There are noteworthy similarities between what we read about the life of Yeshua in the New Testament and the life of Swami Trailanga. This is despite the fact that the New Testament is a corruption of a text written by a disciple of Yeshua. The source text for the New Testament was most likely The Gospel of the Hebrews, which was said to have been written by Matthew (Matityahu). The Nazarenes and Ebionites used this scripture for several centuries, until the last MS was destroyed some time after Jerome’s De Viris Illustribus was published (CE 392). Nevertheless, what remains of the record of Yeshua describes a being who was very similar to Swami Trailanga.
– Both had a mother who was very spiritual
– Both were in a state of constant inwardness from a young age
– Both were detached from the worldly
– Both traveled widely and taught how to attain union with “The One”
– Both cured the sick and raised the dead
– Both had the ability to make matter appear, change its characteristics and disappear
– Both could manifest real-seeming images of themselves to believers anywhere
– Both walked on water
– Both announced their death ahead of time
– Both caused their corpses to disappear
Trailanga Swami and Shankari Mataji
by Paramananda Saraswati (1949)
Birth and Childhood
Over three hundred years ago, in Vizianagaram District, Andhra Pradesh, there was a prosperous village called Holia, where lived a rich Brahmin landowner named Narasimha Rao. His wife, Vidyavati Devi, was a devout and pious soul, accomplished in all ways. While it is frequently observed that people who become wealthy end up forgetting God and abandon all spiritual pursuits, Narasimha Rao and Vidyavati Devi never forgot the all-pervading One. Nobody left their door without receiving help or generous charity, to the extent that people of Holia constantly showered praise on them for their nobility and generosity. This couple of the landowning class chanted holy hymns day in and day out and lived a peaceful life.
After wishing for a child for a very long time, in December 1607, on Sukla Ekadashi Day, Vidyavati Devi gave birth to a boy. They named him Shivaram. Narasimha Rao was ecstatic and his house was filled with joy and laughter, and he immediately began charitable activities in celebration.
In the family temple there was a large Shiva-Linga, which Vidyavati Devi was accustomed to worship. As soon as her period of impurity ended, she went to the temple for her devotions and left her newborn son lying on the veranda. When she had finished her devotions and was coming out, she saw a circle of fire radiating from the baby’s body. At first she was alarmed, but she saw that the baby was unhurt; moreover, his body was shining with a strange light that appeared divine. When she told her husband of this event he opined that this meant that the baby was a boon from Lord Shiva. Shri Shri Mataji heard about this event directly from her guru Trailanga Swami.
Some days later, the second wife of Narasimha Rao also gave birth to a boy, and he was named Shridhar. Both boys were calm and quiet by nature and had sharp intellects.
Shivaram displayed his divine faculties at an early age, acquiring knowledge and learning many scriptures with facility. The other remarkable aspect about him was his complete disinterest in sports and typical boyhood activities and mischief. Not only was he very quiet, but he had this deep sense of gravitas on his face all the time. He loved to watch other boys playing in the fields, busy at their favourite games, but he never joined them. Quite frequently he could be seen lost in some divine, trance-like state.
Whenever he was in the contemplative state, he looked exceedingly handsome, as if encircled by a divine light. His physical stature was that of a well-built person—wide forehead, splendourous wide eyes, sharp nose, a wide chest, soft skin, hands reaching below the knees, and several other physical marks of great spiritual souls. He seemed perpetually to be in a state of bliss.
As youth approached, the young Shivaram became increasingly grave, without showing any signs of being affected by the sensual desires that are normal for boys of his age. The young man appeared to be constantly merged in the boundless deep of the Divine. He had overcome lust by spiritual practices and had begun meditating with intense devotion towards attaining self-realisation. Narasimha Rao started making arrangements to lead young Shivaram towards matrimony and a householder’s life, but the boy told his father that the common life held no attraction for him since it was impermanent, and his only desire was to reach the altar of God. Vidyavati, his mother, considered her son’s desire with reverence and opined that if indeed he reached his goal, it would bring great blessings and honour to their family. She told her husband that his other son, Shridhar, could keep the dynasty alive, and Narasimha Rao agreed with his wife. Thus, Shivram received instruction (upadesha) from his mother and began intense sadhana (spiritual practices aimed at diminishing the ego).
Demise of Parents
Shivaram’s first guru was Vidyavati Devi, who initiated her son with a mantra. He received the instruction with deep devotion, and was happy living an austere life, wholly devoted to spiritual pursuits.
When Shivaram was forty, his father fell ill and passed on. Vidyavati gave up family life and, followed by her son, devoted herself exclusively to worship of the Divine. When Shivaram was fifty-two, his mother also passed on. Smearing himself with the ashes from his mother’s funeral pyre, he decided to live on the cremation grounds as a renunciate and carry on his spiritual practices there.
Shridhar was disturbed by his elder brother’s decision. He fervently tried to convince him to return to the family life, but Shivaram refused. He told his younger brother gently and affectionately, “Brother! I have taken this path of renunciation with the blessings and permission of our parents when they were alive. You are well aware of it. They are no more with us, and I would like you to enjoy the material wealth that they left behind; but please do not call me back to this worldly existence. I am helpless. I cannot take myself back from the the feet of the King of all kings. I request you to not try to draw me anymore into matters mundane. God bless you!”
