Life of Swami Venkatesananda

18. Who is Venkatesananda

The Divine Life Trust Society

Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Venkatesaya

Sri T. B. Ratnachalam Ayyar, B.A., L.T.

I consider it a very high honour to be asked to write a few lines about His Holiness Sri Swami Venkatesananda Maharaj, to be included in his Birthday Souvenir. When a similar appeal was made to me in connection with the Birthday Souvenir of His Holiness the Great Swami Sivananda Maharaj, to be published in September, 1952, I did not respond to it realizing my utter unworthiness even to write about that great and venerable master of humanity. There is some such feeling even today, but I have made bold to attempt this work, because, after all, I am not going to write much about Swami Venkatesananda, but I am going to write about what little I know of my beloved pupil S. Parthasarathi. He himself has written to me that, whatever he may be for others, to me he is ever a loving and devoted dirciple, and this after being recognised as one of the leading disciples of Swami Sivananda himself. What a remarkable humility only worthy of such a great soul. Again in presenting a copy of 'Sivananda's Lectures, All India Tour', the Master himself has written in his own handwriting, 'Guru Dakshina from your disciple Swami Venkatesananda, Sri Parthasarathi. Is not a school-master an enviable parson? Is he after all, a neglected creature that many think he is ? Who can say he is, in the light of the testimony given above? At any rate it has been my proud privilege to be associated with and win the love and recognition of Sri Parthasarathi for the past twenty years.

It was in 1934 when he was studying in the fourth form at the National High School, Mannargudi, that I came in contact with him. Even at first sight I began to love him. A bright young boy, with a prepossessing appearance, he drew my attention when I went to his class for the first time. When I asked him who he was, he told me that he was the son of Mr. N. Srinivasan, an old pupil of mine, employed in the Madras Corporation, and that he was living with his uncle at Serangulam. His mother too, he said, was not with him. My heart went out to him for he had not the privilege of living with his parents in the most impressionable period of his life. I felt very sorry for him and for his poor father, too. Here was an attractive intelligent young boy, on whom any parents would dote, compelled by circumstances to live away from them. I had some heart-to-heart conversation with him, in which he revealed his goodness, innocence, love and affection. I was naturally drawn nearer to him and began to take a lively interest in his activities. I believe he thought I supplied a want and gave him my love of which he was badly in need. Here is an extract from one of his letters written some time after he left school.

'I find you are the only gentleman who cares for my welfare more than anyone else at Mannargudi or Srangulam. You know from your personal knowledge of myself and my conduct towards you that it is no exaggeration on my part to say this. There is no word in my vocabulary which can adequately describe your sympathy and kind regard towards me.'

So we had many opportunities of coming into close contact. He would not talk about things that would ordinarily interest a student. He would not discuss the lessons, games, sports and other activities of the school. He would only speak about God, spirituality, religion, the Ramakrishna Mission, Swami Vivekananda and such other topics. He was certainly possessed of abilities of a high order. He was very good at English and, as his English teacher, I had a partiality for him and being a lover of books, myself, instilled in him a love for reading general literature which he developed later on at Madras by spending about six hours a day at the Connemara Public Library. He did not do full justice to his school work, and no wonder he was not considered brilliant in those days. Nothing remarkable could be recounted about his school career. He passed pretty high in the S.S.L.C.Public Examination, 1937. But he did not enter the portals of a University. After leaving school he went to Madras and passed the shorthand higher grade examination in 1939 with credit. He had already passed while at Mannargudi the Typewriting higher grade examination in 1938. He worked as a steno-typist at Madras for some time. Afterwards he went to Calcutta and then to Delhi. Of his success in the shorthand examination he writes the severest ordeal for becoming a steno-typist:

'Out of 125 candidates who appeared for the examination through Madras only 15 were sent up. Out of 5 candidates from my Institute - and all excluding me have got an experience of 5 to 10 years in the shorthand higher grade examination itself - I who appeared for the examination for the first time was the only candidate to pass. The potentiality of His Grace and the blessing of kind-hearted men like you is such.'
While at Madras he seems to have been quite happy; a want that he had felt throughout his school life was supplied, secondly facilities there were for developing the taste he had for study and for extensive reading. Here are extracts from his letters:

'I have been bestowed with the rarest gift of having got a kind-hearted, sympathetic, Godlike, broad-minded, - there is no end of attributes - step-mother whom I would rather prefer to call mother. The pity is she does not know how to ill-treat. So she cannot be accredited with much credit. So indescribably kind! But for her …'

'But at the same time I feel the imperative necessity for keeping the flame that you kindled bright. And here again you have done me an everlasting good for which I cannot but thank you from the very depth of my heart. I mean the interest you have created in me for study, for extensive reading ... I remember that that was the date when I avowed myself to assiduous study and that flame that you kindled has not died away yet, and I am sure it would grow brighter and brighter; for you had taken sufficient care to set it ablaze …'

But he had his own regrets.

'Just now I feel how marvellous would have been the effects of your moulding if only I had the good fortune of having your product a little bit trimmed up and developed and thus completed your manufacture - I mean if only I had stepped into the portals of the college when I came out of the High School. Unfortunately it is a bit raw and is like an 'A' class locomotive unfashionable and a little not 'up-to-date', I do not say 'out-of-date' - and I may add not full and filled to capacity. But past is past, and I have to put up with it to an extent …'

Then I had my regret, too. When he was in the sixth form, I instinctively felt that he was going to make a mark in life as a brilliant lawyer, or an erudite professor, or an able administrator. I felt sorry later on that my beloved pupil had to be content with being a steno-typist, though a first-rate one. But God in His infinite wisdom and mercy planned otherwise. He has made him much greater and much more useful to humanity than any of his friends or admirers could ever have wished. Parthasarathi came under the influence of a great soul, Swami Sivananda Saraswati, a few years ago. And today he is 'one of the foremost of his disciples and the most biassed Gurubhai who has endeared himself to Sri Gurudeva by his unparalleled devotion to Him and dedication to His Divine work.'

After Parthasarathi left school, I had the pleasure of enjoying his company only on a few occasions. We met at Madras twice, at Delhi once, at Ananda Kutir on the 7th May, 1930, and at Tanjore on the 7th October, 1950. He had no time to talk to me at Tanjore, but we spent a whole day together at Anancia Kutir. I was kindly introduced to Sri Gurudev who showered his benediction upon me. I was further presented with a few books by His Holines and I constantly read them and derive solace from them.

I go to Delhi at least thrice a year and though Swami Venkatesananda has warned me that I should never return from Delhi without running up to Rishikesh, I have not found it possible to go there even once these four years. But I hope to have the pleasure of being there on the 26th December, really an auspicious day - and participate in the Birthday celebrations. I am looking forward to the day when I can offer my humble pranams to Sri Gurudeva and receive his blessings.

I wish to end this short article with another extract from a letter written by Swami Venkatesananda on the 16th January, 1931, which gives an insight into the humility that is characteristic of him, his true reverence for his Gurudav, and his thirst for God.

'How kind I seem to have had all the best of life here, a teacher who takes a life-long interest in the student (like you), a step-mother who would love her step-son more than her own - Rukmini, and on top of all a Guru who would love, serve, and adore his own disciples - like my Gurudeva. The very thought of these rare gifts of God impels me to greater activity in search of Him who could make the impossible come to be. And, coming to think of it, it would not be a wonder if He, without any qualification on the part of His devotee, chooses to reveal Himself. 'God is Love'.