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Baba Ayodhya Nath
Ayodhya Nath was an Indian yogi, nondual spiritual master, mystic, visionary, and Ayurveda healer rolled into one. He is the direct teacher of Acharya Shunya, and is also her paternal grandfather, the scion of an ancient lineage; illustrious son of an illustrious father (Shanti Prakash).
Baba Ayodhya Nath was a true light in this world, whose presence, wisdom and loving guidance point us to who we are beyond the limitations of our personal conditioning and identity. Acharya Shunya loving refers to him in all her writings and teachings as ‘Baba’. From a young age Baba not only showed signs of being a spiritual seeker but also demonstrated ability and interest in taking forward his father’s mission at the Sadharan Dharma Sabha.
Baba Ayodhya Nath showed special interest in seeking solutions to life’s fundamental question “who am I” and he sought those answers in India’s premier philosophy – Advaita Vedanta. In the pursuit of answers, he avidly studied the Upanishads and appreciated the writings and explanations by Swami Ram Tirth. Over time, Baba blossomed into a full-fledged spiritual teacher of Vedanta and huge crowds showed up at his satsangs.
Baba was born in the year 1900 in the changing landscape of India’s social-political destiny. He was educated in Vedic texts and Yogic practices by his Guru (his father), who was a Vedic seer and a Hindu householder saint and that he also studied in the Indian school system. As an adult, he even took a government job to support his family, while imparting Vedic wisdom on his own time. But a light that would serve the world, and change it for the better, cannot remain hidden forever. Not before long, Baba became a full-time spiritual teacher, surrendering his livelihood to God and dedicating his life to the upliftment of his community. Baba shared his knowledge and blessings to whomever showed up at our door. When a higher power beckons and a calling is answered, sincerely and from the heart, it all works out in the grand scheme of things.
Acharya Shunya recounts that every day there would be a long line of visitors at ancestral home in Ayodhya, in northern India. Between his packed sermons, held in the inner courtyard of their home, Baba would sit in the outer courtyard to meet with the multitudes of people, who came with their suffering bodies and minds. Baba met with as many souls he could in a given day, addressing their physical distress and mental anguish. Nine times out of ten, he would suggest changes in their food and lifestyle, along with a spiritual advice. That was enough. His prescription worked each time. The crowds continued to grow in numbers, and the healed would return to express their gratitude. Pilgrims and devotees came for Baba’s darshan from far and wide. And then there were the lost and broken ones, the suffering ones, who had heard about miraculous abilities to bless with silence, smile or a healing advice that integrated wisdom from Ayurveda, Yoga and Adwaita.
ESTABLISHED ATMA VIDYA SADAN: AN INSTITUTE OF VEDIC LEARNING FOR MATURE SEEKERS
In 1955, for encouraging systematic study and dialogue amongst scholars and committed spiritual seekers who were continuing studying and contemplating on great Adwaita Vedanta texts, Baba Ayodhya Nath established the Atma Vidya Sadan. This is where Acharya Shunya studied several non-dual Vedic scriptures under word- by -word, verse-by -verse Baba’s guidance. During his phase as Acharya (head of the lineage), the student body diversified in more than one way. While it has been traditional for some time to only initiate young boys for monastic study, Baba began initiating young girls into the Gurukulam after formal request from, and blessings of their parents. While only a few girl students came forward, this was a significant move away from what was the norm all over India. Next, baba also accepted after being sincerely requested, few deserving and knowledge ready students from what are classified as the ‘lower caste” since his conviction was that “the One Ultimate Reality Dwells in All”. Many social institutions in India have given way to the new (inclusive) way over time, but until today, it is rare to find girls and lower caste students in orthodox institutes of Vedic education.
Activated Humanitarian Healing Movement – Arogya Mandala
The Arogya Mandala, a social service mission, established by Baba’s father in 1900, was taken forward by Baba in a much greater and systematic manner. This was an ever-travelling as well as ever growing consortium of Vaidyas or halers and sadhus (spiritual beings) inspired by Baba Ayodhya Nath as their Guru, travelling to remote country side and providing much needed and 100% free aid in form of Ayurvedic seeds, herbal medicines and healing knowledge to the villagers, igniting a community movement in Ayurveda. The Mandala saved many lives, restored hope, uplifted spirits and often operated in epidemics and through the seasonal flooding of the Sarayu, and served to unite villagers and reminded them of their own Vedic heritage. His services were recognized and he was praised by.
The Himalayan Voyage and Yoga for Atmabodha
Himalayas are the highest mountains in the world. The Indian civilization considers the Himalayas as representative of its spiritual aspirations. From times immemorial, the Himalayas have given shelter to spiritual aspirants, especially those who seek solitude and pristine purity of nature in its unsurpassed eminence, for meditative contemplative sadhana. Many Vedic scriptures have been composed in the Himalayas, and Ayurveda itself is said to have been recorded at the foot hills of the Himalayas. They are also the repertories of the most precious herbs untied in Ayurveda. Till date, they represent an unbroken link with the sages of yore, and gods who are said to dwell in the Himalayas.
Baba was inspired to accomplish a solitary spiritual sojourn in the Himalaya’s, when he was in his late 20’s. In those days, such arduous journeys battling desolate peaks, bitter cold, and wild animals, did not always end well. In the Himalaya’s, Baba Ayodhya Nath battled beautiful but brutal and barren landscape, harsh winters and life-threatening challenges to the body. He did not meet another human for months at a time. Baba mediated in areas even higher than the Gomukha, the source of the Ganges glacier. It is from the Himalayan glaciers that the river Ganga, the holiest of all rivers in India, rises and cuts its path through the valleys of stunning beauty and marvelously chiseled gorges before it enters the plains. He spent a major part of his life engaged in meditation.
