By Rajesh Kamath
Four years back to this day (July 12th 2020), Vasudevan Swami, a disciple of Bhagavan Nityananda and a powerful Master of the Nath tradition, took samadhi (a saint’s conscious exit from the body) in Ganeshpuri. Mohanji had the greatest respects for this spiritual powerhouse who hid within a bent, frail, old and very ordinary looking frame. One could easily dismiss him for a weak, old man who wouldn’t merit a second glance. His unassuming nature, innocence and purity, coupled with an unshakeable faith in his Master, Bhagavan Nityananda, were the hallmarks of his personality. Mohanji considered him a perfect epitome of devotion. He was the priest of the Nath Mandir at Vajreshwari, where Macchindranath and Gorakshanath, the leading lights of the Nav Nath Tradition did intense penance and were blessed by the Goddess to write the book, the Nath Rahasya (The Secrets of the Naths). This temple has the padukas (divine imprints of the feet) of Macchindranath and Gorakshanath.
The previous priest in the temple was designated to be a Shankaracharya (one of the four heads for each of the four directions, who are highly revered leaders of Hinduism). When he came to visit Bhagavan Nityananda, Bhagavan is said to have asked him to choose between fame or liberation. When he decided liberation, Bhagavan Nityananda asked him to leave everything and become a priest of this tiny temple that is right in front of the Vajreshwari temple. The place is extremely powerful, and Swamiji used to say that none can enter this place by chance. It is guarded by unseen divine beings who keep the causal visitors away. Only the fortunate few who have the permission of Bhagavan Nityananda and the Nav Nath greats are allowed by the Divine. It is genuinely so because even the flower sellers right outside the gates are unaware of the spiritual potency of this place. There are hardly any visitors in this temple even though it is literally a stone’s throw from the Vajreshwari temple which sees a steady throng of religious seekers. The priest of such a temple can hardly be an ordinary person, and one can understand the level of purity and subtlety that would be expected of one who is fortunate to bear that mantle.
Interestingly, it was just yesterday that Mohanji was reminiscing about Vasudevan Swami during a discussion on devotion. Mohanji used the example of Vasudevan Swami’s extraordinarily simple prayers to highlight the power of pure love. If Swamiji missed Lord Krishna, he would say, “Lord Krishna, I have grown old and feeble, and my eyesight fails me. How will I ever get your darshan (divine vision) now?” At these words, Lord Krishna would appear before Swamiji, stay with him for as long as Swamiji desired and leave an imprint of the form he appeared in, on the wall of the temple. Once when Mohanji visited him, he told Mohanji, “I am so happy today. Hanumanji came here today and meditated here while I was doing aarati. I saw someone come and sit behind me while doing aarati. After the aarati, I looked behind and saw Hanumanji sitting quietly and meditating. He just left.” One could see a greasy outline on the wall as if a giant person with oil all over his body had sat down with his back touching the wall. The entire wall was full of such impressions from the forms of the Divine Mother, avatars of Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva, the Naga Devatas (the deities from the highly evolved realm of Naga Loka who take the form of snakes on earth), and so on. Mohanji mentioned that each imprint was like a prana pratistha (an infusion of the living energy of the deity into an idol of a temple). Imagine the power of the place which had the imprint of every conceivable deity in that place. Mohanji further added that his call was so powerful and filled with supreme love and devotion that the Lord had no option but to show up.
Once when Mohanji was in Mumbai, he suddenly told us in the morning that he would like to visit Ganeshpuri, the place forever hallowed by Bhagavan Nityananda. Though unplanned, we always relished a visit to Ganeshpuri to be with Mohanji in the divine presence of Bhagavan Nityananda. Usually, before going to the main temple in Ganeshpuri, Mohanji visited Vasudevan Swami first at the Nath mandir. Mohanji often said that he preferred the peace in Swamiji’s temple to the milling crowds in the samadhi temple of Bhagavan Nityananda in Ganeshpuri. Swamiji loved Mohanji immensely. He was ecstatic to see Mohanji and welcomed him with a lot of love. As we sat down to talk to him, Swamiji told Mohanji that he just remembered Mohanji in the morning. He thought that it would be nice to meet Mohanji but then lamented that it may not be possible given Mohanji’s crazy travel schedule. He wondered that Mohanji could be anywhere in the world and was sad at the improbability of a meeting. Mohanji said, “Swamiji, your single thought was enough to make me so restless in Mumbai that I was literally dragged to Ganeshpuri to pay you a visit.” Mohanji told some of us then that the purity and love in Vasudevan Swami’s thoughts make them commands that the universe must obey. He told us many times that Swamiji does not request the deities. He commands them to make the outcome happen.
