We entered into the ashram and Maharaj was elegantly sitting on his seat.  His seat is made up of a wooden plank and above which there is a thick bed sheet. He wears only a white colour dhoti. He has matted hair and long grown beard. He is slightly on the heavier side and his paunch is predominant. He lives only on fruits and milk.  Some men like him have protruding belly because of their breathing pattern.  He, like Baba and guruji does not wear footwear.  I was told that he takes bath whenever he likes.  There is a hand pump fixed in his back yard and connected to the Ganges at the other end.  After bath, he never dries himself.  In a corner of the hall there is a basket where some fruits are stored.  A man brings cow’s milk daily. He also has a bag like the one we have.  Beyond this, he has nothing at the ashram.  He is almost leading a secluded life.  When you enter his ashram, there is a divine fragrance pervading the entire place.  He does not even light a fragrant stick.  Probably, this is called divine fragrance.

“Did you see your mother?” he asked when we entered.

“Yes Maharaj, but not to my satisfaction” I said. He did not bother to say anything.

The time could be beyond eight in the night or may be even nine.  There is no clock in his ashram.  

“Would you like to sleep or would you like to continue with bandhas?” His questions are always blunt and straight to the point. 

“As you please Maharaj” I whispered.

“You cannot postpone your practice.  Every minute of life is precious and you cannot retrieve the wasted time.  Let us learn now. There is another bandha called uddiyana bandha. Uddiyana means soaring up.  Like other bandhas, this also helps in manipulating the flow of prana upwards from the lower regions towards the head region.  First you have to practice this in standing position.”

I stood up without making him to say anything.

“When you stand erect, you have to keep the area between your pubic area and your navel flat. When you do so, space is created in this area.  Remember that space is created only if the area between pubis and navel is flat.  If there is folding in this area, the space is not created. Spread your legs slightly apart. Now slightly bend the body forward and keep the fingers in the middle of the thighs. Now bend your arms sidewards and knees forward so that you can bend your head forward and comfortably place your chin on your chest. Do not practice this at a stretch and the body will become flexible only over a period of time. Any undue pressure could damage your spine.

“After bending your arms sidewards and your knees forward exhale with speed emptying your lungs thoroughly. Now there should be no air within.  Now pull the abdominal portion towards the spine as done in mula bandha. Remember that while pulling the abdomen towards the spine, you have to simultaneously lift the abdomen up. Straighten all the bends in your back now. Carefully lower your chin without exerting any pressure in the neck area. Remain in this posture for five to ten seconds. Now straighten your body without removing your chin from the chest and without removing the contraction of the abdomen.  Now relax your abdominal muscles and bring them to normal position .  Finally gradually remove your chin from the chest and inhale.

“There are a few points that you should remember here. Your stomach should be totally empty.  You should never overdo this and finally, you should never do this by retaining breath inside. When you progress in this bandha, you can do this in a sitting posture.  The important effect of this bandha is that it pushes your prana to traverse towards the head through citrini. There is one more bandha that you should learn and this we will take it up tomorrow.   You practice mula bandha and uddiyana bandha vigorously early in the morning, tomorrow.  Do not practice on your own.  Whenever you got up, come to me and you have to do these bandhas only in my presence. You should not practice these alone until I give you a go ahead” Maharaj finished his night session.  It appears that there is no difference between day and night for Maharaj and Baba.

I went to sleep.  Till now I did not feel the chillness.  When I lied down, I began to feel the prevalent cold weather.  Dwarf form of cots is being used here to avoid bodily contact with the chilled flooring. Beyond this they do not use any other pullovers and that kind of stuff.  Of course there are many men who wear shirts and thick shawls.  Some of them wear even sweater.  The apparels they use predominantly depend upon their spiritual status.  There are very few who take bath in the Ganges very early in the morning say around 4 O’clock.  Rishikesh is almost active for twenty hours.  Beyond midnight, activities wane away till four in the morning.  Rishikesh sleeps peacefully only for four hours.

