Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath (1892-1982)
Basket of Tolerance “Great Tradition” Series
SRI SITARAMDAS OMKARNATH (1892-1982)
A Unique Perspective on Yoga
Sri Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath is a renowned yogi-saint of Bengal, India. Swami Chidananda, President, Divine Life Society, Rishikesh, declared him a “Naam Avatar”. He achieved very high spiritual realization at the tender age of six. As a youth, on the command of His Guru, Sri Dashrathi Dev, He assumed householder-ship.
He began spiritual practices anew, despite already having reached a pinnacle of experience in his spiritual life. Over a long life spanning ninety years, he met many saints from the various faiths and religions of India, a country that is a melting pot of religions from all parts of the world.
Among these saints were the revered Dalai Lama, Anandmayi Ma, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Swami Chidananda, Sushilkumar Jain, Daya Ma, and various Sufi saints including Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan. He won admiration from, and deep veneration of, one and all. He spread his religion-less Divine message in every nook and corner of India.
Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath attracted every type of devotee. Most of his devotees belonged to the Hindu fold, but there were many from Muslim, Christian, Jain and Buddhist faiths as well. Many of his devotees hailed from foreign countries too. The Indian intellectual class was struck at the breadth and depth of Sitaram’s knowledge, his literary abilities and his spiritual attainments, despite such a simple upbringing.
Many of his writings are quite in the revelatory class of spiritual literature like the Vedas and Upanishads. He was also able to reach the less literate and intellectual as well. Everyone knew that in his presence it was possible to realize God. The abstruse was dispensable. The simplest practices had the demonstrable power of bringing about the highest spiritual realizations. The ritualistic-minded found his simple practices liberating.
Sitaramdas attracted devotees in lakhs. Thousands gathered wherever he went. Though leading a life of near-poverty, he gathered and disbursed huge sums of money and food in charity. He expounded and promoted the tenets of the ancient Vedanta and Sanatana Dharma in his writings. In his works, the significance of various practices of Hindu Dharma is explained inunequivocal terms.
There is an all-inclusiveness and comprehensiveness about his philosophy, which is very reassuring. He explains in unequivocal terms, that for persons having evolved to different degrees, different approaches to spirituality may be called for depending o their “stage” of realization. Sitaram himself is known for having revived interest in the chanting of the names of God, Naama-Japa. He came to be known widely as the ‘Naam Avatar’ (Incarnation of the Name of God or personification of Naam).
In his life, Omkarnath attempted to map in minute detail the entire terrain of his own spiritual realization. He made great effort to explain his own experiences in detail, which always inspired his devotees. The practice of Naam-Japa is actually ancient, but it has often historically been linked to the cult of Bhakti. He taught that Naam-Japa can lead on into the “deep yoga” where one has access to Jyoti (Divine Light) and Nada (Divine Sound Om) , which he called the “essence of all yoga”.
Omkarnath always stated that this was a blissful but arduous course of yoga, and was never meant for the modern masses because it calls for true renunciation, including sexual continence, right diet and a daily commitment to long hours of meditation and silence.
One also needs an able adept or guide who has probed the depths of authentic realization. All these are scarce these days, not even valued or sought after. To adopt the Naam practice truly is to rise to the Divine sphere of yoga, he said, for it invites the descent of true Nada and true Jyoti that characterize “deep yoga”.
He often declared that these two experiences, Jyoti and Nada, were common to all human beings, all types of bodies or minds, all sects or denominations. Whatever one’s creed or degree of preparation, if you are on the way to the Supreme Reality, one is bound to experience Nada and Jyoti.
“Seekers of every shade and complexion meet at this crossing of the roads: this is a point where all roads must meet, and then they diverge, each following its course, until they meet finally again on fulfillment. This last point of convergence, this confluence is marked by realization of the descent of Divine Light (Jyoti) and the resounding Divine Sound in the head (Om). “
On this Master’s analysis, or rather his mapping of the various spiritual streams, it follows that diversity of spiritual approach is an admitted and inescapable fact; because aptitudes and temperaments greatly vary, approaches have got to be various and a leveling down of all difference into one drab and rigid monotony is neither desirable nor practicable.
