G L Okloo
Jagadguru Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji was one of the most eminent saints who have ever graced the sacred land of India. Unlike the other saints, he was called Bhagawaan in his lifetime as all the six attributes which that word stands for were seen in him. He was a Jeevan-mukta, having attained mukti or liberation while still in the gross body, to which he was not attached in the least. His spiritual state was what the Shaivites call Shambhavi avasthaa (the state of Shiva Himself) and the Vendantins, Brahrnisthiti (the state of ever dwelling in Brahman, or God without a form). With his spiritual power, he did a lot of good to spiritual aspirants, house holders and the country. He brought many sinners round to the path of virtue. Though utterly detached, he showed much concern for the country and its people in his later life. Now, according to S N Fotedar, his biographer and one of his senior disciples, He also exercises a beneficent influence on the modern age and its concepts.
Gopinath, one of the several brothers and sisters, was born in a middleclass Kashmiri Pandit family at Bana mohalla, Srinagar, Kashmir on 3rd July, 1898. His mother-Shrimati Haara Maali, passed away when he was only twelve, and his father, Pandit Naraayan Joo Bhan, when he (Bhagawaan Ji) was in his late twenties.
Gopinath, was educated only up to the Middle Standard, but had absorbed well whatever he had been taught at school. He would, very rarely, though utter beautiful English sentences even in later life, when he remained absorbed in the Self most of the time. He was also conversant with Sanskrit, Persian, Hindi and Urdu.
When Gopinath was only ten, Pandit Narayan Joo Bhan relinquished the possession of his residential house, along with most other belongings, to his stepmother. The family continued to live in Srinagar, but had to shift residence from place to place. Thus, Bhagawaan Ji lived in eleven different houses including his ancestral house. These included the house of a niece of his at Chondapora where he gave up the mortal frame on 28th May, 1968.
The family being in dire financial straits, Gopinath was asked to take up some work, so, at the young age of fifteen or sixteen, he started working at a local printing press as a compositor. However, he gave up that job after about three years. In his twenties, he ran a grocer’s shop, where he seemed to be generally absent minded, being absorbed in meditation. The family pressed him to marry, hoping that marriage would bind him to the world, and so he would be a permanent financial support, but he was adamant in his refusal.
As a young man, Gopinath stood out for his bravery, fearlessness and hatred of dishonesty. Another notable feature of his youth was his longing to visit the great saints of that time. The ones he visited included Swami Baalak Kaw, popularly known as Baal Ji, Swami Jeewan Saheb and Swami Zana Kak Tufchi.
Gopinath remained a celibate all his life. He regarded lust as the greatest obstacle to Self- realisation. Here is an incident worth mentioning in this connection. Some friends once forced the young Gopinath to visit a courtesan along with themselves. At the very sight of her, he felt such revulsion that he called her a witch. Reprimanding her in very harsh language, he advised her to live a virtuous life. However, thinking that poverty must have forced her to take to a sinful life, he, in his characteristically compassionate manner, threw a rupee-coin towards her before leaving her room.
His hatred of lust was noticed throughout his later life as well. Once, among the many visitors, there was a woman sitting before him. At the very sight of her, he started beating her with his long iron tongs, and chased her away. Returning to his seat, he told the others that the unchaste woman had visited two friends that morning, and then had come to him steeped in Sin.
He felt happy whenever a celibate came to see him though he never asked a householder disciple or devotee to give up his wife and children in pursuit of Self-realisation.
Bhagawaan Ji was above all considerations of caste, creed and nationality. From 1947 onwards, people of all creeds would go to see him and he would shower his love and compassion equally on all. Once he said, in answer to a devotee’s question, Is a Hindu one and a Muslim another?”
Bhagawaan Ji started with the spiritual discipline known as Panchaanga upaasanaa, that is, meditating on the five deities: Ganesha, Surya, Naaraayana, Shiva and Shakti. Later, his ideal was the Divine Mother Shaarikaa, whose vision he had, for the first time, at the age of twenty seven. Gradually, he shifted to nirguna upaasanaa, that is, meditating on the Supreme Reality without a form. His interest in worldly affairs, including domestic matters, dwindled till, in the early thirties, he took to intense saadhanaa (spiritual discipline) shutting himself up in a room, which no one, except mostly a niece of his, was to enter. An earthenware lamp was kept burning there all the twenty-four hours. He did not allow even the room to be swept. His concentration was so intense and he grew so unaware of his body that a rat nibbled a hole in a heal of his. It is not possible to say what type of spiritual discipline it was; but it caused his body to swell and, sometimes, made him vomit blood. During this seven-year period of saadhanaa, he would take no food for long periods extending even to six months. Sometimes, after breaking a long-fast, however, he would take
food in very large quantities. He came out of this terrible ordeal having attained the full realisation of the Supreme Reality. In his later years, Bhagawaanji took to another type of spiritual practice. He would emit vibrations from some parts of his body, e.g., the knees and the intestines, and through his chillum smoking. The vibrations seem to have been in tune with (to us, mysterious) cosmic vibrations. According to Sh. S. N. Fotedar, Bhagawaan Ji regarded this (emitting and receiving vibrations) as a very superior and direct method of Self- realisation though it involved much taxing effort and many tribulations. Bhagawaan Ji kept a dhooni (sacred fire) burning before him and offered oblations into it off and on. He continued with this practice even while he stayed at some holy shrines in, or outside, Srinagar.
