Closely Guarded Himalayan Secrets — Revealed!
Himalayan Master Yogiraj Gurunath Siddhanath
Inspires Westerners to Experience Enlightenment
Article by Anuradha Vashisht
Interview by Dan Kogan
Anuradha Vashisht visits the Gurunath Ashram in Pune, India and comes back enriched, soaked to the very soul.
A hush descends as the jungle creatures sense a human form treading softly over the twig-laden path. The rustling leaves under the feet make a complaining noise as more leap from the trees in protest, ready to be trampled upon.
Another lone dry leaf trembles in the chilly winter air as it travels through eternity and gently lands on my path. I too tremble as I bend over to hold it on my palm. Its intoxicating scent triggers an overpowering déjà vu, and sweeps my being away to another time, another era. The wild beating of the heart echoes deafeningly through the woods. And then, the stillness swallows up everything — the breath, the heart, the limbs, the mind, the thoughts and time.
Chimes of a temple bell pierce through the mist of thoughtlessness and bring me back to my senses. It is my five-year-old daughter announcing her presence at the quaint little Shiva temple on the hillock above. Have I felt this in my hand before? The thought darts through my mind as my fist tightens around the little leaf that introduced me to eternity a moment ago. I trot back to the ashram.
The Ashram. It seemed to have emerged out of my consciousness after slumbering there for hundreds of years. What was it that made it appear so familiar though I clearly recalled visiting it for the first time? Why was it that I felt so cocooned, so assured as I walked barefoot all over the place? I snuggled into its warmth ever more as the air wrapped around my soul and I inhaled, inhaled deeply each moment of my stay.
Gurunath Ashram has been built for more than 20 years — an intense labor of love, patience and fortitude — by Yogiraj Gurunath and his soulmate Shivangini, our Gurumaa, and whom we so lovingly call Ayee (Mother). Spiritual masters have enlivened this area for more than 5,000 years, Gurunath informed us.
Ensconced in the valley of Sita Mai in Simhagarh (Lion Fort), 30 km from the city of Pune, the ashram is surrounded on three sides by low-lying hills. A small Shiva temple, devoutly built by SatGurunath with his own hands, broods over the ashram atop the hillock to the northeast.
This is also the direction from which one odd panther has at times sauntered into the ashram precincts. Two seasonal streams flowing over the jungle terrain from the southwest and northeast of the ashram provide it an idyllic setting.
The whole ambience of the ashram is comfortingly familiar. It is the quintessential ashram of yore where rishis and munis (divine sages) handed over the wealth of knowledge to generation next and unalloyed wisdom flowed in abundance for the seekers to quench their thirst.
Rows of mango trees, planted tenderly and meticulously by the Guru and Gurumaa, fertile scent of the life-sustaining soil, and the oasis of green amongst denuding hills, away from the cacophony of the modern world, so alive and throbbing in nature’s lap, infused with the fervent devotion of the disciples, this tapobhoomi (Sacred Land) of the Nath Yogis (Enlightened Divine Masters) imparts the Yoga of Timeless Evolution to all sincere seekers of Truth.
We were happy and content in these rejuvenating surroundings, having more than our share of moments of timelessness. We were here to attend the New Life Awakening camp organized by the Hamsa Yoga Sangh. Far from the maddening crowd, away from our mundane routines, we hopelessly prayed to get caught in a time warp. The serenity of the place was mind-blowing. The mind thus out of the way, meditations became increasingly effortless. The sessions with the Guru were especially electrifying, and we thirsted for more and more.
The day began early, with the Hamsa breathing exercises and other techniques. Thereafter was a supposedly informal session with Gurunath, which invariably took the form of a satsang. In keeping with the Indian tradition, there was no breakfast — we only took a pick from a variety of fruit that was sumptuously spread out permanently against a lush mango tree.
Oblivious of the day as it ambled away, we sat enthralled at spiritual intensives with Gurunath. His blowing of the conch shell to announce lunch, Ayee’s delightful dishes which were so lovingly prepared, the delicious aam ras (mango pulp) made from the ashram’s Alphonso mangoes, dinner under clear starry skies, dimly-lit huts, the curious jungle sounds at night — everything flowed like a well-orchestrated symphony. Each moment each day we became more and more alive to this music we played and that played upon us.
