Sadhu Vaswani’s writings have a universal appeal. Going beyond the letter of different scriptures, he was able to gather the nectar of truth, which is one and unchanged through time and space, for in him was combined the authority of the scholar with the experience of the spiritually realized saint.
Forty five years after his departure from the earthly plane, his message offers to world leader an citizens alike the platform to build bridges between tradition and modernity, between different generations and, most important, between man and his environment which includes plants, animals, birds and inanimate nature.
I am so happy that Ms. Anita Thapan has compiled and edited a selection of Sadhu Vaswani's writings. I salute her efforts and the commitment she has shown to bring out this beautiful volume.
To thousands of devotees and admirers all over the world, Gurudev Sadhu Vaswani needs no introduction. But the new readers that this book will undoubtedly attract, a few words must be said about the saint, whose writings are being offered in this volume. This onerous task has been entrusted to me; and having been privileged to know and love and serve the Master, having grown up under his benign and sheltering influence, I am overwhelmed by the task. Words seem inadequate. Every attempt at a 'brief' biography on introduction seems so hopelessly insufficient.
How can I ever hope to describe my Gurudev to you in a manner befitting so great a saint as he?
To be able to write of him in a manner worthy of his greatness, I must have magic in my words and music in my heart - the music which makes life a hymn of dedication and love. And I must have within me a spark, a flame, a fire, burning ceaselessly, until it reduces all I have and all I am to naught: For I aspire to be an echo of the echo of his voice - a shadow of the reflection of this illumined soul, who lit up everything he touched!
If I were asked to express the essence of his divinity, the secrets of his life in just a few words - I would choose just two words: humility and love. His humility defied description, and his boundless love moved out alike to the saint and the sinner, to the rich and the poor, to the great and the small, to men in power and to those whom the world tramples on, day after day. Truly, he was the embodiment of love and compassion.
Sufi Sind nourished him, nurtured him, and in the land of his birth which he loved dearly, he evolved in spiritual stature to become the Man of God, the Messiah of Compassion who is venerated and revered by innumerable devotees all over the world.
Born the second son of Diwan Lilaram Vaswani and Varan Devi, he was named Thanwar - which means steadfast. And indeed Sadhu Vaswani was established in holy contemplation, and ever absorbed in the Eternal.
Even as a child, he was so different from other children.
From those early days, he was filled with the spirit of compassion which moved out to all who were suffering and in pain. He did not play the games which other children played. Instead, he organised his friends into a little band, who, each day saved a little out of their pocket money, so that they could offer food to the destitute, the handicapped and the blind who sat on the wayside, begging for alms. Very often, he shared his food with the hungry beggars who called at his door. There was a mystic longing, a faraway look in the young one's eyes, which puzzled his mother. He spent much of his time in solitude, often gazing at the star-studded night sky, communing with the Divine, as it were.
At school, he was quite brilliant at his studies, rarely if ever, missing the top rank. At the matriculation examination, he (" stood first and secured the Macleod Scholarship. At the B.A. Examination he scored top marks in English and won the prestigious Ellis Scholarship. No sooner had he completed his Master's Degree, than he secured an appointment as Professor of History and English at the Vidyasagar College, Calcutta.
Now began a brilliant teaching career which took him to the upper echelons of the academic realm. Such was his reputation as a brilliant professor, that he was invited to attend the Welt Congress - the Congress of World Religions held in Berlin in the year 1910. At that time, he was just thirty years old! His address at the World Congress and his subsequent lectures in many parts of Europe not only earned him respect and admiration in the West, but drew many people in Europe towards a closer understanding and appreciation of Indian values and philosophy. When Prof Vaswani returned home from Europe, he was invited to become the Principal of the Dayal Singh College, Lahore; and later the Victoria College, Cooch Behar and Mahindra College, Patiala. At the height of his academic career, even as greater honours beckoned him, there was a major turning point in his life. His mother passed away in the year 1919. She had been his one link with the world, which he could not bring himself to severe, despite his deep spiritual aspiration; but her death broke his worldly bonds. Early in his career, he had sworn a pledge to his mother that he would not renounce the world and become a fakir in her lifetime. Now, when she had passed away, he was free to pursue the call of the Spirit. He gave up his lucrative job. To the friends and wellwishers who protested against this move, he said, "Life is not given to make money. It is meant to be dedicated to the Love Divine, to serve, and be poured out as a sacrifice."
