Glorious Fifty Years of Wisdom and Service
A Souvenir released on Swami Krishnananda's 50th Birthday
Swami Chidananda on Swami Krishnananda
by Sri 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 Sivanandji Maharaj, upon this joyful and auspicious anniversary of his 50th Birthday, which, we at the Ashram, are celebrating as his Golden Jubilee Jayanti Utsav.
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 this 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 lifeand 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 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 Golden Jubilee Birthday.
Beloved Swami Krishnanandji shines as the leading light of our monastic brotherhood at Sivannada Ashram and as the foremost amongst the spiritual teacher of Divine Life Society, whom worshipful Gurudev left behind to carry forward his spiritual work in this latter half of the 20th century. That he was born for this spiritual work and that he was 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.
It makes a most interesting as well as a rewarding study to look into the early life of this eminent spiritual son of India shining with highest knowledge, supreme dispassion, unequalled renunciation, simplicity, austerity, desirelessness and dedication. Swami Krishnanandji is Vedanta and Virakti personified and as such an embodiment of Dharma, of Gurubhakti and of Samadrishti (equal vision) that the very presence of this truly Great-souled Mahatma adds lustre to the order of Sanyas today.
In his Purvashrama, Swami physically hails from South Kanara district on the Western Coast of South India. He was the eldest son of a family of 6 children, four of them being his younger brothers and one a sister named Ratnavathi who was the fourth child in the family. His brothers Keshava, Ananda, Rajgopala and Satysundra are indeed most fortunate and blessed to have as their elder brother a sage and saint of such exceptional spiritual illumination as Sri Swami Krishnanandji who shines as the vedantic light of our times known not only in India but in numerous other countries across the seas. Known by the name Subbaraya, he was born of orthodox Shivaralli Brahmin parents, his father being Sri Kombrenje Shankara Narayana Puthuraya and his mother named Kaveri Amma. The family belongs to the Angirasa Gotra. Subbaraya, their eldest son was named after his grandfather Subbrarya Puthuraya. This ancestor was an ideal Grahastha strictly following the noble Dharma of Grahasthashrama. He was a very pious man and most compassionate and generous hearted. He spent most of his income in charity and was so kind and generous that he even sold away some of his property in order to do charity and help those who were less fortunate than himself.
It is related how being without male issue and being greatly concerned with his family line might come to an end without male lineage, this pious Subbaraya Puthuraya took a vow to feed holy Brahmins for one month during the Makara Masa every year throughout his life at the local Shanmukha temple at his village Kemminji near Puttur.
During this holy month, he was doing Pradakshinas (circumambulations) to the temple shrines, prostrating again and again before the deity so much so that his knees and elbows became bruised and began to bleed. This charity and austerity bore the desired fruit and he was blessed with a son as well as a daughter. This son named Shankara Narayana, is the poorvashrama father of Swami Krishnanandaji. Interestingly enough, Swamiji as the young child, Subbaraya spent the first years of his childhood often in the neighbourhood of the Shanmukha temple where his pious grantfather had done penance in the past and wherein during little Subbaraya's childhood his mother's father Sri Narasimha Kudraytaya was conducting daily worship of the Lord as the Archaka.
The forefathers of Swamiji belong to one of the respected Brahmin families settled in Tuluva (South Kanara district) by Maharaja Mayura Velma ruler of Banavasi. This family was well-versed in the performance of Karma-kanda and in the knowledge of Tantrashastra and was one amongst those authorised by the above ruler to practice 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 and it was no wonder therefore, that this highly evolved soul took its birth in such a pious, devout and religious family.
Swamiji's great-grandfather Keshava Puthuraya was at Mercara, the capital of Coorg in the 18th century as Archaka or priest-in-charge of the Omkareshwara temple in that place. So very sincere and earnest were the members of this family about carrying out the regular worship of the family Deity, that when one Gangadhara Puthuraya, another member of the same family living at the time in Kemminje village died a premature death, Sri Keshava Puthuraya was requested by the bereaved mother of Gangadhara to leave Mercara and go over and settle down in Kemminje in order to continue the performance of the regular Nitya Pooja (daily worship) and the Viniyogas of the family deities. At the family house, there is Nitya pancha pooja besides the due observance of all the religious festivals that are prominent in the Hindu Religious Calendar. Keshava Puthuraya thus left Coorg and came down and took up his residence at Kemminje.
As a child of 2 years of age, Subbaraya (Swami Krishnananda) was taken on a pilgrimage to Talakaveri in Coorg district. This is a very holy place at the source of 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 ‘Lord of Seven Hills' at Tirupathy. Little Subbaraya went once again in the company of his grand-father to the holy Tirupathy and had Darshana of Lord Venkateshwara, when he was a child of 5 years. From then onward he started his serious school career.
In the edcuational 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 up to 5th standard in this school and distinguished himself as an exceptionally intelligent student. His subsequent education up to S.S.L.C 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 highest marks and came out as the best and first student in the class. He always stood first in English, Mathematics, Science, History and Geography and in Sanskrit in the High school. He stood first in the High school examination also. Thus he endeared himself to his teachers. 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 or expression evidenced by the young scholar.