The nights were reserved for goshti (spiritual storytelling), and we scared the chill away with the dhuni (sacred night fires). This was a very special time, when Gurunath took us to the misty past and erased all boundaries between myth and reality. He related to us his encounters with the Himalayan masters, the yogis who are meditating there for hundreds of years, and but for whom the universe could lose its equilibrium. We sat in awe as he recounted his experiences with “He, about Whom naught may be said” (Babaji Gorakshanath).
Gurunath’s narratives deepen with the deepening night and leave us exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. As the dawn approaches tiptoe we are ready to sink into the arms of a rejuvenating slumber. The ambers of the night fires are alive and throbbing when we return, much after the sun has come high up.
Evenings were the trekking time. Half an hour of brisk walk with Gurunath through the friendly forest takes us to the place where Lord Ram and wife Sita halted for some time and then moved on their southward journey. A Shivalingam (sacred shrine to Shiva) and some difficult to identify natural stone sculptures are an eloquent testimony to the primeval links of this place. Close by is the cave where Yogiraj Gurunath has done intense spiritual sadhana (meditation practice) for years.
One trek in the dark night is particularly memorable. As we rambled on, he talked about the spirits who rule the dark, and the dakinis (forest-dwelling sprites), who are said to take human or any other form to mislead you.
The eerie silence of the jungle was broken intermittently by the fluttering of a frightened bird or the howls of some jungle animals. Dry leaves cracked ominously under the feet as we struggled to keep pace with Gurunath and held on tightly to torches. Each listened somberly as Gurunath’s voice echoed through the rough jungle terrain.
It was a perfect setting for a spine-chilling thriller. So perfect that when one of the fellow disciples stumbled upon a rock, she was convinced it was a dakini’s hand that gave her a mighty push. The humor was lost on all till the episode was recounted at the ashram.
Another soothing feature in our weeklong stay at the ashram was Ayee. The supple grace, firmness and efficiency with which she managed all the ashram’s daily activities was a sight to behold.
When Ayee waved us farewell as we sat in the car for the journey back home, she called out: “Look back, look back, so that you return soon!”
It has been a while since I returned from the ashram. I am still wondering:
“Have I really come back?!”
Interview: Satsang with the Satguru
Awareness: SatGurunath, Your wisdom is an ancient wisdom, but your audience is a modern one. What are the differences you see between the new age and the old age? How do you connect with new agers? Where do you and your teachings come from?
Gurunath: It is for this very reason that I have drawn my contemporary knowledge inspired from the ancient wisdom. So, the tradition of Hamsa Yoga is a contemporary one suited to today’s aspirant and practitioner busy in the rough and tumble of daily life. So, this gives to the contemporary sadhaks (spiritual aspirant) both the roots of ancient wisdom and wings of modern techniques. This is amply explained in my book Wings to Freedom coming out shortly.
The difference I see between the new age and old age is that the old age wisdom was centered in the soul and had ample time to live life and to realize one’s true self. Whereas the intellect of the new age is centered in the ego mind compressed by time and deadline. This has created a host of psychosomatic disorders in its wake. If contemporary society is to heal itself, it must live life one day at a time and give more time meditating on the soul self and lesser time for intellectual gymnastics, which only leads to more and more stress.
I connect with the new age by making the presence of my consciousness felt, which affects their agitated and stressed minds like a soothing balm and helps them unwind.
Awareness: There is something of a difficulty for a modern western person to connect with an eastern Guru-type. It’s hard to understand a Guru because we don’t have a clear idea of the Guru’s own journey to enlightenment. He’s already there, while we don’t feel anywhere close to the experience. Can you tell us a few things about your own journey toward reconnection with divinity?