Ekam Sat vipraah bahudhaa vadanti (The Reality is one but the wise call It variously), so says the Rig Veda. The paths leading to It are also various. Having realised the Reality, Bhagawaan Ji respected all these paths. It would be wrong to categorize him as a Saivite, a Shaakta, a Vaishnava, a Vedaantin, and so on, as the characteristics of all these were found in him. He uttered : ‘Aum namah Shivaaya’ at the time of giving up the gross body, and yet a copy of the Bhagavadgita (a vedantic text, which also he regarded as a guru) used to be always by his side. Calling Aum the throat of the Godhead, he: once said that nothing was possible without it in the spiritual field. It is known that he put two of his prominent disciples on the path of the upaasanaa of Naaraayana with a form. Ultimately, however, he would shift his disciples from the upaasanna of God with a form to that of God without a form.
Having attained the highest spiritual state, Bhagawaanji, as already stated, would remain absorbed in the Self most of the time. But he could easily come down to our level of consciousness to answer questions, or, to give permission to someone to leave. Immediately thereafter, he would rise to his own state. He talked little and that, too, in such low whispers as to be almost inaudible. Generally, he did not initiate a disciple directly by word of mouth. He did so by a mere glance, by giving him a little bhasma or prashaad, or by allowing him to have a puff at his chillum. With a mere touch of his iron tongs, he shifted a senior disciple from meditating on Naaraayana with a form to meditating on Him without a form. What exactly was Bhagawaanji’s spiritual state? A pointer in this direction is that a devotee of the Divine Mother Raajnaa had a vision of Bhagawaan Ji seated before Her at the Kshirbhawaani Shrine at village Tulamulla, Kashmir. The devotee was a great saint and would have visions of the Divine Mother off and on. Our question is, however, clinched if we consider what Bhagawaan Ji himself said when an aachaarya from outside the State wanted to know from a devotee in his (Bhagawaan Ji’s) room at what stage of spiritual evolution Bhagawaanji was. While the devotee wondered what to say, Bhagawaanji recited the sixth verse of the Fifteenth Chapter of the Bhagavadgita, which, translated into English, reads: “The Sun does not illumine it, nor the moon, nor fire. That is my supreme abode, reaching which one does not return” (to this world of birth and rebirth).
An introvert, Bhagawaan Ji was not interested in publicity but, being at the same time an ocean of compassion, he removed the misery or the doubts of a large number of people, and helped the country several times when she was in great need of help. The consequent happenings were miracles though he never performed miracles to impress anyone. A very, brief account of a few of them is given below.
Bhagawaan Ji helped a devotee to realise the concept of time relative to man and Lord Brahmaa. (The devotee had some reservations about this). He enabled the devotee to live three life-cycles in only some earthly hours! And in each cycle he reached a mature old age. Bhagawaan Ji helped two devotees separately to have a darshana (vision) of the Divine Mother of the Universe in the form of two girl children.
Jagadguru Bhagawaan Gopinathji of Kashmir is venerated today as one of the most eminent saints of India. In recognition of His spiritual stature as an extra-ordinary saint, the Govt. of India issued a commemorative postal stamp on Him in 1998 – His birth centenary year. His spiritual message of universal brotherhood has by now spread far and wide, which is appropriate for a person who, even though physically located at a. house in Srinagar, was believed to be at once everywhere in the world – one among the Jagad Gurus. Today, many spiritual centres linked with His name have come up worldwide, there is one such centre in Australia and the saint is also venerated in some places in the US. Bhagawaan Gopinsthji Day was observed in New Jersey, USA on Saturday, 26th July, 1997. The then mayor of the City, Mr. Bret Schundler, proclaimed July 26, 1997 as Jagad Guru Bheguvesn Gopinathji Day during his birth centenary year. His year long birth. Centenary celebration (1997-1998) was truly speaking a global phenomenon in which hisdevotees remained deeply involved throughout the period. The celebration was marked by a host of memorable events and programmes globally.
After Bhagawaan Ji had given up the gross body, his main disciples and devotees set up at Kharyar, Srinagar, an Ashram which was named after him. Some of his relics were enshrined there. These included a pheran he had worn, a few of the cbillums he had smoked and the iron sighri, into which he offered oblations at his last residence at Chondapora, Srinagar. In 1973, a marble statue of his was installed at the Srinagar Ashram. A Trust, known as the Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji Trust was set up to look after the Ashram and its activities. An evening aarti (song service) to Bhagawaan Ji was a regular activity at the Ashram.
After the ‘migration’ of the Kashmir Pandits from the Kashmir Valley, another ashram was set up in Jammu at Udaiwala Road, Bohri. Another marble statue of Bhagawaan Ji’s has been installed in a spacious hall in which a large number of devotees offer aarti every evening. Their number is much larger than that at the Srinagar ashram and, sometimes, the large congregation spills over to the lawn. All the previous activities of the Srinagar ashram also have been resumed in full. The number of the devotees attending the Ashram on the Mahaayajna and the Mahaajayanti days is far larger than that at Srinagar, and continues to swell with the passage of every year.
(The author is Publicity Secretary Bhagawaan Gopinathji Trust)