As a boy, whenever I used to see a Sadhu (wandering monk) on the streets or in the temples I used to feel a deep hollow in my heart and numbness, a sense of “nothingness” so to say, followed with a burst of happiness and excitement. The remembrance of it now is very strong, but the little boy could not figure out these emotional bursts at that time. It used to leave me confused but happy deep within nevertheless.
Prasad at the Samadhi of Matsyendranath
Since the childhood there has been a desire to be alone, in some way or other finding my own space. The spiritual inspirations and stimulants were around me all the time. Sometimes I realized them, other times on recent reflections lot of it makes sense, how subtly these stimulants worked on my soul and mind. As I grew up and could handle myself maturely, this bird found his wings. I started taking breaks and investing my time to visit places mostly pilgrimage sites to be on my own and explore, within and externally.
In the last 6 years I have associated a lot with the wandering monks. The inner Sadhu does exist and is vibrant. My primary association has been with the Natha sect. The presiding deity of the Nathas has always been around in the house. The picture of the beautiful Guru Dattareya was in the home temple, always looking at me with a smile. Every evening when we siblings used to chant and pray with our mother, Dattatreya was watching over me. My eyes were only for him, his four dogs and his cow were a source of love for me, especially the cow, and her eyes looked so caring and full of Love. The majestic Dattatreya in the photo frame was a grand figure, I identified with Him more than the other “Gods” in the Alter. He was always there for me. I remember many instances when I used to go to the alter and have a heart to heart chat with Him mostly when I didn’t fare well in my exams, and He was there, His eyes saw me, His heart heard my fears.
My Natha Bhais (brothers) have taught me a lot and I have no words to express my gratitude, it can only be attributed to the grace of Dattatreya. The life with the Jogis is hard, it took me sometime to get used to it, but really it was simple, like my own second nature. Over the years, whenever I could, I wandered, I met, I visited, I watched, on foot, by boat with any mode of transport I could, in jungles and dilapidated structures in obscure corners of India, thousands of feet above the land in the Himalayas, on banks of rivers in central and western India. I moved with my heart, my soul knew no bounds as I was led by the spirit of the Sadhu, with the fire on my head as they say. The joy of smearing ash on the forehead as if Lord Shiva had himself manifested, the song of the “Gerua” (roughly translated as earth colored) that keeps the Fire alive. The feeling of coming “Home” whilst around the Dhuni and the sparkle of subtle recognition and acknowledgement of another “Natha ka baccha” (son of the natha) is hard for me to explain in words. In fact at this point I don’t even know if I can convey a quarter of the things that I wanted to when I thought of writing this note. But I will try my best all willfully under the grace of Datta.
My experiences in Ujjain connected me much more with the Nathas. I was wandering and living near the Samadhi of Matsyendranath (who is regarded as the founder of Hatha Yoga School). Communications happen here at a very subtle level, when the intellect comes in, it turns back without any success there is nothing to reason here.
I was happily accepted here and was allowed to stay as much as I wanted. I was told it was the “Big Boss ki marzi” (Wish of Matsyendranath, who the Yogi lovingly called Big Boss). So true indeed, He is the big boss of the Yogis, where would we be without Him? My days here, passed doing japa, reading and studying traditional Natha texts, sharing experiences with the Bhaktas, praying and watching in wonderment the thousands of parrots and squirrels that clamor on the trees surrounding the Samadhi, what life force and Life truly throbbing in this ambience.
I could not believe when I was asked to tend to the Dhuni of Matsyendranath himself and to sleep next to it in the night. “Dhuni” is a sacred site for the nathas, it is a fire pit used by the wandering sadhus to keep them warm at the physical level. But the real symbolic meaning of Dhuni is in its representation of spiritual fire, the fire that keeps the journey from the physical to spiritual alive. My Love knew no bounds, I was over whelmed and couldn’t believe myself, it is THE sanctum sanctorum for the nathas. All this again and again ascribed to the grace of Datta himself.
All across my wanderings and lodges with the Nathas, contrary to their “scary” “blood shot” appearances I have sensed only their innocence and their devotion. Their practices may be esoteric with which they may not part so easily but their devotion is infectious. The Trust and openness once a Natha “sees” you is very uniting. Their world view is very different as opposed to how they really are, may be it’s their will? The way of the Nathas is of dissolving the metaphysical duality by accepting unconditionally the identity of mundane opposites – good and bad , death and life , dirty and clean , heat and cold and acting it out to sense the Union underneath with devotion and action.
The clan is now reducing starkly; sadhus are reducing in numbers on account of various reasons. In many ways than one saints have come in my life in many forms to guide me, sometimes I heed their call, sometimes this ignorant fool doesn’t understand how to, but again all my success and sin at the feet of Lord Datta.
To be continued…