Autobiography of Swami Krishnananda
All this that I am speaking about myself will look that I am a somewhat curious person, interesting, humorous, joyous, child-like and serious when it comes to the fact of the Love of God as the goal of life, whatever its meaning be to different people. I cannot say anything more.
The content of my book, The Epic of Consciousness, is actually the epic of my own life portrayed figuratively in an epic fashion. The book, The Problems of Spiritual Life, also depicts my inner character and the nature of my general perception.
Apples were very costly, and nobody in the Ashram was entitled to have apples under any circumstance. Only Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was given one apple as a part of his diet. Every evening Swamiji had entrusted me with arranging for the evening Satsanga at about 6:00 in the evening, keeping Bhagavan's portrait, spreading the carpet on the ground, keeping the holy books for reading and arranging a special seat for Swamiji Maharaj himself. It so happened that my coming every day to Sri Gurudev Kutir at about 6:00 in the evening coincided with the time when Sri Gurudev was taking his supper, and by nature Swamiji used to keep a part of his evening meal, a little piece of the apple that he used to give me when I came for the work. Since this happened every day, almost at the same time by 6:00, the cook who used to deliver the supper to Swamiji suspected that I deliberately came at the same time in order to take part of the food of Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. The cook straightaway went to the Secretary of the Ashram and told him, "The boy is coming regularly at 6:00 and eating part of the meal of Swamiji himself." The Secretary called me and told me that I should not go at 6:00 to Sri Gurudev Kutur, but may go a little later. The reason also he mentioned, because if I go at 6:00 I will make Swamiji part with his own diet. Then, next day I went late to Gurudev's Kutir, where upon Swamiji queried me why I was late while I was a very disciplined boy and doing things exactly as required. I did not say anything, but continued to come late for another two days, because it was a delicate matter for me. On the third day Swamiji was angry with me and asked me, "Why are you undisciplined so suddenly, while you were a disciplined man previously? Discipline is God," he added. Then I had no alternative but to tell the truth to Swamiji, that the cook had complained against me and the Secretary had asked me to come a little late. Swamiji did not say anything, but the next day when I came late Swamiji waited for my coming, and when the cook asked, "Why is Swamiji not taking supper?" his reply was, "Let the boy come, then only I'll eat". Shocked to hear this, the cook did not know what his duty was, and he went and told the Secretary that his advice had misfired. There is nothing more to say about this incident except that Sri Swamiji was bent upon doing what he considered as the best and proper.
At another occasion, I sat on the bench in the Annakshetra kitchen when Swamiji came suddenly after the Satsanga. He asked me why I was sitting there. When I said, "I came for a little milk," Swamiji said, "Have you taken the milk?" I replied that I had not taken the milk as it was exhausted and there was nothing more left at that time. He went away to his Kutir and I went to my room where I found in a few minutes someone coming and offering me a glass filled with hot milk, saying that it was Prasad from Swamiji. When I tasted it I found that it had the taste of ginger, and Swamiji alone was the person who added ginger to the milk. I was deeply touched at the goodness of my Guru, who parted with his own milk and evidently he did not take his usual part of it. These incidents are very interesting, and there are many more of this kind, if I can remember well.
One morning I came to Satsanga without a covering of blanket over me. This was in the month of January or February when it was indeed very cold. Swamiji immediately reprimanded me and said, "Why are you shivering in cold, why don't you put on a blanket? Attachment to Vairagya also is bad. This is no good." The next day I put on blanket and came to Satsanga, and every day I used to come covering myself with blanket, even in the month of March. Then Swamiji remarked, "Look at this man, he is attached to the blanket even now. Hey, attachment to blanket is as bad as attachment to Vairagya!." I was very much ashamed. The next day I threw off the blanket. These are some of the ways in which Swamiji used to teach and impart lessons to his disciples.
