The Nature of the Absolute
“This is Shiva-Shakti, the creative power of the indivisible One. And God’s creative power is the Self, the One reality.” (Sutra 63)
The Absolute, the ultimate reality, the highest of all—this is pure consciousness. This pure dynamic consciousness is the basis and source of all manifestation, large and small. Many names have been given to this “ground of all”: Shiva, Parashakti, Parabrahma, Atman, the Self, God. It is the divine consciousness in all, the one consciousness. This ocean of pure potentiality has two inseparable aspects: pure potential (Shiva) and pure energy (Shakti). Shakti is the supreme creative aspect of the Absolute, vital and dynamic. It is both completely stable and never still, the eternally pulsating sound and power of om; the creative energy of Life, omkar.
Within the sea of pure consciousness, this resonance causes movement, waves, and ripples that intersect and mingle, rise and break. All manifestation arises from the movement and interaction of forces precipitated by the resonance that is Omkar. Omkar is the original word (paravac), the universal sound (shabda), the “Word” in the Gospel of St. John (“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” John 6:I). In the Rig Veda, one of the most ancient of Indian holy texts, Omkar is vac, creator and substance of all. Omkar is pulsating everywhere, always at the same time. It is form-less, completely open, pure potential.
“Om vibrates like a storm in the sky. Having neither beginning nor end, it is the stage manager of the Divine Drama. The human body is a string of Om, all that is—inside us, outside us—is born of Om.” (Sutra 95)
Omkar—Shakti—is the very nature of the Absolute, or God. It is a living energy whose vibration gives rise to the whole universe. Synonymous with the om sound and pranava (its resonance), Omkar is the all-pervasive universal mantra. This one dynamic impulse reverberates within itself, giving rise to all experience—intellectual, volitional, emotional and spiritual. Omkar is also called sat-chit-ananda, Being-Consciousness-Bliss. The Absolute simply is—an eternally stable, self-luminous, conscious force continuously and joyously manifesting its own awareness. Satchitananda.
“The universe arises from sound. As so all things with form, from sound, form arises.”(Sutra 92)
Exactly how this vibrant, self-aware, ever-pulsating ocean of pure consciousness manifests as our familiar material world is the subject of much scholarly debate. In general, all schema trace a hierarchical development beginning with the single Absolute that manifests in increasingly differentiated levels. Nityananda likewise sees the material world as the most differentiated and gross level. Because each successive level is contained within its more subtle predecessor, however, all things share certain basic elements that are the first and most subtle differentiations from the Absolute.
“When the life-energy moves in an outward direction, desires are born. There the mind follows, dividing and subdividing into the two-, four-, and six-fold properties of unconscious cosmic Nature and what we call “the world” comes into being.” (Sutra 70)
Nityananda spoke primarily of two sets of such elements. In the first are the five categories of earth, water, fire, air, and ether. In the second set are the three primary gunas or constituent elements of cosmic Nature (prakriti: sattva, rajas and tamas). Sattva is pure light and perfect balance. Tamas, at the other end of the spectrum, embodies inertia, darkness and total density. Between the two lies Rajas—passion, fire, dynamic activity.
“All principles have a single root—the One Absolute, Parabrahma.” (Sutra 5)
Omkar is the essence of them all; the “power of doership” of the Absolute, the essence of life, of words and objects, of human beings. Omkar is the heart of Atman, and Atman is central to the mystery of our essential nature—because Atman is the Self. In the sutras, a distinction is made between the individual Self (jivatman) and the divine Self (paramatman), a distinction that is only on the surface. The distinction is Maya. This does not mean that the world is an illusion. (After all, the power underlying everything is real power.) Rather, Maya implies that nothing outside and nothing inside is as it appears. Individual selves are not really separate. Instead they are like waves on the ocean’s surface, each different but still water—only water. Likewise, any extension of the supreme Self is not different from the supreme Self. Jivatman is supreme conscious energy expressed as an individuated person, Paramatman is the Absolute, and they are both really the same thing. When Nityananda speaks of merging the Jivatman into the Paramatman, he is simply referring to the merging of ocean waves into water. Atman merging into Atman.