Shridhar returned home sad and despondent, but he could now allow his beloved elder brother to live unprotected under the open sky. He built for him an ashram on the cremation grounds and arranged for the regular delivery of food and other comforts.
Shivaram lived there and continued his search for the Supreme, with the vast yet secluded open environment as his only companion, allowing him to meditate in peace. There in the ceaselessly expanded grey beauty Shivaram saw the holy Lord Shiva’s silver mountain like home, he heard the hymns in the chirping of birds, felt the snow-white touch of the good Lord. In this manner, the great devotee passed twenty years of his life.
Shivaram’s guru and travels
In 1685, when Shivaram was 78, he met a famous old swami named Bhagirathanandaji, who became his guru. He received the initiation mantra from him and began to learn yoga (union). It was at that time that he was given the name Saraswati, after Swami Ganapati Saraswati. But as he was born in the state of Telangana, he became more famous over time as Telang Swami. And since he had gone beyond gender identification, he was also called Trailanga Swami—the word “trailinga” means “of three genders.”
Trailanga Swami stayed in close proximity to his guru for ten years, until the latter passed away in the year 1695. He then left the cremation grounds, at the age of eighty-eight, as an unclad mendicant. He had renounced even his loincloth.
Traveling to many places, Trailanga reached Setubandha Rameswaram, on Pamban Island in southeast India. Then he traveled north and lived for three years in the holy Dwarka Dham and Sudamapuri.
When he was over 90 years old, Trailanga went to Nepal. There he stayed in a completely absorbed state of samadhi for six years. After this he visited pilgrimage places such as Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri in the state of Uttarakhand. After this he left on a sojourn of 19 years into Tibet at Manasarovar. Thus he passed 25 years in the lap of the Himalayas.
After this Trailanga went to the banks of the river Narmada and reached the Markandeya Ashram. There he came across a great saint, Khakee Baba. After six years had passed he left for the holy Triveni in Prayag and spent four more years there. Finally, he went to the holy city of Varanasi (Benares) in 1737, at 130 years of age. Except for one tour, Trailanga Swami remained at Varanasi for 150 years, until his death in 1887.
Once, Trailanga Swami set out for a tour with the intention of traveling up to the polar region with three of his disciples. These were unable to continue the journey, so the Swami advised them to return and he continued alone. Finally he reached Udayachal, “at the easternmost surface of Mother Earth” [possibly in the state of Assam in northeastern India, near Bhutan]. After some years he returned to Varanasi.
As a result of his practices and austerities, Trailanga Swami had obtained powers such as Anima (reducing the body to an infinitesimally small size), Laghima (becoming weightless), Mahima (expanding one’s body to an infinitely large size), Garima (becoming infinitely heavy), Prapti (having unrestricted access to all places), Prakamya (realising whatever one wishes), Vashitva (control over all, including the five elements), and Ishitva (omnipotence).
These powers are called the Ashtasiddhis; however, obtaining powers is not the primary mission of a true spiritual aspirant. To reach the altar of God is the only mission to accomplish, and along this path the acquisition of Ashtasiddhis happens by divine grace.
But spiritual aspirants can sometimes deviate from the right path. When someone becomes proud over having acquired a few of the siddhis, then all such blessings that he received inevitably become useless and bring about his downfall. These persons are usually reborn in rich families or an abode of a yogi, where, in a new body, they resume their unfinished spiritual quest.
Ashtasiddhis could never tempt the pious heart of Trailanga Swami; on the contrary, he was indifferent to the powers he had gained. He perceived God’s grace even in the spiritual wealth with which he was bestowed and so he was never proud; for this he was adored as the Saghai Vishwanath of the holy Kashidham.
The question arises, if demonstrating his powers was not his intent, why did Trailanga Swami perform miracles that were witnessed by others? The answer is that such things happen spontaneously without any effort on the part of the great saints. The unfathomable magnanimity of God was manifested through the Swami; he was only the medium.
Indeed, there are few who try to condition their mind and soul and improve the purity of their inner selves by constant meditation and practices. However, these activities that are natural to these spiritual aspirants are perceived as unnatural by the majority of the common people, who cannot understand their purpose. By using such powers gained after long practice, the great sages throughout the ages have demonstrated to people that love for God and love for God’s creatures are co-related—one cannot exist without the other.
This is a common characteristic of all the great saints that we see or hear about: it is not possible for them to love God without loving God’s creatures. They perceive the majesty of God in each and every part of creation, and become enthralled by it. Just as an ordinary person who is in love will pay great attention and care to his lover and the relationship, great sages who deeply love God cannot remain indifferent to the creation of their beloved Master. So, whenever and wherever true saints see suffering in any of God’s creatures, they do everything in in their power to provide relief. But such all-merciful saints are really rare in the world.
Some examples of Yogavibhuti
[The word Yogavibhuti is from the Bhagavad Gita, and means “Mystic power flowing from the abundance of God.” There is an established pattern of the Swami performing miracles and then abruptly departing a place in order to get away from the crowds. As to whether the saint interfered with karma by curing people and bringing the dead back to life, this is impossible. The wisdom that allowed the miracles to happen is the same wisdom by which karma operates.]
