from Maya. You may also say if you like that the world was born first and then Maya was born. It is just the same. Saints have said in their imperishable words that Maya is Brahman and Brahman is Maya. A sadhaka has to get an understanding of this principle at the feet of saints. When he does this, his whole samsara (worldly life) becomes full of bliss. Whatever actions he then does, his mind is always steeped in bliss. That action may be sakama or nishkama. He becomes absolutely detached. In that stage the thoughts expressed by him are of great benefit to all, whether they are ignorant or learned. If people listen to these thoughts and act to bring them into practice, they become full of love for him. Then, their egotism, kama, krodha and lobha (avarice) become as if dead. Their kama, krodha, etc., produce no reaction in others or in themselves.
This is the true path of progress for a mumukshu. A mumukshu must carry on this practice with great devotion and selfless love for at least twelve years. He will then be able to reach Self-realization. This faithful sadhaka then reaches the stage of vijnana. If a sadhaka feels true and selfless love, he later on reaches the stage when his own Atman (Self) becomes his guru. This love was born from the Avyakta; saints were born from love. Maya was born from the saints and the world was born from Maya. In order to reach the Avyakta we have to go back by the reverse process. God is enshrined in the hearts of saints who are full of love. It is the saints alone who teach how to look upon samsara as Brahman, and Brahman is nothing but Atmic bliss.
To trouble the saints regarding our worldly affairs is detrimental to our spiritual progress, because this shows that we attach undue importance to them. And when our worldly desires are not fulfilled, our faith in the saints becomes shaky. Some persons come to me and ask me to remove their worldly troubles. “I have incurred a debt of four thousand rupees. This makes my mind uneasy. Kindly shower your grace upon me and make me free from care.” Such are some of the complaints which are often brought to me by people. They desire that I should ward off their difficulties and troubles. A real saint will never do this.
Therefore when people come to me for the redress of their worldly troubles I plainly tell them that every person must patiently bear the troubles sent to him by his fate, and that the best way of solving worldly difficulties is to follow worldly and practical methods.
There are some persons who come to me solely with the object of achieving their worldly objects. They have nothing to ask in spiritual matters. To such I say, “This is not my business. You should go to those saints who happen to possess such powers.” It is the mission of real saints to point out the path which leads to sure and everlasting peace and happiness to persons who, being extremely harassed by worldly troubles, are in urgent need of finding out a way which will take them out of all troubles and establish them in everlasting peace. Real saints have this power of granting boundless happiness and complete peace of mind.
I therefore say that people should pay careful attention to what I have said above and keep firm faith in the mantra Soham. This faith should be such as the child has in its mother. Just as the child never has any doubt that she is its mother and that she will fulfill all its desires, similarly they should have firm faith in the sadguru who is none other than Soham, and have not the least doubt that this mother Soham will deliver them from all troubles and difficulties.
My dear brothers and sisters, devote all your energies to acquire this love which is pervading the whole world but of which we are not conscious. By the japa of Soham you will establish this love in your hearts and become blessed. This Soham japa is like an ocean which is full of unlimited bliss.
The repetition of Soham may be sakama, or nishkama. As Soham is based on the workings of nature, its japa, though it may be carried on with the object of fulfilling earthly desires, will ultimately be united with the real Soham which is enshrined in the innermost core of our being, and thus bring into awakening the power of the Paramatman. Objects of earthly desires are not permanent. The joy which is felt in their attainment is evanescent. But the effect of even the sakama japa is not altogether lost. It retains its force and awakens the power of the Self.
An atheist might say, “I cannot understand all this. God and the Paramatman are all ideas and guesses. What have I to do with them?” Let us for the sake of argument admit that what he says is true, that these are all ideas. Now let him answer the following question: “You know that these are all ideas. Who is it that knows about these ideas and is conscious of their being mere ideas?” A person sometimes says, “I am ignorant.” Let him consider who is the knower of his ignorance. A person sometimes says, “I do not want this, I do not want that.” Even though he might say that he does not want anything, still the “I” would always remain. This “I” is Soham, and eternal peace is its nature. A person might say that he does not want all this bother about God, dhyana, devotion, faith and concentration. All right; but let him say whether he wants peace, calmness and happiness or not. Even if he thinks that these ideas about God, etc., are false and illusory, still he must admit that there is somebody inside him who thinks them false and illusory. This knower inside us is the Self and that Self is Soham.
