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Light From The East
Sri Swami Krishnananda
While the East, from time immemorial, has been rightly regarded as sacred due to the daily rise of the glorious orb of the sun in that direction, and a forceful magnetic field, for the same reason, exerting a perennial vital influence on the entire life on earth, the East has also been heir to a magnificent tradition, which has kept it in high esteem even till today, as the ancient cradle of a Culture which saw, standing on the shoulders of humanity, vistas of the Light of Eternity. India, known as Bharatavarsha, particularly, enjoyed the fortune and nurtured the privilege of pioneering mankind’s endeavour to visualise, interpret, and work in the fields of life on the basis and in terms of the principles which invisibly but powerfully controlled the movements and functions of all things—whether they are the revolutions of the mighty planets in distant space or the vibrations of electrical particles in the subatomic structure of things, whether in outward social life or in the inward psychological operations of the human individual. This has been the peculiar feature inscrutable even to the logical mind, which has managed to draw a line of distinction between the Eastern vision of life which always judges the lower in terms of the higher and the Western empirical view of life which finds itself obliged to judge the higher in terms of the lower. But now the time seems to have come when we cannot any more sing with the poet that, after all, "the East is East, and the West is West", for now is the hour when it has become imperative that "the twain shall meet".
On this auspicious occasion of the holy Sixtieth Birthday Anniversary (Shashtyabdapurti) of Revered Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj, President of the Divine Life Society, I have the honour to pen these few lines for the benefit of all those who would be seeking to know the nature of the truth which has been burning brilliantly as a lamp shedding its cool rays around within the frame of this frail physical personality. I am fortunately one of those very few persons upon whom has perhaps been bestowed the abundant Grace of God, right from the very beginning, due to which I had the rare opportunity of imbibing through an observation of the personal life of Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj many essential and useful aspects of what may be called a knowledge of life in its gradual stages.
Sri Swamiji, in an honest and humble opinion which I have held after a thorough and dispassionate study and analysis, is veritably a noble piece from the very salt of the earth, which has kept it sweet. But how, one may ask. And here is a happy outcome of my careful observation for the last about thirty years, continuously. I am quite aware that there are devotees, disciples, admirers and students of the Swamiji in different parts of the world, who have spoken and written variously on the exemplary good life of love, service and illumination that he has been living, to the great joy of everyone, everywhere. But very few can be said to have had the chance of studying him and learning from him as much as I have been able to do, since my association with him for the larger part of my life has been many-sided:—personal, fraternal, social, official and spiritual, all at once. Many a time there were occasions when we would not agree with each other in our opinions, judgements and evaluations of persons, things and situations, or ideals in general, but even this difference was only an outward form of the nature of a diversion from the monotony of uniformity, whose basic essence was always constituted of an unbreakable mutual affection, regard and a superhuman love which has been ceaselessly existing between us right from our first personal contact with each other in the Ashram till this day of a fairly advanced age of both of us. Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj has been not only my perpetual friend, philosopher and guide at all times but even a Guru in many respects, a person I adore next in reverence only to Worshipful Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. In fact, my entire understanding of life, if ever I can be said to have been able to partake of even a jot of it in this terrestrial sojourn of mine, which has been, at least in a very small measure, keeping the balance of my apparently multi-faceted functions in life in an appreciably happy state, has come from two unforgettable sources: Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj and Revered Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj. While the transcendental aspects of the vision of life may be said to have been taught to me by Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, its immanental aspects have been driven into my mind by the self-sacrificing life of Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj.
The points which I would wish to touch upon here from the life of Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj are not necessarily those that pertain to his earthly parentage, secular education, etc., about which enough has been said by other writers in different contexts, a repetition of which here, once again, is not going to be for the edification any seeking soul or investigative reader. My purpose, through these few lines here, is mainly to be of some assistance to those people in the world whose souls have been stirred into activity towards a movement in the direction of a progressive attainment of their ultimate aim in life. When principles and functions which range beyond ordinary human comprehension begin to regulate and direct a personality, it becomes a little difficult for people to gauge its meanings, motives and purposes, when it begins to act in its private life or public life. Before I make an attempt at a fairly broad outline of the inner pattern of the life of a saint in general, it would be proper for me to present what may be called a historical narrative of the integrated personality of Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj.