The Nature of the Individual
“Sound arises in the inner sky of pure consciousness, the heart-space in the head, the sky of the heart. What manifests is Life-Power, the One.” (Sutra 37)
Each individual reflects the structure of the universe. Whatever Divine Consciousness manifests in the universe, individuated consciousness manifests in the form of the human body. Nityananda used the words Omkar or Shakti when discussing the vitality of the Absolute. As this energy moves out from the source, it becomes distinct but not separate from the source. And as the essence of the individual Jivatman, it is called kundalini.
“Similarly, the life-force—Shakti, kundalini—is the same in all creatures, mobile and immobile. The sun and the moon also are the same life-force.” (Sutra 11)
Kundalini is the all-encompassing energy of Life Itself. In the individual human being, this single dynamic event manifests on three levels: biological, subtle or psychic, and purely spiritual. The energy of our biological existence is prana-kundalini. The energy that supports the intellectual and emotional manifestation of our being is chitta-kundalini, the mind. The third aspect, para-kundalini, is the condensed manifestation of pure consciousness; it is the same as Shakti, the same as Omkar. These aspects relate to different stages or states of consciousness. While they each manifest differently, their essence is the same paramatman. Awareness of this essence is liberation.
“Awaken the kundalini-shakti through the breath; for when it is roused, liberation is possible.” (Sutra 20)
Prana-kundalini, or simply prana, is the driving force of our psycho-physical mechanism. It is the breath within the breath, the “breath of life.” Not the same as physical breath, prana is more accurately called the link between the mental and the physical. Thus, mind (manas) plays an important role in the unfoldment and expansion of the inner vision—because mind and breath are intimately related. The thoughts and feelings that arise and subside in the mind do so on the movement of this subtle breath of life. The practice of pranayama uses the mind to control prana while simultaneously using prana to control the mind. The aim of this practice is to bring the flow of subtle energy into the awareness and control of the individual.
“The three primary channels through which conscious creative energy circulates in the subtle body are the ida, the pingala, and the sushumna. Sushumna is the seat of kundalini.” (Sutra 85)
This flow of energy takes place within a structure that is sometimes called the subtle body, with prana corresponding to the subtle breath. In the sutras, Nityananda speaks of the three primary nerves or nadis: the ida, the pingala, and the sushumna. They serve as channels in the subtle body for the flow of conscious energy and are arranged like the familiar medical symbol of the caduceus: a straight central (sushumna) flanked by two side channels (ida and pingala) that crisscross over the center like a loose braid. At each crossover point are centers called chakras, illustrated in the diagram.
“The subtle is in the chakras. In the subtle channels is the kundalini shakti—together they are Om. Realize and know the subtle.” (Sutra 47)
A chakra is a point in time and space where various flows of energy interact and create a resonance that is uniquely different from the resonance of the individual energies that originally combined to make it. From these centers of vibration a human being’s mental, emotional and physical characteristics are determined and expressed.
“Just as seven chakras begin with the muladhara at the base of the spine…” (Sutra 118)
There are seven major chakras, each corresponding to an area in the physical body: the base of the spine, the base of the sex organs, the navel, the heart, the throat, a point between the eyebrows, and the top of the head. Kundalini energy is said to lie dormant in the muladhara, the chakra at the base of the spine; the nadis also originate in the muladhara. In addition to the muladhara, Nityananda specifically refers to the ajna chakra between the eyebrows and the sahasra chakra at the top of the head. The goal of yogic practice is to rouse the sleeping kundalini, allowing it to rise through the nadis and chakras, finally to merge with the Absolute in the sahasra chakra.
