Me and my life as I remember now
Om Shri Sai RamOm Shri Sai Ram
Me and my life
The purpose of my trying to write these short memoirs of my life is to leave behind a kind and purpose of life I lead though it may not be colorful. I know my children have a right to know who I am apart from being their father and my students too are inquisitive as to what I am and how and from where I come from. It is my earnest desire to leave some inkling as to how I came into this field of philosophy and the spiritual arena. I hope Sri Sai Ram will approve of whatever I’ve tried to reveal of myself and my life. Jai Shri Sai Ram.
I arrived on this holy world of peace and plenty, the most beloved creation of the Divine on 28th day of September in the year of 1925 in Bengaluru, a pretty city in the state of Karnataka then known as the princely state of Mysore. Though I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, my parents were pious, loving and comfortably well placed. I grew up steadily on the laps of not only my very loving mother and beloved grandmother but also my two paternal uncles. There were in addition two more brothers and sisters who fondled me. My maternal grandma used to tell me when I came of age that I was a chubby baby and all used to say that if I sat on the stone bench outside it would break! That’s about all that I can remember of my baby hood as I heard it, mostly from my beloved grandma.
My reverend father worked in the revenue survey dept of the state. He used to be transferred often to different districts. We all moved with him. In my childhood I had an opportunity to see and live in different places. I remember having gone to several schools during my kindergarten school age. So I too had to follow him. I seem to have enjoyed the change of places. I remember having my first haircut which is a grand religious ceremony and a lot of my relatives came to celebrate. I remember I enjoyed being a person of great importance; drawing every one’s attention. I was so proud to show my new clothes, cap and the many presents I got. I also vividly remember how I was keen to go to school. I enjoyed every moment in the school and was fond of learning new things. The teachers used to give some homework and as soon as I came home I got into finishing it first, in spite of my mother’s calling me for my midday meal. It used to be that I went to school at 7or 7-30 am and returned at about 11 am. I remember to have been taken to several places of interest and importance. They were either famous mountains, or temples. I enjoyed those visits as I saw plenty of monkeys and other heard the entertaining sounds of birds and beasts. I enjoyed the beauty of nature. Also when I was only a child, my elder sister, Padmavati and her neighbor friend used to love to play with me and entertain me, which I innocently enjoyed very much. After some time there, my father was transferred to Bengaluru. Meanwhile, all this took place in a place called Kolar, a district in the state of Karnataka.
My parents had a house that belonged to the joint family and two of my paternal uncles lived there. After my birth sometime later the uncles wanted to pursue their own profession and needed money and my father, who was the head of the family, had to sell the house to give them their share. One became a tailor and the other an agriculturist and moved to Mysore, the then capital of the state by the same name. So, then, we used to live in various rented houses.
To shorten this topic of my unimportant childhood saga, let me say that for some time I had to move with my parents to several towns and change several houses. This affected my education for some time as I was a rolling stone gathering no moss! As I remember, the last time we moved from a district town called Tumkur; we settled down in Bangalore and I started my schooling in earnestness.
I remember an incident that took place when I was in my first or second year of school. The teacher asked us to copy something written on the black board. I copied it and when I showed it to the teacher he complained that the letters were too small to read. Innocently enough I asked the teacher whether he is blind and cannot see. Then, I remember that he got so angry and slapped me so hard that even now I remember it. Of course, now I remember the silly thing I did. A couple of instances still I often remember and laugh about them in silence. One of these let me tell. There was a teacher for math that used to wear a turban, a head gear and he had a tuft of hair underneath it. It was his habit to give us some work and rest his legs on the table, remove the headgear and take a nap. Somehow a mischievous idea struck a group of us. The next day, one of my friends brought a pair scissors and sat on the floor to copy the work on the board, of course a pretense. As usual, the teacher removed the turban, placed it on the table, kept his legs on the table and started his nap. My friend with the scissors stealthily went behind the chair and slowly cut the tuft off. The bell rang and he awoke and plied his hand over his head and tried to put his tuft under the turban and Lo and Behold! There…..it was missing. He realized what had happened and became furious but he could not know who did it.
As far as I can remember, since my earlier days I was very independent. It so happened that once when I was in middle school, I went to school with a “Gandhi cap” made of handmade yarn. It was a time when the nation was fighting for freedom and non co-operation was in full swing. The use of foreign cloths imported from Britain was discouraged. I had the mill made shirt but had the cap made of handmade yarn, a symbol of nationalism. When the teacher commented on this mixture of a mill made shirt and handmade cap, I had to explain to him in my own boyish language that this body belongs to my father and I wear what he gives me but, the head is mine, thoughts are mine, so I am free to cover my head with whatever I wish. It seems to have silenced and pleased him.
After coming back to Bengaluru from Tumkur on transfer, my mother gave birth to a baby, Dwaraki, and after a few weeks of his birth, my mother fell sick and had to be hospitalized. I was the eldest child at home as my elder sister and brother were staying with my relatives for their studies because my father was transferred so often. A responsibility fell on me though I was just a child. My father had to cook for us, feed us, and walk a few miles to reach his office in time. So, I was asked to walk to the hospital with medicines and fruits and whatever he wanted me to carry to give to my sick mother. I had to walk a couple of miles to do that. I stayed with her until my father came to visit her in the evening, after his shopping or other chores. It was dark by the time we reached home. My younger ones ate what was kept for them and were ready to sleep or sometimes they waited for my father to cook something and then ate and slept. I too used to be tired and sleepy by then. I still enjoy remembering the sweet songs of saints that he used to sing while putting my little brother to sleep. By this time the new born died without my mother’s care though my aged grandma tried her best to help him live. That did not work. During this time I had to miss schooling for sometime which caused me a lot of sorrow as I missed my friends and caring teachers. It was the plan of the Providence. And there was nothing to avoid it!
As I try to remember those days of my school age, I was a participant in all the political activities as well as sports. Since my second year in middle school, actively I was either followed or lead my school mates in protest meetings or processions. We all followed the leadership of Gandhiji and the leadership of the real congress of that time. We were fighting for our freedom from the foreign yoke of the British Empire. Several times I had to submit myself to punishment by the school authorities. Since I had lost my mother by that time and my father was too busy in taking care of the household chores, he had too little time left to bother with my activities. I remember once when there was complaint against me. He had told me that he would provide everything I needed for my studies and the day I failed, he would kick me out. I knew the seriousness of the warning and tried my utmost to keep any complaints from reaching him. But still sometimes he got the complaint and I was punished well. And there were occasions when I had to leave the house and spend a day or a few days either with friends or anywhere I could. He was a very strict disciplinarian. Though at that time in my ignorance, I disliked him for these acts of harshness, now at this age of 85 I can realize under what a great amount of tension he had to work! I bow down to him where ever he may be and whatever he may be at this time. I feel like falling at his feet and rub my nose on his feet in shame and in an apology for my actions and the mean thoughts of him I had whenever he punished me. Now, at this late age I have realized to what an extent he loved us all, worked so hard for us all and to what a great extent he taught a lot of things that have come to serve us in our youth and later on. If I am what I am, it is because of him and the blessings of my great, holy grandmother. She helped him in taking care of all of us in the sad absence of our dear mother. I fondly remember how she took me to temples and to the discourses on spiritual and religious subjects. This grew an interest in me to think of spiritual matters even at a young age. I realize the value of that initiation at that early age. Whenever I remember her, my eyes fill with joy and gratitude. How much we all owe her is immeasurable. Her life was one of great sacrifice and dedication. She was so orthodox that she never drank even a sip of tap water but only the water from the well until her death at about 99 years of age. As I have seen, she used to draw water from the well herself even when she was sick and old and bent at 90 degrees at the waist. She cooked her own food and kept a little for us too. Often she used to pity us for our state of being orphans without a mother to love and take care of us all. Many a time when I was in trouble in the school, and was asked to bring my parents to a conference, and being terribly afraid of my father’s wrath I would cry before her and beg her to come to the conference. It worked.
My father was a good singer himself. We all enjoyed hearing him sing whenever he was in a joyful mood. He sang the devotional songs of the great saints and the beloved devotees of the Lord. Also he was a dramatist and often took part in entertainment in the royal palace and he was awarded prizes for the same. He wanted me to be a musician and put me into music lessons from some of his good friends who were good musicians themselves. They lived a few miles away from where we lived. I got up early to reach their homes. I walked the distance even though it was cold and I was barefoot. The teachers were indeed very kind and loving. They gave me some kind of hot drink before starting the lesson. After an hour or so, I walked back home, did some chores and ate my meal which either my father or my grandma had cooked. Then I gathered my books and joined my friends to go to school which I loved very much even to this day. Then in the evening after the classes were over we had a period of physical exercise and then we were done for the day. We were free to go to our teams of either cricket, football (soccer), hockey or any other sport. I played on my school’s cricket team. I played soccer and volleyball too. Usually it was a custom amongst our group of friends to visit Sri Ganesha’s temple before heading home. There was a strict curfew. We must be home by certain hour. We all obeyed with respect
Although my father was a strict master, not by his choice but by the situation he was placed by the Providence. I have to make it vastly clear he was a very kind and loving father. His love was so great that it makes me say so here, clarifying that point. He went beyond his means sometimes to fulfill children’s childish desires. He bought new clothes of our choice on our religious celebrations without fail. We could see his happiness at seeing us in those new clothes. He cooked many sweet dishes. When the famous drama company came to town he took me several times to see the plays. Now I know how that created in me a deep interest in both music and drama. Of course, later in my youth I became a musician, a dancer and a professional dramatist. He was proud of our achievement and talk about us to all of his friends and relatives. He was a very proud person. I remember one incident. It was at the sad time of my mother’s passing. Many of my aunts and uncles told him that he should leave his children in their custody as we were all so young and needed care that was difficult for him to give, for a while at least. But my father refused saying that he has brought us all into this world and he is responsible for all of us, that he does not want to part with us, and that he is capable of shouldering the responsibility himself. He said that the day when he realizes that he could not take care of us, he will put us all in the well, and he will also follow us. Of course, he would have never done that. He made his point. In truth, he did take care of all of us, young motherless children without any major incident. My grandmother’s taking on a part of the responsibility was a great relief and made him more confident that he could definitely take care of this big family. It seems that my grandmother, my mother’s mother, had seven children and my mother was the last one living for these many years. My grandmother was attached to her very much and even after she was gone. So she was attached to her children; that was what we were, apples of her eye! She pitied us and also was happy to see the spirit of her own daughter in us. Her sacrifice to our family is so great that we can never, in any way, pay her back in several lives!
I was involved in several extracurricular activities during my school days. I was a cub ( junior scout} then a scout in 21st Chamundi troop, then in 72 Mallikarjuna Troop, Then, I became the leader of the 14Th Narasimha raja troop in my middle school. During that period of time, I lead my troop to an International jamboori of about 10,000 scouts from all over the place and they placed our troop in charge of the kitchen which we loved very much. My father encouraged me in those activities and bought all the necessary uniforms badges etc. without considering the cost of all that. Such a loving and dedicated father was he!
In my life I had so many good friends without whom I could not have survived; of course, now I realize that they were chosen by God to take care of me. Without their love and help there was very little that I could have achieved. I am ever grateful to them. They are too many to mention their names .But I shall try to mention their names as I recall situations that they were involved in. Vasu (Dr. Vasudev Punyanath Vasnadkar) was my long time friend. Very often I ate my meals during my childhood with him before going to school. His mother served us food with great love. I continued eating there even after she passed away. A few years ago, he was killed in an accident in Bengaluru. But still, I am his family member and they never allowed me to eat anywhere but with them even now when I visit my town. He gave me clothes to wear when I went to Pune to teach dance in an Institution in the forties. Several times he has financially helped me when I was in need. I used to stay with him in his house many a time. We went together to places of historical importance, religious temples of great beauty that were spiritually powerful.
Once it so happened that my father could not afford to help equip me for playing in a cricket tournament. Though the school paid much of the cost, each one of us had to pay Rs 3 and a half. I had myself acquired a pair of white shoes and socks and a white shirt. That was not a problem. My friends loaned me those things. But my father had to give me money and he did not. Maybe he thought that it was not important to play in a tournament. But to play in the school eleven (there are eleven players on each side with 4 reserves) carried great prestige. But I failed to impress on him that point. As the days of our departure neared, I became so sad that I could not withhold my tears. I had a very good friend by the name of Venu. He saw this and inquired as to why I was crying. I told him the predicament I was in. This happened in his house which was a few houses away from mine. His father also saw how sad I was. Venu told him the reason. At once he said that I should not cry and he would pay the amount and happily I should go and play and win the match and come. That brought me so much joy my tears of sadness turned into tears of joy. I told my father that somebody is bearing the cost and I was going to Mysore to play the match. He did not say anything. Now I think, that it was not that he did not like me to go and play, but it was a little beyond the means. With the salary he got he had to maintain a large family which costs a lot. So no one can blame him or mistake him to be disinterested in my activities. This is the only incident I ever remember when he could not help me. But let me say he took a great deal of interest in all our activities and was proud of us too.
I mentioned earlier my active participation in political movement when I was a young boy. Once I was held with some of my friends in the central jail for a few days before we were let off by the new government which came into power. But I was wanted for some questioning and was picked up at the gates of the jail by the police inspector called Dhruvarao, who was a friend of my father and brought me to the station. He kept me over the night in that cold. There was nothing to keep me warm. He sent word to my father about my being held in the station for some time. He immediately came with warm clothing and a woolen blanket. He was not worried as the inspector was his friend and also there were many more of my friends also held there. In those days I did not live with my father and brothers. I had not even seen him for a long time as I was working with the underground. But yet, as soon as he heard I was in police custody he at once came to see me with all the needed warm clothes which shows his love and concern for my welfare no matter where and how I was. These memories bring tears of gratitude even to this day. What a great father was he! I was fortunate to have him as my father. I was in high school then. Day by day the political struggle for freedom was getting hotter and hotter, especially amongst the younger generation. Daily protests and protest processions were becoming more and more common.
Daily, students were in the fore front. Many times they skipped school in order to participate in them. Workers’ strikes forced factories to close down. British goods were being burnt. There were hundreds of protest meeting all over the place. Mostly the Congress party was in the forefront of the movement. Gandhiji had made the Congress Party strong as a leader and was joined by tall names like Nehru, Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose and many more national leaders of that time. Being students at that time, we followed their leadership with great respect and faith. Gandhiji’s words were biblical words for us. We adhered to all the great principles of non-injury, truthfulness, religious harmony and resisted injustice at all costs. He gave a set of programs to the nation such as independence from foreign goods and dependence on self-made clothes called Khadi or Khadder. Minimize our needs and share what you have with those who do not have. Many such things attracted much of the Indian nation. Many times I had to break curfew at home. I had to skip my classes some times. The warnings of my father did not affect me at all in the heat and spirit of the movement. Meanwhile, the puppet government issued a notice to all employees that none in their family should take part in that movement which was called then the “Quit India” movement and the message that came with that from Gandhiji was “Do or Die.” This was the final message to the British to leave the country. My father told me to abandon active participation and concentrate on my studies. If I continued doing what I wanted it would cause dismissal from his job and the whole family would be in trouble. Then I told my father that I shall leave home but I could not stop my participation in the movement as I had been chosen as a leader by then. I was responsible for many aspects of the movement and I was not in the least interested in shirking my responsibilities. I left home and lived in various places during that time. But I tried to continue my studies but could not do so.
