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The Levitating Saint
"I saw a yogi remain in the air, several feet above the ground,
last night at a group meeting." My friend, Upendra Mohun Chowdhury,
I gave him an
enthusiastic smile. "Perhaps I can guess his name. Was it Bhaduri
Mahasaya, of Upper Circular Road?"
a little crestfallen not to be a news-bearer. My inquisitiveness
about saints was well-known among my friends; they delighted in
setting me on a fresh track.
yogi lives so close to my home that I often visit him." My
words brought keen interest to Upendra's face, and I made a further
have seen him in remarkable feats. He has expertly mastered the
various pranayamas 1 of the ancient eightfold yoga outlined by Patanjali.2 Once Bhaduri Mahasaya performed the Bhastrika Pranayama before
me with such amazing force that it seemed an actual storm had arisen
in the room! Then he extinguished the thundering breath and remained
motionless in a high state of superconsciousness.3 The aura of peace
after the storm was vivid beyond forgetting."
that the saint never leaves his home." Upendra's tone was a
it is true! He has lived indoors for the past twenty years. He slightly
relaxes his self-imposed rule at the times of our holy festivals,
when he goes as far as his front sidewalk! The beggars gather there,
because Saint Bhaduri is known for his tender heart."
does he remain in the air, defying the law of gravitation?"
yogi's body loses its grossness after use of certain pranayamas. Then it will levitate or hop about like a leaping frog. Even saints
who do not practice a formal yoga 4 have been known to levitate during a state of intense devotion to
like to know more of this sage. Do you attend his evening meetings?"
Upendra's eyes were sparkling with curiosity.
go often. I am vastly entertained by the wit in his wisdom. Occasionally
my prolonged laughter mars the solemnity of his gatherings. The
saint is not displeased, but his disciples look daggers!"
On my way home
from school that afternoon, I passed Bhaduri Mahasaya's cloister
and decided on a visit. The yogi was inaccessible to the general
public. A lone disciple, occupying the ground floor, guarded his
master's privacy. The student was something of a martinet; he now
inquired formally if I had an "engagement." His guru put
in an appearance just in time to save me from summary ejection.
come when he will." The sage's eyes twinkled. "My rule
of seclusion is not for my own comfort, but for that of others.
Worldly people do not like the candor which shatters their delusions.
Saints are not only rare but disconcerting. Even in scripture, they
are often found embarrassing!"
I followed Bhaduri
Mahasaya to his austere quarters on the top floor, from which he
seldom stirred. Masters often ignore the panorama of the world's
ado, out of focus till centered in the ages. The
contemporaries of a sage are not alone those of the narrow present.
"Maharishi,5 you are the first yogi I have known who always stays indoors."
his saints sometimes in unexpected soil, lest we think we may reduce
Him to a rule!"
sage locked his vibrant body in the lotus posture. In his seventies,
he displayed no unpleasing signs of age or sedentary life. Stalwart
and straight, he was ideal in every respect. His face was that of
a rishi, as described in the ancient texts. Noble-headed,
abundantly bearded, he always sat firmly upright, his quiet eyes
fixed on Omnipresence.
saint and I entered the meditative state. After an hour, his gentle
voice roused me.
go often into the silence, but have you developed anubhava?"6 He was reminding me to love God more than meditation. "Do not
mistake the technique for the Goal."
offered me some mangoes. With that good-humored wit that I found
so delightful in his grave nature, he remarked, "People in
general are more fond of Jala Yoga (union with food) than
of Dhyana Yoga (union with God)."
His yogic pun
affected me uproariously.
laugh you have!" An affectionate gleam came into his gaze.
His own face was always serious, yet touched with an ecstatic smile.
His large, lotus eyes held a hidden divine laughter.
letters come from far-off America." The sage indicated several
thick envelopes on a table. "I correspond with a few societies
there whose members are interested in yoga. They are discovering
India anew, with a better sense of direction than Columbus! I am
glad to help them. The knowledge of yoga is free to all who will
receive, like the ungarnishable daylight.
"What rishis perceived as essential for human salvation need not be
diluted for the West. Alike in soul though diverse in outer experience,
neither West nor East will flourish if some form of disciplinary
yoga be not practiced."
The saint held
me with his tranquil eyes. I did not realize that his speech was
a veiled prophetic guidance. It is only now, as I write these words,
that I understand the full meaning in the casual intimations he
often gave me that someday I would carry India's teachings to America.
I wish you would write a book on yoga for the benefit of the world."
