Adhyatma Yoga teaches that the truth of the identity of the individual soul with the supreme Reality or God is realizable by man in this very life. One so enlightened is called a Jnani or “Knower of Truth ” and is said to have attained Jivan Mukti—permanent emancipation of the soul from all suffering and limitations. The following article contains a description of this transcendental state, given personally to the writer by a modern Mahatma who had himself realized it.
At the end of July 1911, the great Sage Swami Satchitanandaji whom I had learnt to love with fervour and intensity, visited Rishikesha. I had been informed of his intended visit, and went there a few days ahead. I stayed at the Svarga Ashrama, adjoining Lakshmanjula, and spent my days partly in private devotion, study and meditation, and partly in the company of the Mahatmas who lived in huts called Kutyas, overlooking the slow- moving, divine stream the Ganges. These were indeed happy days.
After some search I found Swami Satchitananda’s cave, on the banks of the holy river. With the panting heart of a lover; with the devotion of a moth for the flame ; with a desire to sacrifice my body and mind at the holy feet of the Saint, I came to the cave, bringing with me a jar of fresh milk. After I had been there about half an hour, Shri Swamiji arrived and said with a smile’: “Hariji, I am glad you have come ”. My tears fell, and I could say nothing.
We went to the kitchen of the Svarga Ashrama and partook of a simple meal, which was offered to every ascetic who applied for it. I took my meal in the Brahmachari kitchen.
We crossed the Lakshmanjula bridge, exchanging greetings with the pilgrims and sadhus, and entered the Brahma- puri forest. It was about two o’clock in the afternoon, a brilliant sun was shining and the cool breezes were kissing the surface of the Ganges, and conferring ear-rings of tiny crests on the undulating wavelets. The holy atmosphere of the place tranquillised my mind and senses.
A few ordinary questions to ask the holy man had crossed my mind that morning. “ Does the Jnani control his body and keep it in a state of perpetual youth and health ? ” I asked.
I had heard a Brahmachari expounding the following thesis the previous evening :—
“The Jnani is at one with Ishwara and also with Brahman . As Ishwara he has all the powers and siddhis at his disposal. He can stop the earth in its course ; he can create palaces to live in ; he can keep his body young for thousands of years.”
Shri Swamiji led me into a solitary valley filled with small pine trees. The wind sang as it rustled through their ever-green branches, and the notes of the Ganges filled the air.
“ Hariji, look into this great pit, and tell me what you see.” “ Bones, human bones, Maharaj.”
“ Hariji ” said the Swami, “ once there was a colony here of Yogis who mixed Hatha yoga with Raja Yoga. and called themselves Jivan Muktas. They preached that Jnana gives all the powers over the world and the body. If a Jnani were subject to disease, old age or failure of the natural faculties, he was considered to be still a novice, and not a Jivan Mukta. The Sadhus, due to some Hatha Yoga practices, kept their bodies in good condition ; they claimed all the siddhis. Many rich, ageing men, many wealthy widows, many neurotic, luxury-ridden young women, visited this colony. The Sadhus conferred renewed energy on the old men, and to the others they gave what they wanted. Many Maharajas became their disciples. Their cows had velvet blankets, and their horns were decorated with gold plate.
They lived on honey, milk and almonds, served on silver dishes. One evening as these Sadhus were sitting in their central Pavilion with some of their disciples, they announced that they had conquered death.
“ We are not only Brahman , but also Ishwara ” said they. A dark cloud rose above the mountain ; a gale blew hard and uprooted trees, many of which fell on the heads of the Sadhus.
“ We will punish Nature for this insult to our holy bodies,” they cried. The thunder crashed with very great force, and all of them were killed in less than a second. Some of the Rishis and Brahmacharis gave their bodies burial in this pit which you see before you.
Hariji ! “these were the Ishwaras, as they called themselves.”
We sat down in a green spot. Shri Swamiji spoke in a sweet voice : “ Hariji, suppose you see a dream and you know that it is a dream. Suppose your dream-body catches a heavy cold, or grows prematurely old. Will you bestir yourself to rectify these conditions ? No, because you know that the body is unreal. Such is this Sansara .
If you scheme to perpetuate your youth, or attempt to acquire wealth, luxury or sovereignty, then, Hariji, it is clear that you have not realized the unreality of the world and your own body. Are we worshippers of Atman or worshippers of Avidya ?
“ Those pseudo-sadhus and Jnanis who talk of a perpetually healthy body, and a life of luxury, wealth and fame, are votaries of Avidya, not of Brahman . Hariji, come what may, our prarabdha karma rules our body. Your duty is to make your Vrittis brahmakara (of the nature of Brahman), and not of your body. If the world is unreal, then how can the body be looked upon as real ?
An uninstructed student of Vedanta may say : ‘ My body will not fall without my orders ’.
Hariji ! this is gross ignorance. Equanimity is the characteristic of a Jnani. Adjust your mind to the holy Truth. These vain hopes do not become the disciples of a true Guru.
“ Hariji, I have heard that Shri Swami Krishnanandaji, our Paramguru, left his body on the banks of the river Godavari. Rama, Krishna, Vyas, Brighu, Vidyaranya, and other great Sages have passed out of their bodies. He knows nothing of Jnana, who is engrossed in seeking the welfare of his own body.
To conquer suffering by equanimity, to keep the Vritti high on ‘ I am Brahman ‘ ‘I am Brahman ’, to be compassionate to the world, and to teach men the holy Adhyatma Yoga, that is enough Hariji, that is enough.
“ Speaking from the relative point of view, Ishwara rules the world through his fixed decrees, called ‘ natural laws ’. If, in the course of the operation of these natural laws your body becomes old, how dare you interfere with the cosmic law, by setting your will against it “?
“ Hariji, unless we have surrendered our will to Guru and Govinda and rubbed away all desires for well-being, wealth, comfort and pleasure, we are not fit to be true disciples”.
“ Do not for a moment think of conquering death. All claims other than ‘ I am Brahman ’ are like the shadows of tall trees on a green sward. The best use to make of your mental energy, is to control and educate the mind, to increase your devotion and to remove the obstacles to the full manifestation of Atman as Sat Chit Ananda
An old Yogi appeared on the scene. He brought a few fruits and a jug of milk. Swamiji accepted his gifts and blessed him.
The evening was advancing ; we slowly walked back to the Svarga Ashrama. I saw Swamiji to his cave and then went to the library where a few brahmacharis were discussing some verses from the great classic “ Swaraja- Siddhi ”. I listened to them.
Atman: God as the real Self in man underlying his phenomenal personality.
Avidya : Spiritual ignorance, to which is attributable our experience of diversity
Brahman : The supreme Reality. The attributeless impersonal God
Brahmachari: Personal disciple of a spiritual Teacher, following a traditional and special discipline.
Guru : Spiritual Teacher.
Govinda : Ishwara, the Lord with attributes.
Hatha Yoga: A system of Yoga, primarily concerned with control of the body.
Ishwara : ‘ Lord of the Universe.’ The personal aspect of God.
Raja Yoga : The ‘ Royal Yoga ’ teaching knowledge of the Self.
Sansara : The cycle of birth, death and re-birth, involving experience of the phenomenal world.
Sat Chit Ananda: Existence-Consciousness-Bliss; the changeless Substratum of all change.
Siddhis : The ‘ perfections ’.
Vrittis : Thoughts.