VAGARIES OF SPIRITUAL AMBITIONS
Some Mahatmas spend their whole life in deep study of scriptures and derive great pleasure in hot discussions and arguments on abstruse points of Yoga and Vedanta. Some Yogins struggle with Hatha Yoga exercises with the hope of getting Siddhis. They indulge in practices which torture the body. There are a few who are tempted by the Kundalini Yoga and Tantra Sastra for attaining spiritual powers to perform miracles. Devotees spend all their time in Japa and Kirtan and weep for hours because of their separation from the Lord. In this group, you will find also some educated young persons who spend their whole time in writing thrilling articles and lectures. They plan and prepare for a world-tour. I have great love and reverence for all such Mahatmas for the thorough research they do in various directions. Do they all succeed in attaining perfection?
I found that they did not have proper facilities, comforts and conveniences. They lacked guidance from a competent person. They could not be steady and systematic in their Sadhana. The planning and scheming nature in them led them to frequent changes in their daily practices. Either they paid undue attention to their wants or completely ignored their health. They all thought much of the future and aspired for Siddhis, miracles, name and fame. That only fattened their ego. A deep study of the ways of Mahatmas opened my eyes and gave me strength to stick to rigorous Sadhana in the right direction. I felt the Grace of the Lord. I derived strength and guidance from within. I found ways for an all-round development. I had the goal of my life as Self-realisation and determined to spend every bit of my energy and time in study, service and Sadhana.
HOW I SYNTHESISED MY SADHANA
Service of the sick and the poor and the Mahatmas purifies the heart. This is a field for developing all divine qualities such as compassion, sympathy, mercy, generosity. That helps to destroy the evil qualities and impurities of the mind such as egoism, selfishness, pride, hatred, anger, lust, jealousy, etc. Mahatmas and the poor villagers who were sick did not have proper medical aid. Thousands of pilgrims to Badrinath, Kedarnath also needed medical help. Therefore I started a small dispensary, Satyasevashram, at Lakshmanjhula on the way to Badri-Kedar, and served the devotees with great love and devotion. I arranged special diet for the serious cases and provided milk and other requirements. Spiritual evolution is quicker through service done with proper Bhav and attitude.
For maintaining a high standard of health, I practised Asanas, Pranayamas, Mudras and Bandhas. I used to go out for long brisk walks in the evenings. I combined physical exercises such as Dand and Bhaitak also. I paid special attention to simple living, high thinking, light food, deep study, silent meditation and regular prayers. I loved seclusion and observed Mauna. I did not like company and futile talk. From the Ram Ashram Library in Muni-ki-reti I used to get some books for my study and devoted some time to study every day. I kept always a Dictionary by my side and looked up the meaning of difficult words. Rest and relaxation gave me enough strength to carry on intense Sadhana. I moved closely with some Mahatmas but I never indulged in discussion and debates. Self-analysis and introspection were my guide.
With a view to devoting more time to prayer and meditation, I moved to the Swargashram. I lived in a small Kutir, 8 feet by 10 feet, with a small verandah in front, and depended on the Kali Kambliwala Kshetra for my food. Now the Kutir is numbered as 111 with some additional rooms by its side. I continued my Sadhana and service to the sick persons of the place. Just for an hour daily, I used to go from Kutir to Kutir to attend to the sick Mahatmas, enquire about their welfare and supply their requirements. I spent much of my time in meditation and practised various kinds of Yogas in my Sadhana, and my experiences have all come out in many of my publications as advice to aspirants. I quickly sent out my thoughts and experiences to help the world and struggling seekers after Truth. It was usual for even great Mahatmas to keep their rare knowledge as a secret and teach only a chosen few.
LIFE AT SWARGASHRAM
I did not spend much time in cleaning the teeth, washing clothes and bathing. I quickly finished these when I was a bit free from my Sadhana, study and service. I never depended on any one though there were a few disciples who were awaiting opportunities to serve me. I had fixed times for all items of work such as study, writing notes and letters to Sadhakas, exercises, going out for Bhiksha, etc. Gradually people came to me in large numbers. That seriously affected my systematic work. With the permission of the Kshetra people, I fixed up a barbed-wire fencing around my Kutir and locked the gate.
Before the visitors, I did not show my erudition by discussing high philosophy at length. I gave some short hints on practical Sadhana and disposed of each of them in five minutes. I kept a sign board at the entrance of my compound: "INTERVIEW-between 4 and 5 p.m.-only for five minutes at a time." During winter, the devotees were not many. I utilised this time for a brisk walk in the compound, singing Bhajans and songs. For some days, I would not come out of my Kutir. For my food, I used to keep some dry bread, remnants from my daily alms. Thus intense Sadhana was my Goal.
