Paramahamsa Sannyasa

Some time later, Swami Niranjan was preparing a group of students for their first darshan and blessing of Paramahamsaji. On this occasion he was accompanied by Swami Satyasangananda. The students were very eager to ask questions as they were anticipating the long awaited journey to Deoghar on the following morning.

'Please tell us something about Deoghar?' one of the students asked.

'Yes,' Swami Niranjan replied, 'but let us ask Swami Satsangi to answer this question because she has done a lot of research into the history of this locality.' So, Swami Satsangi agreed and, after reflecting for a few moments, she began to speak.

'Mythological Deoghar is known as Lord Shiva's smashan bhoomi. At first we were surprised that this rural area of Bihar was chosen for Paramahamsaji sadhana, when there were so many spiritually awe inspiring places which he had been offered. But after some time, as we watched the unfoldment of a Paramahamsa, we began to understand why this place was indicated to him. Deoghar is ideal in many ways for Paramahamsaji. It is located about 100 miles from Munger on top of a high plateau in southern Bihar. Climatically it is suited for sadhana because the air is dry and even on the hottest days, the breeze is cool.

'Rikhia, the actual location of the Paramahamsa Alakh Bara, is located about six kilometres outside of Deoghar. The name Rikhia is derived from the word rishi, meaning 'seer'. At one time this place was a dense forest and no one dared to roam about there. Many rishis were attracted to the place as they always preferred to remain in solitude to practise their sadhana. So, Rikhia was a place where rishis used to live. In more recent times Sri Aurobindo lived there before setting off for his mission in Pondicherry. Sri Rabindranath Tagore had originally chosen this place for his university, which was later founded at Bolpur and named Shantiniketan. Mahatma Gandhi also had an ashram there which was visited by all the great Indian leaders of the freedom movement. A sannyasin by the name of Satyananda, whose guru was Swami Sivananda of Ramakrishna Math, also came to this place to live in seclusion and practise his sadhana.

'Today Rikhia is a small hamlet, containing many villages, including Pania Pagar where the sadhana sthal of Swamiji is situated. Swamiji had once said that when choosing a place for sadhana, a sadhu should have only one consideration in mind, and that is an abundance of water. A roof over the head is not as important as a plentiful supply of water. The name of this place is, therefore, befitting. Pania Pagar means 'plentiful water'.

'Did Paramahamsaji encounter any problems while establishing the Alakh Bara on the land which was acquired there?' asked one of the students.

'There were absolutely no problems whatever with that land,' replied Swami Niranjan. 'Anything that is planted there just shoots up. Paramahamsaji says that in each and every tree of that place there resides a particular deity, devata or tree spirit. There is a well on the property which is filled with crystal clear water all the year round. This well is only about fifteen feet deep, which is remarkable when you consider that the land is up in the mountains. Once we decided to bore for a well in order to get more water for plantation, but we had to go down 300 feet, while in the natural well which we found on the property, water was available just a few feet below ground level. How such things happen is really amazing.

'Another amazing thing happened when Paramahamsaji first arrived on the land. He saw a huge, glittering geru coloured serpent emerge from a hole beneath the rudraksha tree at the centre of the property. The serpent slowly did a parikrama (circumambulation) of the whole property three times, while Paramahamsaji watched. Then it returned to the hole and slid back down never to be seen again. Paramahamsaji recognised the serpent as a manifestation of Nag Nath which had come to bless him and the land for the success of his spiritual endeavour.

'Why are visitors prohibited from entering the Alakh Bara?' asked one of the students.

'During the period of sadhana,' replied Swami Satsangi, 'no one is allowed to enter the Alakh Bara. For Swamiji, sadhana is a way of life which consumes his entire day. It is not restricted to a few minutes or hours. Swamiji has always said that the only difficulty he faces in his sadhana is the constant stream of visitors who wish to have his darshan. He has no problem with his body, mind, emotions or spirit. They are all firmly set on the path of self realisation. However, the frequent darshanartis do pose a problem, as meeting them causes a break in his sadhana.

'Swamiji has said, "I have nothing more to say to anyone and no further guidance to give. For 26 years I have lived with people, answering their questions and helping them on the spiritual path. Those who are receptive will surely benefit from what I have taught them. But those who are not receptive will now have to find their own way. I do not wish to give darshan now, if I did, I would have stayed in Munger. I do not want to live in Munger. I want to live in solitude and if I am disturbed here, I will go elsewhere to a place where no one will find me."