Gurunath: I was already connected to divinity as a small child and I never found myself alien to it. It is better to read books written by Indian yogis. My book Wings to Freedom has related my journey on the Himalayas, and given techniques to achieve enlightenment; practice them with positive attitude and you shall achieve the result, if not today, then tomorrow. The duration will depend on how much mind cleaning you have to do and one day the light of your soul shall automatically shine forth.
Awareness: Tell more about this little known practice called Hamsa Yoga.
Gurunath: Hamsa Yoga is the ancient Nath-Yogic tradition, where the incoming
and the outgoing breath are linked. The magnetic potencies of the words Ham and
Sa represent the Swan of Life. They dissolve all your thoughts and make one
realize himself as a crystal consciousness united with the Universal
Consciousness. It is an evolutionary technique.
(Recites from one of his poems)
In joy and sorrow light & dark
He ever that eternal spark
In honor and dishonor too
The constant yogi ever new!
Beholding self by Self supreme
Shattering the waking dream
Maya shall be put to flight
By those who in the Self delight
A Compassionate & healing light
A Hamsa in its splendid flight
Away oh darkness! Fly oh night!
The Yogi comes in radiant might.
Allak Niranjan Om Shiv Om!!
Allak Niranjan Om Shiv Om!!
Awareness: There seems to be a disconnect between the current zeitgeist of enlightenment and the actual experience. Is enlightenment something that happens to someone, or is it something we as individuals have to work for?
Gurunath: Enlightenment is not a subject of discussion but of actual experience and knowingness. To be enlightened, one must definitely make an assiduous effort in that direction, whether it be by meditative yoga, devotional yoga, gyan yoga or karma yoga or any other apt path. But ultimately when you reach the portals of enlightenment, you are very close to that state already. And here only your love for the Reality and its reciprocal grace on you can make you pass through the “rings pass not” to become totally enlightened and know Reality as it is.
Awareness: Who does enlightenment happen to? Can we as individuals really become enlightened?
Gurunath: The enlightenment happens to the humble, courageous and pure in heart. He who is rested in humility and burning in love for enlightenment is well on the way to enlightenment. The problem with intellectual scholars is that in their pursuit of enlightenment they get so involved in splitting hairs on philosophic terms and treatises that they get confused, stressed, and the mind suffers a seizure of analysis paralysis. Therefore if one is to want enlightenment, it would be better to intellectualize less and meditate more.
Awareness: Why would we want enlightenment?
Gurunath: You see why we would or would not want enlightenment is an individual’s preferential choice. In my opinion I would like enlightenment because it is my true nature. Rather than live in my false ego of misery, I would prefer to live in my true consciousness of bliss.
Awareness: Can we actually achieve this in this lifetime? Does it require meditation?
Gurunath: Yes you can achieve it in this lifetime. It all depends on at what state of spiritual evolution you are. This is a very rare happening. By and large, the majority of yogis and aspirants would have to pass through many lifetimes of meditation before they are enlightened.
Awareness: We all have our own idea of it, but what is meditation really?
Gurunath: When the mind’s lake is calm and there are no distracting ripples of thoughts and desire waves, then an expanded state of awareness reflects the truth that you are a soul and have a body. This is the state of dhyan (meditation). After long years of practice, your state of soul awareness expands into the vast uniform and blissful state of Asamprajnata Samadhi (contentless supra-conscious ecstasy).
Awareness: You teach something called Kriya yoga. This was taught by Paramahansa Yogananda of the Self-Realization Fellowship in America eighty years ago. There have been other notable Indian Sat Guru’s in America who didn’t teach Kriya yoga-Muktananda, Vivekananda, Shiva Bala Yogi, etc. Why then, Kriya yoga?
Gurunath: Kriya Yoga, given to the world by Babaji Gorakshanath, is a special
blessing for a speedy evolution of human consciousness. Those who prefer to meet
their beloved divine quickly would do well to pursue the ‘Lightning Path’ of
Kriya Yoga. As the western countries become more and more aware of innate
spiritual capabilities, they are being attracted to pursue a swifter path to
Of course, other paths taught by Swami Muktananda, Vivekananda, and Shiv Bala Yogi are well done and can be followed depending on an individual’s choice for his type of evolution. But if you go deep into the systems which they taught and initiated, e.g., shaktipat of Vivekananda, Muktananda and Shiv Bala Yogi, all are forms of Kundalini Kriya Yoga which assists in the awakening of the dormant energy called kundalini and thereby hastening one’s evolution.
