About Vanaja Narayanaswami
Vanaja Narayanaswami is an ardent follower of Nisargadatta Maharaj. Born in 1940, she is a brilliant mathematician and has traveled the globe attending various mathematics conferences.
She met Nisargadatta Maharaj in 1978 and used to carry her tape recorder every day and with great devotion recorded the talks of Nisargadatta Maharaj, which are recorded in 500 audio tapes. Maharaj allowed her to place the microphone in front of him for the recordings. (This happened because of Jean Dunn’s suggestion.) Vanaja has been very generous with money and gave with an open heart to preserve and spread Nisargadatta Maharaj’s teachings.
I first came in contact with her in 2004 and I was really touched by her simplicity, kindness and immense love. She always treated me like her son, and I affectionately called her Aunty.
In 2005, while I was working hard on digitization of Maharaj’s tapes, Aunty said- “You have been working so hard and doing all this wonderful work for Maharaj, I would like to pay you for your time and effort.”
I thought for a moment and then said- “Aunty, sure, you can pay me. But I would like to be paid in stories of Maharaj. I would like to hear from you about your experiences with him. That is something which is much more valuable than money for me.”
Thus started a beautiful relationship and over the years she told me some amazing stories. I have now complied some of the stories below. This is the first part of 6 stories as narrated by Vanaja Aunty to me.
1. Oxygen & Consciousness
Six months before his Samadhi, Nisargadatta Maharaj was experiencing severe breathing problems due to his throat cancer. His suffering made me feel very sad. One day, I suggested to Maharaj that we can get an oxygen cylinder, which would help relive his breathing problems.
Maharaj immediately exploded in anger- “This consciousness will stay as long it has to stay & go when it has to go. You know that I don’t want to prolong this life even for one second. After hearing all my talks I am surprised you are saying this.”
He went on and on for some time, while I just stood there. To be honest I was upset and had tears in my eyes. When I went back the next day Maharaj exclaimed “Oh you have come again! I thought after my angry outburst yesterday, you will never come back”. I told him humbly “Maharaj, it doesn’t matter what you say and how angry you get. I will always come back to you”. Maharaj nodded and smiled at me.
2.Tigers and deers
Once when I was at Maharaj’s home in Khetwadi, there was an argument between the members of Maharaj’s family. I was quite disturbed by the heated exchange of words. I got up to leave for my home, thinking- “They say that the atmosphere around an enlightened master is so peaceful that even enemies like tigers and deer live as friends. Than why are all these heated arguments happening?
I was going down the steps, deeply disturbed by these thoughts. As I reached the bottom of the steps, I heard Maharaj calling me. I looked up and he was standing at the top of the stairs. With a firm voice he said – “There is no reality in this. Whatever is happening is just a happening. Your job is to be an observer and remain unaffected. “
3. Building an ashram
I used to have the thought that there should be an Ashram for Nisargadatta Maharaj, something similar to Ramanashram. My mother had a land in Chennai, and I had this thought that we could build an Asharm or a temple dedicated to him there. One day I was sitting at the talks, thinking about how wonderful it would be to have an ashram for him. Suddenly, Maharaj looked at me and said, “that is not the solution(samadhan). There is no point in building an ashram. At the most you can build a temple with a golden statue of me in it. Do you think building it will bring an end to your desires? This will not lead you to the truth.
4.Leaving my job
Once after the Maharaj’s talks I was feeling very blissful, I felt a sense of being whole, as if whatever I had to do in this life, I had accomplished. I didn’t want to work anymore and wanted to deepen this state. I wanted to leave my job. The next day I told Maharaj about my intention of leaving my job.
“Who is doing the job, is it ‘you’ who is working?” Maharaj asked
I just looked at him, my mind completely blank. The thought of leaving my job completely vanished. I had this conversation with him in 1979. I worked for 21 years after that, finally retiring in 2000.
5.The illusion of time
There was a function at Banganga (Siddharameshwar Maharaj’s Samadhi) and Maharaj asked me to attend it. Since I was single and lived with my mom and brother, I was expected to be home 7 pm every day. That evening the program went on and on. I asked Maharaj for permission to leave early but he asked me to wait till the end. The program ended around 10pm at night and I had to travel alone in a taxi to south Bombay, which was rare and unsafe for a single women.
I was afraid that my mother would be anxiously waiting for me and I would be severely reprimanded and scolded. Surprisingly we had some guests at home at that late hour and when I entered nobody even mentioned the time. It was as if nothing had happened.
6.Don’t let it go waste
During the last days, when Nisargadatta Maharaj was very sick, he didn’t stop talking about consciousness. He wanted to convey the truth to everyone, even when he was suffering from throat cancer. He used to say – “Publish the discourses; otherwise all my talking will go to waste. Let seekers know the truth about their own consciousness.” He used to urge Jean Dunn again and again to publish the teachings. He wanted all seekers of truth to benefit from them.