Facets of Spirituality is a kaleidoscopic profile of Swami Krishnananda in all his many manifestations – informally, as friend and companion to his disciples; more formally as teacher and guide to his votaries; and most majestically as a philosopher of profound depth and wisdom.
Swami Krishnananda’s is a multifaceted personality which like a diamond shines in every facet whenever he speaks or writes. His mind has absorbed all aspects of spirituality and the clarity of his vision enables him to meet the spiritual needs of all grades of seekers on the Path. This book aims at conveying something of the personality and revelations of Swami Krishnananda through his informal interviews, formal discourses, and expositions on the practical philosophy of life as lived here and now. The dialogues and discourses compiled here constitute but a sample of the inexhaustible stock of knowledge and wisdom which His Holiness has gained over a life time of reading, writing and expounding both Vedic Truths and other, including Western, philosophical systems.
I deem it a spiritual privilege to have been asked to write a Foreword to this treasure house of spiritual inspiration, wisdom and practical instruction. This unique compilation of H.H. Revered Sri Swami Krishnanandaji's conversations, discourses, answers to the seekers' queries, writings, lectures, etc., testifies to the dedicated labour of love for which the author deserves not only our congratulations and deep appreciation but also our gratitude.
To modern man in quest of knowledge, the contents of this book come as answers to his deepest needs. Here in these pages is the quintessence of the highest Upanishadic revelations commingled with sound pragmatic common sense and humane understanding of the problems that vex the heart and mind of man today.
Sri Swami Krishnananda is at this moment one of the fore-most thinkers and philosophers of the world. His writings like The Realisation of the Absolute, The Philosophy of Life, The Ascent of the Spirit have created a spiritual stir among the intelligent reading public. His wide-ranging knowledge of both Indian and Western philosophy, his almost intuitional grasp of the mysticisms of the East and the West combined with his own personal realisation have made him the spiritual teacher of eminence much sought after by seekers from all over the world. His illumined personality radiates spiritual light and wisdom to all those who draw near to him even for a brief period of time. He is both a sage and a saint at once. Sincere seekers receive from him deepest sympathy and love as well as highest insights, inspiration, and spiritual upliftment.
The author has done a great service to mankind by bringing out his personality and his hidden wisdom in this invaluable compendium of Swamiji's wisdom and wit and his practical spiritual teachings. I wish this publication fullest success and widest possible circulation throughout the world.
May the Divine Grace and the choicest blessings of the Al-mighty Universal Spirit be upon the author, the worthy publisher as also the fortunate readers!
Homage unto the Divine! Adorations at the feet of worshipful and beloved Gurudev Swami Sivananda!
Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj may be considered as one of the major contributing forces in the building up of the edifice of India's spiritual renaissance in the modern era. Gurudev pulled out the soul of man that lay buried under the debris of religiosity, "isms" and clichés about a Sannyasi, a Sadhu and a Risi. He was the meeting point of the well-proven ancient Vedic traditions and those of the modern world. Addressing Sri Sivananda, a foreign visitor once said, "Swamiji, why do you wear so well-cut an over-coat? You are a Sannyasi, aren't you?" "Would I be a greater soul by draping round a blanket shoddily and with my hair un-kempt and in disarray? Does a clean-shaven head and face shed off the worth of man, the Divine in him?" was the repartee from him. He founded the Divine Life Society to bring home to modern man the Divinity he enshrines and the value he possesses as the temple of the soul within.
Dissemination of knowledge was his heart's desire. His ashram on the banks of the Himalayan Ganga distributes free books, hand-outs, pamphlets and spiritual literature of all varieties worth thousands of rupees. Gurudev alone has written over three hundred books, culling knowledge and wisdom from the ancient lore and also rendering into unforgettable words his own practical philosophy and personal experiences, without any inhibition or reserve as a guide, for everyone to follow. All knowledge, he held, was spiritual, for there is no distinction between the spiritual and the not-spiritual. And, in the ultimate analysis, nothing was "only" spiritual—of 'the other world'. The media through which Gurudev disseminated his wide-ranging knowledge included in his time such weeklies as Health and Hygiene, Wit and Wisdom, and numerous stories, quizzes and puzzles of all sorts for children. Since man has the Divine within him how can any knowledge be exclusive and profane? When knowledge is used to serve the Divine, does it not become spiritual?
