Ganga Darshan is historically known as Karna Chaura. Karna was a great yogi, well known for his generosity, He ruled the whole area of Bhagalpur and Munger which was known in those days as Angadesh.
Karna lived about 5,100 years ago and references to him are plentiful in the Mahabharata. He was the eldest son of Kunti, the wife of King Pandu, who died at a very early age. In fact, Karna was born to Kunti before she was married, when she was a virgin. So it was an immaculate conception, or, in Hindi, manas-putra.
At birth, Kunti and society disowned Karna and left him by the river where a family of fishermen adopted him. As he grew up Karna practised yoga and tantra. Quite close to Ganga Darshan is a temple called Chandi Sthan where he used to perform his tantric practices.
The entire area surrounding this hillock is known as Karna Chaura. On the site where the sadhana hall now stands, there was originally a large platform with an ancient history. On top of the hill there was a large bungalow built on the foundations of an old fort. There were also several smaller buildings all in a dilapidated condition. In fact, the hill was so totally neglected and barren that even Munger people hardly recognise it now.
In 1956, during my parivrajaka days, when I was wandering and had no ashram or place of my own, I came to Munger and stayed with a family quite close to Ganga Darshan. In those days, this place attracted me very much. I used to come and sit, sing or just lie down and in summer I slept here quite a few nights.
In earlier days I had done puruscharana (long japa sadhana) and other sadhana, and I had had experiences; but I did not come here to have experiences. Because I was living with householders I had nothing to do and nothing to accomplish. I was not a teacher. I didn't read books or meet people. If I talked to the four or five members of the family for an hour or so, what was I to do after lunch? So I just came here and sat down, looked at the sky, breathed the fresh air or just slept. It was nice and I used to spend a lot of time here. It didn't even enter my mind that by sitting here some sort of spiritual experiences would take place.
One day, I fell asleep on the hillside. In the evening, about half past seven, I got up feeling a bit drowsy and, thinking it was morning and that I'd slept all night, I went to have a bath. Then I realised that it was not morning, but evening. Now, such experiences can only happen if one is totally mad, or has taken a little bhang or ganja or had too much to drink. When I got back everything was okay and I slept.
Another time I felt the earth shaking in front of me, but, knowing Munger to be situated on a seismic belt, I kept calm and cool, thinking it could be a little earthquake. Anyway, I was in a safe place, out in the open, so I continued sitting there.
Some time later, while sitting on the platform at the top of the hill, only about fifteen feet away from me, the platform cracked and from within the crack emerged an old man dressed in flowing white robes, with a staff in his hand. He came out and just went away. That, of course, was frightening and, if it happened now, you would never come for a class. I saw it and I was aware, but I did not know whether it was a ghost or spirit, or my imagination. I went over to the place and found there was actually a wide crack and underneath I saw a grave. Well, I thought it would be best to get out of there as quickly as possible because he might return and take me with him. I was a bit frightened. I went away and the whole night I had nightmares.
When all this happened I was not aware of what was happening. I thought I was witnessing external events, unaware that things were happening within me.
You see, it is difficult to believe, when you see something concrete before you, like, for example, my guru, whom I know to be dead; that it is purely a subjective experience, not objective. There is a stage you reach, a certain state of perception, when your inner experience and the external perception are both the same, not different. You can see your guru in front of you in flesh and blood, knowing that he has come from a higher plane but, in fact, you are playing the game within yourself. It is such a tremendous separation of the two elements in man- the matter and energy of consciousness or whatever you may call it. There is something which is separate and the seer is separate. I am not able to define it properly.
However, the following day, when I returned to that spot, I found that there was no crack because I think the crack in my mind was okay by then. The crack of consciousness, which was in my mind during that moment, was finished and so there was no crack in the ground. Then it entered my mind that it was no external crack that I had seen. It seems I went too deep, beyond ego, beyond samskara, beyond jivatman (individual soul experience) and beyond individual consciousness. Somehow, I had gone too far, and that man and the whole experience was happening within the depths of my own consciousness, but everything took place as if it were happening outside.
I had several other experiences at that time. Sometimes I used to think I saw the whole earth split into two. Sometimes I had the feeling I was about to fly, and similar other experiences indicated the awakening of something. However, eventually I found them unbearable and when I left Munger the experiences ceased. I was calm, quiet and peaceful and I more or less forgot all about them.
After some months I returned to Munger and, after eating, I would come to this hill and sit. I spent three nights here.
