Amid of Kolkata humidity my seeking made me to book an AC chair ticket from Howrah to Bardhaman which later proved to be a spiritual adventure. As my health was on slop I couldn’t help but to wake up at 8 am, with my honey lime water I was going through the train schedule on IRCTC website. There were many trains which ply on regular basis from Kolkata to Bardhaman. Guess what, I booked my ticket which was scheduled at 9:05 am. By then it was 8:15am already, and I was hanging in my pajamas. I just dropped everything then n there n rushed to get ready. It was around 8:30am, I was locking my room in Belur math while holding my Unibic biscuits, salted peanuts, hair brush, n my so called handbag. Juggling with my challenges from not getting a cab, n walking distance from Vivekananda Athithi Niwas to the main gate of Belur math, I was constantly thinking about paramahansa Swami vishuddhananda and his great penance,
By 8:35am I was literally running to cover up the walking distance to reach the main gate of math, luckily found a guy on bike, and without any hesitation I asked for lift. I was in a total new geographical setting, starting from the language to food and roads, everything was a new experience. My fast paced heartbeat was a constant reminder to catch my train. Finally got a cab but the gigantic Kolkata traffic welcomed me with open arms, my cab driver assured me that I will be able to catch my train as it’s a faaka road( empty road). It was a jaw-dropping statement; If this is faaka road, then what’s traffic jam for them. So as he promised I was at Howrah station by sharp 9:05am. I was supposed to cross thousands of layers of crowd to reach to my described platform. I kept running madly, and reached on platform no 4 instead of 5, and was told that the train to my left was going to Bardhaman. By the time I could think of anything, it started off. My survival instinct played its role and I was in the same frame as that of kajol from the Hindi movie DDLJ. I just plunged to board a speed picking train and yes I succeeded in the first attempt. It was such a relief.
Now here were a number of surprises awaiting me like I had boarded the wrong train, with no Ac coach. It was to take 2 to 3 hrs to reach Bardhaman, and not 1hr 5 min which was my actual express train’s travel time. It was a local passenger cum freight train, with no seats to sit. So I almost sat on the train coach’s floor by someone’s bag near the main entrance, the guy whom the bag had belonged might haven’t liked it and took it away. I was helplessly witnessing everything. Keeping faith in my heart I murmured “ if this is your wish I am ok ”. Luckily after some 25-30 minutes, the train stopped at a village platform and I got a seat near a window. It was a blessing. I noticed an old couple sitting next to me. The Lady was nice and humble; I could see the great experiences lines on the male’s face with multi layers of wrinkles. He was sitting with a buttoned open shirt. What else could one do at such a compartment bearing three- four times of its capacity, and that too in such a humid weather. At 12 noon I reached Bardhaman. I just thanked the almighty.
So here starts my roller coaster ride. After finishing my tea in two sips, (yes Kolkata’s region is the only region which considers 2 sips of tea as tea; We in north India leave this much tea in our tea bags after finishing our cuppa ) I decided to take an e-rickshaw for a richer experience.
In no time we were at the location mentioned by Google & maps ; Gps. There were all possible sites but no traces of ashram. I was completely shattered when all the young and old folks were in denial, that there had never ever been any ashram. Even they were not familiar with the name of Swami Vishuddhananda. I had no clues for what made them to suggest me the nearby Goddess Kali temple. I presumed, “ah! Being a worship place they must know about Swami Vishuddhananda.” Now my target had been adjusted, I was keener to know “does anyone in Bardhaman know about this paramahansa who crossed all the parameters of a yogi/mahatma and attained Paramahansa, that too from the highest degree of spiritual school. With this thought I started my journey towards Goddess Kali temple. Precisely in 15 minutes I reached there and with all hopes and twinkles in my eye, I entered the temple premises. Secretly chatting Ma’s name and requesting her for some insight. I met the authorities of that temple and again, got no information. Yet they suggested me to visit a nearby ashram. It’s certainly not of Swami Vishuddhananda still I might get some information. Again in the e-rickshaw, I set off to a new destination.
