When I look back to my time with Atmananda, I can never boast that I really understood him. Initially, he seemed to be a bundle of contradictions, absurdities and inconsistencies. But, when I started accepting it all as part of his character and stature, he started to make sense to me.
Primarily, he displayed no insecurities. I started seeing his uncanny authenticity, uncompromising conviction, and inconceivable profundity when I started accepting him as he was. Acceptance without conditions made a drastic difference in my thinking process. He told me to focus on myself instead of focusing on him. And it was intriguing. He used to say “Form might lead to delusions. The same applies to expectations”. I was beginning to be aware of that. So, I stuck with his recommendations or teachings rather than his form or personality. Nevertheless, his actions and activities were unignorably influencing my character. Detachment from all things around me was settling in without my being aware of it. And fears as well as insecurities rapidly vanished too. Looking back, in a way, I was possibly imitating him, quite unconsciously. In this context, I would like to quote a few of his teachings. Perhaps they could be considered as silent initiations too.
While walking through a forest area, when we cautioned him of the possible attack of wild animals, He said “If this ‘dead’ body becomes useful for the survival of a fellow being, why not? Consider it a better use of the body than using it for indiscriminate consumption of the wealth of mother (earth). (Atmananda always considered his body as “dead” and spirit as life. And he used to say “My life is not the body. It is now in the body but not affected by the body or even the existence of it. Being unconditionally available is the initiation in the path of liberation. Conviction is the dhuni (fire).”
His explanation of Purushartha, the essence of human existence, was truly profound.
“Purushartha (essence of existence) or the tapestry (DNA) of human existence consists of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha,” explained Atmananda. “Dharma is the basis of existence of everything. Dharma is righteousness. Right method of existence provides guidance even to the mind-oriented people. Being natural. Being with nature. Truthful. Rightful. Righteous. Righteous living means living in tune with nature; the nature within and outside, without disturbing and destroying anything in and around us. Universe operates on Dharma. Birth is dharma. Life is dharma. Death is also dharma. Every breath is dharma. Earth, Wind, Water, Fire, Space and Ether function based on Dharma. Dharma is inevitable. Dharma operates the whole universe. When we are in tune with dharma, without resistance, we have a complete, unfluctuating life. Dharma protects the dharmic.
Artha is material. Regular karmic existence needs material assistance. Materials include food, clothing and shelter. Artha is important for existence. Artha also demands maturity. Immature handling, possession and control of Artha leads to imbalance and eventual destruction of oneself and the wealth. Artha belongs to the nature. Nature alone can own nature. No being within nature can own it forever.
Kama is desire. Desire for food, shelter, clothing and every aspect of human existence, which is created by destiny is kama. Kama is the fire that keeps life going. Even desire for liberation is kama in a sense.
Moksha is dissolution which is beyond enlightenment. Moksha is total liberation.
Dharma, Artha and Kama exists in all parts of this world, amongst human and non-human beings. Moksha – the thought and sincere conviction for liberation from the karmic cycle of birth and death exists only in Bharat. This makes this land sacred.” Atmananda used to say “Do not take this land that you walk on for granted. Great sages walked this land.” (Masters like Agastya, Vishwamitra, Dattatreya, Vyasa, Valmiki, Sapta Rishis, Nava Naths, Lord Rama, Hanuman, Krishna, Parashurama, Adi Shankaracharya, Buddha, Patanjali, Varahamihira, Bharata, Charaka, Narada, and so many others). “Respect this soil. No other soil in the whole world has mothered so many great masters, traditions and religions.”
Some more events from the life of Atmananda.
Once sitting by the side of fire, I saw master staring at the fire intensely as if speaking to it. Suddenly, he uttered as if to someone unseen to our eyes, staring into the fire. “I have no more incarnations.” We heard that. We waited for further words. For a long time, he kept staring at the fire. Then we heard him speak again “My next incarnation would be sophisticated. I would hide myself behind garbs of that time. I would confuse the world with my attire. I would shake minds with my character, style, nature, methods and habits.” He spoke no further. When we asked about his next incarnation at a convenient time, he did not bother to answer. We gathered that he was talking to someone in the fire or through the fire, or that perhaps he was participating in a discussion with masters. An Avadhoota always remains unfathomable.
