By Pradeep Krishnan
Pradeep Krishnan talks to enlightened master, Sri Devdas Rao, about his spiritual journey, the benefits of music and meditation and the true essence of life
Born on December 22, 1940 in Kasargod, Kerala, Devdas is the second son of Smt Sharadamma and Sri Vamana Rao Shenoy. After getting degrees in science and law, he joined Vijaya Bank and later became its Assistant General Manager. He married Smt Jyothi and the couple has three children. The turning point of Devdas’ life came in February 1976 when while on a tour to Trayambakeshwar temple in Nasik, he met his deeksha guru, Master Sri Narendra Baba of Amarnath, Kashmir. On the master’s insistence, Devdas reached his abode on the 26th of August of the same year, and was initiated on the same day. Since then, every year, till the master’s samadhi in 1984, Devdas visited him several times in Amarnath and received instructions on spiritual sadhana. Before long, through committedly obeying the instructions and following the teachings of his guru, Devdas became a spiritual master himself. Recognising his spiritual heights, Sri Hamsa Baba (87) of Vindhyachal _ a direct disciple of Sri Devaraha Baba, a legendary sadhu who is believed to have been initiated by the great saint, Ramanujacharya, and who reportedly lived for 800 years _ renamed the now 78-year old Devdas as Devbaba.
In 1987, NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Science), Bengaluru invited Devdas to participate in their experiments conducted on yoga and pranayama. People then started coming to Devdas, seeking guidance on meditation, pranayama, yoga and other health issues. Eventually, in 1992, the Sri Sakthi Darshan Yogashram was established in Kinnigoli, a small town near Mangalore, Karnataka, to impart practical training on different aspects of yoga. Devbaba also established Surabhi Vana in 2007, realising the importance of native Indian cows. The cow shelter houses around 300 cows from all over India on a 20 acre land gifted by the Karnataka Government. Devbaba believes that cows are the only creatures on earth having the power to emit 33 million vibrations of the supreme energy through their hood. They can give the highest vibrations or visions which are helpful to humans. “That is why cows are worshipped as Gomata in India,” he says.
My wife, Sreelakshmi, and I were fortunate to spend a couple of days in Devbaba’s ashram in November, 2016. Below are excerpts from the interview:
Tell us about your journey from a banker to a guru.
I do not consider myself a guru; rather I am just a shishya. Being a grihasta, I worked as a banker to earn my livelihood but had been practising asanas and taking interest in spiritual matters since childhood. I was blessed to grow up around Swami Nityananda, an avadhoota living in Kanhangad, Kerala (later Swami ji shifted his abode to Ganeshpuri, near Mumbai), from the age of five. Though he did not give me any spiritual instructions, I was drawn to the way he lived his life. When I was around eight years old, Swamy Hariharan was a regular visitor at our home. I used to help him in his pooja; plucking flowers, drawing water from the well, arranging the items, cutting vegetables. Though he was much older than me, we became good friends. He used to tell me a lot about his guru who had lived in Dhandakaranya forest and about several other masters, which slowly but steadily kindled in me a love for spirituality.
Describe your life’s turning point.
In 1976, while on a visit to Trayambakeshwar temple, I had the urge to climb the nearby hillock, Brahmagiri, from where the river Godavari originates. While walking uphill, I saw an old man and a teenage boy and the three of us climbed up together as we chatted. I was amazed by the old man’s vast knowledge and European accent. On reaching the summit, the old man swiftly jumped into the pond and asked me to follow. I was reluctant as it was freezing. He persisted, saying, “Of what use is your yoga? You will not die, come and jump.” Embarrassed, I jumped in. On our way downhill, he advised me that any difficulty in life is only our imagination. In the course of our conversation, I realised that the old man was none other than Sri Narendra Baba, an enlightened master living in a cave near the famous Amarnath temple in Kashmir. A Bengali by birth, Sri Narendra Baba had been an ICS officer in his poorvashram. Having lost his family to a road accident, he had left everything behind to practice penance at Amarnath. That night, the three of us stayed together in a dharmasala. My interactions with Sri Narendra Baba gave me an insight into his spiritual heights and wisdom. I was truly drawn to his unassuming ways and mannerisms. The next morning when I expressed my desire to be his disciple, he refused saying that being a banker and a family man, I had a lot of worldly responsibilities to fulfill. After much persuasion, he agreed to initiate me and asked me if I was prepared to live in Amarnath; if I was ready to leave my family, job and everything else that’s dear, behind; and I agreed to leave it all for God and for him.
Then what happened?
As I was leaving to go back home, Sri Narendra Baba asked me to return to Amarnath on 26th August. I hadn’t told anyone about our meeting and my decision to live in Amarnath. When there were about six months left for 26th August, I felt confused and worried. After giving it much thought, I decided to go and at the same time, to my utter surprise, I was ordered to undertake the audit of the bank’s Delhi branches in the month of July. I saw this as a sign and so, after finishing my official work in Delhi, I reached Amarnath cave temple on 24th August. As promised, Sri Narendra Baba arrived on the 26th and we walked together to his cave, situated about eight kms away, and he gave me deeksha. After that for two days he did not utter a word to me and on the third day, he asked me to meditate. When I told him that I did not know how to meditate, he said, “Simply sit and close your eyes, meditation will happen to you naturally.”