'Throughout the year, Paramahamsaji remains alone at the Alakh Bara. His sole companion is a ferocious dog. Dogs are the vehicle of Bhairav Nath. At all Shiva temples you will find Bhairav Nath in the outer precincts. First you have to pay obeisance to the security officer and then to Lord Shiva. The security officer of Paramahamsaji is called Bhola Nath. He remains around him the whole day, guarding his dhuni and mandap. He barks fiercely and attacks if anyone dares to enter that area uninvited. At the sound of the damaru and shankha, Bhola Nath knows that Paramahamsaji has commenced his sadhana and he positions himself near the Vedi in order to guard him.'

'Please tell us more about Paramahamsaji's lifestyle in the Alakh Bara?' asked one of the students. 'What kind of sadhana does he perform there, and what are the effects of these austerities on his health?'

'Paramahamsaji leads a very simple life in the Alakh Bara,' replied Swami Niranjan, 'although he is very disciplined. He remains outdoors all the time during summer and winter months. It is only during the period of chaturmas that he performs purascharana in his thatched kutiya. At other times he stays outside near his dhuni, which is called the Mahakal Chitta Dhuni, or else at the Vedi where he performs the Panchagni Vidya. Paramahamsaji does not wear a dhoti anymore; he just wears a kaupeen (loin cloth). Even this he does only for social reasons, otherwise he would prefer to live like an avadhoot, without any cover.

'The sadhanas which are prescribed for Paramahamsa sannyasins are different and vary according to the season. In summer, Paramahamsaji performs the Panchagni sadhana where he sits underneath the blazing sun, in the heat of the day, with four fires burning around him. The temperature can go as high as 80 or 90 degrees centigrade. We used to wonder how Paramahamsaji could survive such heat, sitting there for hours, days, weeks and months at a time, without it adversely affecting his body. I studied Brihadaranyak Upanishad and it said that only those who have overcome the five fires that rage inside: krodha, anger; lobha, greed; kama, passion; moha, attachment; and mada, arrogance; can survive the sadhana of the five fires outside.

'We were very inquisitive about the effects of his sadhana. From our analysis we felt that only a person who has achieved control over the natural elements and the mind can survive such an intense routine. Paramahamsaji is not a young man, he is nearly seventy. The body usually has many limitations at that age, but not his body. He has never been sick despite the exposure to the elements. He sleeps on a mattress of gunny bags, out in the open, no matter what the season.

'In winter, instead of Panchagni, he keeps water in earthen pots and takes a cold bath outside under the stars at midnight. Then he sits in the freezing air and starts his sadhana. The emphasis of sadhana in winter is on the practice of pranayama. He does about 2000 rounds of bhastrika a day and other higher pranayamas which are not revealed in the books but are handed down from guru to disciple. He also practises 108 rounds of surya namaskara at a stretch.

'To us this path of sadhana sounds a bit strange, extreme heat during summer and extreme cold during winter, but it is not strange to the sannyasin or yogi who knows the process of spiritual transcendence.

Paramahamsa's have to undergo that process. They have to come to that stage in order to perfect the awareness of divinity. At that moment every atom of their being is charged with cosmic, universal energy and power. Many times when Paramahamsaji finishes his sadhana his body is just glowing. It is difficult to look into his eyes, they seem to go straight through you.

'We always regarded Paramahamsaji as a highly realised being even before he started all this sadhana', said one of the devotees. 'What is the need for him to practise all these austerities now?'

'Many people question the need for Paramahamsaji to do all these sadhanas and live in austerity when he has already proven his spiritual calibre,' replied Swami Niranjan. 'In answer, Paramahamsaji says, 'I receive clear mandates from above, aid I do nothing of my own accord except fellow these commands. I was asked to renounce my disciples and mission, because I cannot be both a guru and a disciple. Then I was instructed to repeat the name with each breath. The third instruction was to remain in seclusion and mouna. I am a slave, and for a slave there is no rest'. Apart from the fact that the path of sadhana and tapasya has been divinely ordained, it is also a way of life which is most suited to Paramahamsaji's nature. Furthermore, his sadhana and lifestyle set the example for other sadhakas and sannyasins, so that later they may themselves undergo the disciplines necessary for attaining the state of Paramahamsa. It is out of his infinite compassion and grace that he has paved the way for sincere sannyasins to follow in the future.

'Since he arrived at the Alakh Bara, Paramahamsaji has never stepped out. He says, 'A Paramahamsa has nothing to do with the world.' He lives simply with the minimum comforts. His bed is the bare grass and his clothing is his own skin. He sustains the body on a frugal diet and prepares himself for total transcendence. He does not give upadesh, darshan or diksha, nor does he pose as a great mahatma; rather he lives away from the glare of public life. The divine qualities he attains through sadhana, he uses for the fulfilment of the highest spiritual goal. One who has attained the state of Paramahamsa is a liberated being.'