Finally the negotiation between British Empire and Mahatma Gandhi failed as Jinnah held on to his demand for Pakistan. Gandhiji tried his best saintly effort to make Jinnah understand the stealthy intention of the Britishers to divide us and weaken our country but to no avail. As a final straw he said, Better ‘Quit India”’and let us decide things for ourselves.” He and his dedicated wife,, Kasturba Gandhi were arrested and kept in Agakhan’s palace where he started a long fast and meanwhile his wife fell sick. The country rose against the British rulers. Many leaders of the Congress party were also jailed. Many leaders went underground. So also many of us, who were involved in the student movements, went underground as the police were after us, as they were afraid of the students and the factory workers very much. There were thousands of huge meetings and marches of protest. State congress committees started sending representatives to participate in mass protests against holding Gandhi and his wife, who was seriously sick. They wanted medicines, such as penicillin from America and it had not come. She died without it after a while. At that time Mysore Congress also decided to send representatives to protest in Pune (then it was Poona) under the leadership of H. Narasimhaiah, who became the Vice Chancellor of Bangalore University. We were working with Sirdar Venkataramiah who was our underground leader. Four of us arrived at Pune. We met our contact, who was a tailor, running a small shop. Then we all went to Wadia College from where we marched, shouting slogans and we held an unfurled sign saying that we represented Mysore Congress and we also carried the Congress Flag. Hardly had we gone about 100 or 150 yards and there came a police van, and about half a dozen police jumped down, wielding their batons, and pushed us all into the van. They took us to the famous Yeravada prison where there were many national leaders to welcome us! There were thousands of the political prisoners overflowing the main jail. So, we were kept in the tent prison.
We remained there for a couple of months as ‘under trial prisoners’ before we were transferred to the main jail. When some of the class-one prisoners heard of our arrival they wanted to meet us and it was possible only in the hospital. We met them. On hearing that we are not able to eat the bajra roti, they offered to exchange their rice for our roties. After a few more months we were brought before a retired judge in the special court within the prison itself. It was funny to stand before him and read our statement which he never even heard as he went on playing with his grandson and chewing tobacco. He asked if we were done. After an affirmative answer he said in Marathi “teen mahine” which meant three months. So we were imprisoned for three months after having spent about three months as ‘under trial prisoners’. We learned a lot of things while we were there. I learned to make things out of coconut threads, knit caps and bags out of the thread we removed from the blankets. I learned the Hindi language which we never knew. Jailers and the Superintendent and all wardens were all so happy to help in any way they could as we were all young students and patriots fighting for our freedom. This was my longest term compared to all other arrests and time I had spent during the freedom struggle. This was a great experience to me. This was the longest journey I had taken to a different state and culture. Many things that I might have not learned anywhere else, I learned here in a short time. We returned home after our release. I lived in my friends’ houses or anywhere I was invited. Thus, passed my time for a while.
When we fought for our freedom it was from cruel rulers but we had no enmity with the people of Britain. We all liked them. In fact, we learned so many good things from them. Though some unwanted, questionable characters were sent to the colonies to rule, there were some great men, both honest and just. All those who were here in India were not bad. I remember a principal, I think his name was J.C. Rollo, who wrote on the answer paper of a student, “examinee knows more than the examiner.” We still follow their justice system to a great extent. We have the largest network of railways in the world. These good things we never forget. When I was in Yeravada prison, many times I heard the superintendent, Mr. Barker an evacuee from Burma, saying that we have a right to fight for our freedom, as this is our country and nobody should occupy and rule us. He wished us all success. He was a British subject. He made all kinds of books available for us. He gave us a brighter light to study under in the night and anything we wanted within his power. He had great regard and respect for the political prisoners. His kindness and interest in us made all the wardens and others interested in following us. Thus we were comfortable even in the prison.
Why we wanted our freedom from the British rule was simple. They were dishonest, destructive, greedy and cruel. They came into this country in the guise of business people seeking a market for their goods. At that time our country was fractured into big and small kingdoms and principalities which constantly fought amongst themselves. They took undue advantage of the situation and started taking sides in the fights. Thus, they started their real game. We were innocent and believed them; allowed them to rule for a couple of centuries. Though we realized their cunning, since there was no unity amongst people, they were allowed to slowly start to rule for a period of time. We needed a leader who would unite us all for a single purpose and to enlighten us about the shame of being slaves to a foreign power. Not that no one realized this but none could not muster unity. The Congress Party was in the fore front in this fight. But it needed a leader like Mahatma Gandhi. The Congress Party got the Sun to awaken them and get to work. The result was this strong call for freedom from the foreign yoke. Day by day the movement got stronger and stronger. Even several foreign countries, including America, gave their support in many ways. As the movement got strong, Jinnah’s demand for Pakistan became stronger too. He was playing into the British game of dividing the country into two which none wanted except a handful of puppets following Jinnah. For centuries Hindus and Muslims lived like brothers and sisters. They participated in each other’s celebrations. Gandhiji said to wait for some time and give another chance for Jinnah and his followers to think about the dangers of this demand. Britishers encouraged the division into India and Pakistan. Meanwhile, some of the leaders got exited and did not want to wait. They put pressure on Gandhiji to accept the proposal. Some of the senior leaders’ eyes were on the post of prime ministers. Leading amongst them were Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabh Bhai Patel, and some others. At last an agreement was made. Now the race for prime ministers ensued. People had great regard for Patel. But Gandhiji showed compassion to Nehru. He became the prime minister though many people were for Patel who was known for his dedication to the country, honesty and discipline. But on the border, all hell fell loose. Millions of people were killed by both sides, Pakistan and India. The sadistic British must have enjoyed the chaos. It was a known matter as to the great extent they liked this type of blood game. History has recorded their cruelty in this game of killings. The Jalianwala Baugh massacre in Punjab and the Black hole of Calcutta, ( where in a small room hundreds of people were kept for days and many or most of them died) are the final example of how they treated our people who welcomed them, allowed them to build their business and this is how they repaid the kindness. The Second World War was still on. A number of British troops were stationed our town. Our Indian troops were also stationed there. In addition there were about a thousand or so Italian prisoners held in a camp on the outskirts of the city. It was during the time of my hiding from the police that I was hid in one of the Indian Military barracks.
At last the movement slowed down. My life continued to be the same. I could not go back home. At this time I was residing with the family of Srimati Kamalamma, who was running a fine art and craft school. Kitturayaru also lived there and ran a bakery, and I often spent my time in his factory as many of my friends also gathered there. We all knew each other since we all lived in the same area nearby. That’s why I was given shelter in that house. I slept on a stone bench in the verandah. I got up early. Left the house without knowing what I was going to do or where I was going and why. Someone sometimes took me either for breakfast or for a snack. But rarely did I have a square meal in those days. In the night when I returned home, Srimati Kamalamma asked whether I had eaten anything. My silence answered her question, and she led me to the kitchen and gave me the leftover food. Sometimes, there used to be only a little bit of soup and that was all I ate. But I never asked for food. It came by. There were days when I had to go without anything at all to eat. But I never complained to anybody. I spent time with my friends who had left school or had a business.
On one of the summer days I was returning from my school where I had gone to play since it was the summer holidays. Schools were closed. There was a strong wind and a page flew in the air and fell in front of me. I picked it up to read as it was my habit to read anything that came into my hand. I was very much interested in reading all kinds of books on all kinds of subjects. Sometimes I used to read a novel in one night. It made my father sometimes angry since I was awake all night. When I started reading the page that flew at me, I saw that it was a page from a book on Sri RamaKrishna Paramahamsa. I was thrilled. The story on it was about an old man, by the name of Srinivasa, a blacksmith, who realized the greatness of the saint and approached him with flowers and some offerings to worship him. Srinivasa takes him to a lonely place to make him sit down, puts a humble garland over his neck, offers some sweets, and falls at his feet to the surprise of the young saint. The blacksmith was a poor and humble man. He stands up with folded palms says that he is old and it is likely that he will not be there by the time he starts his Divinity and the Divine work he will do in the world. So he begs him to bless him. That was the narration there. At once it impacted me. For unknown reasons my eyes were filled with tears. I started crying myself, asking myself what makes me different from that blacksmith whose name was Srinivas as was mine. When he could recognize the greatness of the saint why couldn’t I. Why do I lack that faculty was the question. I too should be able to recognize and worship him. Instead of going home, which was only about 100 yards; I turned towards the nearby lake and then found a large stone and sat crying. Slowly I entered into a silent zone, then became lost in oblivion. By the time I regained consciousness, it was getting dark and with heavy steps I walked towards my home. This inspired me to read more about Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsaji. I searched for anything that could let me know more about him. I enquired with my friends. From somewhere I got hold of Sri Ramakrishna’s gospel and read and re-read it. I remembered also that there was an ashram devoted to him and there was a statue of the Mother Kali there. During our recess when we were studying in primary school, we used to go there and the swamiji used to give us some sweets as sacrament. After inquiring, I heard it had been shifted to another building nearby. I hesitated to go there because my elder brother, Badarinath and his friends used to play and participate in the activities of the ashram. I felt shy, as I thought that he may not like me to participate in their activities that I used watch sometimes from outside the compound. All these things had a great influence on me. So, after reading the book, the way in which the close relationship developed between Sri RamaKrishna and the Divine Mother Kali impressed me so much that I started asking the Mother why I should not have the same privilege When She was so kind to him as to appear and converse with him why shouldn’t She do the same with me too. Then I became emotional and cried like a child. It became constant. Then a strange calm took over me. I used to go back to the huge rock where I used to sit engrossed in thinking of the Mother. Then I do not know what happened. I was drenched in the flow of a strange bliss. In an exalted state I walked home, not willing to talk to anyone if they happened to try to talk to me. This went on for a while. These things happened while I was a student and still at home. Then somehow I started doing yoga and meditation wherever I was. I enjoyed doing all that. This adherence to the yoga process continued even when I travelled with my Dance group later in life. I got up at about two thirty in the morning and got busy in my spiritual practices till seven. It was then that I was available for the other business of the world!
Manohara was the daughter of Srimati Kamalamma. She was of the same age as me. Since I was about 8 or 9 we used to see each other as she accompanied her mother to catch a bus to go to the city. I and my friend Shankaranarayana (Shankara) used to be sitting on the compound wall watching each time they came by. They lived diagonally opposite at the other end of the same street. This helped me in the days to come when I needed somewhere to bury my head. Her daughter married Kitturayaru in due course of time. As I mentioned earlier he was running a bakery and I started helping him whenever possible. This helped me to make our relationship closer. Later it made me almost a family member. When I could not study anymore and became more active in the movement he helped me a lot. I spent a lot of time either in his bakery or his shop. There were days when I dependent on him for my meal.
Kittu, as kitturayaru was usually called was a supplier of biscuits (cookies) to the military camp in Begaluru. Once, it so happened, that a big stock pile of biscuits was rejected for some reason. Corruption was rampant in those days as well, all over the department. The returned stock was piled up in the factory. I slept in the factory in those days. Kittu was worried as how to get rid of them all. I volunteered to do something. I tried to sell some in the town and some outside the town whenever possible. The stock was huge and my ability was wanting. I could not do much. I ate as much as possible. When I left the place they were there still. I used to be waiting for him to come every morning so that I could get a cup of coffee to drink with our breakfast of a couple of idlies. That was my morning chore for some time then.
After leaving my studies, though I tried to continue several times but either my father could not help me even with a meal a day or he could not raise the fees, I started searching for a job. With my education it was hard to get any good job. For some time I worked as a teacher in a village primary school. I did enjoy teaching. The students were poor and not as smart as some but very devoted. I had to work a little harder but it was worth it. They used to bring me fresh vegetables and curds every day. The villagers liked me also. But I could not continue. When my father heard I had a job he let me stay at home for some time. Then again I got a job as a teacher in a place a few miles away and my father bought a bicycle. It went on for a few months and then something happened so I could leave the house on good terms this time!
I wondered for a while about how I met my future dance teacher under a strange circumstance. I was walking with a friend on the main thoroughfare when we saw a handsome imposing figure crossed over the road to a laundry shop. My friend pointed at him and asked me if I knew who it was. To my negative reply, he said that it was Sohanlal, The great kathak Master. Kathak is one of the main classic styles of the Indian dance tradition. At once my mind thought of meeting him and I told my friend to wait. I approached him and politely asked him if I could talk to him for a minute. He was generous to agree. In short, I asked him if I could join his class to learn the art. He looked at me and told me to go to his place of teaching some evening and he would discuss it further. I was jubilant. I returned to my friend to announce that he had invited me to meet him in his class. My friend, who was none other than Vasu, was great man, both as a friend and as a well wisher even at that tender age of 15 or 16 years. He had helped me with my needs several times. He was one in whom I found great solace in those trying periods of my life.
I did not want to wait. The same evening I went to his class. I was surprised to find my close friends were already there learning the art. I watched the practices through the window as the hall was full. The drums and the melody of the anklet bells took me away from this mundane existence! I became so eager to join them all and dance. The Master wanted to test the ability of the students to bend, touching their noses to their navels and to stand up straight without wavering. Many fell down. He had seen me watching this and asked me if I could do it. I was happy that he invited me to join them in that and also I wanted to show my mettle to my friends. Master started playing the drum and I got started slowly. The tempo rose and someone started counting. I do not know how many counts I did but when the drum fell silent I stood up straight without a single waver and they all clapped their hands. Master seemed very happy and said that I was accepted as a student in the class. The lessons started and I progressed well with others, especially H.R. Keshava Murty. He became a very good friend, nay a brother indeed! As soon as he heard that I was a homeless and starving youth, at once he started indirectly taking care of me. He himself was only a kindergarten teacher and a Hindi scholar. He lived in a very small house with his mother and father who worked as a cook in a judge’s house. Income in those days was meager. But his heart was not. He used to come in search of me to share a meal almost every evening as I had started staying with the master by then. We practiced together. Our teaching was intense. Our teacher taught both of us very willingly as we were always eager to learn hard pieces and had won the grace of our master. I had been placed in charge of the classes in the absence of my master. I started teaching junior students and then the others too. Still sometimes I had to wait for some miracle to happen to get something to eat as I started getting hungrier day by day due to strenuous practices. I waited for some student to come who would take me to a hotel to eat before I took his class. I knew that was not right. But I felt helpless sometimes. Thus I had become a dancer by strange circumstance. I thrived well in that profession later in my life.
After my return from the prison from Pune, I wondered a bit. I tried to find a job and could not succeed. My dance career continued. We were busy with rehearsals every evening in preparation for coming dance performances. All my evenings were booked in that process. But to get a job in the daytime was indeed necessary. In those days my good friend C.N.Seshagiri worked in the coffee board as a supervisor. Every morning at 10:00 the office workers were served coffee that was so tasty and there was an aroma that you do not find anywhere else except there. I got there at that time and sat with him and others who were also my friends and had some coffee and took leave of them. This became a regular habit.
On one morning , as usual , after a visit to my coffee session I was walking to my friend Nataraja’s house as it was there we had our rehearsals because he had the musicians and the orchestra, and my eyes fell on a sign which read “Shankar Rao Ogle”. I knew he was the owner of the Glass and Enamel Works which was located very near to where I lived. At once a thought arose in my mind ‘Why should I not go and talk to him’. So I went and knocked at the door and Lo! And Behold! It was he himself who came to the door. On his query as to what I wanted I said that I wanted to talk to him for few minutes if he could generously spare that time. He silently looked into my eyes and said “yes”. I went in and told him about my life including my participation in the political movement of the time and that since I came out of Yervada prison I had been in search for a job. He asked my education and usual experience etc. and I answered suitably. Then he told me to meet him the next morning at the factory. I was thrilled at the thought of getting a job. There would be no more need to wait for a student to bribe me with something to eat and a cup of coffee before the class!
