Sri Vishuddhananda Paramhamsa, the enlightened Param-Siddha Yogi, was popularly called Gandha Baba (Gandha in Sanskrit means fragrance) because an all-pervading sweet lotus-like fragrance always used to emanate from his body.
There is a small village by the name of Bandul situated fourteen miles northeast of Burdwan in the state of West Bengal, India near a place called Bhandar-Dihi. There lived, for a very long time, a Chattopadhyaya Brahmin family, well-known for their piety, a religious way of life, and hospitality. Swami Vishuddhanandji (14th March 1853 – 14th July 1937) was born Bolanath Chattopadhaya to Akhil Chandra Chattopadhyay and Rajrajeshswari Chattopadhyay. From its very birth, the baby exhibited extraordinary magnetic attraction for his parents and visitors through his charming features, smile, and grace. He impressed everyone as a soul descended from the higher world. In consideration of his very simple innocent nature, his parents called him Bolanath.
Swami Vishuddhanandji, who lived in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, was a specialist of the Sciences of the Sun, which he learned at Siddha Vigyan Ashram of Siddhashram under the guidance of Swami Nemanandji and other great teachers of that Siddha Vigyan Ashram like Shyamananda Paramhansa, Bhriguram Paramhansa, and Divyanand Paramhansa. After learning from Siddha Vigyan Ashram, he came and set up a scientific center to teach the Sciences of Sun at Varanasi, India, where he taught that any element could be transformed into another element using this advanced science. He taught that nothing gets destroyed, it only changes its state and that the existence of the whole world is based on energy, and that the essence of knowledge is science.
Personal Life: From his very childhood Bolanath gave evidence of uncommon spiritual and moral gifts. He exhibited great strength of character, determination, untiring strength, and fearlessness.
One day, in about 1866 A.D. or so, when Bolanath was about 13 years old, he was coming down the steps from the roof of his house. Accidentally he stepped upon the dog sitting at the foot of the stairs. The dog instantly bit him. It was a mad dog and its poison soon spread throughout the body causing excruciating pain. The pain became intolerable so much so that Bolanath started crying, his body twisting, turning, and smarting. No treatment proved to be of any avail and finally, everybody lost hope of Bolanath’s life. Hindus believe that if one breathes his last on the bank of the pious river Ganga or in its stream, he gets salvation. Accordingly, Bolanath having despaired of his life, one evening started walking towards the bank of the holy river Ganga (Gangaghat) with a view to putting an end to his life there, as his end now seemed certain.
On reaching the bank he saw a Sanyasi taking his bath in the river Ganga. He got out of the water and came to the boy on the bank and placed his hand on the boy’s head. Bolanath felt as if a slab of ice had been placed on his burning head. He experienced great relief, all the unbearable pain vanished and hope of life revived in him once again. Thereafter the Sanyasi pulled out a herb from the shrubs on the bank and gave it to Bholanath to chew and told him that the whole poison of the mad-dog-bite will be now expelled from his body.
Apprehensively, Bolanath expressed his intense desire before his reverent mother, surprisingly his mother gave him permission to go with the Sanyasi. The Sanyasi taught one Yogasana (Yogic posture) to Bolanath and gave him a Bij-mantra. He also told him that he was not his Guru. For the present, he should stay at home, practice the asana and mantra. These will purify his mind and body. In due time, he shall come and take him to his Guru.
Two years passed, One day he heard a story about a strange Sanyasi and this revived his old memory. He longed to go and see the Sanyasi and he obtained his mother’s permission and went to Bandul with his friend Haripada. Sanyasi was no other than the great Siddha Yogi Swami Nemanand Paramahansa of the secret Gyanganj Yogashram in Tibet. It is only through the almighty’s extreme grace and compassion that one out of a million succeeds in their goal of self-realization which these two youths, Bolanath and Haripada, set for themselves that day. Thereupon, Swami Nemanand tied cloth bandages on the eyes each so that they could not see anything. Holding one on either side by each hand, he let them over forested hills and plains by the air route.
They found that it was morning and they had reached a charming celestial place on a plain surrounded on all sides by snow-cover high hill ranges, calm, majestic and peaceful. On inquiry, they were told by Swami Nemanand, “This is the normally inaccessible and secret Yogashram situated in the midst of the mid-Asian highlands, Tibet, known by the name of Gyanganj Yogashram. After a stay of nine to ten days at the Ashram, Bolanath and Haripada were both presented by Swami Nemanand before His Reverent Holiness Shri Mahatapa, for initiation. Shri Mahatapa first transmitted spiritual energy into each one of them by placing his hand on their heads and thereafter gave Bij mantra to each of them. Both of them thus became Guru Bhais of Swami Nemanand, who was an earlier disciple of Mahatapa Maharaj.”
