By Parveen Chopra August 1996 Many of us look for a guru, a spiritual advisor, to help us improve this life, and possibly future ones as well. It is said that if a seeker’s yearning for God or enlightenment is intense enough, a guru appears to guide and also to smoothen his journey. True initiation entails shaktipat. The spiritual master master knows exactly how much energy the disciple can bear, so he calibrates it carefully. There are various ways of initiation: by intention(Kabir) recollection ( Shirdi Sai Baba ), mantras (Mithran Namboodiripad). Or touch (Lahiri Mahasaya) or sight (Swami Muktananda). You could get initiated in your dreams (Bahena Bai) or even with the aid of an idol (Meera). Getting initiation or finding a guru is not, however, an absolute must—consider the case of Krishna and Gautam Buddha What lila is created by the thirst of the disciple to reach the fountainhead called guru! A fine example of this is Kabir’s initiation. Kabir was born a Brahmin, to a widowed woman, but he was brought up by a Muslim weaver couple, Neeru and Neema. When he grew up, Kabir found his guru in Ramanand, an enlightened master of the time. But the brahmins of the time would not have tolerated a Muslim being initiated by a Hindu. So, Kabir found a unique way out. Every day at dawn, Ramanand went for a dip in the Ganga. One morning, Kabir wrapped himself in a blanket and lay down on the ground in the guru’s way. Ramanand stumbled over his body and exclaimed: ‘Ram! Ram!’ Kabir promptly caught hold of Ramanand’s feet and said: ‘I’ve been initiated. I’ve got my mantra—Ram. Now bless me.’ Referring to this incident, Kabir wrote later: I was born in KashiAnd given awarenessby Ramanand. What is not so well-known is how Kabir’s mother became pregnant. She was depressed with her lot as a widow. One day she went to pay her respects to a saint. He was deep in meditation and didn’t even open his eyes to look at the woman who had touched his feet. Reflexively, he blessed her: ‘May you beget a son.’ The blessing had emerged deep from a pure heart and couldn’t go waste. So the woman did give birth to a son. But too ashamed to face society, she left the newborn near a pond where Neeru and Neema found and adopted Kabir. The saint was none other than Ramanand from whom Kabir had his initiation later. Osho’s comment on the story: ‘While giving his blessing, Ramanand didn’t notice that the woman was robed in white, was not wearing bangles on her wrists or a red bindi on her forehead. But a saint doesn’t speak for himself; God speaks through him. A saint is just a flute in God’s hands.’ Hiranya means gold (also a deer) in Sanskrit and garbha is womb or core. But hiranyagarbha usually refers to the karana(causal) body in a human being. It is believed that only a highly purified karana body can bear infinite power. Thus, only very evolved souls are entitled to the hiranyagarbha initiation. In other words, some high power instructs their karana body. Meera is believed to have been initiated this way. The medium became an idol of Krishna, which came to life to initiate her. Meera was a child of six or seven when a sadhu (mendicant) showed up at her father’s palace. Every morning he used to take out an idol of Krishna from his bag for puja. Once Meera saw the idol and insisted that she wanted to have it. Though Meera’s parents knew of her persistent demand, they did not find it fair to ask a guest, and that too a sadhu, to part with the idol. The sadhu also thought that Meera was just a child and children want to have any new thing they come across. So he left a crying Meera and went his way. A couple of days passed, but Meera kept crying interminably. She stopped eating and kept up the refrain that she wanted that Krishna idol. Her distressed parents didn’t know where to look for the sadhu. But that night, when the sadhu was resting under a tree in the forest, the idol came to life. The sadhusaw Krishna himself standing before him. Krishna smiled and told him: ‘Give this idol to the girl, it belongs to her. ‘ The sadhu was happy that he had Krishna’s darshan (divine glimpse), which had eluded him even after a lifetime’s worship. But he was also sad that now he had to part with the idol. In any case, he went back to the palace and gave the idol to Meera. Later, it was Sant Ravidas who guided Meera and whom she called her guru. But it was the idol incident when she had her hiranyagarbha initiation and recollected her past life as a gopi named Lalita in Krishna’s time. Bahena Bai was born in 1628 in a village in Aurangabad district of the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Being poor, her family married her when she was just three to a 30-year-old man. On coming of age, she developed a yearning for God. Those days there was a saint named Jairam in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. His kirtan (devotional music) made listeners ecstatic, Bahena was one of them. Once when the saint was singing Sant Tukaram’s abhangas (a verse form most favored by Maharashtrian saint-poets), Bahena Bai went into a trance. When her desire for the divine became unbearable, Sant Tukaram came in his subtle body to initiate a sleeping Bahena in her dream. From then on, Bahena Bai was permanently intoxicated with God. Bahena was 18 then and Sant Tukaram was still alive but lived far away in a village in Poona district. Bahena had never met him. After a few years, Bahena passed by Tukaram’s village and saw him in person. Tukaram blessed her: ‘You will have the gift of the muse.’ Bahena started writing poetry and went on to pen 732 abhangas In a divine coincidence Tukaram himself was initiated in a dream by Baba Chaitanya. Tukararam never met his guru, which was impossible in any case, because by then Chaitanya had left his body. The link was through their subtle bodies. People know that Ramakrishna initiated Vivekananda by touch. But outside the eastern Indian state of Bengal, few people know that Lahiri Mahasaya—Paramahansa Yogananda’s guru’s guru and a prominent karmayogi of Bengal—was initiated in a similar fashion. Shyama Charan Lahiri was born in a village on the bank of a river in 1828. Whenever his mother went to the temple, the child went along and used to sit there in a meditative state. And every time she left him to play by the riverside while she finished her domestic chores, he used to paste wet sand all over his body and sit with closed eyes, mimicking Lord Shiva. Shyama Charan finished his education, raised a family and in 1868 was posted to Ranikhet in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Roads for the army’s use were being laid then, cutting through forests and hills. One day he went out with some soldiers to supervise the work. Suddenly, he heard a voice call his name from the nearby hill. Shyama Charan looked up and saw a monk walk down towards him. Close up, the monk looked radiant. It was Mahavatar Babaji, an immortal being, according to Yogananda: Babaji told Shyama Charan: ‘After finishing your work, come here. I will wait for you at the hilltop. ‘ Shyama Charan was a little scared, but Babaji’s order captivated his mind. He came back and climbed the hill. Nature’s beautiful expanse was spread out all around him, but he was afraid that on his way back, it would be pitch dark, making it difficult to find his way. Babaji met him as if he was a long-lost friend and asked him; ‘Didn’t you recognize me?’ Evidently, he hadn’t. Babaji then touched his forehead. Shyama Charan felt a strong electric current d pass through his body. He also recalled an earlier life in which Babaji was his guru and he had stayed at this same hill. Babaji took him to a hut and showed him a deer skin and a monk’s bowl, items that belonged to Shyama Charan in that earlier life. Shyama Charan also came to know of the divine miracle which let Babaji, who had discarded his body, to move around in his astral body. He had taken the gross body again for a while only to initiate Shyama Charan. >Shyama Charan wanted to renounce his householder’s life and stay on in Ranikhet but he was told: ‘No, don’t renounce. Your way is karma yoga, sahaj yoga. You have to teach sahaj yoga to the world. That is why you have been given this divine initiation. ‘ History is ignorant about who initiated Shirdi Sai Baba. May be he was initiated by a divine power or that he was born enlightened. He was in the prime of his youth when Chandbhai met him in the deep forest near a village in Aurangabad district. Chandbhai instantly knew that he was a divine person. But Sai Nath perhaps wanted to give him a proof of his powers. In a playful mood, he picked up his chillum (local pipe) and asked Chandbhai for a matchstick. Chandbhai didn’t have one, so Sai Nath kicked the ground with his heel and out came a flare of fire. He lit his chillum and doused the fire with his hand.History records Chandbhai as the first person who recognized Sai Nath as an accomplished yogi. Later, on the occasion of the wedding of a relative, he asked Sai Nath to accompany the barat (bridegroom’s party) headed for Shirdi. The request was granted. Outside the Shirdi village, there is an old temple of Shiva, where the barat was lodged. But the priest refused to let in Sai Nath who was wearing a faqir’s (a muslim holy man) robes and a white scarf on his head and looked like a Muslim. After the wedding, Sai Nath stayed on in Shirdi. There he lived under a neem tree for years. Gradually, a group of devotees gathered around him and started calling him Sai. One day, one of them asked him: ‘You have been sitting under this tree for so many years, is there a special reason for this
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