Life of Swami Venkatesananda

36. What I am

The Divine Life Trust Society

Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Venkatesaya

Sri Swami Venkatesananda's speech after the unveiling of the effigy of Swami Venkateananda, by Swami Paramananda. The effigy has been described in the Birthday Report.

Now that at Sri Gurudev's Holy Command, Swami Paramananda has been gracious enough to unveil to your astonished gaze the statue of Swami Venkatesananda, I have been asked by the Chairman of the Birthday Celebration Committee to introduce to you the person whose statue you see before you. But, before doing so, I would ask you to repeat with me a few Guru Stotras and also sing a few Guru-Kirtans:

Brahmanandam Parama-sukhadam Kevalam Jnanamurtim
Dwandwateetam Gagana Sadrisham Tattwamasyadi Lakshyam
Ekam Nityam Vimalamachalam Sarvadhee Sakshibhutam
Bhavateetam Trigunarahitam Sadgurum Tam Namami
Chaitanyam Saswatam Santam Vyomateetam Niranjanam
Nadabindukalateetam Tasmai Sri Gurave Namah
Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnur Gurur Devo Maheshwarah
Guruh Sakshat Param Brahma Tasmai Sri Gurave Namah
Dhyanamulam Guror Murtih Pujamulam Guroh Padam
Mantramulam Guror Vakyam Mokshamulam Guroh Kripa
Om Namah Sivanandaya Gurave Satchidananda Murtaye
Nishprapanchaya Santaya Niralambaya Tejase
Guru Maharaj Guru Jai Jai Para Brahma Sadguru Jai Jai
Guru Maharaj Guru Jai Jai Sivananda Sadguru Jai Jai

Again before telling you who this Venkatesananda is, I would ask you to consider a very important significance of today's celebration: it is the Ayudha Puja of Gurudev's Mission. You might interpret it as you like, but I mean by it the day that comes after the worship of the Nava-Shaktis. We have celebrated the Jayantis of the Nava-Shaktis of the Divine Life Mission - Paramananda, Chidananda, Narayanananda, Krishnananda, Saradananda, Satyananda, Poornabodhendra, Govindananda and Satchidananda. And we have celebrated the birthday of Vijayalakshmi to represent Vijaya-Dasami.

The statue before you is an instrument which has been produced by the magic of Sri Gurudev. You remember that Swami Chidananda characterised Sri Gurudev as a sculptor who could shape beautiful monuments that would for ever stand as soul-awakening inspiration. This statue before you reminds you of another important aspect of Gurudev. It shows you that he is a magician, too. This Venkatesananda is nothing but this Magician's Mango. You now realise the difference, too. The statue is made out of solid stuff by the sculptor; the mango is produced out of the thin air; it dangles in front of you in all its tempting colours and curves, and then vanishes. More of it in a few minutes.

I shall for a brief while take you off the topic of the moment to listen to my answer to a sincere devotee of Gurudev who questioned me yesterday about Gurudev and myself. I do not know if there is a Hindi or English equivalent to this marvelous expression in Tamil which means: 'Saving a soul by voluntarily going out and obstructing its evil ways, and preventing it from getting lost.' This seems to be illogical. It escapes our severe reasoning about deserving and desiring, seeking and finding. Since the expression is current in the South, you might feel that the South Indian gods have their own ways and are partial to some. No. There is one Upanishadic Mantra which justifies such a seemingly partial behaviour on the part of the gods and saints. And that is: Yamevaisha Vrinule Tena Labhyah. Not by learning, not by Sravana, Manana and Nididhyasana, but by him on whom the Divine Grace descends is obtained Atma-Jnana. There can be only one reason why Gurudev should have chosen this most unworthy child to shower His Grace upon; and that is to show to the world that Grace, like Love, has no eyes and is blind, or perhaps to put it a little more conventionally - Grace is beyond reason and logic. While Divine Grace might follow the routine course of descending on those who deserve it, it might at times choose to descend on the undeserving, if only to show that it is omnipotent and is bound by no laws. Sri Gurudev's Grace has demonstrated to you that even I could be here and even into me a little bit of that Grace could be poured.

Not only that I do not deserve it, but I have not even sincerely desired it. And, yet, when I look back on the years gone by, I clearly see Gurudev's mighty divine hands 'obstructing and saving' me in a thousand ways, positively guiding me in a thousand ways, almost from my childhood, in how many forms has he come to teach me. Through how many events has His Divine will worked to 'obstruct and save' I shall only lay before you a few of them.
The first Upadesa of Gurudev was transmitted to me very early in life, by my mother who, for this purpose, was none but Gurudev Himself; for you will at once see that this is today the greatest Upadesa of Sri Gurudev. It was told me in the form of a short story. It is this.

Once Lord Vishnu was reclining on His serpent-couch with Mother Lakshmi at His Feet. Suddenly He got up and ran out of sight. In a minute He returned to His bed. Lakshmi asked Him: 'Lord, why did You run out like that? And why have You returned so soon, if you had a purpose to fulfill?' Lord Vishnu smiled and replied: 'Devi, I went out on a purpose, no doubt. A bhakta of mine was walking alongside the bank of a lake. A washerman had spread clothes on the ground, to dry. The bhakta trod over them. The washerman got angry and ran towards the bhakta to beat him. I thought it was my duty to protect the helpless devotee. So I got up and ran. When the bhakta saw the washerman coming to beat him, he too took up a stick and began to fight. Since he felt strong enough to deal with the washerman, himself, I thought I need not go and so returned.' The moral of the story is clear: Bear insult; bear injury. This is the condition prerequisite to receiving His Help. What Sri Gurudev told me through my mother and in the form of this story, years ago, he repeated soon after I joined the Ashram, as though to confirm that it was he and not the mother or anyone else who taught the lesson.

