IN LATER YEARS
The relationship between the spiritual and physical was sublimely simple—at least for Nityananda. When some devotees complained that travel conditions and old age hindered them from more frequent visits, he countered that his physical presence was unnecessary for their spiritual growth. "Devotees will find this one wherever they meet and talk. Fish are born, live and die in the holy Ganges without attaining liberation, but devotees have only to think of the guru." He had been saying this for years.
And when asked about the benefits of performing selfless serviced, the Master would reply, "Who wants it? God? Of course not—people only do it to get something in return. You should dutifully do your own work to the best of your ability without seeking a reward. That is the highest seva you can render. The only thing required for spiritual growth is a detachment from worldly pleasures. If you don't listen to this, you will fail in the end."
One day a devotee saw that Nityananda's feet were extremely swollen and asked about it. "People come here for some benefit," he told
her, "and then leave their desires and difficulties at one's feet. While the Ocean of Divine Mercy washes away most of these tensions, a little is absorbed by this body—a body assumed only for their sake. "Nityananda's unconcern with his physical body was reflected in his devotees' constant awareness of it. And they were perplexed. By 1960, although he ate very little, his body had grown to huge proportions.
Alarmed, four devotees voiced their concern. The first was Sandow Shetty, who as a youth had been fond of gymnastics and feats of strength. The Master told him that his heaviness was due to lack of exercise. The second inquirer was Rao, who had suffered from malaria. Nityananda told him that his swollen stomach was the result of a malaria-induced enlarged spleen. The third devotee, a practitioner of pranayama breathing exercises, was told his size was a result of breath retention. Finally, Mrs. Muktabai came to him full of concern for his health and comfort. To her he said that the love of his devotees had settled around his gigantic belly. Regardless of cause, by the time Nityananda took mahasamadhi in August 1961 he was once again thin.