MAHA SAMADHI…..The final merging

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Samadhi is the withdrawing of the mind from the created world INTO the uncreated void…..The body and mind become immaterial or irrelevant when the realisation of spirit dawns on the soul. During the start of meditation, there is an object of meditation – but in Samadhi, all have become one – merging takes place. The self does not distinguish between the object contemplated and the process of contemplation thereby the mind/intellect becomes immaterial in the experience of all pervading spirit consciousness. Thoughts do not arise, as the mind is stilled by the experience of expanding consciousness. That is why in the Bible it is said, “Be Still, and know that I am God”  (Psalms, 46:10)

In Tamil, the word Samadhi has a profound meaning. In Tamil, Samadhi is interpreted as Samam + Aadhi meaning equal to the original being of Spirit –and Maha Samadhi means to merge into the Infinite spirit……

All of us, have to leave this earth one day, but none of us know when or where or how – but great saints, and evolved souls, know when their time comes. They silently prepare their followers to carry on without them. Some saints leave the earth in simple fashion; Some saints leave the earth in a spectacular fashion. Whether they leave silently or spectacularly, they greatly inspire the countless devotees who follow them in their path.

They say that the great Shirdi Sai gave his own life to save the life of an ailing disciple. Some years before his Maha Samadhi, he had come back from Samadhi after three days, when his devout disciples refused to part with the body even after the doctors have come and said that there was no life in the body. Their faith stood steadfast and Shirdi Sai returned. But in 1918, he did not return as he attained Maha Samadhi – even as he saved the life of a beloved disciple.

At the end of his life, Sri Ramana Maharishi the great sage of Tiruvannamalai, was afflicted with a tumour –  he refused the usual treatment, and allowed the wound to take a toll on his body – he was unconcerned by the suffering of his body and urged his devotees to look at the spirit behind the body. He graced all those who visited him during his last days with his eyes full of light. When Sri Ramana attained Maha Samadhi in 1950, many witnessed a comet moving across the sky at the exact moment of his Maha Samadhi and disappearing behind the Arunachala mountain.

When Sri Aurobindo attained Maha Samadhi on 5th December 1950, The Mother had to announce thus : “The funeral of Sri Aurobindo has not taken place today. His body is charged with such a concentration of Supramental light that there is no sign of decomposition and the body will be kept lying on his bed so long as it remains intact.” The body of Sri Aurobindo was interred on 9th December 1950. The Pondicherry Mother too, exhibited similar symptoms during her Maha Samadhi in 1973. The interred Samadhis of these two great saints draw people from all over the world even today.

Sri Ramakrishna, the great saint of spiritual renaissance in India, attained Mahasamadhi in 1886, uttering the name of the Divine Mother. In his lifetime, Sri Ramakrishna had laid the foundation for a very vibrant spiritual order, and Swami Vivekananda spearheaded the organisation and its ideals as Sri Ramakrishna’s worthy disciple.

Swami Vivekananda himself had a quiet Maha Samadhi – but he truly aroused the world from its spiritual slumber with his call of “Arise and Awake” – before he passed away at a young age of only 39. He is even supposed to have studied the alamanac, trying to choose a date for his departure!

Meera Bai, the great devotee of Lord Krishna, was often seen in Samadhi – the final merging came one day when she went into the Krishna temple of Dwarka and simply disappeared in the year 1547.

Meera Bai’s merging with the Lord bears a striking resemblance to Sri Andal’s merging centuries before Meera Bai’s advent. Sri Andal of Sri Villiputtur, the famous and only lady ALWAR, who composed the immortal 30 part hymn Tiruppavai and the 143 hymn Nachiar Tirumozhi  disappeared into the temple of Sri Ranganatha when the blessed Lord appeared in the dream of the temple priest and asked that Sri Andal be brought in bridal finery to the temple – she entered the sanctum sanctorum and disappeared in front of the waiting crowd at the temple sometime in 3020 B.C – a miracle seen by the locals of that time.

Sri Akka Mahadevi of Karnataka, defied every authority of the ancient patriarchal society by going around totally naked – her body covered only by her long tresses – she too, disappeared in a flash of light at Sri Sailam (present Andhra Pradesh) at a very young age, around 1160 A.D.

Sri Ramalinga Adigalar, the proponent of “Arut perunjothi” also disappeared into thin air on 30th January 1874 ( attained Soruba Samadhi ) which was even investigated by the British collector of Cuddalore at that time. After the investigation, the collector was convinced of the divine disappearance of the great saint.

