Introduction to Satguru
Uttarakhand, nestled in the Himalayas, is famous for its spectacular scenery, pleasant valleys, sparkling streams and holy shrines. It is an ancient and sacred area, where saints, sages and Divine Incarnations lived and practised meditation.
During the Brahmanic era which followed the Vedic Age, this area was Called 'Brahmrishi Desh' and later, during the time of the Mahabharata War, its name was changed to Garh-desh. ('land of forts'). In the 7th century, after Shri Shankaracharya founded Kedarnath and Badrinath shrines, this area became known as Kedardesh. It is the playground of Lord Shiva and the place favoured by sages for meditation and austerities, During Vedic times, Vashishta, Kashyapa, Atri, Gautama, Vyas, Vishwamitra and other sages chose this place for their spiritual practices. The heroes of the Mahabharata, the Pandava brothers, together with Draupadi, received spiritual Knowledge here.
Included in Garhwal are Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines. The sacred River Ganges rises in its lofty ranges. This is the domain of Lord Shiva, who is worshipped in every house. Situated here, too, was Valmiki's hermitage, where Sita gave birth to her sons, Lav and Kush, and where she, the daughter of Earth, was finally received back into her Mother's lap,
Garhwal is renowned for its peacefulness and natural beauty. This fertile land. has given birth to, and nourished holy Teachers who dedicated their lives to reawakening devotion, spiritual knowledge, and humanitarianism throughout India.
One such Master in this glorious lineage was Shri Hans Ji Maharaj, who spread the teachings of devotion and universal religion throughout India, and who, posthumously, became
world-famous. He was born in the village, of Garki Sariya, in Talai district, Pauri, Garhwal; on November 8, 1900, into a family directly descended from Lord Rama. His given name was Hans Ram Singh. His father's name was Ranjit Singh Rawat. His grandfather, Hemant Singh Rawat, was a farmer belonging to the Devshal Rawat clan. 'Devshal' was the title given to the caste who built Durga and Shiva temples and 'Rawat' is a subcaste of the 'Rant' caste, which means 'leader' or 'helmsman', indicating a knightly class with heroic and leadership qualities.
His mother was Kalindi Devi, a very pious and spiritual lady. She worshipped Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati and had strong faith in them. She regularly visited the temple for prayer and puja (worship). Shri Maharaj Ji recalled, "My mother used to take me with her to the temple. Lord Shiva and Parvati used to appear to me there." Even from early childhood he had the desire to see God.
He was, to say the least, an unusual child. His face was always lit up with laughter, like a rose in full bloom. That is why he was given the nickname 'Hansa-Hansa' (Hansna means 'to laugh' in Hindi). Like many realized Masters before him, the child did some miraculous things.
Mahatma Satyanand remembers, "Once, at Hardwar, I met a boyhood friend of Shri Maharaj Ji's. We started discussing holy men, and this person, whose name was Umed Singh from Garhwal, told me, 'I have met many mahatmas and holy men, but none of them have ever shown me miracles such as I saw when I was young.
'I was about 8 years old at the time. One of my playmates was a boy of my age named Hans Ram Singh. We used to call him 'Hansa-Hansa'. He did some amazing things. While we were playing, he would show us Delhi, Calcutta, Bombay, etc right before our very eyes! Once I asked him to show me what it was like overseas. He blindfolded me and we kept on playing. Suddenly he grabbed me and said, 'Look at those cities! They are all foreign!'
