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Swamiji Talks about His Early Days
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken on September 5, 1999)

Every day after puja my father would read a textbook, some Sanskrit book. He would not allow anybody to touch it also. One day I asked him, “What are you reading?”

“You should not talk about it. You won't understand anything,” he said. “It is the Srimad Bhagavatam and it contains everything.”

“Oh, I see. What does it contain?” I asked.

“You should not ask anything. You are a small boy. Go and study in the school.”

When he went to the market for something, I took the book. I started reading it because I knew Sanskrit. I was studying Sanskrit. “Oh, wonderful!” Then when he came back I said, “I found out it is in Sanskrit. I understand it.”

“Hey! You touched it? You should not touch it,” he said.

Before food he would read the Bhagavatam, and after food he would read the Sundara Kandam of the Ramayana. All these things inspired me. And then my father taught me Veda mantras, Purusha Suktam and Pavamana Suktam. I learned the whole Pavamana by heart. I was a voracious man in that. Always I remember it permanently, and do not forget anything. I remember every little incident of my life right from my childhood, even now. Every little thing I remember. All silly things, they  also I remember. My memory is very strong. Where I went, how I ate, where I ate food, where I was born, which house, and who were all staying there in that house, every detail I remember even now.

When I was a small boy, six years old, they took me to my uncle's marriage in Tirupati. I saw the Venkateswara Vigraham. I was a small boy, so I couldn't understand what kind of God it is. Thousands of people were rushing, and they covered the entire place and we could not move. One man was taking a firebrand and waving it to clear the people, so that they may split into two parts. Otherwise, they will block the whole thing. I went two times, when I was four years old and six years old. We had to climb all the steps. There was no road at that time. Venkata Venkateswara Venkata Venkata, they will say. All these I remember, everything, even now. Even the four-year-old experience I remember. And what happened to me afterwards, where I went, what I did, how many people I met, everything I remember even now. I can write an autobiography up to the minutest detail. I have not forgotten anything. After coming here also, which person spoke to me, what words he used, what he did, everything I remember. I cannot forget.

Nobody cared for me when I came here. I was sleeping on the muddy floor of the tin shed in Ramashram. I thought people are all eating roots and tubers and so on, because rishis are staying here. Three days I simply starved, with no water also.

At that time, Gopalananda came. “You have eaten?”

“I don't know anything,” I said. “What eating? Where, where?”

“I will give,” he said. It was 3 o'clock in the evening. By that time people had eaten and gone. He brought one dry chapatti, and a little sugar he put on it. “Take.”

I had never eaten a chapatti, nor could I eat it like this with sugar, but for a terribly hungry man everything is okay.

But I was disgusted, disgusted. Nobody talked to me. I was lying there, with scorpions around, on an uncemented floor in a tin shed. Now the tin shed has gone. They have removed it.

When I came first, I saw Swamiji in his office. His office was the post office. The ground floor, which is the post office, was his office. Every day he would come at 3 o'clock and do his correspondence. And there were two other visitors sitting. He wouldn't look at us. He simply went on sitting there signing letters, and then he got up. When he got up, I got up also and said, “I want to study yoga here.” He turned a deaf ear to it, and went away as if he had heard nothing. I was disgusted because nobody talked to me, so again I went to the Ramashram mud house. On the third day, I thought I must leave this place. I cannot live here. I bundled up my one single bedding I had. “I will simply go somewhere,” I thought. I was walking on that Ganga kinari road, and Swami Sivanandaji was going for a walk. He was walking every day on that veranda. Now it is covered, but at that time it was open.

Then he said, “What are you doing? Where are you coming from? What do you want?”

I said, “I want to practise yoga here.”

“What kind of yoga?”

I said, “Jnana yoga.”

“Hey, don't talk like that. Don't be proud like that. Do akhanda kirtan,” he said. “No jnana yoga and all that.”

He sent me to the Bhajan Hall, and the in-charge knew Tamil and Telugu. He was Tirmulacharya, a very good man. He said, “Do kirtan.”

I slept on the floor there. There was no bedding, nothing of the kind. Of course, it was hot summer so I could manage. Every day I would sleep there and do akhanda kirtan. He became very friendly with me because he found out that I have some aspirations, that I know Sanskrit, and so on. But nobody talked to me. I was simply doing kirtan.

And then one day Swamiji met me. “Do you know typewriting?”

“Yes,” I said.

“How long have you practised it?”

“I have practised for eight months.”

“Good. Give him work,” he said.

From that day he gave me all the manuscripts and typing, typing, typing, typing. He put me in charge of membership in the magazine section, doing puja in the temple, and I used to wake up Satchidananda Maithani every day. The oldest man, he was. He was called Masterji. Masterji means there was a primary school here in the room where now they kept the Linotype. That Linotype has gone away, but he was doing the class. He was a schoolmaster. Even now people call him Masterji. He was a pujari, so I would go and tell him, “This yajna must be done today,” because Gurudev had put me in charge of it, and the membership, and the satsanga.

I was in charge of the night satsanga at 6 o'clock in the evening. It was warm in summer, so it was in Gurudev's kutir only, on the veranda. I put a dhari. There was no assistant, only me. I put a cot, and Sri Lord Krishna's photo, and Gurudev's photo, anybody's photo. Then I started the kirtan: Jai Ganesh, Jai Ganesh, and so on, and read some text – Srimad Bhagavatam or Yoga Vasishtha or something. Then a few others would come and sit there. Every day till 11 o'clock this kirtan would go on, and in the morning he would come and wake me.