The first words which he had the occasion to speak to me, many, many years back, on the bank of the holy Ganga, where I had just got down for a bath at about 10 O’Clock in the morning one day, in front of the Ashram at the Headquarters of The Divine Life Society, in the year 1944, were at once deeply suggestive of an impersonal personality which spoke those outwardly common words laden with a heavy beauty of humility and self-effacement characteristic of true greatness. My first observation in those remote early days of my entry into the Ashram was that while Sri Gurudev represented a towering stature of dignity and magnificence which soared above the dust of the earth, Sri Swami Chidanandaji remained content with immersing himself in a down-to-earth realism of life which sought to incarnate lofty spiritual values in the visible forms in which they manifested themselves as the vast humanity before one’s eyes. When Sri Swami Chidanandaji spoke to me those four or five words when we both were taking bath in the holy Ganga, I was reminded of those few words which Hanuman seems to have spoken, in utter humility and caution, when he first met the sons of Dasaratha in the forest of Kishkindha, which, in the words of Sri Rama himself, could not have come from the mouth of a person who was not acquainted with the profound meaning hidden in the four Vedas. My next personal contact with the Swamiji was perhaps some months later, though we both lived in the same Ashram of Sri Gurudev, performing our duties in the different fields of Seva that was allotted under the personal instruction and direction of Sri Gurudev himself.
Though it is difficult to recollect temporal events after a long lapse of time during which period powerful waves of a non-temporal aspiration have dashed down and submerged a personality in the abyss of an ocean of a much wider perspective of life, from what I can remember today of the interesting scenes in the series of roles that both of us had to play in the activities of the Ashram, it may be safely said that the careers of our true lives were fostered and nurtured, brought up and matured within the campus of that well-known universal atmosphere brought into relief by the personality of Sri Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj and the sublime Mission of The Divine Life Society. And, here are some of the salient highlights of this noble life which not only attracted my attention but from which I have received inspiration in not a small measure.
It is well known that the seeds of spirituality began to sprout into a vigorous growth even very early in the boyhood of Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj. The resources behind his bright intellectual education, tempered with the obviously humanitarian outlook of a syllabus commensurate with the air of an educational institution founded on Christian ideals, were beautifully blended with an utterly orthodox Indian tradition to be seen in a devout Brahmin family charged with an intense love of God but coupled with an incisive rational approach to all things. This rare and beautiful background of his birth, home life and education, was enough to bring to the surface of his consciousness the hidden potentialities of a Godward orientation of life brought from the depths of his being. He renounced the so-called secular life of the world which naturally regards one’s outward relation to the visible physical and social values of life as of immense importance, if not invested with the entire significance of life. Though the profound ethical implications of a Christian background associated with his educational career can be said to have manoeuvred the course of his amiable social nature, the sublimated moral toughness of his personality and general outlook and the goodness which makes him go out of the way in being of immediate help and service to people in need and distress, the ‘open-sesame’ of his basic spiritual nature may be said to have been first initiated by his study of the great life of the saint and sage Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and, incidentally, his acquaintance with the inspiring life and message of Sri Swami Vivekananda, though this latter aspect is to be regarded as having had a lesser impact upon him than the stirring depths of the Spirit fathomed and brought to public notice by the touching life of the Master of Dakshineshvar. The interesting combination of an ardent devotion to the Personal God of religion and a relentless renunciation consequent upon an unshakable affiliation to the concept of the Impersonal Absolute as the Ultimate Reality can be traced to this earnest regard he has enshrined in himself for the dual role of one’s contact with God so ably portrayed in the practical spiritual life of Sri Ramakrishna, which reorientation of attitude in spiritual life should be regarded as a necessity and a ‘must’ in anyone’s search for Truth.
