Introduction by the Author
I have decided to narrate a few traditional stories which are well-known in India. These stories are not my own creations; they are about spiritual Masters who used to show their occult power as easily and as often as we drink water. I am one of those who do not appreciate miracles, for quite often miracles only feed curiosity, and there is a yawning gulf between curiosity and aspiration. Again, there are some Masters who think that it is advisable for an individual to start his spiritual journey, even if he has to start with curiosity. Eventually the same person will enter into the world of true aspiration.Sometimes occultists want to prove that modern science does not have the last word with regard to God’s creation. They want to show that the infinite wealth of the inner world can easily silence all the achievements of mankind in the outer world. To be sure, what we call a miracle is nothing but a common occurrence in the world beyond our senses. Inwardly we can learn from these great Masters, from their fascinating miracles, from their soul-stirring lives. That is why I am interested in telling these stories.
— Sri Chinmoy
Attachment-cry versus oneness-sky
Before the great spiritual Master Nigamananda was known by that name, he was called Nolini Kanto. When his wife died, he could not bear the loss, and for a while he literally became insane. Finally he went to a spiritual Master and begged the Master to show him his wife in the other world.The Master said with utmost affection, “My son, do not cry for things that are transitory. The body came, the body left; but the soul remains eternally. If you pray and meditate, you will see the soul of your wife everywhere. You have all along been attached to the body. Now you should be attached to the soul. When one is attached to the soul, it is not actually attachment; it is devotedness. I see that a day will come when you will give illumination to many. God wants you to be totally freed from earthly bondage. But God will not be satisfied with only your personal liberation. After you have achieved liberation, He wants you to liberate all those who will be with you, at your feet.”
Commentary: The body’s attachment-cry is always most painful. The soul’s detached oneness is always fruitful. The body knows how to cry the loneliness-cry. The soul knows how to fly in the oneness-sky.
Temptation-power almost succeeds
One day, during the period that Nigamananda was practising austerities, he passed by a temple owned by an elderly woman. The woman begged the sadhu to stay in her temple for some time, and he kindly listened to her request. Finally she begged him to take charge of the temple and he agreed. Afterwards, both of them became very fond of each other. She showed him all her motherly affection and he showed her all his heart’s good qualities.One day a beautiful young woman came into the temple. She became deeply enraptured with Nigamananda’s soulful beauty, and she did not want to leave the temple. Nigamananda and she had serious spiritual conversations, and he was very moved by her sincere spiritual qualities and deep spiritual understanding.
The owner of the temple did not like this at all. She felt that Nigamananda’s spirituality was being ruined. She insulted the young woman like anything in order to make her leave the temple. But the young woman had fallen desperately in love with Nigamananda, so she was adamant about staying there. And gradually Nigamananda also became weak.
One day the young woman said to him, “I have amassed wealth, and I will take you to my house. I assure you, your spirituality will not be ruined. On the contrary, I shall help you to meditate all day and night. Let us get married. If we get married, then it will be natural for me to help you, and society will not criticise us. You will be able to expedite your Godward journey.” So they decided to get married in two weeks’ time.
Before the two weeks had elapsed, Nigamananda’s Master appeared before him one night in a dream with a luminous face. The Master had a stick, and soon Nigamananda was shocked to see his Master striking and beating his girlfriend black and blue. The Master insulted her and beat her senseless. Then he blessed Nigamananda and said to him, “Leave this place immediately! This woman will not help you in your God-realisation, but will take away all the aspiration that you now have and turn you into a street beggar.”
Needless to say, Nigamananda obeyed his Master immediately.
Commentary: The sincere seeker has to be extremely alert all the time, for the forces of the lower vital can easily rob him of his aspiration. Until God-realisation dawns, he can always be tempted, and he can easily swerve from the path of Truth and Light. The very nature of the outer world is temptation. In order to overcome temptation, the seeker has to be constantly vigilant and always abide by the dictates of his inner will, not by the suggestions of the outer world.
Body’s beauty fails; soul’s beauty sails
In order to achieve liberation Nigamananda had been practising severe austerities in Benares for quite a few months. One day he was extremely hungry, but he had nothing to eat. In silence he said to the goddess of plenitude, “Annapurna, how is it that I don’t have any food to eat?”Just then a very ugly elderly woman with filthy clothes brought him a bag and said to him, “Please hold this bag of food. Let me go and bathe in the pond nearby. Then we shall eat together.”
Nigamananda waited two or three hours, but there was still no sign of her returning. Finally he opened the bag and saw most delicious food and fruits inside. He ate everything himself.
