Sri Swami Vimalananda
This article is a chapter from the book Chidanandam: The Joy of Knowing ‘Him’.
To write something about Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj is not easy. To understand a God-man, one has to rise to that level, and then only can one understand him. Only an Einstein can understand another Einstein. Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj said, “Swami Chidananda is a born Siddha.” Probably, only Gurudev could understand him.
Despite all human limitations, I shall make a humble attempt to share with you some reflections about Swamiji and the memories and impressions that I treasure, thanks to my blessed association with him for more than fifty years. As early as 1953, I saw his greatness, even before I knew him. I’d like to record here my first glimpse of both Revered Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj and Satgurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj.
I arrived at Haridwar in December 1953. Everything was strange to me. The weather, the food, people, the language and the environment — everything was very new. Before I started my journey, I had heard that the Himalayas abound with caves, where sages and saints dwell, immersed in deep tapas (austerities) and surviving only on roots, herbs and fruits. This was my concept of the Himalayas!
After some wandering, I found by chance an artificial cave which was not very far from Sivananda Ashram. This protection from wind and cold was a real gift from God. I thanked him and began to live in that cave. I spent about 7-8 years there, as in those days there was an acute dearth of accommodation in the Ashram.
Two weeks after my arrival, I had my first glimpse of Worshipful Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj. At that time he was the General Secretary of the Ashram. At the very first darshan, in 1953, I felt that he was a man of God. The same day Swamiji took me to the office and graciously introduced me to worshipful Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj.
Gurudev turned to me and said, “Stick to this place and serve Swami Chidanandaji. You will attain everything.” I kept my promise to Gurudev and remained with worshipful Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj until the last day of his life.
Practically, I was with worshipful Swamiji for more than fifty years, and not only did the long association become a process by which he influenced and transformed me, but I also witnessed how people from India and even across the globe were influenced and transformed from within, in an extremely short span of time. This I have observed closely during my interactions with Swamiji in these long years.
Gurudev had repeatedly told us that Swami Chidanandaji was a born Siddha. Even at a young age, he had accumulated great wisdom. He was extremely amenable, and his lifestyle was such that he could be approached by everyone. He could move with everyone with utmost ease. No one was a stranger to him.
Amongst the galaxy of extraordinary disciples who were around Gurudev, Swamiji stood tall because he was unique and peerless. He was a saint in the true sense of the word. It is impossible to become a saint without paying the full price for it. What is the price? It is intense austerity. There were times when there was nothing to eat and no warm clothes in winter. Many such physical hardships and severe spiritual austerities Swamiji underwent in his early life at the ashram.
He was a scholar. But his scholarship was not confined to secular studies. Secular studies were only secondary and even secular studies he transformed into spirituality. His speeches were inspiring, illuminating and contained profound wisdom.
Swamiji Maharaj never wasted a single moment in his life. He was always busy in serving others. He had truly imbibed the spirit of the teachings of Gurudev. That is why he could carry the light of knowledge from the lamp of Sivananda to every nook and corner of this world. He inspired thousands everywhere. While Gurudev was alive, he often deputed him to speak on his behalf, and each time people would write back, thanking Gurudev for sending such a perfect representative. Wherever he went, he was unanimously accepted as a saint.
He gave his entire life to serve humanity especially those in distress. At a time when leprosy was still considered a taboo in this country, he did yeoman service in Uttarakhand. The concept and then the manifestation of the leprosy homes and ‘Sivananda Home for the Homeless’ are due to his initiative. Any being in distress always drew his special attention.
He was a living embodiment of Gurudev’s Universal Prayer. He saw God everywhere and in everyone. Any service he rendered to others was a worship of the Divine.
What Swami Vivekananda was to Sri Ramakrishna, Swamiji was to Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj.
May the benedictions of Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj and Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj ever be upon all.