Short in while I was amid of rice fields, far from the town life, I could see goats near a water bawri (small water pool) it was almost 1 in noon, crossing small villages of west Bengal, I had many beautiful sights to behold. In a soaring temperature I found a few old ladies sitting outside their houses wearing sari without blouse in a typical Bengali way. Around 1:30 pm I saw a pink-peach building from afar and again my heart was filled with hopes and expectations. I tried to be more realistic and warned myself to not nurture unrealistic expectations. This is my personal experience, whenever I stop thinking about having or achieving something that’s the moment when it happens to me. Similar experience happened this time too. Standing in-front of that building with not even a single word or info in English /Hindi, I was scared if this rikshawala dropped me here and go how I will reach back to town. To ensure he stayed back, I requested him to join me in the ashram and in a prompt reply he said “madam aap pata kijiye mai aapko wapis le ker he jaoonga” (you please go and check I will surely take you back to town). Ah I felt so humbled and went inside the ashram.
To my utter surprise where not even a single word was in Hindi I found a gentleman fluent in the language, clad in white kurta and dhoti, all white hair, fair complexion with an impressive voice, came forward to help me. He took all my info and offered me water to drink and asked me to have parsadam first. Ah I was empty stomach since morning, so I accepted his humbled request n proceeded towards the ashram’s kitchen. It was simple food with lots of love, care and respect. I ate the bangla rice with potato vegetable, drumstick curry and yellow daal (lentils). I felt I was a special guest so I got a sweet dish too. It was some west bengal local sweet dish prepared with flour and then soaked in chashani (sugar syrup). Believe me I’d never had a sweet dish which was so much sweet. I feel it tasted double sugary because of their overwhelming love for me and I am truly grateful for that. By the time I returned to ashram’s reception i found 4-5 people standing there. One of them was my rikshawala bhaiya. He was talking to those people and when he saw me coming he told them. I reached and Asked if anyone had heard about Vishuddhananda ji. They all said no in one go. I was so disheartened and murmured “ah! He was born and brought on this land, attained what is impossible for a human being and attained paramahansa that too from Gyanganj and his own people are not aware about him”. The moment I uttered the word gyanganj a guy started saying something in Bengali language exclaiming gyanganj-gyanganj. In excitement I too said yes-yes Gyanganj, “Do u know something about it? Please tell if u know something.” Then the other person asked me whether i had their contact number or not, I said in my knowledge swami ji used to visit in 3 ashrams, one in kashi, the other in bondul and another was in bardhaman and no ashram has any contact no. When I was trying to show them my search by mistake a fan page got opened and yes it had a guy named Anirudha mukherji’s contact no. That too from bardhaman I was shocked, why the hell on this earth didn’t I check this fan page before coming. I contacted Mr. Anirudha Mukherjee who was the only one aware about those ashrams and he gave me an address and talked to my e-rishawala, explaining to him the address. On a happy note I thanked all the Debanand ashram’s people for their great hospitality and delicious lunch. Yet again, I was all ready and excited to be in the place where a human scaled the spiritual heights with his sheer hard work and dedication, and became a God himself. It was 3 pm I was waiting outside the ashram which was locked from inside. Finally Mr. Annirudha mukherjee came in a pink shirt and blue denim. He introduced me to baba’s great grandson Mr. Debashis Chhatopadhyay. Who stays at Bardwan ashram. We sat for some time, had a spiritual discussion and finally decided to go to Bondul ashram.
