ARTICLES ABOUT SWAMI KRISHNANANDA
The Royal Swan is Seventy-Five
by Baldeo Sahai
He has been rendering yeoman's service to mankind by interpreting ancient Indian philosophy in modern scientific idiom. In doing so Swami Krishnanandaji Maharaj has drawn profusely upon the immense output of Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji. Swamiji is not only a writer of impeccable English prose marked with a rare felicity of expression and a happy turn of phrase, but is also an impressive speaker. His evening discourses at the Ashram are eagerly awaited and some of his books are transliteration of his lectures. Being a master of his subject, he has off-hand recorded interviews in which the devotees – some of them from other lands – have expressed their spiritual difficulties and the Swamiji has authoritatively resolved them to their satisfaction. It is indeed a pity that his books are not prescribed in the courses of even Indian universities so that our future citizens get acquainted with the Indian heritage through the commentaries written by a profound scholar.
The cultural atmosphere of the period in which the Vedic literature like the Upanishads was written was altogether different than what it prevails today. To fill this cultural gap of centuries is a colossal task which has been so beautifully bridged by the interpretations of Swami Krishnanandaji. He has written commentaries on all principal Upanishads and produced many other erudite volumes.
Take for example his exposition of the first Mantra of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. The horse of the Asvamedha Sacrifice is symbolic, a piece of contemplation, the avowed purpose of the Upanishad – which universalises the particulars. The head of the horse – the beginning of the body – is the dawn, beginning of the day. The eyes may be compared to the sun and the moon, the prana within to the Cosmic Wind, mouth to the Cosmic Fire, body to the entire year, limbs to seasons, and so on. The sacrificial horse symbolises the entire external universe. The Asvamedha Sacrifice thus becomes an object of contemplation, literally an animal but psychologically and spiritually, as an element like any other element in creation as a whole.
Extending the metaphor, Swamiji elaborates, the clouds are the flesh of his body, the rivers are veins and arteries, the plants and shrubs his hairs, his yawning is like the lightening and the shaking of his body is like the thunder of the raining season.
A reference to Asvamedha Yajna, therefore, does not mean that a horse is physically brought to the Vedi and sacrificed with a sword in hand. It is purely symbolic. The purpose is that the performer of the Yajna will contemplate upon the entire creation as the Virat-svarup of the all-pervading Brahma-Isavasyam-idam sarvam.
In the same vein, Swamiji explains the Panchagni Vidya in the Chhandogya Upanishad. The first oblation really is the universal vibration in the celestial Heaven. The second is the reverberation in the lower regions of atmosphere in the form of rainfall. The grosser manifestation of events in the world is the third oblation. The fourth sacrifice is the Man himself who energises himself with food and produces virility. The fifth oblation is the woman whose union with man brings about the birth of a child. These are the five fires – Panchagni – and are not be regarded as individual events. Here, again, the emphasis is on rising above one's little ego, expanding his consciousness and establishing oneness with the Virat.
Swamiji is able to interpret ancient symbolism in the modern language of science because he is soaked in the Vedic lore and has meditated upon these esoteric mysteries. He has also thoroughly imbibed the contemporary scientific temper and is well conversant with western philosophical thought.
Analysis of Western Thought
He has analytically examined the contribution of almost all major philosophers of the West ranging from Socrates to Kant, Bergson and Whitehead. The point of reference has been mostly the Vedanta and the works of Gurudev Swami Sivananda. Gurudev wrote as many as 300 volumes and by comparing his philosophical thought with that of the West, Swami Krishnanandaji has shed incandescent glow on both.
In explaining Vedanta, Swamiji says that man is neither pure spirit nor pure mind or body. He is a harmonious blend of the body, mind and spirit. The spiritual Self, the thinking mind, and the physical senses together constitute an individual. "We are an organic whole, not merely separate parts." as Descartes thinks.
Swamiji elaborates that an organic unity cannot be explained by mechanical laws even as the functions of the human body cannot be subjected entirely to the mathematical laws of physics. The fulfilment of the individual lies in the final realisation – Darshan – of the Absolute.
Reconciliation With Science
Referring to the predicament that there is no freedom in the universe and indeterminacy – or the Heisenberg principle of uncertainty – reigns supreme, Swamiji precociously points out that such a conclusion is exaggerated. This principle only means that the ways of tracing the movements of the electron are not yet known to the scientists. That their present instruments of research are not as subtle as the force with which the electrons move. He is very right and the efforts are already on to discover some definite design of the orbits in 'electron cloud.'
Swamiji is like a Rajhans, the Royal Swan, who is perfectly at ease in all the regions of the universe. He can take superb flights in the infinite heavenly regions, glide gracefully over the world of water, and as well walk with steady steps over the terra firma. He can delve deep into the past, survey the contemporary scene with ease, and also entertain elevating visions of the future indicating lines of future research.
Once this scribe approached him to suggest some material for writing a book on 'Contribution of India to the Thought of the World.' And the long bibliography he rattled of at the spur of the moment! It covered coveted volumes on history, science, astronomy, astrology, mathematics, philosophy, and what not. I would require several lives to go through the books mentioned by him. He has not only read but chewed and digested many of them. His range of knowledge is indeed stupendous.
His writings are generally lucid but at times he can be quite abstruse compelling the reader to tap his intelligence and pull himself up. At first sight few can visualise the greatness of this small man. We at the Sivananda Ashram are really very fortunate to have him in our midst, enjoy the privilege of sitting by his side and talking to him. The genial sunshine he sheds around and the jokes he may fling at you will never give you an impression that you are in the presence of a walking encyclopaedia. Whenever I have written anything sensible about philosophy, the credit goes to Swamiji, if there has been anything wrong, the fault is entirely mine.
I with my entire family offer our humble homage to revered Swamiji on the auspicious occasion of his Amrit Mahotsava and pray for many many more years of his precious life.