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Essays on the Upanishads and Other Essays
A Souvenir released on Swami Krishnananda's 33rd Birthday


SRI SWAMI KRISHNANANDA: A Short Life-Sketch

by Sri Swami Venkatesananda

“He is our Dakshinamurthy,” said His Holiness Sri Swami Sivanandaji once, when H.H. Sri Vibhuti Jyoti Nityanandaji Maharaj pointed to Sri Swami Krishnanandaji and wondered: “Who knows how many Sankaracharyas is have gone into our young Swami.” Truly so: for at the feet of this young saint many grey heads have bowed in reverence and imbibed the wisdom of the Upanishadic lore.

The highest discrimination, perfect dispassion and a burning yearning for Liberation were born with Sri Subba Rao (as Sri Swami Krishnanandaji was known before he embraced Sanyasa) on 25th April, 1922. Today it is hard for anyone to penetrate the invulnerable fortress of Self-Awareness in which Sri Swami Krishnanandaji has hidden himself; one can hardly drag him out of it to reveal his present exalted state of spiritual development, much less to mention anything of his earlier life. But the dawn of discrimination, even while he was in his teens in the present incarnation, is a positive indication that (in the words of the Kathopanishad) the Great Atman had chosen him to reveal Itself to him in order that he may in his turn reveal It to thirsting spiritual aspirants. Those endowed with the spiritual vision alone could perceive it with precision; but the awe-inspiring spectacle of a young man in the full bloom of youth walking out of a house in which he could have lacked nothing—neither material comforts, nor the prospects of prosperity, nor even the religious and spiritual training that a pious soul like his might long for—vividly brings before us the picture of an already perfected soul coming down to the earth, “on deputation from the Most High”, charged with a special spiritual mission. What else could account for the birth of the divine Sukadeva? Nothing but the supreme compassion of the Lord, with whom Swami Krishnanandaji must have realised his identity even in his previous birth, could have bound the realised soul with the divine bonds of cosmic love, and closed it with a resplendent body, adoring, worshiping and prostrating themselves before which ignorant Jivas would easily be transformed into illumined souls.

Subba Rao's parents were pious, holy and orthodox. They gave the traditional religious training to the boy while he was young. Even as a boy Subba Rao had mastered the scriptures. He had studied the Rig Veda and got by heart the Gita. Merciful Providence in its unfailing omniscience had put him through a course of English education in a modern school, so that he could later in life shine as a master-interpreter of the great Vedantic truths to the entire world, in the world-language, English.

The next step that he took is the most astounding one of bowing to the wishes of his earthly parents and accepting a job in a Government Office. From this point onwards, his life strongly resembles the life of the famous Jada-Bharata, the great sage whose soul-elevating Upadesha transformed the life of a great monarch, Rahugana. Even as Jada-Bharata who was a Jnani of the highest order unhesitatingly accepted to be the king's palanquin-bearer, Subba Rao accepted to serve in the Government Office.

Like Jada-Bharata, Sri Subba Rao would have willingly submitted his life being sacrificed at the altar of a petty job. But Almighty Providence had ear-marked him for a much greater purpose; and even as Mother Durga rescued Jada-Bharata from the grip of the dacoits, the Lord took Subba Rao away from the grip of the government and family.

Subba Rao, finding himself released from all bondage, “flew away” from his home-town. Where to go? Some mysterious power awakened within him the desire to go to Banaras: that was a holy name he had heard in his boyhood; he had always come to associate Banaras with Sadhana, Moksha and Sadhuhood. He went to Allahabad. There he rid himself of all worldly possessions and shone as a Liberated Soul.

In a strange land, among unknown people speaking an unknown language, what could have been the condition of a penniless young man in tattered white garments can best be imagined. It was early winter; he had to sleep anywhere on the bank of the holy Ganga, with God's wide sky as the roof over him. But, Subba Rao was not of this world, and lived in a world of his own, swimming in the ocean of Bliss, oblivious of his own body and the surroundings. The people of the holy Uttarakhand did not take much time to recognise this young sage, and they considered it a privilege to look after his body. By stages, he was guided by the mysterious Hand of Providence to Rishikesh and to Sivanandashram, which sage was destined to make his abode, from where to broadcast the message of Vedanta.