I could not get my normal sleep.  Body seems to have gained a lot of energy.  I am not sure whether it is due to topography or due to spiritual practice or the presence of guruji and Maharaj.  I don’t think that I should look for an answer so soon in my spiritual life. For the first time I thought that calendars and clocks are not necessary for spiritual life.  Day and night, hunger and thirst, hot and cold have no meaning in this life.  I realized that I begin to enjoy my spiritual life.  A sort of inexplicable happiness begins to pervade me again.  I began to sleep.

When I woke up, I saw Maharaj returning from his bath. I did not see guruji when I began to sleep.  Probably he could be sleeping somewhere.  Guruji called me once, twice and for the third time.  Hearing the sound I got up.  He asked me to accompany him for bathing in Ganges.  I lifted my wooden plank and took my bag and walked along with guruji to have Ganges bath again.  When the water of Ganges flows across one’s body, he will have the feel of his mother caressing him.  The sun is not ready to rise now.  There are traces of redness in the sky.  Some roadside tea shops are being readied for serving hot tea for the early birds.  We have set a standard practice of bathing first, sit on the banks for sometime, and finally move to some temples before we return to the ashram.  The whole exercise will take about two hours.  We might have left our ashram at four in the morning and probably when we reached the ashram back it might be six.  When we returned, Maharaj was ready to teach the final bandha.

“Practice is very important.  It is called sadhana in Sanskrit.  Without sadhana you cannot progress in spirituality.  Sadhana is like a mother, who nourishes her child in the womb very carefully.  If mother does not care her child, the child is not born healthy.  You are the mother and sadhana is like your child.  Mother cannot directly nourish the child and she has to do it only through nourishing her.  Unless your body is perfect you cannot attain perfection in sadhana.  Sadhana should never be stopped under any circumstances.  You can stop that only if you die. The more you practice, you attain better perfection.  In spirituality, there are two angles of practice.  One is the practice for the body and another is practice for the mind.  Unless both are equally seasoned and on the same level their perfect union cannot be achieved.  Yoga is nothing but the union of body with the mind.

“Let us now learn the third bandha called jalandhara bandha. Sit comfortably by keeping the spine erect.  Lift the sternum (a bone located in the central thoracic area, to which all the ribs are attached). When you lift your sternum your abdominal region will automatically contract.  Now push your head slightly forward and bend your head to touch the chest as done in the previous bandha. You should bring down your chin in exactly vertical position.  You should not apply pressure to the neck muscles.  As you practice, the neck muscles will loosen.  Your chin, your sternum, your navel and your pubic area should be in a straight line. This is not as difficult as the previous ones” completed Maharaj.

He has now asked me to practice all the bandhas one after another.  After couple of hours of practice, he was satisfied with my performance.  For the next one hour he was talking generally with guruji and to me.  He was saying that the time is not good for the world as criminality and sex are constantly increasing.  If the world continues like this, it could perish sooner than later.  Even the sun, tress and the earth are not generating the positive energies that they were producing a few centuries back.  He said that the entire world could perish due to nuclear devastation.  Maharaj was in a happy mood today, in contrast to his seriousness yesterday.  He also discussed about those who make money through spirituality.  He insisted that guru disciple relationship should be direct and one to one.  Guru cannot impart spiritual knowledge to the beginners through his disciples.  He said they are not gurus, but only entrepreneurs. He felt sad that more and more people resort to commercialisation of spirituality and they have to face Divine wrath, mostly in the present birth itself and he quoted several instances where the commercial gurus are punished by God.

“You relax for sometime.  Let us get into our next session in another half an hour” said Maharaj.  I went out of the ashram and looked at the river Ganges.  The very flow of the Ganges energises our system.  Green and blue water with lush mountain ranges around soothes your energy and makes your mind peaceful, calm and composed.  Even if your have too much of mental worries and tension, they will ward off on seeing the flow of water through the Ganges. Water, mountains, greenery, clear sky, sun and moon provide immense energy that can be absorbed by the human system.  Almost close to an hour, I was enjoying the gift of God, the Ganges, when guruji appeared at the entrance of the ashram and called me in.  I am sure Maharaj is now ready for the next session.

