January 2017 By Pradeep Krishnan Meet Avadhoota Nadananda, whose extraordinary life journey includes being the 48th pontiff of Gyanganj, that supposedly mythical place in Tibet where ascended masters live and manage the planet.
An interview by Pradeep Krishnan Avadhootas are unique saints, who wander from place to place immersed in bliss. According to spiritual guru Mohanji, founder of Mohanji Foundation, “Almost everything that a modern man considers important has no value for an Avadhoota. Detachment is their garb. Society can only see their seemingly indifferent existence and they mark it as madness or even anti-social behaviour.” Mohanji’s article in his blog on Avadootha Nadananda, a remarkable saint living in Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, deeply impressed me, and stoked a desire to meet him. Coincidentally enough, around then I received a mail from the editor of this magazine asking me to interview Avadhoota. She later sent me a soft copy of his autobiography.
The saint’s life simply amazed me; his travels to different parts of the Himalayas and other holy places, his encounters with saints and sages, the hardships he faced and his stay at Gyanganj also known as Shambala or Shangrilla, the abode of Siddhas. I read through the book in one sitting. As Mohanji said of the book, “It is a classic work of modern times, showing a road map into true spirituality as well as a mirror to the average seeker.” My interview was fixed at Kurnool, where he has his ashram, Siddha Ganj, in October during Navratri. I was told that he was suffering from the last stage of cancer. On reaching Kurnool, I was taken to Abhya Varada, the residence of Shri Maram Ramesh Babu, one of his closest disciples. The house was situated adjacent to Siddha Ganj, and also looked like an ashram with portraits of Swamiji and other gods adorning the walls of every room.
The hospitality extended to me by the whole family was unmatched and their total dedication and surrender to Avadhoota Nadananda, their living god, was total and complete. It was Ramesh’s family that brought Swamiji to Kurnool or rather Swamiji chose to function from Kurnool through this exceptional family for the past 14 years. He once told Mohanji, ‘When man becomes mad, he becomes a saint. When a saint becomes mad, he becomes an avadhoota. When an avadhoota becomes mad, he becomes Bhagavan (God). Born to Shri Puvapalli Krishnan Namboodri and Smt. Gangadevi, in a traditional Namboothiri family of the erstwhile princely State of Travancore, Avadhoota Nadananda (75), left for Kollur after completing college, to the abode of goddess Mookambika, where he met his Guru Avadhoota Tara Mayee, a direct disciple of the late Avadhoota Nithyananda. After spending a couple of years serving the Guru, she instructed him to wander around the Himalayas. He did this for 40 years doing intense sadhana of different kinds.
During these days, his only possession was the begging bowl that his guru had given him, which she had inherited through generations of Avadhootas. The Guruji instructed Nadananda never to beg for food, “Do not beg. Do not accept or carry money. Give yourself completely to the will of destiny and grace. The food that comes to you is meant for you, accept it with gratitude. When food fails to reach you, observe fasting. I shall be with you.” He did just that. His years of sadhana ultimately took him to Gyanganj, aka Shambala or Shangrila, the abode of great masters and Siddhas, in Tibet, a terrain totally inaccessible. The only criterion to enter this holy land is total renunciation. He later revealed that he met Mahatapa at Gyanganj and the Gurumandala had ordained him as the 48th pontiff of Gyanganj. He was also taught the secret sadhana of Sri Vidya. After his research on Sri Vidya he was honoured with the title, Srividya Kulagraja.
About Nadhananda’s Himalayan days, Mohanji writes, “He walked days on end, hungry, thirsty and often fighting his looming exhaustion, in search of the truth. Many times he fell down silently. Without any complaints he got up and continued walking. There was nothing to complain about and nobody to listen to it. It was always an individual journey taken for a larger cause, much larger than the human mind can perceive. The eternal truth of what he would be, shone in the horizons of his consciousness.
He knew he would reach there. The weakness was only in the body. His mind was firm with faith.” After his days in Gyanganj, the Gurumandala instructed him to dedicate his life to seva; feeding the hungry, nurturing the sick and vulnerable, providing medical care to the needy, working in slums, in short to wipe the tears of the common man. Thus, Siddha Ganj, the ashram, came into being at Kurnool, a beautiful city in Andhra Pradesh where the rivers Thunga Bhadra and Krishna merges. Shortly, service activities commenced under the auspices of Ashraya Trust. At present, the trust provides medical assistance, quality education, drinking water and food to hundreds of the poor and needy. About 800 slum dwellers are fed every day. Every year, during Ugadi, when thousands of pilgrims from AP, Telengana, Karnataka and Maharashtra walk on foot to Sri Mallikarjuna Temple, Sri Sailam, Swamiji and his team of volunteers relentlessly provide food and medicines and even massage the pilgrims’ legs with a special ayurvedic oil prepared by him.