Every Saturday evening Swamiji used to tell me, "Tomorrow is Sunday, I do not want to see you here, you go and take rest." Thus saying, he would ask his assistant to pay me Rs. 20/-, knowing well that I would not myself take the money from the office. Every Saturday evening this practice continued, and he would tell me on the evening of Saturday, regularly, "The next morning I do not want to see you here." He uttered these words even when he was ill and could not speak with a paralytic stroke that he had. Such was the love for me, and his persistent remembrance of regard for his disciples.
The Government has exempted The Divine Life Society from the operation of Income Tax under Section 80(G) and also 10(23cv) in which I had the expert assistance of Swami Gurukripanandaji and Swami Maheshanandaji, the Head Accountant. The Divine Life Society also had exemption from the Bonus Act, Sales Tax, payment of License Fee under the Factories Act, and also certain other Sections of the Factories Act concerning timing of work in the Press. There were many other benefits that the Government has sanctioned to The Divine Life Society, all of which are difficult to describe here because it involved very many difficulties in obtaining them.
For years, until I was laid down with physical incapacity of various types, I held Meditation Sessions every day for groups of devotees and the general public. My suggestions, solutions to problems of people who came personally to me, have made me a famous consultant in matters spiritual, social, educational, and practically every department of human life. My books The Problems of Spiritual Life and Your Questions Answered are specimens of the way I treat queries of different types. I have tried to be a humanitarian in my administrative capacity, apart from being a philosopher-guide and a religious teacher. The lectures that I gave are indeed galore, which people might not have seen at all, since they are not published yet. I consider speaking on these subjects as an educational process for me, and I feel happy and elated that I spoke to people who felt deeply benefited. I am leaving my lectures and books as my heritage to the world, for people who can see, if they have time to see, and hear, if they have time to hear.
It was my old habit right from childhood that I would never drink water without worshipping Gods, and every God I would worship, and my father used to vie with me, "See, see, he's closing the eyes." He didn't want me to close the eyes. My family had been extraordinarily religious, most orthodox, and accustomed to worship of the Gods, a tradition that I imbibed from him, grandfather, and the like. I had my own mini cane box in which I used to keep my items for worship, and no Brahmin would go anywhere without taking it with him, because it was a great treasure for anyone. Even when I was in Hospet, I used to do this Puja. I would take time to do it. I used to get up at about 3:00 in the morning and take bath and sit for worship till nearly 7:30 or 8:00 am, with assiduous concentration and accuracy of pronunciation, after which only I used to take my mini breakfast. Moksha is my aim, God-realisation is the goal of life; - this is what Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj insisted and never forgot to write in any of his books. His books would start with this admonition and end with it also.
The person who directed the way to go to Hospet was a person who belonged to Hospet itself; and I spoke to him personally, as he was an employee of the District Munsiff's Court in Puttur. He never revealed until the end that he was a trainee of the Government Training School in Hospet. The reason why he did not disclose this fact, that I came to know later, is that anyone who is trained and who holds a certificate of the Government Training School should perform a teacher's task for one or two years, because the Government has given him free training at its expense. But the gentleman did not want to pass through this period of teaching, which meant nothing for him, and so he found a job in the District Munsiff's Court in Puttur. This is legally an incorrect thing that he did, though practically he got a job. The fact that he had not gone through the regular course as stipulated came to my knowledge in Hospet, when the authorities of the Government Training School in Hospet were searching for the address of this gentleman. For a few days I did not reveal the fact that I knew where he was, but when they were searching for the address, as a legal obligation I mentioned to the Headmaster that I knew this person whom they were searching for. The Headmaster and the staff in the Training School were surprised that I knew the whole truth and did not reveal it. The Headmaster shockingly appreciated my truth-saying by adding, "Oh, you kept the truth secret though we were in search of this man." Anyway, the story ends here and I do not know what followed.