As long as the breath goes on, life goes on, and the activities of the body go on. The saints have explained the meaning of the incoming and outgoing breath, and Soham is the sound which is produced by the incoming and outgoing breath. This Soham sound is ceaselessly being repeated in our body whether we are conscious of it or not. If we become conscious of this internal Soham, we shall experience peace of mind. If we fully understand this Soham, we shall attain complete bliss, which is the real nature of Soham, and become one with it.
Aspirants should not become despondent and abandon the practice through a sense of frustration if they find that their efforts are not crowned with success in a short time. They are sure to realize the real power of Soham after some days if they carry on the practice continuously, with great intensity. There is absolutely no doubt about this. I say this from my own experience. The aspirant should have the firm determination that he will carry on the practice of Soham intensely in the future, although he might have failed to do so in the past.
If an aspirant carries on the continuous meditation on the sound of Soham, he will become one with Soham. If he happens to die in this stage he can be sure of attaining sadgati (high status) after his death. It is very difficult to bring our mind to bear upon the contemplation of God at the time of our death. The force of desires is very great at that time, a person becomes a prey to them, and owing to this has to go through the cycle of various lives. If, however, he gets himself accustomed to the continuous intense contemplation of the sound of Soham, his mind at the time of death will not be entangled in the meshes of worldly desires, but will be merged in Soham and hence he will be sure to go to a higher state after his death. I therefore say to you all: commence the japa of Soham and carry it on ceaselessly.
What is necessary is that we must devote our attention to this Soham. The more your attention is directed towards Soham the greater will be the change in your mind and thoughts.
If you realize that Soham is the real nature of “I” in the body–and that this Soham is ceaselessly going on, you will thoroughly understand that “I” is the Soham inside. The speaker, doer, the action itself and in fact everything will be one with Soham. I am at present experiencing to some extent the bliss of such a state, and anyone else who will do as I have done will attain similar bliss. As long as the “I” dwells in this body, we must get into the habit of repeating Soham. Ceaseless repetition will make the trend of all thoughts full of Soham.
Various doubts and misgivings assail the mind. This is the natural result of evil impressions left on our mind by bad thoughts in previous lives. But there is no reason why we should feel discouraged. Our present duty is to get ourselves accustomed to the entertaining of good thoughts.
Every mumukshu should ceaselessly make strong effort to meditate upon Soham. It does not matter even if the japa is sakama. He should not give any thought as to when the japa will lead to the final attainment of the goal. His efforts should be directed towards trying to keep his attention fixed on the sound of Soham. He should try to fix his attention on Soham even while doing worldly actions. This Soham will in course of time remove the dirt of bad thoughts and make the mirror of the mind clean. As soon as the mirror becomes clean, the blissful nature of Soham will be realized. Hence we should direct all our efforts towards keeping our attention fixed on Soham without any break. If we do so we shall surely attain complete peace and happiness and life will be full of bliss.
This Soham is ever present in every being in the form of his own Self. This Soham is continuously going on, it never stops. This Soham which is seen in all animate and inanimate things is my Jani Janardan (God present in all human beings), and wherever I use the word “Jani Janardan,” I mean by it this Soham, present in all.
While carrying on the contemplation of Soham, an aspirant should always be carefully observing whether his worldly desires are gradually dropping off. The gradual dropping of worldly desires, and the capability to perform worldly actions solely from a sense of duty and not with a view to achieve some object, are sure signs of spiritual progress. If an aspirant makes it a point to see that his attention is continuously fixed on Soham, that his mind is growing more and more detached, and that he is continuously carrying on the practice with firm faith, I am sure that he will certainly reach the goal. Whether a person is a mumukshu (aspirant), sadhaka, or a siddha (a person who has obtained siddhi or power), if all his desires have completely disappeared and he has attained a complete sense of detachment, then he attains a stage in which God is always with him wherever he is.
These words are the expressions of my internal intuition. The expressions used may not be polished and beautiful, but I humbly request that on that account people should not be indifferent to what I say. I have first practiced what I preach. Hence people should also translate these precepts into practice, and then see whether they are true or not. I therefore urge all people, whether ignorant or learned, mumukshus or sadhakas, to carry on the japa of Soham with their attention continuously directed towards it.
