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A Messenger of Peace and Wisdom
A Souvenir released on Swami Krishnananda's 75th Birthday


The Making of a Scholar-Saint – A Mini-Biography of Swami Krishnananda

by Swami Chidananda

Great is my happiness to express my homage and high regards to our most revered Swami Krishnananda Saraswati, my beloved spiritual brother and fellow-disciple at the feet of our most worshipful Guru Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, upon this joyful and auspicious occasion of his Platinum Jubilee Jayanti Utasv.

Sri Swami Krishnanandaji is the foremost spiritual personality of our Gurudev's holy Ashram, who has inspired, guided and enlightened countless spiritual seekers ever since his advent at the headquarters of the Divine Life Society in the year 1944. He has drawn to himself innumerable fortunate spiritual aspirants by the sublime spiritual quality of his life and his deep knowledge and rare wisdom.

Today, Swami Krishnanandaji is enshrined in the hearts of countless Sadhakas and students of Yoga and Vedanta all over the world by his loving disposition, his kindness to them, and his genuine keen interest in their spiritual progress and welfare. Thus, it is not only we, at the holy Sivananda Ashram, but also many thousands of spiritual people in many countries all over the world who will be rejoicing upon this very happy occasion of his Platinum Jubilee.

Beloved Swami Krishnanandaji shines as the leading light of our monastic brotherhood at Sivananda Ashram, and as the foremost amongst the spiritual teachers of the Divine Life Society, whom worshipful Gurudev left behind to carry forward his spiritual work. That he is a man with a mission in this modern age becomes clearly evident by the way in which he grew up in his young age and showed unmistakable signs of what was to come right from the very beginning of his life.

Birth and Infancy

Swamiji physically hails from the South Kanara district on the Western coast of South India. In his Purvashrama, he was the eldest son of a family of six children, four of them being his younger brothers and one a sister. Known by the name Subbaraya, he was born of orthodox Shivaralli Brahmin parents. The forefathers of Swamiji belong to one of the respected Brahmin families settled in the Tuluva Desa or South Kanara district by Maharaja Mayura Verma, ruler of Banavasi. This family was well-versed in the performance of religious rituals and in the knowledge of Tantra-Sastra and was one amongst those authorised by the above ruler to practise Paurohitya and Tantra as their services to the religious life of the community. As such, devotion and worship of God was very much a tradition in the family.

As a child of two years of age, Subbaraya was taken on a pilgrimage to Tala-kaveri in Coorg district. This is a very holy place at the source of the sacred river Kaveri in South India. In those days, during the first quarter of the century, there were neither good roads nor motor bus transport services available. So, the pious parents trudged on foot the entire distance of the pilgrimage, carrying the little child Subbaraya. The very next year, the parents took him to the famous hill-shrine of the Lord of the Seven Hills at Tirupati. Little Subbaraya went once again in the company of his grandfather to holy Tirupati and had Darshan of Lord Venkateswara, when he was a child of five years. From then onward, he started his school career.

School Days at Puttur

In the educational field, he surpassed all of his classmates in every class. He had early education at St. Francis Xavier's School at Darbe in Puttur town. He studied upto 5th Standard in this school. His subsequent education was in the Board High School at Puttur. At this time, the family was financially passing through a difficult period. But, thanks to young Subbaraya's brilliance in studies, he was fully exempted from school fees and similar dues by the school authorities who were highly pleased with his great proficiency in studies. Subbaraya used to score the highest marks in the class. He used to take part in the school debates which were being conducted in English. Once during the annual inspection, the District Educational Officer was stunned by the forceful oratory of young Subbaraya and was deeply impressed by the power of expression evidenced by the young scholar.

Subbaraya had great liking for the Sanskrit language and took keen interest in the study of Sanskrit. Not satisfied with what was taught in the class-room, young Krishnananda took to earnest self-study of Sanskrit with the aid of the Amara Kosha and other textbooks. He eagerly took guidance from any Sanskrit Pundit whom he happened to meet. He had a natural flair for the learning of this classical language and had an inborn genius for it. Consequently, he made rapid progress in this study, and even while at high school, he used to compose original poems in Sanskrit. Side by side with his studies in the school, he learnt Suktas from Rigveda, Pavamana, etc., from his father who was himself well-versed in Sanskrit and in the sacred scriptures. But then, his was not a case of "all work and no play" and he was no mere bookworm. As a young student, Subbaraya was fond of playing at Ramayana with his younger brothers and friends. Subbaraya himself took the role of Rama, his brother that of Lakshmana or Sita, and the others were given other suitable roles. Thus they formed a troupe and he used to lead this play during the midday lunch-hour recess or after school hours, with bows and arrows prepared from the branches of trees. He enjoyed this play and so did the others too.

