Life of Swami Venkatesananda

25. First Among the Foremost

The Divine Life Trust Society

Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Venkatesaya

Sri Swami Omkarananda

The Perfect Instrument.

Our attempt here is to reveal to the readers some of the reasons that evoked from the very depths of the heart of the divine Master, this utterance of a rousing nature: 'Will I ever see anyone shine brighter than he, Swami Venkatesananda? Surely, none have I ever seen'.

A Hercules in the difficult task of unquestioning and sleepless obedience to the Will of the Master, in tremendous mental energy, in tireless work and patient endurance, Swami Venkatesananda has engendered in the divine Master, a strong and undying feeling that, were the gigantic machinery of the world-wide organisation of the Divine Life to cease to function today, the Master would, far from giving a respite to his Work of universal compassion and service take the world through the sole instrumentality of Venkatesananda, into a greater and more powerful spiritual transformation.
And, who amongst us is so dull-witted in an ordinary psychological understanding as to have utterly failed to perceive in the triumphant atmosphere about our Divine Master, a clue that Venkatesananda is for the Master, the one great flawless medium for the flow of his Light, Peace and Grace into all mankind?
He then is the perfect instrument whose lines of activity are in perfect accordance with the ways of the Will of our incarnate Godhead. Unprejudiced thought would tell us that he put his hand to no task that was not dictated to him by the Master, either directly or indirecty; and, beneath that never-dying exterior of sportiveness, playfulness and 'saintly foolery', there smoulders and burns in him the fire of the Prophet of Devoted Discipleship.

None of the foremost disciples of Swami Sivananda had succeeded in rising to the levels of his self-oblivious absorption in the endless service of the Master. Neither in fiction nor in real life have we ever seen a being so recklessly disinterested in itself; it is a being that has entwined the Lotus-feet of the Master with its life; and with the fastidious band of a scrupulous builder, dedicated every part of its energy to the Master; what is more, for the Master's own sake. Where we seek the Grace of the Master and Salvation, he seeks nothing short of the Service and the Self of the Master.
Our Master has a constitutional incapacity to be partial in the distribution of his overwhelming Love and, there is nothing in the dynamic expressions of the Love of the Master that could contradict the individual feeling in everyone of us, that the Master loves him or her the most. But, an element of partiality is introduced into his universal compassion, by the uncommon merits of some of the agents that receive it. The matchless excellences of Swami Venkatesananda as a disciple have acquired for him the largest measure of the Love of the Master.

Therefore it is that Swami Venkatesananda comes nearest to the heart of the Master; and therefore, too the Master, whenever he speaks of Venkatesananda, is softly constrained by te pull of the disciple to melt His impersonal personality into touching personal tones, into a quite human voice, into a great endearing concern, into the most sacred intimateness. To illustrate this we would present to ourselves but one example.
One day, four years ago, I was summoned from my room into the presence of the Master at his modest cottage. As the hour was odd, I rushed to the Master in a state of nervous eagerness. The Master was alone; and I saw the countenance of this incarnate Godhead suffused with a sentiment eminently human. The scene His Presence created, and the feeling it engendered in me are not describable; and in defence of this inability, I bring here the words of Ruskin: 'I do not think this is my fault, nor that of the English language, for I am afraid no feeling is describable.' But, I distinctly remember the words that emerged into the scene almost in a whisper from the sacred lips of the Master, 'Omkar Swamiji, please write a biography of Swami Venkatesananda'. He is a tower of strength to me and the very life of my mission.' Mustering a little of the inner courage, in tones almost inaudible, I whispered back, 'Yes, Swamiji.' At that the scene shifted. I was given a few pieces af apple and sent back. To this day my own personal indolence has never granted me the necessary period of time to write the biography. But this article written at the request of Swami Dyananda, the present Press Manager, for the 34th Birthday of Swami Venkatesananda, goes out to the reader as my apologetic effort.

Triton Among Minnow

A prodigious capacity for secretarial work, many personal powers, peculiarly proper to the running of the Mission, and an inborn ability strengthened and heightened by self-annihilation and egolessness, to dance to the tunes of the divine Master, have exalted Swami Venkatesananda to the Status of the Triton among the minnows of the foremost disciples of Swami Sivananda.

