"The world is waiting for the grand idea of universal toleration. It will be a great acquisition to civilization. Nay, no civilization can long exist unless this idea enters into it. N civilization can grow unless fanaticism, bloodshed and brutality stop. N civilization can begin to lift up its head until we look charitably upon one another, and the first step towards that much-needed charity is to look charitably and kindly upon the religious convictions of others. May more, to understand that not only should we be charitable, but positively helpful, to each other, however different our religious ideas and convictions may be". - Vedantic Thought for the Month







PRABUDDHA BHARATAPrabuddha Bharata | January 2007  






     - I first met Swami Premeshananda (18841967), also a disciple of Holy Mother, in 1948 or 49 at the Sargachhi Ashrama, and I began visiting him regularly. He was a charming man. Every day after his bath he would go to the shrine upstairs and meditate for about half an hour. I watched him closely. Soon after he sat for meditation he would undergo a strange transformation. His face brightened with a flush, which gradually spread to his chest. Later, when he went down the stairs, I noticed that his steps were unsteady. I was sitting by his side when he was eating his noon meal, and I began to ask him some questions. But I quickly realized that I should not have done so, for I clearly observed that until he had eaten a little food, he could not talk distinctly. I understood that he was still overwhelmed with a spiritual mood from his meditation in the shrine, and naturally it took some time for him to regain his normal state. This happened every day.



     - During the summer of 1964 I spent two weeks in the holy company of Swami Atulananda (formerly Cornelius J Heijblom of Amsterdam), a disciple of Holy Mother. He was then staying at Sri Sarada Kutir at Barlowgunj, in the foothills of the Mussoorie Hills. Normally indrawn, he was a typical contemplative. When he sat for meditation, his face seemed to get bright with a light. His answers to our questions revealed something of the richness of his spiritual experiences. These things have been recorded in the book Atman Alone Abides. Whenever he spoke of Swami Turiyananda, a change came over him. Swami Atulananda passed away at the age of 97 on 21 August 1966. During the last three or four days of his life he was repeating Jai Ma. And the last words he uttered were Om Ma and Hari Om.


     In the tradition of the Ramakrishna Order, the outward expression of spiritual experience is scrupulously avoided, for often such expression betrays a desire for special recognition. This obstructs ones progress and even leads one astray. Yet we have seen few swamis - such as Swami Gadadharananda, a disciple of Swami Shivananda - who could not control their spiritual ecstasies. Swami Gadadharananda passed away in 1971. His experiences accorded with the signs of genuine spiritual experience as they could be experienced by others also and they did not contradict reason.


     - Swami Yatiswarananda and Swami Premeshananda were not public speakers as such, but their talks before groups of devotees always touched the core of ones heart. These talks were unforgettable. Though some of the previous incidents were rare, there was another kind that was quite common. For example, I lived with Swami Purnatmananda, a disciple of Swami Brahmananda, at Almora - once for five months and another time for two months. As head of the Almora centre, he had many duties. But throughout the day, whenever he had any time, he would sit with his back straight telling his beads. There would be a glow on his countenance that would bring joy to my heart. It reminded me of something M had said: You have to see a monk at his best, when he is meditating.


     - Swami Saswatananda (18941963) was known as a staunch Vedantin. He taught another young swami and me the Mandukya Karika. His words had such conviction and were so powerful that they went deep in our hearts. Once he said: All that you see is apparent and illusory. It is only the all-pervading Brahman that you really see. There was so much force and conviction in these words that for about three days I strongly felt that what he
said was true.


     - Swami Hitananda (d. 1984) was a disciple of Swami Shivananda. As soon as he would begin performing the worship in the shrine at Belur Math, he would become an altogether different person. He would seem to radiate spirituality.


     In October 1958 I met Swami Sadashivananda (d. 1960), a disciple of Swami Vivekananda, at the Varanasi Sevashrama. As I made pranams to him, he lovingly embraced me and showered his blessings on me. He repeatedly told me how happy Swami Vivekananda would have been to see a young man like me. I was verwhelmed by his personality, but I could hardly understand him. He tried to impress upon me that Swamiji was all love. Swami Sadashivananda would become a changed person in the presence of bright young men. Later I met
him again and had a similar experience.


     One sweltering summer afternoon in May, 1963, I went by bus to Belur Math. I was to hand over an envelope given by Swami Lokeswarananda to the General Secretary, Swami Vireswarananda (18921985). When I reached the General Secretarys office it was 2.30 p.m., and I was perspiring. Swami Vireswarananda was then going through the mail, and he quietly asked me to sit down on a chair. Then he went over to a cupboard and began preparing a glass of sherbet. Assuming that he was preparing it for himself, I immediately offered my services. But the swami bade me sit quietly. In those days there was only one office assistant in the headquarters office. The swami sent that boy to Belur Bazaar to bring some ice and gave him two paise. Then he returned to his mail. After some time the boy returned. When the Swami was satisfied that the pieces of ice were clean, he put them in the tumbler of sherbet and offered it to me. Overwhelmed at this development, I quietly drank the sherbet with tears rolling down my cheeks.


     Swami Nrisimhananda (d. 1992), a disciple of Swami Nirmalananda, served leprosy patients in the village of Adur in Kerala for forty years. The patients there did not want him to leave them. I went to see him in the company of a senior swami. It was a winter morning, and Swami Nrisimhananda, who was then over seventy years old, was in tattered gerua robes. I humbly offered him my woollen wrapper, but he refused to accept it. I talked with him for some time about his experiences, and later I corresponded with him. He repeatedly assured me that he had realized the truth that our yogis aspire to achieve through japa and meditation. I was deeply impressed by his experiences.


     All these incidents, and many more, touched my heart. Such things are not seen in mundane life. They hinted at the joy of spiritual illumination and seemed to invite me to enter the inner chamber of spiritual life.





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