'Once we were sitting beside a river. I heard heavenly flutelike music which entranced me. Even now I try to hear it, but it
doesn't come. Words can't describe the things he showed me. He was a remarkable, extraordinary boy. Whenever I think of him, he seems to appear before me.' At this his eyes filled with tears and his voice choked up. After a few minutes he continued, 'A few years later we were separated.' During the First World War I was stationed overseas, and saw again the large cities which I had seen in those childhood visions, so naturally my amazing friend was always in my thoughts. When I returned home I found out that he had gone away and was following a guru. Later I heard that he himself had become a guru with many mahatmas and devotees who call him 'Hans Incarnate'. Indeed, he was a divine, enlightened Yogi. What more .can I say? His name describes his personality. Whenever I remember him, there he is before me, laughing. When I remember his radiant face, my heart breaks. Now I am old, but still, sometimes when I remember him, I am a child again, playing with him. When I come out of my reverie, I still see his face everywhere and those memories of our childhood games linger on."
Shri Maharaj Ji had a boundless love for. God and was obsessed with the desire to realize Him. Even at a young age he proved himself to be a Yogi of remarkable attainment. Due to impressions and spiritual merit accumulated in previous lives, he was often absorbed in meditation, oblivious to everything.
On the occasion of Guru Puja, 1966, he recalled his childhood, saying, "I was often absorbed in Samadhi and used to have divine visions. When I told my aunt about it, she replied, "Oh yes, it happens." I would close my eyes and see Divine Light. I would say to myself, 'Others have realized Him. Why don't I?'
After Shri Maharaj Ji had left home, his mother, who had an extraordinary love for him, died of grief, unable to bear the separation. Young Maharaj Ji had often thought of building a bridge across their river so that she could reach home quickly. After her death, the world lost any attraction that it might have had for him. The fragility of life and the grave reality of death occupied his thoughts. He was driven from within to search for truth, so he
left his village and finally arrived in Quetta, Baluchistan, Which in those days had a sizeable Garhwali population. He lived there a few years. He went back and forth between Quetta and Karachi, Sindh and Lahore, in connection with his work. He had only an elementary education because in those days education was not available in the hills, although later he expanded his knowledge through private reading
He was of the opinion that no country should be enslaved by another. A kind of forced labour used to be extracted from the hill people. When the British Deputy Collector went on tour, he, his family and even their personal lavatory used to be carried in palanquins on the shoulders of villagers who'd been pressed into service. Shri Maharaj Ji used to pray, "God, please spare me and my father from this work, Don't let my turn come!" Orders would be sent to families along the route to prepare meals for the English, and anyone who refused was severely punished.
Shri Maharaj Ji always preferred the poor to the rich, yet his greatness was that he could fit in with either: As a child, he liked to visit the elderly and wise and find out what they thought.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, a spiritual and patriotic renaissance was taking place in the social and religious lives of Indians. The younger generation was seized with a new zeal, a national awareness and a passion for debating. Shri Hans Ji Maharaj was very affected by it, and participated eagerly in the new movement
The Arya Samaj was very active in Lahore. It was the era of public assemblies and theological debates. He was impressed by the ideas and programs of the Arya Samaj. The Indian Congress was spearheading the freedom struggle and Shri Hans Ji Maharaj was actively involved in it, too.
He opposed superstition and hypocrisy perpetrated in the name of religion. He had no intention of blindly following traditional Pauranic ideology. The aim of his life was to find the Truth and realize it. Although he was active in the Arya Samaj, he didn't agree with their blanket criticisms of religion and their
general negativity. He was interested only in the Truth and was ever alert to recognize it when it came his way.
In his search for the true spiritual Knowledge, he would talk with people from every religion and sect. He would ask them about their inner religious experiences. He also studied the principles and doctrines of various religions, but none could give him the practical experience he craved. All he got from the so-called holy men was bookish knowledge and dogma, which could hardly satisfy someone like him. 'Until I see You with my own eyes; I won't believe what any guru says' was his motto.
He found the majority of sadhus to be holy men in name only. Then by chance he came across the saintly man from whom he would receive the initiation which would change his life. Under his Guru's guidance he easily realized the deepest spiritual mysteries. He was a perfected soul - all he needed was the igniting spark.