Next morning I went to the factory in Yeshwantpur, a part of my town. I announced my presence to Mr. Alwar Iyengar who was the time keeper and whom I knew from my younger days. I told him why I was there and he was happy and let the office know that I was in his room waiting. I was called in. There were three people: Mr. Shankar Rao, Mr. Ramachandra Rao, who was the works manager of the glass works and Mr. Kshyap, who was the works manager of the enamel works sitting there to greet me and make me feel comfortable. They asked several questions for which I must have answered properly and suitably. Then I was dismissed. I sat waiting for the result of the interview. Then, came a call from them in a few minutes. They told me that I was being appointed as an assistant foreman in the finishing department working under Mr. Shankarnarayanarao, a saintly person as I realized later. My salary was fixed at Rs 40 a month and I was excited. The same day I started work. By evening the news was spread around the factory of my appointment and also at Rs 40 a month which was a surprise! There were many of my friends who were working there, some were my childhood friends and they all came to see me and congratulate me on my appointment at that salary and as an assistant foreman. One of them was K.Sundar Rao who was my childhood friend who grew up in the same neighborhood as me for a longtime. It was his father Mr. K. Narayanarao who initiated me into bhajans (group prayers on the lines of Mahatma Gandhiji) and street singing in groups early in the mornings, daily. His house was always full of people. Whenever some special dishes were made it was his practice to invite everyone that passed by to come in and eat well and go! I remember those days very vividly. Also he is the one who made Gandhiji stop at the temple of the Mother Kannika Parmeswari that was still under construction, as the whole night he and the youngsters had worked to decorate the temple to be ready to honor him. My eldest brother Gururaja was also an active member of the group. He took us, the children of our locality, to a huge public meeting where we were addressed by so many front line leaders of congress like Jawahalal Nehru, Vallbh Bhai Patel, Subash Chandra Bose and many others. He was one hundred percent Gandhian and his influence is on us even to this day. Sundar Rao, whom we called Sunder, was also with my master learning dance. He was senior to me though. Later we danced together as snake charmers and took other roles in the dance performances. We were together during the tour of our dance group throughout the state collecting funds for the WW ll. I continued both working and attending my dance classes living some time at Master’s place and at Ajji’s ( as we fondly called Srimati Kamalamma) sometime. After a few months the glass works manager, Mr. Ramachandra Rao asked me to learn mouth blowing also. I went up to that division. It was really interesting and I learnt “gathering’ and also “mouth blowing”. I really enjoyed the new skill, new trade.
One evening some new guests came to visit our dance institution. They introduced themselves as Rohini Bhate, her sister and her brother-in-law, who was in the military. They were all from Poona. She had a dance institution and she wanted to continue to study the art under my master who was a well known master and a good teacher as she had heard there. Master agreed to teach her and introduced us as his senior disciples. He made her demonstrate what she knew already. She danced a piece she had learnt from her teacher and husband Rangvittal. Without a comment, master said she can start taking lessons a couple of days a week. The classes started. Some times in the absence of my master, on his command, I used to teach. Thus we came to know each other better. She liked my way of teaching and several times expressed her appreciation. A few days before she was to return to Poona she invited me to teach in her institution whenever I decided to do so and she said she would be happy to welcome me to Poona. This made an interest arise in me to go back to Poona where I had already been once but then it was to go to prison. I liked the town and the people. As the days passed by, the eagerness to accept her invitation grew stronger and stronger. I told my friends also my feelings about it. They too encouraged me to go. So I decided to do so and I wrote to Rohini Bhate and got a reply by return mail. I decided to go but I had no money. Railway fare was very little in those times. Yet I did not have it. So I talked to Vasu and he told me not to worry and gave me not only the amount of railway fare but some more extra money. In addition he gave me some pants and shirts too! I was so lucky to have had such great friends without whom I could not have seen this beautiful day at the age of 85 years. A few days later, after taking leave of my friends and the master and members of Ajji’s family I left for Poona and reached there after a day and a half’s tedious journey. I was happy. I had the address and went straight to the home of Rangvittal. It was the morning hours of the day. I met Mr. Parvatikar, a Rudra veena expert. He had improvised a sitar, an Indian string instrument, that he had developed in a peculiar way. He was introduced to me as the music director. He was quite elder to me in age. He got up very early in the morning, at about 2 or 2-30 A.M. and started playing! Some people complained and some enjoyed it. Neither bothered him. With a smile he continued to do what he was doing, happily. It was his mission to popularize his new instrument. He was a good artist. He was happy to have me there under the same roof. I started teaching the classes in the evenings. In the mornings I took walks to explore my surroundings. Since I had very little to spend, my activities were very limited until I got my first salary or honorariums, whatever you may call it.
Evenings I was busy in the institute and usually free in the mornings. I tried to venture outside and acquaint myself with the surroundings. Sometimes I visited my students in their homes. I came across a number of musicians of fame. One of them was Mr. Prahlad Hombal who was in charge of the music section of the famous Prabhat Studios where I worked as a dance director for a picture later. In his place I met Mallikarjun Mansur, Bhimsen Joshi, Shridhar Parsekar and many more as the days passed. I met famous actors and actresses who liked me as I was young and a good artist as they said so. Slowly I came across many of the town’s people and wanted me to teach their children at home. I started doing so. I started getting a good sum of money that I never had in my life till then. Mr. Hombal was our Music Director also. We got busy for a tour of southern Karnataka. We chose the themes. Composed music for them and choreography got into progress. I had to work a little in the mornings too. It was really a great joy for me as I had done these before and here I am an important person as I had to conduct the rehearsals.
I had to help with the music also. All my evenings were busy till late in the evenings. It was a very nice atmosphere that I immensely liked it. As planned we went on a tour and returned with a great success. All were happy.
Then I thought of having my own school of dance and got some place to start with. Children enrolled in good numbers. I became independent which brought me a great joy. Later the school which was named as “Nritya Sarasi” was recognized by the department of education of Bombay state. Dr. D.C. Pavte was the Superintendent of the State then and he encouraged me in my work a lot. I used to meet him a number of times seeking help and he was always available for me. I continued my morning tuitions too. After my work in the morning I spent time in the India Coffee house and spend time with my friends who were medical students and were very interested in spiritual practices. Sometimes we all meditated together. Since we occupied a corner and the servers were familiar with our daily routine we were never disturbed. Often times they reserved that corner for us. T manager was an old time friend with whom I shared coffee regularly as I mentioned earlier. It was there I met MR. B.K.S.Iyengar, the world famous Yoga Teacher. He too went for giving private lessons and come there for coffee. We became very good friends. The relations continue to this day though he is in his nineties. Very often he wanted me to go with him to his house and once I was there I ate and stayed there until it was time to leave for my class. I used his senior daughter Gita on my bike and brought her back and very many times stayed there with the other children Vanita, Prashant and later Sunita, Suchita and the youngest Savita. Of course, now they are all mothers and some of them are on the way of becoming grandmothers. But Gita and Prashant have devoted their lives for the enhancement of the art and science of Yoga in furthering their Rev father’s work. Each one of them have written several books on various topics on yoga which are very popular. Gita has travelled widely on invitations to teach the Yoga.
While I was trying to establish myself in Poona I was called back to Bengaluru by my congress colleagues for participating in the “Palace Satyagraha”, a new movement to discard the princely state and to establish the Democratic government. I returned to Bengaluru and stayed in the congress house itself along with one Mr. V.S. KrishnaIyer and another one called Ratnam or so. I have forgotten his name. We were given 5 rupees and had to share. So we bought 2 cups of coffee and made it into three parts. Thus we divided everything amongst us. We had to work to organize protest procession in the capital of Mysore where the King, The Maharaja, lived. The day came for me to lead a group of 14 people as I can remember. We all met one morning at the residence of our leader Mr. K T Bhashyam and to start our official march from the Congress house.
We had marched a little distance shouting slogans against the state government and we were whisked away by the police and driven a few miles in the opposite direction left us there. We had to cover more distance. This tactics continued and it took a loner time for us to avoid police and reach the destination. It was raining heavily too. I did not have my shoes. Bare footed, I walked with bruised feet. Each step made me cry with pain. But the love and encouragement of the villages on the way brought joy and satisfaction. Then I thought oh dividing my party into two so that it would be easier to avoid the police detection. It worked and a day before the selected day for the grand show we stealthily hiding under the haystack carrying bullock carts we reached our secret meeting place. We kept the place dark and only we were allowed to whisper and also to the minimum. I do not remember to have anything to eat. We were all hungry and none of us could venture out as the curfew was in force. Yet, we all rejoiced for having reached the place in time to participate in the Historic moment, though it took a longer and arduous journey in the rain and shine with numerous difficulties. We anxiously waited for the unknown fate that was waiting for us the next day!
Next day we all left our hiding place breaking the curfew, forming a line and shouting slogans we starched marching towards the Palace of the Maharaja. We did like the maharaja but not the government. A little while later a police van came behind us . Police force jumped off the van, came running with their batons and canes ready to use if we resisted. None of us resisted as we had already planned. We were whisked away to the local famous Hamilton police station and emptied us all there. By that time there were already some of our senior leaders and other friends to welcome us! Some of them were beaten up, some seriously. One had his head broken. He was bleeding profusely. There was a very senior leader walking up and down and when I complained to him and requested him to talk to the police to take that volunteer to hospital, even he was afraid of the police and try to calm us down by simply saying that many of such sacrifices are needed to achieve our goal. This was the leader became the chief minister and later a parliamentarian on sacrifices of the honest and devoted volunteers! But he could not try to send the boy to hospital to save him from death. Such was the selfishness of some of the top leaders at that time. I should mention of me and my groups’ arrest and lockups several times during our march between Bengaluru and Mysore. No one complained bore all the hardships as a matter of sacrifice for the cause of freedom as we were told! After a few days we were et off without any charge. Meanwhile my paternal uncle had his Tailoring shop just below the building where we were kept and once I went and saw him. He offered to talk to the station in charge for my release and I refused his help. We became free and continued the heat on the government. I stayed back in Mysore working underground while others left for Bengaluru. I, with others locals started a news paper and organized many other activities for a while before I was called back to Bengaluru. It was then that we formed a provisional government and I was chosen as finance minister and we were located in Hosur. It was a fun as it turned out to be. Any way since they say I was the finance minister I had to collect funds. When I came to Mysore Bank Square, there was a mob and as I addressed them the police took me in kept me till evening in the Inspector General of Police. All were let out by evening except me and when I questioned, I was called in to the office of Mr. Chandy, the Inspector General Of Police, and he told me very politely after offering me a seat, that I was under arrest and that was the reason for my retention. Then I was sent to Ulsoorgate Police Station and then to Bengaluru central Prison as I drew the attention of the people and they supported my demand to be taken to prison and not to keep me in the station. We were succeeded. I have mentioned the rest earlier. Later I was to be released under proclamation of the new popular government that all the political prisoners and under trial prisoners should be released immediately as per the news brought by our senior leader and our guide Mr. Krishna Sharmaji. When I was stealthily brought back to Malleswaram Police station to join some more friends of mine already there, my friends from our organization Gandhi Sahitya Sangha under leadership of H. Shrinivasaiah and Kitty (Dr.Krishnaswamy) who came with others in force demonstrated in front of the station and got us all out. Then all my friends went and talked to my father of my great patriotic work and he no more should abandon me. This must have impressed my father and once again I was home.
Before I left for the “Palace Satyagraha” when I went to see my father my elder brother had also been there. He had returned from his posting as a Navy and Lieutenant and I talked about my present mission. But, he did not like the idea. He advised me to finish my education first and then think of all these kinds of things as I would be better equipped with knowledge. But I promised him that some time later when this mission is accomplished I would certainly complete my education, and this I promised to him. He gave me a Blue Navy sweater and a coat which gratefully accepted and used during my marches. They served me very well during at that time when I had none. This was always in my mind that I should complete my education somehow, sometime, somewhere. But there was no way and no time to fulfill that promise for a few decades until I came to America and fulfilled it later under strange circumstances provided by the Providence. I shall talk about it a little later.
Slowly we were getting tired of some of the politicians who started revealing their true color once we achieved our goal for which we all fought tooth and nail. But there were saintly followers of the Gandhian principles also. We admired them and did not hesitate to work for them even later. There were arrogant and selfish leaders and we rejected them. Many forgot on whose they got where they were once we were successful in our fight in the name of “Swaraj”, freedom to rule our country by ourselves. They started meetings after meetings one after the other for one or the other reason. They spent profusely on themselves but never try to look at the volunteers who had sacrificed their future, there wealth, health and home for the sake of the country’s struggle. Many suffered a lot after the end of the struggle for a long time to recover without these so called leaders. I must have been a little lucky. Once when I lived in Ajji’s house some of the leaders for whom I had worked came to see her as she was also a volunteer and was very active as I had seen came to thank her and I too was there to their surprise. They were T. Siddaligiah, K.T. Bhashyam and K.C. Reddy. They wanted to know what I was going to do in the future and whatever I chose to do they would help. I declined their help and told them that I did not do the service to my country to seek any help for me but as a duty and sacrifice and I was thinking of going back to Pune for good. Their persistence did not change my resolve.
During their meetings in Mysore me and one of my friends Sundermurthy stayed in the congress office. It was the main road and we could see the Palace of the Maharaja. Every day we were to go to one rich leader in whose residence our future government ministers were deciding the portfolios and their agenda. Every morning we went to his residence and got again a huge sum of 5 rupees. That was great thing for me because by this time my master and some friends were also in Mysore for shooting of a picture which I had to join later any way. I went to see my friend Hattangadi Ramesh, we walked and talked, ate some Dosas or Idlis drank coffee and parted. This became a routine as the film company was short of funds and people could not get money and welcomed any bit of dole!
Dassera or the ten nights of worship of the Mother Durga, the mother aspect of the Divine is a popular celebration. It is a national festival no one wants to miss. In the North of India it is celebrated as the Victory of Sri Ram over demon Ravana, the king of Sri Lanka in the remote past who had kidnapped Sita, the wife of SriRama when they were wondering in the woods to fulfill the promise of his father to his youngest wife Kaikeyi, the mother of Bharata. We were in Mysore at that time of the festivities and stayed in the congress office. From the balcony we could see the colorfully lighted palace during those days. It was a beautiful sight to see. On one night, me and my friend Sundermurthy stood in the balcony enjoying the sight of the palace and engaged in a conversation. In the same building our newly selected home minister T. Mariyappa had his law office. He came in and complained to us why we were wasting electricity in the office. We had a very low watts bulb burning. We did not like his way of complaining of the light. My friend looked at him and asked him to follow him to the balcony and pointed at the lighted palace and asked him as to how much electricity was wasted there and could he do something there to save it. He walked away without an answer. Such was some of the leaders to whom we had to work for in the name of fighting for a great cause.
Sometime later I had to take care of the dance school in Begaluru in the absence of my master who was busy in the film industry in Mysore. This continued for some time. I was called to go to Mysore for helping my master in his work. I had to take rehearsals of the dance sequences for the pictures under production. I enjoyed my work. But still my saga of pennilessness continued. Since I did not stay in the congress office this time I could not even get 5 rupees a day I got first time. Somehow the company fed and lodged me and other friends who worked for the film production company. This continued for a while. I returned to Bengaluru for some work and stayed back from going back to Mysore.
Once it so happened that there was a famous drama company running shows daily for a long time. I was passing by it one morning in my routine visit to Nataraj in whose house we always rehearsed our dance performances as he provided the orchestra. As I passed the drama theatre, all on a sudden it flashed to me as to why should I not try to join this company if possible as I have no job except to teach a few students and that too not regularly. It was not a permanent job. So, I went inside and talked to some body about the company, its owner and where and when was a good time to meet him or her and how long are they going to stay in town. I got answers. The owner was the famous Master Hirannayya and sometime in the mornings he comes to the theatre and does some administration work if there was any and it would be a good time to try to see him in person. I decided to try my luck. So, next morning I went and saw him without any problem and he was really generous and talked to me at length. On learning that I was a dancer and a teacher too and had some education at least he said that I was welcome to join the company. I could live in the theatre itself along with others and eat my meals in a hotel where every worker in the company ate. It was a God sent opportunity for me. I was jubilant! The he took me with him to a house where some famous women artists were housed. He introduced me to them. I was once again happy to meet the famous Bellary Lalitha and her sisters. He told them that I was their dance teacher and I would be going there every morning with the company Harmonium artist and also the music director of the company by the name Sri Krishnarao. I knew him very well since my younger days as he lived in the same locality where I lived. That night I was introduced to all artists and asked the director to prepare me for some rolls. So my new career started in earnest. I was so eager to tell my friends about this. I was very eager to tell Vasu, My dearest friend and a supporter throughout my life until his death a few years ago in an accident.