One night, when I was lying in shavasana, I found my consciousness rising up with terrible speed. I was aware of both realms - the external realm of ego and the internal realm which was making the whole fun and game being played with me. I was aware of both realms and even of the distance (you know, if you are floating up in the air your body is aware of the distance). It must have been for a very short time.
When I came down again, my whole body was perspiring and my heart was throbbing so fast that I could not manage it. I tried to lie on my left side, my right side, my chest, and my back, and to breathe deeply, but nothing helped. Then suddenly, that man in white arose again from the platform and just said, 'You stay here'. I got up in a great hurry - frightening! If a dead man or a ghost tells you to stay where you are, what are you going to do? Your heart fails. He spoke tame in beautiful Urdu (an Indian language). I thought, 'This is not a very safe place for me', and I left.
Earlier in my life, both before I became a sannyasin and after, part of my life was purely intellectual. I often wondered why man is born and why he should live. I was too intellectual. I didn't understand what business God had asking me to praise him. These were the kinds of confusing thoughts I was trying to solve.
Later, however, when I came to the point of experience, my whole mind changed. I began to see the whole thing in the context of man's total awareness, not just my own awareness. You see, a guru, a teacher, or even a mother has to see things in their full context.
Anything is right, and anything is wrong, because everything is born from man's deeper existence. External perceptions, sense experiences' and objective knowledge ultimately come from the very depths of your existence. I am not using the word 'mind'. Beyond the mind is consciousness, and beyond consciousness is existence which is satchidananda. Existence has no categories. Mind comes much later in the process of evolution, in cosmogony.
It is always true that we have individual minds, but in reality we are interconnected, like these fans. They are different, but somewhere there is an energy link which is one and the same energy. Our minds are also different, the samskaras and structure are different, but the energy which flows from one mind to another is always interlinked. It is there all the time.
Now, Ganga Darshan became very important for me. I came again and again, every time with greater determination not to allow my mind to go deep and realise the separate reality and see it outside.
There is a famous book, 'Ramacharitamanas', which is known to most Hindus. When Tulsidas, its author, was alive, he used to live in Chitrakoot because it was sanctified by Sri Rama during his exile, Tulsidas was an ordinary brahmin and not very rich so, for a living, he made and applied sandal paste for pilgrims for one or two anna (small coins). One day a bright young man appeared before him. As Tulsidas looked at him and applied the tilak, he knew at once that he was Sri Rama because the figure changed. It was carrying a bow and arrow and the hands reached to the knees. (Rama is known as Ajanu Bahu - one whose hands reach to the knees.) You know, the complexion of Sri Rama was that of a blue lotus; he was not fair. The moment Tulsidas went to touch Sri Rama's feet, the figure disappeared.
That is called 'darshan', and Hindus, the shastras and Vedas and everybody in the Vedic tradition believes that we can have the darshan of our 'ishta devata' and this is the ultimate aim of man's incarnation. 'Darshan' means seeing Him face to face. Even if there is no God, if you can see the nucleus of your existence face to face you are the greatest of men.
Everybody cannot do it. We cannot even see our complexes, character or personality. If we could go deeper and deeper still, beyond ego, to the point of existence, the nucleus of our existence, to what we are; if we could see it outside as an object, form of reality, and visualise it face to face with eyes open, that would be our greatest achievement. Yoga, tantra, karma, shastras, niyama and yama are being taught for that one purpose and nothing else, because we are not worried about a social order like many other religions of the past, present and future.
After these experiences in Munger, on 14th July 1963 I had another inner awakening. I did not know which dimension I was on. (I am not using the word 'darshan' now.) I was sleeping but, during sleep, my consciousness transcended the barrier of present physical experience and I was in Rishikesh, on the banks of the Ganga. A small motor launch was crossing over to Swargashram to the sound of trumpets, conches and bells. On a chair, looking towards Swargashram was Swami Sivananda. He turned and glanced at me for a split second and instantly the flywheel of the motor launch sprinkled me with water and I awoke.
I got up and for some time, (I do not know for how long) it was very difficult for me to know whether I was in Rishikesh or dreaming in Munger. At first I thought I was in Rishikesh, seeing Swami Sivananda and then had started dreaming of Munger and the experience of this consciousness became almost intolerable. Then gradually. I controlled myself and thought and thought until I realised that I was in Munger.
The inner experience was so clear. It was not a dream. It was happening as if I left this planet to go to the moon to meet Swami Sivananda - so clear and tangible, so fresh and so true.
These painful, difficult and frightening experiences used to come to me whenever I came here. That is the reason why, in 1968, I asked the owner of this property for this piece of land so I could stay here and have more madness. He wouldn't agree at that time, but ten years later we obtained it.