From Man to God

From Shraddha (faith) to Shraddhanath

Our India is the country where the possibility of man rising to the stature of god has continued to be transformed into reality. The people of other countries have taken scientific experiments and mechanical inventions as proof of the greatness of man. But it is the yogis of India who have told mankind that scientific instruments can provide only material comforts in this mortal world, whereas life goes on even after death and man, therefore, must endeavour to attain eternal happiness instead of transitory pleasures. It is not in doubt that with this end in view in ancient times the sages of India attained siddhis (superhuman capabilities) through their japa, tapa (austerities) and yogic practices of various kinds.
But even in this science-dominated age of stark materialism the saints here, accepting the practical system of yoga involving religious austerities and ascetic practices as prescribed by their gurus (spiritual guides), have manifested the attainment of godhead in human frame, and through that divinity in man they have relieved the sufferings of innumerable people in distress. Shri Shaddhanathji Maharaj was a great yogi and an accomplished altruistic saint of this very kind.

The Indian sanatan Dharma (Hidnuism as involving the Shruties and Smrities i.e. the Vedas and the Hindu law books) is based on the theory of rebirth and previous births. Shrimadbhagavadgita and the Ramayana testify to previous birth and rebirth at several places. Lord Krishna says in verse 5 of chapter 4 In the Gita.

बहूनि में व्यतीतानि जन्मानि तव अर्जुन।
तान्यहं वेद सर्वाणि न त्वं वेत्य परंतप।।
(Arjuna, you and I have passed through many births. I know them all, while you do not, O chastirer of faes.)

The lord also says in verse 27 of chapter 2:
जातस्य हि धु्रवो मृत्युध्रुवं जन्म मृतस्य च।
तस्मादपरिहार्येऽर्थे न त्वं शोचितुमर्हसि।।
(For in that case, the death of him who is borm is certain, and the rebirth of him who is dead is inevitable. It does not, therefore, before you is grieve over an inevitable event.)

Rebirth and previous birth have been mentioned here for the reason that it had become widely known about Shri Shraddhanathji Maharaj that he was a saint of several previous births. In the birth immediately before the present one he was the holy ascetic wearing a red tilak (an auspicious mark on the forehead) engaged in religious austerities in a hermitage situated on the bank of the River Jhelum in Punjab. It was that tilak wearing Baba (ascetic) who incarnated as Shri Shraddhanathji. He was born in Panlawa village in Tehsil Lachhmangarh of Sikar District in Rajasthan on the second day of the moonlit fortnight in the month of Ashadh, Vikram era 1975 (The Vikram era is about 56 years a months ahead of the christian era. It is written as 'samvat' in Hindu.) (about June-July 1918 A.D.) When he was just a child he left home and embarked on a career of religious austerities and yoga, because he had to continue the yoga practice of his previous birth and go forward in it. In this regard the Gita (verses 42 and 43 of chapter 6) says:

अथवा योगिनामेव कुले भवति धीमताम्।
एतद्धि दुर्लभतरं लोके जन्म यदीदृशम्ं।।
तंत्र तं बुद्धि संयोग लभते पौर्वदेहिकम्।
यतते य ततो भूयः संसिद्धौ कुर, नन्दन।
(Or (if he has develop dispassion) he may he born in the family of enlightened yogis; but this Kind of birth is very difficult to obtain in this world. Arjuna, there he regains the understanding of his previous birth (i.e. the latencies of the yoga of even mindedness are roused in him); and through that he strives with greater vigour than before, for perfection (in the form of God realization))

Likewise, Shri Shraddhanathji Maharaj left home when he was still a boy and set out on the path of spiritual practices, austere asceticisim and yoga. By virtue of his unfathomable faith, unflinching devotion and firm resolve he went on advancing on that path. In the company of accomplished.

