On the Siddha Yoga path, we honor the solar punyatithi of Bhagavan Nityananda—or “Bade Baba,” as we call him affectionately—each year on August 8. Truly speaking, Bade Baba’s blessings abound in our lives every day. Yet there is something incredibly auspicious about his punyatithi, the day he chose to shed his mortal body and merge into supreme Consciousness.
This year, 2023, Siddha Yoga students and new seekers have been invited to honor this occasion by participating in “A Day in the Temple” on Saturday, August 5. The event will be held via live video stream from the Bhagavan Nityananda Temple in Shree Muktananda Ashram. It is taking place on Saturday, as this is a convenient time for most people to participate. That being said, you can most certainly honor and observe the day itself, August 8, in your own way.
During “A Day in the Temple,” we will immerse ourselves in Bade Baba’s darshan. We will revel in Bade Baba’s glory. And throughout the twelve-hour period that we’ll be in the Siddha Yoga Universal Hall, we will have the opportunity to engage in these Siddha Yoga practices:
arati—the waving of a flame in worship of one’s chosen deity,
naivedya—the offering of food to the deity,
namasankirtana—chanting the divine name,
In August of 1978, Baba Muktananda was speaking in Bhagavan Nityananda’s Samadhi Shrine in Ganeshpuri, India, and he said that one day the whole world would visit Bade Baba’s Samadhi Shrine—which is to say, the whole world would get to know Bade Baba. Baba’s words foretold all the many satsangs, pujas, and darshans that would take place decades later, via live video stream, from the Bhagavan Nityananda Temple in Shree Muktananda Ashram.
It was, moreover, in the Temple—in the presence of Bade Baba and with a few people present to witness it—that Gurumayi voiced the intention in the year 2010 that would lead to the relaunch of the Siddha Yoga path website. Gurumayi’s intention was that everyone in the world receive her teachings—and that they be able to receive them together, all at once, in a manner that is efficient and does not require people to travel long distances. A year later, right around the time of the 50th, or Golden, Anniversary of Bade Baba’s Punyatithi, the Siddha Yoga path website was relaunched.
“A Day in the Temple in Honor of Bhagavan Nityananda’s Punyatithi” gives people around the world a window into what it was like to come before Bade Baba and receive his darshan as so many legions of seekers from all walks of life did during his lifetime. It evokes the atmosphere of these darshans—their tranquility, their sweetness, and the bhav, or inner posture, of devotion that the seekers held when they made their offerings to Bade Baba and humbly sought his blessings.
People would travel across India to receive Bade Baba’s darshan. In fact, some of my own relatives did so; my grandfather, in particular, journeyed several times from Mumbai to Ganeshpuri to see Bade Baba, to be in the presence of a holy being. Like him, many others came, and sometimes they would have specific wishes and desires that they’d then express to Bade Baba. Often these wishes had to do with their lives in general—their health, finances, family matters. With a serene countenance and unstinting generosity, Bade Baba granted whatever it was they longed for. He gave his prasad in many forms—for example, in leaves that took on healing properties at his touch and miraculously cured the ailments of seekers, and also in sweets, which he gave especially to the many children who were eager to be by his side.
And then there were those seekers who came before Bade Baba with the longing to know God, with the yearning to comprehend Bade Baba’s greatness and to experience their own divine Self. Many scholars came before Bade Baba to gain greater knowledge of the scriptures of India. Many swamis, or monks, came to gain greater spiritual knowledge. Wherever a person was at, that’s where Bade Baba met them. No one ever left empty-handed.
At the same time that Bade Baba gave each person whatever it was they most wanted, he was wholly and completely established within himself. There was an immovable steadiness to his presence, something that anyone who sat with him for even a few moments could perceive. They’d feel that Bade Baba was there just with them, just for them, regardless of how many other people may have also been receiving darshan. It’s a sentiment that rings true today for the generations of seekers who have, for example, visited Bade Baba’s Temple in Shree Muktananda Ashram—in person or virtually—and experienced his presence.