I went to his house and told him everything that happened that day. He was thrilled too. So also Ajji, Kittu and others were happy to learn of this new development in my life. I started my teaching to those ladies every day. Sri KrishnaRao accompanied me. At the theatre I was given a couple of rolls to play in a couple of plays, one as barber in” Devadasi” and faithful body guard of one of the greatest legendary heroes of Karnataka, “Etchamanaika”. I was given the script, took a test of my ability to perform as I was told. I came out with a flying color as I was told.
For a couple of days I rehearsed my roll successfully as I thought. I went under makeup for the first time after a long time. I played the role of the barber. I had invited Vasu and made him sit in the front row. I did alright. The first attempt was a success. I regularly played that role in every show of “Devadasi”. Now the chance to play the role of the faithful body guard in the play “Etchamanaika” arrived. The scene was of the evening. It was a war front. There were dead bodies all over. The hero was laying there wounded. And the enemies came and killed me while I was on guard. I am a dead warrior. Soon after, the night falls. To make the night scene, the most of the lights were turned off. This was my first time and as soon as It became dark, I thought the curtain came down and got up to run into the greenroom. Lo! And behold! The audience burst into laughter and loud whistles were heard all over the theatre. The dead man became alive! It was not in the script. Master Hirannayya was in makeup room getting ready for his roll. He was asking someone as to what happened and mean while I arrived there. He was told what happened with the new candidate. He looked at me and told me to rehearse few more times and understand all about the scenes that I take part in. Thus ended my second role in a fiasco! But it did not affect my career in anyway.
My intention was always to go back to Pune (Poona) and continue what I was doing there. I was very much attracted to Poona. I was waiting for an opportunity to go back. At this time some nobody complained to my elder brother about me that I was teasing his friends’ sisters who were popular in town for their jet black complexion. I used to teach a friend of mine’s daughter, Baby, along with my friend Mr. Naidu who was also taking care of me often times as he was also a student of my dance Master. We never even looked at them nor talked of them. It was their own guilty conscious that prompted them to think that we did talk of them or even teased them! My elder brother Badari, who had come home from Kashmir where he was posted as a captain in the army, called me and asked me about this and I denied all of it. Any way I thought it was an opportunity for me to grab to depart to Poona. So, I told him if he felt that I have caused him any embarrassment, I would leave the town. He did not agree. But I insisted that I think I should leave for Poona where I can pursue my career. Any way he agreed if that’s what I wanted to do. He gave some money and I left for Poona after taking leave of Vasu, Ajji and others. I should remember an incident that taught me a good practical lesson that I followed in my later life. Badari was home. I used to serve him. Once I wanted some change to go to a movie. I asked him if I can get some from him. There was a glass bowl full of changes. He told me to take what I wanted from there. I was happy and took 2 annas, 1/8 of a rupee. He asked me how much I took. I told him of 2annas. He looked at me. Then, after a few seconds of silence he advised me,” What are going to do with this paltry 2 annas. You have to buy a cheapest class ticket. While others have a cup of coffee you have only to watch them though you also feel like having a cup for yourself. People also get an impression that you are a cheap shot. To avoid all this, I advise you to go to movie once in a way but to a higher, dignified class with some money left for your coffee or something to eat with others. Develop some of these small principles that will help you in future. Now take some more sufficient money and enjoy the movie. Good luck!” Even to this day I remember this advice and try to follow.
Finally I returned to Poona around the end of 1947 or so and continued my profession and renewed my old connections. I started teaching in Gujrati schools run by “Gujrati Kelavani Mandal.” I took private tuitions also. I started my life slowly and sturdily. I ran my own classes in additions to other unions and schools. Often I was contracted for preparation of dance items, small groups for their school anniversaries. I became busy. I got good money in return also. I made a comfortable living. Slowly I became well known in the social circles and invited to clubs and societies. Now I could spend more time with Mr. Iyengar and other friends. I was invited to teach at NDA officers training institute at Khadakvasala. I taught in Karve residential institute for girls in Hingane. I got busy. I enjoyed much of my work. I widened my friends circle. I rented an apartment in Deccan gymkhana area. I was fond of dhoties and shoes. I used to spend plenty on them. I used to spent some time in coffee house where I met my friends and discussed a lot on Yoga and other spiritual topics. We meditated too. A corner was reserved for our group by the servers. They liked us a lot. I met Iyengar and very often he took me home and I stayed there for the day if I did not have my class. Many a time I stayed back in the coffee house after all were gone as I felt like spending some time by myself in meditation. Several times I forgot my bicycle and walked a long distance in a trance and got a shock when I realized as to how far I had come and where I was! Then again I had to walk back the same distance! Again I got into a prayer mood and walked back. The watch man used to keep my bicycle safely. Thus I was really got into regular life. I was never so happy in my early adult life. It was all His grace!
For some time I lived with a friend called Srinivas Rao Honnatti. Nearby was my friend Krishna Mallya’s shoe shop where I spent some time often. On one evening I heard that a famous Swami has come to Poona staying very near where I lived, in Rastapet. He was giving talks on Sri Bhagavad Gita. Also two daughters of a friend of mine were attending the talks. I got interested and attended one of them on a day of my leisure. I was impressed and made me think a lot about my life. One night when I was laying on my bed, engrossed in my own thoughts, and my eyes fell on a line of new shoes I had hung on the wall in a line and also my new clothes I started comparing my life a few years back, starving sometimes, roofless often with tattered clothes but yet happy because of my very good and caring circle of friends.” I fought for the freedom of the country and yet none cared even to appreciate my sacrifices. Now I was making a lot of money and have social recognition and could buy lot of things that I missed then. I asked myself, what would happen if I meet with the same fate once again? If I were to lose all this, will still people like me, recognize me and the circle of friends continue to be my friends? What is real in life? What should be my purpose in life apart from teaching, earning, spending, eating and sleeping? What is the guarantee that this way of life will lost forever? I am happy and comfortable now. But, I am not sure this is the way of life I was thinking of leading in my earlier days” Thus, my mind started thinking ceaselessly.
At that time I was having my classes in Gujarati school. I had a very good circle of friends. All of them were teachers. Usually we met in the evenings as we all lived in the same vicinity. After dinner we all met and went for a walk to the nearby park and spent some time in the cool breeze coming over from the river that flowed by the park. We discussed about philosophy a lot as one of them was a Philosophy graduate. He was a poet too. His name was Lalji Mulji Gohil. The others were Shshikant Amin, the musician and a teacher while Chimanlal Pandya was the headmaster of the kindergarten school. Often their wives also joined us. It was a very nice group. We talked some time personal matters also. On one of the days It was my turn to put forth my thinking. I told them about the transitory nature of all this glory that we seek and it was only a dream in which we seem to be enjoying the falsehood. Why should we continue this false pretension after knowing the reality of this mundane existence? I told them that I have been thinking of renouncing all this and thinking of going to Rishikesh and live in an ashram, continue practicing yoga and meditation and asked their opinion. They agreed of all that I said but put forth an argument that I could do all that while living here as many saints and Devotees of the lord did and yet reached the same goal, the realization of God or merge in Brahman, the Supreme Reality. What was important was to practice detachment while living in this worldly existence while continue to do what I was doing, yoga, and meditation and pursue my career of a dancer. Gohil suggested also that why should I think of doing whatever I was doing as offering to God. Thus you will achieve the grace of God here and now. I agreed but yet my desire to give up this worldly pleasures and pursuits was very strong. I told them that I would try that life also anyway and see for myself what happens next. I remember go to have gone to Bangalore to see my father and friends to announce what I was thinking and do next after having heard the talks of Swami Chinmayananda and the impact of that on me. I went to my father and touched his feet as he was resting and told him that I wanted to be a sanyasi and sought his blessings. He was silent. I stood for a while and left. I am sure he blessed me but could not put in words as he must have been in a shock or over whelmed by this announcement as none in my family had been a sanyasi in the past. I stayed for a few more days in the town meeting and announcing my decision to all my friends. Everybody seemed surprised at this decision of mine and some said to me that they expected this would happen sometime or other looking into my way of thinking and doing things. Then I took the blessings of Ajji, Srimati Kamalamma and others at home and left for Poona.
One morning, after having talked to my very good friends and well wishers I decided to leave for Rishikesh to fall at the Holy Feet Of Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj and spend the rest of my life devoted to seek the highest goal of life. God realization or self realization whatever it is. I went to bank and closed the account. Withdrew the entire amount and kept only what I needed for the journey and distributed the rest amongst my friends and others and distributed all my clothes and shoes to my friends an left for Rishikesh after securing a letter of introduction from Swami Chinmayanandaji to Swami Chidanandaji at the Sivananda Ashram. I could not miss to see that my friends’ eyes were moist. I told them that I will be in contact with them and let them know everything that happens there then took leave of them. They were all like my family and they loved me and cared for me, a forsaken man, in an unknown town with unknown background! They all had hearts of gold! While I was traveling I was excited and my heart was full of unknown joy. My mind was full of mixed thoughts of the mixed past of happiness and sufferings on one side and the world of goodness I enjoyed with my friends here in Poona and the future life of trying the fulfillment of the life’s goal that I never thought was ever possible, on the other side. Many more thoughts occupied my mind throughout my long journey. My heart was throbbing with bliss and satisfaction.
After a couple of days tiring journey I reached Rishikesh passing through Delhi. I had not visited Delhi and knew none at that time. So, I continued my journey to Haridwar and from there to Rishikesh. I was thrilled that I was almost there where I was heading to. My heart was full of joy. Series of thoughts were over whelming me. I was soon to meet my redeemer, Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. I would be amongst so many great sadhus and swamis! I would be doing a lot of yoga, meditation and bhajans! I would be bathing in Ganges, the remover of all sins and so on. I thought that I was almost near my heaven! I was feeling great. But still I had to walk from Rishikesh to Munikireti, a small town itself with a number of Ashrams on either banks of Ganges River. We all had to carry our luggage and other paraphernalia by ourselves. There is a small but wide enough tributary running across which we had to cross in nearly a couple of foot deep water. Since the water was clear it was not difficult to cross it though a little bit slippery if you stepped on the smooth rocks. By God’s grace I overcame all these and arrived at the Ashram. I was thrilled to see the vast holy Ganges. It took for me a couple of minutes to believe that really I was there! It was and it is even to this day, a panoramic, beautiful sight, that never get erased from memory! The gorgeous river lined by beautiful buildings and temples all along the river in the background of the mighty evergreen Mountains Called Nilakantha. I felt like jump into the river but had to wait. First I wanted to see Swami Chidanandaji to whom I had a letter of introduction by Swami Chinmayananda who was camping at Poona. I met one of the inmates to enquire as to where and when I could meet him. He took me to the place where Swamiji lived and told me to go upstairs to his room and he would see me. I did as he directed. The door was open and as I stood at his door looking at me enquired as to who I was and what I wanted. He was very graceful and full of love. I gave him the letter as I narrated my story. He asked me to go in and sit on a seat. He was so kind that he made me coffee and offered it to me with some biscuits, if my memory is correct. Then, he asked me to take a bath and finish my morning chores whatever it was and meet him at a particular time that he could take me to Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, at whose feet I had gone to fall at.
I finished my very first bath in the holy river and changed my wears and at the appointed time I went up and reported myself to Swami Chidanandaji. He asked me to follow him down to the assembly hall or rather office. There were people sitting all around and I was lead into the office and was introduced to Swamiji maharaj that I had come from Poona with a letter from Swami Chimyanandaji and wanted to stay and devote my life at His Holiness’ feet, seeking under his grace and guidance. Swamiji in his own natural way with a very familiar way of his own asked me a few non particular questions and asked me to sit down near him which I did. By this time Swami Chidanandaji had left. After dealing with the office work and talking to the several managers of the various departments he distributed some Idlis or so to some of the people including me, which was his routine to bring with him from his own residence. He had a special kitchen to serve him. He asked someone to give me a room and asked my name. I repeated my name as Badarayan and he exclaimed, “Oh! You are Vyasa mahamuni! Very well! Make yourself comfortable.” He started walking towards his residence which is called a “Kutia”, a hermitage. We all followed him up to the Kutia and as he went down the steps we started walking back. The Kutia was prettily sitting on the closest edge of the Ganges commanding beautiful scenery. Ever flowing Ganges singing day and night for all the eternity, beautiful ashrams and temples against evergreen mountains was thrilling. I bubbling with great joy for I had, indeed, touched the feet of a God like saint who is going to be my preceptor of whom I had heard a great deal about his Love and exemplary services and humility. He was one of the trinity known in those parts of Himalayas, Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj of Sivanandashram of Munikireti, Swami Purushottamanandaji Maharaj of Vashishtaguha and Swami Tapovanji Maharaj of Gangotri. Meanwhile I had a few people around me enquiring all and sundry about me. I did not want to cause any misunderstanding so I willingly told them a bit of me and myself, though I did not relish doings so. As I had come there to start a new life and I was not interested in anything of the previous one. Then, I spent the day in exploring the ashram and vicinity. I sat for a while on the steps of Ganges surveying the length and breadth of her both banks. I was full of joy and a stream of beautiful thoughts flowed into my mind. There was a bell and I was told that it was for meals.
It was so early I thought. I moved with some of the people I had acquainted with earlier into the dining hall. Plates were given and some delicious rice, sambar and something else was served. Lastly as it is the south Indian custom rice and buttermilk was served. We all took our plates to the river and washed it brought it back and deposited from where we had secured it. It was a very sumptuous meal and I really enjoyed it as a prasad (sacrament) from my Rev. Swamiji. Then the people went back to their work. Some ones were left to sit on the bench and started talking, politics, food or some wasteful gossip. I was also sitting in a corner of the bench and they tried to draw me into it and I politely resisted it. But still something of personal were exchanged with some, like name, place, the work we did and what brought me here and such things. Then some people left to rest in the Bhajan Hall (Prayer and meditation hall). In the afternoon a bell was rung. I did not know why. I saw people walking to the kitchen with cups and brass glasses. I sat still and someone came and asked me weather I did not drink tea. I said that I do drink tea. Then he told me to follow him to the kitchen and procured me a cup and I had my tea too! By this time news of my being a dancer and a teacher was known to some and it went to Swamiji Maharaj also. I went up the hill Temple of Lord Viswanatha and The Lord Shri Krishna and many more in the same temple, and spent some time there.
The evening was dawning and once again there was a bell was heard and I saw people running down the hill. I did not know why and what was happening. As I also started walking down the stairs someone told me that it was for the evening meal. I went to kitchen and had some roties (wheat tortillas) and vegetables. After a couple of hours I saw some people laying some carpets and setting Swamiji Maharaj’s seat in the outdoor terrace. On enquiry I was told there will be assembly (Satsang) in a few minutes. I was very happy as I will be seeing Swamiji Maharaj before I go to rest for the day.
On the small altar a swami came and sat. Some people also sat on the carpet and a few stood on the outskirts. He took out his cymbals and started singing and the others followed him. Thus went on for a while and the light grew darker and the lights were on. I could hear faintly the dynamo at work as there was no electricity and running water in those days! Then came a group of people and amongst them the Master, my Rev. Swamiji Maharaj walking majestically talking to some and enquiring the welfare of others on the way stopping frequently. He came and sat in his seat and all sat down as they had risen to greet the Master. The assembly started.
It started with the divine chant of “OM”. There were several speakers giving short discourses followed by singing of the several aspects of God, as we call them Avatars or incarnations such as Shri Rama, Shri Krishna, Shiva, Ma Durga, Dattatreya and so on. Usually we all start everything first praying to the lord of all obstructions, Shri Ganesha, the elephant headed son of Shiva and Shakti also called as Ma Parvati. Then Swamiji maharaj enquired about the welfare of the several devotees. So, also he asked some things about me and I told him where I lived and what I did and so on. During that conversation I had to tell him of my profession as a dancer and a teacher. So he wanted me to demonstrate a bit of my art and I did. He was happy and blessed me. Then the customary waving of light with the ending song of prayer followed by distribution of Prasad took place. Then Swamiji Maharaj stood up to go to his Kutia and people started touching his feet as some falling at his feet full length (Sashtanga Namaskar). I too followed them with a Sashtanga Namaskar). Slowly he started moving and a small group followed him. Rest of the people engaged themselves in mopping up the place and the rest going to their rooms for the night.