That night in a dream Nigamananda saw the goddess Annapurna. She said to him, “So you see, nobody remains hungry. I feed everyone.”
“You feed everyone?” Nigamananda exclaimed. “When did you feed me? I invoked you when I was hungry, but an ugly, dirty, old woman gave me food. You are so beautiful and luminous!”
The goddess explained, “It was I who came to you in that form.”
“Why did you do that?” he asked.
“I wanted to show you that all forms are mine,” said the goddess. “Still you care more for physical beauty than for the soul’s beauty. So I wanted to show you that even ugly people can have good hearts. From now on try to feel that physical beauty has nothing to do with a kind, sympathetic heart.”
Commentary: The beauty of the body ultimately fails. The beauty of the soul eventually sails in the boat of perfection-oneness towards God’s Satisfaction-Shore.
Not the outer form, but the inner essence
Swami Satchidananda had a statue of a particular god. He asked his disciple Nigamananda to worship it, but Nigamananda did not care for this statue. One day the Master said to him, “Why do you not worship the statue which I worship? How is it that you do not see or feel anything inside my beloved Lord?”Nigamananda said, “You may see your beloved Lord there, but I see only a piece of lifeless wood.”
At this the Master became furious. He insulted Nigamananda mercilessly and told him, “If you show disrespect once more to my beloved Lord, I shall throw you out of my ashram! Be careful!” Then the Master left the room and went to his office to attend to ashram business.
Nigamananda was humiliated and very angry. He immediately took the statue off the shrine and gave it a smart slap, exclaiming, “You! For you I have got such a severe scolding from my Master. You deserve my punishment.” Then he placed it again on the shrine.
A few minutes later the Master came back and said to him, with a broad smile, “You said my Lord is a lifeless piece of wood, but does anybody strike a lifeless thing? Only when we see that someone or something has life do we get satisfaction by striking it. One does not speak to a lifeless thing, for a lifeless thing cannot understand or respond. No, you do see something inside the statue. I was so pleased when I heard you speaking to my Lord. My Lord not only has life, but embodies the universal and transcendental Life. So from now on please worship this statue.”
Nigamananda bowed to his Master and said, “Please forgive me. I shall worship this statue, and inside the statue I shall see and feel you, Master.”
The Master said, “That is absolutely the right thing for you to do, my son.”
Commentary: Faith is of paramount importance. One needs faith in infinite measure in one’s Master. The human mind may sometimes find it difficult to believe in the Master’s way, but the aspiring heart is always one with the Master’s inner and outer operations. The seeker always has to remain in the heart. To have faith in one’s Master is to feel God’s own Presence here, there and everywhere. It is not what the object is, not who the man is, but whether or not one retains faith in one’s Master’s spiritual realisation. Then one achieves success in the outer world and progress in the inner world convincingly, easily and rapidly.
My Guru is the highest
Once Nigamananda went to visit the Kumbhamela, India’s most famous fair, which literally countless people attend. He was delighted to see his Guru, Swami Satchidananda, there. A different spiritual Master presides over each fair, and this time the great Master Shankaracharya, Satchidananda’s Guru, was presiding over the fair. Everybody was full of adoration for Shankaracharya, who was sitting near Satchidananda.When Nigamananda arrived, he bowed to his Master first and then bowed to Shankaracharya. Everybody was shocked. How was it possible for him to bow to Satchidananda first when Shankaracharya was sitting right beside him? Some people said to Nigamananda, “You are such a fool! Don’t you know how to discriminate?”
Nigamananda replied, “I do know how to discriminate. I tell you, nobody can be superior to one’s own Guru. My Guru is and will always remain highest to me. Therefore, I did the right thing by bowing to him first.”
On hearing this Shankaracharya gave Nigamananda a broad smile and said to him, “You are right, my son, you are right.” Then he asked Nigamananda a few spiritual questions which Nigamananda answered perfectly. Then Shankaracharya said to Satchidananda, “What are you doing? Why are you not asking this disciple of yours to have his own disciples and to help illumine mankind? I clearly see that he is ready for that.”
Then, in front of Shankaracharya and all the seekers who were nearby, Satchidananda declared, “My spiritual son Nigamananda has realised God. From now on he will accept disciples and illumine their minds and fulfil their hearts.”
