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Thippana with Swamiji

R. Thippana (on the right) with Swamiji
at the Anantapur ashram, 1970’s.

R. Thippana

Sri R. Thippana was one of the early hosts of Shivabalayogi in Anantapur, going back to 1963.  He helped establish the ashram there, and he traveled with Swamiji to Dehradun in 1971, and again in Sri Lanka in 1981 where he kept a journal that he shared with me.  He was well known for leading bhajans with great enthusiasm and devotion.

After Swamiji entered mahasamadhi, Sri Thippana (the “h” is almost silent) established a Shivabalayogi ashram in Ratnagiri, a hamlet near Rolla, about four hours by car north of Bangalore on the border between the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.  Sri R. Thippana passed away in 2011.

Thippana started participating in bhajans from the age of five.  Early on he became a devotee of Shirdi Sai Baba, having visions and always remaining close to that great yogi.  When saints visited Anantapur, Thipanna used to invite them to his home.

Some time in 1963, Thipanna found out about Shivabalayogi in Bangalore through a newspaper article.  With some friends, he went to see Swamiji at the Bannerghatta Road ashram in the evening.  One of their group, after he ridiculed the people he saw in bhava samadhi, immediately got trance and danced in that state until ten o’clock that night.

Thippana often had occasion to visit Bangalore because of his government position, and he always visited Swamiji’s ashram. On one occasion, Swamiji smiled at him.  Thippana told us that was when he felt toppled.  He totally surrendered to Swamiji because of that one smile.  “Swamiji, will you come to my town, to Anantapur?”  Swamiji said, “Yes.”

On one of Swamiji’s visits to Anantapur, Thippana organized a ten-day meditation program at the Sai Baba college.  On one of those days, he was sitting with Swamiji after the program.  He started doing the meditation in front of Swamiji.  Thippana saw Shirdi Sai Baba come and sit in front of him.  He told us that he saw Shirdi Sai Baba present in front of him in his physical body.  That gave Thippana so much bliss that his body started shaking and he started sweating profusely.  There was so much happiness that he couldn’t bear it.  He suddenly opened his eyes, jumped up to Swamiji and grabbed his feet.  Swamiji just smiled at him.

Thippana asked Swamiji about the vision and Swamiji told him that there is no difference between Shirdi Sai Baba and Shivabalayogi.  They are the same.

In 1971, Swamiji asked Thippana to visit him in Dehradun.  Thippana got permission for a 3-day leave from work.  He was gone for almost three weeks.

Swamiji organized a bus for devotees to visit Badrinath and Kedarnath, pilgrimage places high in the Himalayas.  Swamiji stayed in Dehradun, but he appointed Thippana to be the group leader (as Thippana told us, the “small swami”).  Swamiji assured them he would be with the group.

When they reached Badrinath, Thippana got the group to start singing bhajans.  Many people gathered to listen and they offered all kinds of provisions, whatever they needed.  They requested the group to stay for a week, but of course, they had to go.

From Badrinath they proceeded to Kedarnath.  On the way they picked up an old man.  He looked very much like Swamiji.  They proceeded up a steep road.  The radiator overheated, lost its water, and the bus got a flat tire.  They got out of the bus, very afraid and very hungry.  They didn’t know what to do.  Thippana just started doing bhajans again.

They were in the middle of a forest.  Thipanna had no idea where people came from, but all kinds of people came to help.  Somebody brought milk.  Somebody brought fruit.  Somebody brought flour and somebody vegetables.  Something or the other came and food was cooked there for them.  They had their food, the driver fixed the bus, and they continued towards Kedarnath.

Somewhere in Kedarnath, that old man who had climbed into the bus disappeared.  They don’t know when he left the group.  By that time, everyone in the group was sick except Thippana.  Everybody was shivering terribly from the cold.  (Kedarnath is over eleven thousand feet elevation.)  He didn’t know what to do, but as soon as they got into their room, he started doing bhajans again.  All those who were shivering and trembling started dancing.  Within ten minutes everybody was fine.

After they returned to Dehradun, Swamiji asked Thippana, “What were you all doing in that room?  I came to watch and you were all sitting there and then I went away.”

Then Thippanna asked, “Swamiji, who was that old man who came into the bus?”  Swamiji just smiled and kept quiet.

Ratnagiri, June 1996

Visiting Ratnagiri (“Jewel Mountain”) in June of 1996.
Shri Thippana is wearing an orange-colored wrap around his waist.

Thippana was interested in learning about homeopathy.  When Swamiji was sick, Thippana wanted to give him some medicines.  Swamiji would keep putting him off, saying, “Okay, the time will come when I will take the homeopathic medicine.”

One night he was sitting with Swamiji on the stairs at the Bangalore ashram.  Swamiji just patted him on the shoulder and said, “You talked about the medicine that you wanted to give me?  That medicine, give it to all the devotees.  That is your work.  You start it now.”  Swamiji also told him to give vibhuti, teach yoga asanas, and give Swamiji’s initiation.  He should give annadanam (mass feeding) after first offering the food to the gods.  That was his job.

Thippana tried to do this in Anantapur without success.  So after he retired, he moved to Ratnagiri.  He introduced many people in the area to Shivabalayogi and he had earned their respect.  There were no doctors or clinics anywhere close, so when people brought their sick family members to him, he gave them some homeopathic medicine.  Thippana freely admitted that most of the time he had no idea what medicine to give.  “I don’t know how I treat them.  I just think of Swamiji, pray to Swamiji, and then I give them something, either medicine or vibhuti or something.  Whatever I feel like I just give it to them.  Then they get cured.”

Thippana organized some bhajans at the Ratnagiri ashram one full moon night.  People came but he was feeling very tired that day.  He sat inside the building while the bhajans were going on outside.  He was just thinking of Swamiji.  All of a sudden he saw a light emanating out of Swamiji’s body, the photograph on the altar.  With a gesture of his hand he waived the light outside.

The light went outside into the group that was doing the bhajans.  It was about eleven o’clock in the night.  From that time until six-thirty in the morning, they kept doing bhajans at such a pace that all the cymbals were broken.  Thippana told us they lost consciousness.  They were not themselves when they were doing the bhajans.

In the morning they asked him, “If you had this power, why did you not do it all these days?  If you could do this to us, you could have done it earlier.  But you didn’t.  Why?”

“You got devotion.  Your devotion is building up and you have now reached that level.”

Swamiji used the expression “line of devotion” (bhakti) to refer to the purpose of his mission.  He would say, “You can win over anything with devotion.  If God can be won over by devotion, rest assured that anything can be won by devotion.”

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