As qualification for first class aspirants, Viveka, Vairagya, Shat-sampat and Mumukshutva are prescribed by the scriptures. Some orthodox cults have caste-restrictions and insist on the students passing through the four stages of life, viz., Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and then Sannyasa. When students come to me, I do not enquire anything about their qualification, position, parentage, caste or capacity. I welcome even thieves and rogues, persons of tender age and those who are sickly and old also. I know very well that they will all become dynamic Yogis when they are put in the company of sages and saints or when they are allowed to stay in a place charged with marvellous spiritual vibrations.
The spiritual vibrations of the Ashram have a great beneficial effect in moulding people in the path of Yoga. Thousands have felt this. I do not impose any rules or restrictions on the aspirants who desire to stay in the Ashram. Any number of persons can come and stay here as long as they like and they can go out the moment they wish. I do not demand any work, service or help from them. I permit them to carry on their own study and Sadhana and help them in all possible ways.
The highly devoted aspirants who appreciate selfless service for their own evolution spend all their time in carrying out useful works and manage the affairs of the Society nicely. It is all Yoga for them. They are all Yoga Bhrashtas, living examples and models for the world. Thousands of aspirants have come to the Ashram. Several hundreds have gone out, after proper training, either for intense Sadhana in seclusion or dynamic work in cities; and yet the Ashram is always full and every day at least a dozen highly educated candidates crave permission to live in the Ashram. The students are mysteriously helped by attending the Satsanga and taking bath in the holy Ganga. Through some work, they all come in close touch with me and learn a lot in a short period. Quickly they develop all divine qualities without much effort and become great Yogis.
MIRACLE OF MIRACLES
How is it possible to run an ideal Ashram under the above circumstances? It is a great puzzle for many. It looks like a miracle to the world. People are staggered. I do not worry even a bit if the Secretaries and Managers of the Ashram come to me frequently with a big list showing a statement of debts extending to a lakh of Rupees. People's wonder knows no bounds when, in spite of such debts, I sanction the purchase of several automatic printing machines for the University Press, or latest model high class Cameras, Enlargers and Projectors for the Studio, or the construction of big halls, temples and Ghats by the side of the Ganga.
People complain that here they get more food and facilities than they need for their living. The inmates feel very rich and happy. Some may look as ordinary villagers; a few may not have had much education. But I find that every one who lives in the Ashram is a great saint with wonderful hidden faculties and talents. Prominent persons who visit the Ashram are stunned to see the wonderful development in the inmates, admire their capacities and enquire: "Dear Swamiji Maharaj, how do you find so many people of talents?"
Is there any instance of my having asked any inmate of the Ashram to go out or expressed ill-feelings or used harsh words to him? None at all. When I have serious complaints that a particular Sadhaka disturbs the peace of the Ashram or interferes with the smooth working of the institution, I ask the man to go out and live independently in some other suitable place. I give him enough money for travelling expenses and a note of introduction to devotees for helping him. I give him spiritual advice at the time of his departure and pray for his welfare and enlightenment. In a few days or weeks, the man feels the Ashram as his own sweet home and comes back with a changed angle of vision and heart. I heartily welcome him. I forget the past easily. I do not have a vindictive nature. I permit useless persons, pessimistic people and even those who criticise me and attack the management to stay in the Ashram. After a short stay, they are transformed miraculously. I see joy and bliss in their face.
HOW ASPIRANTS SHOULD BE CARED FOR
I have unlimited, spontaneous generosity, love and affection for all the students of Yoga, irrespective of their age or sex, qualifications or abilities. I am highly pleased with those who do Japa, or a little meditation or some kind of service for the society, the sick and the poor. I give ample scope for all types of people to remain in the Ashram and evolve through Sadhana or work for the spiritual uplift of mankind. I take special care of the old people, young aspirants and the helpless sick persons. I distribute sweets and fruits first to all of them and then take a small portion.
I remember now how I carried milk and curd to the old Sadhus in Swargashram and shampooed their legs and gave them medicine when they were sick. Even now I send a portion of my own food first to some Sannyasi students and visitors in the Ashram. For some years I myself carried a portion of my own food to a few hard workers who were taking a meagre diet and had very poor health. Later on, when the work increased in all directions, I kept two young Brahmacharis by my side always to distribute fruits and biscuits to all the inmates of the Ashram. These were not thrown into the rooms in the way in which worldly people haughtily give charity. I had the Bhav that I served the Lord in that form. I did prostration first and then offered them.
When I occasionally send money or books or eatables to my students at out-stations, I invariably say: "May this be kindly accepted." For spiritual attainment, the Bhav, the inner feeling and the motive are more important. This came to me naturally, and was not created consciously by any effort. It was not like the service done by egoistic people for name and fame. This one virtue of voluntarily serving the sick, the poor and the helpless with all humility is my main YOGA, and this one virtue alone helped me to develop all divine qualities and to see the Lord behind all names and forms.
