Life of Swami Venkatesananda

20. Early Life of Sri Parthasarathy

The Divine Life Trust Society

Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Venkatesaya

After countless sorrows suffering
In Vanni, the village of my birth;
All Karmas to Thee offering,
I salute Thee, the Lord of the Earth.

In the year 1922 A.D., on Thursday, the Second day of January, at 1.15 p.m., in Dhanur Rasi, Meena Lagnam, and when the star Poorveshadha was in the ascendent, the subject was born.

There was in the village named Koil Vanni, in Tanjore District, a high class Brahmin, under the name of Tuppil Krishnamachari. He had a single child, but a beloved daughter. This girl was born to him in his old age, when he was 63, as a result of earnest penance and prayer offered to the Lord. Greatly sorrowing that he had no male issue, this worthy Krishnamachari earnestly prayed to the Lord to grace his daughter at least with a son, so that, seeing this boy in his lifetime, he may pass his last days in peace and happiness. In his 80th year, through the grace of the Lord, this worthy man's daughter, Srimathi Lakshmi Ammal, gave birth on the above mentioned auspicious day, to a beautiful boy who is the subject of this reverent life-sketch. That day was the extremely auspicious day of Hanuman Jayanti, and was the last day of the dark lunar fortnight of the month of Margazhi (Margasirsha).

The child's birth was attended by certain significant and peculiar circumstances. Unlike ordinary children, the baby never cried when it was born, but lay silent. Moreover, it lay on its side; and at the time of its birth it was raining torrentiously. The factors seemed rather striking to the observant eye of the wise grandfather who is said to have remarked to the medical man attending to the delivery, 'Well, doctor, this baby seems to be not an ordinary child. Usually the Jiva is seen to wail bitterly at the fact of its having entered in the vexing bondage of Samsara. But to this child birth does not appear to be a bondage, but rather a condition about which he manifests no fear or sorrow. I feel that this is perhaps some free, emancipated soul come down to this earth plane to serve mankind and work for the welfare of humanity. Indeed, this dark and rainy day is just like that auspicious one upon which the Blessed Lord Sri Krishna took Avatar. I foresee a great and an exceptional future for this fortunate grandchild of mine.' The advent of this baby boy in his household devoid of male issue for such long many years, now filled Krishnamachari's heart with unprecedented joy. He regarded the child with a unique affection and brought him up with great love.

One day, when the child was 3 years old, the grandfather took him with him to the local temple. There the boy, seeing the image of the celestial mount of Lord Vishnu, the holy Garuda, turned to the grandfather and asked him who this was. Upon the grandfather's replying that it was Sri Garuda, the saced mount on which the God Vishnu rode in the heavens, the boy quietly returned home. But reaching home he mounted upon a hay-stack under which some grain was stored, and getting atop he assumed the posture of the Garuda-Vahana that he had seen in the temple, and in that posture began to call out repeatedly, 'O Lord, Come to me. O Lord, Come, come.' At that time the elders were not at home. Their immediate neighbour, a gentleman named Soundara Baja Iyengar, heard this voice of the child incessantly calling God to come, and being wonder-struck, he hastily called both the mother and the grandfather of the child and pointed out to them what was going on. Thus the child was precocious and very intelligent from his early age. This brought out another interesting incident which took place about this time. Pechi, the servant-maid of the neighbouring household, once lured the child and removed the golden bracelets that adorned his wrists. The servant-maid thought that this little child would fail to understand the true significance of her stealthy action. But little Parthasarathy straightaway went up to his grandfather and dragged the latter to the place where Pechi, the servant-maid, sat winnowing rice in the interior of the neighbour's house. Upon being questioned, the maid vehemently denied any knowledge of the bracelets. The boy thereupon went up to her and laid his hand upon the little tobacco-pouch tucked up at the waist in the folds of the lady's saree, where he had seen her secreting it. The ornaments were immediately discovered there and the woman caught red-handed. At the time of this incident the child was barely 3 years of age.

