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Introduction Nitai or Nityananda was a Vaishnava saint, famous as a primary religious figure within the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition of Bengal, is an expansion of…
Udiya Baba (1875 – 1948), also pronounced and spelled as Uriya Baba, Oriya Baba or Odiya Baba, was a Hindu saint and a guru. He was a teacher of Advaita Vedanta and was regarded to be a Paramahansa. He was a Parivrajaka, i.e. one who does not stay in any one place for too long. He would walk all along the banks of Ganges, moving from one place to another. Udiya means one who hails from Orissa. Baba means a Sadhu. Sometime during 1937-38, he came to Vrindavan and an ashram named Shri Krishna Ashram (also known as Oriya Baba Ashram) was constructed by his disciples as a place for his permanent stay. He was a contemporary of the very well known Hindu saints – Anandamayi Maa and Shri Baba of Mokalpur.
He was born at Jagannath Puri in 1932 of Vikram Samvat, on Bhadrapada Krishna Saptami, on Monday, at noon. That was the day of Krishna Janmashtami for Smartas. The year was 1875. His father’s name was Shri Vaidyanath Mishra who was a direct descendant of Shri Kashi Mishra who lived during the time of Chaitanya Maha Prabhu and was an ardent disciple of the same. His childhood name of was Artatrana, which is one of the names of Lord Vishnu meaning ‘protector of those in distress’.
From the age of four to twelve, he learned to read and write Oriya language, mathematics as well as some knowledge of Sanskrit at home. He was enthusiastic to learn more so one day he left his home without informing anyone and reached a place called Balyabeda, where he studied Sanskrit for five years and passed a course of Kavya-teertha.
Orissa had a severe famine. Thousands of people were dying due to starvation. He, therefore, decided to serve the needy but soon realized that in spite of his herculean efforts, he could not improve the situation much. He felt deeply saddened by his inability to help people at large. It was then that he thought of obtaining the mythological Akshaya Patra. A bowl which can yield an unlimited supply of food and which is inexhaustible. Akshaya Patra is also called as Annapoorna Siddhi, which is believed to be bestowed by Annapoorna Devi, the Hindu mythological goddess of food and nourishment, and his devotees believed he possessed this mystic power. One finds the description of such magical bowl in the epic Mahabharata. Krishna had gifted it to Draupadi during her exile with the Pandavas. To obtain such a bowl he decided to do penance i.e. tapasya. He left his home on the 5th day of Chaitra month, of 1951 Vikram Samvat era, towards goddess Kamakhya temple in Guwahati in Assam. During his stay there, he happened to listen to a discourse on a treatise of Advaita Vedanta called ‘Viveka Chudamani’. Inspired by the knowledge of Nondualism his views were transformed and he started to question the very motive of his penance. He thought, what will he gain even if the goddess granted him his wish of obtaining the Akshaya Patra. How many people would he be able to benefit, and how long would he, for that matter, going to live on this planet, besides would all the problems of people be solved by finding food alone?? Therefore, he discontinued his penance and traveled to Kashi and then back home to Jagannath Puri.
After coming home, he met and persuaded Swami Shri Madhusudan Tirth who was the Jagadguru and Shankaracharya of Govardhana Peetham at Jagannath Puri, to give him Naishthik Brahmacharya Diksha. initiation into lifelong celibacy. Then he was given a new name of Brahmachari Vasudeva Swarup. His age was 22 years old.
Soon he decided to take a pilgrimage for searching an accomplished ‘Siddha’ or Guru. He wandered and searched out entire India from Benares i.e Kashi to Rameshwaram. During this journey, he experienced many miracles and spiritual wonders, met many sadhus, mahants, and spiritual men. After staying in Rameshwaram for 10 days, he visited Pandharpur, Poona, Mumbai, and then reached Haridwar and Rishikesh. But no matter where he searched, he could not find any true Siddha. After such a long pilgrimage which he throughout did walking, he returned to Govardhana Math in Jagannath Puri.
He accepted Sannyasa from Swami Shri Madhusudan Tirth, the Jagadguru and Shankaracharya of Govardhana Peetham at Jagannath Puri, at the age of 32, in 1964 of Vikram Samvat. Then he received a new name as Swami Purnananda Tirtha since he was also carrying a staff, he was called Dandi Swami Purnananda Tirtha.
Udiya Baba would teach people according to their natural inclinations. He would teach a follower of Bhakti the secrets of devotion as well as to a follower of Jnana by helping him understand the true nature of Brahman. He would keep the students of these two paths separate, saying that one should proceed in whatever path one is naturally inclined to. He would say it was difficult for common people to understand texts like Yoga Vasistha, therefore for such people, he would make arrangements for Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavatam. Along with Vairagya i.e dispassion, he would stress the importance of practice or Sādhanā. Regarding practice, he would say, referring to his own experience that what is only the Pure Consciousness appears, to be a hard physical body due to constant wrong thinking. This is the effect of practice! Therefore it is necessary to constantly practice the opposite thinking. He used to say, there are three stages of practice, first understanding oneself to be different from the physical body. When this practice becomes perfect, one develops the identification with the subtle body. Second, after this, experiencing the detachment from the objects of senses. As a result of this practice, the vision shifts from the subtle body and abides in the causal body, then thirdly comes the experience of separation from pain and pleasure. With this practice, the vision or identification shifts from all the four functions of the mind and abides in the Self. He always said one must accept everyone as he or she is, without any desire to change anyone in the slightest.
In the afternoon of Chaitra Krishna Chaturdasi of 2005 Vikram Samvat, the date being 8th May 1948, he was fatally assaulted by a deranged man named Thakur Das.His mortal body was given a Jala Samadhi. immersion in the holy waters of Yamuna.