Complete maturation: divya sharira and ultimate possibility: the body become one with the immortal soul. Thus, in the spinal paths, after some thirty to fifty lifetimes of dedicated postgenital cultivations (Kripalvanad, 1979), the entire body more and more partakes of this fundamental deathlessness, as body, mind, and eternal soul become a fully integrated whole. The term “embodied spiritual truth” leaves the realm of metaphor or vague adjectival and becomes as concretely literal and remarkable as a newborn baby.
Although exceedingly rare and seemingly outlandish, the “divine body” (divya sharira) is held to be no less or more miraculous or unnatural than the matured pubescent body which supports progenitive immortality and the awe of conception, gestation, and childbirth. (Here I am offering a heightened way of looking at “ordinary” reproductivity.)
On the one hand, taking a stand for the legitimacy of divya sharira invites a dismissal that might totally unwind my credibility from the perspective of a wide-range of thoughtful readers. From the Yogic perspective it is just such disbelief in any, ever, supernormal spiritual attainments that must also be inspected for its limitations. Such conclusive skepticism and the range of life pursuits that can ensue form the essence of a “worldliness” warned about in many spiritual traditions. It is just such a worldly attitude that, one at a time, can pre-empt the concerted involvement in the Yogic path for each individual.
The last recorded attainment of divya sharira in 1874 is described in Pathway to God Trod by Saint Ramalingar (Vanmikanathan, 1976), and describes the Saivite yogi, Ramalinga of Mettukkuppam, Tamil Nadu, whose body purportedly dematerialized into a florish of light. The next previous attainment was in the 13th century by the South Indian Saint Jnaneshvar, author of the Jnaneshvar-gita, a Marathi commentary on the Bhagavad-gita from the perspective of Kundalini Yoga and of Amrita-Anubhava, “Experience of Immortality” and the devotional Abhanga. In the latter he writes, “Love throbs; I have seen the intensive form of God. He is full of sound and light” (Ranade, 1994, p. 195). The most recent appearances of a saint of this maturity (at the turn of the century and in the early 1950’s) I have come across were documented in the book Hariakhan Baba: Known and Unknown by Baba Hari Dass, a life-long Indian yogi residing in Santa Cruz, California. Other references to this Babaji, or perhaps to his guru, appear in Govindan’s Babaji, and Satyeswarananda’s Babaji.
Known by various names, Satyeswarananda and Baba Hari Dass maintain that Hariakhan Baba (literally, “the holy man of Hariakhan Forest”) is the several thousand year old “Babaji” who initiated Neem Karoli Baba, known as Richard Alpert’s (Ram Dass) guru, and the lineage of Paramahansa Yogananda, one of the first yogis to come to the West at the turn of the century. Yogananda attained additional esteem after his death in 1952 when his corpse showed no signs of decomposition, even after some twenty days. According to Los Angeles Mortuary Director, H.T. Rowe’s notarized statement:
The absence of any visual signs of decay in the dead body of Paramahansa Yogananda offers the most extraordinary case in our experience….No physical disintegration was visible in his body even twenty days after death…No indication of mold was visible on his skin, and no visible desiccation (drying up) took place in the bodily tissues. This state of perfect preservation of a body is, so far as we know from mortuary annals, an unparalleled one…No odor of decay emanated from his body at any time…. There is no reason to say that his body had suffered any visible physical disintegration at all. (Yogananda, 1977, p. 575).
According to the late Vinit-muni of Pransali, India, Hariakhan Baba/Babaji is also Lakulisha (150 a.d., born in Kayavarohan, India; organizer of the Pashupata sect) who initiated Swami Kripalvand (whose corpse showed no signs of rigor mortis during the two days before his burial [Kripalu, 1982]) in the early 1950’s, (and perhaps many other unknown yogis). His image remains embossed in the Elephanta Island carvings (dated 500-600) near Bombay which purport the “practicing [of] Yoga as the origin and culmination of all life.” (Collins, 1988, p. 48).
To help Westerners grasp the significance of these carvings, Indologist James Forbes ranks them with the Pyramids of Egypt; I would also include the mound at Golgotha and the Darwinian Galapagos Islands research. The Vayu Purana, the Kurma Purana and the Linga Purana discern Lakulisha (or “Nakulisha”) as the 28th incarnation of this immortal embodiment, known first as Shiva, Lord of Yoga. The upright club or staff he carries (for which he is also named) represents urdhva-retas, the full evolutionary maturation of homo erectus via his spinal flowing Kundalini.
According to the Pashupata Sutra and the Ganakarika Sutra (Collins, 1988, p. 137-38), the Lakulisha sect practiced an ecstatic ritual including wild laughter, sacred singing, “dancing consisting of [all possible] motions of the hands and feet: upward, downward, inward, outward and shaking motion,” a sacred “sound produced by the contact of the tongue-tip with the palate…after the dance when the devotee has again sat down and is still meditating on Siva,” an “inner worship,” and prayer.
The Pashupata sect which spread throughout Hindu, Buddhist and Jain India for some 600 years (and orginating the Yogic lineage of Gorakhanath and Matsyendranath and all modern hatha yogis) was noteworthy in Indian history in its scorn of the caste system and its belief in a diety capable of bestowing forgiveness and redemptive grace beyond the mechanistic dictates of karma. They believed that, as homeless forest-dwellers they transformed the enmity of city-dwellers who derided them by never striking back and instead blessed them. Given the open-heartedness, the breadth of emotionality inclusive of anahata-nada out-pourings and shamanic, animal-like dancing within the Pashupata Yoga, I conjecture that this sect functioned not only as a sainted-spiritual community, but, for some few, as a psychiatric haven, drug and criminal rehabilitation center, and homeless shelter. As with the appearance of many other saints, heaven lived on earth, and those within its fold were, for a time, redeemed into fully dharmic and joyous life.
Stuart Sovatsky, PhD
California Institute of Integral Studies,
San Francisco, CA
More posts by this author:
- The River Yamuna –Issues and solutions
- Press Release-Successful Conference on Caste System
- Resolutions-Conference on Caste System
- Letters: Sri Nagendra to HAF
- Being Different-Book Reviews