“The seat of such discrimination is in the sky of the heart. When the kundalini rises to this place in the head, then the breath is single and the universe is in one’s Self. All is in the Self…” (Sutra 42)
The sahasra chakra at the top of the head is the seat of Self-realization. It is the junction point between the individual and the Divine, that point in a human being wherein lies the dynamic stillness that is the union of Shiva and Shakti. It is the only part of the psychobiological mechanism that is still, just as the hub of a wheel is still while the spokes and rim move around it. It is the place from which all of the spiritual forces that make up a human being are extended, the place the breath comes from, the place the chakras come from, the place the physical body comes from.
“The Self is there before you and it is there after you; even before you were born, there was creation. Only you are unaware.” (Sutra 6)
A human being, then is really an extension of a spiritual force. The dormant kundalini represents the furthest extension of that energy. As long as it is crystallized in this extension, the person is a limited being and sees things in terms of distinction. When, through shaktipat (the transmission of energy from a teacher), the kundalini begins to rise, this crystallization is loosened up. As the energy begins to flow again, it is reabsorbed into itself as the Divine.
“When the individual spirit leads the inner Shiva-Shakti upward to the Brahmarandhra at the top of the head, the individual becomes one with the Indivisible. This is liberation, indivisible liberation.” (Sutra 16)
“Creation is nothing but energy released or projected from God. Entering back into it is dissolution. Identifying with the body is the cause of creation—as one sees it. Real dissolution takes place when the individual Self merges and dissolves in the Universal.” (Sutra 25)
For Nityananda, the sahasra chakra is synonymous with the Brahmarandhra, the point of dynamic stillness that equals the union of Shiva and Shakti. When the individual creative energy, in the form of kundalini, is re-awakened and merged into that point through the various yogic practices, the individual consciousness dissolves into universal consciousness. What manifests then is a complete state known as the divine inner Self. This is the state of universal consciousness and awareness of the Self as the source of the whole universe. Chidakasha and hridayakasha refer to the awareness that arises in the state of divine consciousness. In that state we experience the inner as vast, maybe more vast than the whole external universe. Hridayakasha means “heart-space”: the heart referred to is the essence or the heart of the whole universe. Chidakasha is consciousness-space, the sky of consciousness, or “the sky of the heart.” The heart-space in the head, the sky of the heart, the Brahmarandhra—these all refer to the same experience of infinite expansiveness.
“The source of liberation is Shiva. The linga in the head is Shiva. It is all Om.” (Sutra 13)
This Brahmarandhra is also referred to in Nityananda’s sutras as the linga in the head, which is the symbol of Shiva. In Indian temples, the linga is a stone or metal object said to have a masculine quality, to be completely passive, and to contain the whole universe within itself. It arose as a symbol of Shiva because the linga in the head is the abode of Shiva—the source of all that is.
The Process of Liberation
Within a human being there is a vast reservoir of spiritual knowledge and pure capability, yet this great treasure is rarely tapped. Our involvement in the world and our entanglement in the struggle for survival limit our awareness to desires and their objects. Like a kaleidoscope, these desires are continuously changing form; the subtle images of shape and color never allow us to really grasp what we think we are seeing. Unless we recognize the kaleidoscope for the illusion it is, much unhappiness and frustration can result.
“Return to the Self within and know your own secret! The universe is inside you and you are inside the universe. The inner Self is the One dancing in all…” (Sutra 65)
The primary paradox of unity and diversity recurs at every level. While the process of liberation appears hierarchical at first glance, the orderly image of a ladder of ever-higher levels breaks down on close scrutiny. The process is really more like drawing a series of ever-expanding concentric circles. Jiva (the individual) is in the center and the Absolute is in the outermost circle as well as the paper on which it lies and the pen with which it is drawn. This is a paradox that cannot be neatly resolved through language. Only by continuous and deep contemplation can the nature of this paradox be penetrated and encompassed. What follows is called liberation.