Some people say that the present age is the age of material happiness. The present Yuga is Kali Yuga. In this Yuga it is extremely difficult to attain the highest goal of Self-realization. Naturally, men in general will be always striving to obtain material happiness. I, however, think that it is not proper to be complaining about external conditions. A little consideration will, on the contrary, convince us that external conditions are almost the same in all Yugas. The change lies in the mind, the attitude it adopts. According to the attitude of your mind you will feel that the age is Satya Yuga or Kali Yuga. Everything thus depends on your mind. Hence I say that you should get your mind immersed in the ceaseless contemplation of Soham and then you will find that the difficulties created by troublesome external conditions will automatically disappear.
I therefore say again and again, that the real power lies in the mantra [Soham]. This power is also centered in you. If you thoroughly realize this power, and become one with it, you will easily attain atmic bliss, even though you may be leading a worldly life. You will be thoroughly happy internally, as well as in your worldly life.
***[That which is known as Paramartha is the highest attainment, purpose, or goal in our life, for it is itself the Absolute Reality.]
To obtain this Paramartha is the goal of human life, and you can obtain it by your own persistent and honest effort. Efforts are necessary to obtain any object in the world. Are we not required to make strong efforts to obtain money or learning? And are our efforts always crowned with success? But do we on that account abandon efforts to obtain these things? Similarly, we must continually make strong efforts to obtain the realization of the real “I.” The various difficulties and obstacles which arise in this path must be removed by following the advice of experts, just as we do in worldly matters. Hence Saint Ramdas has said, “First a person should learn to make his prapancha (worldly life) all right, and then should have recourse to Paramartha. Oh, thoughtful persons, do not be careless regarding these important matters.”
To make his prapancha all right does not mean that a person should try to secure a monthly income of a thousand rupees or should keep a motor car. It means that he must devote careful attention to each and every detail of worldly life, must have faith in the efficacy of his efforts and the advice given to him, and should have recourse more to policy than to force in his dealings. These very qualities are also extremely useful in spiritual matters. The answer to the question as to whether a person’s prapancha is all right or not will depend upon the angle of vision which we adopt in looking at his life, our own attitude towards life in general, and the stage of mental development at which we ourselves have arrived. Hence, how can any general standard be fixed for all? Thus it should be clearly borne in mind that the solution of worldly things should be sought for by worldly means, and of spiritual matters by spiritual methods.
There are bound to be innumerable waves on the sea. If a person thinks that he will swim in the sea when all these waves are stopped, will he ever be able to swim in the sea? He will surely come to know that the waves will never stop and he will never be able to swim. Similarly, every person who wants to follow the spiritual path should not wait for the disappearance of all [contrary] thoughts, [difficulties and obstacles,] but should start the contemplation of Soham and try to keep his mind fixed upon it. He should not allow his mind to be diverted from it by the waves of thoughts.
It is the nature of mind to carry on the continuous play of thoughts. The mind is always fickle and moving from one idea to another, and when the mind concentrates upon something it is called chitta. A sadhaka, therefore, should concentrate upon Soham and thus turn his mind into chitta. If he continues this practice for some time, his mind will gradually gain in calmness and ultimately will become one with Soham and with the inherent, everlasting bliss which is the real nature of Soham, and thus his chitta will become chit (consciousness). Once this stage is attained, that person will experience unlimited joy. His peace of mind is never disturbed, and he is always immersed in everlasting and unchanging bliss. He attains the goal, and the real purpose of human life is fulfilled.
A person should should with firm determination follow the path of truth and keep firm faith in the final goal by following that path. He should not allow any scope to doubts regarding the length of time which will be required to attain the goal. He should firmly believe that sooner or later he will certainly attain the state of everlasting bliss, and fearlessly carry on the practice. While carrying on the practice, he should try to drive away from his mind doubts and misgivings which assail it, and try to concentrate on Soham and to become one with it. I say from my own experience that if you do so, your efforts will surely be crowned with success.
God has innumerable names, and people are calling out His various names according to their individual liking. But one must remember that the Siddha Name of Soham alone will be useful in easily crossing this ocean of worldly existence and ending the cycle of births and deaths. This Siddha Nama is a power; it is like a mother to the universe, and it is the entity that is calling itself “I” in the body. It is a flame of love.
If you repeat the Soham mantra in your mind, by continuous practice your mind gets concentrated upon it. The concentration may be called dhyana. If this force is uninterruptedly stored up in your heart, be sure that you have obtained the goal of human life.