From the age of fourteen, Sri Vishuddhananda Ji spent the next twelve years under rigorous training in ‘Yoga’ and ‘Natural Sciences’ like Surya-Vigyan (Solar Science), Chandra-Vigynan (Lunar Science), Vayu-Vigyan (Science of Wind), Nakshatra-Vigynan (Astral Science), Shabda-Vigyan (Science of Sound) and Kshana-Vigyan (Science of Moment of Time), etc., under the instructions of Swami Bhriguram Paramahansa, Bholanath developed into a perfect Yogi. He spared no pains to learn natural sciences under the guidance of Swami Shyamanand Paramahansa in the very ancient secret Gyanganj Yogashram in Tibet and attained excellence in all of them. Baba (Sri Vishuddhananda Ji) stayed in Gyanganj Ashram for 12 years.
Surya i.e., Sun and Savita mean ‘Source of Creation’, according to Surya-Vignan there are 360 rays of the sun that go to form the whole creation of the Universe. Baba converted cotton wool, flowers, and leaves into stones, wood, etc. by the incidence of appropriate rays of the Sun. He demonstrated practically how minute particles of ingredients of various objects could be dispersed or assembled and destroyed or created through the process of Surya-Vignan. Swami Vishuddhananda Ji had acquired many super-natural powers through the constant practice of Mantra Japa (meditation), Tapasya (penance), and Samadhi (super-consciousness). He used to utilize these Siddhis only for the benefit of mankind. Whenever requested, he used to provide relief to all relatives and others in their bodily and mental sufferings and all kinds of troubles. Many people suffering from chronic and infectious diseases were cured just by a single compassionate look from him or by his willpower.
As per the orders of his Guru Maharshi Mahatapa, Baba adopted the life of a householder. After having lived as a Sanyasi for four years, with all humbleness, he enquired, ”Gurudeva, I hope my marriage will not stand in the way of my progress in the practice of austerity.” The Guru replied, ”No, with my blessings the influence of your Tapas will increase day by day after marriage instead of declining” and this proved to be true. After his marriage, Sri Vishuddhananda Ji pursued his spiritual austerities with even greater vigour and tenacity. He soon attained the stage of Tirth-Swami and during that period he acquired many additional Yogic Siddhis. But during his whole life, he never got immersed in worldliness (materialism) and false attachment. He kept himself mentally detached from all attachment to worldly things.
After marriage, Sri Vishuddhananda Ji went to his in-laws’ place at Manteshwar. There he went to the pond for his daily bath. The pond was overloaded with water weeds. While bathing, he was bitten by a snake on his chest. He immediately came out of the pond, blood was flowing out of the bitten spot. Sri Vishuddhananda Ji entered the Shiva temple at the pond and told his brother-in-law to ensure that nobody entered the temple till such time as he prayed inside it, irrespective of how long he took inside, so nobody disturbs him. The whole day went by, the whole night passed. Only on the second day in the morning, the door of the temple was opened from inside and he emerged. His eyes were blood-red and the whole body was wet with perspiration, but there was no visible sign of snake-bite poison, except the dent of snake fangs on his chest.
Sri Vishuddhananda Ji has two sons and a daughter. The elder son was named Durgadas and the younger son Haridas. In the year 1911, a little after the establishment of the ashram at Bandul, Baba lost his wife and the same year his mother also. And soon after, he lost his son Haridas and his daughter also. The death of a single close relative causes so much mental agony and here Baba had to face the death of wife, mother, son, and daughter, four of them, in quick succession. This could have turned any human being insane, but Baba bore the losses and grief with great fortitude. Taking it all very philosophically as the Will of the Creator, he did not allow his mental equilibrium and tranquility of mind to be disturbed and kept calm and composed. He proved to the hilt, the dictum of the Shastras that ”One who has attained self-realization is no longer affected by the sad happenings and grieves of this world.” Such was Baba’s non-attachment. Baba used to say ”Attachment is the cause of unhappiness and cycle of birth and death. Self-realization through the control of the mind is the only way to Salvation.” His main aim was to wake up his disciples and devotees from the slumber caused by the senses (Indriya), which delude first into thinking that they give real happiness, to find later that the happiness was only transient and unreal. He would sit quietly for hours in the presence of his disciples, giving them time and opportunity for introspection and Nam-Japa. He was very kind, compassionate and generous at heart, and helpful to one and all. He had developed feelings of friendship and happiness instead of jealousy at seeing the prosperity of others, and indifference to sin instead of hate and repulsion. He had overcome his ego completely. He was never after name and fame and did not like making disciples indiscriminately. Baba was a great appreciator of fine qualities and good character in people. He particularly loved children and enjoyed their company. He played with them and showed them little tricks and miracles. He entertained them with jokes and funny stories with morals.