As his body is not as strong as it used to be once, over the last couple of years he had been wishing to step away from public life and hand over responsibilities to a successor. Recently, the Gurumandala gave him permission to do so. Thus on 10th of October, on Vijayadashmi day, Guruji announced that Swami Ajayananda, his close disciple, would be the head of all spiritual activities of Siddha Ganj, Kurnool, and that all the seva activities undertaken by the Akshaya trust would be led by Shri Mohanji. On the same day, Guruji bestowed Sri Mohanji with the title, Brahma Rishi. The Avadhootha has authored about 70 books. About his decision to step down, he said, “This body called Nadananda will be leaving tomorrow, but my energy will be here. The body is not the Guru. Do not touch Nadananda, touch your Guru.
This body made of panchabhutas (the five elements) has to go one day. I will be here, there, everywhere, where can I go? Physical Nadanada is going but the Guru will always be here.” Excerpts from the interview Swamiji, tell us about your poorvashram and your spiritual journey. An energy, which has manifested, not having any poorvashram or present ashram, now has been called Nadananda. Ours was an orthodox Namboodri (Kerala Brahmin) family which was given the title of Kartha, by the erstwhile Travancore kings and was the samanta kings of that locality. My mother told me that I was born dead. I was delivered in the eighth month, and the baby’s body was pale blue without any movements, nor did it cry. The midwife gave it a slap on the back and pinched it to make it cry. But instead, the baby looked around and smiled at everyone! That was the beginning of this body’s journey. Around the age of 10, one afternoon when my elder sister was serving me lunch at home (rice, curd and papad), suddenly a sadhu appeared in our courtyard and sought bhiksha.
My mother, who was very generous, immediately offered him rice, sambar and papad in his black begging bowl. While he was restoring the black bowl into his cloth bag, I requested him for it. The sadhu placed his hands on my head and said, “One day, you will get it,” and disappeared. This incident kindled a fire within me. How did you meet Guru Tara Mayee, the Avadhoota of Mookambika? That was destined to happen. In our village, in those days, an Avadhoota aged around 30 or 40, from a lower caste, was living. While Hindus called him Sridharan, Christians called him Thomas. Wearing only a small dhoti and loin cloth, he worked in the fields, spontaneously singing philosophical songs. He used to sleep on the veranda of an old Devi temple. Though I considered him my guru, he regarded me as a friend.
My traditional and orthodox family disliked my companionship with him. But as he was instrumental in stoking the spiritual fire within me, I can never forget him. When I decided to leave home, he took me on a bicycle to the bus stand and boarded me in a bus bound for Thrissur.
That was the beginning of my spiritual journey. I reached Kollur, Karnataka, the place of the famous Mookambika Devi temple, believing that I would meet my guruji there. I straightaway went to the Sri Ramakrishna Yogashram and met Swami Acharya Teertha, a well known saint of those days, and sought his help in arranging for me to chant the Lalita Sahasranama for 21 days inside the temple. On the last day of my sadhana, I had a vision of Mookambika Devi in the form of a young and beautiful lady. With a smile on her face she told me, “Go and meet your Guru in the veranda of the ashram where you are staying.” I rushed to the veranda and saw an old lady looking like a beggar sitting there. At once, my Brahmin ego questioned, is this beggar lady going to be my Guru? Anyway, I prostrated.
As if reading my mind, she shouted, “How can a Brahmin do namaskar to a beggar, move away, get lost.” I realised my folly and was convinced that this was my guru, whom I was searching for long.
She immediately gave a forceful kick on my chest with one of her legs, putting me in a trance for a couple of hours. Later, I came to know that she was initiating me into shaktipath deeksha. From that eventful day onwards, my Guruji Avadhoota Tara Mayee has never left me. Even this moment she is here (Swamiji became emotional and tears started rolling down his cheeks). Can you tell me a little about your life with Ma? We were staying in the open in the Kollur forest under a big
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