In the Bengali Calendar year 1104 (1697 CE), Trailanga Swami stayed for some time in Rameswaram. An annual religious festival, or mela, was celebrated there during the month of Karthika, attracting many people from all walks of life. A considerable number of sadhus (saints or sages) and spiritual aspirants also attended.
One time a certain Brahmin died during his stay at the fair. A crowd had gathered encircling his body. Trailanga Swami saw the dead man’s companions lamenting loudly and making arrangements for his funeral. Trailanga Swamiji felt their pain and empathised, and he took some water from his water pot and sprinkled it on the corpse. A few minutes later the dead body slowly came to life. In the meanwhile, Swamiji quickly left the place, but some villagers from his native village Holia recognised him and began to ask him to return to his own land. Swamiji gently dissuaded them, but the news of the Brahmin’s revival spread like wildfire.
To avoid the crowds, Swamiji left Rameswaram and went to the remote town of Sudamapuri near Dwarkadham. A man from Sudamapuri had seen the Swamiji at Rameswaram, and so he was immediately attracted to him. He began to take care of the Swami with true devotion. Satisfied by his good pious nature and careful service towards his comfort, Swamiji blessed him. Soon the fortunate man acquired plenty of wealth, and a son was born in his childless home. Once again, word spread and people began to assemble and encircle him, disturbing his spiritual practices.
Next, the Swamiji took refuge in a dense forest in Nepal; but even in this place infested by snakes and wild animals, his presence got noticed. One day, the chief of the army to the King of Nepal went into the forest on a hinting trip. He aimed at a tiger and missed. The frightened tiger rushed deeper into the forest and the hunter followed him on horseback. But he stopped short when he beheld the tiger at the feet of a large-bodied sadhu, one who seemed to have a divine form as if he were Lord Shiva Himself. As the army chief watched in amazement, the sadhu reassured the animal by patting it affectionately.
The sadhu was none other than the great Trailanga Swami. Swamiji understood his confusion and called to him calmly. The chief approached him with awe and bowed down before him. Swamiji smiled and told him, “My son, don’t be afraid. Just look at the tiger’s calm demeanor. You have just been trying to kill it; however, this animal can kill you right now. Just try to understand that nobody can kill anybody. The tiger has become non-violent and so have you. Cast off the lust of violence from your mind for good and see no one as your enemy. Remember that love begets love. Be brave and go back now.”
When the King of Nepal heard about this incident, he went to meet Trailanga Swami, taking with him men bearing valuable gifts. He knelt down before the great saint with sincere devotion. Swamiji accepted him cordially and blessed him, giving him invaluable spiritual advice; however, he didn’t accept any gifts. The monarch then realised that a saint has no material wants. He once again touched Swamiji’s holy feet and returned to Kathmandu.
The news of the incident spread fast in Nepal. The forest became crowded and no longer provided solitude, so Swamiji had to leave the place. He crossed the Himalayan range on foot and reached Tibet in the year 1707. He was in sojourn in that area for three years and then, in 1710, he went to the shores of Manasarovar [a lake in the Tibet Autonomous Region, China].
A widow who lived at Manasarovar had lost her seven-year-old son due to a snake bite. The lamenting lady took her son to the cremation ground with tears in her eyes, quite like Shaivya, the wife of Raja Harishchandra, who took their dead son Rohitashwa’s body to the cremation ground while crying. Her companions were beginning to arrange for the cremation when it appeared as if the cries of despair had caught the attention of the merciful God, and Trailanga Swami came there. The distraught mother regained her hopes when she saw the Swami and exclaimed, “Lord Shiva Himself has come to save my son’s life.” She began to weep at the Swami’s feet. Then the all-merciful Swamiji touched the dead body of the young boy and yet another miracle occurred when the boy slowly started showing signs of life. The widowed mother immediately took her son into her lap, but when her eyes looked around for the mysterious saviour, he could not be seen. From that point on, no one saw Trailanga Swami at Manasarovar.
It was at the Markandeya Ashram, on the bank of the river Narmada, where Swamiji re-appeared in the year 1133 (1726 CE). He lived there with some other pious sadhus, spending his nights completely absorbed in meditation.
Khakee Baba was another saint who lived there at that time. One day, on the banks of the Narada, he saw Trailanga Swami drinking from the river with his cupped hands; but the river was flowing with milk instead of water. Khakee Baba also wanted to drink milk from the river, but the moment he touched it, it was water once again. In the meanwhile, Trailanga Swami had gone back and resumed his yogic posture for meditation. Khakee Baba rushed back to the ashram and told the other ashramites what he had seen. Thereafter the Swamiji was viewed by the others as an exalted saint with powerful siddhis, and they began to worship him.
Swamiji decided to leave Markandeya Ashram, and in the year 1140 (1733 CE) he went to the holy Prayag Tirtha (Allahabad). There, after locating a tranquil place that gave him solitude, he resumed sadhana (spiritual practices aimed at diminishing the ego).
One time Trailanga Swami was absorbed in the contemplation of the Divine near the confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna and the Saraswati rivers near the Triveni Prayag Tirtha Ghat (bathing place). It was raining heavily, but Swamiji remained there unmoved. A Bengali Brahmin, Ramtaran Bhattacharjee, who knew Swamiji very well, was there, and he asked him to go to a nearby shelter. Swamiji told Ramtaran, “Please don’t worry for my sake. I am perfectly at home here, and moreover, I cannot leave this place right now as I know a boat coming near this ghat carrying quite a few people will capsize very soon. I have to rescue the passengers.”