My joy was indescribable when I spent hours in the evenings on the sand banks of the Ganga or sitting on a fine rock and gazed at wonderful Nature. I became one with Nature. During this period, I established the Swargashram Sadhu Sangha, to obtain redress for the grievances of the Mahatmas, and registered the Institution. I invited great Mahatmas and organised weekly discourses and daily Bhajan and Ramayana Katha for some time. For some months, we had discourses on the Yoga-Vasishtha, Tulasidas Ramayana and Upanishads also. I trained my students in organisational work through the Swargashram Sadhu Sangha.
OUT ON DIVINE MINISTRATION
In 1925 I visited Sherkot Estate, Dhampur, in the District of Bijnoor. The Rani of Sherkot, Srimati Phulkumari Devi, gave me a cordial reception. I conducted Bhajan there on several days and gave medical aid to the villagers. The Maharani of Mandi, Sri Lalita Kumari Devi, also attended the Bhajan. Whenever the Maharani met me, even after several years, she used to say: "I cannot forget your melodious, inspiring songs. They are ever green in my memory. I can now feel their influence. They lulled me and elevated my soul."
From Sherkot I returned to Rishikesh by walk after visiting the villages on the way. I gave discourses on Yoga and conducted Kirtans and Bhajans to the groups of devotees I met. Occasional tours helped me to develop all divine qualities and to serve mankind on a large scale. Once during my Parivrajaka life, I visited Rameswaram and saw the sacred places in South India. At this period I stayed in Sri Ramana Ashram for some time. Sri Chand Narain Harkuli, Advocate, Sitapur, accompanied me. On my way I went to Puri and worshipped the Lord Jagannath. I took bath in the sea at Waltair. At Rameswaram I worshipped Lord Ramalinga. I reached the Ashram on the day of Sri Ramana's Birthday celebration. I did Bhajan and Kirtan in the big Hall before Sri Bhagavan Ramana and the devotees and perambulated the Arunachala Hill and worshipped the Tejas Linga.
Whenever I found an opportunity to serve people on a large scale or when people compelled me to preside over Spiritual Conferences, I visited various centres in Bihar, Punjab and United Provinces. I started dynamic centres for Sadhana and organised Spiritual Conferences and Kirtan Sammelans and participated in the activities of many educational, religious and spiritual Institutions. Even while travelling in trains I taught Yoga exercises to the passengers and gave them simple lessons on Japa and meditation. I carried a chest of medicine with me always and gave medical aid to the sick.
The important places of my visit were; Lahore, Meerut, Srinagar (Kashmir), Patna, Monghyr, Lucknow, Gaya, Calcutta, Ayodhya, Lakhimpur-kheri, Bhagalpur, Ambala, Aligarh, Sitapur, Bulandshaher, Delhi, Shikohabad, Nimsar, Mathura, Brindavan, Etawah, Mainpuri and many other places in Northern India. In Andhra Province, I visited the Santi Ashram in Totapalli Hills, the Mission of Peace in Waltair and also went to Rajahmundry, Kakinada, Pithapuram and Lakshmi-narasapuram.
During my travels, I carried a bundle containing my ink-pot, pens, pencils, pins, study books like Viveka Chudamani, the Upanishads, the Gita and the Brahma-sutras. I kept also some postage stamps to attend to some urgent correspondence work. I used to go to the Railway Station two hours before the scheduled train timings. Instead of looking here and there, I would sit under a tree and attend to my writing work. I never kept any address book with me for meeting devotees or friends at important centres of my travel with a view to getting nice food or financial help. I quickly finished my work for which I was travelling and returned to Rishikesh by the first available opportunity.
I visited Kedarnath and Badrinath, Tunganath and Triyuginath. Swami Balananda, Swami Vidyasagar accompanied me. I had a dip in the hot-water springs at Badri Narayan. Throughout my travel I sang Kirtan and Bhajan and did mental Japa.
By a steam-boat at Calcutta, I reached Ganga Sagar-the confluence of Ganga with Bay of Bengal. Srimati Maharani Surat Kumari Devi also was with me. There is a small temple of Kapila Muni at the sacred Ganga Sagar. I had a bath in the sea. There was a Mela (fair). I helped the pilgrims in getting up the ladder.