Wandering for months by himself in the Himalayas, Baba’s external appearance became very rugged and hair on his head and beard grew very long. He carried a small cloth bag (jhola) and nothing else and slept where he could and ate when he could (which was not always).
It is during this fierce voyage that Baba Ayodhya Nath witnessed the sweet reality of Self during his meditations and profound contemplations, that led to Atmabodha (recognition) of the Truth Ayodhya Nath returned a changed man, whose outer clothing was tattered and hair matted - but his demeanor displayed a radiant spiritual recognition and his personality emanated the strength simplicity and quiet dignity of a realized being.
Ayodhya Nath: The day he returned from his Himalayan voyage in 1928 .
It is in the Himalayas that the Ayurveda tradition’s most sought-after herbs grow. Baba’s recognition of these herbs, their potency, science and magic became immediate. Baba’s knowledge of healing potential and use of herbs was not secondhand any longer from reading about them in texts. Rather he had first-hand knowledge through his encounters, usage and experience of oneness with the herbs. The range of his necessary herbs was not exceptionally large because what he knew, he knew perfectly. Almost everyone who approached Baba, left with the exact remedy from nature in his hand.
After his return, Baba Ayodhya Nath submerged himself in seva (self-less service) and teaching and awakening souls via Satsangha, till the end of his life. He began furthering the activities of Sadharan Dharma Sabha and he utilized his extensive experiential knowledge of Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta to serve and uplift his local community as his dharma and selfless seva to society.
Founder of Yoga For Atmabodha
After returning from his solitary Himalayan sojourn and apprenticing with a master Yogi briefly Baba reinterpreted the message of Yoga and advocated Yoga in its original Vedic essence, the way the Rishis intended it to be embodied, for its original goal of Atmabodha (Self-realization) and discouraged any divergence from this pure spiritual path as that reduced Yoga to merely body-breath exercise (even in those times). As per Ayodhya Nath, Yoga can purify the subtle mind states and prepare the ground for supreme knowledge that leads to self- Realization or Atmabodha, no less. Atmabodha is awakening to the truth of our spiritual nature. The philosophy and practices of yogic spiritual awakening taught by Acharya have their origins in ancient Vedic disciplines transmitted by Ayodhyanath to her. In a sense, Yoga for Atmabodha represents a return to the original way Yoga was engaged by Rishis of yore, for the purpose of knowing, perfecting, and ultimately realizing the divine Self.
Founder of Lived Tradition of Ayurveda
From early years itself Ayodhya Nath Baba was deeply fascinated with an experiential ,whole body spiritualized Ayurveda. Since Baba ‘lived’ the wisdom of Ayurveda in his mind, body, and soul, his appreciation of this discipline when far beyond mere scholarly appreciation, his power to heal employing Ayurveda spiritual, lifestyle and food wisdom was extraordinary, direct and immediately perceptible to all. With each growing year, Baba’s reputation as a ‘Vaidya extraordinaire’ grew in his city and surrounding cities, and people flocked to him from far and wide, both for his darshan (spiritual blessing), as is the tradition in India with any person of spiritual eminence, as well as to receive much needed medicine and counsel, that he disbursed, of course, with generosity of time and spirit, kindly attention.
Baba’s extraordinary interest in healing qualities of garden locally growing herbs and kitchen foods was extraordinary. Hence, Baba’ ability to recommend medicine and suggest unique healing recipes that utilize Ayurveda pharmacology principles was also exceptional, which he did, for the service of his community via Arogya Mandala, till the end of his life. He created many unique recipes, which he himself ate in his meals and also taught Shunya. Many of the self-care recipes Baba deduced from Ayurveda principles are now exclusively available in Acharya Shunya’s course Alchemy through Ayurveda.
It is perhaps the direct transmission of Ayurveda from Baba to his disciple Shunya , through role modeling, that Acharya Shunya’s Alchemy through Ayurveda and other Ayurveda programs perhaps one of its kind worldwide that not only shares didactic information on Ayurvedic regimens of healtm) but actually supports its living, breathing hands on and applied scholarship in the class room that is animated with aroma from cooking medicinal recipes, grinding pounding or anointing of body care formulae, and hands on training on how to plant an Ayurvedic kitchen garden, etc. This approach to teaching is unparalleled and its principal source is none but Baba, who was a pioneer and he thankfully, was not just a pedagogical intellectual who merely ‘talked the talk’, but he dared to walk the walk also.
Groomed Acharya Shunya with Foresight
Baba patiently groomed his younger granddaughter Acharya Shunya through a series of awakening dialogues. Alongside regular schooling, Acharya Shunya spent 14 years listening and learning from Baba directly. It was a great soul’s foresight that he saw in a precocious 9-year old Shunya a future world teacher and carrier of his lineage. Baba chose her from amongst a group of students within his family and multiple non-related male disciples, to carry on his spiritual legacy. Baba gave her the charge to lead forward his lineage as its 21st-century female Acharya (spiritual head).
As his disciple and holder of his legacy, Acharya Shunya comments, “Growing up with an awakened being and how it shaped my life is beyond what words can describe. Perhaps without doubt, the wisdom imparted to me by Baba, was the single biggest factor behind my own awakening from not just this lifetime, but countless lifetimes of unconsciousness. Meeting Baba was like a lonely flame had met a legendary fire. This is what it feels like when a sleepwalking soul finds an awakened one at last. The flame finds a spiritual fire it can call home. Burn away says the Guru. In the flame lives the truth. The teacher pours the oil of knowledge and the student's inner flame reduces to ashes the students own illusions and delusions. Nurtured by the master, my inner flame can light many more flames, today.”