“Rama Nama is repeated by almost all people–by thieves, by licentious people, and by rich people. But that Nama by which Dhruva and Prahlada were saved was something different.” I boldly tell you with firm assurance that the “different” Nama referred to by Kabir in these lines is none other than Soham. He who makes that Nama his own becomes one with the universal power. His words acquire the force of truth, and hence are full of power.
All human beings are the children of God. and it has been said that if a human being makes strong efforts he can even become Narayana (God). It has been said by a Western philosopher that God is what man can be. If it is so, how can you condemn yourselves as sinners?
***[An aspirant] should carry on the japa of the saving mantra Soham. He will thereby surely succeed in gradually obtaining peace of mind. Sometimes doubts and fears will assail him. He should not mind them, but carry on the practice with greater and greater intensity. If this is carried on till the time of death, he will find that at the time of death his mind is not centered in worldly matters. He will still carry on the japa, and then at the time of death his mind will be engrossed in the contemplation of Soham.
I have explained this point as clearly as I could. Only you must have the lighted torch of Soham with you, and must try to obtain peace in its light. I have said what I know from my own experience. Everybody should try to realize it by his own experience. He must only remember that love is the soul, and the soul is love. Soham is the soul, and the soul is love. Soham is the soul, and there is everlasting peace in the soul. That itself is the Avyakta, the Unmanifested, in which everything lives, moves and has its being. Try to obtain everlasting peace by the mantra of Soham.
God sends real saints into this world with the mission to save sincere aspirants and devotees of sattwic disposition. False saints, however, deceive and mislead other people–ignorant as well as educated. Real aspirants should not be led away miracles performed through the force of siddhis, because as Sri Krishna has said, “All actions are useless without the real knowledge of the Atman.”
People should quietly and persistently carry on the japa of Soham on their own initiative, instead of running after every saint, true or false, whom they happen to hear about. In this way they will not be deceived, or misled.
The world is like a big jail, and people are born into it to serve out their sentences. Have therefore a wholesome fear of this jail, and try to purge away your sins and evil desires by the japa and contemplation of Soham. You need not do anything else for the purpose of your deliverance. Keep firm control over your mind, and then you will easily get control over your life. Pay, therefore, no heed to the pains and pleasures which befall you, but carry on the practice of Soham with a heart full of faith and determination.
Samadhi is of two kinds. A mumukshu who had made some preparation of mind in his previous life, resorts to pranayama and the various practices of hatha yoga, gets internal vision, and his mind is then merged in the light which is seen internally. This is one kind of samadhi. There are others who are quite unconscious of their body. They see no visions, so that they are not conscious of anything either outside or inside. They are always merged in the Supreme Being, and entirely unconscious of their surroundings. This is the second kind of samadhi. Both of these kinds of saints are of very little use to the world.
There are, however, other saints like Sri Jnaneshwar, Tukaram, or Eknath who, while conscious of this world and its implications, are always enjoying the bliss of the Self. They are in what is known as sahajawastha. They see unity in diversity, deal with worldly matters in a worldly way, and still inwardly are immersed in the bliss of Self-realization. Such saints alone are useful to the world, and they alone can lead others to the supreme goal by a method which people can easily follow.
Hence I say that everyone should repeat Soham. It surely and certainly leads to the knowledge of the Self, and the attainment of everlasting peace One’s actions then in the worldly life are automatically done, and one is absolutely detached from them, just as a lotus leaf is from water.
In my opinion, there are three kinds of great men in the world. I do not say that there are no real saints at present. Some perform miracles by making use of their siddhis. People take them to be great saints and bow before them. These saints obtain some powers by the practice of hatha yoga and perform miracles. As ordinary people in the world want the fulfillment of some desires, or the averting of some calamities, they naturally go to such saints and become their followers. These great men, if they are at all great, are of the lowest order of the three kinds mentioned above. Just as in a village where all other people are illiterate, a person who has learnt to read and write is considered wise and learned, similarly these saints are respected by worldly people who themselves know nothing about real spiritual matters. The happiness obtained through such siddhis is transitory. These siddhis merely create a false show of happiness for a time, and then disappear leaving the saint completely bankrupt.