Krihnamachari, the grand-father, was a very charitable man and gave alms froly to all supplicants at his door. But, however, he observed one procedure, viz., that to disabled beggars like the cripple, the blind, the sick, the dumb and the lame, he gave large alms, and to the healthy and able-bodied supplicants, he gave less comparatively. Everyone in the household, including the little Parthasarathy, knew this practice. Once it so happened that an able-bodied but blind beggar stood at the door and called for alms. Now little Parthasarathy had not seen a blind man before. He was now in a dilemma. Here was an able-bodied man and yet something seems to be very much wrong with him. So, how to classify him was the problem. Unable to solve this, the little boy ran up to his grandfather who was engaged in the daily worship at that time, and with both his eyes totally shut, the little boy began to ask, 'Thatha, there is a man with his eyes like this. How much rice should be given to him?' The grandfather replied, 'My dear boy, that man is blind and therefore he cannot work. He should be given a good measure of rice as alms.'

The child was now 5 years old, and reluctantly the grandfather allowed him to be taken to his paternal house at Madras where the father was in service. He was put into school and grew up into an intelligent student. Here, too, his early traits of devotion to God and precocious wisdom continued to manifest. Everyday he was in the habit of taking one anna from his father to eat ice-fruit, but it was seen that Parthasarathy invariably went to his mother and got another half anna in addition to the one anna received from his father. Armed with his cash, he would straightaway go first to the nearby temple of Panduranga and offer half anna there. Then coming out, he bought an ice-fruit for himself. The temple priest, noting how the boy invariably put half anna before the deity daily, reported the fact to the mother. Upon being questioned by his mother as to why he daily put half anna at the temple, the boy Parthasarathy promptly replied, 'Why mother, should not Panduranga also have ice-fruit for himself?' This reply made her marvel at the child's extraordinary way of thinking. The boy felt the deity Panduranga as a living personality. It was almost as though he had been a companion to the Lord when he sported as Sri Krishna in sacred Brindavan.

The boy also showed a rare courage and presence of mind as is evidenced from the following incident. One day, while the mother sat in the kitchen, cutting vegetable, a huge venomous snake was seen to have crept along the rafter directly overhead where she sat. It closed its fangs upon a hapless rat that happened upon the rafter. Thus with the rat in its mouth, the fearful serpent dangled from the rafter above the head of the lady, who, oblivious of this, proceeded camly with her vegetable cutting. The little lad who was about 6 years old at that time, happened to enter the kitchen and took in the situation at a glance. The precocious intelligent mind saw at once that to raise an alarm would more likely than not, throw the mother into a panic, which might endanger her very life. Therefore the boy quietly advanced to where his mother was sitting, wrapped his arms round her in a tight hug and silently began to drag her away from that place. Not a little surprised by his somewhat unexpected, strange behaviour, the mother allowed herself to be dragged away without protest, for she knew the resolute and the insistent nature of the boy. When he thus dragged her about 10 yards away from the dangerous spot, the boy silently pointed out to the mother the deadly snake overhead. She promptly fell down in a faint at the very spot, overcome with terror at her narrow escape. Thereupon little Parthasarathy quickly rushed up to his grandfather and brought him to the spot where the snake was hanging and his mother lay in a faint, and thus averted what might have otherwise ended in a dire tragedy.

When the boy reached the age of 7, a bereavement occured, that was to awaken him rudely to the evanescence of this earthly life and the transitory nature of human relationship. Parthasarathy's beloved grandfather passed away. His death deprived the young boy of one who had lavished his affection and loving care upon him from the day of his birth. Yet, with a fortitude and emotional restraint, marvellous in a lad of his tender age, the boy Parthasarathy accompanied the bier to the cremation ground and set fire to the remains with great composure. Though young, he was obliged to perform these last rites, according to Sastric injunctions, for the grandfather had no male issue, and young Parthasarathy happened to be the only male in the family direct in the line.