In most cases, the spiritual life of a person germinates from small influences unknown to the world outside, influences apparently too insignificant to attract the attention of the public but powerful enough to embosom the entire exuberance and growth of the vast tree of one’s future life, aspiration and work. This happened also in the case of Sri Swami Chidanandaji who was stirred in an unknown manner, even while he was only a boy of eight years of age, by a spiritual Godfather, who narrated to him soul-stirring stories from the epics of India. Tales of glory and dramatic incidents from history have a greater effect on the mind of a student—why, on the mind of man in general—than any other means of communicating knowledge. These stories roused in his mind the deeper impulse towards the spiritual ideal which manages to beckon everyone to itself, through ups and downs, progressions and retrogressions, and spiral movements in the soul’s ascent.
Being born in a meticulously orthodox family devoted to Lord Vishnu or Narayana, he was brought up in an atmosphere of an ardent love for tradition, a respect for the necessary purificatory and symbolic role that ritual plays in religion, an adherence to accepted customs and manners characteristic of a harmonious relationship with human society and, above all, an understanding of the dignity, need and value of the office which even the first step taken or the least action done in the direction of a goodness of conduct or a divinely oriented character holds in anyone’s life. A beautiful combination of ancient religious tradition and modern English education produced in him a personality which tenaciously adhered to the humane social values and the lofty spiritual ideals of Indian Culture on the one hand and a carefully chalked-out attitude of public conduct and the self-effacing pre-eminence of a towering personal influence on the other.
It was in the year 1936 that the innermost secret of the spirit of India took possession of him and he renounced a life that tethers a person to a local family, community or a society, and took the first step towards leading a life of unfettered freedom, a life that belongs to all in the name of the All. He had the Darshan and the blessings of the revered monks of the holy Vyasashram in Yerpedu, and of the Sri Ramakrishna Math and Mission, before he came to a settled conviction as to his future spiritual career at the feet of the Holy Master, Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj in Rishikesh, at whose service he surrendered himself in the year 1943.
But his discipleship under Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, from the year 1943 onwards, strikes a landmark in the noble career of his life and, as a corollary thereof, in the methodology of the spread of the true meaning of India’s spiritual culture of which he was to become later a powerful torch-bearer of world-wide renown. Almost a year later I happened to join discipleship under Sri Gurudev, and the lives of both of us in the Ashram, in their mutual relationship, from that time onwards, may be regarded as a kind of epic which would record the difficulties of discipleship under a Guru and the benefits which accrue from such discipleship if it is truly lived. Sri Gurudev was a hard task-master in every way, though he was also a loving father and mother to everyone of us, simultaneously with his firmness in his subjecting the disciple to a rigorous training together with a parental care and affection. We swept the floor, spread carpet on the ground, carried firewood, water and bricks, served in the hospital, wrote letters and essays, typed manuscripts, tied packets of books, and journals for despatch to devotees outside, served in the kitchen, did Seva in the temple, delivered lectures, served visitors and guests, slept late in the night and got up early in the morning with little rest in between and both had the prerogative of privately suffering from chronic physical illnesses, each a peculiarity of its own kind. But with all this, Sri Gurudev stood before us as a gigantic magnet, comforting and solacing everyone with his bright face and beaming smile, from where emanated the protective aura of an unceasing Divine Grace.
To my knowledge and memory, Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj, then known as Sri Sridhar Rao to everyone in the Ashram, was quickly recognised by Sri Gurudev as being endowed with a special genius which he noticed from the first article which came from him as a contribution for a book or booklet which was to be published by The Divine Life Society. I remember very well Sri Gurudev’s remark a few days later: "I have found out his genius and capacity from this article. Now he cannot escape from me". This remark I heard when it was made in the presence of certain other Gurubhais of the Ashram. Since then, Sri Sridhar Rao became the chief of what the Management of the Ashram then considered as the ‘Intellectual Section’ of the Society. He took up the Correspondence Section and together with this responsible function he was also entrusted with dispensing medicines and treating patients in the Ashram’s Allopathic Dispensary. Herein were brought into a powerful focus his ability to express forceful thoughts in a classical Oxonian style of English and also his deep desire to do wholehearted service to ailing people, whether physically diseased or mentally impoverished in any way. His third important role in the Ashram’s life came out to the open court of public approbation when Sri Gurudev virtually designated him as the chief speaker in the Satsangas, gatherings, functions, ceremonies and celebrations held in the Ashram. It needs no mention that this triple function of such an important nature which he performed exquisitely to the entire satisfaction of everyone who felt its impact brought him to the forefront among the disciples of Sri Gurudev and he became an ‘uncrowned leader’ in the group-life of the Ashram, whenever there was any question to be solved, a problem to be tackled or a situation to be encountered. He was the immediately and readily available trustworthy referee of everyone in all matters pertaining to the Ashram, which honoured privilege he holds even now when he is sixty.
