Meeting Bhagavan Nityananda by Vani Ma

Meeting Bhagavan Nityananda

by Vani Ma, July 2022

In honour of Bhagavan Nityananda’s Mahasamdahi, I thought I’d share a story with you about when I first met him.

It was 1997 and I had only been coming to the Ashram for a short time, when my Dad gave me a plane ticket to go and visit him in India. He was working for a Mr Jindal – who was a famous Indian industrialist – setting up a plastic factory. When I told Guruji (Swami Shankarananda) that I was going to India he immediately said, “You are planning on going to Ganeshpuri, aren’t you?” To be honest, I hadn’t really thought about it, but it was an obvious thing to do, so I lied, “Yes, of course!” 

Guruji always reminisced – as he does now – about Ganeshpuri and told us all these wonderful stories about his time in the Ashram with his guru, the legendary Muktananda. 

I fantasised about my visit, I would wander the beautiful gardens, sit in the marble courtyard, breathe the enchanted air, and chant for hours at Guru chowk where Baba used to sit. I would hang out with all the other fellow seekers and live in the same dorms that Guruji did. The only problem was that I was a bit scared. I was in my early 20s and a Western girl travelling alone. Also, at that time it had been decades since Guruji, or anyone else we knew, had actually been to Ganeshpuri, so practical details about the Ashram were a bit thin on the ground. 

So, I headed off to India and spent 3 months backpacking around. Ganeshpuri was my last stop before I headed home. To be honest,  I wasn’t looking forward to going home, in fact I was dreading it. Because it was beginning to dawn on me that after spending 6 years studying to be a lawyer, I didn’t actually want to do it! I treated myself and caught a plane from Delhi to Bombay – as it was still called then and then I caught a taxi out to Ganeshpuri. We crawled along for 6 hours as they were building the National Hwy – to this day I can’t quite believe that it’s only 70 km from Mumbai to Ganeshpuri. 

Finally, I was there, in Ganeshpuri, I was full of anticipation. I walked to the ashram gates, the famous gates through which Guruji had walked and spent all that wonderful time…but to my surprise I was promptly told it was impossible for me to stay there. 

Now, please don’t forget this was before the internet and you couldn’t just look things up online. You pretty much had to turn up.  I couldn’t believe it. ‘Sorry, I think I’ve misheard you.’ I said. I tried to negotiate with the ladies in the ashram office. I said, ‘Surely you can just squeeze me in? I don’t take up much room. I’m not a trouble-maker…” But the answer was a very firm no.

So suddenly there I was, out on the street, very alone and very, very far away from my fantasy. I literally had no idea what to do. Where would I stay? What would I do? Who would I hang out with? This was absolutely not what I had expected or planned for. 

Eventually, I found a place to stay. Then for the first time, my attention turned to the actual town of Ganeshpuri. I walked the 20 minutes down a dusty, windy road and started exploring. The helpful locals directed me to Bhagavan Nityananda’s samadhi shrine, at the very heart of the village, the place that was once Bhagavan’s house, but is now where he is buried. 

To be honest, I didn’t know much about Bhagavan Nityananda. I only knew that he was Baba’s Guru and that was about it. But when I sat on the floor of the temple, I felt the Shakti, the spiritual energy. It was huge. In fact, there was a psychedelic level of shakti emanating from every atom of that place and I even saw Bhagavan’s gold statue winking at me.  

The scene around me was very charming. The temple was obviously the heart of village life, with locals coming and going, saying hello to their Bhagavan, making an offering, chanting some bhajans and then going about their business. It felt very natural, and people left me to do my own thing. 

Soon I was having very deep meditations, sitting in the middle of that cacophony of human activity. And that became my daily routine. I hung out in the temple with Bhagavan every day. He was my Bhagavan. I felt like I had discovered him, that I owned him. 

The day before I was due to leave, I sat for hours in Bhagavan’s temple. I was in a heightened state of bliss, but at the same time, I was beginning to have a nervous breakdown. I had this feeling within of being rejected at Baba’s Ashram, really intense, like a kriya. But also, and mainly, I didn’t want to go home. Home to this career I was supposed to start. I prayed to Bhagavan and said, “Please help me. What should I do?” And then in quick succession I got 3 answers. He said to me: 

  1. Baba lives here now. 
  2. You are never alone. 
  3. You should go home and live in the Ashram. 

These answers were incredibly profound. The first two shifted my point of view. I was suddenly able to let go of my fantasy and appreciate just how amazing this whole experience had been. I had made a connection to Bhagavan Nityananda, who was Baba, who was Swamiji, who was nothing but a mega load of Shakti. My response to the last answer was to leave the temple and go straight to the little telephone booth on the main street, where you could make international calls. I rang the ashram, and guess who answered? Devi Ma!

I was crying, I said, “Can I move into the Ashram?” “Of course you can,” she said. And the rest they say, is history.

Vani Ma, a long time yogini and disciple of Swami Shankarananda on retreat in Ganeshpuri, India.

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