Listening to the Words of a Master
Nithyananda’s first experience of enlightenment happened when he was between eleven and twelve years old, on the day of paurnami, or full moon. It all started when Nithyananda went to listen to Annamalai Swamigal, an enlightened being who was a disciple of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi. There were a few seekers sitting around him, listening to the spiritual truths he was sharing. From these truths, Nithyananda understood one thing: “We are not the body. There is no pain or suffering for us”. This really surprised Nithyananda, because he had seen children cry when they were beaten, although he had never been beaten himself. This was the beginning of Nithyananda’s search. Even though he didn’t understand what Annamalai Swamigal said, he was in the pure space of listening, so whatever he had said was intensely working on him.
Sri Ramakrishna says, “An oyster has to receive rain showers during Swaati Nakshatra, and catch that drop of water. Then the oyster goes into the ocean and processes that drop of water, which eventually becomes a pearl.” Because Nithyananda was in the pure space of listening, he could receive the words from the Master and they could work on him to bring out the pearl of enlightenment one and a half years later.
Experimenting with the Truths
Although Nithyananda was in the pure space of listening, he was not capable of cognizing what he had heard. If he was, he would have become enlightened right at that moment. But since he wasn’t capable of cognizing what Annamalai Swamigal had said, he only listened. However, because his listening was so pure, the words were working intensely on him. He was possessed by those words! Whatever he was doing physically, the words were working on him.
After a lot of contemplation, Nithyananda decided to experiment on himself to see if he experienced pain or not. He picked up his father’s razor and cut himself on the thigh. He made a very deep and long cut, which later required thirteen stitches. At the time, Nithyananda didn’t have any technique to go beyond pain and he had not experienced enlightenment either, so when the blood started gushing out, he was shaken.
After a few days, Nithyananda approached Annamalai Swamigal again to ask him why he had said that there is no pain or suffering. Annamalai Swamigal laughed and told Nithyananda, “You have not understood what I said, but your attitude of experimenting is a great quality, you should hold on to it and you will achieve the ultimate”. This conversation did not satisfy Nithyananda. He said he need not have gone through this suffering if Annamalai Swamigal had uttered these words before he had cut himself. Annamalai Swamigal just said, “You will understand when the time comes, don’t worry.”
He gave Nithyananda one last teaching. He said, “Find out WHO has the feeling that there is pain or suffering”. For Nithyananda, these words were an initiation. During his free moments, he would sit and contemplate, “WHO is feeling the pain in me?” This self enquiry was done by Nithyananda when he was ten years old, and he was practising it without even knowing he was practising it. About a year and a half later, he had his first experience of enlightenment.
360 Degree Vision
He went to the foothills of Arunachala Hill in the evening, where there is a coral hillock called Pavazha Kundru. It is on the same rock that Devi Parvati did tapas and became enlightened, so it is a very powerful space and has a profound connection with spiritual energy. He was practising the same technique of self enquiry and asking himself, “Who am I? Who is having the experience of pain and suffering?”
Between sunset and moonrise, Nithyananda experienced a sudden revelation. His eyes were closed, and he suddenly knew who the experiencer was. He felt alive and being present to everything. He could literally see everything with a 360 degree vision. He could see the temple on one side, the tree on the other and every plant and stone around. He was able to see the whole at a time, simultaneously, and without opening his eyes.
Achieving the Ultimate
When he understood, he was able to see and feel everything. In the same way one feels powerfully alive in his own skin and can feel it when someone else touches him, Nithyananda felt powerfully alive with everything – the plants, the hill, the stones. For about an hour and a half, his body did not move. When it was later in the evening, he slowly descended from the hill and even though it was dark, he did not need light to see. He felt this way for two and a half days. He could see and feel everything as his own presence.
Because Nithyananda was in completion, the words of Annamalai Swamigal entered his being. Because of his integrity, the words were continuously working on him. When Nithyananda cut himself, he was stretching himself to the truth, he was acting from authenticity. He took the responsibility to find the root source of who was feeling the pain and suffering. Nithyananda’s enlightenment experience is a reflection of the power of the four tattvas (principles) – just by living them in a state of completion and in the space of pure listening, one can directly achieve enlightenment itself.