Sri P. Ganesh Prasad
This article is from the book Swami Vimalananda: A Monk of Pure Bliss.
Once Gurudev was standing alone with Swami Chidanandaji. Casually he asked his birthday. Swamiji said that it was 24th September. Immediately Gurudev responded, “My birthday is on 8th September and yours is on 24th September. It will be an inconvenience for the devotees to visit the ashram twice in the same month. Hence, from now on, your birthday will be celebrated on the 24th of June!” This conversation occurred in the month of June, and just days later, on June 24th 1954, Gurudev actually celebrated Swamiji’s 39th birthday. Gurudev gave Rs.50/- from his personal savings to an inmate and asked him to make all the necessary arrangements, because those were difficult days, and money was not available for celebrating birthdays.
While preparations were being made for the celebration, it so happened that a very poor man approached Gurudev. This man used to sit on Vishwanath Ghat, near the small temples of Ganesha and Hanumanji, sellilng bottles of Ganga water to the passing pilgrims. He told Gurudev, “Maharaj ji, people call me Daulatram, but I am penniless. I am struggling to survive.” (Daulat is an Urdu word meaning power, wealth, good fortune.) Gurudev’s heart melted.
Soon after this, during Swami Chidanandaji’s birthday celebrations, Gurudev had Daulatram sit on a bench alongside Swami Chidanandaji and had both of them garlanded. Many esteemed swamis spoke in praise of Swami Chidananda, and then Gurudev gave a short speech. He began: “Celebration of Swami Chidanandaji’s birthday is really worship of God. There is nothing in this world, but God. Everything is Brahman.” Now kindly stop for a moment and visualize the scene. A pitiable peddler seated next to a revered saint, both garlanded, and Gurudev’s divine teaching: There is nothing in this world, but God. At this time Nagarajan has only been in the ashram for 6 months. He is barely 20 years old and just beginning to understand the significance of it all. Now he is watching and listening to his divine Master honoring and speaking about the Swami he has been asked to serve. Imagine what is going through his mind as Gurudev continues to speak.
“When you closely follow Swami Chidananda’s lectures, ” Gurudev continued, “you will find that all the Upanishadic wisdom is brought out in them, though he has not studied the Upanishads and does not even want to study them. He brings Upanishads from his heart. He is an embodiment of the Brahma Sutras and the Gita.”
Then Gurudev’s instructions begin:
“You have heard so much today about Swami Chidanandaji. He who has made the determination ‘I will try to become like Chidanandaji,’ he alone will be benefitted. But you always forget these important things in life. Maya is very powerful. You will think that you are all elevated now; but as soon as you get up in the morning, the mind will run in its old grooves….
“Constant remembrance of the Lord, that is most essential. Cultivate virtues. Of all virtues, compassion and humility are most important. You must be an embodiment of patience, humility and forgiveness. Even if people abuse you, you must stand like the yonder Himalayas. Keep a balanced mind always. That is spiritual strength; that is wisdom. Cultivate your will power through japa. Never forget this. Samadhi will come by itself.
“Compassion and humility Swami Chidananda has got in abundance. In the previous birth itself he was a sannyasi; from the way in which he behaves we can find that out. Swami Krishnanandaji was a sannyasi. They must have been sannyasins in their previous birth. It is the wealth of previous samskaras that has enabled them to take to this path of Divine Life at such an early age. If you don’t have them, you must generate them now, through fasting, prayer and service, so that in the next birth you will be born a saint. It is not too late. Make a resolve. Cultivate virtues.”
“People have described Swami Chidananda. He is a doctor of doctors. He is a doctor of lepers. He is full of mercy. You must cultivate mercy. If any man is lying on the road, you don’t help him. You say, ‘It is his prarabdha.‘Even if you are starving, you must give your cup of milk to that man. In this way, your heart will expand.
Break all barriers that separate man from man, through selfless service. Selfless service alone will help you to attain cosmic consciousness. Share what you have with others. Give. Give. Give. You will unite at heart with the whole world. This is the secret of abundance. God takes care of all his children. Spend everything in charity. The whole world is in distress and affliction. Remove them and you will grow in spirituality…. Again and again hammer the mind with ideals like ‘I am the Self of all creatures.’ Practice compassion, service, humility and other virtues. Then shine like our Chidanandaji! This is my fervent prayer.”
Be humble, serve one and all
Then, with great humility, Swami Chidanandaji spoke. He thanked all those who had said such kind things about him. He said that whatever he was was due to the blessings of the Master only, that he was just an ordinary stone which Gurudev took in his own divine hands and shaped into a beautiful piece of sculpture and that if there was any beauty in the statue, the credit was to go to the sculptor. “You may give me credit for one thing,” he added, “I am trying to obey what Gurudev says. But that is my duty as a disciple.” He concluded by saying, “The divine engineer of Swami Chidananda is Swami Sivananda.”
The programme ended with prasad. Swami Chidanandaji served refreshments to all those assembled there and, when they were finished eating, placed a basket on his head on which he piled up all the dirty leaf-plates and clay cups and carried them away. What struck young Nagarajan was Swami Chidanandaji’s humility. “He was so honored. Everybody respected and loved him. Such a man, born in a high class Brahmin family, doing the meanest of work that even an ordinary servant will not do. That shows how humble Swamiji was. That is one of the noble virtues of divinity.”
Daulatram was very happy. Gurudev had treated him with so much love and respect. He had even arranged for the two of them to be photographed together, and Daulatram kept this photo on his small stall for a very long time. Thereafter, his business improved. Nagarajan thus learnt about the mysterious ways in which Gurudev gave importance to all beings equally, without exception. It is the general psychology of people to accord importance only to those whom they like for some reason, to those who are of some help to them, and to neglect others. This happens even in spiritual circles. One has to guard against this subtle and negative trait in one’s mind.