Episode 14: Interview with Self-Realized master Shivarudra Balayogi

I’m interviewing a very special guest, an enlightened yogi called Shivarudra Balayogi, henceforth referred to as Babaji. This is a podcast about the spiritual path of devotion and meditation, the traditional guru-disciple relationship, and the intense spiritual practice called Tapas, that culminates in complete and permanent Liberation.

As you know, the LiveAndDare blog is about meditation, personal growth, and non-sectarian spirituality. This specific podcast episode is focused on spiritual life and spiritual awakening, from a very traditional point of view. If you are highly skeptical, or only interested in meditation only for stress relief and health purposes, this episode won’t speak to you much. You can refer to our other episodes for that.

But if you are seeking enlightenment, spiritual awakening, then this is a gem. In the past 16 years in my journey, I have met several spiritual figures – teachers, masters, monks, yogis -, but only two of them I feel in my heart are fully enlightened, or Self-Realised. Babaji is one of them. I recorded this after the first day of retreat in Perth, Australia, in October 2015.

I couldn’t keep this episode to the regular 40min, because there was a lot of interesting experiences and concepts covered, so I did less editing than usual. Also, this recording happened in an open room, with not the best audio conditions, so the quality will be not as clear as you are used to, and some background noise will be there. But the message still shines through powerfully.


ShivabalayogiIn the first half we are talking about his early years in the spiritual path, and meeting with his master, Shivabalayogi Maharaj (picture on the left). Before meeting his guru, his biggest influences were the sages Adi Shankara and Sri Ramana Maharshi, both Advaita Vedanta exponents. Then we talk about his process of Tapas, and how he became finally awakened. At the end, I ask him some general questions about spiritual practice.

There are said to be four paths to Liberation: Knowledge, Devotion, Service, and Meditation. (Read here for more details). For Babaji, the path was strongly a devotional one, with his Guru embodying his ideal of self-realization. It was also intensely a path of meditation, especially towards the end of it, when he was meditating in average 18 hours a day, every day, for 5 years.

Babaji, of all teachers I met, has the highest standards. He defines that the true meditation state starts only when you can keep the mind perfectly concentrated, undistracted by any thoughts, for one hour. And the highest spiritual practice, called tapas, is when you can keep in this state for at least 8 hours at a stretch. Tapas means to “cook” or “burn”. It culminates in Nirvikalpa Samadhi, which is a state in which all ego and mental tendencies dissolve permanently. After that, there is no further need for meditation.

I hope this interview be as inspiring for you as it was for me.

Book references:

People mentioned:

 Places mentioned

  • Dehradun, India
  • Mysore, India

Babaji resources

  • pacoco

    About the second photo, I don’t believe someone enlightened is so fat. If he’s not able to look after his body, what can we say about his mind???

    • In some traditions the practitioners pay very little importance to the body, and full importance to the mind only. Some of them give no thought to physical health.

      To give an opposite example, when he was doing tapas, for many years he was meditating 20 or more hours per day, sleeping almost nothing, and eating almost nothing. His disciples had to look over his body, because his mind was in deep states of Samadhi (meditative absorption), in which there is no awareness of the body or the outside world.

    • Mike G

      Did he tell you that?

    • It’s in his biography. His mother and some close disciples took care of him.
      To learn more about his practice and teachings, I recommend you read the book Divine Play.

    • DTC

      You have got to be joking. Ever see a drawing of Budha?

    • Lou Nisbet

      The ‘fat Buddha’ representations are Zen. They mock the idea of the Buddha to disturb the mind. They are NOT representations of the living Buddha. Buddhists monks tend not to eat after 12pm, most are anything but fat. In Buddhism food should be treated like medicine. However not all rotundness is caused by over eating. many people have medical conditions which impose thisbody shape.

  • Marsha McGuire

    Sweet man. Sweet interview. Sometimes the big belly is from kumbhaka.

  • Bogdan

    For curiosity, who is the second one?

    • Sri Lakshamana Swami. But he is no longer reachable.

      He attained enlightenment with Sri Ramana Maharshi, in 1950 (the last year of Ramana’s life), when he was just 25.