I hired a cab to save time and started for Bondul ashram. After 45 mins or so we reached Bondul What an energised place it was. Mr Mukherjee guided me towards the hall. Its main door was closed where swami vishuddananda used to give discourse to his followers. It was a quite big hall. Some stuff was being put in one corner near the main door. With vishuddananda and his wife’s images, there were a few more portraits all old and black-white. There was a wooden bed with its legs designed in a very old style and a black-white portrait of swami kept on it. I was given a blanket to meditate. With a grateful heart I started moving towards baba’s image where he used to sit. Out of devotion I came on my knees and just bowed to the greatest master and touched the age old floor with my head. The moment I touched the floor a mild fragrance of roses started coming out from the floor itself. This fragrance was something which I’d never smelled before. It was not of some incense sticks, If that’d been of some incense stick, it should have been there when the door of that hall was being opened. This place had no modern routine of using fragrant substance for cleaning. Infact the floor was so old that it had small- small cracks, I was wondering how they might be doing the cleaning. I raised my head still being on my knees and looked into baba’s eyes and said “baba you have been known as the Gandh baba( fragrant saint). If it’s you who is blessing me with making your presence felt please let me know when I bow down the 2 nd time under your grace”. I again bowed down and smelled the same fragrance. I stood up in shock . Oh my gosh yes it’s here. I started looking here and there and found no one who could answer my queries. This time my logical mind came in and said it might be your illusion. I decided to check it again. And this time it was a normal old floor. No fragrance. I realised my mistake and started asking for forgiveness. I tried to understand baba’s grace through my intellect. With teary eyes I was on floor doing dandwat pranaam seeking forgiveness. I was all on floor n there were no traces of fragrance. I sat there and decided to meditate and arranged the blanket which was given by ashram’s care taker. I sat for about 20 minutes or so and words can’t describe what I got from there. With overflowing emotions and high energies I bowed down in reverence and yes I was again blessed with the same mild rose fragrance. I was thrilled, and didn’t know how to pay my gratitude.
Even right now, while writing down my experience I still have tears. Whether I am in this body or not this experience will stay with me forever. Few things are beyond this 5 element’s world. They never age, wither or fade away. They are eternal. Its baba’s grace else I am not even qualified or entitled to have this enduring and beyond this world experience. My heartfelt gratitude to the louts feet of Swami Vishuddhanada paramhansa.
After having this divine experience I went to the temple which was on the other side of the hall building. The temple was having the banlingam and to the other side was baba’s live statue. I did the parikrama and again sat for meditation absorbing the greatest vibes of that pious place. After spending almost an hour in that ashram, Mr. Mukherjee took me to Swami Vishuddhananda’s house and showed me places and streets where this great sage had spent his childhood. After paying my homage we decided to return to Bardhaman. Mr Anirudha told me that he was getting calls from baba’s great grandson Mr. Chattopadhyay. He was very concerned about my safety till i’d returned to Kolkata. He told Mr. Mukherjee to help me board the train and inform him. Oh I was so touched by their concern and care. I am thoroughly grateful to Mr. Anirudha Mukherjee and Mr. Debashis Chhatopadhyay who took their time out and were there to guide me, on each step.
By 6:15 pm I was at the railway station in Bardhaman. With a completely renewed, elite and healed soul, I bid adieu to Mr. Mukherjee and sat in my coach. Like me, my coach too was all new. I was hallucinating with my experiences and didn’t realize when I reached back to Kolkata. Here I completed my pilgrimage successfully. To have a better understanding about swami vishuddhananda I am sharing wiki links and other useful links. May you all always be blessed with baba’s divine grace.
There are hundreds of methods of meditation, but perhaps Vipassana has a unique status; just the same way as there have been thousands of mystics, but Gautam Buddha has a uniqueness of his own. In many ways he is incomparable. In many ways he has done more for humanity than anybody else. In many ways his search for truth was more sincere, more authentic than anybody else’s.
The meaning – the literal meaning – of the word Vipassana is “to look,” and the metaphorical meaning is “to watch, to witness.” Gautam Buddha has chosen a meditation that can be called the essential meditation. All other meditations are different forms of witnessing, but witnessing is present in every kind of meditation as an essential part; it cannot be avoided. Buddha has deleted everything else and kept only the essential part – to witness. When you have become perfectly watchful of your body, mind and heart, then you cannot do anything more, then you have to wait. When perfection is complete on these three steps, the fourth step happens on its own accord as a reward. Suddenly your life force, your witnessing, enters into the very center of your being. You have come home.
