The cave of the Sage Vasishta (Vasishtha Guha) is located about 22 km from Rishikesh, on the road leading to the sacred Badrinath.
The entrance arch, built to commemorate the 100th birthday of Guru Swami Purushottamananda Maharaj, is immediately visible from the main road.
His ashram is located in a quiet valley near the village of Goolar Dogi in the Tehri Garhwal district.
The holy river Ganga which emerges from the confluence of the Bhagirathi and from Alkananada to Devprayag, flows majestically along the banks of the ashram.
Today the Guha or cave is visible going down the road to the valley.
But until recently it was all covered by a dense forest and prairie, where wild animals like tigers and bears roamed freely.
Swami Purushottamananda chose Vasishtha Guha as his final home for austerities and meditation. His Samadhi is in fact located here.
The compassionate guru of Vasishtha Guha
Swami Purushottamanandaji was born on November 23, 1879 in Tiruvalla in Kerala under the star Utharattaathi. Her parents were Parvati Amma and Narayan Nair.
The boy was called Neelakantan.
After completing his primary studies with great satisfaction, Neelakantan thought of continuing to achieve specializations and find a good job, but at that time he was forced to stay in bed due to severe rheumatism and paralysis problems.
Even as a boy he had a strong spiritual disposition. Listening to the story of Prahalada he had experienced a wonderful sense of joy and a great desire to obtain final liberation.
His physical condition, in fact, neither depressed him nor distressed him.
He had such a steadfast devotion and faith in the divinity of Guruvayoor that despite walking he barely decided to embark on a dangerous journey to the city, where the temple of Divinity was located. His obstinacy made him face the long pilgrimage.
Staying in Guruvayoor, he experienced pure happiness and even his health seemed somewhat improved.
Neelakantan was eager to continue his studies but fate would otherwise because of his illness. However, even when, still due to illness, he lay in his bed he learned Sanskrit so that he could read the Bhagavatam, which is certainly not an easy-to-learn text to master and master, if a profound knowledge of the terms is not developed and language.
His expertise assisted by his devotion made him highly popular in the spiritual circle in his hometown Tiruvalla.
An ardent devotee of Sri Ramakrishna of Tiruvalla had organized a Sangh Ramakrishna (Meeting with the devotees), so he convinced Neelakantan to participate in the kirtan (singing sessions that took place in rotation in the houses of the members of the sangh).
There, the boy was immediately recognized as a Swamiji and asked to both preside over the chants and to read parts of the Bhagavatam.
His first reading and exposition was the melodious Gopika Geetham which is the epitome of bhakti. After reading and commenting, the listeners were transported to a state of great bliss and they shed copious tears of devotion.
Swami Nirmalananda, the then president of the Ramakrishna Ashram of Bangalore also attended this sangh.
Swami Purushottamanda Maharaj himself in his autobiography dedicated these words to Swami Nirmalananda Maharaj, describing his first encounter with him:
"I was in the Valia Kottaram (large palace) near the Subramanya Temple in Haripad (Kerala) when luck wished I could have the darshan of Shri Nirmalananda Swamiji. I was attracted by the enchanting magnetic gaze of that divine person, I approached him gently, and I supported my boss.
In fact, I had offered all of myself, including my body to him. And it is My firm belief that, even now, my head continues to rest on his body. "
Swami Nirmalananda took him with him and seeing the young man's purity, devotion and innocence gave him permission to be his disciple.
Swami Nirmalananda was a perfectionist, a quality absorbed by the Great
Master, Sri Ramakrishna. He taught these qualities in the young novice. Every action had to be strictly observed, in fact it was not uncommon for the new disciple to be reproached also in public.
However, this never discouraged Neelakantan, whose spiritual ardor was intense. He saw everything as invaluable good advice and teaching to completely eradicate his ego and incompetence.
Swami Nirmalananda, in fact, was preparing him for the great meeting with Swami Brahmananda (Rakhal Maharaj), the spiritual son recognized by Sri Ramakrishna himself, as well as founder (together with S. Vivekananda) and first president of the Order of Ramakrishna. It would even give him initiation.
The Grand Master would come shortly to visit some places in Kerala.