Love for Scriptural Studies

The deeper spiritual side of Subbaraya's nature began to shine in his conduct at this time. After he began studying Sanskrit, he took to the study of the Bhagavad Gita of his own accord. Such was his intellect and unusual memory that he soon learned it by heart and began to repeat the whole of the Gita daily. During holidays, he would explain the meaning of this sacred text to his mother and his younger brothers. One thing is noteworthy about his spiritual state at this time, and that was, that though the family belonged to the Madhva sect and the members were followers of Sri Madhvacharya's Dvaita Philosophy, yet somehow, young Subbaraya began to be drawn towards Sankaracharya's absolute Advaita Philosophy. He began reading Sankaracharya's Viveka Chudamani and Upanishad Bhashyas. He developed monastic tendencies and a desire for solitude, an aversion to large gatherings and mixing with people.

At that time, there was at Puttur a very cultured and well-read gentleman belonging to the legal profession, by name Baindur Shivarama Holla, who had a good library of religious books. The aspiring young seeker Subbaraya used to meet the advocate and borrow from him the Vedas, the Upanishads and similar other books and delve into them to explore their inner meaning. Gradually, a certain change was wrought in his nature. The spirit of liberation and the spirit of renunciation were awakened in the youth's heart. Subbaraya began to feel more and more that the only thing worth striving for was Kaivalya Moksha or the divine state of spiritual liberation. At times, he used to give expression to his feelings by saying that some day he would renounce everything and go away in quest of Kaivalya Moksha. But the people at home did not take it too seriously.

Government Service – A Brief Interlude

Sometime in 1943, Subbaraya took up Government service at Hospet. But this phase lasted only for a short period. Even during his service, the youth was said to have been conducting Gita classes for the earnest public. He took leave on grounds of ill health and was at home for a while, recouping his health. But after a month's stay at home towards the end of that year, he left, giving the impression that he would rejoin his government service at Hospet. But he straightaway went to the sacred city of Varanasi. There he studied the Vedas and Sanskrit for a little while. But the call to seclusion and Sadhana drew him further north and he left Varanasi for Hardwar and thence for Rishikesh, briefly informing his parents through a letter that he would now be going in quest of the higher knowledge.

As a Sadhaka in Sivanandashram

Arriving at Rishikesh in the year 1944, the brilliant young seeker came face to face with his Guru upon the holy banks of the sacred river Ganga. Filled with the spirit of renunciation, young Subbaraya met his worshipful holiness Satguru Sri Swami Sivananda filled with the radiant light of Divine Realisation. The story of his first meeting with His Holiness Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, in whom the young man saw his spiritual preceptor, is told in an interesting manner by Gurudev himself (See "He Is a Wonder to Me" on page 2 in this Souvenir). Though Subbaraya was devoted to the pursuit of Self-Knowledge and was a Bala-Jnani, he did not hesitate to joyously undertake, willingly do, with the efficiency of a master and with the delight of one interested, any work that was allotted to him by the authorities of the Ashram. The Sivananda Charitable Dispensary needed an able hand to serve the sick that resorted to its medical aid; Swami Krishnanandaji was chosen for what he considered a blessed privilege. He used to conduct the Ashram Satsanga and play the most important roles in it, chanting hymns, reading from the scriptures and delivering lectures. He was well-versed in the Mantras and therefore he willingly undertook to conduct any ritual that was to be performed at the Ashram. It was he who culled out Mantras from several sources and codified the Sannyasa Diksha ceremony now adopted in the Sivanandashram. He became the Programme Director of all the Sadhana Weeks; he managed them most efficiently and won the admiration of the hundreds of Sadhakas who took part in each Sadhana Week, for his punctuality, regularity, and capacity for intense and hard work. Any department of work at the Ashram that needed an able organiser to set matters right claimed Krishnanandaji as its own. Beneath all this heavy load of strenuous work, he could put up a happy smile, and could, when not engaged in all this responsible work, meditate in absolute peace.