Once he was sitting in the courtyard at. Shakti Nagar with some premies. He was in a cheerful mood. Normally he never spoke about himself when he gave satsang, but would discuss spirituality by quoting from various saints. I happened to be present on that occasion at Shakti Nagar, and ventured, "Maharaj Ji, you always quote from other saints, but you don't talk about your own experiences. I wish you would tell us something of that." Maharaj Ji burst out laughing and said, "Listen, I glorify the saints whom everyone worships, and still people oppose me! If I were to talk about my personal experiences they would skin me alive, as they did to St. Mansur!" I held my ground and said, "Maharaj Ji, I have never seen those other saints. I have seen only you, and due to you I trust in God and spirituality. That is why I want to hear something about you!"
So Maharaj. Ji related his own story: "I wandered here and there searching for Truth. I had been seeing Light and hearing Music since I was a child, but I didn't understand why this happened to Me. At last my luck changed and I met my Guru Maharaj Ji (Shri Swami Swarupanand Ji).
'I once attended a free feast which was being held for saddhus. I was a member of the Arya Samaj and believed that there was nothing higher than. Aum and the Gayatri Mantra. On that occasion I heard satsang from the divine Master. It seemed a bit mysterious to me, so afterwards I approached him and asked him what he taught. He gave me the address of his ashram and told me to come there.
'I arrived. It was raining and I was, soaked. This ashram had a verandah where stood a bucket and waterpot. When Maharaj Ji saw me, he laughed and told a disciple, 'Wash his feet.' I retorted, 'Why should I get my feet washed! You said that you'd tell me what you have to offer, so please do so.' He said, 'Come tomorrow. I'll tell you then.' I recalled this tale from the scriptures:
'Once, in the course of his travels, St. Narad arrived at a village. A poor brahmin lived there with his family. His wife humbly entreated Narad to dine at their house. Narad accepted. After dinner he blessed her and said, 'May your Guru live forever!' She replied; 'Sir, I have no Guru'. This upset Narad, who cried, 'Oh no Before' I had a Guru I was told that I defiled the very ground I walked on and now I've eaten food cooked by someone who isn't a disciple! What will happen now?' He got ready to regurgitate the Meal: The Brahmin's wife begged, 'Master, please don't! We are very poor and no saddhus have ever dined with us. It is God's mercy that you are gracing us with your presence today. If it is such a crime to be Guru less, then please be my Guru?
'So Narad gave her Knowledge of Divine Light and Holy Name and went on his Way. The experience of True Knowledge awakened her spiritually and she plunged into meditation.
Her husband had gone to bathe in the Ganges. She put his dinner on a lower shelf and her own on a higher shelf. Then she closed the door and sat for meditation. After the Brahmin had performed his ritual ablutions he returned home. He was taken aback to find the door closed. He thought, 'This is the first time this has happened. My wife always greets me at the door. What is going on?'
'He knocked and his wife answered, 'I've put your dinner on the lower shelf and mine is separate. There is a separate jug of water for you, too. From now on please don't touch my food if you don't want me to starve.' The poor Brahmin, quite bewildered, asked, 'Why? What has happened?' His wife explained; 'Today I became Narad's disciple, and he says that it is a sin to eat or drink anything touched by a non-disciple.' The Brahmin sighed, 'Oh God! What have I done to deserve this? Only we two live here. If I should accidentally touch her food, or if she is ill and I have to cook, she would rather starve.' So he told her, 'Very well, my dear, when your Guru comes here again, I'll also become his disciple. That's the only way out of this dilemma.'
A few days later, Narad returned. The Brahmin was advised by his wife to ask for initiation. He replied, 'First I will bathe in the Ganges to purify myself? She said, 'There's no need for that, This Knowledge can sanctify the worst sinners! You can bathe afterwards.' She tried to persuade him but he wouldn't listen, and he went to take his bath. As luck would have it, he was bitten by a snake and died instantly. Meanwhile, as he hadn't returned, Narad prepared to leave. The wife clasped his feet and cried, 'Master, please wait a little longer! I'll go and bring him right now. He must be on his Way back. She ran towards the river as fast as she could. When she found his body she wept bitterly.