The second kind of great men are those who being filled with the desire to serve mankind, shine as great leaders of men and patriots. Their ambition is to make all their fellow beings or fellow-countrymen prosperous and happy. They sacrifice their personal comfort, and sometimes even their lives, in trying to achieve the good of their fellowmen. They try to weld all their countrymen into one homogenous whole, preach to the people the good which is derived from unity, arouse the consciousness of their rights as subjects, and make them worthy of putting up a fight for their rights and for the redress of their wrongs. Their lives serve as an ideal for ordinary people to follow, and they represent in their lives the sum total of the good qualities of the world. These great men at least do not mislead people by exhibiting miracles by means of siddhis. But these great men are of no use to a human soul striving to attain Self-realization. It does not lie in their power to grace human beings and to lead them to the path of realizing the highest bliss.
The great men who can do this are different. They are the great saints who take pity on all troubled souls who are floundering in the mire of worldly pains and pleasures, and who are at a loss to find a way out. They call such persons their own. They do not lead them to the search of worldly happiness which is illusory, but show them the path which will ultimately take them to the source of all happiness, the path which will clearly show to them the real nature of their Self, and illumine their whole being with the all-pervading light of Self-knowledge. They say to the human soul: “The source of happiness is within you. The treasure is hidden within you. Only you have forgotten the place where it is hidden,” and they point out that place, and show the way to reach it. Such great men are the real mahatmas, and they are the best of all great men. Sometimes miracles happen at the hands of such mahatmas also, but they happen naturally. They themselves are not conscious of having wrought them. They are always immersed in the atmic bliss, and whatever actions happen at their hands are natural and automatic.
A few days ago, a gentleman from Poona came to see me. While talking on various topics, he incidentally said: “Maharaj, some years ago a Santa Parishada (a meeting of saints) was held at Poona. Many maharajas, some having matted hair, some who had practiced penance and austerities, some sannyasins, some heads of maths, etc., had all assembled together at that meeting. From the name given to that meeting, ‘Santa Parishada,’ it was very natural to think that all these men were saints. Ordinary people think that saints are persons who, having realized the Self, are always immersed in the bliss of the Paramatman, and all of whom are directed towards leading other human beings to the path of everlasting happiness. A doubt, however, arose in my mind whether all these men were saints as understood in this sense.
“At the present, meetings of ‘Nathas’ often take place at Poona. Some say that they met Sri Matsyendranath, while some say they actually had the darshana of Sri Gorakshanath, and had received orders from him. It has been rumored that the famous Nine Nathas have been issuing orders through these various persons for spreading the doctrines of the Nath Pantha. If any one approaches any of these persons with the desire of knowing whom he should make his sadguru, he gets an order from these persons evidently inspired by one of the Nine Nathas, and he then exactly knows who is his destined sadguru. When I hear about these things, my mind gets confused and I ask myself, “Are all these things true?” Everywhere we hear about these Nathas and their messages.
“In addition, we hear about various other saints. There are also different maths, temples, and different gods and goddesses. I am at a loss to know whether any of these things are true–or none are. My mind is absolutely confused. Hence, I request you to tell me in what I should believe, and how I should set my mind at rest?”
To this, I answered as follows: “You have asked a very good question. This question often troubles many thoughtful people, especially when they find saints and Nathas sprouting up like mushrooms on all sides.
“Paramartha (spirituality) is a subject regarding which various misconceptions hold full sway in our present-day society. Sri Ramdas has said: ‘There is a bazaar of shastras, various gods and deities are crowding in it, and people are performing various religious ceremonies for securing the fulfillment of their desires. Various tenets and opinions clash with each other. Everybody thinks his own view to be correct, and anybody else’s wrong. There is no agreement anywhere, and all are contradicting each other.’ Under these circumstances, how to find out the truth is a very difficult question. Sri Tukaram says: ‘There are so many gods. Where should I place my faith?’
“No doubt this is all true. But it must be remembered that Paramartha is a thing which is to be achieved by one’s own efforts. If anyone, therefore, has a sincere desire to obtain it, there is a very easy method which should be followed by him. He should remain quietly where he is, and at once begin the japa of Soham. He should repeat the japa with a pure mind, and should have firm faith that the Soham japa will fulfill all his wishes. Once he gets this firm faith, he will come to know the Soham mantra is the real savior. If it is repeated with intense faith, accompanied with a sense of detachment from all worldly objects, it will itself make him understand what is true and what is false. There will then be no occasion to find fault with the reputed saints, or to fall into the clutches of false saints. Our salvation really lies in our own hands. I therefore advise my mind to always get immersed in the contemplation of Soham, and thus to free itself from the snares of all such doubts.”