He would always give Mohanji the holy ash that was the residue of the incense sticks that he used during his daily prayers to Bhagavan Nityananda. Mohanji revered and respected this offering from Vasudevan Swami and gave it to many of his close followers for protection or as a solution to their situations and problems. Once when I visited him, Swamiji gave me some ash with this disclaimer, “This ash is made holy by this place and by my Guru, Bhagavan Nityananda. If you consider it powerful, it can heal anything. It has healed incurable diseases and fulfilled the desires of all who believed in its power and had faith in my Guru. If you don’t believe, then it is just useless ash. Use it as you will.” He attributed all the powers and the source of the miracles to his Guru, Bhagavan Nityananda. He had no ownership. His insignificance was his strength. Since he needed nothing other than his Guru, he had all his Guru’s powers at his disposal. In that way, I saw in him a reflection of Mohanji.
He once said, “Chant with every fibre of your being. Your very being should resonate with the love of the Lord. When you sing your devotions to the Lord, do it with the power that will bring the Lord before you. Sing shamelessly and loud. Never be ashamed of your devotion to the Lord. Let the whole neighbourhood hear your song. Every breath must sing the name of the Lord all the time. That is the key to being one with the Lord. Always remember that.” I asked him how one can ensure the name of the Lord with every breath. He said that you need to work hard to reach that state. Unfortunately, no shortcuts there. Whenever we visited, he would lovingly enquire about Mohanji and his location, schedule and activities. He would tell us that he prayed for Mohanji’s well being every day without fail.
Once when Mohanji came to visit him, he excitedly opened the cupboard and took out many nice, expensive dhotis and shawls and gave them to Mohanji. Mohanji objected and requested Swamiji, “You are wearing tattered and torn clothes while you have these nice clothes in the cupboard. I can’t accept your gift. Instead, I would be delighted if you wore them instead.” He persisted several times, but Mohanji declined and repeated his earlier request. Finally, Swamiji became silent, walked away and sat in the corner of the temple with a sad, sulking face. Mohanji went up to him and asked him the reason for his sadness. He did not reply. Finally, Mohanji asked him, “What will make you happy?” Swamiji said ruefully, “Only if you accept the clothes I wanted to give you.” Mohanji humbly told Swamiji that he would like to see Swamiji happy and would gladly accept whatever he gave him. Swamiji immediately got up with childlike joy and gave the entire bundle of clothes to Mohanji. Once Swamiji had been felicitated by the trust, who gave him a few clothes and a shawl. He wondered what to do with them and connected mentally to Bhagavan Nityananda seeking an answer. Bhagavan Nityananda responded, “Give them to Mohanji.” Swamiji was perplexed thinking, “How will I locate Mohanji? He could be anywhere in the world.” This time again, Mohanji was lovingly “dragged” the same day from a neighbouring city to being in Swamiji’s overpowering and loving presence. Mohanji asked Swamiji why he chose to wear tattered clothes when he had the opportunity to wear better clothes. Swamiji said, “If I wear nice clothes, people will think I am rich and will bother me. Now, they take me for a poor, useless old man and leave me alone. I prefer my peace to other’s glowing opinions of my terrestrial stature.”
When we were at Ganeshpuri for a retreat, Mohanji decided to meet Vasudevan Swami, one morning towards the end of the retreat. He asked, “What’s for breakfast?” Someone said, “Dosa” (a pancake made from rice flour and ground pulses). Mohanji asked to pack some, and we left to meet Swamiji. We couldn’t find Swamiji in the temple or his living room. We then saw him hunched over the stove in the kitchen. He was thrilled to see Mohanji. He said that he would make tea and breakfast for Mohanji. Mohanji replied that he had brought him breakfast. He was overjoyed and almost moved to tears. He said, “Mohanji got me breakfast.” He then requested Mohanji to have breakfast with him. Mohanji said that he had only come for a brief visit and he wanted Swamiji to have all the breakfast. It was only for him. Swamiji reluctantly agreed. They spoke briefly, and Mohanji requested his permission to leave. For the first time, he walked Mohanji to the door of the temple and stepped outside to wave Mohanji goodbye. Normally, he would be seated on his bed or in the temple when we would leave. Before we left, he beckoned Mohanji to come near and said, “I want you to know two things. Firstly, Not a day goes by when I don’t think of you. Secondly, I want you to know that my Guru, Bhagavan Nityananda, lives with you always.” He had tears in his eyes. As we looked back to wave back to him, Mohanji said, “Take a good look at him. This is the last time we will see him in the flesh. This was his final goodbye.” In a few months, he took samadhi while Mohanji was in Croatia (this is explained in vivid detail in this blog post by Madhusudan Rajagopalan)
I feel nostalgic as well as sad as I ruminate over the fond memories of our past moments with Swamiji, and I am deeply grateful to Mohanji for allowing us to meet this epitome of devotion and humility. My most profound and humble prostrations to this gentle saint as I seek his blessings to allow us to follow his example and develop the unshakeable strength of devotion in the Guru and the self-effacing, selflessness to do every task surrendered to the Guru’s will.
Please read the following blog posts to know more about Vasudevan Swamiji and the experiences of Mohanji and the community with the beloved saint:
- Remembering Vasudevan Swami – An experiences sharing by Madhusudan Rajagopalan
- A Tribute to Sri Vasudevan Swami – Tributes and experiences shared by Mohanji and various other people after his samadhi
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