He was barely forty when his mother died. No sooner did he complete the samskaras of her funeral, that he sent in his resignation. He had fulfilled his pledge to his mother. There was nothing to keep him tied to the world any longer. He entered into a state of homelessness, of utter renunciation.
He was determined to live a life of selfless service, as a fakir, a bhikhu, a Sadhu, a homeless pilgrim whose home would be in the hearts of the humble folk.
Around this time, Mahatma Gandhi had launched his satyagraha movement. Believing that this would spiritualise and awaken the life of the people of India, Sadhu Vaswani became Gandhiji's strong supporter and foremost interpreter in Sind. In fact, not many people know that it was Sadhu Vaswani who moved the Resolution on the policy and programme of Non-cooperation at the Sind Political Conference, carrying it forward in the face of united opposition of several veteran political leaders of Sind. During this period he also wrote many rousing books, inspiring the youth to join the Freedom Movement. The very first issue of the New Series of Mahatma Gandhi's weekly journal, New India, carried on its front page, an article by Sadhu Vaswani on, "The Philosophy of War".
Thus, his contribution to the freedom struggle was significant. He himself idealised Kagawa and Sonotoku, the great selfless patriots of Japan. It made his heart grieve to see some of the leaders of the nationalist movement scramble for power and position. It was his firm belief that leaders should, first and foremost, be servants of the people. Visionary that he was, he kept on sounding a note of warning - that, if in our enthusiasm for freedom, we neglect social, cultural and spiritual aspects of our national life, politics would fail in its purpose. This became painfully true in the years that followed independence.
This was why Sadhu Vaswani turned his attention to Youth Movements. He devoted his time and effort to education, emphasising that character-building is nation-building. He started Youth Centres in different places. He opened the Shakti Ashram in Rajpur. He founded the Mira Movement in Education with the aim of unfolding a new renaissance of culture. His Sakhi Satsang, a voluntary organization of spiritually awakened women, ushered in a quite feminist revolution in conservative Hyderabad Sind – this, at a time when the word feminism was unheard of in the country.
Among the several towering figures that have appeared on the spiritual horizon of India in the 20th - century, T.L. Vaswani, has the distinction of being one whose words are addressed not just to fellow Indians, but to all humanity. Affectionately and reverentially addressed as Sadhu Vaswani by his followers, he insisted that he was not a sadhu, but a servant of the sadhus, rishis and saints. Although imbued with deep love for his homeland, he nevertheless, had great empathy with all cultures and faiths. Perhaps this characteristic of his outlook was partially shaped by the history and culture of Sind where he was born and lived the greater part of his life. A relatively isolated frontier region, influenced by diverse religions in the course of her long history, Sind remained far removed from the centres of both Hindu and Muslim orthodoxy. Hence she developed a syncretic culture unique to herself
Or, perhaps, it was the fact that he was a "child of the desert", as he referred to himself that shaped his world-view. For the desert, he said, was to him a symbol of infinity. It awakened in him a feeling of his insignificance and temporality in the vast scheme of creation. Thus, from a tender age, T. L. Vaswani, despite the extraordinary capabilities that life bestowed on him, shunned pomp and show, position and power, preferring to live a humble life of service and prayer. He recognized that all humanity was enchained by the same afflictions of body and mind, the universal limitations imposed by the ego. And he reached out to young and old alike, to the broken of heart and spirit, with compassion and tenderness bringing healing with his gentle, loving words and gestures.