If a sadhaka thinks that seeing of divine visions is the ultimate goal, that it is Self-realization, that he has attained the highest stage, and nothing further remains to be done or achieved, it is sheer ignorance on his part. Because as long as there is duality, the flow of pain and pleasure continues unabated, and everlasting happiness is as far away as ever. If you think carefully, you will see that whatever is seen and heard is bound to disappear. But the knowledge of the Self is permanent and imperishable. This argument, I think, will appeal to all whether they are theists or atheists. Seeing of lights or visions and hearing of divine sounds, do not indicate the achieving of Atma Sakshatkara. To realize that the One Eternal Being on which these visions and sounds play and move is none other than our own Self, is the real Atma Sakshatkara. To be one with the everlasting Being is the real Sakshatkara.
When a person attains this oneness, his mind entirely becomes devoid of sankalpa (desire) and vikalpa (doubts), and it becomes absolutely indifferent. It goes beyond pleasure and pain. Actions are then automatically performed according to the prakriti dharma (promptings of nature). He becomes absolutely fearless, and is entirely devoid of egotism. When this state of mind is attained, then only can it be said that there is Atma Sakshatkara or Atmajnana. He is, as it were, merely sporting as a child while doing any actions. He is entirely detached from them. This is what is known as Sakshi Awastha (the state of being merely a witness of one’s actions). Progress means the gradual attainment of this state of mind. We can ourselves get a clear idea of our progress. There is no necessity to ask anyone else about it.
In that state, although passions may be there according to the original nature of the aspirant, still the passions come and go automatically, without taking effect in the form of wrong actions. Right actions are naturally and automatically done. This state is known as Atmajnana. When this stage is reached, never-ending bliss and peace are attained. This is what is known as the sahaja state. This is merely another word expressing the same idea as Atmajnana. Merely defining Atmajnana, Brahmajnana, bliss, or samadhi is of very little use.
In short, I wish to emphasize that he who has no attachment for worldly objects, who is perfect, has completely controlled his senses, and whose mind is entirely devoid of any desire of sensual pleasures, who remains in the world but is, as it were, out of it–because of his entire detachment–he alone obtains the sovereign kingdom of everlasting atmic bliss. He becomes one with Soham. His mind is pure like the water of the Ganges, which moves in its course purifying all who come in contact with it. All bad thoughts entirely disappear, and his actions are quite naturally done. He is externally, as well as internally, quite calm and at peace.
In this stage, it is difficult to distinguish him from other ordinary persons. In this stage, he naturally attains the power of knowing the past, present and future. He becomes a Trikalajna. With all that, he never tells others of what is to happen, nor does he make use of this knowledge for his own benefit. It may happen that his words may at times be prophetic, but this takes place automatically. Never, never does the Atma Sakshatkari (i.e. one who has realized his soul) tell others of their past or future on his own initiative. In this stage he sees Brahman in all things; in other words, he is entirely immersed in the experience that everywhere there is nothing but all-pervading joy and bliss. His joy and peace are not dependent upon anything else, and hence they are everlasting. They are not disturbed under any circumstances, however adverse. His experience tells him that he himself has taken the form of the biggest as well as the minutest things. This is the real meaning of Soham. This is the real Atmajnana. Without this Atmajnana, all actions are useless. This is the meaning of Sri Krishna’s words.
With these words I stop and enter into the deep and changeless love and joy of the ajapa japa of Soham.
The following is a tribute to Sri Gajanana Maharaj included in the small book of his teachings mentioned in the biographical sketch at the beginning of this Appendix.
Sri Gajanana Maharaj The Great Saint At Nashik
By A Peace Seeker
Pseudo-saint worship is a kind of disease ever and anon attacking the people of India. This disease is constantly carrying away such a vast number of the Indian population that even plague and cholera together have never done it so far. Particularly our moral and economic exploitation has never been carried out in such a ruthlessly alarming proportion as is done by the following of false sadhus. Illiteracy campaigns alone will never be able to eradicate this evil, as even many of the literate, educated and intelligent people have been found falling an easy prey to false sadhus. The angle of vision towards life itself must be changed, and the inner life must be made morally stronger than what it is today.