CALL OF MOUNT KAILAS
In the early years of my Sadhana at Rishikesh, I decided to see Kailas. Mount Kailas is in Western Tibet. On the 12th June, 1931, I started on a pilgrimage to that sacred place with His Holiness Sri Swami Adwaitanandaji, Sri Swami Swayam Jyoti Maharaj, Sri Brahmachari Yogananda, Her Highness Maharani Sahiba Surat Kumari Devi, O.B.E., Singhahi State, and Sri Kedarnath, her secretary. We all had a dip in Lake Manasarovar and went around Mount Kailas. I walked the whole distance. There is no place on all this fair earth which can be compared with Kailas for the marvellous beauty of the everlasting snows. Of all Yatras, the Kailas trip is the most difficult. It is called Mount Meru-the axis of Mountains. At the time I went there, His Highness the Maharajah Saheb of Mysore also visited Kailas. He is the only Maharajah in India who has visited the sacred mount. The total distance from Almora to Kailas is about 230 miles. In two months one can easily visit the place and return. On August 22nd our party returned to Almora.
MASS DISSEMINATION OF SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE
On the 9th September, 1950, I started on a dynamic Mission of Dissemination of Knowledge, undertaking an extensive tour all over India and Ceylon for a period of two months. I returned to Rishikesh on the 7th November, 1950. I then came in close touch with thousands of sincere spiritual aspirants all over the land. I rejoice heartily that the Almighty gave me an opportunity to serve Him and His children by undertaking the All-India-Ceylon Tour. I recollect with immense delight the deep devotion of the people of India and Ceylon, the reverence they have for the Holy Order of Sannyasa and their eagerness to acquire the Knowledge of Yoga and Vedanta.
I visited all the important cities, towns and villages all over India. I addressed public meetings and conducted Kirtans. I delivered speeches in many Schools, Colleges and Universities on ethical culture and Real Education and addressed numerous public meetings on general spiritual topics. Several thousands of rupees worth of valuable books were distributed free of cost to the public during this historic event-the All-India-Ceylon Tour.
In keeping with my usual practice, I did not spend any time in preparing fine lengthy speeches on Yoga, Bhakti and Vedanta for such occasions. Along with my Kirtans and songs, I gave practical lessons on Sadhana. That created a wonderful effect on the audience. When I was filled with immense joy in the company of devotees, I combined Nritya also-the Dance of Lord Siva and Lord Krishna. People were thrilled. Even today thousands repeat my favourite Kirtans: "Agada Bhum," "Chidananda-hum," "Pilade," etc. In various centres, the devotees also stood up and danced for a long period in divine ecstasy.
Everywhere I went, I was overwhelmed by the love of the people. I enjoyed at every centre the warmth of the people's cordiality and devotion. I bathed again and again in the ocean of the masses' devotion to the Lord. I drank again and again the Immortal Elixir of the Lord's Name, which all people sang with Bhava and fervour.
Service gives me Joy. I cannot live without service even for a second. I found a dynamic field in the All-India Tour. I worked without any rest or relaxation for a period of two months. I felt that the Tourist Car and the scheduled timings for the travel by Aeroplane, Train, Cars and Steamers imposed a restriction on my method of intense work. I had to stick to 'time' in attending to various functions and did not have enough time to attend to the needs of the devotees.
When I was at Bombay on my return journey, I wanted to dispense with the Tourist Car at Delhi and then to continue the tour from Province to Province, going from door to door in every city, town and village and singing Kirtans and Bhajans and repeating Maha-mrityunjaya Mantra for the health and long life of the devotees. I wanted to carry the Message of Divine Life to each and every aspirant individually.
Though I had a special predilection for deep meditation in seclusion during my stay in Swargashram, periodically I organised Satsangas in the evening hours. I invited the Mahatmas and the Brahmacharis. One Punjabi Mahatma used to conduct classes on the Yoga-Vasishtha and Tulasidas Ramayana and before closing I did Bhajan and Kirtan. Occasionally I visited Sitapur, Lakhimpur-kheri, Meerut and other places in the U.P. and Punjab. I conducted Kirtans at night, lectures in all High Schools and Colleges with demonstration of Yoga exercises and distributed leaflets on "Twenty Important Spiritual Instructions" and "Importance of Brahmacharya." I introduced common prayers and silent meditation in the early morning at 4 a.m. and compelled all the devotees to join the collective Sadhana.
I asked people to maintain Likhita-Japa (writing of Mantras). I saw many devotees sit in public meetings motionless, write Mantras and observe Mauna during the period. I distributed presents to those who wrote the largest number of Mantras legibly. To encourage people, I gave spiritual books as presents not only to the winners in the competition but also to every one present in the Hall. Devotees used to bring a lot of fruits, and the entire lot used to be distributed to the audience then and there. At the end I used to take a small bit as Prasad.
Invariably the organisers used to chalk out a tight programme for a week or two. There used to be Akhanda Kirtan for 2 or 3 days. To relieve me in the work at out-stations, I used to take my students, Sri Swami Svarupananda and Sri Swami Atmananda. The former would quickly and ably translate my English speeches into Hindi and the latter conduct melodious Bhajans and Kirtans. Many pamphlets and leaflets were printed for free distribution.