The places where the saints attained Mahasamadhi are generally well preserved in India. There are many interesting stories where the saints speak from their tomb after their samadhi….

Sri Sadasiva Brahmendral, the great Avaduta’s Jeeva Samadhi ( he attained Jeeva Samadhi in the 18th century at three places – Nerur, Manamadurai and Karachi) just a few decades back, a great saint from Sringeri had a doubt about an aspect of yoga that he was practicing. As directed by Lord Siva in a dream, he came to Nerur, and Sri Sadasiva Brahmendral spoke to him from his tomb, and cleared the doubt of the saint of Sringeri.

The story of Sri Raghavendra appearing in flesh and blood several years after his Maha Samadhi (The saint attained Mahasamadhi in 1671 A.D)  to the British officer Munroe to show him the documents of the land at Mantralaya, is well known.

Sri Trailanga Swami (his famous meeting with Sri Ramakrishna is well documented by Swami Chetanananda’s books in RK Math publications) one of India’s greatest saints, attained Jeeva Samadhi at 7 places, including Varanasi, Madurai and Tenkasi – He was born in 1601 and attained Mahasamadhi in 1887 – and his penances when he was alive, is well known – Sri Paramahansa Yogananda writes in his famous classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, thus : “If Christ returned to earth and walked the streets of New York, displaying his divine powers, it would cause the same excitement that was created by Trailanga decades ago as he passed through the crowded lanes of Benares”

There is an interesting episode of the guru of Swami Rama (author of Living with the Himalayan Masters) who comes back to life after attaining Maha Samadhi to guide his disciples.

Sri Akkolkot Maharaj, after he attained Maha Samadhi in 1878 also came back to life for a few minutes out of compassion, unable to bear the misery of his devotees who were crying for him. He also appeared in flesh and blood to a few of his devotees who did not know about his maha Samadhi, five days after his Maha Samadhi.

The exemplary Maha Samadhi and subsequent resurrections of two of India’s greatest saints, Sri Lahiri Mahasaya and Sri Yukteswar Giri Maharaj, in Sri Paramahansa Yogoananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi” is a well known inspiration to the devotees.

The Maha Samadhi of Sri Paramahansa Yogananda itself is a great inspiration to the countless devotees on the path of self realization…..many years before his Maha Samadhi the great yogi had predicted, “ I will not die in bed, but with my boots on, speaking of God and India” and on 7th March, 1952, the great Guru of SRF/YSS did exactly that, as he left his bodily temple, talking of God and India……

( Sri Paramahansa Yogananda’s last words on earth echoed his love for God in no uncertain terms: ”Where Ganges, Woods, Himalayan Caves, and Men DREAM God – I am hallowed; my body touched that sod”  As he finished those words he looked up and consciously exited the world…..Sri Paramahansa Yogananda’s body remained in a state of perfect preservation for nearly three weeks before the casket was finally sealed)

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Spiritual Locomotives….

“Little Mother, Thy son will be a Yogi. As a Spiritual Engine, he will carry many souls to God’s Kingdom” was how Sri Lahiri Mahasaya, (one of India’s greatest saints) reportedly blessed Sri Paramahansa Yogananda when he was a small child, when his mother had carried him to Benares for the blessings of the great guru. The prophesy came more than true when Sri Paramahansa Yogananda later went to America and captured the hearts of millions of people around the world with his classic, “The Autobiography of a Yogi” where he reveals, perhaps for the first time in the history of such yogis, the intricacies of the search for God and Truth. The book, written in first person,  with an eye for detail, is a veritable account of one of the most moving, personal, true stories of a person in search of God and truth. The book itself reads like a long train journey, with many saints in each compartment.

In his quest for God and true Godmen and Godwomen, Mukunda Lal Ghosh, who later became Sri Paramahansa Yogananda, met with quite a few great souls, such as Mahendranath Gupta, also known as “M”, the author of `The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna’, the Tiger Swami, Yogini Giri Bala, Anandamoyi Ma, Therese Neuman, the stigmatist, Mahatma Gandhi, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Rabindranath Tagore, etc. His guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri Maharaj, trained him for his role of spreading the sacred teachings in the west.

Sri Paramahansa Yogananda’s father, Sri Bagabati Charan Ghosh, was a high official in the then Bengal Nagpur Railway, and thus, the comparison of Sri Paramahansa Yogananda to a train engine well established the monumental work that he would do later in life.

Sri Paramahansa Yogananda himself, describes his various train journeys in his autobiography. In some of the chapters, the narration is so telling, it is as if we are actually traveling with the author in the train!