Saints and great yogis he knew and learnt deep secrets of yoga and put them into practice in his own life. Although he formally renounced the world, i.e. became an ascetic at the age of 36 years on the thirteenth day of the moonlit fortnight in the month of paush, samvat 2011, he had already acquired all the yogic powers before that. He was capable of relieving the sufferings of devotees who took refuge in him and actually did so through the yogic powers at his command. Before he accepted sannyas (renunciation) his secular or worldly name was Narayan. On duly initiating him into sannyas, his guru had said to him:

नारायण से श्रृद्धा, श्रृद्धा से श्रृद्धानाथ।
योगी बनकर साधना, श्रृद्धा रखना साथ।।
(The person named Narayan set out on his spiritual path with unfathomable faith in God and sadguru (true and virtuous spisitual guide). That faith has made him Shraddhanath (a Nath Yogi full of faith). He is now to keep up his faith, be a true yogi and achieve his goal)

Shri Shraddhanathji Maharaj always followed this precept of his initiating guru and by virtue of his faith reached the summit of greatness. Lord Krishna says in the Gita (4.39):

श्रद्धावाँल्लभते ज्ञानं तत्परः संमतेन्द्रियः।
ज्ञानं लब्ध्वा परां शान्तिभचिरेणाधिगच्छति।।
(He who has fully controlled his senses, is exclusively devoted to spiritual practice, and is full of faith attains Knowledge; having attained Knowledge, he immediately attains supreme peace (in the form of God realization.)

Very great importance has bean attached to shraddha (faith). Having given the spiritual instruction of the Gita Shri Krisna has asserted that he who eccepts what he has said with a heart full of faith is freed from the shackles of all his actions. People often regard faith and belief as one and the same thing, but they are different attitudes. The means by which one seeks to suppress ones disbelief or doubt is belief and you can see that people have a certain amount of disbelief side by side with belief. But faith means that unbelief or disbelief, whatever it is, is totally rooted out. He who believes in God also has a somewhat sceptical attitude of mind about God, but if he develops faith in God, there remains no trace of disbelief or doubt. Belief can be shaken and can turn into disbelief at any moment, but faith cannot be shaken, nor can it become weaker. Of Course, it can become more and more intense as it did in Ramakrishna Paramahansa's case. At mere utterance of Mother Kali's name a rapturous mood would seize him and he would be lost in a trance. Likewise, no sooner would Shri Shraddhanathji Maharaj remember his gurus than tears would well up in his eyes. Faith had permaeated his whole being to such an extent that he seemed to say to God, 'O Lord, Your Yourself are all. Your\ know best what you want to do. I have nothing to do with it. Keep me as you will. I accept your will, whatever it is in fact I have no existence of my own. It is only you who exist.' He used to say, 'Merge your whole being into God. Consign your ego-sense to the ocean of God. Kill your ego, confusion, fears and doubts and thus kill your individual self while you are still alive, as has been said by Gorakhnath in the following verse:

मरो हे जोगी मरो, मरो, मरण है मीठा।
तिस भरणी भरो, जिस भरणी भरे गोरव दीठा।
(Die O yogi, die as death is sweet (blissful). Die that death which gorakh tried dying i.e. merge your individual self. Your ego, into god, the Self of all. Be one with God and all beings. That leads to bliss.)

Meera, Draupadi, Shabari, Soordas - all of them had become the symbols of faith. Similarly, Shri Shraddhanathji Maharaja had intensified his faith in the supreme Lord to such an extent that he had become faith personified. Faith means total surrender of ones mind, heart and soul to God.

