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The Guru-Disciple Relationship

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A Brief Biographical Sketch of Swami Krishnananda

Worshipful Sri Swami Krishnanandaji Maharaj took birth on the 25th of April, 1922, and was named Subbaraya. He was the eldest of five children in a highly religious and orthodox Brahmin family well versed in the Sanskrit language, the influence of which was very profound on the young boy. He attended high school in Puttur (South Kanara District, Karnataka State) and stood first in the class in all subjects. Not being satisfied with what was taught in the classroom, young Subbaraya took to earnest self-study of Sanskrit with the aid of Amarakosa and other scriptural texts. While still a boy he studied and memorised the entire Bhagavadgita, and his simple way of doing it was not having breakfast or even lunch until a prescribed number of verses were memorised. Thus, within months Subbaraya memorised the whole of the Gita and recited it in full every day; such was his eagerness to study scripture. Reading from the Srimad Bhagavata that Lord Narayana lives in sacred Badrinath Dham, the young boy believed it literally and entertained a secret pious wish to go to the Himalayas, where Badrinath is located, and see the Lord there.

By the study of Sanskrit works such as the Bhagavadgita, the Upanishads, etc., Subbaraya was rooted more and more in the Advaita philosophy of Acharya Sankara, though he belonged to the traditional Madhva sect which follows the philosophy of dualism. His inner longing for Advaitic experience and renunciation grew stronger every day.

In 1943 Subbaraya took up government service at Hospet in Bellary District, which however did not last long. Before the end of the same year he left for Varanasi, where he remained for some time. But the longing for seclusion and the unknown call from the Master pulled him to Rishikesh, and he arrived there in the summer of 1944. When he met Swami Sivananda and fell prostrate before him, the saint said: "Stay here till death. I will make kings and ministers fall at your feet." The prophecy of the saint's statement came true for this young man who wondered within himself how this could ever happen. Swami Sivananda initiated young Subbaraya into the holy order of Sannyasa on the sacred day of Makar Sankranti, the 14th of January, 1946, and he was named Swami Krishnananda.

Sri Gurudev Swami Sivananda found that Swami Krishnananda was suitable for the work of correspondence, letter writing, writing messages, and even assisting in compiling books and editing them, etc. Later on Swamiji was given the work of typing the handwritten manuscripts of Sri Gurudev, which he used to bring to him every day. For instance, the entire volume of the Brahma Sutras of Sri Gurudev, which he wrote by hand, was typewritten by Swami Krishnananda. Swamiji confined himself mostly to the literary side and never had any kind of relationship with visitors, so that people who came from outside never knew that he existed in the Ashram. It was in the year 1948 that Gurudev asked Swamiji to do more work along the lines of writing books on philosophy and religion, which he took up earnestly. From that year onwards, Swamiji was more absorbed in writing and conducting classes, holding lectures, etc., as per the instructions of Sri Gurudev. The first book Swamiji wrote was The Realisation of the Absolute, which was written in merely fourteen days, and is still considered by many as his best book—terse, direct, and stimulating.

When it became necessary for the Ashram to co-opt assistance from other members in the work of management, Swami Krishnananda was asked to collaborate with the Working Committee, which was formed in the year 1957. At that time Swamiji became the Secretary especially concerned with the management of finance. This continued until 1961 when, due to the absence of the General Secretary for a protracted period, Gurudev nominated Swamiji as General Secretary of the Divine Life Society, which position Swamiji held until 2001.

Swami Krishnananda was a genius and master of the scriptures, and expounded practically all the major scriptures of Vedanta. These discourses were given in the Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy of the Society during the early morning sessions, afternoon classes, and the regular three-month courses. Many of them have been brought out in book form and are authentic commentaries covering the philosophy, psychology and practice of the various disciplines of yoga. Swami Krishnananda is thus the author of forty-one books which were printed during his lifetime, fifteen books which were printed after Swamiji's Mahasamadhi, and twenty-four unprinted books which are published on Swamiji's website, each one a masterpiece in itself. Only a genius of Swamiji's calibre could do this in the midst of the enormous day-to-day volume of work as the General Secretary of a large institution. Swamiji is a rare blend of karma and jnana yoga, a living example of the Bhagavadgita's teachings.

Such was Swami Krishnananda's literary skill and understanding of the entire gamut of the works of Swami Sivananda, numbering about three hundred, that when the Sivananda Literature Research Institute was formed on the 8th of September, 1958, Sri Gurudev himself made Swamiji the President. Again it was Swami Krishnananda who was appointed as the President of the Sivananda Literature Dissemination Committee, which was formed to bring out translations of Sri Gurudev's works in the major Indian languages. From September 1961, Swamiji was made Editor of the Society's official monthly organ, The Divine Life, which he did efficiently for nearly two decades.

Swami Krishnananda was a master of practically every system of Indian thought and Western philosophy. "Many Sankaras are rolled into one Krishnananda," said Sri Gurudev in a cryptic statement, which he himself has amplified in his article, He is a Wonder to Me! Swami Krishnananda, as the embodiment of Bhagavan Sri Krishna, lived in the state of God-consciousness and guided countless seekers along the path of Self-realisation. Swamiji attained Mahasamadhi on the 23rd of November, 2001.

All of Swami Krishnananda's books, plus many discourses, audios, videos and photos can be found on Swamiji's website at www.swami-krishnananda.org. According to Swamiji's wish and with his blessings, these are available freely to all. May the blessings of His Holiness Sri Swami Krishnanandaji Maharaj be with us always.