Shri Shri Shri Shivabalayogi Maharaj is one of the greatest Yogis to emerge from the spiritual abode that is India. His Holiness who graced this earth with His Divine presence from 1935 to 1994 is indeed among the great Masters who have selflessly devoted themselves for the benefit of humanity.
Childhood and initiation into Tapas
His Holiness came into this world on the 24th of January 1935, as Sathyaraju, in a small hamlet called Adivarapupeta, located by the mouth of the Godavari River in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. As a child, he was an intelligent boy, with innate qualities of fearlessness, honesty and unshakeable will-power, thus making him a natural leader among the boys of his village. His father passed away when he was a young child of 2 years and he was raised with love by his mother and grandfather. Poverty motivated him to leave school to seek a way out of the hardships that were thrust upon him. At the young age of 8, He carried on the family trade of weaving and also started a small business which over time proved successful in meeting the needs of his small family.
On the 7th of August 1949, at the age of 14 and a half, Sathyaraju was persuaded by his friends to go for a swim in the Godavari Canal, which flowed on the outskirts of their village. On the way to the Canal, there was a grove of palmyra trees, and as they were passing the grove, three palmyra fruits fell to the ground. Sathyaraju being the acknowledged leader of the group, distributed the fruits equally among all.
As Sathyaraju was sitting by the canal bank of the Godavari River, squeezing the juice from the palmyra fruit, His body began trembling for no accountable reason. He saw a light emerging from the fruit in his hand as well as the sacred sound of ‘OM’ emanating from the fruit. The Divine light and sound engulfed him in blissful waves, stopping the trembling of his body, allowing his mind to become calm and peaceful.
As he watched, the fruit in his hand disappeared and its place was a Shivalingam. The Shivalingam emitted a powerful light and broke into half. In its place stood a sadhu (saint) whom Sathyaraju thought was a Jangama Sage.
In Shivabalayogi’s words, “The Sage was well over seven feet tall, with a strong beautifully proportioned body. He had a dark complexion and an extremely handsome, attractive appearance, with large, beautiful eyes. His long matted hair was piled on his head in the manner of the ancient rishis, and he had a necklace of rudraksha beads with a small Shivalingam resting on his broad chest. A bright, radiant light emitted from him that blocked out all other vision”.
The sage was none other than Lord Shiva himself. He instructed Sathyaraju to sit in a yogic posture, touched him between the eyebrows and tapped him on the head. Sathyaraju immediately lost outer consciousness and went into a state of deep Samadhi.
Sathyaraju then began 12 years of arduous Tapas. He meditated for 23 hours a day for 8 years, only returning to ordinary consciousness at midnight to have a bath and consume a cup of milk. After these 8 years, he meditated for 12 hours a day, for another 4 years, and at times remaining in continuous Samadhi for months. The Blessed child, faced many difficulties and obstacles in his quest for spiritual enlightenment. There were many skeptics who dismissed his endeavour as merely pretence, or chose to believe that he was possessed by an occult spirit.
Many took Sathyaraju’s state of meditation as an opportunity to cause mischief. They would beat his body while he was in meditation, and one person even went to the extent of draping a burning kerosene-soaked cloth over his legs. Others would attempt to pry his legs out from the lotus posture that he was seated in, as well as pry open his eyelids while he was meditating.
Sathyaraju was so absorbed in meditation that he was unaware of these torments, except when he emerged from his meditative state. He initially put up with their actions but eventually after some months He decided to move to the village burial ground to avoid any of this unnecessary harassment, as he felt that his tormentors might be reluctant to approach him so readily in such a place.
While he was not bothered by the villagers in his new location, unfortunately here his body was attacked by insects and rodents, and snakes which were accustomed to feeding on the flesh of the dead bodies buried there. At times, swarms of ants would cover him, mosquitoes freely sucked his blood, and rats gnawed at the tendons of his bones. When Sathyaraju then went for his daily bath in the canal, the fish in the water would nibble on his open wounds. He was also bitten by snakes but Divine intervention in the form of a mantra by his Guru, protected him from the serpent's venom.
The Jangama Devar would come to Sathyaraju in visitations periodically to protect, guide, encourage and inspire him in his endeavours. After four years of intense tapas spent in Samadhi for about 23 hours a day, Sathyaraju, now referred to as a Balayogi (boy Yogi) was subsequently initiated into Tapas facing each of the four cardinal directions. According to the Yoga Shastras, a medieval Indian textbook on the practice of yoga, a yogi is required to master Tapas facing each of the four directions, an austerity known as Dikh Tapas. (“Dikh” meaning direction)
As he had already during these initial four years been facing East, his Guru then directed him to turn towards the North for a period of 2 years, then subsequently he was directed to face towards the West for 9 months and finally South for fifteen months, thus completing the cycle of tapas and facing all four directions over an eight year period. He then was directed to face towards the East again and continued Tapas in that direction for a further 4-year period, during which time he was instructed by his Guru to reduce his meditation period to 12 hours a day, in order to give darshan to those who came before him, as well as to offer initiation into the meditation that he himself had practiced during his tapas.
Realization and Mission
On August 7th 1961, upon completion of 12 years of Tapas, Lord Shiva and the Divine Mother Parvati manifested in their Divine form, and it was revealed to him that his Guru, the Jangama Devar who had guided him throughout Tapas, had been none other than Lord Shiva Himself. Mother Parvati and Lord Shiva conferred their blessings onto the Yogi, and asked him what he desired. His simple answer revealed the greatness of this Yogi. He replied that he desired nothing as he had undertaken Tapas upon the instructions of his Divine Guru, and would thus await his Guru’s instructions as to what he should do next.
Pleased with his answer, Lord Shiva named this Divine Soul, Shivabalayogi, meaning Lord or Master of Yogis devoted to Lord Shiva and Mother Parvathi. Lord Shiva then told Shivabalayogi that His life mission would be to arouse the dormant spirituality in people. He would serve mankind by spreading the message of Meditation to all earnest aspirants, and guiding others onto the spiritual path to gain liberation from creation’s illusions, ultimately guiding humanity towards peace and happiness.
For the next 3 decades, Shri Shri Shri Shivabalayogi Maharaj or Swamiji as He was very fondly referred to, tirelessly served the world, travelling far and wide, lovingly granting His blessings to all who appeared before Him. His blessings helped to calm the minds of thousands of devotees, ease their mental and physical sufferings, and gently guide them onto the path of spirituality.
His Holiness initially resided in Adivarapupeta and as He began touring South India, many ashrams were established in locations such as Bangalore, Ananthapur, Dehradun and many others. Swamiji’s mission also took Him to many countries all over the world, where His spiritual teachings helped alleviate their pain and provide a guiding light in their journey towards the Divine Consciousness.
Shri Shri Shri Shivabalayogi Maharaj attained Mahasamadhi on March 28th 1994, He explained that the physical body is unimportant to a Yogi and that even after dropping the physical form, the Yogi continues granting His benediction to all who earnestly seek His guidance, for healing and enlightenment.