Arguments and counter - arguments keep one oscillating between belief and scepticism. But when all the arguments are exhausted, are shattered to pieces and fail, that is when faith is born. For example, when the scourge of secorching heat in summer continues a bit too long and people begin to cry repeatedly for help with their eyes and both their hands raised towards the sky, entreating God to do something to save them, His grace rains from the heavens in the form of water. God wants nothing from us. He wants only devotion, only faith in him. He wants this Jeva (being), who is his own portion, to call to him just once helplessly and piteously from the bottom of his heart. So long as you are possessed of the arrogance of office, power or pelf, God well not come to your aid. He comes to help a helpless devotee who is full of faith. Draupadi (in the Mahabharata) was confident of the might of her five husbands. She also trusted in Bhishma, the glorious granduncle of the Kauravas and Pandavas both, and was confident that these people would save her from the clutches of Duhshasan, who had been commanded by Duryodhan to take her clothes away in the open assembly. But her confidence was shattered to pieces. She became helpless in every way. Then faith arose in her heart and she called to the lord for help and lord Krishna came to her rescue without even a moment's delay. Likewise, the leader of a herd of elephants was also confident of his own physical strength and that of his herd. But a crocodile seized him by the leg near the bank of a river and started dragging him into deep water. When his own physical might and the might of his herd was all exhausted and failed him and he was utterly helpless, faith arose in his heart and he piteously called out to god for help. Didn't then the Lord came to his aid without delay (in a story from the Bhagavata purana)?

Faith is born in a helpless person. The moment a devotee finds himself utterly helpless and entrusts himself to God, thinking that he himself cannot do anything now, that his own efforts can't help him reach the Lord, that there is a limit to what his own efforts can achieve and they cannot take him to the limitless, i.e. the Lord, he entreats the Lord to cradle him in his caring arms. Only a person who has lost all hope, who is tired out and dejected takes refuge at the Lord's feet with sincere faith. When one feels in one's heart of hearts that god alone in all with faith as your support you cannot go wrong because you have left everything to that kind Lord.

Faith and mystery are also closely related to each other. Only he who comes to perceive this life and creation as something mystical makes progress in the path of God- realization. Let us see what the Gita says about such a great person. Lord Krishna says in the Gita (2.29):

आश्रचर्यवत् पश्यति कश्रिदेनमाश्रचर्यवद्वदति तथैव चान्यः।
आश्रचर्यव श्रैनमन्यः श्रृणोति श्रुत्वाप्येनं वेद न चैव कश्रिचत्।।
[Hardly anyone perceives the soul as marvelous, scarce another likewise speaks thereof as marvelous, and scarce another hears of it as marvelous; while there are some who know it not even on hearing of it.]

Lord Krishna says that the great soul endowed with faith who perceives this soul, this life and this universe as a mystery takes refuge in Him with all his heart, not reluctantly or grudgingly, and that He immediately takes such a person surrendering himself completely to Him under His protection. Shri Shraddhanathji Maharaj was also a saint who had surrendered himself completely to the Supreme Lord.

Shri Shraddhanathji Maharaj was born into a family of ordinary means. He lived in want and poverty, but there was no let-up in his dedication and perseverence in regard to his sadhana (spiritual practice) He did not rest till he achieved his goal.

Lack of means and stratined circumstances can hardly impede one's way provided one has earnest devotion and determination. In our country at least there are examples galore of persons reaching the pinnacles of greatness in various fields despite being born into very ordinary families, Several leaders like freedom fighter and former Prime Minister Lalbahadur Shastri and Deendayal Upadhyay, saints like Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekananda, Kabirji and Raidasji, scientists like Dr. Abdul Kalam etc. had to spend their childhood in want and straitened circumstances. But later on, the world saw it clearly that these people became great personages of their respective fields. Shri Shraddhanathji maharaj was a jewel in rags of the same category. When he was only 8 years old, his father passed away, as a result of which the monetary condition of the family dwindled. But this boy of firm resolve did not abandon his path of devotion to god and sadhana (spiritual practices) and continued to learn the deepest secrets of yoga and to put them into practice. He carried on religious austerities and ascetic practices for about 36 years. Finally, having realized god and attained divine Knowledge, he threw himself completely into promoting the good of people. Particularly, in order to make the young generation well-conducted and cultured, he would go to schools and hostels and try to saw the seeds of virtuous conduct in students. His conversations and teachings would have a profound effect on the listeners' mind. Shri Sharaddhanathji maharaj has made a substantial contribution towards bringing about the spirituality, faith and peity that we see in shekhawati in these times of moral degeneration. It appeared as though he were conducting a great public welfare campaign- sowing the seeds of virtue in the young generation on the one hand, and relieving the distress of the people afflicted with worldly miseries and troubles on the other. Never trying to publicize the yogic powers he possessed, he used to remove the sufferings of poor and distressed people with complete detachment. It is 27 years since he cast off his body but thousand of devotees and believers gratefully come to pay their obeisance at his samadhi (shrine over his place of rest).