Right then in front of the Bramin’s eyes, an approaching boat began to capsize due to the heavy winds; but the Swami was nowhere to be seen. After a short while, a confused Ramtaram saw that the boat with its passengers was floating perfectly well and it finally reached the shore. When the passengers saw the unclad sadhu coming down from the boat they could not understand what had happened, but they fell at his feet in gratitude. Ramtaran was also standing there with wonder-struck eyes. Coming back to his senses, he prostrated himself on the ground to salute the Swamiji with deep reverence in his heart. Swamiji said, “My son, be easy, it is nothing remarkable to be amazed about. The Almighty God is present everywhere with infinite strength and grace. We too are empowered by that same infinite power, but our addiction to sensory pleasures and material greed negates our entire strength and turns us into slaves of meanness. We never care about spiritual upliftment or try to achieve purity of heart. Otherwise man would be immensely powerful, as God Himself is the source of power of his creations. The man who knows this truth and honors this power within can do anything easily without fail. Don’t get drenched anymore; go back to your own place.”
Ramtaran saw him no more after that incident, as Trailanga Swami left the place. Later, he was seen in the holy Kashidham.
During his stay in the garden of Tuslidas near the Asi Ghat, Trailanga Swami used to go to the Lolark Kund (pond) quite often. One day his holy feet touched a sleeping leper from Ajmer named Brahma Sing. Awakened by his touch of mercy, the leper began to worship the Swami with folded hands, treating the gigantic sage standing before his eyes as a manifestation of Lord Shiva Himself. Brahma Singh had already suffered quite a bit for his past karmas. The omniscient Swami gave him a bilva leaf from the bael tree and said, “My son, you will get respite from the malady if you take a dip in the water of the kund with sincere belief and respectful heart, it is beyond any doubt.” Brahma Singh was freed of his leprosy and went back to being his normal, handsome self. Thereafter he became one of Trailanga Swami’s countless lifelong devotees.
After this incident, to avoid inquisitive crowds, Swamiji set out for the ashram of Maharshi Veda Vyasa in Haridwar. One day, on the banks of the river Ganga, the usual crowd of people had gathered to bathe in the sacred water. A person afflicted with tuberculosis was also in the crowd, also with the same intent of bathing in the Ganges.
Despondent after suffering with this disease for a long time, he had come to the holy Kashidham to spend the days he had left. Suddenly he started choking and lost consciousness. A few people in the crowd tried to provide relief in whatever way they could, but it seemed nothing could change the patient’s fate. All of a sudden Trailanga Swami appeared and began to pass his hand soothingly over the man’s chest, until he regained consciousness. When he saw the tall saint in front of him he felt a deep awe within, as if he were in front of Lord Shiva Himself.
Falling at the feet of the great saint with tears in his eyes, he began to pray for relief from his disease. Swamiji took pity on him. He took a lump of Ganges mud in his palm and, blessing it, gave it to the man and told him to swallow it after performing his ablutions in the Ganges. Then he himself took a dip in the river. When the man followed the instructions he was immediately cured of the disease. The man was a Bengali Brahmin named Sitanath Bandyopadhyay, and for the rest of his life he worshiped Swamiji with sincere devotion, as if he were worshiping the manifestation of Lord Shiva Himself.
Once, a man died from a snake bite near Asi Ghat in Kashi. According to the traditions of the time, the bodies of people who had died from snake bites were not cremated; instead they were tied to rafts made of banana stalks and set afloat on the river. The kith and ki of the young man were making arrangements for this when Swamiji happened to come there and was moved by compassion for the young widow of the deceased.
Quietly he smeared a little Ganges mud on the bite mark on the body, after which he dived into the river and disappeared. No one in the funeral party knew who he was. After a short while, the body started showing signs of life, much to the astonishment of everyone assembled. The man finally became conscious, and was not a little uneasy to find he was tied to a raft. His family looked at him, their eyes wide with shock, and then began to inquire about the reason why he had come back to life. Finally they found out that it was the divine power of Trailanga Swami that had made the impossible happen.
One day, the King of Ujjain was coming to Manikarnika Ghat from the royal palace of the King of Kashi. He became speechless on seeing a man sitting on the surface of the river. Upon making inquiries, he found out that the person was a great yogi called Trailanga Swami. He was told that the Swami had unfettered access to all water, land, and ethereal areas. On hearing this, the king wished to take him on his boat and the sage assented. The Maharaja personally experienced Trailanga Swami’s spiritual powers and saw that he could probe deep into anyone and that nothing was hidden from him.
The king had an elegant sword in his hand, given to him by the British government to honor his courage. The sage indicated that he wished to take a closer look at the sword and the king handed it over to him; but after inspecting the sword, he tossed it into the Ganges.
