Gurus - Extreme postures
by Life Positive
It's a bit disconcerting to meet a man who, his followers swear, knows
all about your past, present and future. A man who, as part of his tapasya
( meditation ),
walked into fire, nonchalantly peeled off his skin and directed his attendant
to feed it to the fish, adding choice morsels of his flesh to the piscine
feast. A man apparently made in the grand scale of immortal saints. When
seen through the filter of time and myth, such men and exploits seem believable.
But in this unheroic age, they demand a drastic redefinition of the possible.
The man in question is small and shrunken, with long streaming grizzly hair. His fingers and feet are mere stubs, the rest having gone as fish fodder ages ago, and he is conveyed to his seat on the back of one of his close followers, Ashish. But his implacable face and piercing eyes imply a power that you would be foolish to underestimate.
Gagangiri Baba is one of possibly scores of intrepid yogis in India who imperceptibly gather huge followings, appear empowered with unbelievable siddhis (mystical powers) and yet elude the mainstream. He is said to have at least one million followers who come regularly to his 25-odd ashrams in Maharashtra, western India. His followers include the rich, the powerful, and even the notorious. Known as the patron saint of Maharashtra, he, however, lives most in the hearts of the common folk—particularly venerated by the fishing community of the state.
Penetrate his rank of devotees and you come in touch with a traditional core of faith. Central to this is belief in the power of the guru to look after his followers. Gagangiri Baba explains this by saying: "My body is as sensitive as a cardiogram. Whenever my devotees remember me, my body immediately senses it, and on such occasions, I have to exchange their sins with my punya (good deeds)."
Almost all followers report a miracle or two, but the yogi is much more than a miracle worker for them. He is seen as a repository of all faith, a symbol of the power of God, and a mirror of one's own inner divinity, with the power to kick-start the devotee's spiritual quest.
The sense of surrender is correspondingly high. Anand Pote, a fingerprint expert, says that when his wife was diagnosed with a tumor, Gagangiri Baba gave her a marigold and advised her to eat a petal of it each day. Within 15 days, X-rays revealed that the tumor had diminished considerably. Shortly after, it disappeared.
Nevertheless, Ashish says: "Most people come to Maharaj with requests for health, wealth and happiness. But if people take what he has to give rather than what they want, their spiritual progress will be unimaginable."
At his ashram in Khopoli, two hours from the western Indian metropolis Mumbai by road, a long queue awaits the yogi. Gagangiri Baba is seated in a flower-bedecked swing. Next to him is an imposing altar, with sculptures of tigers, peacocks and other animals. The Khopoli environs are spectacular. The Patalganga river leaps, bounds and frolics by its side. The ashram halls have no walls, and a devotee has to take just two steps to wade into the river.
One matron, who had waited patiently for almost two hours for an audience with the yogi, takes possession of him as soon as he is seated, and whispers nonstop into his ear. There is something touching about the childlike absorption with which he hears her out. Others take less time, but each gets an audience. All the while, a devotee stands behind him, reading out the day's news, including the stock index. Baba takes keen interest in matters economic, and exhorts his devotees to venture into the self-sufficiency of enterprise than the slavery of a job. "Young men must be good entrepreneurs. They must conquer new economic horizons," he says.
When my turn comes, I prepare nervously for the all-knowing one to incinerate me at a glance. Alas, no such drama takes place. Giving me a quick look, he answers my questions in a thin, reed-like voice.
Unlike many latter-day gurus, Gagangiri Baba does not advocate any spiritual or philosophical school of thought. Except for advising naam smaran (chanting), he leaves his followers alone. "Maharaj will never say this is good or that is bad. He stands for all spiritual ways," says Ashish.
Serious seekers are advised individual sadhana (spiritual practice) based on their inclinations and aptitudes. There is nothing to bind the devotees together, not even group communions, except for regular activities at the various ashrams.
What keeps drawing people is the guru's power about which many have uncanny tales to narrate. Dr Priya Diwan, a gynecologist, was suddenly confronted with a powerful throbbing at the temples that refused to succumb to treatment. Suspecting black magic, and in distress, she went to the yogi.
"At the mention of black magic, he gave me a stern look," says Diwan, "but when he saw my condition, it changed to compassion. He took the coconut I had offered, and tapped my head. 'Everything will be okay now,' he said. At his touch the throbbing stopped. Reaching home, I placed the coconut on a kalash (ceremonial pot) in my family altar. The next morning, I was aghast to see that the coconut was pitted with burn marks. Worse, on lifting it, I found that the water in the kalash had turned a blood red."
Gagangiri Baba's spiritual quest started early. Born as Shripadrao Patankar in a well-to-do family of landlords in Satara district of Maharashtra, he ran away from home as a youngster in search of self-realization. Apprenticing himself to Yogiraj Chitranand of Jhansi, he, with his guru, soon went to the Himalayas to perform austerities.
The yogi's bodily mortification has no apparent limits. Once, Gagangiri Baba poured 3 kg of the poisonous chitramuli herb's juice over himself. The poison melted almost all his flesh. New flesh soon replaced the old, thanks to the application of another juice, pranayama and kriya yoga .
A hatha yogi, Gagangiri Baba has also mastered the art of kayakalpa, the ability to renew his bodily organs, which is apparently the key to immortality among sages. Every now and then, for instance, he is known to fish out his intestines, give them a good wash, dry them out in the sun and then dunk them back in. He eats little or nothing, for his nourishment comes from the air, sunshine and other natural elements. "His nerves need to be empty," says Ashish. "Every bit of food he eats decomposes him."
The yogi is said to be one of the legendary nine yogis of Maharashtra whose leader is Dattatreya. These sages are also considered aghoris, which could be said of Gagangiri Baba as well since he is known to have interacted with spirits.
Gagangiri Baba's level of compassion is heartwarming. Displaying a shrewd sense of humor, he compares the siddha yogi coming to earth to a psychiatrist visiting a mental asylum: "The yogi knows what he is doing and does not mind the trouble given to him by the mental patient (devotee). On the other hand, he pities them and does his duty in curing them."
Gagangiri Baba does not advocate hatha yoga to his devotees: "They have to be ready for it." As for his own goal, it is stark: "To be an instrument of God's grace."
Subject: Mind blowing - 16 April 2010
In a nut shell, so truely is stated in so short.
by: dolly majithia
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