The Headmaster of the Government Training School was a kind of tyrant, his name was H. Krishnacharya, hailing from Tumkur in Mysore State. All the staff in the school hated him for his outspoken way and tyrannical manner in which he handled the staff. The teachers in the school were mumbling among themselves, "Horrible. We should either be the Head of the institution or run away from this place," though jokingly. I wrote to my uncle, incidentally, saying that this Headmaster is a tyrant and I cannot get on with him. The uncle wrote back, "If that is the case you can handle this man with a complaint to the higher authority." But I did not do such an act, since had I done it I would have been on the verge of losing my job. I was a hardworking person in the Training School; everybody liked me. A Deputy Engineer of the PWD, who liked me very much, came to ask me what was the meaning of the commentary of Shankaracharya on the Bhagavadgita in the Sanskrit book that I was carrying. The whole trouble with me was that I could not give lectures. That art I learned only in the Sivananda Ashram by the blessings of Swami Sivananda. Writing and learning in a tangible way I learned because of the insistence of Swami Sivananda, that we must be masters in everything and not be hesitant to take up any work. This brought me to the level of what I am today when I am writing this memoir. Glory to Swami Sivananda, the great Teacher, Master, Saint, and, I should say, Godman.
The teasing habit of the Headmaster came to light once again when all the staff arranged for a trip to a nearby mountain temple, which I foolishly joined without knowing the technicality of joining a party of these people. On the way, the Headmaster sarcastically remarked, "The clerical staff will give an explanation as to why it has trespassed the rule of not crossing the border of the Government Training School." Naturally I felt ashamed, because I did not know what that rule was. Many other things that I was expected to learn came to my light later on, stage by stage. For instance, there was a library of very good books that I was supposed to handle, though I was not told that it was my duty. One day a companion teacher told me that there were some printed forms that were supposed to be under my custody, and they should not be lost under any circumstances. I was stupid enough not to understand this thing, because I was not living in that room where those papers were kept. In certain matters I looked like a simpleton. It so happened a few days afterwards that the forms were seen to be lost, and nobody knew where they went. When my colleagues said, "You have to pay for it," I was shocked. From where would I pay? Then one gentleman told me the Government Secondary Training School in Bellary had a man who could give some copies on payment, and I had to shell out the cost, for no fault of mine; otherwise it would have been a guilt on my part, that would have been taken notice of by the Government authorities. I was also asked to study the fundamental rules of the Government (then British, and the subsidiary rules framed by the Madras Government). The third thing I learned was that I should have a service book, as every Government servant must have, about which I knew nothing. Some good gentleman told me where I could get the service book form in which every month the Head should write a good report about me. I thought that perhaps this procedure was followed in every Government office. I knew nothing of all these celebrated secrets, that were all to the detriment of a man like me, that added to my sorrow, all which precipitated my decision to leave the place forthwith and about which I wrote in my letter to my uncle. This is why he made a posthaste visit to Hospet, lest I may not run away somewhere.
In a piquant situation I decided to go away from the Ashram and stay in Gujarat for a long time. Dr. Krishna Rao, who is now in the Ashram, arranged for my taxi and took me straight to the residence of a friend of his that is just in front of the Balaknath Temple in Delhi. There I had a few days' rest, when also I had a little time to read the manuscript of my The Philosophy of the Bhagavadgita, to pursue which every day Devinder Kumar, my old friend, used to see me in that house and hurry me to complete the manuscript. He took the entire responsibility of printing, and sent the printed copies to my Gujarat address. My stay in Gujarat is a story by itself. Dr. Gandhara Bhatt of Dhrangadhra, Dr. Adhwaryoo of Virnagar, Sri Pran Lal Mehta of Rajkot were some of the highlights who took care of me while I was in Gujarat. At that time it was that I ventured to visit the holy Somnath Temple on the western ocean together with Dr. Adhwaryoo, and on the way I saw Bhavalka Tirth, where Sri Krishna is supposed to have left his body after a hunter of Bhavalka shot his toe by mistaking it for the beak of a bird. This story is beautifully narrated in the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana. I also visited nearby the place where Arjuna is supposed to have performed the last rites of Krishna's remains. I also saw a cave nearby into which Balarama seems to have entered in the form of a large snake, because Balarama is supposed to be an incarnation of Ananta, the Divine Snake, and Krishna being Narayana Himself. The present temple of Somnath is a stupendous structure in stone, all of which is the result of the Defense Minister, Sardar Patel, insisting against Jawarharlal Nehru that the funds for the building should be provided by the State, since he considered the temple as a monument of India's great culture, and not merely a religious place of worship. To this proposal Nehru had to give his consent, though against his personal desire. Nearby was a small temple that they say is the remnant of the Siva Linga, left after the ravage caused by the invasion of Mahamud of Ghazni in ancient times. The temple structure is expanding almost every year by increasing additional accommodation for pilgrims to witness the Arati. This temple is not like a temple that you see everywhere. People cannot go in, prostrate themselves before the Deity and do anything there. There is only one person, known as the Pujari, who alone is responsible for the timely worship. At twelve o'clock noon every day the bell rings and the Pujari raises the holy light, performs the worship, where the Puja ends. Very simple, but grand. There is an arrow projecting from the temple towards the sea, indicating the place where Ghazni Mahamud in his invasion broke the Lingum and threw it into the ocean.
