BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA
The way Bhagavan Nityananda lived was completely different from the way we do. He was completely removed from people, and he probably didn’t even need them at all. He had a rich relationship with the spirits around him that sustained him on every level. For the most part, he simply had no reason to deal with people and all their tensions, their worries, their jealousies, and their judgments. He was out of touch with all of that. I don’t think that any western person can grasp the intensity of his asceticism and his solitude.
His asceticism was not something that was contrived. It wasn’t like saying, “Oh, I’m going to go out and stop eating all glutinous material,” and it wasn’t like he was trying to live a healthy life. You can’t do what he did and be healthy, exactly. But he didn’t care. He had no interest in the issue of health. It just never dawned on him. He was completely, totally above it all.
We might look at Nityananda and see his asceticism, and we might think we can imitate it and become like him. We’ll just give up something: it might be alcohol, sex, meat. Nityananda wasn’t like that. He just was what he was. He wasn’t trying to be anything other than what he was. In a very real sense, he was doing everything that was natural to him. He was established in a profound spiritual state that completely released him from everything that had anything to do with what ordinary people need. He just didn’t need it.
For years I used to think about what I would have to do to be like Nityananda. I finally came to the place where I decided that to be like him I had to be like me. The only thing I could do was be like me. I would be whoever I am, and that would be enough. I don’t think most people are even remotely capable of living the kind of asceticism Nityananda demonstrated. But I also don’t think we should try. He was completely extraordinary, yet maybe not the only person in India who had that kind of capacity around that time.
Nityananda was an immensely powerful person who, without going anywhere, saw and could see what was going on everywhere. One of the wonderful stories about him happened on the day that Sputnik was launched. The Russians had launched the first satellite to orbit the earth. In Ganeshpuri, there was no radio or newspaper, and no way for anyone to know, but Nityananda came out and sat down in front of his small group of devotees who were there. He started telling them, “Oh, the Russians have just launched a satellite and it’s going to go around the earth, and then the Americans are going to do something in response. Before too long, people are going to be walking around on the moon.” Of course, all of his devotees were incredulous because even the idea of a satellite, a rocket taking off the face of the earth, was beyond them.
This story is just one example of Nityananda’s ability to know anything that was going on anywhere and to express it. He was amazing. Nityananda’s presence removed diseases, removed obstacles, removed affliction and suffering from the lives of those people who kept his company, and he asked nothing for it. He had but one thought in his mind, and that was the total unity of everything. He saw connectedness where most people see diversity and difference. He saw God in everyone, without any kind of judgment or any attempt to make any distinction. He had the big picture firmly in mind at all times. This quality, rather than any practice of asceticism, is what we need to remember about Nityanananda.