Kripalu in the US

Kripalu in the US

Over the years, Kripalu’s disciple Amrit Desai invited him to come to the U.S. to see the work he was doing on his guru’s behalf. Each time, he declined, saying he could not disrupt his sadhana. Their correspondence by letters continues, then one fall, an invitation arrived that would begin Kripalu’s eventual arrival in America that would last until shortly before his passing.

Kripalu Gives Shaktipat Diksha to Yogi Desai

Jai Bhagwan, your loving grandfather, Kripalu
Jai Bhagwan, your loving grandfather, Kripalu

My son, Amrit,
In ancient times, the guru gave a worthy disciple shaktipat diksha, an initiation in which the enlightened master causes pranic energy to awaken. That energy can transform his life and lead him to the highest stage of yoga. After receiving initiation, the disciple would start yoga sadhana automatically and nothing more had to be taught. 

When you were here for higher training, I gave you light shaktipat to help with your future progress. If I had given you powerful shaktipat, you would have left all your worldly work to go deeper into sadhana. At your next visit, I will bestow upon you the yogic power to give shaktipat diksha to others so that this tradition may remain continuous.

Shaktipat DikshaWithin a month, Amritji was back at his guru’s feet at Malav Ashram where he was formally initiated into shaktipat diksha on January 4, 1971.
pix of diksha

Each time Kripalu was with Yogi Desai he furthered his training. In 1974 at the inauguration of Kayavarohan, Yogi Desai received a Doctor of Yoga Science degree by His Holiness Jagadguru Shankaracharya Maharaj, one of Hinduism’s four highest spiritual prelates. The award recognized his mastery and his achievements as a world teacher for disseminating the culture and spiritual heritage of India. The rare ceremony was held at the swami’s ashram at Dakor.

Kripalu’s 4¼ Year Stay

1976 brought momentous change to the Kripalu ashrams when Bapuji unexpectedly accepted an invitation to America. He arrived for what was intended to be a short visit. His monk-like existence and intense 10-hour daily sadhana, coupled with 12 years of complete silence, seemed incongruous with traveling half-way around the world. But he made this sacrifice to see the work Gurudev was doing in America.

Bapuji arrives in the United States
Mataji greets Bapuji and Gurudev at JFK airport.

When Bapuji landed at JFK airport, he was greeted in a VIP lounge by a select group of disciples who accompanied him on the drive back to Pennsylvania. For months, the residents had tirelessly prepared for the arrival of their special guest. Gurudev had flown back and forth to oversee the arrangements and to personally escort his guru across three continents and the Atlantic Ocean.

Limousine making its way through the throng of well-wishers.When the entourage made its way from New York to the ashram, the road was lined for several miles with disciples dressed in white waving in welcome to their guru’s guru. Bapuji was so touched he broke his many years of nearly total silence to speak to these loving Western strangers, whom he referred to as his spiritual grandchildren. “We have been with all these souls before,” he told Gurudev with a knowing smile.

For a time, Bapuji gave a 6 am darshan. Chanting and teaching for more than an hour, his lilting Gujarati was translated by Gurudev, who sat childlike at his feet. Soon Bapuji settled into his sadhana in Muktidham, appearing only on special occasions three times a year, but regularly meeting with Gurudev, Mataji and a few others.

Gurudev wraps Bapuji in his shawlBapuji split his time between his home at Sumneytown, Muktidham, and the one prepared for him at Summit Station, called Rajeshvari. Gurudev’s loving devotion is evident as he tended to Bapuji’s every need to ensure that his sadhana would not be interrupted.

On Guru Purnima, July 26, 1980, Bapuji bestowed upon Gurudev the esteemed title of Yogacharya. The handwritten letter accompanying his certificate read in part: “I have considered Amrit my son as well as my disciple. I have wholeheartedly given him education of yoga, both in theory and practice. This is my blessing to him.”

Playful in life as well as in his teaching, Bapuji engaged his devout disciple in spiritual study as well as an impromptu boxing match on the deck of his home. These delightful times with Bapuji were treasured moments.

One day, Bapuji informed Gurudev that he had wisely dubbed the retreat cabin Muktidham: “You have aptly named my meditation abode, for today I reached my liberation.”

Even without many public appearances, the heightened energy of Bapuji’s presence permeated the atmosphere. It was a privileged time as Bapuji’s palpable grace infiltrated the ashram.

Bapiji mudraIn a rare moment, Bapuji allowed a photographer to capture his mudras as they   spontaneously emerged during deep meditation. During the sequence, he is completely enraptured in shakti and guided by prana in this eloquent dance of the divine.

As the years rolled by, Bapuji kept extending his stay to everyone’s delight. But in 1981, it became increasingly apparent that Bapuji’s health was declining. Unable to eat, he appeared frail and walked with difficulty. Although the words were never spoken, everyone knew Bapuji would soon be leaving not only the ashram, but his body as well. “I belong to the Lord,” he wrote on his slate.

On September 27, 1981, Bapuji gave his farewell address. He asked Gurudev to read aloud his written message: “The sweet dream has come to an end. I have always considered Amrit my own son. During my stay here, he has never displeased me. He has loved me for many years with faith, and I have also loved him deeply. I beg your permission to say farewell.”

And with that, an extraordinary 4¼ years of being in the presence of a saint was over. Bapuji quietly returned to India with Gurudev by his side for the long trip home. Attended by devotees in Ahmedabad, Bapuji passed into Mahasamadhi on December 29 at the age of 69.

Bapuji's Funeral ProcessionBefore leaving for India to attend Bapuji’s burial, Gurudev uplifted his family of disciples with a message of strength: “Bapuji knew that his body is just a vehicle. With complete trust in God, he took whatever came as grace and he is more among us than ever before.”

Bapuji’s funeral procession was attended by his many thousands of followers. After the simple burial in a field, the elaborate formal ceremony was held 16 days later, in keeping with Indian custom. A dome of flowers was assembled to lead the devotees to the tented area where the eulogies were read, filled with both laughter and tears.

Malav ShrineLater the magnificent memorial, the Malav Shrine, was built over the burial site. It continues to be a sacred place of pilgrimage.