ARTICLES ABOUT SWAMI KRISHNANANDA
Motherly Kindness and Ruthless Truthfulness
by Vandana Mataji
Motherly Kindness and Ruthless Truthfulness seem to me to sum up the intellectual giant of a Swamiji, carrying in his heart the true spirit of Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji, on his face – when he smiles – a radiant joy; in his hearty laughter, which conveys his capacity of seeing the incongruous, his sense of humour.
Many people writing and speaking about Swamiji, will no doubt say much about his extraordinary gifts of intellect, his vast knowledge, not only of philosophy, theology, spirituality, but of all sorts of studies, events, peoples and places, in all of which he keeps himself so up to date. And this though he lives the Taoist truth; Lao Tzu says:
"Without going out of your door
You can know the ways of the world
The sage knows without travelling
Sees without looking
And achieves without Ado"
(Tao Te Ching)
Nor do I desire to eulogise his unusual capacity for administration carried out even in the tiniest details and often in between a highly spiritual dialogue at darshan times – without failing to return promptly to a previous speaker and the question posed before the interruption.
I can recall how much Ishpriya Mataji and I gained during the years 1974-1984 at these daily morning darshanas, and in particular by a Course Swamiji gave over weeks, for an hour each afternoon, on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad with an unusual mastery and his ever facile presentation, stopping always on the dot of the hour.
However it was not his academic gifts that were so important to me. Swamiji himself looks at studies as "having no desirable effect on us except that they make us carry a burden on the head, of a lot of information, and often of some rubbish, which keeps us in a state of fattened egoism and an empty soul" (The Search for Truth V in DLS Magazine, Jan, '97). True enough! Sitting at his feet one learnt "knowledge" as he understands it – that which is "an assimilation of an object into our consciousness."
"Love, affection, friendliness – qualities of the heart" which make one "overcome the fear of the other" seem to be actually part of Swamiji's own complex character which one could easily miss, if one met him only briefly or rarely. I would like to delineate here something of the feminine and gentle side of Swamiji which I have experienced personally.
I recall watching Swamiji walking through the dirt of our Tapovan Sarai village; and I do so with grateful love. The graciousness with which he had accepted to come to us on Christmas morning, and the simplicity with which he sat on the floor of our tiny Sadhana Kutir, near a small Christmas Crib; and the joyful light-hearted, yet spiritual discussions meant much to us. Beside the Crib he was able himself to enter, like a child, smiling and intrigued by something which was being shown to him. He was, and is, interested in any and everything, for he seems to "see the Self in all things, and all things in the Self." If, at times, he seems to dispose abruptly of a person or subject, it is merely a superficial gesture, not one coming from the depth of his heart. Often the fatigue of overwork, and his constantly poor health, could also be responsible for these 'interludes'. I recall again, with loving gratitude the number of occasions when he gave time to help me personally with spiritual questions or with information for some book I was writing; helping me by going through it himself and suggesting a publisher. I owe to his suggestions two of my books published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and Motilal Banarasidass! On one occasion he even offered to put in the diacritical marks on all the Sanskrit words in my book "Nama Japa"! When one realises how very busy he is, this was no small matter. Once I remember his coming to our rescue, like a mother concerned with everything that pertains to her children's comfort or needs, to obtain even kerosene oil – at a time when it was scarce! This shows his true humaneness and humanity, permeated by the Divine Presence.
However, let me add honestly, it was not always thus! When it came to principles he believed in as true, he was very firm in his views and opinions given, and could decidedly say a 'No'. When we first arrived at Sivananda Ashram in the early 70's I fear that he looked askance at the pair of us: not quite sure of our bona fide! Two strange nuns claiming to have come only for Sadhana and to learn at the feet of Gurudev's disciples and for no other subversive purpose! He didn't seem able to believe it! Gradually, however, with persevering tenacity and seeking only the truth, we became good friends. Perhaps it happened one morning, and seemingly decisively. I recall the event. It was at a Darshan when Swamiji had a long and lively discussion with Ishpriya Mataji. She ended the verbal battle by saying respectfully but firmly, "Swamiji, you are speaking from the philosophical point of view; I am looking at it from the psychological angle." To her surprise, the humble Swamiji said a few minutes later: "Ishpriya Mataji, tonight you will please talk at the Satsanga." To her horror he called her up in the Bhajan Hall that evening, just as Satsanga was about to begin and whispered that there were many Italian and other monks from Europe who had turned up, and that she should do well! She pleaded that they had surely come to India to listen to Hindu Swamijis of renown, like himself, not to her. But Swamiji stuck to his decision. And I think he was not disappointed by her performance!
A trait of Swamiji's character which has always struck me forcibly is his humble, solid desire for the Search of Truth – a subject on which he has been writing in the DLS Magazine for months. Truth, Reality, 'Sat' is what he is always seeking.
"Reality is quite different from what we see with our eyes or even what we think with our minds." – something one has to remember when judging, evaluating – if we must – anything or anyone. He was always eager to "make a further enquiry" until one reached the root of the matter. No matter whence the truth came – from an intellectual or an unlearned simple person: he would give it a heating, elicit more questions, discuss it, and sometimes even intimidate some people in the process. But what eventually emerged was almost always greater clarity and purity.
In his masterly way of teaching, he would often quote or illustrate with stories the truth he was propounding, sometimes with a great sense of humour. To see him throw his head back and laugh aloud was pure joy.
It was equally painful, on other occasions, to see him in physical pain due to his bad health; it often elicited admiration at his courage and endurance though it also made me often wonder how wise he was being, and how loving to his own self! But even while not well he would show his sense of fun. For instance, after an interruption at Darshan: "These auditors give us a lot of trouble", he said. "And, on top of that, we have to pay them!" I resonated with that feeling having seen our Ashram and convent Treasurers' sufferings over even five paise missing!
A steadfast adhesion to Gurudev's teachings was often expressed in almost tender terms. Twice at least I've heard him say, when speaking of Gurudev Sri Swami Sivananda, "He was like our own father, mother, teacher, friend – everything." He has been faithfully attached to the "obedience he had received" from Gurudev, to use a Christian monastic expression, about his staying on at the Ashram, from the time Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj was given the "obedience" of travelling to spread the Message. Even when very tired or ill, he has to be persuaded to leave the Ashram .....
Finally, he remains in my heart's memory predominantly as a man of the Spirit, a Spiritual Master. After one Sivaratri I recall his humble avowal: "I was without a thought for six hours" – no mean feat. It is from his Meditation and prayer life, I presume, that he draws his kindness, and what I call his passion for seeking and doing the Truth as I have seen and understood. In the title I have called this "ruthless" in the sense that when Swamiji thinks he has to be true to himself or to another, he will do so at any cost – even if it shocks some people or irks others; for he seems to suffer not at all from human respect – about what others think or say of him; only what God or Gurudev think of him.
This is how I have viewed Swamiji from my limited knowledge, and as I know him. My only prayer is that now, in the remaining years – hopefully, for us, many – God will grant him that he may – as T.S. Eliot puts it – "be still; and still moving into another intensity"* from which we shall all gain what he has the Best to offer us; – not administration but his Self, that Cosmic Consciousness he so loves.