The esteem in which people outside the Ashram held him and the confidence everyone had in his goodness and capacity won for him the position of the first Vice-Chairman and later Chairman of the Town Area Committee of Muni-ki-reti, which is the name of the township in which the Headquarters-Ashram of The Divine Life Society is situated. He was also elected to the Leper Welfare Association of this area by the authorities concerned. When, on the 3rd of July 1948, Sri Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj thought it proper to inaugurate the Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy, Sri Swami Chidanandaji became an enlightening and clarifying first instructor therein, teaching to the students the philosophy and practice of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Part of these lectures of his was published through a book known as YOGA under his authorship and later reprinted as a separate book entitled ‘Path to Blessedness’. His speeches always came direct from his heart, without the artificial embellishments of the usual professional, but carrying the force and vehemence of a personality which lived what it taught. He also functioned as the next in importance to Gurudev himself in the Academy and Sri Gurudev bestowed upon him the designation of Vice-Chancellor, in addition to his being the Professor of Raja Yoga. A special mention must be made of his great work, ‘Light Fountain’, a biography of Sri Swami Sivananda, which he wrote in the early days of his in the Ashram, in chaste and polished English, in an unobtrusive style, which bespeaks an authorship preferring to remain unnoticed throughout the writing. This book came out in the light of the first-hand information of the details of the life of Sri Gurudev, received from Sri Gurudev himself in person. The correspondence section of the Ashram which Sri Swami Chidanandaji managed for several years became the medium for the most-needed inspiration and solace to countless drooping spirits, melancholy minds and grieving hearts, and it gave hope to the hopeless, cheer to the sorrowing and courage to the weak. His writings lead a natural literary touch which decorated the already profound thoughts and the weighty message which he conveyed through them. In the year 1947, a novel idea occurred to the mind of Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj. He conceived the rudiments of what he called a ‘Yoga Museum’ and put forth hard labour in collecting the necessary material for giving it the needed shape. This Museum was installed and exhibited firstly on the inauguration day in the Bhajan Hall of the Ashram, secondly in the room that is adjacent to the Bhajan Hall, in which the small Library of the Ashram was previously functioning, and lastly in a little hall known as the ‘Yoga Museum Hall’, in which latterly Sri Swami Nadabrahmanandaji began to conduct his Music College. This Yoga Museum which Sri Swami Chidanandaji prepared for the benefit of the students of Yoga was a pictorial representation of the various methods adopted in the practice of the different paths of Yoga: Karma-Yoga, Bhakti-Yoga, Raja-Yoga, Jnana-Yoga, Hatha-Yoga, Kundalini-Yoga, Japa-Yoga, Tantra-Yoga, etc. Swamiji used to personally take the trouble of explaining the meaning of the Yoga Museum to every interested visitor who happened to come to the Ashram. Every time the explanation took not less than forty-five minutes or even one hour. It was indeed a very unique kindergarten system introduced in the field of imparting lessons on Yoga, a feature which was appreciated by all those who saw it and listened to its explanation by the Swamiji.