I also retired to my room allotted to me. I was full of thoughts as to how to get myself adjusted to a new life. Many suggestions came from many directions for me to adopt myself to the new life. I might have had a couple hours of sleep. As I am used I woke up at about two thirty in the morning and washed up and sat for some meditation as I could not venture out in the darkness into unknown territory. I waited for some daylight and went down to the river Ganges for a bath and returned to the room. Then, I went to the temple. The bell rang for the morning tea. I went and had my tea and spent some time on the banks of the river. A little later I went to Swami Chidanandji’s place. I was given a seat and a cup of tea and he enquired as to my comforts. I had no complaint to make. He was happy to know that I was trying to adjust to the new situation and encouraged me to talk to some inmates for help if needed. Then he gave me an idea of the day’s routine of the ashram and I could participate in any of the program of my choice. Those made me feel easy. I went round and saw the several programs and decided to participate in some of them. In addition I volunteered to serve in the magazine dept of which Bhimsen was the manager and he welcomed me to join him. I was given a few magazine wrappers to write addresses of the subscribers. Every month several hundred s of them had to be written as there was no printed forms yet at that time. Several inmates did that job for an hour or more to help the magazine department. I got to know some people intimately who were there for a long time. I got the information needed to be at ease. I was happy to meet some of them hailing from my state. They were helpful. But something was lacking in my expectation. When I came here I had pictured in my mind a place where a teacher taught Yoga and meditation in the ancient ways. My sense of sanyasi was different. I expected everyone to be engaged in yoga and meditation and discussions of God or Brahman. What observed here was different. Few were interested in yoga or meditation let alone discussion of God. All talk was about politics. Food and its quality and repetition or some unwanted gossip was how the time was being wasted. This was disappointing to me.
I spent some more days and later on I decided to go back to Pune. My friends were happy to see me back. While leaving the ashram Swami Sivanandaji had given me a lot of books to read. I showed them all to my friends and they were interested in them. I gave them the books and also discussed with them about starting a group of people interested in bhajan meditation as Swamiji had suggested doing. They all agreed and Chimanbhai took care of arranging for the place in a Siva’s temple nearby. Once a week we met to sing bhajans and read from the books of Swamiji and meditated. This continued in all earnestness for a while. Then, again something made me to decide to go back to the ashram. I left once again to try to see if I can stay there as originally planned.
I arrived in the ashram one morning without any confusion or hesitance as I had already knew some people there who were happy to welcome me back although they seemed a little bit surprised. I immediately started participating in the activities of the Ashram. Swamiji was kind enough to keep me under his care. This time I wanted to embark upon sadhana, spiritual discipline, as I thought of and also as I had heard from reading from the lives of earlier saints and sages. As I was already doing certain parts of yoga I took advantage of the same to enhance it. As usual I got up at about two thirty in the morning and straight went to Ganges for a plunge, shivering all over for a few days. I got acclimatized in a few days to be more comfortable with my early morning bathing in Ganges. Then, I went to the Bhajan Hall to join a group of yoga practitioners. I learnt new breathing exercises. It lasted for about a couple of hours. Then went to the temple, joined some of the people who were already there. They were regulars and they accommodated me in the circle. They were really gracious. Later as usual the bell rang and tea was served. We all reported to our posts. It was a joyous routine. I enjoyed it. I was trying to regulate my food. I had to give up pungent items, green chilies, onions and so forth. For the evening meal I requested for a cup of milk and a banana. The request was granted by the kitchen-in-charge. Slowly I got better and better in adjusting to the new situations. I made good friends and spent time with them whenever we were free. We did learn about each other and as time passed by we knew that we were on the same mission and found subjects of the same interest. After evening meals we took a long walk in to the forest roads or towards Lakshman Jhoola and sat there for some time talking or crossing the bridge and walk on the other side towards Kalaikambli Kshetra and took a boat to ashram back in time for the evening Satsang. This time I stayed for a longtime and learnt a lot.
Thus I spent a few weeks and on one morning as I was sitting on a bench all by myself the thought flashed across my mind. I remembered so many saints and even my Swamiji telling that God we seek is everywhere and in everything. I pondered over and over on it. Then, I thought that if God is everywhere then He must be in Pune also. Then, why should I not try to see Him or feel Him there in Pune. If I cannot see him there I cannot see Him here too. Thoughts like these took mover me and I thought I should try this. I decided to go back and sincerely try to do all that I was doing in the Ashram to continue there. After a few days I went to report what I was thinking to some of my friends and they too agreed but said It needs strong will and determination. I took their advice and approached the Master, Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. By this time I had developed a keen friendship with like minded and helpful inmates and it was a little bit heavy to leave them. But my purpose was more important and it weighed more than the attachment to them, The day came when I had to leave for Pune. After the evening Satsang I approached Swamiji and sought his blessings and next morning I left the ashram to go to Haridwar to catch a train to Delhi and onwards to Pune. I restarted My life again teaching after I arrived back in Pune after a few days. I meditated a lot. I was happy with my friends who were also interested in what I was involved in.
Regularly we met in The Indian Coffee shop and spent some time discussing about Yoga and the life of inspiring lives of the great saints and sages of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Bengal and other places. Often we sat for a short meditation without any problem as we sat in a corner no one bothered. Even they kept silence once they saw us in meditation. The management was also good enough as not to have any objection. This lasted for a longtime. The effect of the meditation was many a time I used to forget my pocket watch and cash on the table and walked un aware of the distance. Some time I forgot my bicycle at the stand and walked away in the similar fashion. The boy who attended the stand took care of the bicycle and returned when I visited the Coffee shop next time. Often I accompanied Mr. Iyengar after the coffee session to his house. This went on for some time without any hitch. I lived with Mr. Honnatti at that time. We had several common friends and visited sometimes. One of them was Mr. Jakati who lived very nearby and visited him some times. On one of our visit he talked of one great saint Swami Akkalkot Maharaj, who was the incarnation of Dattatreya Bhagavan and his temple was near the city’s market. He told so many stories of his miracles and it impressed me a lot. He inspired me very much and I was anxious to visit the place and offer my respects to the Swami. I grew eager to visit the place as early as possible. I often went that way and I need not make any extra effort.
On one day when I was visiting my friend who had shop nearby I remembered to go to that temple. It was a very small place hidden in a narrow lane and was really difficult to find if you do not help of one who knew about the place. I went inside and had a Darshan of the Swami’s big imposing lively photograph of Him. I went round the temple three times in customary perambulance. Then touched the wooden footwear called “Padukas” of the Swamiji Maharaj and after receiving some pieces of coconut as sacrament,” Prasad” I left with a great joy. A strange wave of joy and elevation ran through me. I went home with a strange feeling of unknown happiness. My mind was full of His thought. His picture filled my eyes.
As I was told by my elders that I should serve Swami’s Paduka in a religious format in order to invoke His blessings so I was told to go early in the morning, by 4:00 o’[clock or 4:30 in my wet clothes to the temple and go round the temple 180 times, that is perambulance. This continued for about 48 days or so. On one Thursday I took my Auntie, whom I called Kaku, I took along with me to the temple in the evening, as Thursdays are known as the days of Guru’s. And on every Thursday, there used to be an assembly of all the devotee’s gathered for the singing Bhajans invoking Swamiji’s blessings. We also went and sat among them and surprisingly on that day I don’t remember what happened. I seem to have been in trance and people poured red powder, kum kum on me and people were looking at me with reverence. I was a little bit shocked over them and embarrassed and I was drenched in red powder. Then on my way back home, Kaku told me that she was very much afraid for me as it was strange for me to go into trance and she would never accompany me anymore. So I can understand her fears as she had not seen one like that. Then my visiting the temple in the mornings continued as usual. This was one of my first experiences of entering into a trance without any knowledge, but I think once I must have had this experience few years ago while I was with my dance master. It happened that one day as I was washing my clothes, I all of a sudden entered into a stage looking at my own body and laughing and I didn’t know what was happening. Next door neighbors came by to see me and was surprised to see me lying in the bathroom and called me, woke me up and were asking me what happened but I didn’t know what had happened to me. That is the time at which I experienced most probably death, or you may call it out of body experience. They took me to their house, gave me coffee and brought me back to normalcy. And also later on, the same experiences I had a number of times under other circumstances.
After a short time, after finishing my services to Swamiji, I left for Rishikish. I stayed in the ashram where I had stayed before in Swami Sivinanda’s ashram. I continued to stay for some time before I returned back to Pune. Then I started my life as normal as possible. A short while later, I don’t know the exact time, I’ve forgotten the exact time, I started experiencing strange visions and started undergoing strange experiences and at this time I lived in a hotel and also I was teaching in a military academy but things started happening, seriously that I could not even walk without somebody’s help. I used to be in a condition as if it was a continuous trance. I could not go to bathroom, I could not get down the stairs, even when I went to the bathroom I had to ask one of my friends to help me to the bathroom as I felt that I was lifted up from the ground, elevated and almost I though I was falling over the rails. This continued for a while. Then it got really serious, my friends decided to send me to Bangalore to be in the care of some of my students or well-wishers. They were Seshagari, Venkatesh and Mani who took care of me with all love and devotion. I could not open my eyes, I could not talk, I didn’t like anybody to talk, I felt like being alone all the time, in my own blissful state. This continued for a while. Meanwhile I started getting some strange vision which was very persistent.
The persisting vision was of a lady with a scarf tied over her head, and with a smile, strongly looking straight into me whether I kept my eyes open or closed, whether it was day or night, I didn’t know who it was and what she meant. This continued for a long time. Meanwhile, I used to travel between Bangalore and Pune and on my way once, I stopped in a place called Dharwad and visited a poet who was a great poet, called D. R. Bendre who used to guide me in my writings in those days, while in Pune. There, when I went to see him I knocked and the door was open and the moment I entered inside, I was struck in wonder to see a large photograph of a lady, similar to what I was having a vision all these days. My eyes were filled with tears of joy, a strange wave of shock ran over me and when Mr Bendre came out to see me, in wonder, I asked him who that lady was in the picture. He told me “Don’t you know who it is?” “It is the Mother in Pondicherry. Only today I have received her blessing by post and I’ll give it to you.” So he went inside, brought it and gave it to me. I could not control my emotions, I cried. I said “Oh Mother, you are here on earth and how come I have not been able to see you. Make me see you soon.” Then I continued to talk to him about Mother and Sri Aurobindo’s ashram and I left. Since then it started haunting me to go to Pondicherry, the place was the ashram was situated.
Then thinking of visiting the ashram as soon as possible, I continued to go to Pune where I stayed for a short time, saw my friends and left for Ahmadabad in Gujarat. I was the guest of my old friend Shshikant Amin who was in Pune and shifted to Ahmadabad as a teacher in C. N. Vidyavihar. Fortunately, at the same time as I arrived there, there was a conference of all Sri Aurobindo’s devotees presided over by Mr. Sundaram who was a great poet and who lived in the ashram in Pondicherry. I was thrilled to meet with him and participate in the conference that opened the way for me to meet all the local devotees of Sri Aurobindo’s with whom I left for Pondicherry in the summer when it was a holiday for the school where I taught.
I was so thrilled to have arrived at Pondicherry and I was awaiting to see the Mother who was only in my vision up till then. The say dawned and my friends took me to the early morning Balcony Darshan of the Mother and I was so happy to have seen her and felt a great immense joy of unknown kind that I cannot explain. Then I continued to stay and spend time in the ashram, took every opportunity to see the Mother whenever She came, whenever She was visible. And it was a custom, in the ashram for distribution of the needed commodities like soap, clothes and other paraphernalia for the inmates on every 1st of the month which was called Prosperity so visitors could also join the line and take blessings of the Mother. Thus I too was in the line, along with my friends from Ahmedabad. Everybody bowed down to Her and the Mother gave the things to the inmates that they had requested and a flower to the visiting devotees. Since I was not an inmate, I too went, I was so happy to touch Her feet and stood with my hands for the blessing and the Mother took a flower, she held it but she didn’t give it to me immediately as she did to others, but looked deep into me, into my eyes for a while, then smiled and gave me the flower. Flower is a blessing. And the people who were standing behind me were surprised by this and started inquiring about me, “what happened, what happened?” and I didn’t know what happened. Slowing from that moment onwards, I started becoming aware of the usual world and my visions starting diminishing and I became, once again, a common man on earth. But nevertheless, it had it’s own spiritual effect in my process of seeking Truth, or God or whatever you call it.
Then I started spending all my summers in Pondicherry and sometimes in the Himalaya in Swami Sivinanda’s ashram, both I loved. I was too happy to visit both these places as often as I could, whenever it was possible. And after some years, on one of my visits, Mother told me to stay in the ashram and I was too happy to obey. I stayed there. Before this on occasions, I had taught children the art of dancing in the ashram and also had given performance for the Mother. On one of the visits I was called by Mother to visit Her and talked to me about dance and asked me to teach and all that. And after the performance I went to Mother in the playgrounds where every evening She used to give Darshan. I went and touched Her feet and sat on my knees. She asked me to ask Her for three favors. And two of them I’ve forgotten but one I remember still, that I begged Her “Ma, It is that I may lose hold of your feet, as I’m just a human but I pray that you will never lose hold of me. This I beg of you.” With a smile, She said ”Yes” and even to this day I feel She has kept Her promise. Then when I joined the ashram, I thought She would put me to teach dance but no. She did not, but she asked me to work in the plumbing section which I gladly took over, as an assistant to a person who was already doing the job. Then after a while, she put me in the printing press where I learned printing. She took care of me as my mother as She took care of the whole world. She gave me food, She gave me shelter, She gave me clothes. Whenever I needed clothes I requested Her and She sent orders to the tailoring section and the tailor would take my measurement and choose the clothing and lo in a few days they were ready. I was more comfortable and happy there in my life than anywhere else.
Once there came a request from Gujarat devotees to Mother for sending me to Gujarat to work as a rector in famous institute, called Sharadagram where Mahatma Gandhi used to go for rest. Mother accepted the request and sent me to work in that institution. I was happy to take care of students who came from abroad and stayed and learned things and I was happy to work with them. I worked there for some time and meanwhile I used to go to Sivinanda’s ashram during vacation and one of the vacations it was a Shivaratri and Swamiji asked me to take the Oath of Renunciation, this time I accepted. Then about ten years before, he asked me the same thing, I had told him to excuse me as I was not prepared then. This time I was happy to go through the ceremony and I was called Swami Brahmananda Saraswati. I stayed for the vacation and returned to my institution as a monk. People were happy, though surprised.
On one of my visits to Sivinanada’s ashram, during vacation, I stopped at Delhi. There my friends wanted me to work for Congress Sevadal and I agreed, so I stayed in the Congress House in Delhi when Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister and we were housed on the room above his room in the Congress House.
My friends were Papu (Subbarao), Dhruvkumar Pandya of Gujarat. When we were there in the evenings we all used to go to Sri Rama Krishna Mission where one of my friends, who worked during Quit Movement along with us had become a monk there. We used to meet him and on the way back from the Prayer Meetings we stopped at Bhangi Colony for a couple of rotis and subji (vegetables). We used to ask for more vegetables as it was free and tasty too. Then we returned to the office. Thus, my life went on for a while in Delhi. On my return to Gujarat I continued to work with Dhuvkumar Pandya in the Youth Congress. I continued to run my classes teaching dance. This was before I went and stayed in Pondicherry as per Mother’s bidding. And after I became a monk, while staying in the ashram in Rishikish, the Dhuvkumar Pandya led a group of mountaineers to Gangotri to go beyond Bhagararati Glacier and to conquer some virgin peaks in the area. As it was preplanned, I joined the group in Rishikish and went with them. I was in charge of the base camp along with a friend of mine, a young man called Mansuri. We enjoyed climbing and living at about 16,000 feet altitude and on one occasion both of us had to cross the huge glacier and to my great surprise, saw huge foot prints of some creature walking from a river all the way to a peak called Photo Peak. We tried to follow the prints which were so huge and may not be of any human. Though curiously we followed it to a distance since the time was up getting darker, we tried to return to our base camp. We stayed for some more days and returned to Rishikesh after a day or so stay in Uttarkashi. In Rishikesh we parted. I stayed back and the rest went back to Ahmadabad.