Baba’s main stress was on Kriya-karma. He would say, ‘Karmebhyo Namah‘ i.e., ”Do it! Do it! Keep doing it !” Self-realization is possible only through the constant practice of Yoga-kriya. Through constancy in Kriya, one can change even his destiny.
Physical Body of Baba
As a result of austere practice, Baba did not need to inhale the polluted air from the outside atmosphere. He would rather breathe self-purified air from within his body and that too through his navel and not through the nose as we humans normally do. His body had been highly purified and that is why the air inside his body was pure too. His body always emitted the Padma Gandha (lotus fragrance) continuously. This stage is reached when one attains the ability to confine the movement of his breath through Sushumna Nadi. Thereafter one’s body, breath, and mind all get purified serially one after the other. Baba’s perspiration and feces matter were also full of fragrance, unlike ours. At the time of worship, the whole worship room used to get filled with lotus-fragrance. His body was surcharged with the electromagnetic current of such high intensity that poisonous insects like wasps, hornets, black-bees, mosquitos, etc. would die instantly they bit him. Once a disciple put a question to Baba, ”Baba, is there any difference between a Yogi’s body and that of an ordinary person, Seemingly they look so much alike.” Baba just pushed his hand through a wall which was quite a distance away, by just elongating his arm and his hand was visible on the other side of the wall. Similarly on another occasion, a disciple, after obtaining special permission, was pressing Baba’s legs (Baba would not normally allow anybody to touch his feet or body). Suddenly quite a few ‘Sphatic’, transparent crystal balls oozed out of Baba’s legs. Baba pushed these crystal balls back into his legs through the tiny pores of his body.
Baba used to eat only once a day, at about 10.00 A.M., after the morning Bhog and Arati of the Deities was over. If for any special reason he failed to take his meals by this time, he used to forego his meals altogether for that day. His food usually consisted of rice, Mung, or chana dal, cooked along with raw papaya in it. Amongst vegetables, he particularly preferred Ochcha (very small karela), Zamikand, Kashiphal or Sitaphal, brinjal, Patal or Parwal, and Ninua or Torai. Before partaking his food, his first piece would invariably be a bit of ‘Kumari Prasad’. This might consist of one or two Batashas, one or two pieces of banana, a Rasogulla or cham cham or a bit of Bundi or Khir – any one or two of these picked out of leftover from the Pattal (plate formed of big leaves of trees) of a Kumari after she had finished eating plus a little halwa of Gopalji’s (Sri Krishna) Bhog. Baba considered a ‘Kumari’ to be the true manifestation of this Goddess of Earth, ‘Jagadamba’.
Baba would go to sleep at 9.00 p.m. exactly by the watch and get up at 11.00 p.m. He used to say that sleep during these two hours is most refreshing and sound. It is equal to four hours sleep from 11.00 p.m. to 3.00 a.m. and equal to six to eight hours later during day time. After waking at 11.00 p.m., he would attend the call of nature, brush his teeth, massage oil onto his body, and take a bath. Thereafter from 11.30 p.m. till 3.30 a.m. he would sit on his Asan and perform his Kriya worship. Then he would take yet another half an hour or more to descend from that exalted supersensuous state of trance to the normal human plane when he would be in a mood and like to converse with disciples and devotees.
Baba most frequently taught through actions and self-example what most preceptors tried to teach through words. He could sometimes speak in parables, leaving his devotees to work out the answer.
- He had the peculiar art of giving information to particular individuals in the midst of a group in a way that they alone could understand and not the other members of the group.
- Another peculiarity of Baba was that instead of answering a question directly he would sometimes send the questioner to someone who is found to be reading the same very thing in scripture and thus get an answer to his question.
- Baba was living and operating in other worlds also besides this world in invisible forms.
- Sri Baba had the power to guide the dead as well as those living.
- He belonged to a hidden spiritual hierarchy. He traveled at will in the subtle body and spoke of his travels over great distances of space and time to his disciples at times.
- Even with this body in this earthly life, he was not confined to his physical body. It may truly be said about him that he is alive even now though he took Maha Samadhi in 1937.
- He never spoke untruth and meaningless jargon. Only those who were familiar with his ways could make out the meaning of what he said or did and that too only when it was intended for their understanding.
- He had the most detailed knowledge of distant events and circumstances. Also, whether he directed the actions of some other person, or himself materialized in a distant place to play his part there, he could do so without interrupting his normal activities at his ashrams at Kashi, Burdwan, or Calcutta.
- Baba used to say, ”Having undertaken responsibility for you, I will never allow any of you disciples to escape from me. Only keep the faith and I will do the rest. I will give you what you want if it is to your benefit and wish that you will in due time desire what I want to give you. Wherever you may be, think of me and I will be with you.”
- Baba exerted a tremendous influence over his devotees, causing a remarkable change in their lifestyle for their spiritual progress.