Swami Krishnanandaji, one of Gurudev's most beloved disciples, has imbibed every `amsa' (intimate part) of his Guru-in-God. The Absolute, the Supreme Being, is Sri Krishnanandaji's 'Ultimate Being'; and Sri Sivananda Maharaj is the incarnation of that same Supreme Being. Like his master he also disseminates knowledge either in the enclosed verandah or on the open terrace* in front of his Kutir "Guru-Kripa" (ground floor). Once he emphatically said that people did not go to the ashram to see the buildings and the scenery; someone must be available to them to impart spiritual knowledge.** And this spread of spiritual knowledge is carried out informally in the morning between 9 a.m. and 11.30 a.m. Anyone can put a question and get an answer to his particular problem, mundane or spiritual. His pen flows over just as his Guru's did. His writings and talks, discourses, lectures, etc. have caught the imagination of thinking men in all the different parts of the world.
This fact inspired in this humble self an urge to compile excerpts of all that Swamiji talked about, lectured or wrote. I decided that such outpourings of his knowledge of the ancient texts, particularly of the Vedas and Upanishads, as also the discussions on spirituality, science, philosophy and metaphysics should be brought to all those who had not had the opportunity of directly getting the benefit of such valuable and rare knowledge. Yet another reason for my undertaking this compilation is Gurudev's exhortation: share knowledge with others as you should share your bread. In Gurudev's autobiography, there is a point worth repeating any number of times and on any occasion. Swami Sivananda says that when he replied to letters from people seeking his wisdom (on any matter whatsoever), he always exhorts the writer of the letter to share with his friends the knowledge that he has now acquired and to ask that friend to share it again with other friends, when the latter writes to them. It is this instruction that I have humbly tried to follow in this book. Nothing here is mine. In the course of editing, or while transcribing the tapes and compiling them, errors may have crept in. I beg the kind reader and the elders to bear with me for the errors, if any, found in these pages. Such shortcomings are obviously mine.
No work, however minor, gets done without travails and tribulations. This book too is no exception. Its editing, in one way or the other, has passed through the hands of more than one friend—of more than one Karma-yogi to be exact, so that I can but thank them all with all my heart only collectively and not by their individual names. Ashramites, friends and even nodding acquaintances or visiting Sannyasis such as the one from Trinidad, have rendered ungrudging help in typing the manuscript of over 600 pages, in proof-reading and in arranging the contents. My humble thanks to orie and all. My Gurudev and God shower their blessings on one and all of these kind souls!
I am particularly thankful to the publishers, Motilal Banarsidass of Delhi, for their interest in bringing out this book. This firm is a very old friend of the ashram whose infinite variety of publications include H.H. Sri Sivananda's writings and other publications of the Sivananda Publication League, Rishikesh, U.P. May they prosper unendingly from generation to generation!
I am deeply beholden to the holy feet of Sri Swami Chidananda Maharajji the well-known global personality, who tirelessly spreads his master's message of hope in the Divinity of man and his salvation in the spirit of his Guru Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj's dictum: "Give. Serve. Meditate. Realise. Enquire who I am. Know thyself and be free." It is no mere empty phrase to say that Swami Chidanandaji's frail frame gets literally worn out in this task. Yet his loving heart has found time to write a fore-word to such a minor book of mine. My tears of gratitude wash his holy feet!
This book is an attempt by this humble author to present H.H. Sri Swami Krishnananda, the renowned disciple of Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh: the man, the mentor and the philosopher. A person with a far higher intelligence and wisdom than mine can adequately achieve this objective. But when it comes to talking about the fourth deeper level, the inner man, the true being of an individual, leave alone that of a sage-philosopher, no one can even attempt the task. For, a person such as Swami Krishnananda lives within the cocoon of spirituality invisibly transforming himself into the very Brahman he ever contemplates on, like the worm becoming the stinging wasp, to borrow a Vedic metaphor. This metaphor is a well-known cliché of the sacred texts. It is said that the worm in the stinging wasp's nest being constantly stung by the wasp, broods over its fear of pain until it is metamorphosed into a stinging wasp. The biological truth of this is a matter for the biologists. It is not a phenomenon known to everybody.