Apart from the author’s train journeys, there is an interesting incident told in the “Autobiography of a Yogi”, of Abhoya, a woman disciple of Sri Lahiri Mahasaya, who, on arriving at Howrah station, finds the train to Benares already moving out of the platform. Not willing to wait for another train, in her anxiety, she mentally sends an urgent prayer to her guru, which is miraculously answered. The wheels continue to move but the train does not. Engineers and others climb down to witness this strange phenomenon. Only when she and her husband board the train, does the train start moving. And when later she meets Sri Lahiri Mahasaya, he tells her, “How you love to bother me! As if you could not have come here by the next train!”

Another devotee, Shri Hitalal Sarkar, who later became a renowned disciple of Sri Lahiri Mahasaya, came to the Howrah station, not knowing where to go in search of his guru. At the booking counter, as he was not able to explain where he wanted to go – and the clerk simply gave him a ticket to Benares. He then entrained for Benares, just like that, not knowing who or where his Guru was. He was led by circumstance (or divine grace?) to the home of Sri Lahiri Mahasaya, who treated him as if he was expecting him.

It seems trains have played a significant role in the lives of many saints, like when Sri Ramana Maharishi left his home during his early age, he chose to go by train to Villupuram from Madurai by the metre gauge train and it is said that on the train, he was met by a mysterious Maulvi (muslim ascetic) who helped him on his journey with some information that made his journey to Tiruvannamalai, possible.

Again, it is said that Swami Vivekananda, during his travels across the Indian subcontinent, would travel by train only if somebody bought him his ticket. Otherwise, he traveled on foot. Most of the time he starved, during his journeys –  Once it so happened that a fellow traveler on a train was eating a good meal, by the side of Swami Vivekananda, and even refused to acknowledge his presence. Even though Swami Vivekananda was hungry, he kept quiet. The haughty co-traveller, after eating, taunted Swami Vivekananda, saying that the Swamiji was an idler and who will feed him? – Just then, as if in answer to that taunt, a sweetmeat seller offered Swamiji some eatables and told that Sri Rama had introduced Swamiji to him in a dream! The haughty co-traveller was ashamed when he saw all this. It is a well known fact that when Swami Vivekananda returned from America to Indian shores, he was given a royal welcome. It is said that his historic train journey from Ramnad to Madras in the then Madras Province, drew unparalleled crowds along the track. Who could refuse to acknowledge the beacon of light from India, who rode the world of spirituality like a colossus, with the inaugural words, “Brothers and Sisters of America”?  The train journey of Swamiji was stopped at many places by enthusiastic Indians, who wanted to see the turbaned hero of India.

Legend has it that in 1909, Sri Shirdi Sai Baba materialized himself as a fakir in two different places and gave directions to a couple, the husband, Ramachandra Borkar, at Dhond, and the wife, Chandra Bai Borkar, at Khurudwadi and helped them find each other.

Once a judge of Gwalior went to Shirdi, during the First World War time. He was accompanied by Rege, another devotee of Sri Sai Baba. When they were traveling from Gwalior to Manmad, at a station called Mhow, all the passengers were asked to get down and make way for troops. Both the devotees prayed to Baba for help. After some time, the commander of the troops came and told that it was too small for the troops and the passengers were asked to board back! When they reached Shirdi the next day, Baba is said to have remarked that the judge was constantly calling him throughout the night, and that he had to tell the commander to let his children travel in the train instead of the troops.

Innumerable stories of Sri Shirdi Sai Baba are there, where he has performed many miracles involving train journeys at distant places, all the while sitting in Shirdi.

It is not just spiritualism that travelled on trains. Patriotism too, did. Abraham Lincoln, wrote his famous Gettysburg speech, sitting in his coach in the train.

Again, it would only be right to say that the Indian Freedom Movement actually began with a train journey in South Africa that carried Mahatma Gandhi.

It is well known that Mahatma Gandhi traveled widely across the Indian subcontinent by train. And two stories relating to the Father of the nation stand out for me : Once, one of his shoes (or sandal) slipped from his feet and fell out of the train, on the track  – he immediately took off the other one and threw it as close as possible to the first, so that the finder of the shoes will have a pair, and can use it, and not be left with just one shoe. At Madurai, during September 1921, when Mahatma Gandhi was traveling by train, he was pained when he saw that the majority of the population was not having enough clothing. During his stay at Madurai, he left wearing his usual dress and started wearing only the dhoti, a simple dress that characterized the simplicity of the Father of the Nation….

Trains have a distinct semblance to the journey of life itself, and that is why they are so powerfully appealing to children and elders alike…