In the year 1948, Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj was appointed as the General Secretary of The Divine Life Society. It was indeed a day of great joy to all in the Ashram, every inmate and every servant, all Sannyasins, Sadhakas and Brahmacharins, that they had with them a veritable Yudhishthira as their leader, their friend, philosopher and guide. It was also an occasion of satisfaction to Sri Gurudev himself that the Management of the Ashram and the Society. was vested in the hands of a most honourable spiritual mentor. Sri Gurudev ordained him into the holy order of Sannyasa on the sacred Sri Guru-Purnima day in the year 1949. Swamiji accompanied Sri Gurudev in his epochal All-India tour of 1950. Most magnificent was the contribution of Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj to the success of this tour of Sri Gurudev, all through which he delivered brilliant discourses which ably supplemented the gospel which Sri Gurudev himself gave in all the centres of his visit, round this tour. Sri Swami Chidanandaji not only spoke powerfully but also held Yoga Asana demonstrations himself as a part of the programme of the tour. Sufferings he did not mind, though plenty of them he had to endure by himself due to the fragility of his body and the weakness of his digestive system. It was a service, that is all, a Tapas, a devout offering at the altar of Sri Gurudev’s greatness and glory. It was this tour that for the first time brought The Divine Life Society and the Sivanandashram glaringly to the notice of the eye of the public, of the important social and political leaders of the country, of the officials of the Government, and of many a thirsting soul throughout the land seeking for spiritual relief and guidance on the path to God-realisation.
Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj was officially deputed by Sri Gurudev to represent The Divine Life Society in the Americas which he toured from the month of November 1959 onwards till the month of March of 1962. It is a great point worth mentioning and reiterating that Sri Swami Chidanandaji is one of those rare exceptions who entered into the heart of the West but never got tinged by the colour of the West either in its outer form or in its inner spirit. He strenuously maintained the tradition of the Indian Sannyasin, wearing the ochre robe, partaking only of the simple frugal diet of an orthodox Brahmin and living upto the ideals of the Indian spiritual way of life even when he lived in the thick fog of Western civilisation with a thousand scenes and beauties, pleasures and comforts, and stimulants to the senses and the ego of man. The message of divine life, the message of spirituality, the message of India’s hoary culture, the message of a Godly life while yet living on earth, did he deliver in the many homes and towns and cities, institutions, schools and colleges which he visited, holding in his hand the torch of knowledge which the Western culture needs, of course, the most and which is the only recipe for the ills of those who suffer from the glamour of the phantasmal ease and the passing pleasure which modern mechanised civilisation has been holding before the credulous minds of the unsuspecting mankind of the Twentieth Century. This long tour of Sri Swami Chidanandaji in the West continued till the month of March in the year 1962, when he returned to the Ashram with an unseen laurel which only the powers of goodness and righteousness could visualise and appreciate.
Thereafter, he went for a life of seclusion, austerity and meditation for the purpose which he himself described as ‘a cleansing of oneself from a Westernised atmosphere’ through which he had to move for such a long time, though gloriously unscathed, unaffected and untouched. This Tapas which he voluntarily underwent announced him through a thunderous silence as a noble scion in the hierarchy of the ideal Sannyasins of sacred Bharatavarsha. A little before the passing of the Great Light that was the Master Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, he returned to the Ashram, and it is needless to mention that it must have given to Sri Gurudev a fulfilling satisfaction that his dear spiritual son was there by his side at the time of the momentous departure which was to prove so decisive to everyone in many ways. It was he, indeed, who was physically at the bed-side of the Master during his last days, chanting the holy Pranava and giving an inner comfort and strength to all the bereaved ones who were in a quite understandable distress and anxiety when the Master passed away into the Unknown. It was he, again, who ably organised the air of the Ashram with a strengthening influence which he subtly spread in the Ashram during an apparently vacuous interregnum from the 14th of July 1963, which was the date of the passing of the Master, till the eighteenth of August 1963 when he was elected as President of The Divine Life Society by the Board of Trustees in their official meeting which was held on that day.
After his election as President of the Society, Swamiji strove to hold aloft the banner of true renunciation in its ideal spiritual sense, and of dedicated service, not only within the set-up of the widespread organisation of The Divine Life Society, but also in the hearts of countless seekers throughout the world, who found in him a loving parent, well-wisher, counsel and guide. To tour round a Western atmosphere continuously for a long time and live in the midst of persons and conditions which are totally different from the orthodox idealism of the traditional religion into which one is born and through which one has lived all along one’s main career in life and yet maintain one’s inner spiritual perspective of attitude and action, as if one has seen nothing and come in contact with nothing that is either strange or even new, is indeed to be regarded, at least knowing that man cannot be other than what he is, a proverbial achievement, unique in its own character.