The Majaraja lost his patience and did not hide his anger at this act. When Swamiji was about to disembark from the boat, the king prevented him from doing so. Smiling sweetly at the king, Swamiji plunged his hands into the river and drew out two identical swords. He asked the king to identify his own sword from the two, but the king could not, and he lowered his head in shame. In a voice as deep as the rumbling of the clouds, Trailanga Swami told the king, “My son, you are unable to identify your own possessions. I see you as a man who likes to flaunt his wealth, and full of ignorance. You cannot take this sword with you to the after-world. How can you possess a thing that you cannot take with you during your final journey? Why have you become angry over a thing that isn’t yours?” Then the Swami handed one of the swords to the king and tossed the other one into the river. The king realised the greatness of the sage and pleaded for forgiveness for his behaviour and for his infatuation with material possessions. Swamiji forgave him and then disappeared into the Ganges.
On another occasion, Swamiji indicated that two Bengali babus (gentlemen) should leave the place when they were about to touch his feet. One of them was willing to do so, but the other was not. Swamiji called the caretaker of the ashram cows to escort him out, but even then the man would not leave the place. Then the caretaker said, “Babu, you have seen Swamiji, now please leave, since he does not like crowds gathering around him here.”
In response, the man angrily shoved the caretaker and said, “You may leave if you want, but Iwon’t go.” The caretaker was about to react to this when the Swami interjected and asked the man to be quiet. He instructed his disciple Brahmachari Mangal Bhatt to bring a piece of paper and a pen.
There was a wall adjacent to the altar, the seat of the Swami, with holy verses written upon it in Devanagari script. One by one Swamiji pointed to letters from the verses and Mangal Bhatt wrote them down in sequence [Swami spoke only on Sundays]. When the process was completed, the complete text was read out for the babu: “Babu, you have left your pair of shoes purchased at the price of eighteen rupees outside the room and have come in to see me. Your mind is anxious about those shoes and worried that somebody will steal them. You have no right to be here with me in such a state of mind; please leave with your shoes.”
Upon hearing this, the Babu confessed that he was indeed really anxious about his shoes and then he calmed down. He quietly left the place without any further argument.
A man named Shri Joy Gopal Karmakar, originally of Serampore, lived in Kashi in his old age. He would visit Trailanga Swami every day with some fruits and milk as offerings for the Swami.
One day he felt peculiar palpitations and became tense and anxious wondering if anything had happened with his family in Serampore.
Swamiji watched his anxiety and consoled him by saying, “Just wait for awhile; I am going to find out and inform you about the current state of your family.” He asked Joy Gopal to return to him at dusk, without informing him of what he already knew. When Joy Gopal came at dusk, Trailanga Swami said, “My son, your eldest son is no more in this world. He had cholera and died this morning at 6:00 AM. You will see him in your dream tonight.”
Joy gopal received the sad news the next day by telegram, confirming for him once again the greatness of Swamiji.
Now, we have to realise that Supreme Consciousness is omniscient and thus great sages can know anything they wish to know without leaving their meditation seats. Whether it is in earthly or divine realms, sages can access knowledge through their subtle perception.
Scientific progress and human greed will inevitably bring about calamity and destruction for life on Earth, and only then will the reconstruction and establishment of spirituality and truth be possible. We can see that in the past, scientific progress led many societies to utter ruin after they had attained the very zenith of success. In the present age, too, the outcome will be the same. Hence we can conclude that the world and human life on this planet is essentially moving along two contra-circular movements—progress and regress. These movements are irresistible and eternal.
With his sadhana at its very peak, Trailanga Swami was perpetually in union with the Supreme Consciousness. In this state, an ascetic is not bound by any human limitations enforced by the perceptions of the physical senses and is beyond any psychological limitations.
His mind had transcended his body and was in complete control such that the extremities of summer or winter made no difference to him whatsoever. He was completely at peace while resting on a stone slab under the scorching heat of the summer mid-day. Seeing him lying on the hot sands of Kashi once, Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa had exclaimed: “I saw that the Universal Lord Himself was using his body as a vehicle for manifestation. He was in an exalted state of knowledge. There was no body consciousness in him. The sand there had become so hot that no one could set foot on it; but he lay comfortably on it.”
Likewise, biting cold weather made no difference either. Quite often he used to immerse his body in ice-cold water and stay there for long periods of meditation. Sometimes he was seen floating against the current like a fish. At other times he used only one blanket during winter, though he never bothered about any creature comfort at all and preferred to remain unclad and uncovered.
Most of the time he would be seen deeply absorbed in meditation. Even in public interactions he was a dweller of his own inner world. He was completely indifferent to earthly affairs. no sign of any emotion was evident on his face, and he seemed to be in the state of perfect tranquility, freuently described as sat-chit-ananda (being-knowing-bliss). His primary reason for existing on Earth appeared to be to provide suffering humanity grace through his sacred and blissful presence.
He was apathetic to food and never sought his next meal. He had taken a vow of ayachaka—non-seeking—remaining satisfied with whatever he received. He took rice, bread, fruits—whatever was offered to him, without any complaints. Een the quantity of food that he consumed was not regular or fixed. Whether he was eating two pounds or eighty pounds of food, it made no difference to him Once, Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa fed him forty pounds of rice pudding with his own hands. On the other hand, he used to fast for months without any apparent ill-effects.