When she didn't return either, Narad himself went to the river, where he found her. He said, 'My dear lady, crying won't do any good now. If weeping could bring him back, I'd call thousands of mourners here. But he'll never return.' The lady replied, 'Master, I'm not weeping because he is dead, for he must have been meant to die now. But if he had died after receiving Knowledge he would have been spared further births and deaths!'
'I mentioned this story to him and also that saying of Ravanna's 'Never put off good deeds until tomorrow.' He laughed heartily at this and said, 'Come back tomorrow.' I was furious but I controlled myself by thinking, 'Very well, let's see what he has to say for himself tomorrow. If he can't show me anything special, I'll
debate the scriptures with him and if he can show me Truth; it will have been all worthwhile.' So I composed myself and sat down.
'It's a long story how I arrived the next day. It had been raining and I had to cross a river. Just as I started to cross, my foot slipped and I was dragged under. The thought flashed into my mind; 'If I have to die, why couldn't it have been after I'd received Knowledge? As it is, I'm leaving the world without it.' Suddenly, someone grabbed me, or so it seemed to me, and set me on the other bank. I looked everywhere for my rescuer but nobody was there. Whoever it was had disappeared. I lost my way in the rain but finally made it to the ashram. Guruji greeted me with 'So, you made it here!' I was drenched to the skin. As I bowed to him he took out a white dhoti and shirt from under a pillow and told me to go and change my clothes. I hesitated, because believed that householders should offer things to saddhus and the other way around. Moreover, I had always been a bit awed by saddhus, because when I was young, I was told not to associate with them because they corrupt people and wreck homes. Only after he insisted did I accept the clothes. Then he seated me close to him and said, If you want Knowledge, I can give it to you, but you must surrender your mind, body and wealth.' I thought to myself, 'Well, if this is the true Knowledge, what have I got to lose? And if it is not the Truth; or if it is just some mantra, I've still got all my possessions at home. The body is an ephemeral thing and has to die sooner or later, so what if I died here? Even if get nothing from him, I've still got my belongings.' So I said aloud; 'Very well. If it is the real thing, I'll surrender everything.'
'Then he instructed a premie to spread a mat on the floor of the inner room. He took me inside, sat me down and said; 'Don't reveal to anyone what I tell you. Secondly, you have to surrender everything. Thirdly, two of the techniques should be practised privately and two all the time.' I thought to myself, I'll definitely know if it is true or not, and if it's not I'll expose him. But aloud I merely answered, 'Yes.' Then he gave me Knowledge and taught
me the techniques. I saw wonderful Light and heard Music also, as I had in childhood. My mind merged with the Holy Name.
After initiation he asked me, 'Well is it the Truth or not?' I answered, 'It's true, of course. How could it not be?' He hadn't told me any mantra. He had directly revealed the omnipresent Power which has always been within me and all creatures.
I had a copy of St. Brahmananda's hymns and St. Ramdas' Das Bodh, which I often read. I also used to read the Bhagavad Gita daily. I wondered why I now understood things that up until the previous day had mystified me. Why was it all crystal-clear now? There is a hymn of Brahmananda's which says, 'Day and night turn the heart's pure rosary.' Now I knew what that meant. I had always known that such a power existed, yet I couldn't realize it. So, why did I now understand?
'On the third morning after initiation, I bathed, put on clean clothes, and sat in an isolated place for meditation. I made a vow that, if God exists, he'll reveal Himself to me, otherwise I'll die, this body being, after all, perishable. If I am immortal, then I'll reincarnate in some form or another and in future I'll never remember God's Name!'
