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 tree. Amma did not teach me Vedanta, Upanishads or any other scriptures, mantras or bhajans. Rather she taught me in a practical way. One day, as usual, while I was sweeping the ground she started shouting, “What the hell are you doing? If you can sweep the entire universe, do it. Not merely this six-foot place.” That was her way of coaching. She was teaching me that service to mankind was my task. Amma never allowed me to beg for food, she always brought food by begging in an old tin. First she would sprinkle the food on the ground for ants, insects, snakes, rabbits, and birds. After feeding them she used to feed me like a small child, like a mother feeding her own child. It was a practical way of teaching. Later, when I went to the Himalayas and studied Vedas and other scriptures, I realised that my Guruji had already shown me the essence of the scriptures through her living example.
What is distinctive about an Avadhoota? Can one become an Avadhoota?
An Avadhootha is an awareness which you can call Nature. One who is always in awareness without a sense of doership is an Avadootha. It is not a title; rather it is a state of being. According to the Sakthas, paramahansas represents the Shiva bhava and Avadhootas, the Shakthi bhava. For an Avadhoota, there is nothing to do, but he is always doing. He never seeks anything. He is higher than the gods, as he is always in a selfless state without ego. One cannot ‘become’ an Avadhoota, they are born by the grace of the Gurumandala.
What is the difference between Avadhootas and other saints?
An Avadhoota always remains in fullness. He does not possess anything, and is happy anywhere and everywhere. Nothing belongs to him, but he belongs to all. He does everything for himself. Avdhootas have no karmas, only dharmas. For them, there are no ‘others.’ In fact, I am not doing any seva to anybody, I am helping myself.
What were your experiences of reaching Gyanganj?
Even though I am not supposed to divulge too much about Gyanganj, I will reveal some aspects. Gyanganj has two dimensions; one is internal and the other is external. Internally, one can reach Gyanganj by awakening his dormant Kundalini energy from the mooladhara to the sahasrara chakra by raising one’s consciousness. The external one exists in North Tibet where all high souls from Datta Bhagavan to my Guru live in astral bodies. Reaching Gyanganj externally is an arduous task as one has to walk on foot for days together through the Himalayan mountain ranges. The place has more than 150 caves and looks like a University. The souls of Gyanganj can physically manifest anywhere in the world at any time with their will. They can even come and talk to you. In fact, they take care of sadhus of different dharmas; not only Hindu, but also Christian, Muslim, Sufis, and Sikhs. Most of them are living in invisible form. One can reach there, only if they allow you to go there. Had I not visited internally, they would not have called me to Gyanganj for higher studies. During my first visit I was there for three days and on the second visit I was there for 21 days when I was taught certain higher aspects of Sri Vidya by Guru Bhruguram. I was pontiff till yesterday (11th October, 2016). As I wanted to be free from all, the Gurumandala permitted me to relinquish my responsibility. In due course they will decide about the next pontiff.
What is the sadhana that would enable one to reach Gyanganj?
Only one sadhana; purity of mind. I prefer the path of egoless selfless service to purify the mind. Take care of the poor, feed the hungry, nurse the sick, teach hapless children. Initially, when I attempted to reach Gyanganj, I failed because of my ego. But after several years, the Gurus themselves asked me to reach Tapovan, situated beyond Badrinath and from there Guru Bhruguram Paramahansa took me to Gyanganj. Anyone having lust, anger, arrogance, and jealousy can never reach Gyanganj.
With so much impurity, do we have any hope?
You are not a sinner as the Christians say. All the impurities will go in total surrender to a Guru. That is the only way. Also engage in selfless seva. Whatever you do, feel that you are doing Guru Seva. The thinking that you are the doer must go.
Please share your experiences with Himalayan masters.