Once a few sceptics decided to expose the Mahaguru as a fraud and brought a mixture of lime and water in a bucket and offered it to him as milk. The omniscient Swamiji consumed the mixture without saying anything and there was no reaction on his peaeful face. The bewildered sceptics fell at the Swamiji’s feet and started begging for mercy. Trailanga Swami, who was calm and quiet throught, urinated what he had ingested, and the people assembled saw that lime and water had come out separately. Eyes wide open with shock, the rogues ran away. They paid for their sins and died very soon after the incident.
There were devout people, rich and poor, who flocked to him and made offerings of valuable garments or such like at his feet as a token of their worship. But once they left, greedy louts rucshed in adn plundered anything they perceived as valuable. Swamiji never resisted or stopped them, exemplifying the real meaning of the saying, “Sona O maati, sama gyann” (Gold or earth, one knows it to be the same).
Once Trailanga Swami was passing by the royal palace of Vizianagram, accompanied by the great sage Mahatma Vijaykrishna Goswami. He paused there for a few moments as the palace guards fell at his feet seeking blessings. The king, too, came hurrying out when he heard about the Swami’s presence and asked them with devotion to grace his royal chambers. He looked at Vijaykrishna but the latter did not accompany Trailanga Swami. Swamiji was adorned with valuable robes and golden ornaments on his arm, waist, head, etc. But when he came out of the palace, some local goons robbed him of all those possessions. However, the palace guards caught them red handed. The king rushed out and saw the Swamiji in the same peaceful state that he always was in. The king was wise enough. He said, “Those gifts are now your own—I don’t have any right to take any action for them.” Swamiji said to him, pointing to the robbers, “They could change nothing within me. I am always in the same state anywhere, that of a mendicant, by God’s grace.” The miscreants were let free and Swamiji also left the place. Everybody there was perplexed, but they definitely perceived the divine within the Maha Yogi.
We all know that since time immemorial thousands of unclad Naga sadhus (naked sages) have descended from their caves in the Himalayas during the Kumbha Mela to take a holy dip in the sacred rivers. People from all parts of the world assemble there, and the Nagas don’t face any legal obstruction at these fairs.
During the days of British rule, many Englishmen used to visit the holy city of Kashi. The British women would become quite embarrassed on seeing the naked men as they were not used to such things in their country. During such a period, a particularly strict magistrate warned Swamiji to stop his nudity in public, but the Swami did not pay any attention.
One day he was sitting on the sands of the Ganges, when a policeman ordered him to come with him to the station. When Trailanga Swami did not respond, the policeman struck him with his cane. The crowd there started resisting the policeman and he went to inform his superiors. Immediately, other policemen rushed to the place and arrested the Swami. He was presented in the court of law the next day. The British judge presiding warned Swamiji and forbade him from being naked in public. Swamiji said nothing, and at this the judge became furious and ordered the police to handcuff the Swami. To his utter bewilderment, Swamiji was nowhere to be seen! He had disappeared!
After a short while they saw him standing near them with a smiling face. The lawyers hired by Swamiji’s disciples explained to the judge that the sage standing before his eyes was beyond social norms, that he is a sanyasi (hermit) who does not require clothing. For the Swamiji, human waste and a piece of sandalwood were identical.
Having listened, the judge asked if the Swamiji would eat a meal offered by him. To this, the Swamiji responded by asking the magistrate the same question. The judge accepted, at which point the Swami evacuated his bowels on his own palm and offered the excreta to the judge.
The judge was shocked and declined to eat Swamiji’s waste. Then, before a dumbstruck assembly, Trailanga Swami put the excreta into his own mouth and instantly the fragrance of sandalwood filled the place. The judge decided to allow him to remain unclad in public and to go wherever he wished thereafter.
After this particular judge was transferred, a new magistrate, who was more arrogant than his colleague, took over. One day, he also became agitated on seeing the Swamiji unclad when he was going somewhere with his wife. He immediately had the Swamiji locked up in police custody. The next morning, he was informed that though the lock of the Swami’s cell was still intact, somehow the prisoner had gotten out of his cell.
He rushed out and saw the sage walking on the verandah completely unperturbed. He asked the Swamiji hw he had freed himself. The Swamiji replied that at dawn he had felt like coming outside and so he came out. The judge carefully examined the lock, and then saw water on the floor of the jail cell.
When he asked Swamiji what that was, the sage informed him that it was his urine. The judge became upset and again had the Swamiji locked up, but this time with a double lock.
A few minutes later he saw the prisoner standing in the courtroom with a benign smile on his face. Swamiji said, “No one could be imprisoned for perpetuity within a prison cell; if that were indeed possible, man would be immortal.”
The bewildered British magistrate again asked him how on Earth it was possible for him to come out of the cell. Swamiji replied by explaining that the human body is mortal and without any strength of its own, but that it is the soul, the consciousness, that does not find anything to be impossible. Then he said, “My son! You too do not have the power of your own; why then are you oppressing me in this way?”
The magistrate issued an order to his men never to molest the saint in the future.
Let us realise the truth that spiritual powers can overpower any mundane problem: Swamiji clearly demonstrated this truth on that day. Let us also sing the glories of the magnanimity of the Supreme Entity! Exclaim, “God is almighty!” Truth triumphs in the long run! Justice triumphs in the long run! God is the other name of truth!