I practised intense meditation in his presence for about 40 days, surviving only on boiled potatoes, fruit and certain leaves. Day by day, the intensity of my meditation deepened, taking me to different levels of consciousness. Then, one day, Baba told me, “Now you must return or you may lose your job.” I pleaded to stay with him and asked him not to abandon me. However, Baba assured me that he would always be with me and, in due course, teach me. He also permitted me to visit him whenever I felt like. Thereafter, until my guru left his body in 1986, every year, I spent about a month with him and learned several kriyas and ultimately achieved realisation.
What according to you is meditation and how is it helpful?
Sri Devdas Rao encourages people to seek their life's purpose by meditating and achieving realisation just like him
Any action done with love is meditation. It helps us recognise that God is within us and that all differences exist only in our own mind. But higher realms of meditation help us attain samadhi, a natural state of mind, where one loses body awareness and, thus, becomes God. On reaching that stage, one functions as an antenna, spreading happiness and joy all around. That state is called self-realisation or enlightenment and in it, we always remain in supreme bliss.
Is meditation the only way to lead a happy life?
No, not at all. It is only one of the ways. To lead a happy life, you must be optimistic. Meditation helps us think positive thoughts and, hence, easily lead a happy life.
Will yoga asanas help us attain ultimate realisation?
No. Asanas and pranayama will only help us enjoy good physical and mental health. But physical fitness is a must for a sadhak to immerse in atmananda. Since the age of 10, I have spent about one and a half hours every morning practising asanas and pranayama. That is why I’m still fit as a fiddle. Even at this age, I can run, swim and drive for hours.
Tell us about the scientific experiments you underwent at NIMHANS.
In 1987, I was invited by the neuro-physiology department to participate in the various scientific studies on yoga. The project was set up under the guidance of the famous Himalayan yogi, Swami Rama. I practised intense pranayama and meditation in their laboratory for about eight days with no less than 120 electrodes connected to different parts of my body. They studied my brain waves during the different stages of meditation – alpha, beta and gamma stages; changes during ecstasy, and samadhi.
The results were amazing and based on them it was concluded that meditation not only helps in maintaining good health and increased memory but also facilitates altered behaviour patterns. The study recommended that yoga be taught in all educational institutions. Thereafter, several schools and colleges started inviting me to teach different aspects of yoga.
What are the different types of yoga taught in Sakthi Darshan Yogashram?
We teach Kriya yoga, as taught to me by my guru Narendra ji, who was in the lineage of Mahavatar Babaji; Kundalini Bija Mantra meditation to awaken one’s Kundalini energy; and also atma vidya, the ultimate understanding of oneself, to senior sadhaks. All these courses are only attempts to make one appreciate the higher dimensions of life and meditation. Spirituality cannot be taught through words; rather it is an experience that must happen within.
Tell us about your close acquaintance with Himalayan Yogi, Swami Rama.
The NIMHANS experiments helped me closely bond with Swami Rama. After observing my body readings, he wanted to know more about my guru, Sri Narendra Baba, and his teachings. When I expressed my desire to learn from him, he suggested I visit his ashram in Rishikesh. I went there several times and learned various techniques in sadhana from him. Eventually, Swami Rama assured me that he would be able to guide me while I was in meditation, no matter where I was physically. I received Swami Rama’s last message on 13th November, 1996, the day of his maha samadhi, when I was in Trivandrum. He came to me in a vision and said, “My child, I am leaving my body.” I was deeply grieved and that’s when I heard his voice again, “Why and for whose death do you worry?” Though Swami Rama has left his body, I still receive his messages when in meditation.
How can human suffering end?
Suffering, as most people believe, is not bad. It is a creation of our mind. It helps us embrace the spiritual path. Meditation helps us overcome suffering. Be aware that suffering is an experience of our own past actions or karma. While we suffer, we must console, help and assist others who are suffering as this is our duty. Many of our spiritual masters have suffered too.
What must be the aim and purpose of human birth and life?
We must seek as to why we have come on earth as human beings. If everyone discovers this truth, our earth will transform into heaven.
What is your concept of God?
Everyone and everything is God and there is nothing other than God, the supreme power. I am God; you are God; one energy dressed in different forms. Everything is His power.
You are a passionate and trained musician. How does music help one become more spiritual?
Music originated from ‘Aum’ of Shiva, the adiyogi. Even science has confirmed that our universe started with a big bang. It created 33 million vibrations or ragas. It is quite interesting to note that Sri Krishna, throughout his life, played the flute and never left it. I am planning to start a new course called ‘Nadasurabhi’, to help seekers reach the Ultimate through music. I’ve been playing instruments - flute, veena, violin and sitar - for the past 60 years and, every day, I play one of these as it helps me create positive vibrations in the brain and uplift myself.
Your message to our readers?
Live with love, there is nothing greater than love. Take life lightly and enjoy it. You are here to enjoy God given life. Know that you are only a visitor on earth and one day, have to leave. You have to leave behind whatever is dear to you _ property, spouse, children, bank balance and everything, and go. Always be prepared for that ultimate journey. Till then be happy. Meditation alone can make you blissful.
Pradeep Krishnan, a seeker based in Trivandrum, is deeply attracted to the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
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