      I met Lakshamana Swami in 2006. He has the most powerful silent presence I have ever felt with any master.

  • Jeremiah Bullfrog

    You should be very careful about you proclaim as self-realized, enlightened, and even yogi.
    You cannot pretend to know the true state of another being, and you could be doing a disservice
    if it turns out, as is so often the case these days, that a teacher is not only not self-realized, but
    has all manner of issues that have not been worked on and brought into the light.
    An obvious thing that pops out in this case is that he claims to be the same being as his Guru –
    taking on the name, mannerisms, and is believed to be by his devotees the actual incarnation of
    his Guru.
    This is highly unusual, even for Hindu/yogic circles, and there is very little precedent or examples of such claims among the respected Gurus and Sages that we know and love.
    For example Ramana would not have recognized this phenomenon/claim – of this I am quite sure.
    I would venture to say the same for Nisargadatta, Papaji, and many others.
    You can mark this one down as HIGHLY suspect.

    • You wrote: “you cannot pretend to know the true state of another being, and you could be doing a disservice if it turns out, as is so often the case these days, that a teacher is not only not self-realized, but has all manner of issues that have not been worked on and brought into the light”

      I agree with that. As Ramana Maharshi and other sources say: “Only a Jnani can know another Jnani”. And I don’t pretend to be one. But as we advanced in the path, our spiritual discernment gets sharper and better. Here I simply share my own feeling about this master.

      I know that my current discernment could have been useful for the past Giovanni, that were involved with “less enlightened” masters (to be nice) – so I share it knowing that it can be useful for others as well.

      In what I wrote and said in this podcast I made it very clear that I am sharing how I feel about this master, and not exposing an absolute truth. I wrote that I met many masters, “but only two of them I feel in my heart are fully enlightened, or Self-Realised. Babaji is one of them”.


      You also wrote: “This is highly unusual, even for Hindu/yogic circles, and there is very little precedent or examples of such claims among the respected Gurus and Sages that we know and love.”

      Which claim are you talking about?

      Shivarudra Balayogi does go out there declaring himself to be enlightened. But when I interviewed him about his path and transformation, he narrated what happened.

      He doesn’t declare to be an incarnation of his Guru, either. From the times I had a chance to spend time with him, I see he is a huge devotee of his Guru, even now.


      In general, I understand your skepticism. There are heaps of phonies out there, and you might have already been with fake gurus in the past. I am as skeptical as you about full enlightenment – only a handful of individuals get there.

      But for me Shivarudra Balayogi and Sri Lakshmana Swami are clearly there. This is my feeling after having personally spend time with them, read their teachings, talked to their students, and experimenting applying their teachings into my life and path. Not everyone feel the same, of course.

    • Jeremiah Bullfrog

      Dear Giovanni,

      I will have a longer response but take a look at this page from one of their websites.
      Assuming they are talking about this Swamiji – do you see why I made the comments about literal incarnation/embodiment?

    • Hi Jeremiah,

      This site has nothing to do with the master in this podcast (ShivaRUDRA Balayogi). Indeed, Shivarudra Balayogi was the only disciple of Shiva Balayogi that completed tapas.

      Shivarudra Balayogi does mention that after the death of his guru, several disciples claim to be his incarnation. That is not the case with SRBY (he always says he is serving IN the mission of his master).

    • Jeremiah Bullfrog

      You’re right it’s not the same Guru.
      It must be one of these disciples you mention, but the fact that several disciples make this very unusual claim might indicate that Shivabalayogi made comments which might make them think they are somehow carrying on his mission – literally.
      I don’t know if it’s the case, but you don’t find this with other Guru lineages that I know and respect. So it makes me wonder.
      As far as SRBY – and in the context of these other disciples – I would say that it is unusual to take a name that is so close to one’s Guru name.
      You will also notice that he is shown superimposed over his Guru as if they are the same (the logo on the main page)
      And that he is shown in a photo opposite of his Guru with the same posture and unusual hand position. (and again below)
      And he is given the honorific Shri as well as Maharaj – which would be reserved for his Guru normally – and does not paint a picture of a loyal disciple simply carrying on the work of his Guru.
      Anyway, I don’t think we are going to find writing, audio or video where he actually says it outright.
      But my gut is telling me there is more to this picture.
      Like if you asked a student of SRBY about it – I wonder if they might confide that this is their belief, whether he has specifically stated it or not.
      But I have no proof.