Shri Shraddhanathji Maharaj's contribution to the good of the society is incomparable. He removed the misconceptions and doubts about Nathpanth and the path of yoga prevalent in the public mind and put people on the alert against ostentation and hypocrisy. That is why a very large number of even highly educated people chose to associate within. The devotees who sought refuge in him include illiterate people, people with inadequate education, the poor and the proletariat on the one hand, and teachers, lecturers, doctors, scientists, journalists, lawyers, high-ranking officers in the police and administration, businessmen, industrialists and literary men belonging to the high-educated class, on the others. What was remarkable was that he treated all of them on an equal footing. He appraised the visitor on the basis of his faith alone and behaved towards him accordingly, without being influenced by his official position, social standing or any other material aspect of his existence. He was a living embodiment of love, kindness, compassion and equality.

Shri Shraddhanathji Maharaj had a multidimensional personality. He practised renunciation and self-denial to such an extent that he did not even touch money in his life. For years he toured and travelled throughout India, went about from village to village and from town to town in shekhawati, but he never had any money on him, nor did he ever ask anybody for it.

In our country there have often been differences of opinion between the adherents of Shaivism and Vaishnavism. Even today there are many who make a distinction between Shiva and Vishnu and adopt a rigid sectarian attitude. Shri Shraddhanathji maharaj removed this misconception by means of his own conduct, behaviour and proofs supported by scriptures. He regarded Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu as one and the same. Being a yogi of Nathpanth, he was obviously a Shaiva, but during his pilgrimage to Dwarika, he got himself imprinted with the sacred marks of a shankh (Conch shell), a Chakra (circular weapon),a gada (mace) and a padma (lotus) all adornments of Lord Vishnu, which are sectarian imprints worn by adherents of Vaishnavism. He did so on the 15th day of the bright fortnight in the month of Chaitra, samuat 2008. This proves that in his view there is only one Supreme Being. One improtant reason for this liberal and realistic attitude of his was that shri shraddhanathji Maharaja of this birth had been the Baba (ascetic) wearing a red tilak, a Vaishnava saint, in his immediately previous birth. Shri Shraddhanathji, a Nath yogi and an adherent of Shaivism liked Shri Rama's character most, and the name Rama occurs twice in a prayer he sang every day. It was because of Shri Shraddhanathji Maharaj, a great saint and a champion of harmony - religious as well as sectarian - that people realized the hollowness of the common belief that Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu are different entities.

He would enlighten the common man about religion and yoga in such a simple way that the deepest truth would be grasped easily. Once a very great man of letters came to Shri Shraddhanathji Maharaj and apprised Maharaj of his problem. Maharaj listened to him patiently and then, smiling gently, gave him two examples. He said, when a kite (the bird) begins its flight, it has to exert itself a lot to flap its wings and has to move its wings up and down constantly. But after it has reached high enough, it keeps floating in the air at ease with its wings just spread out. Similarly, when you begin to fly a paper kite, you have to exert a lot of strength. You have to give it light pulls and jerks. Sometimes it has to be pulled up and sometimes it has to be given a log string and loosened. But when the same kite reaches sufficiently high up in the sky, it stays steady, controlled by the tip of your finger. Then Maharaj told that man of letters that it was only in the beginning that he had a mental conflict, anxiety and tension in connection with his new undertaking and that after sometime everything would go on at ease peacefully. These simple examples of Maharaj's gladdened not only the literary man's heart but also the hearts of all the people present there. Maharaj's simple style won everybody's heart.

