Swami Nirmalanda lived in the Biligiri Ranganabetta hills in Karnataka.
Sadhguru’s adventures continued as he grew older and bought his motorcycle. During one such jungle foray, he came across Swami Nirmalananda, who, Sadhguru says, “knew that I am a yogi before I knew myself.”
Sadhguru: Swami Nirmalanda lived in the Biligiri Ranganabetta hills in Karnataka. He was very closely associated with me for a long time – he knew that I am a yogi before I knew myself. He lived in silence for fourteen years in a four-acre ashram he never stepped out of. A sort of relationship developed between us – not for any spiritual reasons – somehow we warmed up to each other a little bit.
I had heard that there was one little ashram so I decide to go there.
When I was nineteen or twenty, I spent a lot of time trekking in the mountains. I would park my motorcycle in the jungle and go into the forest for about six or seven days. These were the days of adventure and whenever I felt like it, I just went away into the forest without even an extra pair of clothes.
On one particular occasion, I had a really wonderful time and some really close encounters with elephants.This region was full of wildlife at the time. Particularly, I had to stay up a tree for almost 24 hours because a bear was interested in me! I had run out of food within three or four days, which was quite usual. I would actually carry food for seven days but it would always be over in three days, and carrying more than that was too much of a burden. So, I spent another two-and-half days in the jungle without eating anything proper, and I got extremely hungry. It was the monsoon season and was raining. I had slept in the jungle and ended up being covered in slush from head to toe.
I had heard that there was one little ashram so I decide to go there. It was a small space and there were about fifteen steps leading up to a small cottage. I just rode up the steps and went and leaned my motorcycle on the wall. This man who must have been around fifty-five years of age came out wearing the kind of clothing which in India indicates that he is a spiritual person. He looked at me and grinned with one big smile on his face. I said, “I need some food.” He looked at me and tears started flowing from his eyes. He came and touched my muddy boots and held my feet. That sort of threw me off because in my whole life I had never bowed down to anyone – not even in a temple. But this man actually held my boots even when I was in a filthy condition. It threw me off for a couple of minutes and then I recovered and said, “I need food and I am willing to pay.” I always had a small cellophane cover with a little bit of money rolled in and stuck somewhere in my trousers for emergencies.
All he had was some honey and bread. He baked some fresh bread for me and gave me honey which I gobbled up. When the food was done, I wanted to pay him some money but he wouldn’t take it. So, a kind of relationship started. Every few months when I went to those mountains I made sure to take a bunch of bananas or some other fruit which I kept for him. He always made sure to give me four or five liters of honey which the tribals would give him.
Every few months when I went to those mountains I made sure to take a bunch of bananas or some other fruit which I kept for him. He always made sure to give me four or five liters of honey which the tribals would give him.
After sometime, many things happened to me and I completely forgot about this man. I started teaching and traveling big time. Many years later, it must have been almost fourteen or fifteen years later and by then my appearance had completely changed, I went to his ashram with Vijji, my wife, and my daughter Radhe. We sat down and he welcomed us. He was not talking. He was still in silence. He didn’t recognize me initially because I had completely changed. Then I smiled and said, “Don’t you recognize me?” He looked at me carefully and said, “Vroom! Vroom!” I said, “Yeah.” He hadn’t forgotten that I would ride up his ashram steps. After that, a different kind of relationship began between us.
He decided to shed his body in the month of January in ’96, and announced that he would attain Mahasamadhi.
When he was seventy-three years of age, he decided he wanted to leave his body. He wrote to me and said, “Please come. I want to talk to you.” I went and we started talking about things, he started writing questions and I was speaking to him. This is the kind of talk that never happens. No one ever asks such questions nor does such talk ever happen. He was a very gentle saint, a beautiful man but he did not know the tricks of the body, so he was talking to me about that. Vijji’s sadhana started on that day when she heard all this.
He decided to shed his body in the month of January in ’96, and announced that he would attain Mahasamadhi. But there was a big ruckus all around. The rationalist society of Karnataka filed a case against him saying that this man is going to commit suicide, so they put two constables in the ashram.
When I went there, he hugged me and cried, “I have not even plucked a flower from a tree. Even for my pooja I don’t pluck a flower, and they have put police in my ashram.” Just the insult of that hurt him so much. Not once did he even pluck a fruit. He didn’t want to hurt the trees. Only if they fell down he ate them. Otherwise he wouldn’t touch them. I told him, “Don’t worry. What are the police going to do to you?” When the time to leave came for him, he sat outside on a small deck. About forty people were sitting in his ashram including the two constables. He sat in front of them and just left his body.
▵ The Ashram in the Forest (Isha)