I heard this story from a follower of the master. One day, after lunch, we were sitting under a tree. Guruji and others were seated under other trees nearby. This follower told me about an incident in Atmananda’s life: “Our Guruji used to meditate in the neighbouring forest alone for many months, if not years. He would abstain from food and water. As you know, this forest has many wild animals – tigers, snakes, elephants, and so on. One day, our Guruji was sitting in meditation at the mouth of a cave about 900 feet above this forest, on the other side. A tigress came to the cave. Guruji was unaware. Perhaps she wanted to enter the cave. Guruji was blocking it. The tigress produced a scary spine-chilling cry. It was very near the face of Guruji. He opened his eyes and saw the tigress. He looked straight into her eyes and they understood each other. He moved away, and the tigress entered the cave. In the same cave there was a huge serpent as well. It never bothered the presence of Guruji. Neither did Guruji bother the serpent’s presence. Now that the tigress also occupied the cave, the chance for a conflict was inevitable. Yet, perhaps due to the presence of Guruji, the two beings existed peacefully in the cave. Soon enough, the tigress who was pregnant, delivered four cubs. The cave family thus started growing. While Guruji is meditating, the cubs would climb over him and play in his lap. The mother tigress would go out to fetch some food for herself and also refresh herself. So did the serpent. Guruji was almost always fasting or ate some leaves or fruit which naturally came to his doorstep. Thus, Guruji stayed with this strange family of beings for a few months and then went on with his wandering.” This gave me a clear picture about the unity of consciousness which Guruji used to mention. All beings are one in consciousness and there is no separation. All other species know it except humans. Guruji always respected all lives on earth and always ensured that his existence never interrupted or disturbed any other lives.
Atmananda often spoke to himself or beings that we cannot see. He used to stare at something and speak as if it’s a human being. Once I saw him speaking to a “fallen dry wood!” What I heard was “I have to come back. So, it is better to leave quickly to come back. Is it painful? Oh, no. Pain is only in association. I am the consciousness of an atom and this mountain. No shell can give me pain. Pain is with the shell. I am not my shell. I must give myself. I must stop being I. I have kept this body and all that is connected to this body away from the market place. Now, I must keep all of them in market place. I will give my next body for the lions (worldly people) to feed on. If that is the command. I will.”
I often wondered, who is this “I” this perfect Avadhoota is talking about? Later on, I understood, he is referring to a state of his, perhaps his human dimension that we get to see or certain aspect of his state and never the personality that we usually refer to as I.
“I am the consciousness that existed in the atom. Then I expanded to become a cell. Then I became a fish. I came in everything that walks, crawls, swims and flies. I am also the medium (elements) they thrive on. I am the non-attachment that exists inside every shell. I have taken millions of lives. I felt and experienced the pain of separation from each mind from its body identification, each time. I felt the pleasure of liberation after each body too. When each bird comes to liberate a worm, when each tiger comes to liberate an incarnation, each time when death comes to liberate an existence, I shed the garb of illusion and become complete consciousness. I am the consciousness of the eater and the eaten, yet I have no birth or death. Birth and death happen as ripples within my consciousness. I remain complete and immortal always.”
One day he said “There is no use in following me. You are wasting your time with me. Even I do not know where I am going. And I know I have nowhere to go. You are not like me. You have places to go to. So, do not waste your time with this mad wanderer.” Even though we were perplexed by these words, we understood the meaning after some time. Initially we thought that our Guru is asking us to leave. But, his later actions revealed that he wants us to think and be aware. Places to go to are our desires of material gratification. He has no desires. He has no place to go to as well as every “place” is him. We still have desires. This means, if we choose to follow him, let it be without other desires and with only one aim, liberation. A liberated being becomes everything visible and invisible. For my master, He is the final home. His journeys, if at all, are all inside the home of his consciousness. There is no outer journey through the senses and mind for him. This was a strong reminder for all of us.
At one point in time, Atmananda slowed down and started showing signs of detachment from everyone, as if preparing to leave his body. He did not leave the shade of a banyan a tree for a week, and was staring at the sky day and night without eating, drinking or sleeping. All of us decided that he will leave his body soon and that was a tough thought for us. Our anxiety grew day by day. One day, Atmananda spoke: “You fools! Why are you so anxious, upset and crying? You are upset because I may leave this “dead” body? I am ashamed that you have understood nothing by walking with me all these years. Death is inevitable for any body and not the soul. Soul never dies. I never die because I am never born. All that is born will die. This is the truth and there is no tragedy in it. When my work is over with this body, I will leave it. I am not the body and no body can hold me. You will also leave your respective bodies just like I will someday. Crying over a dead body is the silliest and stupidest thing one can ever do. When I die, do not keep my body in a pit (samadhi). Burn it and give the ash to the rivers that bathed it and nurtured it all these years. There should be no visible trace of Atmananda. I will come back again in another body to fulfill every wish of everyone who connects with me. When I come back, I will come back only for the sake of Dharma and will have no boundaries or barriers. It will have nothing to do with this body that people call Atmananda.” Atmananda made this very clear and started his wandering pattern again. We understood that he wanted to give us an important lesson in life.
We rarely saw any emotion in him. He always existed in his own world. One day, as we were walking past a small-town market, we heard one local leader giving a speech attended by an audience of about a hundred people. Guruji did not wait to hear the speech. He abruptly walked past them without paying any attention. Acharya Shankar, who was with us for a few months, was from that town. When we sat down after a short while, Shankar told Atmananda: “Guruji, the man whom we saw speaking to a crowd is a popular leader of my place. He is doing many things for the poor. But, he is intolerant about saints and always speaks of saints and monks as lazy, useless people. He even tries to prevent temples from giving them food or shelter. On one side, he is serving the poor, while on the other side, he is abusing the harmless monks.” Atmananda abruptly intervened, “He is serving himself and nobody else. All his moves are calculated for his advantage. When he pretends to serve the poor, he is looking for their support for his own popularity. He is keeping them poor that way. Monks have no value for him. He pretends to be secular, but when it comes to the defenseless monks who do not rally for him, they are useless for his personal agenda. Only a subtle heart will see the peace these monks are spreading on earth. By not needing anything, they are leaving a message of contentment in this world of greed and political supremacy.” Atmananda was emphatic and seemed a bit angry about what is happening in the hypocritical world around him.