“Sound arises in the inner sky of pure consciousness, the heart-space in the head, the sky of the heart. What manifests is Life-Power, the One.” (Sutra 37)
Nityananda addressed this paradox indirectly through the image of the heart-space in the head, the chidakash, the sky of the heart. This verbal image brings together what is “above” and what is “below” with intuitive clarity; in the sky of consciousness, there is no duality and no paradox. The question then is how to reach this center. Nityananda directs the seeker to “the royal road.”
“A true guru can turn you from the jungle road of ignorance to the royal road of spiritual knowledge.” (Sutra 102)
“But without the Guru, you cannot reach the goal.” (Sutra 9)
The paradox is repeated in the form of the guru, because the guru has two aspects. Nityananda called these the primary (or action) guru and the secondary (or causal) guru. On the one hand, there is the physical teacher. This is a personality to be dealt with and talked to, a person who performs actions that have an effect in the world, a person viewed by some with admiration and by others with disgust; in other words, someone viewed by ordinary people as the same or less than they are. On the other hand, for the few people who are able to, or care to, look deeply into the situation, what is really there is not a personality but an extraordinary field of spiritual energy from which they can draw energy for their innermost being. With this nourishment, they can attain complete maturity in the supreme state of pure consciousness.
“The secondary guru leads you to the well—the primary guru drinks from it.” (Sutra 104)
The physical aspect of the guru, the secondary teacher, serves as a doorway. Through our diligence, love and devotion, we pass through this doorway of the physical teacher into the level of consciousness that Nityananda calls the action guru. The action guru is the same as Parabrahma, Paramashiva, or chidakasha. At this level, we express the infinite spaciousness, extraordinary power, and creative intelligence that are characteristics of the essential state of unity from which all experience takes its form.
“Liberation does not come searching for you. You must make the effort to seek it.” (Sutra 117)
The effort required if you sincerely seek God is to see through the form, to pass beyond the personality, the individuality, and the eccentricity of the teacher, and in so doing to transcend your own personality and limitations.
“Draw the breath up to the Brahmarandhra at the top of the head. Kindle the fire, purify the subtle channels, burn up the impurities. This is the yoga-fire of deliberation…The pure energy of the Supreme.” (Sutra 28)
The power inherent in the presence of the guru energizes every level of a human being. The transmission of this power is shaktipat, the transmission or descent of grace. Shaktipat brings about a quantum leap in awareness that puts us in contact with the innate freedom and spontaneous creative power that is eternally and everywhere present as the source of all. It awakens the deepest potentiality within us, and the kundalini shakti begins its extraordinary unfoldment. As this unfoldment continues, the entire structure of the human being is refined and purified. When subjected to fire, iron is free of its gross crystallization and impurities and reorganized as the finer, stronger metal of steel. The human being also, through contact with the forge of the guru, becomes purified by the inner fire of kundalini and is established in the supreme state of awareness. Seeing past the form of the physical teacher brings awareness of the power that is functioning as and through the teacher. And stilling the mind in the flow of that power is liberation.
“First silence the mind and establish it in the Self, then concentrate deeply with spiritual discernment.” (Sutra 179)
When the various waves of creative energy that form the mind are stilled and become like the surface of a calm lake, our awareness can penetrate our own depth and recognize the complete oneness of our individual Self and the Divine. Deep contact or connection with a guru enables us to feel so deeply secure and calm that we can begin to turn within and observe the working of our inner universe without the doubts, fears and tensions that continuously draw the mind of the ordinary person back into the realm of dualistic awareness.
