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R. C. Nanda

People who know Swamiji understand the importance he placed on the gift of blessed food, annadanam.  Outside the Adivarapupeta and Bangalore ashrams, and perhaps the annual pada puja that Vittal Tambre began, the largest annual bandhara (the Hindi word for mass feeding) in honor of Shivabalayogi is held in Jhansi on Swamiji’s birthday.  There is no ashram in Jhansi.  Mr. Nanda began the annual event and to this day the Jhansi devotees work to make it happen.

Mr. Nanda is a staunch devotee of Hanuman from childhood.  “I am a devotee of Hanuman and staunch believer and used to do devotion for about four to five hours a day.  And I had hundreds of experiences, not one.  Miracles I’ve seen, me and my wife.  Hundreds, not one or two.”

When he was in sixth grade, he was walking home from school in the afternoon, turned the corner near his house, and saw a light.  It was the size of a light bulb, with a tail.  It came down about four inches from his feet, then shot up into the sky.  He told his parents but nobody believed him.  But years later, when Swamiji came to his house in Jhansi, he asked Swamiji about it.  Swamiji said, “If it would have touched you, you would have got yoga.”  Swamiji explained that when he got yoga, samadhi, the light touched him.  “If that light would have touched you, you would have got yoga.”

Shivabalayogi, Jhansi, 1986

Shivabalayogi in Jhansi, 1986

Nanda Family

The Nanda family, Sheena, Vinodh,
Mr. Nanda & Atul.

When Mr. Nanda was working in Jhansi, in 1981, he got into so much debt that the interest alone more than his salary.  He was depressed, figuring the only way out was to win a lottery.  And he wanted a guru, a special guru.  He couldn’t understand why he was having so many problems.  He prayed to Hanumanji, “You are my guru now.  You guide me or you give me a special guru.”

That was when he first heard about meditation.  He was told to sit still and concentrate between the eyes.  He started doing it regularly.  Then he began to feel that somebody was coming and guiding him.  Somebody, some astral body, was there.  He would sit for meditation in one posture, and when he opened his eyes he found himself in a different posture.  He was being taught meditation in this manner.

When we spoke with Mr. Nanda in 1996, he said, “Now I feel it was Swamiji who was coming in an astral body and guiding me, without meeting or seeing each other, without accepting a guru or anything.”

Around that time also, in 1981, Mr. Nanda heard from a friend about Shivabalayogi visiting Agra.  Nanda did not even have fifteen rupees for a bus ticket, so he gave his friend a letter to deliver to Swamiji. “I wrote two lines for Swamiji.  Without meeting him, without knowing him, I just wrote a few lines to him.  ‘I am worshipping Lord Hanuman and I am having these troubles and some other devotees are saying that this Hanuman doesn’t suit you.  Switch over to somebody else.  Which I said is not possible for me.’  Like this I wrote to him.  ‘I am having a lot of worldly sufferings and problems in my life.’ ”

The friend returned with a little vibhuti (blessed ash), a photograph of Swamiji, and a small book of Swamiji’s life history.  Because Nanda was such a staunch believer in Lord Hanuman, he took what Swamiji had sent him and put it on his altar, before his picture of Hanuman.  “I said you guide me whether I should use it or not.  Then I got an internal OK.  So I took that vibhuti and I started using it.  I kept the photograph of Swamiji beside the photo of my Lord Hanuman.”

Within a month or so, Nanda and his wife Vinodh realized there was a change in their house.  Gradually their finances improved a little.  And they had an urge to meet Shivabalayogi.

Down to his last thousand rupees, Mr. Nanda used five hundred to travel to Dehradun and see Swamiji.  “I went to ashram and bhajans were going on.  He was sitting in the front.  Trance was on.  So I just sat there in the bhajans.  After bhajans people started asking Swamiji and I went.  I couldn’t explain, actually, I was so enthusiastic.  I couldn’t speak.  He said ‘Keep quiet. Go and sit. You come at the last.’

“When I saw Him, I thought this is a dream, something very spectacular.  I felt the first time I saw him that I met such a powerful guru, a god.  ‘There is no problem now.’  There was that definite feeling that I had reached the feet of such a powerful guru.”

He told Swamiji that he was the Nanda who sent the letter to Agra.  Swamiji told him, “I will lead you to Hanuman.  Don’t worry.  I’ll lead you to Lord Hanuman.”  Swamiji assured him that his worldly troubles were over.  “Don’t worry.  Things will gradually go down.  After you took vibhuti, was there some improvement?”  Nanda replied that there had been some improvement, which is why he was able to travel to Dehradun.  “See, now things are improving.  Everything will improve.”

During that first visit to Dehradun, Nanda received Swamiji’s initiation through Seenu.  Swamiji was in other room.  “I had something in my mind.  Why not Swamiji?  Why Swamiji should not give me diksha (initiation)?  This I was insisting again and again in my mind only.”