There are several kinds of saints among sadhus (ascetics). There are some who seek their own good and there are others who work for the good of people in general besides seeking their own. Those who seek their own well-being use the superhuman powers gained through their ascetic practices for their own salvation. Shri Shraddhanathji Maharaj was a saint who did seek his won well-being, but he was also an altruist. he freely spent the wealth of powers he had earned through his practice of religious austerities and yoga in relieving the afflictions and troubles of people. This shows how great, generous and compassionate he was.

The superhuman powers of India's siddha (accomplished or perfected) saints have not only been viewed with faith and reverence in India, they have also aroused intellectual curiosity in foreign journalists, scholars and others knowledge - seekers. The tenth chapter of the Gita says everything about the divine yogic powers and glories. In this chapter entitled The yoga of Divine glories Shri Krishna, having told Arjuna about His divine glories and power of Yoga, makes a very important point in the last (42nd) verse, which is:

अथवा बहुनैतेन किं ज्ञातेन तवार्जुन।
विष्टयाहमिदं कृत्स्नमेकांशेन स्थितो जगत्
[ Or, what will you gain by knowing all this (My glories and power of Yoga) in detail, Arjuna? Suffice it to say that I stand holding this entire universe by a spark of my Yogic power.]

This statement of Shri Krishna's not only reveals a very important secret of nature, it also tells us about god's unique and unlimited power of Yoga. The yogic powers of saints are, in fact, the yogic power of God himself. By virtue of their belief, faith, devation and prolonged practice of japa, tapa, diverse, forms of yogic acts and spiritual disciplines, saints come into direct touch with god and they become, in a way, models of God. Accomplished yogi saints are even capable of doing things that God can do, But saints don't interfare in the operations of the low of Providence, because

कर्मप्रधान विष्व रचि राखा।
जो जस करहि, सो तस फल चाखा।।
i.e. The Lord has made the low of Karma (action, deeds) a predominant phenomenon of his creation and one reaps the fruits of one's own deeds, good or bad, as the case may be, But to save one self from the dire difficulties caused by one's evil deeds, the Lord has pointed out the course of seeking refuge in Him. At the same time the Lord has given the assurance that he never spurns a shelter-seeker, provided he selects which of his wrongdoings have resulted in his tribulations, is penitent and resolves to refrain from evil deeds and to do what is morally right and good to do. Shri Krishna says in the gita that in times of crises, ailments etc. man should ponder over his faults and sins.

Similarly, Shri Shraddhanath ji Maharaj never spurned any shelter-seeker. He would relieve the sufferings of the person who took refuge in him. By spending his powers derived from spiritual disciplines and ascetic practices. But at the same time he would also persuade the person to sin no more and do no more wrong. He used to say that he would help even the most sinful of people if he sought refuge provided he vowed to tread the path of self-improvement . Shri Krishna says approximately the same thing in the gita (4.36):

अपि चेदसि पापेभ्यः सर्वेभ्यः पापकृत्तमः।
सर्वं ज्ञानप्लवेनैव वृजिनं संतरिष्यसि।।
[Even if you are the most sinful of all sinners, you will cross over all sin by the raft of Knowledge.]

In this verse and at several other places in the gita Shri Krishna has said clearly that even if the most sinful of all sinners takes refuge in Him, He makes him, His own and helps him cross over the sea of sin by the raft of Knowledge. Similarly, Shri Sharddhanath ji Maharaj not only relieved thousands of people of their sufferings but also made them take the road to self-improvement. That is a great deed as well as a service to the creation, the country, the society and mankind. He had incarnated to work for summum bonum, (the highest or sublime good), altruism, the good of others, as has been said to:

तरूवर फल नहीं खात हैं, नही न संचे नीर।
परमारथ के कारणै, साधु धर्यों शरीर।।
[A tree never eats its fruit and a river never hoards its waters. (They serve only others). Like wise, a saint is born only for the good of others.]


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