Kundalini meditation is one of the finest modes of being one with the Divine.  But it requires a lot of purity of mind and body.  As you know purity of thought is more important than purity of the body.  Kundalini is the store house of feminine cosmic life energy. It is highly potent and is lying dormant in us in our perineum area.  If the energy is activated, you gradually transform yourself towards divinity.  You attain all those qualities of divine one after another.  But, remember, it is like walking on a sharp edged sword.  If you don’t tend your steps carefully, you will be hurt grievously.  Do not think that I am frightening you, but you should understand kundalini in its proper perspective.  There are cases where people have gone insane due to wrong arousal of kundalini.  It could cause both neurological and mental disorders and make you crippled if not taught by the right masters.  A lot of practice is required, say somewhere between six to twelve years to attain complete perfection.  Your perfection is indicated by your capacity to foretell and other occult powers.  When you pursue your occult powers, it signifies that you are moving away from God.  Exercising superhuman powers and occultism do not augur well to reach the spiritual acme.

“Kundalini passes through a tiny canal known as citrini in the centre of the spinal cord.  By the sides of the central canal, there are two tubular vessels on each side called ida and pingala nadis.  Nadi means nerve.  Ida nadi represents the sun and pingala represents the moon.  Ida is connected to your left nostril and pingala is connected to your right nostril.  Body temperature is maintained 98.4 degrees F because we breathe through both the nostrils.  Ida and pingala are not truly nadis.  They are the chains of sympathetic ganglia (ganglia refers to encapsulated neural structures consisting of a collection of cell bodies or neurons) situated parallel to the spine. You practice to make the kundalini ascend only through citrini and not through ida or pingala.  If you allow kundalini to ascend through ida and pingala, then you are in for trouble as sympathetic ganglia are connected to various parts of the body and could make them dysfunctional causing irreversible damage to your body.

“There are six spinal centres known as chakras in the spinal cord.  Either these centres are attached to endocrine glands or there is a cluster of nerves called plexus or the combination of both.  When kundalini energy ascends through citirini, it vibrates the glands and plexus producing subtle yet powerful changes in your body. You should know that subtle is more powerful than gross.  The lowest chakra is at the tip of the spinal cord called coccyx.  From the perineum, kundalini first ascends to coccyx and the chakra here is known as muladhara chakra or the base chakra. The bandhas that are taught to you are highly helpful to activate the kundalini.  Properly performing these bandhas helps in activating the kundalini. They also help in making kundalini to ascend only through citirini and not through ida and pingala.  Bandhas and pranayama should invariably be practiced daily.

“Let us now begin with the base chakra. Muladhara chakra is at the tip of our spinal cord.  This chakra is to be visualised red in colour.   Inertia will be predominant when you associate with this chakra. Your mind will be totally associated with worldly things such as desires, attachments, ego and anger.  This is also called as root chakra and in order to have a deep root in spirituality, you have to strongly develop this chakra. Anything without strong foundation becomes worthless in the long run.  Now let us try to activate the kundalini from the perineum and take it to muladhara chakra.    Sit comfortably, keep your spine erect, bend your head slightly backwards along with your shoulders, and ensure adequate space in your arm pits.  Breathe normally a few times and settle down.  Do fast breathing in quick successions through nose, a few times.  When you do the fast breathing, ensure that your stomach bloats with inhalation and pushed inside with exhalation.  Come back to normal breathing and relax.  Now do mula bandha.  When you contract your sphincter muscles, literally pull the kundalini from the perineum to your coccyx.   Whenever you inhale, by slightly pushing your head backwards, visualise that prana is entering coccyx pushing the kundalini up. Visualization and concentration are very important in kundalini mediation.   Now the kundalini would have ascended from premium to the base chakra or even to the higher chakras.  Do not bother, if it ascends to higher chakras.     Start meditating on your coccyx area visualizing the kundalini energy in deep red colour.  You can ascertain that kundalini has reached your coccyx by placing your fingers in your coccyx and fell the pulsation there. The coccyx area will be warmer than the perineum.  Close your eyes lightly and continue to meditate concentrating on this chakra as deep red in colour.    At one stage, you will be able to see red colour all round.  Once this red colour is distinctly visible to you, be with the red colour.   Then visualise kundalini going back to the perineum.  The pulse at the coccyx will stop once the kundalini moves down to the perineum.  The red colour will fade away and the heat in the coccyx area will move to the perineum area.  Now you have awakened your kundalini and made her to stay in the base chakra for some time, then made her to reach the perineum.  Now slowly get up, relax for some time and carry on with your routine.   You may feel very thirsty and drink as much water as you can.  Ensure that your stomach is empty before proceeding with this meditation.