He returned to Jhansi.  Then early one morning, while he was sleeping on his cot, he felt the touch of two fingers on his forehead, between his eyebrows.  “I could feel the touch of two fingers.  Naturally, if somebody was initiating you, you close your eyes.  My eyes were closed. I could feel clearly I was being initiated.  A thumb was on my bhrikuti (third eye).  I closed my eyes, and then I went back to sleep.”

Preparing bandhara, Swamiji's birthday, Jhansi

Jhansi, day before Swamiji's birthday, 1998.  Devotees preparing food for bandhara (mass feeding)

Jhansi, invoking Swamij

Jhansi, Swamiji's birthday function, 1998.  Mr. Nanda invoking Swamiji's presence before the bhajans.

Jhansi, bhajans Swamiji's birthday

Jhansi bhajans, January 24, 1998.

Jhansi, 1998

After the function.

That morning, he took his bath and then sat for meditation.  “The idea came from inside, ‘You wanted initiation from me.  You got it.’  Immediately I remembered,  ‘Yes. I got it.’ ”

Quite a bit of time passed since Nanda met Swamiji.  Things were getting better gradually, but not enough that he could afford another trip to see Swamiji.  But he wanted Swamiji’s darshan.  Early one morning, he was awakened and opened his eyes.  He saw Swamiji in a lotus posture floating in a corner of the room.  Nanda wanted to jump up and touch Swamiji’s feet, but Swamiji raised up his hand as if to say, “Stay where you are.  He had his darshan for about a minute, then went back to sleep.

Again in morning meditation, Nanda got the internal message, “You wanted darshan. You had darshan.”

“I saw it with my open eyes.  Dream is different.  Dream is absolutely different.  It was not a dream.  I was awakened.  You can make out that you are awakened internally.  I remember that I was awakened.  I opened my eyes and saw.”

Vinodh Nanda started getting bhava, but her husband wasn’t.  Then once during the weekly kirtan in Jhansi, he got trance.

“I still feel that something — actually, I feel head is heavy.  Before trance.  Particular feeling.  I can’t explain it.  That time I was also feeling some bliss.  I started getting bliss, enjoyment of bliss, enormous bliss, beautiful.  Sometimes I used to feel I am in heaven.  I can’t explain it.  I enjoy it so much.  Wonderful thing.  Different each time.”

“I get guided also internally from Swamiji.  That is again internal.  Any problems, questions get.  Swamiji is not there.  Only way that you keep quiet and you keep your mind controlled, calm, as you do in meditation.  Thoughtless.  Once you become thoughtless, ideas will come.  I have some problem, some solution I require.  What should I do now?  He will give you idea to solve your problem.  Sometimes very clear instructions I get internally.  I can’t explain.”

I asked Nanda why he thought these instructions came from Swamiji and not his own thoughts.  He instantly replied, “If my own thoughts I would have thought it earlier.”

When he meditates, Nanda often feels Swamiji’s presence in different ways, as if Swamiji is standing nearby.  Sometimes he hears something, or senses someone moving.  Sometimes he smells the unique fragrance of Swamiji’s body.  It gets hot in Jhansi and Nanda would have a fan on in his meditation room.  Sometimes Swamiji would pass between the fan and Nanda.

“This happens quite often.  Sometimes you listen something.  You can make out that somebody is moving.  Somebody setting something here and there in the room where I am sitting.  One can make out.  If somebody stands before the fan, you can make out that somebody is standing there.  If he moves out, you again come to know that somebody has gone.”

“That is a very common thing.  Because if you have any problem, any trouble.  It gives the presence of Swamiji, the smell gives the presence of Swamiji.  Wherever you are.  Even on the road, if I have some problems sometimes, I think of Swamiji, I get the smell. A particular smell of ashram.”

Jhansi devotees have had weekly bhajans since 1981.  They began alternating at different devotees’ homes, providing prashad (blessed food) afterwards.  It so happened that it was the Nandas’ turn on the occasion of Swamiji’s birthday, January 24, 1982.  They provided bandhara and some fifty people came.

Nanda enjoyed doing the program so much that it became an annual event.  “First bhandara of 24th of January was done at my house.  Only fifty people.  Next year hundred, then two hundred, then five hundred, then thousand, two thousand, then five thousand.  Now it is the biggest function we do in Jhansi.  I prepare two months before.  I do it because I enjoy.  Any program of Swamiji I enjoy like anything.”

Mr. Nanda invited Swamiji to come to Jhansi in 1986, and again in 1988.  On both occasions, Nanda arranged for public programs and accommodations.  In 1987, Nanda and his wife Vinodh went to Dehradun where Swamiji called us inside his room.  He instructed them very clearly, “These bhajans you have started should not stop in any case.  Even if nobody comes, both of you should do it, bhajans.  But you should not miss even a single time.”

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