Shree A. Nagraj (1920-2016), who we used to affectionately call “Baba”, breathed his last on the morning of March 5th 2016 at his home in Amarkantak, surrounded by his disciples and family members.
I still get lump in throat when I recount my first meeting with Baba ji at Amarkantak in November 2004. I was accompanied by my wife Priyanka and our four years old daughter Gunjan. He was resting on a divan in that quaint little dharmashala opposite Narmada Temple. I mumbled my introduction, adding how happy I was seeing him in person. He said – “Human beings have been trying to find trust ever since they occurred on this Earth. I discovered something through sadhana by which I have become rooted in trust, and I can teach you that.” Something shattered inside me on hearing this, and I wept silently, while he continued with his narration... I had found my teacher. I surrendered to his purpose, his vision, and his program even without understanding a word of what he was saying that day. There was no point of my shedding tears over shattered ego any more, I decided. Rest of my story is about my trials of grasping what he had to teach.
There is no mystery in existence, he would say. Existence is orderly and harmonious as coexistence, and it can be studied, understood, realized, and it is upon realization that human being can produce evidences of knowledge in their living. Knowledge is the calling of every human being. Every human being thirsts for knowledge, which can only be quenched through meaningful education. He presented himself as living evidence, and that was his authenticity. He taught about the order and purpose in existence with this authenticity. He gave logical reasoning to explain his realization in existence. He said, realization can be described in words. Going on to say that realization is the only thing that is worth describing. What else do you want to use words for? It soon became clear that logic was not enough to grasp what he had to say. Then what? What do I have that can grasp what he is saying, to which I feel so profoundly attracted? “Use your imagination” – pat came the answer! Imagination is what distinguishes we humans from animals. Imagination is the prior form of knowledge. Imagination can expand and resonate with reality, which results in its own fulfillment, its own transformation. Thus far in human history, humans used imagination only for materializing ideas. Now use imagination for its own fulfillment. There is no need of stilling the imagination through some meditation or chanting. Nor is there any point in letting it lose for fancies. Imagination can be guided by use of definitions. Definition is the set of words that indicate a reality in existence. One who has realization (or the teacher) defines the realities and guides imagination of seeker (or the student) triggering a progression towards awakening. Language is from tradition, but definitions are mine! - He would claim. Each human being has the potential of awakening the latent faculties of their consciousness, by way of education or study. It is simplicity itself.
This simplicity can be deceptive! For it’s not that you listen to the definitions once and become awakened the same instant! Why not!? The reason is, he said, this proposal is alternative of whatever has been thought and done in human history thus far. Humankind has thought and done only on the lines of Idealism and Materialism – which could not be adequate for fulfilling imagination or freewill in human being. “My presentation is a new reference for human thinking.” – He clarified his stand and remained firm on it until his last breath. You don’t understand it until you suspend your prior notions and pay full attention to what is being said here. You need to pay attention for study, the teacher commanded! Upon realization, attentiveness becomes natural. But how does one let go of one’s prior notions or hang-ups? If my prior notions are whatever has been thought and done in human history until now, then isn’t that all who I am? He would counter – “No.. There is more to human being than these incorrect and incomplete notions, which are nothing but illusion. Human being has natural expectation for order and harmony, which is their thirst for knowledge. Study and practice under the guidance of teacher instills understanding which results in one’s getting over those incorrect notions.” Study is not a lonely pursuit. It is an alive process; it is an affirmative process, with active involvement of both teacher and student, which results in student’s accomplishing integrity in thought, word and deed – like the teacher. The process of study results in building an integral view or concept of existence as an order in student – thereupon realization becomes imperative, which forms the basis of living with authenticity, as humanness. Humanness, he said, is the religion of all human beings. All human beings are of one race. In this way he defined what it is to be a human - taking a position that there is nothing higher and nothing more dignified than human existence - as human centric contemplation based on realization in existence, and thereby he postulated and demonstrated universal humane conduct - comprising of values, character and ethics - calling it "Madhyasth Darshan".
There was a sense of urgency in his appeals. He would hold human illusion as the root cause of Earth’s condition with climate change, global warming, pollution, terrorism, and fragmentation in society. He was unsparing with his pointed critiques of both Vedic thought and Science, seeking no allegiance to rebels of these thoughts either, while very precisely acknowledging their contribution in humankind’s journey towards its awakening. He said what he had to say, with his own definitions, and lived true to his own words.
Study, he used to say, is an “un-wounding process”. You don’t need to do any excesses or exhibit bravado for doing this study, like leaving job or practice austere life of renunciation or become an ascetic nomad. Understand first, Do after that. Take your family along. Fulfill your obligations. His message is about leading an integral life that is universal and therefore inclusive. You don’t need to “build” relationships. You need to “recognize” purpose of relationships in which you already are. The world is not an illusion. It is real. It is permanent. It has stability. It has definiteness. Study is a natural and incremental progression to transition from animal consciousness to human consciousness. There is no overlap between animal consciousness and human consciousness. These are two planes of being. All statuses of animal consciousness have path of incremental progression to awakening or human consciousness. Much to the chagrin to many of his followers, he wouldn’t give any toe-space between the two levels of consciousness, or concede any width to this transition, or allow anyone to do any kind of alteration or adulteration to make his message more palatable to crowds! The transition in consciousness, he would say, is irreversible. There is no way of forgetting that which you have understood.
The next generation is always going to be ahead! He used to say – "My model of living out this understanding is the minimum beautiful! That which I understood through sadhana, you can understand through study. Once you have understood, your imagination would further it and result in ever more beautiful expressions of this understanding! Mine in only the minimum beautiful!”
He didn’t make anyone heir to his legacy, but only offered his discovery as a gift to whole humankind. While he declared himself to have understood existence and being a living evidence of understanding, he denied being a certifying authority for understanding of others. He taught us, supported us while we practiced walking on his footsteps, then encouraged us to take responsibility for ourselves, and do a self declaration of awakening the way he did.
What next… Should we all go home now, as the class is over and the teacher is gone? Or complete our education by walking resolutely on the path the teacher has shown? I am for taking things to closure. So is Priyanka, my wife. So are many others… What about you?