Various quotes from my master Atmananda:
“Experiences die when the experiencer dissolves”
“I am not here to experience anything. I am here to prove that experience is nothing but a projection of the experiencer, just like the waking state reality is a projection of consciousness which has nothing to do with any of the three states”
“Desires maintain thoughts. Thoughts maintain mind. Liberation is a state of no thoughts and hence no mind, let alone desires”
“My existence is a reminder that you are unbound and hence you are freedom. You are free.”
“Just like fire uses materials to express itself, the Source uses matter (bodies) to express itself”
“As long as thoughts exist, you exist; Only if thoughts exist, you exist”
“Prejudices make the good look bad while love makes the bad look good. Our world is as we are and not what it is.”
“Acceptance is the first step towards liberation. Seed of liberation starts sprouting only from the nirvitarka samadhi state. Yet,states are not stable unless carefully nurtured”
“You are a complete incarnation like any other. You are not creating or uncreating anybody’s destiny. All are complete incarnations that came here for experiences and expressions. Their only bonding and binding factor would be emotions”
“Life is all flavors. Life must be taken in its totality. Nothing is absolutely right or absolutely wrong. Karma dwells on relative truth, experiences and expressions. Karma carves destiny from nothingness.”
“Understand you are a unique expression of the divine and you need to do nothing about it”
“Events are impermanent, and emotions are experiences for the mind. Consciousness has nothing to do with it”
“If you consider consciousness as spirit, it is beyond mind and emotions. Soul is beyond consciousness too.”
“You as consciousness are not the doer nor the experiencer. Unattached, you are witnessing both. And soul is witnessing the witness.
“What have I got to do with you? And what have you got to do with me? Minds made us. Truth will dissolve us.”
“My only experience is that I do not exist”
“My love is absolute because I am love”
“Those who invoke and maintain emotions are enemies of liberation”
“Truth can only be found in silence”
“Connection between minds is the lowest possible connection. Awareness of unity in consciousness is one of the highest possible connections”
“Expectations maintain mind. Expectations distort truth”
“Every rejection, every denial has its positive side – Strength. If you swap your natural despair and dejection from these into your strength, you will become invincible in life”
“Friends who put prejudices into your mind should be considered as your enemies”
“Those who love you unconditionally will not judge you ever”
“Those who stay with you against all odds should never be abandoned”
“Doubts, like gossip, is deadly poison. Even a drop of it can kill faith and push the seeker backwards in evolution of awareness. Doubts reverse spiritual progress.”
“Compassion does not mean you accept negativity, pessimism and prejudices from the world around you. Compassion means their mind becomes free from it all because of their interaction with you”
“Do not be afraid of friends becoming enemies and enemies becoming friends. Both are bound by illusions of mind. Truth is that everyone is oneself.”
“Those who pretend, criticize, judge, scandalize and condemn others are usually hypocrites. They are either afraid to be authentic or are jealous of authentic people. They are even afraid or ignorant about their originality or the law of karma. Deficiency creates anger, jealousy and prejudices. Society is full of such hypocrites. They only see what they are programmed to see. Absolute truth is not accessible to them. They cling on to relative truth and form their opinions. Do not waste your time on them. They keep you prejudiced and bound with their ignorance of reality”
“No karmic being has the right to criticize, judge or condemn another. All are same in the law of karma”
“If you fear criticism, you will be a compromiser. You will not have growth and evolution. If you have no fears, you will have growth in awareness. Those with firm conviction on eternal truth will never consort hypocrisy. They will not fear enemies”
“Greed breeds crime”.
“Every bit of darkness is afraid of brightness. Even a tiny spark of light means death for darkness. Hence, darkness will try its best to avoid all kinds of light. Extreme conviction and focus are required to bring light to life and to keep it alive always.”
“Fire symbolizes heat and light. Fire symbolizes life”
I shall conclude this with a few one-word answers of Guruji.
1. What is the reason for poverty? “Inner Poverty”
2. What is the reason for ailments? “Suppression”
3. What hinders liberation? “Ignorance”
4. What causes sorrows? “Inner darkness”
5. What is success? “Contentment”
6. What is the highest human expression? “Compassion”
7. What is the sign of a true seeker? “Patience”
8. What is downfall in spiritual journey? “Desires”
9. What is being absolute? “No Mind”
10. What is the ultimate? “Nir Beeja – No Seed state”
Until some other time –
I bow down to my divine master and re-enter my silence.