The only difficulty of a western mind failing to fully comprehend the consciousness of an Indian Guru is the very mind itself, which analyzes so much that it gets analysis paralysis and hence fails to function or to comprehend the simple path shown by the Indian Gurus.
Awareness: Is this “Kundalini Kriya Yoga” considered yoga or meditation?
Gurunath: There is a misunderstanding about yoga in the west, which in India is called YOG. Yog is specifically samadhi, i.e., ‘super-conscious ecstasy.’ The other limbs of yog (laid out in Patanjali’s Yog Sutras) like asana (posture), pranayama (breath-prana control), pratyahara (reversal of the senses into the sensorium), dharana (concentration) and dhyan (meditation), are not by themselves qualified to be called yog. The west thinks zen and meditation and satori to be higher than yog, which they wrongly think to be physical postures. But yog in its truest sense is samadhi and samadhi alone. Kriya Yog is an integrated combination of pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi.
Awareness: I have heard that at your “Earth peace through self peace” experiential workshops, you give an experience you call “Shivapat” to sincere seekers in attendance. “What is Shivapat and how are you able to give this? Why are you giving this?”
Gurunath: Well, I give three experiences. The first is pranapat, where I breathe through the breath of the receptive disciples. Second is Shaktipath where I transmit my kundalini, the healing energy, to soothe the nerves, activate the chakras and heal any emotional or mental block, which hampers the progress of the disciple. And the third is Shivapath where I aware my consciousness into the uncontrolled mind of the receptive disciple. The main purpose of Shivapath is the spiritual evolution. The satguru does not transmit here but as consciousness awares himself into the mind-disciple transforming that mind into consciousness to the degree of the disciple’s receptivity to the master’s consciousness.”
Awareness: How is Shivapath experience any different than the shaktipat experience that so many other yogis and masters holding workshops in America give?
Gurunath: I have told you that Shaktipath is the dynamic process of transmission given by some rare masters. Not all who claim to give Shaktipath can give Shaktipath; whereas Shivapath is pure awaring myself as consciousness. As soon as the disciple’s mind tunes into my consciousness, it automatically transforms into the consciousness. Here nothing is done, it is Guru disciple receptivity, which transforms mind to consciousness and evolves the soul of the disciple. This has not been done before. I awakened into this giving of my awareness for the disciple’s evolution by the blessings of the ineffable Babaji.
Awareness: You have what you call “Unified field of consciousness,” which in sanskrit is called the “Unmani Avasta” — what in the world are you talking about?
Gurunath: You are right because the experience of Shivapath and Unmani cannot be described in words but it is a matter of experience. However, in many and inadequate words, I shall try and describe the two states. Both words are the same, but not the same. The “unmani avastha” has an individual connotation and is to do with no-mind consciousness of the individual, whereas “unified field of consciousness” has a universal connotation and is to do with the homogeneous experience of humanity at large.
In giving the experience of Shivapath, I try to connect all consciousness of
receptive disciples to the universal consciousness, which may or may not be
totally successful all depending upon the person-to-person receptivity of the
disciple. But in the “unmani avastha,” the practicing yogi achieves state, not
from the immediate consciousness of a Satguru, but by his own guru-given
practice. Then his “un-mani” also connects to the universal consciousness. In
Shivapath, the guru gives the unified field. In unmani, the yogi gets the
experience on his own.
(Recites from one of his poems)
Let not precious moments slip by
Seek now! The ultimate truth
Jivahamsa spread your wings
Immortal realms which death defy!
Yogiraj Gurunath Siddhanath will be in Southern California in July and September. He will also be leading New Life Awakening retreats in Northern California. For complete U.S. Tour event listings, please see his website www.hamsa-yoga.org , contact Dan at (323) 620-0499 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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