Not unoften did we express our wonder at an almost incredible force and quickness in Swami Venkatesananda, to materialise every 'divine whim' of the Master; and, nothinq is more eloquent on the importance and value of the great volume of his work, as the most envious fact that while every one of the foremost disciples of the Master goes to Him to seek His Presence and submit to Him the results of their individual selfless service, it is to the workhouse of Swami Venkatesananda that the Master pays an everyday pilgrimage.
Ten young graduates of extraordinary ability would not be able to substitute Venkatesananda, much less rise up to the 'expectations' of my Work' - was of the nature of a characteristic utterance with the Master, during the early days. And this reiterated expresson was never a rhapsodical utterance, but a much reasoned observation made after a prolonged period of experiment and trial with the abilities of many brilliant young men. But, much of the many-sided Herculean ability of Swami Venkatesananda is to be attributed to the Power of the Master himself, as it is qualified by a strong and ineradicable feeling in him, of total dependence and reliance on the Grace of the Master. Besides offering to the Master, many personal powers peculiarly proper to the running of the Divine Life Mission, the spiritually susceptible self of Swami Venkatesananda, has absorbed into itself in a large measure some of the 'abilities' of the Master.

Perhaps it is never in good taste to recount here the many items of work that crowd his daily routine and throw him into a whirl of activity that yields to the Master and the Mission, magnificent results. Wherefore, we sum up his place as the Triton among minnows, with the reflective thought that while some monks feel perfectly satisfied with the rendering of a little service to the Master, and sink the of their ample leisure in cultivating their taste for castle building, and visualise before themselves exquisite scenes of the pomp and greatness that are to be theirs in times to come, Swami Venkatesananda is the one 'impetuous' spirit that even while it chances to slip into a frivolous talk with us, evidences that his brain is selectively occupied with a mighty idea that is intimately bound up with the spread of the Message and the Light of the Master. His being is cast into a huge column of fiery service; and were one of the many illuminating instructions irradiating from the bright being of Swami Venkatesananda, to come as a beam of light to govern our young but utifiuitlul lives, it would come through 'sages' like George Bernard Shaw, with this flash of brilliance:

'This is the true joy of life - the being used for a purpose recognised by yourself as a mighty one, the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown to the scrap-heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish clod of ailments and grievances.'

Twins In Mind

It is supposed that the associative tendency of the mind of the reader, would by no stretch of imagination, lure him into drawing a line of even a ghost of resemblance between the phrase, 'twins in mind', here coined to express a new phenomenon, and the 'split-personality' brought into vogue by Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or the 'split-off consciousness' employed by James, or Bleuler's schizophernia and Kraeplin's dementia praecox. The phenomenon here presented is something either altogether unknown to humanity or as yet never been recorded within the higher psychological or parapsychclogical literature of the world. As we proceed on with the subject, the phrase gains greater and greater clarity.

The argument from the observations made during a 9-year psychological study at close quarters, of the perfect harmony in the essential nature constituting the complex phenomena of thought-activity in Swami Sivananda and Swami Venkatesananda, engendered especially with regard to the spread of the Divine Life Mission and Message, is that the consciousness of the Master has transformed this disciple in many respects so as to make him its twin in mind. The two 'minds' are exceedingly alike in all the characteristics of the nature of their thought, though with a special reference to the performance around the world of their many-sided work of the dissemination of spiritual knowledge, enlightenment and peace.

Swami Venkatesananda is so gifted mentally that to translate himself into the thought of the Master, lies eminently within his power; besides this native endowment, this spiritual aspirant of psychic sensitivity, offers to the Master an inner state made up of intense Faith in the Master, of an active awareness of the all-pervading Presence of the Master, of an attunement to the very spirit and mind of the Master. It is this, more than anything else, that explains the astonishing capacity in him to read a day earlier the thought the Master would think in regard to the Mission, tomorrow, do unasked a deed the Master would ask him do the day-after. On many occasions he had startled us by anticipating the thought of the Master. For reasons of space, we would consider here only one instance.

Extreme physical exhaustion on a typhoid bed of anxious hours, has given to the long-drawn and feebly expressed words of Swami Sivananda, a beauteous and dignified distortion of classical excellence. As we shall see, such phrases as 'His Master' are voiced by our divine Master as 'His Majesty'. Except his own mind, no one would make any meaning of these apparently intelligible but totally unintelligible syllables in these phrases; but, Swami Venkatesananda would understand them all, and do it by the aid of the power the Master has endowed his susceptible noetic faculty with, much better than the one who uttered them. There arose in the mind of the Master on the sick-bed an urgent thought that one of his Hindu tan Records produced by his Master's Voice, now in stock with us, should by tomorrow's mail be despatched to one of his devoted German disciples at Nuremberg. Therefore, the ailing Master tells Swami Venkatesananda, who is by the sick-bed, 'His Majesty' - and that is all. To everybody, it is quite clear, that by themselves these two words make perfect sense, but none of us can say as to what exactly they are, and much less, what they intend meaning. Much to our astonishment, he replied to the Master: 'Yes, Swamiji, the record has been well-packed and mailed to the party this morning.' Precisely here it is that Swami Venkatesananda excels everyone of us. He has not only correctly interpreted to himself that the phrase 'His Majesty', a majestic distortion, means 'His Master's Voice record', and supplied to himself the rest of the sentence, but also did the deed. Instead of assembling here many such cases, we may proceed to understand a few generalised conclusions drawn from them.

