Nityananda, Swami Bhagawan
(c. 1900–1961)
   Shaivite siddha yogi
   Swami Bhagawan Nityananda was an inspiring teacher of siddha yoga MEDITATION, who attracted thousands of followers and disciples.
   The early years of Bhagawan Nityananda are shrouded in mystery of the sort that often charac-terizes the life of a saint from village India. From interviews with people who knew him in his early years, it appears that he was born near the turn of the 20th century in the town of Qualandi in Kerala state, South India, to parents who worked as servants in the house of a lawyer, Ishwara Iyer. His childhood name was Ram.
   Even as a child Ram lived in an exalted state. Swami MUKTANANDA, Nityananda’s successor, wrote of his GURU, “Beyond a shadow of a doubt he was a born SIDDHA [a person who is spiritually perfected]. Even though he was a self-born siddha still he had to have a guru. . . . It is the spiritual law—one has to have a guru.” Nityananda consid-ered his teacher to be Ishwara Iyer, who was not only his patron but also a devout BRAHMIN and a proficient YOGI. It was he who gave Nityananda his name. The story is that after spending a number of years in the HIMALAYAS, Nityananda returned to Qualandi to see Iyer, who was ill and praying for him to return. When Iyer saw the young yogi, he Swami Bhagawan Nityananda (c. 1900–1961), renowned devotee of Lord Shiva and siddha yogi (Kashi Church, Sebastian, Florida) said, “Ah, my Nityananda has come!” From that point forward, he was known by that name, which means “eternal bliss.”
   Nityananda began manifesting miraculous powers while still in his teens, and he was a wandering SADHU (mendicant) before he was 20. There are accounts from Kerala and Karnataka states of the “sky-clad” (naked) yogi who traveled only on foot and ate only what was handed to him. In his presence, people had profound expe-riences of meditation and healing, both physical and spiritual. In the 1920s Nityananda built the Kanhangad Ashram around some jungle caves near the town of Kanhangad in Kerala, which is maintained to this day. By the 1930s, however, he left the region, again on foot. In 1936, Nityananda arrived in Ganeshpuri, the Maharashtrian village that was to be his home for the rest of his life. On the day he arrived, the caretaker of the local SHIVA temple built him a hut, and within a few years that kutir was enlarged to become Vaikuntha Ashram, the very spot where Bhagawan Nityananda’s SAMA-DHI shrine stands today.
   Bhagawan Nityananda is recognized in Ganesh-puri not only for his spiritual power but also for the material help he provided to the local people, who at that time were often living at a subsistence level. He distributed the offerings given to him, providing for the villagers food and clothing and establishing a local school and hospital and the Balbhojan (children’s food) Center, which still functions in Ganeshpuri.
   In the last two decades of his life, thousands of pilgrims traveled to Ganeshpuri for Nityananda’s blessings and the experience of his DARSHAN. Swami Muktananda writes, “In his presence, everyone meditated spontaneously.” Nityananda’s hallmark teaching is “The heart is the hub of all sacred places. Go there and roam.”
   Shortly before Nityananda took mahasamadhi (died) on August 8, 1961, he passed on the guru’s gaddi, the seat of power of his spiritual lineage, to Swami Muktananda, just as, years later, Swami Muktananda would pass it on to his disciple, Gurumayi CHIDVILASANANDA, who has been car-rying forward what is now known as the Siddha Yoga mission since 1982.
   Further reading: Douglas Renfrew Brooks et al., Meditation Revolution: A History and Theology of the Siddha Yoga Lineage (South Fallsburg, N.Y.: Agama Press, 1997); Swami Muktananda, Bhagawan Nity-ananda of Ganeshpuri (South Fallsburg, N.Y.: SYDA Foundation, 1996); Shakti Smriti Interview Collec-tion, Unpublished oral history manuscripts held by Shakti Punja, the SYDA Foundation archives, South Fallsburg, New York.

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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