“Mind is the root of bondage and liberation, of good and evil, of sin and holiness.” (Sutra 71)
The mind is both the entity to be stilled and the means of stilling it, for the nature of the mind is complex. Nityananda used many different terms to distinguish its facets. The major distinction is between manas and buddhi. Manas is the ordinary limited mind and buddhi is the higher mind, the one capable of subtle discrimination and spiritual discernment. In some classical Indian systems, the word chitta denotes the whole mental apparatus composed of three parts: manas (the perceiving mind), buddhi (the discriminating mind) and ego (“I-consciousness”). Nityananda used “body-idea” and “body-consciousness” synonymously with “I-consciousness.” Although simple thoughts, feelings and desires arise in the mind, the mind is also capable of realizing jnana and truth. Jnana is the highest wisdom, the wisdom of the jnani, one who has realized the Self. Here again is a paradox, for the wisest person has transcended the mind and its desires. “A jnani has no mind,” says Nityananda.
“Without a pure mind, how can you develop equal vision? Without practice, how can you develop balance? Through practice, the subtle intelligence develops and the desire for objects disappears.” (Sutra 141)
As our understanding expands and we begin to see beyond the “body-idea” and beyond the limits of ordinary mind, a sense of detachment also grows. Detachment, desirelessness, and perfect dispassion for worldliness (what Nityananda called vairagya) are necessary requirements for the seeker. The Sanskrit word sannyasi means “renunciate”, literally “one who has cast away.” However, renunciation is a subtle concept. It is not objects we must renounce, but our desire for objects; not actions, but our attachment to the results of those actions. True renunciation is not of things but of the desire for things. Vairagya is the attitude leading to a state of understanding in which the true nature of objects is known. Consequently, these objects no longer have any power over a person.
“No need to strive for anything. When the mind chases desires, one must strive to attain one-pointedness. Concentrate the mind in the higher mind…” (Sutra 80)
Meditation is an integral part of sadhana. Nityananda spoke of meditation as a focused concentration, the merging of mind into wisdom, the look within. The goal is bringing the mind to perfect one-pointedness; achieving this goal tests all the faculties of the seeker. The mind must be stilled and drawn away from desire; the breath must be harmonious and ultimately become single; the awareness must reach inside to come in touch with and observe the action of the kundalini shakti.
“Like milk being boiled, the vital breath in the sushumna channel is heated by intense faith and discrimination and led toward the sahasra chakra, the still point at the top of the head. As the kundalini power crosses each subtle energy center, properties of the energy that evolves as the world change.” (Sutra 21)
Then, as a natural result of the awakening of the inner transforming power, the kundalini shakti rises through the chakras to join and merge into the heart-space, the Brahmarandhra. The love and happiness that then arise within us dissolve all the various tensions and superficial desires and satisfy our deepest needs. With a full heart, the mind can become still and one-pointed on the power of the Divine Presence. This is the merging of the individual into the universal and transcendent that Nityananda consistently called the most important purpose of our presence on this earth. To merge heart to heart and spirit to spirit with the guru in the field of supreme Shiva-Shakti frees a human being from all mechanistic thinking and from the bonds of cause and effect. This is the union of the individual and the Divine.
“Fulfillment is only possible when you merge with this pure heart. There all idea of “you” and “I” disappears. In the sky of the heart is liberation, love and devotion.” (Sutra 40)
Liberation is the clear, luminous recognition that our mind, emotions and physical body are nothing more than extensions of the supreme Mantra of God that pulsates silently everywhere and always at once. Everywhere we look, inside and outside, we experience nothing but the extraordinary clarity, beauty and power of the supreme Self. It is eternally pulsating, creating, absorbing, and manifesting yet again—ourselves, the world, all that is. This is simply the fundamental expression of its absolute freedom to do whatever it wants, an expression of its supreme freedom and its incredible joy. Satchitananda!
In all places and in every age, there are many good people who seek spirituality, who have spiritual understanding, and who have some positive concerns for humanity. Yet in any age there are only a few people, rare and great beings indeed, who can communicate the highest transcendent state of consciousness to other human beings and who dwell in that state while still functioning in this world as ordinary—and possibly eccentric—human beings.