“Hey, sleeping, sleeping?” He said. “Take this manuscript. Type.”

I was very young and very vigorous and sprightly, so I didn't feel any difficulty in doing that.

There is no department in which I have not worked, and there is no room which I have not occupied. [Laughter] Everywhere I went on changing, changing, changing. I wanted to live in a room where my comrade would be an illiterate person, a rustic. I purposely chose that because if he was an educated man he would go on talking something, and I didn't want to hear anything. So a kind of boorish man was living in that kachha building which is now occupied by Maksood, perhaps, and I was staying there, and scorpions were stinging also. Great difficulty was there.

This is only a minimal introduction I am giving for the sufferings. I could not eat food. This North Indian food was an unknown thing. Dhal, chapatti – I never heard of such a thing, because I come from Karnataka. That is a very different kind of food.

I fell ill, also, and had severe asthmatic attacks, very severe bouts of asthma. Swamiji used to say, “Give an injection. Give an injection.” He would tell this to Chidanandaji. He was Sridhar Rao at that time. He was very kind to me. He would take care of me. He used to send somebody to get medicine. There was no medical shop in Rishikesh. It was a very small place. From Haridwar, Tyagi Medical Hall or something, they used to get injection vials, ephedrine, a very severe injection. It makes the heart jump, like this – adrenaline. Nowadays nobody will go for it. The asthma would subside. Then after that, I would work once again.

But I wanted to study. Satsanga went on till midnight, or 11 o'clock at night, and morning I was again working, so immediately after taking lunch I would run away to my place, and then I would start reading until 3 o'clock. 12 to 3 in the afternoon, only reading. The whole of Yoga Vasishtha I read and the Upanishads, Brahma Sutra, everything. I didn't keep quiet.

Then I had no rooms. After living with this illiterate man I shifted to the Music Hall where Vibhodanandaji is teaching music. Once a scorpion stung me there because I was sleeping on the floor, and I had very terrible pain. I ran to the Ganga and dipped my leg into the water, and then the pain became still more. If you dip the leg in the Ganga after a scorpion bite, the fire-like heat increases. The whole night I suffered.

There I wrote The Realisation of the Absolute in that Music Hall. I had no table, nothing of the kind. I was bending, like this. Omkarananda – his name was not Omkarananda, he was a young boy from Hyderabad – somehow he became friendly with me. “Oh, you are writing? I will type it for you,” he said. Omkarananda would type 15 to 20 pages at one stroke. “Write more, write more,” he would say. In fourteen days I wrote the whole book without any guidebook, reference, nothing. Only from the mind, the entire The Realisation of the Absolute I wrote.

But Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj liked me immensely. Very, very loving he was to me. If anybody came, “Go to Swami Krishnanandaji,” he would say.

Every evening at 6 o'clock I used to go and prepare for satsanga. It happened that this was his dinnertime. He would take fruit, some apple or something. Every day when he saw me coming and putting dhari, and so on, he used to keep a part of what he was eating separately in a katori, and he gave it to me. It went on for one or two days.

Afterwards, the cook got irritated. “This boy comes exactly at the time of eating,” and he went and complained to the Secretary. There was a Swami Nijabhutananda, and he went and told him, “This boy purposely goes at the same time when Gurudev takes food.”

Then he told me, “Why are you going at that time? Swamiji is deprived of the food. You can go a little late.”

“Okay,” I said.

I went late. When I went half an hour late, Swamiji said, “Hey, punctuality is God. Why are you coming late? Why are you coming late today? No, no. This idleness I will not tolerate.”

I still did not reveal the truth. The next day again I went late.

“I told you to come at the proper time. You are not listening to me?”

“Okay,” I said.

The third day also I went late.

“I am very angry with you. Why are you not doing the work properly? Punctuality, punctuality, punctuality.”

Then I told Swamiji, because how long could I go on keeping quiet? I said, “People are thinking I am coming here early to eat part of Swamiji's dinner.”

“Oh, I see. Hmmm.”

The next day when I went late, he wouldn't eat. He kept quiet. The cook brought everything and kept it there, but he said, “No, I won't eat. I will eat only when that boy comes.”

Oh, it was like adding fuel to the fire! Swamiji waited until I came, and then only he would give that katori. Then the whole ashram was thinking, “What is this going on? Swamiji is not eating because he is waiting for this boy and giving him at that time.”

I felt wretched. What to do, what to do? I said, “Swamiji, I don't want anything.”

“When I give, you must take,” he said.

My autobiography contains all these things, if I can write all the sufferings that I had, all the aspirations, all the people I met in Benares. And everyone I remember, each person whom I met in different places. Whom I met in the railway train, everything I remember. I have got a very strong memory even now. I cannot forget anything. What Chidananda Swamiji spoke to me on the first day I saw him, I remember even now. We met each other on the Ganga kinari. He was taking bath, and he told me something. “You are coming from Bangalore side? Very good, very good,” he said.

One of the wonders was, everybody liked me. They found that I am a very simple man, very endearing. Everybody found me endearing, which was not explicable to me. Swami Sivanandaji himself, he was very fond of me. For everything, Krishnanandaji.

So this is the first page of my autobiography [Laughter].

“What do you want?” Swamiji asked me the first day he met me. “I will make kings and ministers fall at your feet. Stay here till death.”

I thought, “I have never seen a king nor have I seen a minister, and I am a little boy. Why should they come and fall at my feet?” But his words became true. Like Nachiketas, for three days I had to stand. On the third day when I was walking in a deserted mood, Swamiji called me.