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 Sri Swamiji Himself. Though Subba Rao 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 and able hand to serve the sick that resorted to its medical aid; Swami Krishnanandaji was chosen for what he considered the blessed privilege. He used to conduct the Ashrama Satsangs 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 them for their Sanyasa Diksha ceremony now adopted at the Ananda Kutir. 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 enable organiser to set matters right claimed Krishnanandaji as its own. Very soon he would sort out things and rearrange them in such a way that even a veteran in the official field well might marvel at. Single-handed, he has managed several departments at the same time. Yet, such was the depth of his realization of the truth of the Gitopadesha: naiva kinchit karomeeti yukto manyeta tattvavit that beneath all this heavy load of strenuous work, he could put up a happy smile, and could, when not engaged in this responsible work, meditate in absolute peace.

Subba Rao was fond of study of scriptures. Finding that his selfless duties hardly allowed him time to study during the day, he would get up very early in the morning—often at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., and pour over the sacred lore of Bharatavarsha. He completed the Mahabharata in this manner. Other philosophical treatises also he studied during the early morning hours.

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 had 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 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 reorganized the Magazine Section which was all in a state of confusion. He works strenuously; besides, he has translated several poems from Sanskrit.”

The Subba Rao was the Sanskrit Guru for many students of the Yoga Vedanta Forest University.

He entered the Holy Order of Sanyasa on the 14th January, 1946, on the holy Makara Sankranti Day, and since then he has come to be known as Swami Krishnananda. In his own words, he felt a mysterious change within himself take place when Sri Gurudev uttered the glorious Mahavakyas. Who knows: perhaps even in the thin veil of forgetfulness with which the Brahma-Jnani had clothed himself in order to take birth here and to play the role of teacher, was once again removed, at the magic touch of the Master.

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 the 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 far away from 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 renunciation that he was, such was the spiritual yearning that he had, that no thought of the hardships that he might have to endure, could ever deter him from seeking the seclusion of the densest forests, away, far away from human habitation. At all 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—the blessed Yoga Hall in which the Yoga Museum is at present housed—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 held by the establishment of the Yoga Vedanta Forest University. 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.

The story of Swami Krishnanandaji's emergence, 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 Ananda Kutir, is the very Light of Ananda Kutir, in a state of continuous Self-Awareness. All service is welcome to him; though he does not desire to do this or that. Sankalpa is completely dead to him—except the one great Sat-Sankalpa: “May all beings be happy, peaceful and illumined.” When the flower blossoms, bees rush to it; they do not need an 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. Mention should be made of Prof. Sri Edwin A. Burtt, a noted Western philosopher, who stayed at the Ashram for nearly a month. The professor and Mrs. Burtt spent about an hour every evening with Swami Krishnanandaji and Swami Chidanandaji, discussing philosophical problems. What they think of their discussions, Professor Burtt has nicely put in the tribute he has paid to Swami Krishnanandaji, published in this souvenir.

Swami Krishnanandaji's exposition of the exhibits of the Yoga Museum is ever eagerly looked forward to by those who visit the Ashram. His lectures are the highlights of all the functions and Satsanga at the Ashram. Whenever his services are needed in the other fields of the Ashram's activity, he readily offers them. When Swami Chidanandaji goes on tour, Swami Krishnanandaji acts as the General Secretary and manages the affairs of the Society very efficiently. He still conducts all the religious observances in the Ashram. 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. No greater tribute could be paid to his glorious personality than what Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj once told me: “Swami Krishnanandaji and Swami Chidanandaji have attained heart-to-heart union with me. These two Beaconlights of Divine Life together represent Sri Gurudev in all his divine aspects. May they live long to guide us! Made their blessings be upon us all!