His life in the Ashram manifested especially two main trends: the severe spiritual austerity which marked the gospel of Sri Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj and a persistently humanitarian perspective of life which may be regarded as a predominant motive of thought and action in a modern educated man. This aesthetic blend of character made the Swamiji not only an overwhelmingly sociable person at once at home with any and every level of human life but also an unswerving protagonist of spiritual orthodoxy when he is in the midst of a religious group, a body of monastic disciples or an organisation of church-goers in any religion or faith. The value that the Swamiji attaches to service extended itself not merely to the human kind but to living beings in general, which particular accent in his social life kept him always lifted above the parochial preachers and workers in the field of ordinary social life. Service to him has been a religion, contradistinguishing itself from that camouflage of humanism which enters the heads of those who regard religion as an opium of life or a delirium of the spirit. While the Pandit of the religious extreme is likely to profess a God who despises social service and the extremist of the social order might have a tendency to hold all religious ardour in contempt—two very erroneous approaches to life which have led humanity to chaos and disaster in the process of history—Sri Swami Chidanandaji succeeded as a veteran disciple of Sri Gurudev not merely to hold aloft in both hands the banners of religion and service but to live and to teach the identity of these two human ideals as a single flame of the soul’s march to perfection with these aspects of approach as its two radiant tongues shooting up ever. This is the insignia of a truly successful life, a really meaningful life, and it would be no exaggeration to say that the Swamiji lived and is living upto this shining example.
It is difficult to regard others as one’s own self, for such a thing as this is unthinkable. But this is precisely the soul of spirituality. And why spiritual seekers mostly fail in their lives should be obvious. This peculiar overmastering relationship with others which a cultured genius of understanding enshrines in itself has been the glorious burden of the song of life which it is that Sri Swami Chidanandaji has been leading all these years of his stay in the Ashram and his function through the Ashram. Poverty, disease and ignorance are the worst of human ailments. And what can be a greater service than for anyone to plant one’s body, mind and soul in the work of mitigating these tragic sights of human life. Sri Swami Chidanandaji is always beside himself whenever an opportunity of this kind presents itself even remotely. I am not thinking of repeating the many compassionate acts of service he has rendered to people, of which a lot has been written and with which everyone is familiar. To give only one or two examples of such human deeds of a superhuman nature, about which I have heard with authenticity:
The Swamiji was travelling once in a taxi with two of his colleagues from the Ashram. It so happened that on the way they found someone lying on the road, badly injured all over the body. The taxi driver, of course, would take no notice of it and rushed forward in his usual speed. But Sri Swamiji quickly observed the scene and asked the driver to stop the vehicle. They got down and on enquiry found that the man was injured due to some accident and was lying down helpless. Sri Swamiji was ready immediately to lift the patient into the vehicle so that he might be taken to the nearest hospital. But the driver would not allow it, for he feared that the police would regard him as the culprit and haul him up under the impression that his own vehicle might have been the cause of the accident. The driver was vehement and would not agree to any proposal of transporting the patient in his vehicle. What was the alternative to the Swamiji? He offered the driver the fare due to him and asked him to go his way, preparing himself with his two companions to lift the patient and go walking to the nearest hospital, whatever the distance! The incident needs no comment. The driver was touched to the core and consented to take the patient in the taxi. If humanity is above man’s instinctive animalistic reactions, divinity is, indeed, above humanity.
His feelings for the leper patients have become too commonplace to need any iteration. The three well-known leper colonies in Brahmapuri, Laxmanjhula and Dhalwala have gained the status of places of living human beings sheerly due to the efforts of the Swamiji. The sight of poverty is gnawing, to see anyone suffering from a harrowing disease is heart-rending and to witness the stunting of the minds of budding youth by lack of education sheerly due to economic impoverishment is painful. Sri Swamiji has worked in many a direction to do something substantial, even till the utmost extent to which his arms could reach, in reducing the sting of these evils as far as his abilities would permit. We cannot say that the eyes of God would be oblivious of these noble though silent deeds of his, which have evoked prayers and blessings from the deepest recesses of hearts whose number we cannot easily count.