Sadhu Vaswani identified with great and noble minds across the globe and across the centuries: Krishna and Jesus, Buddha and Chaitanya, Muhammad and Ramakrishna, Tukaram and Jnaneshwara, Zoroaster and Lao Tse, Socrates and Plato, Rumi, Nanak and Kabir. All inspired him and invoked in him deep devotion and reverence. Like them he belongs to all mankind. He has no age, no nation. He lived unfettered by tradition and by the beliefs and practices of any clergy, Hindu, Muslim or Christian. His was the lofty view of one who has transcended the limitations of nation, culture, creed and ethnicity, He believed that the whole earth was his country and to do good was his religion. Living in the midst of men, he lived as one apart for he lived in the world of the Spirit. And that spiritual influence streamed out of him in a perennial flow. It cast a spell upon all who drew near him.
His message is even more relevant today when modern media and communications have made the earth a "global village". His words spring from a deep spiritual vision where time and place do not exist. Therefore, they remain as moving and inspiring as they were to the generation which came in contact with him. More than ever before, the world today is torn apart by religious and political strife. Economic disparities within and between societies have only increased and the world stands at the precipice of self-destruction. The lessons learnt from the First and Second World wars have not halted the production of nuclear weapons. Instead, they have highlighted how the use of scientific and technological advances without a spiritual foundation can annihilate the world. Against this scenario, Sadhu Vaswani's profound insights will have an appeal both to the intellectual and the pragmatic, to the seeker and the non-believer for they are based on a deep knowledge and understanding of different world views.
No other saint has been able to talk with such authority on so many faiths because in him was combined the authority of the scholar together with the experience of the spiritually realized saint. His attitude, together with his simplicity of dress and approach, won over warring factions in his time and the love that he poured out to all creatures shamed even the most arrogant and mighty. His insights will offer to all world leaders and citizens alike the platform to build bridges between tradition and modernity, between the East and West, between progress and humaneness, between different generations and, most important, between man and his environment which includes plants, animals, birds and inanimate nature.
This shining star in the spiritual firmament of the modern age will have a special appeal to the youth, for it is the young who are idealistic and have the courage to reject old patterns of thinking and behaving. In a world where heroes are limited, here is one personality who was at the same time, erudite and humble, gentle of words and tone but strong and unbending in his convictions. He was a courageous visionary, unafraid of deviating from the accepted path of life to follow his dream. A mystic and poet, historian and philosopher, orator and prolific writer in both English and the lyrical Sindhi language, he was also a renowned educationist who was much-loved and sought after by the brilliant minds of his time. Yet, above all, he was a man of God who came to awaken suffering humanity to its real divine destiny. His generosity of spirit and deep compassion for all life enabled him to give of himself tirelessly and continuously every day of his life.
Radiant souls such as He never fade away. They only drop their forms. Sadhu Vaswani's spirit continues to serve the world through his nephew and successor J.P. Vaswani, head of the Sadhu Vaswani mission based in Pune. "I am with you", Sadhu Vaswani said, "until the last soul has entered into the joy of that true life which is life indeed, the life of communion with god, the life of spontaneity and self-realisation."
The Religious Traditions of Sind
Sadhu Vaswani and the Mission named after him are intrinsically linked with the destiny of the Sindhi people. Therefore, to better appreciate both this great spiritual Master and his followers, it is worthwhile to have a brief background of religious life as it evolved over the centuries in Sind. This is particularly important as little is known about the Sindhis by most people, other than the fact that they are an astute and successful business community spread all over the world. This understanding of Sindhi culture can help highlight an important fact for today's world: that diverse religious communities can and have lived in harmony for centuries and have complemented one another. And that saints and sages all come with the same message if we will but stop and listen and try to understand the spirit of their words.
Sind was the first region in India to be conquered by the Arabs and the longest to remain under Muslim rule. Starting in AD 711, Arab domination of the region lasted for three hundred years. Thereafter, Arab rulers were replaced by a series of local Sindhi chieftains who along with their tribes had embraced Islam. Muslim rule endured until the British annexation of Sind in 1843.
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