To assume the point of view of the divine Master on almost every matter, is for Swami Venkatesananda a sleight of the hand. The tentacles of his operative mental consciousness spiritualised by a continuous thought of the Master and his Mission, are so sensitive and so well-tuned to the inaudible rhythms of the Guru and God, that they grasp the very 'gestures' of his Presence, and interpret their hundred nuances. We have in this first among the foremost disciples of the Master, an extraordinarily gifted, most reverential, and therefore, the greatest explorer of the Mind of the Master.

Great men may think alike; but Venkatesananda thinks the very thoughts of the Master in regard to the Work that the Master would ask him to do. It is almost by an instinct that he knows the present unexpressed intentions of the Master, and by intuition his thoughts to be born. The very ideas of the Master are conveyed to the consciousness of this devotee-disciple who has established the strongest relation with the Master in thought and feeling. This 'mad' Lover of the Thought of the Master is indeed blind in his ways, especially so in the eyes of men who are dominated by egoistic rational tendencies, by an unenlightened critical temper, by personal will, preference and opinions. Coleridge has 'heard of reasons manifold', 'why love must needs be blind,' but the best of all reasons he holds is that the eyes of the lover are in his mind; and it is this best of all reasons that defends the 'blindness' of Swami Venkatesananda. His eyes are in his mind and his mind is lost in an intense thought of the Master. While we are tyrannised by the limited powers of our own minds and ruled by the impulses of a blind will, he is the one being whom the Thought of the Master rules. Therefore it is that he is given the gift of thinking the thought that the Master thought of thinking.

'I am of the same mind as Thou art' says Epictetus in his Discourses, and we are provided a happy illustration of an identical truth in the mind of Swami Venkatesananda in its relation to that of the Master. Countless thousands have caught a little of the bliss and grace and peace of the divine Master through this youug man whose words of wisdom written in the letters and messages signed by the Master, are indistinguishable from the Master's own. This is not all though he took no notes, when the Master speaks for an hour and quarter; he reproduces the entire speach, word for word, and this was to the Master in the earlier days a constant source of apparent amazement.

Few facts concerning the Master and Swami Venkatesananda are so noteworthy as this 'identity in their minds.' The mind of Swami Venkatesananda is in full possession of the leading ideas of the Prophetic Soul of the Master; he is equally aware of the manner and methods in which these ideas have to be given expression to. These few fundamental ideas of the Master with regard to the Mission and Work, have struck deep roots in him and grown into his convictions; any enactment of these convictions results in bringing into being conventions at the Ashram. Were he to say that you are a Bhakti Bhushan, you may be sure that the Master would give you that title twenty days later; and if he said you are a Kaviratna, be sure you were so addressed by the Master, five years ago. If the Master would, two hours later, express specific pleasure at your presence as an act of encouragement to a greater expression and exercise of your talents, you would be sure to find a reflection of that pleasure of the Master an hour earlier, on the visage of Venkatesananda.

As Swami Venkatesananda worships the Master more by Service than by the devotion of the heart and an intense yearning for his Light, there is in him a conscious powerful aspiration to establish permanent contact with, and know fully from second to second of the psychological time, the contents of that portion of the externalised consciusness of the Master that runs the Mission of Lokasangraba, and serve Him with a greater power and to a greater perfetiori. By virtue of total self-annihilation he is the one disciple who has fully opened himself to the action of the divine influence of the Master. And who knows the divine Master, the performer of many miracles, our incarnate Godhead, the Master who is already a great legendary figure, may, by one single inner touch, transform Venkatesananda into a spiritual being of mighty powers, who would 'bestride the earth' like a spiritual Colossus.

First Among the Foremost

This last sub-heading of the lengthy article gives us our own honest and deep-felt view of the place Swami Venkatesananda occupies as the First among the Foremost disciples of Swami Sivananda, and crowns it with the Master's own judgment on the matter, made rhetorically in a very moving tone. The moving rature of the common sentiment is attributable to the action on us of the power that our and our Master's gratitude for Venkatesananda - the gay and inesteemably valuable phenomenon that he is - has gathered.

Specially during the last six years, I have always observed with a strong sense of self-reproachment and penitent thought that whether the Master is wading through a cheering, excited and unruly crowd, or walking in the dark, down the rugged road of the hill of the Ashram or in a weak state of physical indisposition - he is never sure of his foot when his hand is on our strong shoulders, whereas he walks blind-folded when he rests it for support on the shoulder of Swami Venkatesananda. This indeed makes all the difference 'between' us and that blessed being; and, in this 'betweenness' there are worlds and worlds that keep us away from the great importance he holds in the eyes of our Master. It is else the width of this difference that overrules our wills, throws us into the shade of comparative obscurity, and determines his supreme place among the foremost disciples of Swami Sivananda.