"I am training
disciples. They and their students will be living volumes, proof
against the natural disintegrations of time and the unnatural interpretations
of the critics." Bhaduri's wit put me into another gale of
I remained alone
with the yogi until his disciples arrived in the evening. Bhaduri
Mahasaya entered one of his inimitable discourses. Like a peaceful
flood, he swept away the mental debris of his listeners, floating
them Godward. His striking parables were expressed in a flawless
Bhaduri expounded various philosophical points connected with the
life of Mirabai, a medieval Rajputani princess who abandoned her
court life to seek the company of sadhus. One great-sannyasi refused
to receive her because she was a woman; her reply brought him humbly
to her feet.
the master," she had said, "that I did not know there
was any Male in the universe save God; are we all not females before
Him?" (A scriptural conception of the Lord as the only Positive
Creative Principle, His creation being naught but a passive maya.)
many ecstatic songs which are still treasured in India; I translate
one of them here:
bathing daily God could be realized
Sooner would I be a whale in the deep;
If by eating roots and fruits He could be known
Gladly would I choose the form of a goat;
If the counting of rosaries uncovered Him
I would say my prayers on mammoth beads;
If bowing before stone images unveiled Him
A flinty mountain I would humbly worship;
If by drinking milk the Lord could be imbibed
Many calves and children would know Him;
If abandoning one's wife would summon God
Would not thousands be eunuchs?
Mirabai knows that to find the Divine One
The only indispensable is Love."
put rupees in Bhaduri's slippers which lay by his side as he sat
in yoga posture. This respectful offering, customary in India, indicates
that the disciple places his material goods at the guru's feet.
Grateful friends are only the Lord in disguise, looking after His
you are wonderful!" A student, taking his leave, gazed ardently
at the patriarchal sage. "You have renounced riches and comforts
to seek God and teach us wisdom!" It was well-known that Bhaduri
Mahasaya had forsaken great family wealth in his early childhood,
when single-mindedly he entered the yogic path.
reversing the case!" The saint's face held a mild rebuke. "I
have left a few paltry rupees, a few petty pleasures, for a cosmic
empire of endless bliss. How then have I denied myself anything?
I know the joy of sharing the treasure. Is that a sacrifice? The
shortsighted worldly folk are verily the real renunciates! They
relinquish an unparalleled divine possession for a poor handful
of earthly toys!"
I chuckled over
this paradoxical view of renunciation --- one which puts the cap of
Croesus on any saintly beggar, whilst transforming all proud millionaires
into unconscious martyrs.
order arranges our future more wisely than any insurance company."
The master's concluding words were the realized creed of his faith.
"The world is full of uneasy believers in an outward security.
Their bitter thoughts are like scars on their foreheads. The One
who gave us air and milk from our first breath knows how to provide
day by day for His devotees."
continued my after-school pilgrimages to the saint's door. With
silent zeal he aided me to attain anubhava. One day he moved
to Ram Mohan Roy Road, away from the neighborhood of my Gurpar Road
home. His loving disciples had built him a new hermitage, known
as "Nagendra Math."7
throws me ahead of my story by a number of years, I will recount
here the last words given to me by Bhaduri Mahasaya. Shortly before
I embarked for the West, I sought him out and humbly knelt for his
to America. Take the dignity of hoary India for your shield. Victory
is written on your brow; the noble distant people will well receive
Methods of controlling life-force through regulation of breath.
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The foremost ancient exponent of yoga.
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French professors were the first in the West to be willing to scientifically
investigate the possibilities of the superconscious mind. Professor
Jules-Bois, member of the L'Ecole de Psychologie of the Sorbonne,
lectured in America in 1928; he told his audiences that French scientists
have accorded recognition to the superconsciousness, "which
is the exact opposite of Freud's subconscious mind and is the faculty
which makes man really man and not just a super-animal." M.
Jules-Bois explained that the awakening of the higher consciousness
"was not to be confused with Coueism or hypnotism. The existence
of a superconscious mind has long been recognized philosophically,
being in reality the Oversoul spoken of by Emerson, but only recently
has it been recognized scientifically." The French scientist
pointed out that from the superconsciousness come inspiration, genius,
moral values. "Belief in this is not mysticism though it recognized
and valued the qualities which mystics preached."
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St. Theresa of Avila and other Christian saints were often observed
in a state of levitation.
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Actual perception of God.
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The saint's full name was Nagendranath Bhaduri. Math means hermitage
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