The second Upadesa came through my schoolteacher, Sri TB. Ratnachalam Iyer. This time it was in the form of an experience as also a story with its moral. We used to have what was known as 'Library-class' in those days. We were given books to read. I used to complete one book every week without fail. One week I had not bean able to complete the book. Sri Ratnachalam fined me; and only me, though there were a number of others who had not read their books and were habitually lax in study. I wept. Taking pity on me, the teacher told me a story to justify his conduct.

A beggar lived on alms collected in a particular village. In that village there was a heartless woman who habitually scolded him and refused to give alms. And, there was another pious woman who regularly gave him alms. One day, it so happened that, when the beggar called, the pious woman was busy with household work and failed to turn up. The beggar got angry. He shouted: 'That noble woman who never gives me alms has refused today also - no wonder. But you, wretched woman, who used to give me alms every day - why have you refused today?' The teacher explained the moral. When a good man sins, the loss is greater than when a wicked man does so. Therefore, saints and wise men always chastised the pious men and prevented them from slipping back into evil ways; and they often seem to be oblivious of the wickedness of confirmed men of evil. This principle I have seen illustrated in the every-day actions of Sri Gurudev. It was he who taught me the lesson, through my school-teacher.

The third Upadesa came through my step-mother. That was in the form of a practical demonstration of another object-lesson. Far from being hateful as the proverbial step-mothers are expected to be, she was over-kind towards me. Even if I was in the wrong, she would not utter a single unpleasant word. Later, when I specifically asked her, she explained: 'If I scold my own son, he may take it in the proper light and may not feel it so much. If I scold you, on the other hand, you might be hurt. Therefore, in order not even to give you the least cause to be hurt, I did not mind whatever you did.' Here, again, were words which Sri Gurudev has been repeating day in and day out. Never hurt others' feelings. We have Sri Gurudev's own glorious example. If there is the least chance that what you say might offend someone, better do not do it. Who, but Sri Gurudev Himself could have given me this great Upadesa?

The fourth Upadesa came through a god-mother whom I met here itself - Sri Leela Deviji. It was in the form of a laconic question: 'What for have you come here?' She used to ask this question playfully. But when, some time later, Sri Gurudev himself repeated the question, not only to me but to others also at the Ashram, and at hundreds of meetings throughout the All-India Tour, I realised that it had a spiritual significance. It was a question that inspired and awakened us from slumber. Here again the Upadesa was Sri Gurudev's, but was conveyed through one of the many forms he had assumed in order to 'obstruct and save' me.

You will readily see that all these are important teachings of Sri Gurudev. And you will also see that they have been so nicely graded that one follows the other.

When the time was ripe, he made me read his writings; that was way back in 1936. I wrote to him and even got permission to renounce the world and join the Ashram. But it was not to be. The Instrument had to be put through some more grinding process. So varied were the experiences, so often had the baby-soul reached the precipice too dangerously close. But the choti (tuft) was ever in Gurudev's hands. The choti which he caught hold of in 1937, he cut in 1945.

These intervening years had revealed to me so many latent vicious Samskaras that I could hardly believe myself that one morning I was prostrating myself at Sri Gurudev's Holy Feet, to remain near Him for a considerable time. People very often quote the example of Rogue Ratnakar and Jagai Madhai. They were exceptions. But, as a rule, such a revolution does not take place in mans inner nature.

You may quote Gita's famous verse: 'Api Chet Suduracharo Bhujate Mam Ananya-Bhak'. I have great faith in the Gita; and am fond of it. Therefore, do not take it a miss if I translate that half of the Sloka - 'If your aunt grows a moustache you can call her uncle'. The student of the Yoga Vasishtha might assert that anything can be achieved by Purushartha. A Bhakta might say that Rama-Nama will instantly purify the Antahkarana. But a wicked man who has sincerely tried to remove one little evil trait in him, knows what it really is.

Even in the case of Valmiki, Jagai-Madhai and Mary Magdalene I would ask you to remember that it was not so much their will-power or determination that transformed them, as the grace of saints and sages. The grace of saints and sages, I humbly admit and assert, can work wonders. It is the magic of that Grace alone that has created this mango of Venkatesananda.

I am sure now that in no other institution in the world would they have permitted me to live for more than a few days - or till such time as I begin to manifest some of the natural evil tendencies. With Gurudcv, the compassion is limitless. Lord Sri Krishna assured Moksha even to women, Vaisyas and Sudras. And here is His re- incarnation who has come to offer Moksha to sinners, straightaway, without even waiting to reform them very much. Into their ears he pours the Lords Name; into their hearts he pours his own divine love. Wonder of wonders still, through their hands he serves the world. What more cunning method can you think of?

Thus does Gurudev effect a surreptitious but rapid transformation. He tolerates everyone. He loves the wicked man perhaps more than he loves the saintly. At the same time, he makes everyone do the Divine Will. This constant flow of Divine thoughts through their being converts them. Here it is not their will-power that works, but the Will of Gurudev. Therefore, it is possible that even a wicked man may be transformed. That is Venkatesananda, the effigy standing before you.

Let us take a closer look at the effigy. The pumpkin head is removed; and the basket representing the trunk is also lifted; what remains is a typewriter with Sri Swami Sivananda's statue on it. Now you have understood the secret. Why has Sri Gurudev showered His 'obstructing and protecting' Grace upon Venkatesananda? Because Venkatesananda is a type-writer - a typist. Venkatesananda is at best inert substance. Whatever good is there is nothing but the Divine Will of Sri Gurudev. I crave for your Blessings to let this magical product of Sri Gurudev sing His Glories so long as it is allowed to dangle before you all.

Glory to the Magician! Glory to Gurudev, the Almighty Lord, the maker of our beings, the moulder of our destinies.