But, this is not the only instance that makes all the difference to our Master, between Swami Venkatesananda and us. There are hundreds of more striking instances than this one that easily suggested itself to us; and, all these instances greatly redounding to the immeasurable merit of Swami Venkatesananda have formed the intimate knowledge of those few whose lives are lived at the heels of the Master. And, if there is any shred indicative of honesty in the collective soul of our beings, and if that shred is strong enough, it would certainly constrain and coerce us into supplying an early answer concerning Venkatesananda, to an eager and questioning public - questioning because bewildered by the sight of too many foremost disciples of Swami Sivananda - in these memorable words of Saint John uttered with regard to Jesus the Christ: 'He it is, who coming after us is preferred before us, whose latchet we are not worthy to unloose.'

A stern renunciation of a noble bachelor's purpose full of silver and gold and the luxuries of a well-sophisticated life, every unit of a hot-blooded youth's energy and power, an utter emptiness of heart a perfection of humility, the strength of an unused brawn, a brilliant brain, a never-begging-brow crowned by personal peace and undying happiness, and above all, a life of amazing activity wound around the Lotus-feet of the Lord Master - these and many more rare flowers of rarer hues Swami Venkatesananda has offered at the altar of our Master.

The world of temptations proffered him the strongest invitations; and, the power of the pull of his devotion to the Master, resisted nothing so heroically as temptations. In feeble strength the lures of the world are yet lingering somewhere before his vision; but his vision is in his mind, and his mind is in the Master; and this spiritual psychological fact mails him against every weakness, and leaves him in a luminous light of the thought that is intimately bound p with the Work of the Master. The being of his young energy has been lifted up into an integration with the divine Power of the Master. There is no merit in us which is not in him, and there are many merits in him which are not in us; and, therefore it is that we gladly yield to him the supreme place that his excellences, not easy of acquisition for us, have won for him in the mission, life and estimation of the Master.

A current platitude contends that comparisons are odious; but if comparisons would serve to enlighten us to the exact nature of certain aspects of the deep and close relationship of Swami Venkatesananda with the Master, we may hold, in all soundness of judgment, that he is to Swami Sivananda what Ananda was to Buddha and John to Jesus. Where we claim the Master to be ours, Venkatesananda is the only disciple whom the Master claims to be his where we are, beneath hundred veils, always self-esteeming and highly pretentious concerning our worth to the Master, he is the only worker of whom the Master is secretly very proud. When our presences 'fade like the air', when everyone of us is forgotten by the Master, there would graciously emerge in the memory of the Master the radiant name of Swami Venkatesananda, in all its splendour.

Before retiring in the plenitude of his powers, from London and the stage, the last thing that Shakespeare abjured through the medium of the last of his characters, Prospero, was his magic that has presented to humanity his immortal poetry. The last thing to be dissolved in transcendental peace by our Master, before he makes his irrevocable crossing of the threshold of Nirvana on which, according to a legend, Gautama the Buddha continues to stand to receive into His Light, the last of the crawling creatures from this world of woes, would be the magic wand in his hands, Swami Venkatesananda, through whose instrumentality the Master has smoothened out the furrows of suffering on the face of thousands of pale pieces of humanity, and spiritually enlightened thousands more.

An indefatigable toiler in the valleys of the Life and Mission of the Master here below, Swami Venkatesananda is also the towering peak that has shot up its piercing head through the proud and arrogant heavenly clouds, into higher regions where it has the horizonless stretches of inward joy of an intense awareness that it is being perpetually bathed in the white radiance of the snows of the Grace of Sivananda; on the other hand, we are dizzy little modern ascetic skylarks propelled by our own feeble strength, singing and soaring, soaring and singing into the splendour of final nothingness. But there is no reason, even on the strength of our personal observation and knowledge, to interpret and expound 'Venkatesananda' in a figurative language proper to his inward greatness.

Nor do we need to discuss in restrained terms or in Chesterton's simple language of surprize and paradox, the greatness and importance of Swami Vekatesananda; for, our efforts are silenced when we recall to memory the deep moving words of our Master: 'Crest-Jewel of my Mission, the resplendence of my Work, will I ever see anyone shine brighter than he - Swami Venkatesanand ? Surely, none have I ever seen'.

And who amongst us will fail to feel in these terms and tones, the warmth of the human blood in the divine veins of the Master, and contrast the comfortable experience with the far-fetched mental touch of the coldness of the celestial Ichor supposed to flow in the veins of the gods of Greeks and Romans?