HELPFULNESS AND LOVE TOWARDS ALL
Due to Prarabdha or Vikshepa of the mind, or a craving for sensual enjoyments or for some form of luxury, or a curiosity to see various places; people try to go away from the Ashram. Some advanced students after some years of stay in the Ashram, like to gain some experience from meditation in the interior parts of the Himalayas. I admire them and give them all facilities. They all depend on alms for their food, but I also send them enough money for their special milk and fruits. Some students who have a pushing nature desire to help humanity and desire to go out on lecture tours. I organise Spiritual Conferences and send such students to various centres.
In the Ashram, in the past, a few students with powerful senses and cravings, criticised me and abused the Ashram and the whole of the Himalayas and left the place in anger. I blessed them and prayed for light, knowledge and proper understanding and inner spiritual strength to them. But they all go out only to come back to the Ashram with a thorough change of heart. I welcome them with great love and affection. I forget the past quickly. Thus a man may go out a hundred times and come back. My love for the man is greater. It is not through compulsion or rules or regulations that men can be transformed into divine beings. They all must have convincing experiences of their own.
In the Ashram every one is in charge of some important section of work or other. When people go out suddenly, the work would naturally suffer. There would be a lot of irregularities when new persons handle the work. That might result a great loss also. I care only for the individual's progress and prosperity, knowledge and peace, and therefore do not stand in the way of any one who wishes to go out.
INDIVIDUAL ATTENTION AND CONSIDERATION
Some of the letters written by me to my students at out-stations several years ago explain how I care for my students:
I. Sri A. is wonderfully improving. He is the senior Acharya of the kitchen nowadays. He is the senior typist also. Kindly supply him with one set of the Upanishads, a fountain pen and a copy of my Practice of Vedanta from my account.
II. Kindly attend on Sri S.R.C. carefully. His health is already poor. He has some complaints now. His food is meagre. Kindly supply him saltish biscuits and fruits. He does not like sweets. May you ever abide in the Lord.
III. Whenever you are in need of money, write to me at once. In the name of Tapasya, do not spoil your health. You can do just as you like. Anyhow spend the time usefully. May Lord bless you.
IV. How is your health? Record all your experiences and send me a report of how you spend the 24 hours. My dear Yogiraj, you can return to the Ashram at any moment. This is your own spiritual home. For uninterrupted Sadhana and perfection, the following items are essential:
Fine health through prayers, rest, relaxation with agreeable diet and Sadhana.
A calm and cool place with spiritual vibrations.
SIMPLE FOOD AT REGULAR INTERVALS.
Help of elderly persons and guidance from advanced students of Yoga or from Guru.
Facility for medical aid in case of need.
These ensure quick spiritual progress. Without worry or anxiety, you can then progress nicely in the practice of Yoga. And you have all the above facilities here in the Ashram. May I send you money for your train fare? Cordial greetings.
ENCOURAGEMENT AND ADVICE
I am always grateful to those who have served the Divine Mission. I value their services immensely and am ever lavish in showering praises. I also look to the personal necessities of my students-their health and spiritual evolution. Some years before, I wrote to one of my students:
I. Take great care of your health. You cannot live on grass, water and air alone. Give up this idea at once. Take nutritious food and plenty of energy-giving fruits. Learn to relax. This is very important. Go for a long, brisk walk. You have done solid work this year in the printing line. This will amply suffice. It is all His work. It is all His Grace. Feel this. Are you comfortable there? May I send you money for your personal expenses? Milk and nutritious food are needed when people work in the active field of dissemination of knowledge or do rigorous Sadhana in seclusion.
II. You have done miracles. It is not flattery. I never expected so much from you. Do not overwork. Regulate your energy. Take rest in suburbs when you are tired. On Ekadasi, hold Kirtans in different centres. Hold weekly classes. Have silent individual talks. You can influence people more by this method. Never sleep in householders' houses. RUN AWAY FROM LADIES. No play and joking with them.
III. Do not be afraid of the cold at Rishikesh. Do not be unnecessarily alarmed. You may use my blankets. Take milk and tea from the shop on my account. May you enjoy the Peace of the Eternal.
IV. Take rest. Do not work hard. Apply cooling oil on the head. Do Pranayama in the early morning when it is cool. It will recharge you with abundant energy. Take fruits also. Never neglect morning meditation and evening meditation. The goal of a Sannyasi is Vedantic Realisation, Aham Brahma Asmi. Brahma Nishtha is your food, drink and all in all. This can be kept up along with Karma Yoga.
I have great respect for the Sanskrit language and I encourage my students to study Sanskrit-whoever has an aptitude for it-though it may be at the cost of the Ashram itself. I wrote once to my student:
"If I posses a ghost or a tree that bears currency notes and coins as fruits, I can easily satisfy these Sanskrit students. Their needs are endless. I have to do something for helping them. They are doing wonderful research work and have deep study. Their study will seriously be interfered with if the books are not provided. I wish to start a Sanskrit College with a large number of students and arrange all facilities for the Sannyasi students to do research work in Sanskrit literature. We should have mercy and must serve others at the sacrifice of our wants even. It is my inborn nature. That is the Dharma of a saint."