His needs were few, and wants were none. He had attained such a mental state that austerity was welcomed by him. His mastery over the senses and his hard work soon earned for him the admiration of H.H. Sri Swami Sivanandaji himself, who during the course of his talk to aspirants, on the 17th September, 1945, said: "Though he is a young man, he is full of Vairagya. He has controlled his tongue. I have tested him in so many ways. There is a fire in his speech. His words come from his heart. He is a young man with spiritual Samskaras. He who has done spiritual Sadhana in the previous birth is born with such Samskaras. He has done much work. He has translated several poems from Sanskrit."

Sannyasa Diksha and After

Subbaraya entered the Holy Order of Sannyasa on the 14th January, 1946, on the holy Makara Sankranti Day, and since then has come to be known as Sri Swami Krishnananda Saraswati. In his own words, he felt a mysterious change took place within himself when Sri Gurudev uttered the glorious Mahavakyas.

Though he continued to take an active part in the Ashram work even after this initiation, there was an almost imperceptible change in him. Automatically and miraculously, as it were, newer channels of work opened up before him. The service took a new turn. He took to lecturing and writing: no one knows how it came about – neither how the other departments of work dropped from him nor how the mantle of a Guru was thrown upon him. It is here that we see the mysterious hand of Providence unmistakably working His Will. Day by day, the young Swami grew more and more lustrous, more and more silent and reticent, more and more introspective and meditative, more and more a manifest man of God. He had long before become a master of the art of resorting to inner seclusion. Now he resorted to external seclusion also. The silence of the forests around the Ashram attracted him. The thought of God, God-consciousness, kept him awake many a night. He rapidly became blind to the world of names and forms, and deaf to all the talk of the world. His gaze fixed on the ground before him, he flitted about like lightning, whenever he had to move out of his Kutir. He eagerly discussed Vedantic truths; he listened to aspirants' doubts and delightfully cleared them; but worldly topics dared not approach him. Living in the world, amidst men and women, yet he was living far beyond and above it, beyond the reach of the worldly. Frequently he went away from all human habitation, in order to commune more thoroughly with That. Such was the fire of his renunciation that no thought of hardships could ever deter him from seeking the seclusion of the densest forests. At other times, he plunged himself in intense activity. Meditation and study, seclusion and selfless service – they all went hand in hand.

Then came the great day, somewhere in 1948, when he had, what he termed "a lightning glimpse of Truth." He was so lost in it, that for a considerable time after that he took no interest in anything. His behaviour – already reserved and serene – became still more austere. For several months he confined himself to a room and uttered not a word to anyone on any subject whatsoever. He never asked for anything; there was no desire in him to express. He took what came to him unasked. He was ever blissful and peaceful.

Swami Krishnanandaji's emergence from this period of what we could only term as "concentrated God-consciousness" was hailed by the establishment of the Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy. Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj promptly appointed Sri Swami Krishnanandaji its Professor of Vedanta. There was "fire in his words" even before; now there was that clarity which clearly indicated a perfect perception of Truth. The words were illuminating. He spoke as one endowed with authority.

As He is Today

The story of Swami Krishnanandaji Maharaj, after 1948, is just one of a Jivanmukta enjoying the Sahaja-Samadhi-Avastha. It is the story of Jada Bharata retold. Radiating peace and bliss, he lives in Sivanandashram in a state of Continuous Self-Awareness. All service is welcome to him; though he does not desire to do this or that. When the flower blossoms, bees rush to it; they do not need invitation. Similarly, Krishnanandaji has without the least ostentation drawn to himself many aspirants and seekers after Truth from all parts of the world; to them all, he has become a Guru. He guides Sadhakas not only in Jnana-yoga and Vedantic Sadhana, but in other branches of Yoga as well. He is himself an adept in Hatha Yoga, a master of Raja-Yoga and a great Bhakta of Lord Krishna. He is a master of the Yoga of Synthesis propounded by His Holiness Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj; and is today a wonderful replica of the Master. Hari Om Tat Sat.