Nityananda was such a rare and gifted being. And because he spoke from a state of complete Self-awareness, his spiritual presence flows through his words. By becoming aware of the ongoing pulsation and remaining aware of it every day, the mind itself becomes a mantra. Whatever is spoken in that state is sacred, pure and uplifting. In that state, the sounds that come and the way they are articulated and joined to form images is something mysterious and magical, a manifestation of the freedom of our innate, pure consciousness. Nityananda’s words came from that state. They inspire us to open our minds and hearts to the extraordinary creative energy that permeates our lives, and to experience, recognize and appreciate the miracles that happen to us.
Details about Nityananda’s birth are relatively unknown. According to his disciples, Nityananda was found as an abandoned infant in Tuneri village, Kozhikode, India by a lady named Uniamma Nair, who was married to Chathu Nair. The Nair couple adopted this child and took care of him along with their own five children. Nityananda was named as Raman by his foster parents. The Nair couple were farmers,who also took care of the farms owned by a wealthy lawyer named Ishwar Iyer, who greatly trusted them. Nityananda’s foster father died when he was three and his foster mother when he was six. Before dying she handed over her responsibility of Nityananda to Ishwar Iyer. Even in childhood, Nityananda seemed to be in an unusually advanced spiritual state, which gave rise to the belief that he was born enlightened. He was eventually given the name Nityananda, which means, “always in bliss”.Before the age of twenty, Nityananda became a wandering yogi, spending time on yogic studies and practices in the Himalayas and other places. By 1920, he was back in southern India.
A life size statue of Bhagawan Nityananda at Bunt Bhavan,Mumbai India
Settled in southern India, Nityananda gained a reputation for creating miracles and wonderful cures. He started building an ashram near Kanhangad, Kerala state. The local police thought he must be producing counterfeit money to pay for the building, so Nityananda took them to a crocodile-infested pool in the jungle. He dived in and then produced handfuls of money, which was apparently enough to satisfy the police. The beautiful hill temple and Ashram in Kanhangad are now pilgrim centres. The Guru Van, a forest in the hills nearby where Bhagawan sat on penance, is now a pilgrim retreatBy 1923, Nityananda had wandered to the Tansa Valley in Maharashtra state. There, his reputation as a miracle worker attracted people from as far away as Mumbai, though he never took credit for any miracles. He said, “Everything that happens, happens automatically by the will of God.” Nityananda gave a great deal of help to the local adivasis, who were despised by the population at large. Nityananda set up a school, as well as providing food and clothing for them.
As a guru, Nityananda gave relatively little by way of verbal teachings. Starting in the early 1920s, his devotees in Mangalore would sit with him in the evenings. Most of the time he was silent, though occasionally he would give teachings. A devotee named Tulsiamma wrote down some of his teachings and his answers to her specific queries. Later, these notes were compiled and published in the Kannada language and came to be known as the Chidaksha Geeta.
Some believe that Nityananda had the power to transmit spiritual energy (shaktipat) to people through non-verbal means. He could also be extremely fiery and intimidating in his behaviour, even to the point of throwing rocks on occasion. This was his way of deterring people who were not serious in their spiritual aspirations, or who came to him with ulterior motives.
In 1936, he went to the Shiva temple in the village of Ganeshpuri and asked if he could stay there. The family that looked after the temple agreed and built a hut for him. As his visitors and followers increased, the hut expanded and became an ashram. To the people around him, he was an avadhuta: one who is absorbed in the transcendental state.
Nityananda died on August 8, 1961. His samadhi is located in Ganeshpuri at the Samadhi Mandir. There is also a shrine dedicated him in the Gurudev Siddha Peeth ashram at Ganeshpuri. His ashram, tourist hostel, and other buildings associated with his life in Ganeshpuri are preserved by the Shree Bhimeshwar Sadguru Nityanand Sanstha Ganeshpuri. This trust is also responsible for his samadhi shrine in Ganeshpuri, which is a pilgrimage site.
A trust at Kanhangad looks after the Ashram and temples located there. The trust also runs a few educational institutions and a dharmasala.