“Every time you move your kundalini to higher chakras, you have to bring her back to the perineum. You should be able to activate your kundalini whenever you like.  The next higher chakra is svadhisthana chakra or the sacral chakra.  This is also known as the sex chakra. But kundalini cannot be moved easily from the base chakra to the sacral chakra as there is Brahma granthi.  Granthi means blockade or knots and Brahma granthi means the knots created by Brahma, the Lord of creation. There are three granthis, Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra granthis.  These are blockades created by these three Lords who are in charge of creation, sustenance and death. Unless these knots are loosened, kundalini cannot ascend further.  These knots are not meant to test the ability of kundalini.  She is all powerful.  Her power is the independent autonomy of Shiva, which He has transferred to Her in full faith.  These blockades are created by these Lords to test your mental and physical attitude and level of your endurance. If you continuously do these bandhas, these knots will loosen and pave the way for the potent kundalini to ascend to the higher chakras.  Apart from the bandhas, you have to literally visualise the blockades being cleared for the kundalini to ascend.  Kundalini can be effectively moved only by visualization. 

“Once kundalini pierces the Brahma granthi it goes to svadhisthana chakra easily.  Let us now understand svadhisthana chakra. This is situated just above the coccyx.  This chakra is associated with orange colour.  When this chakra is activated, you will feel the pressure above the coccyx.  This chakra is associated with water.  You are now in a stage where you can begin to think of liberation. Now the situation is slightly different from your association with muladhara chakra.  In the base chakra, you are totally attached to the materialistic life. In svadhisthana chakra also, you are still attached to materialistic world, but the only difference is that you are now inclined to think about divinity.  In muladhara chakra, you had no inclination to think about your spirituality.  In this chakra, you develop a tendency to think about spirituality.  The change in your attitude is because of your willingness to understand the evil effects of ego.  Water has the capacity to purify.  You know how the Ganges purifies both our mind and body. Since this chakra is associated with water, you get purified in this chakra.  This chakra is a couple of inches away from the muladhara chakra.  Your level of consciousness increases.  You have commenced your spiritual journey from this chakra.  It is important that you identify the chakras at their appropriate places.  There are three steps involved here. First to know the chakra, second is locate and identify the chakra, and the third is to activate the chakra.

“Some breathing techniques will be of great help in activating the chakras. You inhale slowly and hold the breath at a particular chakra for a few seconds, and then slowly release, the chakra will get activated. Sometimes, your guru will activate each of your chakras by physically touching the chakras. Chakras will be activated through his vibration. Now you activate your kundalini from perineum, take it to the base chakra, break the Brahma granthi, reach the svadhisthana chakra and bring her back to the perineum.” Maharaj instructed. 

I immediately plunged into action.  I am beguiled with this meditation.  I have the ability to concentrate as I have nothing in my mind. My mind is blank always.  My wants are nothing and I have the capacity to adapt to any kind of environment. I got up, had some water.  I did not feel the thirst, but my mouth became dry.

(to be continued)