Jagadguru Bhagawaan Gopinathji was one of the most eminent saints who have ever graced the sacred land of India.Unlike the other saints; he was called Bhagawaan in his lifetime as all the six attributes which that word stands for were seen in him. He was a Jeevan-mukta, having attained mukti or liberation while still in the gross body, to which he was not attached in the least. His spiritual state was what the Shaivites call Shsembhavi avasthaa (the state of Shiva Himself) and the Vendantins, Brahrnisthiti (the state of ever dwelling in Brahmin, or God without a form). With his spiritual power, he did a lot of good to spiritual aspirants, house holders and the country. He brought many sinners round to the path of virtue. Though utterly detached, he showed much concern for the country and its people in his later life.
Bhagawaan Gopinathji, one of the several brothers and sisters, was born in a middle class Kashmiri Pandit family at Banamohalla, Srinagar, Kashmir on 3rd July, 1898. His mother Shrimati Haara Maali, passed away when he was only twelve, and his father, Pandit Narayan Joo Bhan, when he (Bhagawaanji) was in his late twenties. Bhagawaan Gopinathji, was educated only up to the Middle Standard, but had absorbed well whatever he had been taught at school. He would, very rarely, though utter beautiful English sentences even in later life, when he remained absorbed in the Self most of the time. He was also conversant with Sanskrit, Persian, Hindi and Urdu. When Bhagawaan Gopinathji was only ten, Pandit Narayan Joo Bhan relinquished the possession of his residential house, along with most other belongings, to his stepmother. The family continued to live in Srinagar, but had to shift residence from place to place. Thus, Bhagawaan Ji lived in eleven different houses including his ancestral house. These included the house of a niece of his at Chandapora where he gave up the mortal frame on 28th May, 1968.
The family being in dire financial straits, Bhagawaan Gopinathji was asked to take up some work, so at the young age of fifteen, he started working at a local printing press as a compositor. In his twenties, he ran a grocer’s shop, where he seemed to be generally absent minded, being absorbed in meditation. The family pressed him to marry, hoping that marriage would bind him to the world, and so he would be a permanent financial support, but he was adamant in his refusal.
As a young man, Bhagawaan Gopinathji stood out for his bravery, fearlessness and hatred of dishonesty. Another notable feature of his youth was his longing to visit the great saints of that time. The one he visited included Swami Baalkak, Swami Jeevan Saheb and Swami Zana Kak Tufchi.
Bhagawaan Gopinathji remained a celibate all his life. He regarded lust as the greatest obstacle to Self-realization. Here is an incident worth mentioning in this connection. Some friends once forced the young Bhagawaan Gopinathji to visit a courtesan along with themselves. At the very sight of her, he felt such revulsion that he called her a witch. Reprimanding her in very harsh language, he advised her to live a virtuous life. However, thinking that poverty must have forced her to take to a sinful life, he, in his characteristically compassionate manner, threw a rupee-coin towards her before leaving her room. He felt happy whenever a celibate came to see him though he never asked a householder disciple or devotee to give up his wife and children in pursuit of Self-realization.
Bhagawaanji was above all consideration of cast, creed or religion. From 1947 onwards, people of all creeds would go to see him and he would shower his love and compassion equally on all. Once he said, in answer to a devotee’s question, “Is a Hindu one and a Muslim another?”
Bhagawaan Gopinathji started with the spiritual discipline known as Panchaanga upaasanaa that is, meditating on the five deities: Ganesha, Surya, Naaraayana, Shiva and Shakti. Later, his ideal was the Divine Mother Shaarika, whose vision he had, for the first time, at the age of twenty seven. Gradually he shifted to nirguna upaasanaa; that is, meditating on the Supreme Reality without a form. In his thirties he took to intense Saadhanaa shutting himself up in a room, which no one, except mostly a niece of his, was to enter. An earthenware lamp was kept burning there all the twenty-four hours. His concentration was so intense and he grew so unaware of his body that a rat nibbled a hole in heal of his. It is not possible to say what type of spiritual discipline it was; but it caused his body to swell and, sometimes, made him vomit blood. During this seven-year period of saadhanaa, he would take no food for long periods extending even to six months. He came out of this terrible ordeal having attained the full realization of the Supreme Reality. Bhagawaan Gopinathji kept a dhooni (sacred fire) burning before him and offered oblations intoit off and on.
Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji being an introvert was a man of few words and had a straightforward demeanor. He is known to have always shunned publicity and covered himself with anonymity. As such, various religious commentators along with his devotees have found it difficult to classify his spiritual journey into a particular school of Indian philosophical thought. It is widely believed that he must have followed the tenets of trika doctrine of advaita (non-dual)Kashmir Shaivism, [in which the Goddess Bhairavi-Aghoreshwai is enthroned above God Bhairava, and is the main deity of worship with jnana (knowledge), ichcha (will) and kriya (action)] which had a dominating influence on him.
Once while explaining the inter-relation of various spiritual disciplines for realizing God he said, " think of Brahman (God without a form) as a tree and if one sits on any one of its branches (various spiritual disciplines), the same goal will be reached in each case”. He once remarked: "Omkara (Hindu Symbol) is the "throat" of Godhead and nothing is possible without it". A couple of his pen-drawings have been found in which he has drawn the symbol Omkara (in Sharada Script) surrounded by the names "Rama" and "Shiva" probably indicating that God (in the form of Omkara) can be realised through either path. Once, while visiting the shrine of Amarnath, he is said to have remarked: "Shiva is dancing everywhere" and later he was seen in a joyful mood for the entire day.
He always kept incense sticks burning in flames instead of letting them smolder as he had an affinity for light sources. Sometimes he would also keep the oblations in the fire pot, burning in flames and also referred to it as the "feet" of Lord Narayan. He referred to his legs as mere "logs of wood" and the body as "food", for the God of death (Mahakaal) and as such didn't consider physical body as the end -all be-all of human existence.
He did not advise anyone to give up one's family and household in pursuit of self-realisation but guided people only if they practiced celibacy.
From the collections of the various hymns written by him, it is evident that he had an inclination towards Bhakti tradition as well, which is also indicated by his fondness for Indian classical music.
From around 1938, his devotees started recording and attributing various miracles to him, like treating incurable diseases, blessing issueless couple with children, bringing back the dead to life as the situation demanded.
Mindreading, materialization, helping people to see the deity of local shrines like Kheer Bhawani and Hari Parbat in human form and also in the form of their effulgence and many more have been meticulously documented primarily by his principal biographer and also by other devotees.
On 3rd July 1999, an officer of the 18th Battalion of The Grenadiers regiment of Indian Army reportedly sighted him at the battle front during Kargil War, directing assault operation to recapture Tiger Hills. A similar sighting was reported by an officer of Indian Army during the 1947 war.
Bhagwan Gopinathji never taught in a formal way. However, he often made statements from time to time in response to questions either of devotees or on his own while being amongst them. Being a man of few words, he usually used short sentences and one had to lend a curious ear to decipher their contextual meanings. A few of such of his statements, translated here into English, which his devotees recognize as his teachings, are as follows• God is one. He treats all alike.