    • At the end of the day, none of this is too unusual for a master. If he really merged with his Guru, being a complete devotee of him that has finished tapas, then all this is good.

      So the question is if you consider him a true Yogi or not. And for that one needs to spend some time in his presence and see what one feels/sees. I have my answer, and I’d say I’m pretty hard to please in these subject 😉

    • Jeremiah Bullfrog

      The trouble for me is if he thinks he is literally an incarnation or vessel of his Guru – it would raise serious questions about the second part as to whether he is a true Yogi or not.
      Because it is extremely uncommon to hear about – and it is not taken seriously by any of the Guru lineages I can think of – past or present.
      But I agree, spending some time in person can go a long way.
      Not always – as I and so many otherwise intuitive and “mature” seekers can attest to.
      Other things can get in the way of our judgement – like charisma, siddhis, claim to lineage of a respected Guru, even how they look and conduct themselves, knowledge of yoga, having various experiences in their presence, etc
      The problem is that none of these things are necessarily indicative of true Realization.

    • I like your way of thinking.

      From what I know/read of him, he doesn’t claim to be an incarnation of Shivabalayogi. What he does say is that his master used to appear from him every month in tapas to guide him, and that at the conclusion of his tapas Shivabalayogi never appeared again.

      It would be great to continue this chat more in-depth outside the constraints of this comment boxes. If you would like that, send me an email so we can chat better: [email protected]

    • Jeremiah Bullfrog

      And same to you.
      I will email you then.

    • Mike G

      He had two disciples who completed 12 years Tapas- Tapaswini and Sathya Shivabalayogi, and two who were murdered during their Tapas. One gave up after a few years. There may be more.

  • Rane Bowen

    Hi there! Love the podcast – are you planning to put out any new episodes soon?

    • I’d love to, Rane, but don’t have enough time. I’m focusing more on my meditation course these days, and also prioritizing writing posts over recording audio.

  • JR

    Thank you for taking the time to conduct and share this amazing interview with us Giovanni. Clearly, there are many mysteries around achieving enlightenment, to which I found rather interesting as explained by Babaji. I can’t even fathom an 18hr meditation, much less at a sustained 5yrs! Wow!

  • dave

    Had some difficulty listening to the podcast but did notice an often used ‘I’ in the talk which for me is another word for ego. According to the Gita there is no outward sign by which someone can be determined to be enlightened then prefer to leave it at that. If one notices even a glimmer of ego in the so-called master than would be suspect for that state. One may be highly evolved yet not in nirvikalpa samadhi so much easier to mislead others especially if they are highly knowledgeable in their field of mysticism. One would almost have to live with such a master to get a better ‘feel’ for their state and even then wiser to leave room for doubt. Also manifesting certain siddhies would be a high sign indeed.
    Also with Nirvikalpa Samadhi there may be further need for meditation, but the definition of above is in negative terms so not one that I would use to describe this permanent state of samadhi. On the other hand this from my understanding is not the highest possible state of consciousness but rather the highest state of ‘subjective’ not objective awakening. Objective awakening refers to further purification of the senses so the objective world appears as the subjective in pure consciousness.

    • Hi Dave,

      I can refer to the ego or the pure Self. Ramana Maharshi, and many advaita masters, often refer to “I” as the pure Self or Consciousness.

  • Dave

    Interesting podcast and thanks for sharing Giovanni.

    I would not define a true mediation state as beginning with one hour/more hours of keeping the mind perfectly concentrated, uninterrupted by thoughts. This is purely arbitrary, in fact to attain one or another level of samadhi regardless of the time factor would be sufficient for a description of a meditative state.
    Given the generally long time frame to attain Nirvikalpa it would be wise to treat it like a project broken into stages of completion along the way or in this case levels of awakening. In this way, one is more likely to reach at least one or another level of awakening during their lifetime and reap the amazing bennies.

