Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Thus, by 1983, Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s tireless efforts to spread the message of yoga had touched the whole world. He had also trained a core of sannyasins to transmit the yogic techniques for different needs and cultures, and they had established many Satyananda Yoga ashrams, schools and centres around India and the world. Bihar School of Yoga was well established and recognized throughout the world as a reputed and authentic centre for learning yoga and the spiritual sciences.
More than that, yoga had moved out of the caves of hermits and ascetics into the mainstream of society. Whether in hospitals, jails, schools, colleges, business houses, the sporting and fashion arenas, the army or navy, yoga was in demand. Scientific research into yogic techniques was being conducted all over the world. Professionals such as lawyers, engineers, doctors, business magnates and professors were incorporating yoga into their lives. So too were the masses. Yoga had become a household word.
Now, at the peak of his accomplishment, Sri Swamiji renounced all that he created. He appointed Swami Niranjanananda as his successor and gave him the mandate to continue the work, and then began to gradually withdraw from the teaching and administering of the yoga movement. In 1988, Sri Swamiji renounced disciples, establishments and institutions, and departed from Munger, never to return again.
He went on a pilgrimage through the siddha teerthas (spiritual centres) of India as a mendicant, without any personal belonging or assistance from the ashram or institutions he had founded. At Trayambakeshwar, before the jyotirlingam of Lord Mrityunjaya, his ishta devata, he renounced his garb and lived as an avadhoota. And here, at the source of the Godavari River near Neel Parbat, while performing chaturmas anushthana, his future place of abode and sadhana were revealed to him.
He received the mandate for a new mission, to progress toward the cosmic dimension through unbroken remembrance and repetition of the Lord’s name with every breath. On 8th September, 1989, birthday of his guru Sri Swami Sivananda Saraswati, he heard the voice loud and clear, “Chitabhoomi”, and saw a vision of the place where he was intended to go.
Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati did not choose Rikhia, it was chosen for him. After leaving Munger, while roaming the length and breadth of India, he came across many beautiful places where he was invited to take up residence. But in keeping with his style of surrender he awaited the mandate of his ishta and guru, which guided him to the small nondescript, unknown village of Rikhia, on the outskirts of Baba Baidyanath Dham in Deoghar (Jharkhand), the chitabhoomi or cremation ground of Sati, consort of Shiva.
Sri Swamiji arrived at Rikhia on 23rd September 1989, at mid-day, the day of vernal equinox, when nature is in perfect balance as the day and night are equal. Soon after, he lit a dhuni or fire and called it Mahakal Chita Dhuni. Lighting a dhuni is a very ancient tradition among sadhus. It is believed that the ash from a sadhu’s dhuni is very potent, for his entire day is spent in front of the dhuni and all his acts are performed with the fire as witness.
The Rikhia that Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati arrived in was still living in the sixteenth century. There were no roads, electricity, telephones, newspapers, television or shops. However, its vibrations were pure and spiritual providing an ideal climate for the seclusion which he imposed on himself. He began a life of intensive spiritual practice, entering the lifestyle of paramahamsas who do not work for their flock and mission alone, but have a universal vision. His first anushthana commenced in 1989 during Ashwin Navaratri – the performance of ashtottar-shat-laksh (108 lakh) mantra purascharana which took him three hundred days to complete. He gave up the geru cloth and donned the kaupeen, loin cloth, an important hallmark in the life of a sadhu denoting that vairagya and dispassion are an inherent part of his being. He no longer associated with any institutions, nor gave diksha, upadesh or received dakshina, but remained in seclusion and sadhana.
In a conclusive message, he told all, “I have nothing more to say to anyone and no further guidance to give. For over twenty years I have lived with the people answering their questions and helping them on their spiritual path. Now I withdraw my responsibility. Those who are receptive, they will surely benefit from what I have told them, but those who are not, they will now have to find their own way.”