In 1933 I took up this propaganda tour in Lakhimpur-kheri, Meerut and Hardoi. Every year, for a week or two I travelled in the Punjab and in Bihar. During such tours I asked my students in Swargashram and the Post Master at Rishikesh not to redirect my letters. I did not attend to this correspondence work during my tour and concentrated on a dynamic work for dissemination of knowledge.
Though I lived a simple life with ordinary dry bread (Rottis) at Rishikesh, during such intense work, day and night, I felt the need for energy-giving food and fruits. I used to keep a few pieces of bread or biscuits in my pocket, because the work in various places did not allow me any time for my meals or rest. Before starting for such Conferences, I kept enough money with me for my return fare. For my expenses I never demanded money from the organisers of the functions, but I asked them to print a large number of copies of leaflets and pamphlets in different languages for wide circulation during the Conference or Sammelans.
My students who accompanied me in the tours invariably said: "It is all joy to travel with Guru Maharaj for the wonderful treatment he gives." I shared with them all that I had and took great care of their health and made them very popular and well-known. Sometimes I wrote to the organisers: Keep enough fruits and biscuits in my room. That is my Saguna Brahman. To bring about a solid and substantial work, the workers need nutritious food and energy-giving fruits." in Sitapur during my visit in 1934, I started a Medical Relief Campaign. In Andhra Districts, during my tour, I visited many villages and gave medicine to the poor village people. Sri Swami Omkarji and Sister Sushila (Sri Ellan St. Clair Nowald) accompanied me.
During intense work, I used to relax through Japa, meditation, deep breathing exercises, Bhastrika Pranayama, and Kirtan; and that energised and galvanised me. I conducted Nagar Kirtans and Prabhat Pheri in many places. The whole town, wherever I went, was charged with spiritual vibrations. People felt the wonderful peace and power for days. Devotees used to write to me after several years: "Beloved Swamiji, we hear your OM chanting and Maha-Mantra Kirtans even today." People who work in the fields even now repeat my popular Kirtans: "Om Namah Sivaya, Chidananda-hum, and Sita Ram Sita Ram," Dhwanis. The students in all Colleges and Schools repeat my favourite Kirtan: "Govinda, Govinda-Don't smoke, Govinda." The results of the tour were wonderful and lasting.
The work at the Ashram was heavy and I gave up the tour life in 1938. To various centres I sent my students to attend the Spiritual Conferences at out-stations. People from Punjab compelled me on various occasions and did Satyagraha (strike) at my Kutir and forced me to visit Lahore during their Annual Sankirtan Conferences in December.
DYNAMIC TRANSFORMATION OF THE MASSES
Some of the letters written by me from 1933 to 1936, reproduced below, give an idea of the work turned out during my travels:
I. "When I travel, I pour out all my energy in the course of a week. I am tired now. But people compel me to visit Meerut. It is all His Grace. May His Will be done. Do not send any letters to my camps. It will interfere with my work here. People are devouring me from all corners. Nothing is definite. I may return to Rishikesh after one or two weeks."
II. "My time is spent in delivering thrilling lectures during day and Kirtans at night. I pump joy and power into the devotees. I roar like a lion. People do not leave me even a second. Sitapur and Lakhimpur-kheri are Vaikuntha now on earth. I had a Virat Kirtan with 3000 people, a thing which Lakhimpur has never seen in its annals. I will have Kirtans with Harijans today. Through Kirtan Movement, we can revolutionise India. India needs this. There is a great revival now."
III. "Tell the organisers that I am slightly pleased with them now. Akhanda Kirtan for 3 days on a separate platform is very, very necessary. This is the only effective part of the work, solid and substantial. Sankirtan in different centres to thrill and electrify the whole atmosphere is another task. These two items are important for the peace of the world. Local riot and Section 144 are nothing before Ram Nam. You need not be afraid of the curfew orders."
TYPES OF DIFFERENT KIRTANS
Even today I can easily visualise how, when I sang Agada-Bhum Kirtans, thousands used to get up and dance. After every Bhajan and Kirtan, I gave impressive lessons on Sadhana. I conducted Lorry Kirtans in Bihar. I went to various places in a Lorry with a party of devotees and did Kirtans. In Rishikesh, on several occasions, I did Boat Kirtans.
Another highly interesting feature was the Group Kirtans. I selected the Government officers from the audience for doing Kirtan from the platform. Then a chance was given to all College Professors, doctors, students, ladies and girls. That created great enthusiasm. It was a novel feature. At first they all hesitated and felt shy. Then they felt the benefit. After some months they all turned to be staunch Kirtanists and established Kirtan Mandalis in various towns.