During the period that followed after his grandfather's death, Purthasarathy's mind, deprived of that object upon which his mind was so long centred, began to turn in devotion and love towards another quarter, viz , the Divine Deity, the Lord Venkatesa of the famous shrine of Holy Tirupati. Devotion to the Lord Tirupati Venkatesa began to be a dominant passion of his life during this period.

A picture of the Lord became now his constant, inseparable companion. Frequently he began to go upon pilgrimage to the holy shrine of Venkatesa on the sacred Tirupati Hills. Often he importuned his mother and went away to Tirupati very frequently. He prayed to the Lord Venkatesa without fail. He strictly observed fast on Saturdays to propitiate the Lord. At this stage the boy was invested with the sacred thread. From the date of the Upanayana Samskar he began to perform the Sandhya with unerring regularity. Not a day passed without his repeating the Gayatri Mantra with great devotion and faith. So strict was he in devotion that at the time of Sandhya and prayer he observed the vow of silence and would not answer even if he was called to take his food. He observed the traditional orthodox practice and would never eat anything in hotels and such public places. He avoided articles like onion and garlic that were not acceptable to orthodox people.

We now come to a turning point in this young seeker's life. One day the boy came across books by Swami Sivananda who was destined to become his Spiritual Master and his living God. Parthasarathy was fascinated by the books. He got Rs. 7 from his mother and promptly purchased a number of his books. From that very day onwards, a new phase opened up for him in his life. He began to practise Yoga Asanas and Pranayama every day. Japa and meditation became a part of his daily routine. He began to read the Sivananda literature with avidity. It may be said that the young boy now got initiated into the life spiritual through the soul-elevating and life-transforming books of the sage and seer of Ananda Kutir, Siva, the awakener. He now commenced his life of earnest aspiration and spiritual quest. Daily Sadhana became habitual to him. He was gifted with a very sweet voice and was a keen lover of music. Thus he came to delight in singing the name of the Lord and beautiful Bhajans and Sankirtans.

When he reached his 18th year, he entered service. After a couple of years' service at Madras, better prospects opened up before him at Calcutta and he became absorbed into Government service there. His mother went along with him to keep house for him at Calcutta. One day she raised the topic of his marriage and suggested that she would welcome the prospect of having a daughter-in-law in the house. Extraordinary was the young man's response to this suggestion put forward by her, a response that showed the extraordinary devotion and love he cherished for his mother. Pathasarathy said, 'Mother, listen. Now I love you with all my heart. You too love me in the same way. But if I take a wife, then see what will happen. My love will now become diverted towards her and thus divided between you and her. This is a prospect I least desire. I wish to have whole-soul devotion and love for you always. I do not want to repeat the story of our neighbour Mr. X, who began ill-treating his mother after the entry of his wife in the home. I pray you never raise this topic again. I have no wish to marry.'

He won the hearts of the officers under whom he served, who loved him and admired him. They soon managed to have him transferred to the Capital of India. At the central Secretariat at Delhi, Parthasarathy held a responsible position as a Personal Assistant to a highly influential Secretary to the Government of India, whose regard and confidence he won by his sterling qualities and eager and industrious service. With an income of over Rs. 300 per month he yet lived a life of simplicity and generosity. He had a very tender heart and extremely charitable disposition. He helped his mother and gave away a lot in charity to others who were in need.

But the call of the spirit was irresistible. Not even the glamour of a life in the Capital could hold back this spirited young soul from its quest of the Divine Ideal. His contact with Swami Sivananda through books had developed into contact through frequent letters. From there it flowered into regular visits to holy Ananda Kutir whenever Parthasarathy managed to get leave from his office duties. The personal contact with the master soon overwhelmed the youth, and in 1945 we find him cutting off all bonds that bound him to the secular life and renouncing a promising career, offering himself as a dedicated Sevak at the Lotus-Feet of his Gurudeva, Swami Sivananda.