What is sauce for the goose cannot be sauce for the gander; the fox and the crane cannot feed from the same vessel. So diversities are and should be there. But a unity emerges out of all diversities: the goal is one and the same for all, and the Rome that all roads lead to is Divine Light and Sound.
Omkarnath on his “Deep-Yoga”:
“Apart from this final meeting- point, there are three more points where they meet: the first is the starting-point, namely the Naam; the next is the crossing of the roads at Nada and Jyoti, and the thrird is the deep Yoga of Light. All irrespective of creed and ideology can chant the Naam or and say it silently: to start with Naam is an ideal course in spiritual life. It is a simple way for which all are eligible, because it encourages unbroken concentration even to those who otherwise seem completely incapable of it.
“And it is also possible for those who subscribe to a different ideology to adopt the Naam as an adjunct to their own cult, for the Naam is a short cut to Jyoti and Nada, which constitute the passport to the more advanced “deep yoga”.
“This stage forms a common platform for all seekers, and when this stage has been reached, the paths bifurcate again, the Hatha Yogi concentrating on Jyoti, the Laya Yogi on Nada, the Raja Yogi aspiring after Nirvana, the Bhakta yearning for the vision of God, the Jnani undertaking vichara or analysis of the Supreme in the form: Neti Neti, Not this, Not this, A-savdam, A-sparsam, Not-sound, Not –touch, Only-Light and so on.”
That different seekers present different grade of eligibility is a fact. But it is equally a fact that this basic inequality is hard for even spiritual aspirants to exactly own these days. No one “wants” their ego to die. To deserve and then desire Realization may be beginning wisdom, but to be actually Realized is not at all easy, particularly in our own dark times.
Even the unprepared billions have their own world-views and aspirations, and because they have yet to be “fit” for what they demand, they cannot curtail their aspirations in proportion to their competence. This psychological factor results in frustration, sullen despair or even suicidal daring. Some even disparage or belittle the whole process of True Realization and keep out of spiritual realms altogether. Their thirst remains unslaked as a result and their aim in life remains unRealized, but they cannot help it.
Some dare beyond their deserts and come to grief; in defiant spirit of rebellion they practise what proves disastrous for them. Unhappy they find impostors too in the field to exploit and ruin them, for so-called gurus do appear before them, all too willing to initiate them either ignorantly or fraudulently into mantras or systems to which they are not actually entitled at the moment, the consequences proving deplorable at the end.
Omkarnath stated that a True Master solves this problem with sympathy and originality, both equally rare and profound. He eases the situation by placing all alike on the same footing; he preaches the Naam to which all have equal access and by virtue of which all eventually can rise alike to the summit, if they have the strength to reach the “deep-yoga”.
To chant the Naam and repeat it constantly is to earn the deep-yoga threshold of Sound and Light that is desired innately by all. Is it the right to Pranava (chanting Om) that is demanded? Voicing the demand is useless; willful utterance without eligibility will be harmful.
But to repeat the Naam is to have Pranava (Om) well up from within the being as Naad, and that alone is realization of Pranava. To chant or put ‘Om Om Om’ in the mouth is silly as well as even deadly except for those prepared for Jivanmukti, and a Jivan- mukta is scarce; but to chant the Naam is to have the Pranava Nada and then ‘Om’ distinctly and continuously audible within.
So the Master offers the Naam and all else including the deep-yoga of Light via the Naam. And he does not want you to argue uselessly: he asks you to do it and to see the result for yourself. Omkarnath’s is the scientific way, the way of experimental verification. The taste of the pudding is in the eating: the truth of what he says is to be tested; it is to be verified by practice. OM. PEACE. PEACE. PEACE.
Om Ma Da
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