During darshan, Bade Baba would also impart his wisdom. At times he spoke at great length. Other times, his words had an aphoristic quality to them—or, as Baba Muktananda so memorably chronicles in Play of Consciousness, he might simply say “Hunh” in his wonderfully melodic voice. In Bade Baba’s utterances, a seeker could discover everything. And in his silence—the silken silence that seemed to cloak his being and fill whatever space he was in—they found respite from their tribulations and an abiding inner peace. This was a universal experience for everyone who came to Bade Baba, whether they were farmers or businesspeople, householders or monks, tourists or the merely curious. It was the case whether they were cooks, crooks, skeptics, or cynics. All of these people came to Bade Baba, and in his presence, they all changed.
The flow of darshanarthis, of people coming for darshan—those who yearned for a glimpse of this mystical being—was constant. As is the custom in India, these people would bring offerings—whatever they could, according to their means. They would offer dakshina; they’d offer Bade Baba fresh flowers and fruits, grains, clothes. Some would offer their skills: singers composed and sang bhajans and namasankirtanas, dancers performed classical Indian dances, poets recited their poems. Those who were well-off would sponsor large bhandaras, or feasts, to feed everyone who came for Bade Baba’s darshan.
Bade Baba left his physical body on August 8, 1961, yet even now—over six decades later—seekers can and do receive Bade Baba’s darshan. On countless occasions, people have shared with Gurumayi how strong, how visceral and palpable, their experience of Bade Baba has been when they visit his Temple in Shree Muktananda Ashram and Gurudev Siddha Peeth. And they ask Gurumayi, “How can I take Bade Baba home with me?”
In response to this question, Gurumayi has given people many beautiful answers, many different ways that they can invoke the presence of Bade Baba in their heart. Still, people will look at Gurumayi with a sweet and pleading look in their eyes and ask for something even more tangible. Therefore, Gurumayi asked that a small murti of Bade Baba be made available in the Siddha Yoga Bookstore. In this way, they can worship Bade Baba and experience his darshan in their homes.
During “A Day in the Temple” on August 5, we will all have the opportunity to receive Bade Baba’s darshan in his Temple in Shree Muktananda Ashram. I’d like to speak a little more now about what it might look like for you to engage in this practice for an extended period of time.
It’s our good fortune on the Siddha Yoga path to know firsthand how the practice of darshan has profound benefits when we make the effort to get in touch with our own heart and find the presence of the Divine within ourselves.
Let me give you an analogy. Isn’t it true that to reach the summit of a mountain, you must put forth much effort? Yet when you do this—when you climb to that mountaintop and lift your eyes—you find yourself surrounded on all sides by a vista so dazzling, so enthralling and expansive, you’re at a loss for words. Your thoughts go quiet; every cell of your being, it seems, is flooded with awe. You feel that you have arrived in another realm entirely.
Similarly, when you make the conscious effort to go within and get in touch with your own heart, darshan—true darshan—takes place. It’s an experience unlike anything your mind can concoct, unlike anything you’ve seen before. The experience of darshan transports you into the realm of divinity.
I have learned so much over the years from Gurumayi about the significance of darshan, and how, in some very practical ways, we can be attentive and intentional in our practice of darshan. I’d like to share with you now some of the steps I’ve learned to take when practicing darshan:
- First, check in with yourself, whether you have one minute or one hundred minutes to be in the Temple on this day.
- Stand in tadasana (the mountain pose in hatha yoga), with your feet parallel to each other and your arms at your sides, your palms facing your thighs.
- Allow the muscles of your eyes to relax and your gaze to become receptive.
- While you check in with yourself in this way, your attention will undoubtedly be drawn to your breath.
- Bring your breath into an even and steady flow, which will in turn fill you with a sense of ease.
- You may become aware of your worries and anxieties gradually becoming hushed.
- When you find the center of your being, listen—mantra repetition begins to happen naturally.
- Hold this question in your awareness: “Who is watching whom?” The Yoga Vasishtha teaches about the seer and seen becoming one. This is the fruit of darshan.
August: the gift of miracles, the gift of divine initiation. That is how Gauri Maurer described this month on the Siddha Yoga path when she invited everyone to “A Day in the Temple.” As I conclude these recollections of what I’ve heard about darshan in Bade Baba’s lifetime, and of the teachings about darshan that I’ve learned from Gurumayi, I must tell you: my anticipation for “A Day in the Temple” is growing to a crescendo. And I’m sure that I would be one hundred percent right in thinking that you too cannot wait to be in the Siddha Yoga Universal Hall on August 5, 2023.
For an overview of the elements that will be a part of “A Day in the Temple,” click here.