The division of this book into three parts, the man, the mentor and the philosopher, is, however, not made with a view to unfolding Swami Krishnananda's personality. It is, rather, like viewing the different patterns formed in a kaleidoscope by just rotating it. When the kaleidoscope is rotated, an equally interesting but a different pattern is formed within the strips of the mirrors by the coloured pieces in between them arranged at 60° to each other. The different aspects of Swamiji's personality viewed from different angles are presented in this volume. These pages do bring out the different potentialities in him like the coloured pieces in the kaleidoscope. The reader should not look for "continuity" in the dictionary sense but in a variety of moods. For, spirituality is the common ground wherein the varieties take root and grow into fruits of practical knowledge. This common ground is necessary for man to pass to the higher levels of his true being. For this purpose the Yoga-Vedanta Forest University was founded by Gurudev "over-night" in 1956. The term university is here used in the sense of an institution of higher learning. How-ever when the meaning of the term "university" meant buildings and involvement in the steel-frame nature of it, it was changed to `Academy'. And the classes were held every morning from 4.30-6 a.m. This period, the Vedic texts declare to be the Brahma Muhurta, when the waves of spirituality are at their height. Hence, it is at this time that yogis and seekers concentrate and direct their minds upon the Supreme Being. In these Brahma Muhurta classes senior monks of the ashram as also learned men from other universities lectured on all branches of spiritual texts. Swami Krishnananda was asked to lecture on Vedanta and philosophy. It is recorded that he excelled himself and thrilled his class. Swami Sivananda Maharaj was the first to arrive and him-self the first student studiously taking down not only Swami Krishnananda's lectures but of all those professors of this "University". After Gurudev's times this University later known as the Yogavedanta Forest Academy was re-modelled to impart regular 'basic' courses of three month's duration at the end of which 'certificates' were awarded to the students who came from all parts of India and the world. Both at the Brahma Muhurta classes and the Academy of later years truths concerning the Eternal Being were argued out on the basis of all available sources. At the level of the average seeker the "aim of life" is God-realisation, all other duties being only contributory to this supreme duty. Swami Krishnananda can lucidly explain the deepest and most profound truths within any given time. This is possible for him because of his voracious reading, thorough studies and insatiable thirst for knowledge.
He learnt Sanskrit through his self-study, though he was initiated into it under the guidance of a Sanskrit teacher in his student days to enable him to read the ancient sacred texts in the original. He spared himself only three to four hours of sleep, spending the remaining hours of the night in deep study. His day was filled with all sorts of work entrusted to him by his Guru. Though only an undergraduate of the late twenties his erudition has brought him in line with the best English scholars of today. In August 1980, in the Ahmedabad University Hall, Swamili gave discourses in the Hindi language for three successive days.
Though he hails from the districts of South Kannada 'and his mother-tongue is Kannada, his capacity to speak the Hindi language so fluently is just like his capacity to become proficient in anything he takes up.
The freshness and interest in everything he says or discourses upon is as much due to his high sense of humour and wit as to the fact that it is the assimilated knowledge of a seeker ripened into a sage who has read voraciously "all my life", to quote his own words. He had learnt the most difficult parts of the Vedas under the strict discipline of his father and learnt by heart more than 144 Upanishads, besides other ancient texts such as the Bhagavadgita and the Puranas in original Sanskrit. No wonder then that when he answers a question, he brings to bear upon his answers his own assimilated knowledge. No bookish sermon he delivers. Each answer is a complete pamphlet in itself, so that one does not have to read volumes to get at and understand the answer to a problem. This distinctive quality of his genius, this adaptability to every type of audience is easily seen. A very important and significant fact to note here is that nothing is noted down as a preparation for what is going to be said or written. Incidentally, Swamiji's handwriting is at once clear and beautiful. While reading through his writings and speeches for the purpose of this as also for other compilations, two things struck me: One was a growing sense of awe at the giant of knowledge and wisdom these writings revealed; the other was the question: when was he not a giant? Where is the point at which we can say that from now on Swami Krishnananda started growing into the stature of a giant of knowledge, wisdom and saintliness?
His lectures and discourses have been recorded on tapes, though their actual transcription began only in the seventies. Earlier, say during the period 1946-1960, they were taken down by the students of the Yoga-Vedanta Forest University and printed by the editors of the "University" weeklies, to which Swamiji regularly contributed articles as individual pieces or serials, even as he continues to do so in The Divine .Life Monthly (Rishikesh). From around 1954 the articles in the "University" Weeklies of this period were re-printed in the form of a book to mark the birthdays of the several senior monks of the Asram. One such is Essays on Upanishad and other essays. That was in 1948-49. This has been re-edited for free distribution in 1984. A compilation of Swamiji's contributions to the world, the present volume was also meant to be a Diamond Jubilee gift as my homage to' him on his sixty-first birthday, THE SHASHTYABDAPURTI. However, this has been possible only now: for his sixty-third birthday, perhaps!
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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