After a short time I went to Ahmedabad where we, the members of the mountain climbers were given a reception. Then again I had to go to Mumbai where again the Governor of the state, Mrs. Vijailaxmi Pandit, sister of Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India had invited the group for a party. She exclaimed appreciation of my participation in such activity being a monk. It was at this time that my Master left the body. Even before I left the ashram, Dr. Adhvaryuji had house for a cup of tea and continue the discussion if we had one in the meeting, told me that he would not survive his sickness that time. I had no money immediately available to enable me to run back to ashram. That makes me guilty even to this day. I was helpless. Of course, after some days I went back to Ashram. Then as usual I left for Shri Badarinath where I spent my time pursuing my spiritual practices till the temple closed. This was my regular activity every year. Rest of the time I either stayed in the ashram or went to Kashi (Banaras) Ahmedabad and continue my teaching Dance and also worked for the youth congress until I left for Pondicheery Ashram of Shri Aurobindo and The Mother. I was an active member of Sri Aurobindo circle in Ahmedabad. Every week we met in Hasmukh Shah. It was customary to go to Shri Sadubhai Anjaria’s house for a cup of tea and continue the discussion if we had one in the meeting. Or , we
talked so something in which we were interested in discussing. Then I used to go home for the rest at night.
On one of these days, while I entered the Ellisbridge a strange thing happened. I started seeing a couple of autorikshas, a car and horse carriage crash. This premonition continued for several days when ever I came to the bridge. Lo and behold! On the independence day while The governor was addressing the people in the town hall at the end of the bridge while I was entering the bridge on my bike, I saw a car speeding up so fast and I thought, ”This car is going to crash somewhere on the bridge,” And hardly I had gone a few yards I heard a big bang an I saw people running. I too peddled fast to reach the spot which was the center of the bridge and the scene was exactly like the one that I had in my vision. Then I had to go to lethargic police to convince that there was a crash which they could not believe. Anyway, a little while later they moved to the scene and I left for home.
Usually I spent much of my time outside my room which I called my home. I did not want to think of anything in my room except to think of God and The Mother, I enjoyed the spiritual vibration in my room. I went into my room just to wash up. Meditate and slept continuing meditation. In the morning as soon as I got up I took a bath and put on my clothes left the room for a cup of coffee in a restaurant and continue my work, whatever it was. Never allowed no one to come into my the vibration to room and talk. I did not want be disturbed.
One night, while continuing meditation as usual, I laid down on my bed. I closed my eyes and concentrated on the space between the eyebrows and the root of the nose as usual. Hardly I had done that , then I felt a pressure and visualize a dark thing trying to harm me and at that moment also I saw The Mother pushing it off and this happened a few times and the dark force left for good and I slept and I could feel the fright of the night still. Prayed the Mother for the grace and protection that saved me. This incident convinced me of the Mothers protection the she had promised me on one of the occasion that I had prayed her not to loose hold one though it is humanly possible that I may loose hold of your feet. She said “Yes.” I ever stay grateful to My Mother.
I remember a few more visions during the same time that I was visualizing the Mother whom I did not know her then. I used to see a huge seven storied building with plenty of Sadhus, and saints living there, On one of the balconies I saw Swami Vivekanandaji walking to and fro engrossed in a deep thought of some kind. I saw Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsaji sitting in very happy mood with a divine smile. There were seven stories and on the top terrace sat a great gigantic person with a grey long beard and I saw the Mother standing by Him holding a child. He was asking her to give Him the child and the child was hold in on to her and did not want to leave her. Mother used to tellHim “let him stay with me for a while” this vision also stopped after I met her in Pondicherry ashram.
Another vision was of Saint Kabirdasji Mahraj. I used sit in his weaving shed and wanted to know something and used ask him about it while he was at work chanting something. He used to signal for me to be quiet and I did so as I remember vividly. I remember him In his simple pant and kurtha and a cap over his head. Even now I feel happy to have seen him, at least in a vision,
When I was in Benares I was advised by senior swamis in Shankaracharya Mutt to take a new oath to take a further role. I took one and Swami Purushottmananda Saraswati of Dattatreya Mutt made me trustee and successor to that Mutt. I was renamed Swami Brahmanada Saraswati.
The Mutt was a very ancient one. It is said that even Akkalkot, whom I worshipped and served in Poona, stayed there. It was a very spiritually charged place. The sustenance of the Mutt was the rent collected by the tenants who were very poor. And on occasion Swami Purushottamamanda asked me to announce of the poor people and having seen the condition of the place and the poverty, my conscience did not allow me to do that. So that was the misunderstanding and since I refused to do so, I resigned from my trusteeship and withdrew my position as the successor to that Mutt. Then came back to Shringeri Shankaracharya Mutt. I lived there for some time until I left to Badari as usual.
It was a joy for me to have stayed in Benares every year during my sojourn after having stayed in Badari for six months. I continued my regular sadana of get up early in the morning at 2:30, going to Ganges for a bath and bringing Ganges water back to my dwelling. Do my yoga and sat of meditation and prayers until 10:30 and then had my meal called Biksha (alms). Often I had to go begging for my meal to three houses and whatever came, I had to wash it in the Ganges and make three parts. Offer one into Ganges, one for the birds and others and only the third part was for me. This was the ritual advised by scriptures for the monks. This I adhered to.
In 1954 or so, when I started getting strange visions and I lived in a state where I could not be myself without the help of somebody, I always felt like floating in the air and I could not bear the brightness of the light. I had to close all the windows and was always in a trance. I could not even go to take my bath, bathroom without someone’s help for I thought I would fly off the balcony. So some of the friends that helped me there took a decision to send me back to Bangalore from Poona where all these things happened. They put me in the train and made some people to pick me up at the railway station in Bangalore. In Bangalore some 4 or 5 people started attending to me very faithfully during this time. T A S Mani and his family, Seshagiri and Venkatesh, known as Bellary brothers, great musicians and their families, and Vasu and others. Many who helped and took care of me at this time, whose names are numerous.
It so happened at this time, I decided to go to a place of spiritual awareness called Ganagapur, the place of Dattatreya. I went by myself. Since I was in a trance-like mode I got into some other train and went somewhere and realized later that it was the wrong place so I had to return to Bangalore and some people helped me to take the right train. I was happy to land at Gangapur. It was a thrilling experience for me for I could feel the spiritual density in which I was drowned, it was so thick and so dense. I lived in the temple itself and got up very early in the morning and went with priests and some other people to the river for bathing and bringing the holy water for bathing the Padukas ( wooden sandals) worn by Sri Dattatreya’s incarnation. It was customary for the people to go through every day at mid-day for begging food. The people were waiting to offer a little food to everyone who came by. The belief was that at that time every day, Dattatreya’s incarnation comes in a disguise to accept their offering and bless them so nobody wanted to miss this opportunity of drawing this Grace and blessings. I did the same thing. So I stayed for some time there, then I had no money to come back to Bangalore so I managed to go to a place called Gulbarga where I thought a friend of mine would help me. I was disappointed and when I approached Karnnnada Sangha the secretary of that institution helped me to get to Bangalore. I thank him even now. It was an experience which lurks in my mind always.
Then, so thus I spent my time in Bangalore amongst my friends and helpers, slowly I was coming down earth-consciousness. Then I decided on my own, to go to Ahmadabad where my very good friend Shashikant Amin, had invited me some time ago to join him. So I went to him, I stayed with him. He took me to the principle of the school in which he was teaching as a music teacher and introduced me to him as an artist, a dancer and if he could make use of me. The principal agreed, the principal was Jhinabhai Desai, one of the great and foremost poets of Gujarat, so I started working as a dance teacher there, half awake, half still in my state of trance.
I remember when I used to go to that class, the headmaster used to accompany, because of my situation where, when I stood in front of the children, the girls, I thought immediately Mother and at once I used to cry, “Oh Ma, who am I to teach you when you are the Mother of all knowledge and you have to teach and I am to learn, who am I to teach you”. Head master used to calm me down and encourage me to teach, so then slowly then I started and I was happy to teach then. The children were so nice and cooperative and they like me too. So thus I taught for a while.
Then after having come across many of the people who are devoted to Mother and Sri Aurobindo at Pondicherry, I joined them and started spending my summer vacation in Pondicherry and I used to work in departments while in Pondicherry. It was a joy to do all these things. The experiences are plenty; beyond my ability to express sufficiently and profusely.
While I was in Ahamadabad I continued to visit Rishikesh Ashram of the great Swami Sivananda. He used to make me dance before him and I was happy to do that. He blessed me with a certificate as “Nritya kala kushala”. I gave it for framing and never got it back as I was traveling for a while then. I could not go to get it back. So the certificate is lost somewhere.
On one of my visits, I was initiated into a mantra and I took it very seriously with all the devotion and faith. I always used to keep japamala beads in my pocket and I always used to be repeating the mantra throughout the day and the night, whether I was walking or sitting and I kept on turning the beads. This Continued for a long time, it continues even now. I have realized the potency of the given mantra at the time of initiation. It is definitely charged with the Grace of my Master. I can feel the potency of the mantra very much
so that’s what I tell my students too, to have faith in their given mantras and continue and they will feel the same intensity, when their faith is invested in it.
During my stay in Swami Sivananda Ashram my routine was to go to Ganges at about 2:30 am for a bath. Atmaananda, Bhimsen and some others also used to be there whether it was cold, hot, rain or shine, that was our regular routine. After bath we could get a cup of tea in the kitchen as a special treat. The kitchen was ordered to make it available. Then we all went to the temple, sat for puja for about 2 to 3 hours then at the end, they brought tea again which was sold to everyone so we got our share in it too. Then we all went to our assigned work.
Later when Swami Vishnudevananda left for America or USA, there was a vacancy in the yoga class. So the master, Sivananda asked me to take over that class. There I started teaching and doing myself yoga and pranayama. It went on well. Once after my class I came down the steps and Swamiji was resting on the bench, after a short morning walk which was his usual routine. I went to him; I touched his feet and stood a couple of feet away. He inquired about my classes and then asked me to study Shri Bhagavadgita and prepare myself as he was sending me to Germany. I smiled and kept quiet. Then I said, “Yes Swamiji,” Then he walked back to his abode and I went on to my work. I didn’t attach much importance to what he said as he often used to joke with people as there was rampant idea amongst the inmates to go abroad. I didn’t attach any importance. I engaged in my routine work but later, really speaking, I was not interested in going anywhere, as I loved my country, the people and the culture for which I had already sacrificed a lot of my life but yet, the fate was different. Later on in 1970’s, a couple of times I thought of traveling abroad but decided not to and tore the forms for passport application and threw it away. Though my friends Mr. Shantilal Mehta and Mr. Iyengar were to help me. Then in 1973, after I returned from the ashram to Hyderabad, somehow it struck me that I should to abroad this time. I told Mr. Mehta, he said he would help me then I went got an application form for the passport and went to see the passport office Mr. Desai who happened to be the brother of Sri Mahadev Desai, secretary to Mahatma Gandhi. When Mr. Desai saw me, with all the respect he invited me into the office, made me sit and closed the door. Meanwhile, he called his secretary, gave my application form to prepare my passport immediately and he started discussion on several subjects in which both of us were interested. It went on for an hour or so and meanwhile the secretary brought my passport and Mr. Desai signed it and gave it to me but when I looked into it, I saw that that I was prohibited for going South Africa, Zambia and some other African nations, but I was keen to go to both South Africa and Zambia so I requested him if he could do anything about it. He promised me that he would write to Delhi, get permission and he would endorse the permission in my passport so I could visit South Africa and Zambia. After a couple of days, he called me to tell me the government of India has given me permission to go to South Africa as a special case. So it was a miracle as many of my friends, including Mr. Iyengar, renowned yoga teacher by then, could not get the permission. It’s all God’s Grace. Now all that I have to do is prepare myself. I have to decide the date, the place where to go and to arrange for finance. To my surprise, none of these posed a problem; everything went so smooth that I wonder even today how it happened. Iyengar gave the first lump of money, then Mr. Mehta gave me some and my brother shared the rest and I booked my passage to Mauritius on my first step. My friend, Ashumal Dua, Appapuranik they were also a lot of help. Appapuranik came to see me off at the airport. Lo and behold, I was in the air for the first time in my life, rising over the crowds, moving faster than anything on earth. It was so thrilling for me, as I was riding over the clouds, looking down on them instead of looking at them from beneath. So it took hardly a few hours and I landed on the tiny Island of Mauritius. As I had already communicated to some people in Mauritius a number of People had gathered to welcome me. On my arrival I was taken to our Divine Life Society’s ashram and I was there during my stay. It was the ashram where our senior Swami Venkateshananda stayed. When I arrived he was not there, he was in Germany. Nevertheless, I got my share of attention. People were very loving, devoted and always ready to help me in any way that they could or that I wanted them to be.
I was brought up in a culture where we touched not a piece of meat egg or anything that is prohibited either by my religion or my social custom. So we even close our eyes when we pass by butchers shop. Liquor or any kind of intoxicating drinks were unknown to us but here I am in a culture to which I have to get used to. Once one of my well wishers took me to a department store which was a huge one where everything was available in one place. I never had seen such a big store with such varieties of things available. It took some time to go around, look at these things and he took me to the food section. There I was happy to see plenty of vegetables, fruits, flowers and cheese, meat in plenty, but a short distance from there was something which stunned me. He took me there and started explaining what it was. He said it was fish, beef, lamb, I was shocked, more than I was surprised to see. Somehow it started acting on my stomach, almost it came to the feeling that I was going to throw up. That was the first time in my life that I came so close to dead meat that I had been avoiding all of my life. So I requested my friend to take me back to the ashram, which he did. When we returned to the ashram it was lunch time and I had prepared so many dishes, it was brought to me to my room, but still the view that I saw of the dead meat, made me sick and I could not eat my meal and thoughts went on streaming in my mind, that this food may have also been contaminated. Somehow I could not eat. When they came to pick up the plate. They were surprised that I had not touched the meal. The same thing happened in the evening and the next day and the next day. They were worried because you were not eating, and they begged me to eat, promising that this food had nothing to do with any of those food I saw. The food all were bought somewhere else. Thus a couple of more days went and they all thought I would die. The atmosphere was getting little bit stuffy. I could notice it but I thought I did not come here to cause unhappiness to these people and I reasoned, what if there is meat there, I know people eat meat and in what way did it hurt me? It’s only psychological and I should overcome this feeling. My causing unhappiness to these people is the worst things, as a Swami, I could do so I decided to try to eat. They were happy, they encouraged me to get rid of this idea and I slowly became normal and I conducted bhajan as usual and I spend my time very happily.
After while, Swami Venkateshananda returned from Germany and was happy to see me as I was a junior Swami in the ashram. He took over leadership of all the activities in the ashram as usual. Thus the phase of my trip to Mauritious ended. Still I was waiting for my Visa to South Africa. They wanted all kinds of paper from me, copy of my passport and many other things which I had sent and was waiting for a reply from South Africa.