    Imagine an olympic champion spending hours pushing a large boulder when had a lever been used would have shortened the time considerably. This is especially important for those who cannot devote large periods of time to meditation and have many duties in the outer world. I applied physical, emotional and meditative practices to complete the first stage (nervous or physical system purification) and enter the stream of continuous joy/witnessing/deeper thought origin, etc. For each stage I have a unique set of practices that apply (like levers) to facilitate that part of the journey. I’ve also applied Western approaches to facilitate purification. It appears that those more fully awakened Yogis are locked into their particular tradition and certainly one can learn and progress a great deal by following them. As Americans looking in from the outside we can create our traditional ‘independent’ approaches rather than joining the joiners. Also apply and test innovative approaches again inline with our unique culture.
    Be in Bliss and to underscore its importance offer one of my poems:

    The Sun burst forth through all the sky
    O eternal, spring of bubbling bliss
    With clouds thus parted not to vie
    The Sun burst forth through all the sky
    With joy so sweet as to never lie
    In an eclipse to be sorely missed
    The Sun burst forth through all the sky
    O eternal, spring of bubbling bliss

  • Becca Williams

    I appreciate this discourse. My only question is: can this spiritual teacher (or any other) introduce us to students who have attained the same level of “enlightenment” or “No Self” or whatever you wanna call it – in addition to noting their lineage of “enlightened” others? … testimonials if you will.

    Great that these guys can model for us their practice of deep meditative states. Living in real life in the Western world generally entails living as a house holder, going about our daily business of interacting with our community of co-workers, neighbors and those we share homes with. So sitting for long periods of time is not in the cards.

    But anyway, as an “enlightened” one showing us the way wouldn’t there be those who could say, “Yes, he has shown us the way and I’ve become what he is” or something like that?

    • Hi Becca,

      In the history of spirituality, there has been enlightened householders. So that is not necessarily an obstacle.

      Your questions is very pertinent. The problem is defining what is meant by “enlightened”. If we mean full enlightenement (end of the line type of thing), then at any given century there are probably only 10 or 20 people in the world that quallify. Of these, only few will have disciples that achieve the same level.

      On the other hand, the point is that the master is able to help people take their next steps in the spiritual journey, and advanced down that path.

      I recommend you read my post on enlightenment, as it will help clear out some doubts ( https://liveanddare.com/spiritual-enlightenment/).

    • Becca Williams

      There should be a reference catalog of reviews (like Trip Advisor maybe:) about the progress people have made with various teachers. After all, what’s a master in the context of our Western World? If a master has “made it” and isn’t able to impart his wisdom to give a “hand up” to others in the unfolding of their path, then it’s a shallow ranking me thinks.

      P.S. the link you shared is dead.

    • I’ve now corrected the link, thanks. It is now working.

    • Becca Williams

      Thanks for all this Giovanni!

      Question. How do we know that only 10 or 20 people in the world at any given time are “fully enlightenment”? I mean it’s not like their halos become bright luminescent pink (or maybe ?) so we can count them?

    • We can’t really know. That is just my own personal estimate, from all the books I read, masters I met, and conversations I had on this topic with other seekers, scholars and monks.

      I also wanted to add to your previous question: If Mozart teaches piano to several people, but none of them becomes the next Mozart, does that mean he is not a good teacher?

      I’d argue that no. There will only be one or two musicians of the level of Mozart in any given generation.

      The question more is: did Mozart students make good progress in that path or not?

    • Becca Williams

      I’m not sure that’s an apt comparison as the aptitude for physical skills varies from person-to-person.

      Perhaps it’s not about students following an enlightened master so much as it’s about an enlightened master being an excellent teacher to show the way. Some masters are simply celebrated for being enlightened. But the ones a ready and willing student would want are the ones who can easily convey their teaching.

    • I agree that the ability to teach effectively varies from master to master, and it’s not necessarily related to the depth of their enlightenment.

      On the other hand, I think the comparison with music/art stands. Among disciples also, the aptitude for contemplative practices varies a lot. Some people are able to meditate more easily and deeply than others; some people can understand the teachings more readily; some people can let go and transcend negative mental patterns more easily. Other’s will take a lifetime to make a decent progress.

      Yet that should not discourage anyone. The important thing is to simply be walking in the right direction.

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