At the courtyard of Mangal Bhattji
Mahasamadhi and disappearance of Trailanga Swami
Waves rising, breaking and eventually dying out are a frequent occurence in the seas, and this has been happening incessantly since time immemorial. Although we can observe the rising of waves one after the other before merging into the vastness of the ocean, we cannot specifically identify a single wave or differentiate it in particular from the rest. The life of a man in the sea of eternity is similar—he is born and then goes at the completion of his role on earth. Trailanga Swami was born on earth during theperiod of Muslim rule in India, and it ended during the British rule.
In 1883, Swamiji informed a few of his disciples that he would embark on his final journey after about 5 years. Eventually that time arrived. In the year 1294 (AD1887), in the month of Agrahayan, he disclosed to his disciples that he would become emancipated on his birthday towards the end of the month.
He was in perfect health and possessed a body unafflicted by any disease. He was not at all weakened or impaired by age, neither physically nor psychologically, and that was because he was able to control ‘Ashta Prakriti’—the eight limbs of existence, due to the powers he had accumulated through intense sadhana.
The news spread like fire that the Bhishma of Kaliyuga would be voluntarily leaving his body soon. All the disciples, devotees, sadhus and paramahamsas rushed towards Kashi to try to see him in person for the last time before his emancipation. A great bustle descended on the city, with swarms of people like surging waves reaching to have a final darshan of the great Swamiji.
With ten days left of the month, Kalikananda Swami, Sadananda Swami, Brahmananda Swami, Bholananda Swami, Brahmashri Mangal Bhattji, Amba Devi, Ambalika Devi, Shri Shri Shankari Mataji, and Shri Umacharan Mukhopadhyay were among the disciples and devotees present to witness the final journey of the great saint.
The affectionate Swmiji began to enrich them further by giving them spiritual advice and guidance. They had the great privilege of quenching their spiritual thirst and aspirations of realising the Supreme reality from one who had realised it himself.
The epitome of wisdom, Trailanga Swami, addressed their queries around complex problems they had run into during their own spiritual pursuits. Similarly, other religious people and spiritually rich sadhus got the answers they needed from Swamiji and left the place after paying their respects to the Swami.
One day before his final journey, Trailanga Swami instructed his disciples to procure a stone chest that could accommodate him in seated position. He told them to place his body in the chest after his demise and lock it up, and instructed that they submerge the stone chest in the waters of the Ganges near the Pancha Ganga Ghat and in front of the Adi Sanyasi Guru Dattatreya Temple, but without performing any funeral rites.
He finally told his disciples: “Place the stone chest across two boats that are next to each other, and row them up to Asi Ghat and then up to the river Varuna, and finally push the chest overboard in the middle of the Ganges in front of the Adi Dattatreya Temple.” Then he informed everyone that he would soon resume his vow of silence, and said, “If you would like to ask me anything, ask it soon.”
For the reader’s benefit we would like to state that since the ancient times, jala samadhi (water burial) has been the traditional way of disposing of the physical bodies of saints. That being said, burial in the ground is also a common practice in Kashi, and there are quite a few memorial temples over burial spots. It is also said that Shri Ramachandra, the 7th avatar of Lord Vishnu, chose water burial in the Sarayu River during the Treta Yuga.
Quite a few people asked Swamiji the questions they had, and he replied to them later in the night. Swamiji gave instructions to his disciple Shri Shri Shankari Mataji, whom he had kept with him in the ashram, and gave upadesha (sacred advice) to her to visit famous pilgrimage centres after his Mahasamadhi. He explained the duties she needed to undertake in the future.
He emphasised that he would always be present in his subtle body. Shri Shri Mataji wept at his holy feet, and with a heavy heart accepted the advice and duties as his blessing. She subsequently lived in various parts of India as an itinerant sanyasin.
In a subsequent chapter we are going to provide a short biography of her holy life and the invaluable advice she gave, and also go over the details of her life as a sanyasin. Her disciples and devotees established a Bhajan Ashram in Kashi in 1939, at 142, Audhgarbhi area (near Harish Chandra Ghat Road).
The stone chest was made as per Swamiji’s instructions. Within the chest a bed was created with raised cushions, pillows and a bed cover. Flower bunches, garlands and sandalwood accessories were added to adorn it. The boats were kept ready.
The next morning at 8:00, Swamiji entered the small room under his altar where he used to perform his spiritual austerities. Sitting on the seat he said to his disciples, “My dear children! Please shut the door and do not open it until you hear me knock on it.” The disciples shut the door and waited there expectantly.
At about 3:00 p.m. there was the the knock on the door and it was opened by the sad disciples. Swamiji came out and stood on the verandah. He gestured that the chest be taken towards Pancha Ganga. When it was done, Trailanga Swami sat within, in a yogic posture. The chest was then locked up as per his instructions. At that point a wonderful sight was seen, as if celestial effulgence was emanating from within the chest.
It was the winter month of Poush, and the eleventh day of the fortnight with the waxing moon in the fourth lunar asterism, Rohini. December 1887. On that day, just prior to the impending sunset, and at an age of 280 years, Trailanga Swami entered Mahasamadhi by means of Agni Yoga and merged into the Supreme. With this event one of the brightest stars from the sky of Indian spiritual history, the living Vishwanath Himself of the holy city of Kashi, disappeared into the ocean of eternity.