It so happened, when I went to French embassy in Mauritious to get a Visa to go to France, the officials there told me that I should have gotten my Visa from India so they could not give me a Visa from here. I had to tell them that I decided to go to France after arriving at Mauritius so could not return to India to get the Visa from the French Embassy in India. They refused so I went back to ashram and talked to our high commissioner about the situation. He told me not to worry, he will see that it will be straightened out. He called immediately the French Embassy, talked to the ambassador whether he thinks India also should reciprocate in the same way for the French citizens. The ambassador immediately apologized and said he was sorry, and said “Please send him” so I went and they were waiting for me and as soon as I went they did the needful and I returned. And at the same time, next day I went to Swiss Consul and a businessman was acting as consular, I approached him and he was so nice, you are going to Switzerland as a guest of government, no fees and no Visa charges. Please enjoy your stay when you go to Switzerland.” So these are some of the incidents I remember. Since I had to stay in Mauritius for a while, Swami’s from Sri Ramakrishna’s ashram asked me to be with them for a while which I did. They were so nice, hospitable and very kind and loving were kind. And also I visited Sri Kabir Ashram where we conducted Satsang and bhajans. Then after long time the visa from South Africa arrived and I had to go, leave for South Africa. Meanwhile, I was corresponding with Rome for an interview with the Pope and that was also settled. The date was settled but by the time I went, the Pope was dead. I could not meet him. I was late While I was in Mauritious I knew several ministers, they all came to me, had a nice discussion and since they learned I was a Gandhian and participated in the freedom movement and was involved in cooperative movement, they wanted me to stay in Mauritius, help them to organize these things. I discussed with them lot of things and made suggestions which they accepted but I could not stay at this time as this was the first maiden trip of mine abroad and would like to visit several countries, before I returned to India. When I took leave of my friends, and with heavy heart and full of joys, I had to leave Mauritious for South Africa. On arrival at South Africa, my friends were there to receive me, they took me home and I comfortably stayed with them.
While I was in Mauritius an interesting thing took place. As I decided to go to England after finishing my African trip, I sought visa from British embassy in Mauritius. When I approached them, the consular came to me and asked me whether I’m a Scientologist. I was surprised. I had not heard anything of that kind while in India so I told him, “Sir, I know Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Jainism, Buddhism but I never heard of this about what you are talking. He paused, looked at me, he retired into his room and came back with my passport, duly issued my visa, not only visa but to my surprise, even for employment. So this I never expected.
In Africa I stayed with several people, attending some of the classes and one of the Swami’s of Sri Ram Krishna Mission, he was teaching Upanishads if I can remember. It was interesting. When I too taught some of the classes and one of my hosts wives happened to be a student in the school that I taught and a friend of my students. It was a surprise so I was happy to meet her and she was happy to serve me too. They had a business and stayed in the same place in Johannesburg. Since she knew I was a dance teacher in my earlier life, she and others requested me to teach dance to their children and prepare a ballet for the Indian Association. Reluctantly I had to agree and I taught the students. It was nice, I enjoyed doing that later. I traveled a lot, to several parts of South Africa, meeting several people of interest, talking to them knowing more about the country. I could go even to the white colonies where the local non-whites were not allowed. One by name, Dassa, Oppenheimer was one of my friends whom I met in India while she was learning yoga with Mr. Iyengar so she was great help to me. She arranged some of the meetings and if my memory is right, she took me to the church for a talk where I seem to have met Reverend Tutu. So I stayed for a few months then went to Rhodesia, now called Zambia. There I stayed for a few weeks visiting several places, especially in Kithway; I was introduced to avocado for the first time in my life. In India I never had seen one, not even had I heard of it. The first taste was not very pleasing but later I developed a very great taste for the same. I went to several places, met my people, stayed with them, talked to them in several prayer meetings then moved to Kenya.
I visited Mombasa and other places before going to Malawi. But while I was in Rhodesia I really enjoyed my visit to the great Victoria Falls. Now from Zambia I could see the other half of Victoria Falls as it was divided between two states, Rhodesia and Zambia. So after visiting some more countries, I came to Rome. I had an appointment arranged by one of my friends called, Mr. Myam. My appointment with the Pope. But I could not meet him as I was late in arriving in Rome and the appointment was rescheduled. But in any case, I had to leave the country to fulfill my engagement so I could not meet him at that time. I enjoyed my stay in Rome for a few days, then went to Florence. There was a big welcome for me and my hosts had arranged everything, thinking that I was going to stay there permanently. My room was made cozy enough, my kitchen was overstuffed with all Indian spices and they were so nice. It was a huge building and I was living alone there in eery silence. I used to go visit a famous bridge, cross the bridge to reach the museum of Michelangelo. I visited several times while I was there and also visited the beautiful Cathedral and made friends with some of the cardinals there. Meanwhile, I was introduced the family of Napoleon Bonaparte, , descendants of John Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. They took me around, showed me their castle and presented me with a handmade shawl which I gave away to a child born to Dr. Usha, the daughter of one of my Kenya hosts who worked in the hospital in New York. She was a doctor.
nI really enjoyed teaching yoga, meditation and gave several talks to a crowd in that place. I didn’t know their language to the extent they knew the English, me and my talks. They wanted me to stay there permanently, take care of me. The same thing that Mauritius people had asked me to stay there permanently, but I promised them that some time I would return and stay but I’ve not done that yet. I’m always grateful for their faith, love and service. It’s a story of about 32 years ago.
I moved then to Malawi, a beautiful state in Africa When I was in Malawi, I met the president and I enjoyed talking to him. He showed his respect and regard for the Indian community but was sad to tell me that the Indians who lived there could not teach how to grow things better and also how to grow several crops which they did but didn’t teach local people to do the same. He told me to talk to the Indian people to do that. So it was a great joy to have visited that place. They took me around and showed me the country.
Then I flew to England.
When I was in Mauritius, I was happy to have visited a beautiful temple complex, and also a temple dedicated to Kartikeya on a mount. The papaya grew so much that I found them rotting on the ground. Here we pay a lot of money for them. They grow export sugar. Mauritius is a small island of about 34 miles by 24 miles with beautiful beaches that I never have seen anywhere else. I used to go around one beach every day. There in Mauritius I met Swami Krishnananda who was one disciple of the same Master under whom Swami Sivananda was also a disciple and both of them got the vows of sanyasa from the same master. So, he becomes my uncle guru! (Chacha guruji). He wrote a number of introduction letters to many people which helped me a lot later.
When I came to South Africa, the apartheid was in it’s high point. Though I stayed in Johannesburg, the city was to become eerie after 5 o’clock or so. There was no one seen on the street. Shops and other businesses closed. Local colored people and Indians had to go back to their colony by that time. In Sowato when colored people lived, they were served free liquor. Indians went to their colony called Lenasia. I was their during Christmas and to my surprise the streets were well lit, well decorated but found none no one there to enjoy, no festive feeling there. All business took place during lunch time.
There I found one thing, the locals never bargained. Since there were prohibited from saving any money, they spent all their money every week. When they came to buy anything, asked for the price, if they did not find sufficient money in their pocket, they said they would come back and buy it. Fear was predominant. None could enter or stay overnight in the white colony but since I was a foreigner, I could. Though apartheid did not touch me, I could see how the local people suffered and feared. I heard a lot of stories of police brutality. Many deaths also occurred. There are numerous and very gross. When I was traveling to villages I heard on the radio that Mother of Pondicherry breathed her last. I was shocked but could do nothing but feel forsaken.
I visited quite a few towns before I left South Africa. My people were rich philanthropists and loved to have me around. The name of the
Swami who was teaching in South Africa was Swami Nishreyasananda, if my memory does not fail me.
Since I was not issued a visa to visit Rhodesia, I had to go there and at the airport, a small piece of paper was given as permission to enter the country and while leaving, I had to return the paper back at the airport. There I was taken to several places for talks. It was not that much of fear of apartheid as it was in South Africa. I visited one of Mr. Iyengar’s student who had a very nice home and garden and she was happy to have me there. Now the country is called Namibia also.
All through my African tour, I found my fellow Indians were doing well-very well under such circumstances as apartheid. On Saturdays and Sundays, all of them met for socialization, having social activities while the children went to school to learn their language and culture. The government spared money for the Indian teachers to come, stay and continue to teach. That was a nice thing the government could do.
Once it so happened that I was asked to talk on TV for Sivaratri, a very holy holiday. Before me, a minister of Zambia of talked then we met when we came out. He sat outside the studio to hear my talk. When I returned after my talk, he met me and talked to me, “Swami your talk was very interesting. I learned a lot about your religion, but tell me, we know Islam, we know Christianity, but how come your people are here for a couple of centuries but still have not taken us into their religion and taught your culture. Is it not a shame?” I did say “Sorry to hear about I, it is so”. I had no answer for that statement for the statement was true. We are not an open society there. This affected a lot later the Africans started movements against us and tried to drive us out of their country.
I lived in Nairobi in Kenya as I mentioned earlier. People were very nice, but I have to say a few words about our people. Though they were well off they did not seem to take interest in local people. A lot of our people were in government service. The Governor of Reserve bank was also an Indian person. Once I went to an Indian coffee shop, which was very popular. There was a long que, so I went next door which was “Khadi bhandar” where they were supposed to sell “Khadi”, hand spun and hand woven clothes which I used to wear, made by myself, during Quit India Movement, as per advisor Mahatma Gandhi. But, to my surprise, the shelves were empty, some three or so workers sat idly. When I enquired, the answer was “no stock has come in a long time”, such is the state of the government and it’s organizations.
Another incident comes to my mind, the day when I arrived at Nairobi airport, there were a few people, they were happy to see me come out of the customs and loud songs of joy were heard in the air. Then many people came to greet me in immense joy. Later they told me an incident that had occurred earlier in the day at the airport. A Swami belonging to some Gujarat community called “Swami Narain, were not allowed to alight from the plane and were sent back. So this made my people think that I may not be allowed also to alight from the plane. A disappointment was expected, but to their surprise, I came down, cleared customs and lo and behold I was amongst them without any problem. That was the cause of their joy. As government of the country learned that Swami’s came there, just to collect money, especially foreign exchange which was in dire supply. They stopped visiting Swami’s from coming to their country to save foreign exchange being channeled out of the country. But I was a poor monk, I was not coming for collection so they knew and they gave no trouble. This was the case indeed.
When I arrived in Nairobi, Mau- Mau Movement of Jomo Kenyatta was over. I heard a lot about it. Indians gave him all support. He was sheltered during the movement. When it was all over, he became the president and proved to be, other than what was expected of him. He became very unpopular for his harassment, even of those who helped him. I heard Indian merchants telling me that he could walk into any business place, take anything he wanted, even costly jewelry and refuse to pay anything. If he by mistake, was asked for money, next day a notice was serve to the merchant to leave the country immediately. So, afraid of him, none dared to ask for money but lost a lot of their property. Many of them left the country too. It became too unbearable.
I think, if I can remember the Swami Nishreyasananda lived in Namibia. He came to South Africas, Johannesburg to teach so I met him in Johannesburg and when I visited him in Namibia, we held joint meetings. While I was there, people took me to a big open space which they said, belonged to Indian community and they were thinking of building a huge temple complex. I told them that it was not a very good idea, because everywhere in Africa propel are sending home Indians. Instead of a temple, I suggested they build a hospital or a school which could serve, even after Indians have left the place, people will remember the kindness of this gesture and contribution to them. The complex may have some social activities that includes locals too. I do not know what happened then.
When I was in Zambia, I visited several places, one of them was Kithway. I stayed with a business family. They had a nice house, well taken care of garden and a huge avocado tree. I never had seen one in India. They asked me if I knew what it was. I said no. Then they told me about it and said “the fruit of it is very healthy and tasty”. Next day they made something of it and didn’t seem to relish. Of course that now I enjoy that fruit very much.
In South Africa, I was taken to a private zoo where I could seed the lions from a couple of yards or even a few feet away from them. There were groups-maybe they were different families but we were told to drive the car very slowly. If not, they would attack the car, sometimes damaging the tires. I also visited the famous Table Mountains and segregated beaches at the very tip of South Africa, Cape of Good Hope. There was a park, to my surprise I saw white and black sharing the park, one day in a week as per the will of the donor of the property. I was very appreciative of the colored people taking care of the mess after them. They kept their place very clean. They were enjoying the picnic with their family without any fear there.
I was surprised to see convoys of coal bearing trucks going in the street that I lived on. On inquiry, I was told they were carrying coal to make into gasoline, as the country was under sanction by the United Nations world body, but they seemed to have no problem for securing anything. Lot of things came to Mauritius; from there they were sent to South Africa. There was no scarcity of anything. There I bought a Hitachi tape recorder from the Japanese shop. Japanese were not considered colored, as others and they were treated like whites so they enjoyed freedom and did good business.
In spite of prohibition to visit South Africa for Indians, a lot of Indians traveled to that country, they secured temporary citizenship of Mauritius and took visa and visited the prohibited country of South Africa. I met the Minister of South Africa and Minister of Mauritius who followed me there to request me to go back to Mauritius. I had to convince me that since it was my maiden tour abroad I had quite a few engagements, previously arranged and would like to fulfill them. And also, I was keen to see several countries and if God wants, I shall return to Mauritius. I have enjoyed their hospitality, love, I love that country and I am very grateful for all of that.
Once I was standing at the door of my hosts in Nairobi and some black people walked by, talking the each other in their own language, pointing their fingers at the house in which we stayed. On my query, my hosts said they were talking about occupying this house when we are driven out of the country. That was the situation in Africa then. Our people were expecting that such a situation may arrive. So they were all preparing to face it if it happened or if it happened. In some countries, it had already started to happen as I saw when I visited Zimbabwe. People were leaving with their families back to England, as they had accepted Citizenship when British left the country for good.
Since a lot of people could not get exchange they were pouring very large amount of money into the collection box of the temples, or donated to charities. People had formed an organization to help the poor people to leave the country. They bought new dresses, air tickets and necessities to the families who were leaving the country, to establish themselves in England. Swami Krishnanandaji maharaj, about whom I have mentioned earlier was organizing this. He was very popular and very well regarded in all African countries.
It was in his company I visited the great Victoria Falls. It is so beautiful, even before reaching the fall, we had to wear waterproof clothing for it was like raining constantly, A beautiful rainbow was always there in the daytime. It is so vast that I had to see it half in Rhodesia and half in another country in Zimbabwai. If I remember
it right. There was a railroad bridge between the two countries dividing the falls.
From Nairobi I had booked my passage by Air Italia Airlines to go to Rome. Unfortunately, after an hour of flight, the plane had to return to the airport for there seemed to be something wrong. So the airline tried to put me in a hotel for the night and next morning I could take another flight. But I preferred to go back to my hosts. They arranged for a taxi to take me home and bring me back to the airport on the morrow. When I arrived at the airport, my original airline had arranged East African Airways to carry their passengers. Air Italia plane was still not repaired. We boarded. When they brought food it was all meat and I had to tell them that I was a vegetarian and I had originally requested for vegetarian meal but the attendant was a nice man. He went and brought eggs and fish, I said I could not eat that either. He started laughing and then asked what else he could do. I told him to bring fruits, milk and cookies, we called biscuits. He did that. On the way, we were caught in heavy rain as we neared Rome. We were all afraid as we could not see a thing. The skill of the pilot, I still appreciate. He brought down the plane so smoothly that even in that heavy rain and poorest visibility. My friends were there to receive me. I was driven to their home, I was glad I landed safely, the very idea that I was in Rome pleased me. I was eager to go to the Vatican and talk to Christian monks and learn from them what I did not know about their religion. So after talks with my hosts and friends for a while, I had a light meal and retired to my room and slept as I was too tired.
Next day I attended the classes of Mr Niam who teaches yoga in Rome. I was introduced to the class then I taught some things and gave them a talk too. Then in the noon, I was taken out to visit a few sights in Rome. Then in the evening again a talk and went out for pizza, of which I had not known much as only once in London, Gitananda had bought me a slice of it. That was my first introduction to pizza. Now I am in the very place of its origin. I enjoyed it, then went to my place and rested. While in Rome, I visited some of my friends who were farmers and lived in villages. I was welcomed and they treated me as if they knew me for all my life and made me feel so comfortable that I could have helped myself to whatever they had in the frig and moved everywhere and enjoyed their love and simplicity of the farming folks. Even to this day I remember my visit to those families. Then they took me on a visit to some more places of interest, like the Vatican, Palace of Mussolini, Temples dedicated to baby Jesus as we have to Sri Krishna in India and also to some ancient ruins and coliseum where the stories of gladiators are famous.
