Life of Swami Venkatesananda

45. Mere Words or Mystic Formulae?

The Divine Life Trust Society

Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Venkatesaya

Swami Venkatesananda

What a wealth of spiritual wisdom it is that our Gurudev Sri Swami Sivananda Maharaj poured into our hearts on the night of the 26th December, 1954. It was not the celebration of one man's birthday. Time will reveal that it was the glorious birthday of thousands of aspirants all over the world, who would have the rare good fortune of reading the sage's stirring speech that night. For aninals would be 'born' as men, men as supermen, and supermen as gods, if only they devoutly study every word uttered by the sage, and act up to it. That way the day was blessed indeed.

Never has the sage wasted a word. His are not mere words but mystic formulae that penetrate the deepest recesses of man's heart, and there work wonders.

'Do not give her the sari she asks for; she will not look at you from today. Such is the love you pine for.' - these were the first words of soul-elevating Upadesh I received from Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, though they were addressed to a friend along with whom I had gone to the Delhi Railway Station in 1944 to meet His Holiness who was then proceeding to Bombay to record some of his songs on the oramophore. I felt they were shafts directed straight at my heart.

For in that heart dwelt inordinate lust, inordinate desire for worldly enjoyments; they were severely injured by these flaming words from the sage's lips. If Satan himself had created a human being out of his own image, the result could not have been better than I. The triple-gates to hell - lust, anger and greed - were all of them ajar to receive me; but from the fourth side, Swami Sivananda's divine hand was pulling me up and away, restraining me from entering the hell. Where even Chaitanya Mahaprabhu could have been defeated, my Gurudev has succeeded. I am a breathing miracle of Sivananda.
Then, in the same year, I attended the Christmas Sadhana Week, at the Ashram. I do not remember much about what took place during those seven days of my stay here. On the last day, when I was about to return to Delhi, I expressed my admiration of the Ashram atmosphere. Like a thunderbolt came Gurudev's words: 'Stay here, then! I have built it only for you all.' The longing for sense-pleasures was so great in me that even these words, and the mighty sage's Sat-Sankalpa, could not immediately affect me. But Gurudev had succeeded in raising a counterforce.

How I joined the Ashram scarcely eight months later is a miracle. No one who had been acquainted with me in Delhi, Calcutta or Madras, and with my sensuous nature could have helped expressing abhorrence at the very idea that I could be allowed to enter the Holy City of Rishikesh, much less the highly spiritual atmosphere of an Ashram. Yet, Gurudev needed only such souls for reclamation.

During the first weeks of my stay at the Ashram, I earned undeserved praise for my love of seclusion; but little did these great ones realise that I was literally ashamed to look at the pure, holy and saintly faces that encountered me everywhere in this holiest place upon earth, and preferred to chew my cud in privacy. But Gurudev would not allow this, either.

'What will you gain if you go on typing like this all day and night? It is not for that you have come here. You must do Japa, meditation and Swadhyaya; you must get up at 4 am. and conduct Sadhana classes. Then will you evolve nicely', and threw me into a cauldron of trial and temptations - there to be boiled into a pulp to enable him to mould me as he liked. So, there I was literally caught up in hot waters where I least expected them, and throwing up my hands in abject despair, I prayed to Gurudev to protect me with the robes of a monk.

His reactions were different: 'When I hear that Parthasarathy was nicely beaten with shoes and he laughed, and then alone will I give you Sanyas.' By Gods Supreme Mercy, soon opportunities presented themselves where I could attempt to cultivate this virtue. It was not easy. Because, the sinful heart was sensitive, too. And, my uncontrollable temper would rise even against well-merited reprimand.

Gurudev's compassionate heart would not wait till his condition was fulfilled before granting the boon. On the 12th September, 1947, in commemoration of his Birthday Diamond Jubilee, he, out of his supreme compassion, brushing aside all objections, initiated me along with eleven other resplendent highly evolved souls, into the Holy Order of Sanyas.

