In the early years of His life, Ghanshyam constantly performed actions displaying His divine attributes and His desire to spread knowledge. After Dharmadev and Bhaktimata passed away, Ghanshyam left home at the age of 11 to travel the length and breadth of India. His 7 year journey focused on reestablishing the ideals of Hindu Sanatan Dharma. During these years, He was known by the name of Neelkanth Varni.
Neelkanth left home with only a few possessions: a loin cloth, a small scripture, a murti, and a begging bowl. He traveled with only what was necessary, renounced His family and other worldly possessions, and continued His lifelong journey of bringing people closer to God.
Neelkanth’s travels spanned over 12,000 kilometers of the diverse terrain of India: the frost covered peaks of the Himalayas, the jungles of Assam, and the beaches of the south. The young yogi’s austerity and courage mystified and impressed the countless, fortunate people with whom He came into contact.
In the village of Shripur, Neelkanth was warned of a lion that had been terrorizing the villagers. The mahant of the local mandir urged Neelkanth to spend the night inside the mandir walls to avoid being harmed. Neelkanth turned down the invitation and retired for the night under a tree outside the village walls. Fearful for the young boy, the mahant peered out of his window. He was shocked to see the lion calmly bowing at Neelkanth’s feet. Neelkanth’s fearless personality breathed courage into the lives of millions of aspirants on the path to attaining God.
While traveling through the Himalayas, Neelkanth endured the severe climate of the coldest months of the year, a time when even the residents of the Himalayas migrate to warmer temperatures. Despite the physical challenges, Neelkanth climbed a height of 12,500 feet to arrive at the revered mandir dedicated to Vishnu, Muktinath. Here, He spent four months engaged in penance despite harsh temperatures, freezing rainfall, and piercing winds.
Neelkanth drew the attention of people in every village through which He passed. In one such village, a Brahmin named Pibek grew jealous of the attention Neelkanth received. He resolved to force Neelkanth to leave the village. Pibek confronted Neelkanth when He was delivering a discourse to a group of sadhus and threatened His life. Pibek’s anger only grew when his threats were met with a serene smile on Neelkanth face. The curses Pibek tried to place on Neelkanth did not work, further angering him. Pibek called upon Batuk Bhairav, his diety of choice, for help in defeating Neelkanth. However, Batuk Bhairav warned Pibek that his black magic was no match for Neelkanth’s powers and that he should repent for his mistakes. Finally realizing Neelkanth’s divine ability, Pibek asked for His forgiveness. In response, Neelkanth requested that Pibek give up practicing black magic, read scriptures daily, and worship Vishnu daily. Neelkanth traveled through a period in India plagued by people who discouraged faith in God and mislead others into believing in superstitions and black magic. Through His treks, Neelkanth revived the Hindu concepts of faith, bhakti, and niyam.
These instances are examples of the reformations inspired from Neelkanth’s travels. During His journey, He also sought guidance from a true guru who could answer His questions regarding the nature of the five eternal entities: jiva, ishwar, maya, Brahma and Parabrahma . Prior to Neelkanth’s arrival in Loj, a village in western Gujarat, He had been unable to find someone who could adequately respond to these questions. In Loj, He was introduced to Muktanand Swami, a disciple of Ramanand Swami, who, like all those who had previously met Neelkanth, was greatly impressed by Neelkanth’s story. Neelkanth was intrigued by Ramanand Swami’s sampraday and asked to meet him. He was then informed that although Ramanand Swami was away, He was welcome to stay at the ashram until he returned.
Despite having turned down similar offers at many of the ashrams He had encountered throughout His travels, Neelkanth wanted to meet Ramanand Swami. He stayed at the ashram and while waiting for the return of Ramanand Swami, performed seva alongside other sadhus at the ashram. In the meantime, His desire to meet Ramanand Swami grew. After nine months, Neelkanth met Ramanand Swami in Piplana, a neighboring village of Loj. Upon meeting Him, Ramanand Swami compared himself to a drum beater who had gathered a crowd for the true performer, like the prologue to the main act. Ramanand Swami told his disciples that Neelkanth was God in human form and was the path to liberation. Ramanand Swami gave Neelkanth diksha and renamed Him Narayan Muni and Sahajanand Swami.