Vipassana can be done in three ways.
The first is: awareness of your actions, your body, your mind, your heart. Walking, you should walk with awareness. Moving your hand, you should move with awareness, knowing perfectly that you are moving the hand. You can move it without any consciousness, like a mechanical thing…you are on a morning walk; you can go on walking without being aware of your feet. Be alert of the movements of your body. While eating, be alert to the movements that are needed for eating. Taking a shower, be alert to the coolness that is coming to you, the water falling on you and the tremendous joy of it ― just be alert. It should not go on happening in an unconscious state. And the same about your mind. Whatever thought passes on the screen of your mind, just be a watcher. Whatever emotion passes on the screen of your heart, just remain a witness ― don’t get involved, don’t get identified, don’t evaluate what is good, what is bad; that is not part of your meditation.
The second form is breathing, becoming aware of breathing. As the breath goes in, your belly starts rising up, and as the breath goes out, your belly starts settling down again. So the second method is to be aware of the belly: its rising and falling. Just the very awareness of the belly rising and falling…and the belly is very close to the life sources because the child is joined with the mother’s life through the navel. Behind the navel is his life’s source. So, when the belly rises up, it is really the life energy, the spring of life that is rising up and falling down with each breath. That too is not difficult and perhaps maybe even easier because it is a single technique. In the first, you have to be aware of the body, you have to be aware of the mind, you have to be aware of your emotions, moods. So it has three steps. The second approach has a single step: just the belly, moving up and down. And the result is the same. As you become more aware of the belly, the mind becomes silent, the heart becomes silent, and the moods disappear.
And the third is to be aware of the breath at the entrance, when the breath goes in through your nostrils. Feel it at that extreme ― the other polarity from the belly ― feel it from the nose. The breath going in gives certain coolness to your nostrils. Then the breath going out…breath going in…breath going out.
Find a reasonably comfortable and alert position to sit for 40 to 60 minutes. Back and head should be straight, eyes closed and breathing normal. Stay as still as possible, only changing position if it is really necessary. While sitting, the primary object is to be watching the rise and fall of the belly, slightly above the navel, caused by breathing in and out. It is not a concentration technique, so while watching the breath; many other things will take your attention away. Nothing is a distraction in vipassana, so when something else comes up, stop watching the breath, pay attention to whatever is happening until it’s possible to go back to your breath. This may include thoughts, feelings, judgments, body sensations, impressions from the outside world, etc. It is the process of watching that is significant, not so much what you are watching, so remember not to become identified with whatever comes up; questions or problems may just be seen as mysteries to be enjoyed!
Nisargadatta Maharaj : For meditation you should sit with identification with the knowledge “I am” only and have confirmed to yourself that you are not the body. You must dwell only in that knowledge “I am”–not merely the words “I am.” The design of your body does not signify your identification. And also, the name which is given to you or to the body is not your correct identity. The name which is imposed on you, or the name which you have heard about you-you have accepted that name as yourself. Similarly, since you have seen your body, you think you are the body. So you have to give up both these identities. And the indwelling knowledge that you are, without words, that itself you are. In that identity, you must stabilize yourself. And then, whatever doubts you have, will be cleared by that very knowledge, and everything will be opened up in you.
Question: All teachers advise to meditate. What is the purpose of meditation?
Maharaj: We know the outer world of sensations and actions. But of our inner world of thoughts and feelings we know very little. The primary purpose of meditation is to become conscious of, and familiar with, our inner life. The ultimate purpose is to reach the source of life and consciousness. Incidentally, practice of meditation affects deeply our character. We are slaves to what we do not know. Whatever vice or weakness in ourselves we discover and understand its causes and its workings, we overcome it by the very knowing; the unconscious dissolves when brought into the conscious. The dissolution of the unconscious release energy; the mind feels adequate and become quiet.