The news of his departure spread fast.
Lahiri Mahasaya had a very famous friend, Swami Trailanga, who lived to the age of 280 years. The two yogis often sat together in meditation. Trailanga’s fame is so widespread that few Hindus would deny the truth of any story of his astounding miracles. If Christ returned to earth and walked the streets of New York, displaying his divine powers, it would cause the same excitement that was created by Trailanga decades ago as he passed through the crowded lanes of Benares.
On many occasions the swami was seen to drink, with no ill effect, the most deadly poisons. Thousands of people, including a few who are still living, have seen Trailanga floating on the Ganges. For days together he would sit on top of the water, or remain hidden for very long periods under the waves. A common sight at the Benares bathing ghats was the swami’s motionless body on the blistering stone slabs, wholly exposed to the merciless Indian sun. By these feats Trailanga sought to teach men that a yogi’s life does not depend upon oxygen or ordinary conditions and precautions. Whether he were above water or under it, and whether or not his body lay exposed to the fierce solar rays, the master proved that he lived by divine consciousness: death could not touch him.
The yogi was great not only spiritually, but physically. His weight exceeded three hundred pounds: a pound for each year of his life! As he ate very seldom, the mystery is increased. A master, however, easily ignores all usual rules of health, when he desires to do so for some special reason, often a subtle one known only to himself. Great saints who have awakened from the cosmic mayic dream and realized this world as an idea in the Divine Mind, can do as they wish with the body, knowing it to be only a manipulable form of condensed or frozen energy.
Trailanga always remained completely nude. The police of Benares came to regard him as a baffling problem child. The natural swami, like the early Adam in the garden of Eden, was utterly unconscious of his nakedness. The police were quite conscious of it, however, and unceremoniously committed him to jail. General embarrassment ensued; the enormous body of Trailanga was soon seen, in its usual entirety, on the prison roof. His cell, still securely locked, offered no clue to his mode of escape.
The discouraged officers of the law once more performed their duty. This time a guard was posted before the swami’s cell. Might again retired before right. Trailanga was soon observed in his nonchalant stroll over the roof. Justice is blind; the outwitted police decided to follow her example.
The great yogi preserved a habitual silence. In spite of his round face and huge, barrel-like stomach, Trailanga ate only occasionally. After weeks without food, he would break his fast with potfuls of clabbered milk offered to him by devotees. A skeptic once determined to expose Trailanga as a charlatan. A large bucket of calcium-lime mixture, used in whitewashing walls, was placed before the swami.
“Master,” the materialist said, in mock reverence, “I have brought you some clabbered milk. Please drink it.”
Trailanga unhesitatingly drained, to the last drop, the containerful of burning lime. In a few minutes the evildoer fell to the ground in agony.
“Help, swami, help!” he cried. “I am on fire! Forgive my wicked test!”
The great yogi broke his habitual silence. “Scoffer,” he said, “you did not realize when you offered me poison that my life is one with your own. Except for my knowledge that God is present in my stomach, as in every atom of creation, the lime would have killed me. Now that you know the divine meaning of [karma], never again play tricks on anyone.”
The well-purged sinner, healed by Trailanga’s words, slunk feebly away.1
The grace of Trailanga was once bestowed on my maternal uncle. One morning Uncle saw the master surrounded by a crowd of devotees at a Benares ghat. He managed to edge his way close to Trailanga, whose feet he touched humbly. Uncle was astonished to find himself instantly freed from a painful chronic disease.
The only known living disciple of the great yogi is a woman, Shankari Mai Jiew. Daughter of one of Trailanga’s disciples, she received the swami’s training from her early childhood. She lived for forty years in a series of lonely Himalayan caves near Badrinath, Kedarnath, Amarnath, and Pasupatinath. The woman ascetic, born in 1826, is now well over the century mark. Not aged in appearance, however, she has retained her black hair, sparkling teeth, and amazing energy. She comes out of her seclusion every few years to attend the periodical melas or religious fairs.
This woman saint often visited Lahiri Mahasaya. She has related that one day, in the Barackpur section near Calcutta, while she was sitting by Lahiri Mahasaya’s side, his great guru Babaji quietly entered the room and held converse with them both.
On one occasion her master Trailanga, forsaking his usual silence, honored Lahiri Mahasaya very pointedly in public. A Benares disciple objected.
“Sir,” he said, “why do you, a swami and a renunciate, show such respect to a householder?”
“My son,” Trailanga replied, “Lahiri Mahasaya is like a divine kitten, remaining wherever the Cosmic Mother has placed him. While dutifully playing the part of a worldly man, he has received that perfect self-realization for which I have renounced even my loincloth!”
1 Yogananda writes, “The transfer of pain was not due to any volition of the master, but came about through unerring application of [karma].” This is an error. The man’s pain was actually his own doing: he expected to be punished for his trick, and this expectation caused his stomach to burn. Likewise, it was not Trailanga’s words which healed him, but his belief in the truth of what the swami said.
Paramhansa Yogananda (1946). Autobiography of a Yogi. New York: The Philosophical Library.
Paramananda Saraswati (2013). Trailanga Swami and Shankari Mataji. Kolkata: Amar Nath Poddar, Ex-President & Trustee of the Shri Guru Ashram Trailanga Math.