The unstinted observance and practice of the basic ethical canons of a religious life, known as the Yamas in the Yoga system of Patanjali, or the Pancha-Shila in the terminology of Buddhism, especially Ahimsa or a non-hurting nature, Satya or a thorough-going truthfulness in behaviour, and Brahmacharya or an austere continence of the mind and the senses, was to Sri Swami Chidanandaji not merely a creed or a cult, a theory or a precept to be adored in its form, as an ideal to be pursued, but a reality of his life, a vital part of himself, in which he lived, moved and had his being. Hatred he had, if at all we can concede that a saint can hate anything, and it was hatred for untruthfulness and an unethicality of life. Love he had even early in life, and it was love for a moral life, a scintillating goodness which radiates peace around oneself and an inner strength which is superior to physical power or muscular force,—a genuineness and simplicity, a straightforwardness almost bordering on an overtrusting attitude towards others,—a feature which was often taken undue advantage of by several unscrupulous recipients of his kindness—and a shining character, whose light can be seen always beaming through his face.
Subsequently, Swamiji toured the length and breadth of India and also South Africa and Malaysia, purely with the holy intention to be of service to the devotees there and to the society in general, in those places. His talks, discourses and lectures were a welcome treat to everyone who listened to them, because his sermons came not from a premeditated intellectual region but from the realm of a spontaneous outpouring of his heart, his feeling, his love and affection and his kind and generous outlook and attitude towards all things. The speeches which Swamiji delivered were not the neatly got-up make-shift productions of the academies but the forceful torrents of the fountain of a life-giving vitality and sustaining power which was the immediate need of the grief-torn minds of people in the world, who received his message with a longing comparable only to the hopeful looks of an anxious child towards its affectionate mother. For a second time, Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj undertook an international tour for the purpose of explaining and elucidating to the different audiences in various countries, the message of India’s spiritual culture and, since the month of May 1968, he has veritably entered into the aspirations of many souls in parts of Africa, the United Kingdom, West Germany and many other European countries, apart from the tremendous influence he exerted then by his personal visits, lectures, Satsangas, prayer meetings and meditation sessions in the United States of America and in Canada.
The peculiar feature of the heart of Swamiji is that it is always eager to go out of itself and participate in the yearnings, aspirations, feelings and needs of other hearts everywhere, so that it cannot be said that he could find any physical rest at any time during the past many years after his taking over as the President of The Divine Life Society in the year 1963. It would also be pertinent to mention here that he is one of those rare souls who has successfully moved unscathed and uncontaminated through the colours and sounds and movements of a world of many a distraction through which he fearlessly toured and tirelessly worked to raise the despondent spirits of large masses of people and to instil hope and confidence in their hearts, to remove even their social tensions and solve their personal problems, and, above all, to give them spiritual comfort, to bless them with that power of understanding by which they would be able to walk on the path of the Higher Life, which, in the end, is the central Goal of the life of everyone.
The celebration of his sixtieth birthday anniversary, Shashtyabdapurti—which is traditionally accepted as a hallmark in the life of a venerable person, is, to us all, an obvious occasion to pay our homage of gratitude to the great culture of India, that is Bharatavarsha, whose vital spirits pulsate through the veins of its saints and sages, a noble example in which spiritual race of people is Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj. It is, in fact, a momentous opportunity for one to learn the art of surrendering one’s personal self, with its individualistic approaches to everything, in a more impersonal atmosphere of the General Culture of India as a whole, which has, in an indefatigable firmness, withstood the blasts of various historical changes of a complicated nature and remains still an inexhaustible reservoir of hope and strength to all mankind which, in its multifaceted vicissitudes, has yet retained a creditable reminiscence of its imperishable linkage with the Infinite, which it is even today, maintaining as the rock-bottom of all its ideals and enterprises in any direction or any field of life, and towards which the universe is urging itself forward in order to establish itself in a state of immortal existence.
Last Updated: Sunday, 17-Oct-2004 09:49:42 EDT
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