My teacher told me to hold on to the sense ‘I am’ tenaciously and not to swerve from it even for a moment. I did my best to follow his advice and in a comparatively short time I realized within myself the truth of his teaching. All I did was to remember his teaching, his face, his words constantly. This brought an end to the mind; in the stillness of the mind I saw myself as I am — unbound.
I simply followed (my teacher’s) instruction which was to focus the mind on pure being ‘I am’, and stay in it. I used to sit for hours together, with nothing but the ‘I am’ in my mind and soon peace and joy and a deep all-embracing love became my normal state. In it all disappeared — myself, my Guru, the life I lived, the world around me. Only peace remained and unfathomable silence.
My Guru ordered me to attend to the sense ‘I am’ and to give attention to nothing else. I just obeyed. I did not follow any particular course of breathing, or meditation, or study of scriptures. Whatever happened, I would turn away my attention from it and remain with the sense ‘I am’, it may look too simple, even crude. My only reason for doing it was that my Guru told me so. Yet it worked! Obedience is a powerful solvent of all desires and fears.
Ramana Maharshi was a guru of international renown from southern India who taught during the first half of the twentieth century. He was born in 1879 near Madurai, Tamilnadu. His father was a farmer. He was the second of three sons. The family was religious, giving ritual offerings to the family deity and visiting temples. One unusual aspect of his family history was a curse that was put on the family by a wandering monk who was refused food by a family member. The monk decreed that in every generation, one child in the family would renounce the world to lead a religious life. Ramana was largely disinterested in school and absent-minded during work. He had a marked inclination towards introspection and self-analysis. He used to ask fundamental questions about identity, such as the question “who am I?”. He was always seeking to find the answer to the mystery of his own identity and origins.
One peculiar aspect of Ramana’s personality was his ability to sleep soundly. He could be beaten or carried from one place to another while asleep, and would not wake up. He was sometimes jokingly called “Kumbhakarna” after a figure in the Ramayana who slept soundly for months.
In the summer of 1896, Ramana went into an altered state of consciousness which had a profound effect on him. He experienced what he understood to be his own death, and later returned to life.
He also had spontaneous flashes of insight where he perceived himself as an essence independent of the body. During these events, he felt himself to be an eternal entity, existing without reliance on the physical body or material world.
Along with these intuitions came a fascination with the word “Arunachala” which carried associations of deep reverence and a sense that his destiny was closely intertwined with this unique sound. At the age of sixteen, Ramana heard that a place called Arunachala actually existed (the modern town’s name is Tiruvannamalai) and this brought him great happiness.
Ramana was nearing the end of high school when a careless criticism describing him as a person not fit to be a student jarred him into making a final decision to leave school. He had been reading a book on famous Tamil saints and resolved to leave home and lead the life of a religious seeker. Naturally, he planned to go to Arunachala, the place which was the focal point of all his religious ideals.
When he was seventeen years old, Ramama left for Arunachala, arriving after four days of mostly train travel. He went directly to the central shrine at the temple and addressed the Shiva symbol (linga) stating he had given up everything and come to Arunachala in response to the god’s call.
Ramana spent ten years living in temples and caves meditating, and pursuing spiritual purification, keeping the disciplines of silence and non-attachment. At this point, his reputation as a serious teacher (he was called Brahma Swami) began to grow and other seekers began to visit him. His disciples, some of whom were learned individuals, began to bring him sacred books. He became conversant with the religious traditions of South India written in the different regional languages.
Early disciples had a difficult time learning about Ramana’s background and even his native language because he was silent and refused to speak. As time passed he ceased his ascetic phase and began to live a more normal life in an ashram setting. Many people came to visit him with a variety of problems, from both India and abroad.
Ramana’s disciples constructed an ashram and temple, and space the accommodate the many visitors. All ate the same food and Ramana sat with the rest of the people during meals and did not expect special treatment. The ashram was a sanctuary for animals and Ramana had great fondness for the cows, monkeys, birds, and squirrels that inhabited the grounds.