I stayed for a week or so in the Rest House of the institution, known as Sharadagram, a High School run under Gandhian principles, where I was received well due to the arrangements made by Dr. Adhwaryoo lovingly. Dr. Adhwaryoo allotted his car, his driver and his cook entirely at my disposal, so that I may go wherever I liked and eat the food that I chose. Such was the goodness of Dr. Adhwaryoo. After a while Dr. Adhwaryoo came there and took me to a place called Diu, where his wife was born. Evidently, it was in possession of the Portuguese earlier. The distance of travelling was so much that it tired me and I felt like dying when I came back. However, this is part of the story. On the way I saw, on the instruction of Dr. Adhwaryoo, a large tree with the girth worshipped by people called Prachi-Vriksha. People told me that it was under this tree that Sri Krishna sat and gave his last message to Uddhava, as is recorded in the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana.
Shiv Narayan Kapur, a Trustee of The Divine Life Society, invited me to Bombay for a three-day lecture in the Cowasji Jehangir Hall, which went on very well and people applauded the delivery and also the subject which consisted of metaphysical philosophy, psychology and practice of Yoga. Also Dr. Adhwaryoo took me from Virnagar to Bhavnagar, where I stayed for a night and spoke to the people gathered. Bhavnagar was the capital of one of the Maratha chiefs known as Gaekwad, the others being Holkar of Indore, Bhonsle of Nagpur, Scindia of Gwalior, and Peshwa of Pune. These Maratha chiefs, together with their leader Peshwa, embarked on an onslaught of conquest on Ahmed Shah Abdali, who overthrew the Marathas, and the Marathas fell in the battle of Panipat. On the way to Bhavnagar we were shown a temple where Nana Phadnavis stayed during his last days, when the British were pursuing him as a lieutenant of the Maharani of Jhansi, the other assistant to Maharani being Tantia Topi, who was caught by the British and killed. I am not writing the history of the British occupation of India, what I have just mentioned is only incidental and by the way.
While I was in Gujarat, Brigadier L.N. Sabharwal who was posted as a Brigadier there came to me. He took me to his house in Bhuj, a long distance indeed to travel in a car of his friend. I stayed for a few days with Brigadier, who took care of me lovingly and also gave me a ride to the famous reservoir mentioned in the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana called Narayana Sarovar, where the ancient ones took bath and prayed. I was then taken to an old man who spoke the future of a person by name. The old man asked Brigadier his name, and on mentioning the same, the old man indicated the possible time when he was promoted, and such other details of his life. As regards to myself, the old man said I am one who has eaten all the butter and thrown away all the buttermilk and the chas. Then we returned to his house in Bhuj, after which I went by plane to Bombay and stayed in the house of Mr. Sanghvi, a great friend and associate of Dr. Adhwaryoo, where was also Swami Chidananda, who had incidentally come there to tell me how things were happening in the Ashram and that all is well finally by the Grace of God.