Story of Bhagavan Nityananda
When Venkat Rao was eight years old and growing up in South India, he used to flock with his friends around a long-limbed ebony-skinned man clad in only a white loincloth.
The dark man gave them chocolates to eat, stretching his hand forth into their forest of eager arms to pour a bunch of sweets into their palms. Again. And again. And again. He had no bag, no pockets, no visible store of sweets on his person. Yet he never seemed to run out of them, as they continuously poured from his hands.
"He wore nothing, yet he used to give us sweets out of his hands," says Venkat Rao today. "At that time I could not explain it; I could explain only the taste of the chocolate, which was delicious."
The dark man was Bhagavan Nityananda. The year was 1924...
In time, Venkat Rao forgot the taste of those sweets. Indeed, as he recalled decades later, he forgot the very taste of sweetness as he went about his daily life. He became in turn a college student, an atheist, and a government officer in the Ministry of Labor when India won her independence.
While thus employed, he used to travel to Mumbai on duty quite often. He was glad of this because it gave him the opportunity to see his eldest brother, Rajgopal Bhat, whom he loved very dearly and held in respect as his teacher, his guru.
But Rajgopal also had a Guru—Bhagavan Nityananda. The year was 1955.
Venkat Rao recalls, "To meet my brother I had to go to Ganeshpuri, because every weekend he would be there—Friday, Saturday, Sunday—and on Monday he would go directly to the office."
Not only Venkat Rao’s brother, but his own wife was also Bhagavan Nityananda's devotee. He recounts, "During the holidays, when the children had vacation, my wife used to come and stay in Ganeshpuri for ten or fifteen days and be with Bade Baba. The children used to play with him. I would come only after vacation was over to take them back to Mumbai."
"I never used to bow before Bhagavan Nityananda then, nor had I any great respect for him, because I felt religion was, as they describe it in Marxist philosophy, the opiate of the people. My own philosophy was that there is nothing more to life; religion is useless; do some social work.
"My brother used to argue with me, of course, but I was not convinced—even though I am a brahmin and was tutored, trained, and well versed in scriptural knowledge by my father."
Then, one evening, all that changed.
Ganeshpuri in 1956 was much the same as it had been in 1942 when Venkat Rao first went there to see his brother. At the time there was only a big lake in front of the old Shiva Temple, along with the Bhimeshwar Temple, a mud-and-wattle hall constructed by Bhagavan himself, and little else in the way of buildings.
That evening Venkat Rao slept with his family in the hall. At least, his family slept; but he, being an inquisitive type, remained awake to spy on Bade Baba through the cracks in the mud-and-wattle door. Bade Baba simply paced up and down, up and down, on the veranda outside.
Venkat Rao recalls what happened next: "It must have been around two o'clock in the morning when I saw two powerful lights, like bulbs, coming from Mandagni, the mountain opposite to the temple. I saw these two powerful lights approaching the hall."
"It was dark, and I strained my eyes, and eventually I could make out some animal coming. It was a leopard. There were leopards around Ganeshpuri at the time, and they came to hunt cattle.
"This leopard came calmly up to Bade Baba, and sat down next to him. Then I saw Bade Baba's hand go out, and he began to stroke its head for a couple of minutes; all the time the leopard sat. And then it went back."
After recovering from the surprise, Venkat Rao composed himself for sleep, believing that nothing more surprising was in store for him that night. How wrong he was. At around three-thirty he woke up.
"I saw Bade Baba standing right in front of me. I noticed every detail of him, and my eyes were drawn to his fingers, which were pointing straight at the ground. I got up because I felt pulled to rise, and I looked into his eyes.
"They were glowing red, very powerfully, full of deep red light. Then, as I stood before him, I heard Bade Baba say, ‘There is God.’
"I don't know what transformation took place—I don't know what happened to me. I simply went and touched his feet. He didn’t allow anyone to touch his feet, but I touched them at that time. That was the end of all my questions, my doubts. You see, in the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna says to Lord Krishna in the last verse, ‘All my doubts are gone. I shall do thy bidding.’ That was how it was with me."
All doubts gone, from that day on love for God blossomed in Venkat Rao’s heart.