'So I started meditating on the Holy Name. Instantly I was surrounded by Light and my attention was rivetted upwards. I went straight into Samadhi. I saw God face-to-face. How can I describe the glory of Guru Maharaj Ji and what he does? He still appears to me. But not everyone can experience this. He used to tell me; 'You have reached this stage because of spiritual merits earned in previous births. You will spread this Knowledge to millions.' And just see how many people I have initiated. I have no idea of day or night or what day it is. My only joy is Guru Maharaj Ji's Knowledge and spreading it. He drenches me with his grace. If you do meditation, his grace will shower on you too.
'He has helped me in so many ways. Once I was travelling beyond Simla. It was evening and I thought, 'It is said that every piece of food has someone's name stamped on it. Let's see what I get in this forest.' I reached a dharmshala (a rest house for,
pilgrims). As soon as I sat down, a premie descended the hill towards me, bringing fried vegetables, sweet cakes etc. He was returning from his in-laws. He touched my feet then offered me the food. This kind of thing has often happened to me on trains, too. God gives to everyone according to their deeds.
'I had a close friend, who was opposed to saddhus. I wanted him to take Knowledge, but I knew that if I praised it he wouldn't take it, yet without experiencing it how was he to believe? I went to a lot of trouble to bring him along to satsang. It was a Sunday and a lot of people were present. Guru Maharaj Ji blessed him with Holy Breath and told me to initiate him. My friend was against saddhus so he scoffed, 'When he blew into my ear I was surrounded by Light!' We went home and I, in accordance with Maharaj Ji's agya, explained very carefully each technique to him. It was the most thorough initiation I have ever given. Then I asked him, 'Well, what do you think of this?' He answered, 'This is truly Knowledge of God. I never used to understand the scriptures but now I do. That is a sign of true Knowledge. This Knowledge which you have shown me is within everyone. It is God.' He became a saddhu! I also wanted to become a mahatma, but Guru Maharaj Ji didn't agree. He told me, 'Continue living a family life and preach in white clothes.' So, I am doing as he said.
Shri Hans Ji Maharaj received Knowledge in 1922 or '23 and in 1926 he was commanded to initiate others. He devoted his life to meditation and preaching under his Guru's care and guidance. Near his native village in Uttarakhand, in the area known as Tapobhumi, he practised meditation and, severe austerities for several years. Shri Satpal Ji Niaharaj plans to build a memorial, 'Hans Smriti', here.
Maharaj Ji lived the life of a devotee who desires nothing for himself and feels himself lucky if his devotion and love pleases his Master. It is a scriptural principle that a devotee who cannot please his Master will never achieve self-realization, and enlightenment is impossible until he follows the Truth in thought, word and deed.
Once, during Guru Puja at Shakti Nagar, I was busy doing service. Maharaj Ji came out of his room and told me, "Even a little service done sincerely brings, results, but full realization of Knowledge comes only with total dedication." Indeed, he knew the importance of total surrender, having done it himself. He had endless reverence and unshakeable faith in his own Guru. Guru is not a mere human being. He is the Supreme Personality Himself, the Invisible One, whom all the scriptures eulogize.
Shri Maharaj Ji continued, "My faith and love for my Guru increased day by day. I would yearn to see him. Once I had to travel a long way by train to see him. I was talking to some fellow passengers about Knowledge and they made fun of me, but I always had unwavering love and faith in him, because. I had experienced the benefits of his Knowledge."
Maharaj Ji's life was a model of renunciation and austerity. In the early days he used to wear homespun clothes with cloth cap and shoes. Sometimes he would wrap a towel around his head like a turban. Totally absorbed in serving his master, he didn't return home for several years. He obeyed unflinchingly the most difficult commands of his Master. Even though technically a householder, he lived like a monk. He saw his Master manifested everywhere. Once he told us, "I was standing in front of Guru Maharaj Ji. He told me; 'Move backwards.' I did so and he repeated, 'Move backwards.' But I was right against the wall, so how could I move an inch further? Still, I believed that he could make even the wall move, so I moved back."