Ramana continued to practice the method of inquiry into the nature of the self best expressed by the question “who am I?”.
Ramana was not a guru in the classic sense of a teacher who gives instruction on a regular basis or gives mantras during initiation. In fact, if the seeker wanted to practice repetition of a mantra rather than the “who am I?” method of self inquiry, he recommended repeating the pronoun “I” or the phrase “I am” rather than repeating sacred Sanskrit words or the names of gods. This focused the person’s mind on “being itself” or the mystery of their own awareness rather than an external object or word.
Sound, in general, is the most apparent medium to calm the mind. Therefore, at times the inner bliss is experienced upon listening to music. This type of music is generated through some external source like a stringed instrument or an electronic device or through the vocal cords of a living being. Sounds created by external sources can be perceived by the mind via physical ears. For example, the moment we hear a bark, we can easily identify the source of sound i.e. it’s from a dog. Similarly, whenever we listen to a music track, we would come to know which singer performs. However, there is an ‘Inner’ sound; in fact, as if, not exactly a sound, which is said to be coming from nowhere; i.e., without a source, the one which has no origin or source and has no limit to be ceased as well. Since the evolution of human world, many great Saints and Sages narrated of listening to this mysterious sound during their ample Silence of meditation. Several Holy Scriptures, have spoken of it by various names like Aum, Hu, Word, Shabd, Tao’s Hum, Amrit, Anahad, Nada and the list goes on and on. Many of the spiritual texts have described it too by using analogous stories and musical poetry. In recent time, a large volume of scientific study is also being carried out about this and in the years to come, science perhaps would also arrive at this all-pervading Sound Current. Inner Sound here simply implies a sound that is coming from within. To listen this, the practitioner withdraws his/her attention from all of the external sounds in the sensory plane and focuses deeply on the sound coming from within. In order to contact the Inner Sound, the practitioners usually plug their ears with their thumb or some kind of stop-cocking instrument like rubber earplugs, earphones, cotton buds etc.
Depression Remember this: Whenever you are depressed, wait for the moment that the depression goes. Nothing lasts forever; the depression will go. And when it leaves you, wait – be aware and alert – because after the depression, after the night, there will be a dawn and the sun will rise. If you can be alert in that moment. you will he happy that you were depressed. You will be grateful that you are depressed because only through your depression was this mint of happiness possible. But what do we do? We move in an infinite regression We get depressed. Then we get depressed because of the depression: a second depression follows. If you are depressed. that′s okay! – nothing is wrong in it. It is beautiful because through it you will learn and mature. But then you feel badly. “Why do I get depressed? I should not get depressed.” Then you start fighting with the depression. The first depression is good, but the second depression is unreal. And this unreal depression will cloud your mind. You will miss the moment that would have followed the real depression. When depressed, be depressed. Simply be depressed. Don′t get depressed about your depression. When depressed, simply be depressed. Don′t fight it, don′t create any diversion, don′t force it to go. Just allow it to happen; it will go by itself. Life is a flux; nothing remains the same. You are not needed; the river moves by itself, you don′t have to push it. If you are trying to push it, you are simply foolish. The river flows by itself. Allow it to flow. When depression is there, allow it to be. Don′t get depressed about it. If you want to remove it sooner, you will get depressed. If you fight it, you will create a secondary depression that is dangerous. The first depression is beautiful, God-given. The second depression is your own. It is not God-given; it is mental. Then you will move in mental grooves. They are infinite. If you get depressed, be happy that you are depressed and allow the depression to be. Then suddenly the depression will disappear and there will be a breakthrough. No clouds will be there and the sky will be clear. For a single moment, heaven opens for you. If you are not depressed about your depression you can contact, you can commune, you can enter this heavenly gate. And once you know it, you have learned one of the ultimate laws of life: that life uses the opposite as a teacher, as a background.