Worldliness might be hidden in the holy garb, but it is certainly not washed out of the inner personality except by the Waters of Divine knowledge. The garb Sri Gurudev bestowed upon me certainly protected me from further deterioration, but the inner unregenerate nature persisted, though to a lesser extent. Moreover, there is this additional hurdle that a neophyte has to face in an atmosphere of holiness - he is apt to recline and relax, in the complacency of having renounced Maya. One fine morning came Gurudev's stern warning: 'Do not think that just because you have come to Rishikesh you have gone above Maya. The realm of Maya does not end with the other bank of the Chaudrabhaga. Even on the summit of Mount Kailas you will find the same Maya the same currents of Raga-Dwesha operating. Beware.' Well, that alerted me to a certain extent. But Gurudev was quick in pointing out the positive way: 'Here I have created for you the best field for quick evolution. Do Japa on the Ganges bank. Go to the Mandir and attend the Pujas. Go to Bhajan Hall and do Kirtan. Work, work, and work. Serve the sick. Study books in the Library. Do not join with the tall-talkers and gossip-mongers. If you are to evolve, you will have to guard yourself against all these. If you do not, than even here you will continue to be the same man.'

One day three people were sitting on a verandah in the Ashram and talking. It was past midday. Gurudev was coming towards the office for distributing his sacred Prasad. In those days, he himself used to take a round of the Ashram at noon, distributing fruits, curd, butter, etc., to the inmates. The embarrassed disciples hurriedly stood up. With a mischievous smile in his eyes, Gurudev remarked: 'When three people sit together ...' and looked at all. They blinked. He himself completed the sentence, ' ... they talk ill of the fourth man.' Then, after giving the Prasad, he said: 'Avoid this and then you will have more time for work and Sadhana.'

Even when the holiness of the atmosphere, the kindness of the other highly evolved Sadhaks of the Ashram, and Gurudev's watchful mercy, again and again prevented my inner worldliness from manifesting itself in its own crude form, I found that it had its own modifications and appeared in mysterious ways. There arose, for instance, inordinate ambition for this or that, it does not matter. Bubbling enthusiasm often resulted in uncalled-for interference in the affairs of others. This in turn resulted in disharmony and restlessness. Gurudev must have been silently watching for an opportunity to correct his child. How patient and loving he is. When an opportunity did present itself, Gurudev remarked in a very mild and loving manner: 'Do not interfere in the affairs of others. This tendency to interfere is innate in man. If you are intent on your own progress, you should not interfere in the affairs of others.' And, thereby, wrought another miracle.

By all this I do not claim that the sores of viciousness have been completely healed, Gurudev's compassion and His Divine Words which have been to me more than Mystic Formulae have definitely been able to achieve great wonders and much transformation. Often have I wondered if this Almighty in human form could not have said: 'Be thou healed of worldliness and arise victorious as a divine being', and thus divinised me entirely. He could have, however base I was. In fact, he did say once: 'I will give you whatever you want.' He said it while handing me sweet Prasad; but the Divine Light in his eyes had a different message. It was as though at that moment I had brought myself to ask for Moksha, he would have bestowed it upon me then and there. But I did not and that, too, I consider was his miracle.

If many great vicious traits still persist in me, I consider that even that is his will. For, it is the presence of these in me that enable me to appreciate truly the spiritual greatness of the other disciples of Sri Gurudev and to look upon them all as Divine Personages, walking divinities upon earth; and to continue to serve Gurudev as an insignificant speck of dust ever aspiring for a corner of Gurudev's shoes. Even if birth after birth, I live to serve as Gurudev's slave, I cannot repay the debt I owe to Gurudev for this supreme gift of His Flaming Words of Divine Light. The indebtedness, the bounds of even expression, when I remember what Gurudev said on a significant occasion, when all but His Almighty Will would have thrown me down the steep precipice of great downfall: 'For the past twenty-four hours at least I have been constantly thinking of your welfare.' What an ocean of compassion he is.

To the Light of His Words I bow in all humility and reverence.