In those days, he bore all sorts of hardships. He told us, "I would live on nothing more than fried chickpeas for days at a time, but I never once shirked carrying out his \orders."
Shortly before he departed from this world, Shri Swarupanand Ji came to Delhi and stayed at Daryaganj. Some Delhi premies who had been initiated by Shri Hans Ji Maharaj came for the Master's darshan. Bihari Ram and Ho Ram, the first to be initiated by Shri Hans, were among them. Shri Swarupanand Ji stayed in his room and finally most of the premies went home.
Those few who remained, however, had darshan. Shri Swarupanand Ji Maharaj asked them, "Who gave you Knowledge?" Some of them answered, "Shri Hans Ji." The Master said, "Don't go looking for another Guru after I've gone. You follow Hans, because he is in me and I am in him."
Shri Swarupanand Ji relinquished his mortal body in 1936 at Nangli. Various mahatmas contended for his ashrams and proclaimed themselves Guru. A certain Vairaganand, who had supervised the ashrams during the Master's lifetime, gathered the support of some mahatmas and proclaimed himself the successor. They built a shrine to Swami Swarupanand Ji and started worshipping it.
The previous Masters inspire us and should be revered, but just reading their teachings and worshipping a shrine will not kindle the living flame of Knowledge, which they themselves had revealed.
When Shri Maharaj Ji arrived at Nangli, he was shocked by what he saw and, in accordance with his Master's orders, left to spread Knowledge. Some brother disciples urged him to claim what was rightfully his, but he replied, "Does it look good if fellow disciples squabble over spoils like worldly people? Guru Maharaj Ji has given me the eternal, indivisible treasure of the Holy Name, which I will continue to reveal to others, as he told me to do. The more I give it away, the more it grows. Guru-ship is not a business or a throne which can be given to anyone who wants it. This is the Knowledge of perfect self-realization and only he whose mind is perfectly united with the Master's Word, who has completely lost himself in service and whose shell of ego has been totally dissolved, can claim the position of Guru. Only in such a devotee does spirituality blossom perfectly. Just sitting on a throne doesn't make anyone a realized soul.. He may be entitled to accumulate external property, but the inner sovereignty goes to the devotee who is in total unison with his Guru." That is why St. Kabir said,
'Gurus who look towards the throne are impostors.
They have neither dignity nor substance.'
One of Shri Swarupanaudji's mahatmas lived in a tiny ashram near Sagagaon, which is about four miles from Karnal, in Haryana. After the Master's death, this mahatma toured the main ashrams of Nangli, Anandpur Sahab and Chakori Sahab looking for the successor. Then he saw Shri Hans Ji Maharaj in meditation and realized that the power now resided with him, so he started looking for him. He finally tracked him down in Pahari Dhiraj, Delhi and went for darshan. As a mark of his reverence, he crawled the length of Shri Maharaj Ji's street on his stomach. He asked Shri Maharaj Ji to visit his little ashram. He met him at Karnal Station and, seating him in a decorated bullock cart, took him in procession to Sagagaon.
Mahatma Shivdayanandji who has been spreading Knowledge in Haryana for many years says, "In 1938 at Sagagaon a mahatma of Swami Swarupanand initiated me. His name was Atmagyanandji. When he was about to die, he told me that if I wanted to continue on this path I should follow Shri Hans Ji Maharaj, because he had the Master's blessings and authority in full."
Mahatma Ji continues, "Once during satsang at Dehra Dun, Shri Maharaj Ji said, 'Some people, about 200 or so, have tried to bring false charges against me, but my faith in Guru Maharaj Ji is so strong that I know that, if he is on my side, it doesn't matter if the whole world is against me. No harm could come to me." Shri Jagram, Inspector of Police in Haryana, says, "Shri Hans Maharaj was the embodiment of faith and devotion. His reverence for his own Guru manifested itself in everything he did and inspired me to have the same faith and respect for him."