Sabbaraya had great liking for the Sanskrit language and took keen interest in the study of Sanskrit. This was his second language from the 6th class onwards. 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 text books. 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. His Sanskrit teacher, the well-known Sanskrit pandit of that area, Sri Kenneppady Parameshwara Shastri, had always a word of praise to say about this brilliant student of his, to his later students of subsequent years. Subbaraya had great ability and aptitude for study. He was a Jignyasu right from his earliest days and this trait later on naturally took the form of spiritual Jignyasa for divine knowledge. Side by side with his studies in the school, he learnt Suktas from the Rigveda, Pavamana, etc., from his father who was himself well versed in Sanskrit and also in the sacred scriptures. But then, his was not a case of "all work and no play" and he was no mere book worm. As a young student, Subbaraya was fond of playing at Ramayana with his younger brothers and his friends. Subbraya himself took the role of Rama, his brother that of Laxmana or Sita, and the others were given other suitable roles. Thus they formed a troupe and he used to lead this play during 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.
The deeper spiritual side of his nature began to shine in his conduct at this time. After he began studying Sanskrit he took to the study of Bhagavadgita 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 Madhava sect and the members were followers of Sri Madhavacharya Dwaita Philosophy, yet somehow young Subbaraya began to be gradually more and more drawn towards Shankaracharya's absolute Adwaita philosophy. He began reading Shankaracharya's Viveka Choodamani and Upanishad Bhashyas. He developed monastic tendencies and developed desire for solitude, aversion to large gatherings or mixing with people. He liked to be 'Vivikia sevi' as described in the Gita.
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 Sri Subaraya used to meet Sri Holla the advocate and borrowed from him the Vedas, Upanishads and similar other books and tried to delve into them and explore their inner meaning. Due to his studious nature, he used to take down notes of whatever he studied. Gradually a certain change was being wrought in his nature. The spirit of liberation and the spirit of renunciation was being awakened in the youth's heart. Subbaraya began to feel more and more that the only thing worth striving for was Kaivalya Moksha or a divine state of spiritual liberation. Thus he became convinced this was the highest ultimate goal of human existence. At times, he used to give expression to his feelings by saying that someday he would renounce everything and go away in quest of Kaivalya Moksha. But the people at home did not take it too seriously or literally coming as it did from a fellow teenager, also because they failed to understand the deep conviction and the firm determination that was behind those youthful expressions. Soon however, they learnt how very much in dead earnest their son was and how very serious and firm his resolutions to follow the path of spiritual quest that leads to the divine realisation of the Absolute.
Sometime in 1943, Subbraya took up Government service at Hospet in Bellary district. 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 home giving the impression that he would re-join his Government service at Hospet. But he straightaway went to the sacred city of Varanasi. The divine Government had claimed his services and young Subbaraya became a servant of God. At Banaras 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. The powerful pull of renunciation and monasticism now drew him to itself and the spiritual world claimed him once for all.
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 Sadguru Sri Swami Sivananda filled with the radiant light of Divine realisation. This is a memorable day in the annals of the Divine Life Society and a boon to the spiritual life of this country. Most blessed is that day when the aspiring young Subbaraya obtained the supreme Emperor among Gurus and the saintly Swami Sivananda found a rare gem among seekers and got a precious Jewel among disciples.
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 (please read "I MARVEL AT KRISHNANANDAJI" elsewhere in this Souvenir). Though Swami Krishnanandaji was devoted to the pursuit of Self-Knowledge and was a Balajnani, 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 the 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 Sanyasa Diksha ceremony now adopted at 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 an able organiser to set matters right claimed Swami Krishnanandaji as its own. Very soon he would sort out things and re-arrange them in such a way that even a veteran in the official field might well marvel at. Singlehanded, he has managed several departments at the same time. Yet, such was the depth of his realisation 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.
Swami Krishnanandaji 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 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."
Swami Krishnanandaji was the Sanskrit Guru for many students of the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy.
Subbaraya entered the Holy Order of Sanyasa on the 14th January, 1946, on the Holy Makara Sankranti Day, and since then has come to be known as Sri SWAMI KRISHNANANDA SARSWATI. In his own words, he felt a mysterious change within himself take place when Sri Gurudev uttered the glorious Mahavakyas. Who knows: perhaps even 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 a 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 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 becomes 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 had, 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 denser 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 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.
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 Ananda Kutir, as 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. When the flower blossoms, bees rush to it; they do not need invitation. Similarly, Krishnananandaji 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.
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 Satsangas 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 takes charge and manages the affairs of the Society very efficiently.
After the passing away of Guru Maharaj Swami Sivanandaji on the 14th July, 1963, the Trustees of the Ashram elected Swami Krishnanandaji Maharaj as its General Secretary and Swamiji manages the affairs of the Society with much efficiency. He still conducts all the religious observances in the Ashram. He guides Sadhaks not only in Jnana-Yoga and Vedanta 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.