The market-monks that we often come across are in fact void of that selflessness which is the prime factor of saintliness. In a crore [ten million] of ascetics, perhaps only one may be found worth the worship which the great soul Sri Gajanana Maharaj of Nashik deserves. He can be easily approached by those who wish to do so with a pure and sincere heart, without which he cannot at all be found even after a good deal of effort on the part of the seeker!
There are Hindus, Muslims and Christians amongst those who hold Sri Gajanana Maharaj in high esteem and respect and take delight in paying homage to him.
For more than twenty years Sri Gajanana Maharaj has been continuously staying at Nashik and yet, out of those who annually spend their summer or even of those who live throughout their lives there, not even a score of men know him! People living within the radius of a couple of homes around his residence cannot tell his correct address to a newcomer. This shows how he avoids publicity.
Sri Gajanana Maharaj never calls any one his disciple, but calls all his “friends.” Such is the degree of his humility.
Today, Sri Gajanana Maharaj is about fifty-five. Schooling he had barely for one year or two and yet he can best the most intellectual man in talks on any subject, all the while complaining that he himself is an ignorant man! By nature he is as simple and innocent as a baby! His dress and needs are of a more simple standard that that of a middle class Indian gentleman. A sip or two of tea is enough to sustain him for the whole day, while rarely during during some weeks he takes a morsel of dry bread. He never needs a square meal. He never shows miracles to order or by previous intimation and intention. Sometimes miracles do take place in his presence, but he at once declares that their origin is not himself but his Master, Sri Narayana Saraswati. He says they take place without his efforts and knowledge.
Healing physical pains, foretelling births or deaths or increments of pay and wealth, are subjects outside the domain of his discussions and discourses. He never asks for even a farthing, nor does he accept anything offered without sincerity. On rare occasions he has asked some people to do something for him or bring him certain articles. But those who brought something at his request in this way found that somebody else had already supplied the same to him. Thus, by the grace of the great God, he has no wants whatsoever, and it is only to give an aspirant a chance of selfless service that he may request someone to do something for him. His personal expenses do not exceed the amount of ten or twelve rupees per month.
This demonstrates that Sri Gajanana Maharaj belongs to a higher rank of saints than we ordinarily come across in everyday life. He has no tricks and paraphernalia that deceive masses. Hundreds of people never find his abode unless he so wills it, and this alone is saying enough. One day the writer observed the servant of a well-known Nashik merchant searching for his house for not less than an hour just in the neighborhood, with coconuts sent for the marriage ceremony of his own niece. [So Gajanana Maharaj would bless the couple to have good fortune.]
How could he reach such a high order of spiritual grace? Only because he is an adept in the science and art of yoga or spiritual union with God. He is one with Him. This science of yoga is far superior to ordinary jugglery which so many of the so-called monks make use of to squeeze out others’ money and weaken their minds. Yoga is a science well-established in society by the rishis of olden times. They have taken the utmost pains to put it in the most scientific and practical form for the generations that followed them and that are still to follow. Anyone can practice it and get one’s self lifted high up to God! Sri Gajanana Maharaj is here to help men in realizing the highest goal of life, to distribute amongst us freely the everlasting joy that he himself has acquired through the grace of his guru.
While still a boy, Sri Gajanana Maharaj was directed by his guru to guide aspirants on this path. He selects them and freely gives them the Soham mantra. Some approach him intentionally, others come accidentally in contact with him, and yet there is not the least doubt about the fact that it is a sheer impossibility for souls that seek only materialism to meet with such an eminent director on this path. Only one who is earnest can obtain his grace. His followers, though not materially very prosperous, have all the same acquired profound spiritual experiences by practice. Sri Gajanana Maharaj directs his friends with his divine love.
His everyday life is absolutely simple and methodical. Images and ceremonies exhibiting unnecessary show have no place in his room. He has nothing of decorations belonging to any religion, caste or cult. All are welcome to him and can meet him as man to man. He directs all who approach him in the simplest way and language through the spiritual realm without performing any miracles or practicing any deceptions. No selfishness, no snobbery. To lead the soul onward is the only mission of his life. He explains things so convincingly and in such a masterly manner that even the most intelligent man that goes to him is entirely satisfied. Anyone can have this experience of peace and satisfaction from him in the first, or at the most the second, visit and keep it for life.
There is not even the idea of any dependence on him. Rather he makes us independent and free. It is the raising of the Self [Atman] through self-effort.