The perfect balance of the cosmos and earth is maintained by the invisible siddhas in the Himalayas. A few yogis like me are sent to work with the masses. The positive vibrations emanating from these souls move around the whole cosmos. Luckily, I had the darshan of some of them in Gyanganj. Once, while I was living in a cave near Badrinath, observing chaturmasya, a sadhu told me about a great Siddha living in a cave on top of a nearby hill. When I climbed up the hill and went inside the cave of the Siddha, my ego stopped me from seeking his permission. I could only see his seat, dhuni (sacred fire) and kamandalu (water container). I could not see the Siddha, and walked back disappointed. That evening, the same Siddha came down to my cave and told me, “Nadananda, when you came, I was away.” I immediately apologised to him for my stupidity. It was the same Siddha who took me up to Tapovan and handed me over to Saint Brighuram Paramahansa, who then took me to Gyanganj. A number of such great siddhas are still living in the Himalayas.
Please tell us about your research on Sri Vidya and about the book, Secrets of Srichakara.
It was really a challenge. My research on the vibrations of the ‘bindu’ of Srichakra was undertaken as per the command of Gyanganj gurus. In fact, the entire cosmos is perfectly balanced by these vibrations. I found out that the cosmos is sustained, both spiritually and materially, by 1, 83,000 types of pulsations and have recorded these. I took the whole work consisting of about 600 pages of manuscript, to the Benares Hindu University for publication, but they did not publish it. Later, my friend Shri Gopinathan Iyengar took it to Germany and there it was first published in English and Sanskrit.
How does one choose one’s Guru?
Never can a disciple choose his Guru. Be in the search, awakened and open, and then the Guru will choose you. When the Guru comes to you, don’t stop him, allow him to enter into your whole being and allow him to blast you within. Of course it will be an arduous journey. Being with a guru is a must for realisation. You cannot measure the depth of a river by simply sitting in its bank; enter, dip and merge with the river. I have been teaching my disciples the art of dying; to kill their external consciousness which is merged with lust, anger and attachment, and to raise their awareness to total realisation. One must understand that the idea that one can get realisation through a touch or in a minute is false. Are people who do spiritual practice for 40/50 years fools? Realise that there is nothing to be attained from outside and you are already enlightened. Be with a Guru, that guru will definitely take you to the ultimate reality.
What is the purpose of human birth? Is there any purpose at all?
Nowadays, people are very much addicted to materialism. There is an interesting story of a person who searched for God in a particular address. He reached the place, entered the compound, climbed the steps and when he was about to knock at the door of God’s residence, he turned back. When asked why, he said that had the door opened, he would have merged with God, losing his material wealth and relationships.
The purpose of human birth is to realise who you really are; apart from the body-mind-intellect being, one is consciousness, cosmos, nature, everything. Be aware that the body, money, near and dear ones all will be lost one day, but if you are on a spiritual path, you would realise your true worth. In the company of a Guru, one loses everything to gain everything.
What according to you is true spirituality? What is the role of rituals and ceremonies in spiritual life?
Rituals and ceremonies are only for beginners. True spirituality is to serve others, Seva hi mam dharma. My religion or duty is to serve others. We are not Hindus, Muslims, and Christians, rather we are all human beings. My disciples and I have only one thing in mind: Do seva, do seva, do seva, selfless seva.
What is your concept of God?
My God does not sit in a temple, mosque or church. The suffering people are my gods. Not the idols, or pictures. Instead of doing abhisheka to a shivalinga with milk, Bhagavan Shiva would be happy if half a glass of milk were given to a poor girl. If you feed a poor man daily, you need not even go to the temple. If you have this attitude, life will flourish like anything. I am a humanist. Temples ought to be centres to create awareness that Bhagavan is everywhere, including in those who are suffering.
What is your message to readers?
A person who lives for himself is a beast. A person who lives for others is Bhagavan. Be a Bhagavan, be the Almighty, be the Self.
About the author : Pradeep Krishnan is a seeker based in Trivandrum, Kerala, seeking answers to ‘existence’ and a student of consciousness deeply attracted to the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.
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