After visiting Rome I went to Florence. I stayed in a huge three story building all by myself. The kitchen was stuffed with all kinds of Indian spices and other commodities as if I was going to stay there permanently, and in fact, that was the plan my hosts had in their mind. I conducted my class every day, I gave a few talks. Every morning I went to Michelangelo’s museum and spent time there as well as in the church where he lived and worked. It is here I was taken to visit the family of Napoleon’s brother. They received me with love and kindness and showed me around and presented me a hand woven shawl.
The day of departure came and my hosts requested me to go back and stay with there with them. I promised which I have not kept, though I knew that would not happen as I could not mention that openly as I did not want to hurt their feelings. They were so kind and loving. I am always grateful for that.
I left Florence for Geneva, Switzerland. Though I had my air ticket, I preferred to go by train as I heard that scenery was beautiful and I could see the huge Geneva Lake.
When I arrived at Geneva, I hired a taxi run by a woman. She knew no English. I knew nothing of their language. Anyway she could understand me that I wanted to go to Sri Ramakrishna Ashram. She took me there but no one was there, then I asked her to take me to the hotel near the railway station. She was laughing her heart out all through and I did not know why. Anyway that was not my concern. Then she took me round and round a few times in the same streets and I read and recognized the shop. I didn’t know why. Then when she brought me to the hotel, she wanted $54. I was shocked. Then I told her to take me to the police station. When I arrived there, there was only one constable. I talked to him and he looked at me blankly. He said “No English”. That made me mad a bit. I told him “English is one of your European sister language which I speak being an Indian and you should be ashamed of yourself t so “English”. Put me through to your superior”. Then he called someone on the phone. He said he was the inspector of police. He could speak good English. I explained to him my situation. Then he asked me to give the phone to her, the taxi driver. They spoke for a while and her face sank, the laughter vanished and a grim face appeared in its place. She gave the phone back to me. The Inspector told me to pay her only $5 and no tips, after she takes me to the bank for changing the money and then to my hotel.
She did so, no more laughter. No more talk. Silently she took %5 and left without a word. That was the most dishonest taxi driver I had met in Switzerland!! I narrated this story to my friend Mr. Iyengar on my return to India, who had told me the taxi drivers are very honest in Switzerland
I tried to contact the ambassador but the office was closed. So, I stayed in the hotel and on the morrow, I was able to contact him and he made arrangements for me to stay with a family from Gujarat. I came across some more senior consul officers and they all entertained me. I gave a few talks. stayed there for a while visiting Berne and other places. I visited some watch factories; they were all like houses where in they assembled watches. For a few weeks I stayed there happily engaged in my work of talks, prayer meeting and social gathering.
From there I went to France for a couple of weeks of stay before I embarked for England. In France I did enjoy my stay. I used to go to Museum and spend time to enjoy the works of the masters and try to understand in my own meager way. I used to awake a long walk. Every day I passed through Arc De Triumph since I lived very near there. On the way, many people used to wish me, stop me to talk to me and they were really nice people. I took a tour of the Presidential Elyse Palace and also a place where artists gather and could paint your portrait as you sat there. I walked through the market place where there were lines of shops selling perfumes and I gathered quite a few of the samples they gave. My host was a connoisseur of music, both western and eastern. I was so happy to hear them for long hours. I indeed taped nearly a couple of dozens of tapes of both western and eastern music. But when I brought and left there with my brother for safe keeping as I was a wandering monk. In my absence, he erased them all and recorded some Indian Cinema music. I was made but never the less, the damage was done. I lost all that I had recorded.
I had a few engagements and then I moved to England as Swami Krishananda of Mauritius had already informed some people to receive me at the Heathrow airport. There I stayed for a longer time. I was already given my visa to work and stay in England. So, I had to face no problemI stayed with many families and visited lot of places of interest. I conducted several retreats. I and Air Marshall Surendra, whom I knew earlier, conducted retreats also. He was a great yoga enthusiast and I had met him and became acquainted when he was the Commandant of the National Defense Academy in KhadakVasala in Poona, where I worked for some time in my past.
I stayed for a few months there. I came across many of my friends whom I had met in Africa and elsewhere. I stayed with them sometimes. I was invited to address a lot of assemblies. I had to participate in inauguration of temples. They had converted from church which was sold as they could no more maintain. Then I returned to India for a month or so and again I was back in England. Then many times I visited this country and stayed for longer times in each visit. They wanted me permanently to stay there and the devotees of Caribbean Society people had bought a big house and renovated for my residence and to conduct spiritual and religious activities. I stayed there for some time and did not like to be bound. I’ve always liked to be free and that’s the reason I could not accept the offer of Swami Muktananda of Vajreswari to stay in his ashram, and there were several organizations which wanted me to stay there and lead them. But my love for freedom and zeal for my own progress was too important then. Also my desire to visit in many countries as possible as I had invitations from many countries and they were wiring me often onto when I was about to visit their country. So, I could not accept any invitation to bind myself to anyone organization. Even some members of Parliament and borough politicians wanted me to stay in England. But the same song I had to sing for them too.
Then I met some people from American while I was in England. Gitananda was one of them whom I knew in Pondicherry. He encouraged me to go to America and made some arrangements with some of his devotees. I met Ramamurthy mishra who ran an ashram in San Francisco by the name of Brahananada Ashram. He invited me to stay with him. Sri Swami Krishnanandiji Maharaj, the Secretary of Divine Life Society to which I belong and I am a disciple of Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, gave several introduction letters and also wrote to Swami Vishnudevananda in Canada. With all this in hand, I decided to visit America and Canada. Swami Atmananda, a colleague of my ashram and a friend was also in America. Since Swami Krishnandaji had written to Swami Joytirmayananda in Florida and had received an invitation from him. I decided to go to Florida. There I stayed with him for some time and enjoyed both his hospitality and also the new environment to which I was very happy to try to adjust to it. Then from there, since I had a lot of contacts in several towns in several states, I wrote them of my arrival and all of them sought my itinerary.
In America I went to several states and visited several cities and organizations. I was in New Jersey, New York, Washington DC, Boise (Idaho), California where now I am permanent resident. There were lots of places to mention. I visited Detroit, Chicago…..and went to Canada. I stayed in Montreal for a while. Then I went to stay in Vancouver. In between visiting these places, I visited India several times too. Suffice to say, that before I permanently resided in California, I visited a number of places, quite a few talks I gave and conducted several seminars.
In California I started my classes in yoga and philosophy. I had several courses and I kept myself busy. I stayed in Denver for a while too before moving to San Francisco, Marin County. I taught a class of students in Sonoma Thus I enjoyed myself while I lived in America. A few times I went to India too. But, when I came for the last time to America from India, I was stuck, I stayed on.
During this time, I had to undergo a little bit of religious opposition in some places. Some of the religious leaders caused some uneasiness that I had to bear with. In a while, when I was in New York, I came across a huge mess regarding one of my senior Swami, a yogi involved in some conjugal affairs ending in pregnancy. So, this brought a disaster to all at the time. It made me think of how to avoid such calamity. Meanwhile my purpose of being a monk, to progress in spiritual aspirations had come to a certain degree for which I aspired while in India for all these years. That had given me a lot of satisfaction but still I pursued further for which I need not be what I was The monkhood was in no way different than the householders. The life, style, needs were all seemed the same that remains the same today. I compared the true life of the monk, according to scriptures and purpose for becoming a monk and compared with the present day situation. For a while I thought about it all. “In what way I have been different? I need money, clothes, still desires haunt me I travel, I need more comfort that the people who offed it to me. The masters words come to my memory as Monks be a burden on the householders, as we do not know in what situation they are in. What mens problem and means are, “So avoid them” he has said. I have seen those things personal too, and I had experienced also. I weighted all these for a while then I thought of changing my life to a normal one without in anyway overly affecting my spiritual seeking further. I knew it would not affect or instead of leaving like a fake monk, it is better to be an honest householder as many had achieved the spiritual goals of their lives , as householders earlier than those who proclaim renounced the world.
I talked to some of friends too, I learnt later the oaths of a monk for a purpose, the seeking of a spiritual goal, of knowing the truth of who I am, what I am, somewhere I came, from somewhere I came and where am I going to, and so on……
And if you have, to an extent, reached the goal, the purpose is done. To maintain to be a monk, simply wearing a garb, till death doing nothing, achieving nothing but live like anyone in the society, craving, having desires and trying to fulfill them, and to live on alms without working is a sin for peoples respect for the garb and you should qualify to wear it. I sincerely, living away from this society and the temptations of the world, devote all the time in search of God. Understand the truth then guide the people once you have succeeded in your search and practices, for which society takes care of your needs, not for you to become a burden on them. Weighing an unnecessary weight on the sacred face of the earth.
Additional autobiographical information from Discourses
From Mother Teresa
I told you the other day of my experience in Bombay. In my life, I saw Mahatma Gandhi once, and Mother Teresa once; that is enough. I told you my experience, of how to prove that Mother Teresa was not a body, was not a frail little dwarf, but a great manifestation of that Divine Light. She wanted to bless me with her light, I think, that is why even when I was far away it was as if I was beaten on the head: “Fool, turn around and see, I am here.” I turned, and low and behold my eyes were filled. That sight has never passed from my memory, because it was such a beautiful aura, beautiful light, divine light. That simplicity, unless there was that simplicity I could not have seen that light. Beautiful light. So that was the light, like an x-ray; these people work like that. It’s enough.
Everybody on this planet and elsewhere must have received her grace, still we continue to receive her grace. The body is gone, but she is not gone. She was not a goner, she will always be here. In one way or another all these divine persons continue to work. How simple she was, the more I hear about her actions the more I revere her. The other day they were talking about Mother’s greatness. It seems an Archbishop went to Calcutta and stayed with Mother. She was anointing people’s wounds, deep wounds, horrible wounds, with love and without any emotional upset or anything. The Archbishop of course didn’t want to soil his cloth, his well ironed holy robe, and he told Mother: “Mother, I wouldn’t have done that for even a hundred thousand dollars.” So that reveals his feelings, and Mother replied “Neither would I. I am doing it for Jesus.”
She had completely identified herself with Jesus, that divine personage has become Jesus herself. She has invited and housed Jesus in her heart, not only in her heart but in every part of her: her mind, her soul, her body, her senses, everything was occupied by Jesus. When she talked, when she walked, when she did everything, that glorious beautiful Jesus flowed through her. Jesus is a feeling, it’s a love, it’s that service, all these things. That man who was an official from the Vatican, who cares.
From Gita Discourse 23,
If you take the masters, whom we follow, they didn’t follow anybody, each one was independent. Take Sivananda, take Jesus, take anybody, they owe their respect, they bow down to their masters, but they never followed them. Nobody followed anybody.
That’s why I follow Sivananda. Whom did Sivananda follow? After having learned the ways to search for Truth, he embarked upon his own, that’s what he told me. That’s the very reason why I am like this, I am very independent. Because that’s what he said. A lot of things he told me, but all of those made sense. He knew my spirit. He used to call me many things. So I am proud that my master recognized, or realized what I was, he realized my weaknesses, my strengths and all that. So as soon as I became a monk he told me, you must pursue your path, if you stay here it will not be realized, you’ve got a goal. Go to Himalayas, or go Kashi, wherever.
So I did that, to the great satisfaction of myself. It was good. So I used to go to the ashram, and nobody bothered me in the ashram. Like the wind, I would go there, leave whenever I wanted. So that’s what the element was.
There, in the Aurobindo Ashram, I became of my own choice very dependent on Mother. It was more, we bonded ourselves to Mother so much, though She did not bind us, we bound ourselves. We wanted, there was a pleasure in being under the direct guidance, or supervision of the Mother. So there was great pleasure from Mother. See every day, every time we eat, every time we stand, we used to say oh Mother, what does Mother say? Does She say so? Does She accept this, does She? You see? So that is a lack of independence. Maybe I must have lost a little, but Mother also advised me. When somebody approached her asking permission to take me away in order to run their school institution. This is where Mahatma Gandhi used to rest, it was a great institution. They wanted me to go there, so Mother said, “Your purpose is there, go.” So I went there, from there I went to Sivananda, all kinds of things happen anyway. So what happens is, each one of them, did they follow, whom did Aurobindo follow, whom did Mother follow, whom did Sivananda follow? They’re all masters, they all had masters.
We say Dattatreya Dattaguru, he is the greatest yogi, every yogi bows down to him. He said in his life he had twenty four teachers. He learned everything from the prostitute, from the cow, from the dogs, butcher, and so on. See, at the time when you want to learn, there are ways of learning. If you don’t want to learn, even the greatest master cannot teach you. So he opened himself, he learned, all that made him a great yogi.
Singing silently is the best thing. That’s what I used to do. I never wasted a single minute in those days. I used to take a long walk after school, even during school. I used to keep beads in my pocket, and all day I would count it; all those things are gone anyway now. So, I always used to keep it with me and enjoy myself. Sometimes I never knew where I was going. I would leave my house for school and go right on by. Throughout the night I used to walk sometimes. I could not sleep, so I used to enjoy in a particular state.
From Gita Discourses
I remember in 1943 or 1944, when we were struggling for the freedom of our country, freedom under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership, I represented Mysore Congress at that time with three others. One of them was a scientist and was my colleague and leader. One time, he wanted to test Sai Baba, and Sai Baba said, “I am not interested in your coming and testing.” So, they were asking questions. Miracle, there is no miracle and all that. He is not an atheist, but he does not believe in all these things. He is a learned man. It was nice. He is a devoted man, very simple. His possession is only one mat, and a few clothes, that is all. Though he was the vice chancellor of Bangalore University, and a parliamentarian, and all kinds of things, but still he was very simple.
I met him again a few years ago. Oh, we were all in the prison together; he was our leader at that time. When we were in Yervada Prison in Pune, when Gandhiji was in Agakhan Palace, he was jailed there, and his wife was sick at that time. So, we were there in protest of their being imprisoned. We were young people. All the political prisoners amongst us were young at that time, all high school students, 14,16, 18 years of age at the time.
So, our jail was full. Our jailer was from Burma; he was an evacuee from Burma, Mr. Barker, very nice man, very sympathetic. He always used to tell us, “You have a right to freedom, and we appreciate what you are doing. God will help you.” That is what he used to tell us. To help us, we had wardens. Wardens are those who are staying in the jail for a long time, life long imprisonment. So, because they have proved to be good, and they have confidence in them, authorities made them wardens. Wardens means they are almost free. They can go anywhere in the jail, like police. Only in the night, they have to go to their barrack, that is all. If not, they can go anywhere. They have their duties and they can supervise the prisoners, other prisoners working and all that.
One was Ramprasad, who was caught minting notes, currency. He was very nice. He was telling us, “Don’t do this, but we did. It was fancy, that is all, challenge.” He was a young man, used to spend a lot of time with us because we were all students. We used to like him. The light used to be so low that we could not even read. We complained to the jailer. Immediately, he put a bright bulb; he knew that we were students. All those facilities were given. There was one Shahabas Khan, tall, a very nice man. He was so fond of us. We used to call him Chacha, uncle; and he was very inquisitive. He used to take care of us, talk, if we needed anything, he delivered and all such good things.
There was one Appanna, who had murdered somebody and he was also there. So Appanna used to tell, “See, I am here; I should not have been here. I am here. All that happened was in one fraction of a second I killed somebody in anger. There was no need for anger but anger took over me. As a result of anger, I killed. It happened in a fraction of a second. Now, I am spending all my life here.”
So, the philosophy, that is how Nature works. That is the desire. There must have been desire; that is the reason why there was a misunderstanding. When the desire was not fulfilled, the anger took over. That anger made him kill. The result is life long prisoner. That is what it is.
At that time, we learned a lot of these things. Now, after 50 years, I am sitting here. Often, I think of them, what they told us, especially that Appanna. Such nice people, so fond of us, so nice, always smiling and working and free, and, such great nice people. They are all prisoners, they are all for life long. Why? It is the Nature.
Even in our own lives, we are not free from them. They are in their prisons, we are in our own prisons. They are in the prison which is created by somebody. Here, we have created our own prison in which we are suffering. Thank you very much.
Selections by Karl Kempton, editor