Commentary: At the journey’s start the Master is the boatman, the boat and the river. At the journey’s end, the Master becomes the Goal itself. A beginner-seeker sees the Master as the boat. When he crosses beyond the barrier of the mind, he sees the Master as the boatman. When he establishes his constant oneness with the Master, he sees the Master as the river. And when he becomes the most perfect instrument of the Master, he sees the Master as his Goal itself. When the hour strikes for the disciple, the disciple also has to play the role of a Master, for progress must continue in the world of self-giving and God-becoming.
Divine love consoles human loss
A middle-aged disciple of Swami Nigamananda died of an incurable disease. His mother and his wife were thrown into a sea of sorrow. The mother became practically insane with grief. She said to a picture of their Master which was hanging on the wall, “Why do we have to keep you? You have no power; you are useless! I am throwing you into the pond!”She grabbed the picture and started carrying it towards the pond. All of a sudden she heard someone behind her crying, “Mother! Mother!” with a tearful and sorrowful voice. She turned around and saw their Guru, Nigamananda, with tearful eyes saying to her, “Mother, let us go back home. Do not cry for your son any more. I will be your son. Your son is with me, inside me and for me.”
The woman was greatly consoled and returned to her house with the picture of her Guru. At the hour that all this occurred Nigamananda was actually four hundred miles away, giving spiritual lessons to his disciples who were living at his ashram.
Commentary: Unlike divine love and divine worship, human love and human adoration are always based on personal interest. Whenever personal interest is in the picture, the closeness of inner oneness can never be achieved. At that time the seeker finds himself divided even from his dear ones by inner walls. Attachment-world eventually has to meet with an atom-bomb-destruction.
The Master’s protection-arms
Another most striking incident took place in the same family. One night a group of hooligans came to the house of the old mother and the widow and were about to strike them. The hooligans wanted to take away their valuable possessions and all their money.Both the mother and the wife shouted, screamed and cried for help at the top of their voices. Who appeared before them to save them? Their Master, Nigamananda. He appeared in a most beautiful and powerful form and threatened the hooligans with a trident, saying he would destroy them all. Then he made a circle and said that if the family stayed inside the circle, they would be safe. In Nigamananda’s presence the two women brought all their valuables and money into the circle, and there they were well-protected by their Master’s spiritual and occult power.
Before daybreak the hooligans, finding that they were helpless, left the house.
Commentary: The Master’s compassion-heart can always play the role of protection-arms. The Master loves his dear ones infinitely more than the dear ones can imagine. It is the unconditional love and concern of the Master for his dear ones that keeps the seekers’ aspiration-flames burning.
Dream becomes reality
Once a well-known military officer decided to accept the spiritual life. He wanted to give up the world of attachment for good, so he began praying to God every day to take him to his real Guru.One night in a dream he saw a most beautiful luminous being, and at the same time he saw a word written on his heart: Nigamananda. This officer knew nothing about Swami Nigamananda, who was then living a thousand miles away in a different city. But the officer made inquiries, and soon he found someone who knew of Nigamananda, and could tell him where the Master was to be found.
In a few days’ time the officer-seeker reached Nigamananda’s ashram. As soon as he saw Nigamananda he knew that this was the Master he had seen in his dream and he fell at his feet. Nigamananda said to him simply, “So, you believe in dreams?”
Commentary: The dream-world is next door to the reality-world. Today’s beautiful dreams are tomorrow’s fruitful realities. A seeker’s soulful aspiration-dreams can be transformed into fruitful manifestation-realities. A sincere, self-giving seeker can easily acquire a free access to the dream-moon-world and to the reality-sun-world in the process of his inner evolution.
A mere God-lover
Swami Nigamananda’s disciples always considered their Master to be an Avatar, although he had never told them that he was one. But they all believed that this was the case, and they did not hesitate to speak of his greatness to others.One day Swami Nigamananda told his small group of disciples that he was not an Avatar. “Nobody should call me an Avatar,” he said. “Nobody should even think of me as one. I am a mere God-lover.”
The Master continued, “Like you, I have been evolving from the stone life, and I have had quite a few human incarnations. In this incarnation I have realised God. I have achieved perfection, and I know what the transcendental Truth is. I want to give you all my possessions. I have already given you the key. You have just to unlock my heart-door and then take whatever you want and as much as you want. It is not necessary to have an Avatar of the highest order as your Guru. An ordinary God-realised soul can give you everything you need for your own God-realisation.
Commentary: It is the Love-Oneness aspect of God, not His Sovereignty-Height aspect, that makes us truly love God and worship Him as the universal Beauty and the transcendental Reality.
(Sri Chinmoy, “India and her miracle-feast: come and enjoy yourself”, part 7 — Traditional Indian stories about Swami Nigamananda)