This book, a compilation of class-talks given by the author to groups of earnest spiritual aspirants in Europe, the U.S.A. and India, is a practical manual of spiritual life with special emphasis on meditation. Though designed for the use of religious people in general, it is specially intended for those who sincerely practice prayer, japa and meditation, and are eager to attain some spiritual fulfillment. The true seeker of Truth will find in it simple but valuable guidance regarding preliminary preparations, the different techniques of meditations, the various obstacles that are to be overcome, the nature of genuine spiritual experiences, and other important details of meditative life which can otherwise be gained only through intimate contact with an illumined guru.
'Be bold and face the truth', said Swami Vivekananda. Here is a book which teaches you how to do this. Here is a book for the guidance of sincere spiritual aspirants who have heard the divine call, who have in response to it accepted God-realization or, what amounts to the same, Self-realization as the highest goal of life, who consider no sacrifice too great, no price too high for the attainment of the goal.
Interest in Yoga and other forms of Indian spirituality has in recent times become world-wide. Disillusioned with the promises of institutional religions and the glamour of science and technology, recoiling from the evils of a materialistic culture, countless people in the west are seeking a new orientation to life and reality. And a number of books and periodicals are being brought out in India and abroad to meet this cultural need. Not all these books, however, have equal authenticity or value. Nor is it true that all those who turn to oriental thought are genuine seekers of the ultimate Truth. Many are in search of an intellectual framework which suits their thoughts and actions. Some others are attracted to the miraculous, the exotic, spooky elements of religion. But there is always a small group of sincere aspirants who never stop short of genuine spiritual realization and fulfillment. It is to meet the spiritual needs of this less obtrusive but more important group that this book has been designed.
The author of this book, Swami Yatiswarananda, was well known during his lifetime as an illumined soul, an eminently capable spiritual director, a most affable and gentle personality endowed with a deep understanding of human problems and great love and sympathy for all people. A much respected senior monk of the Ramakrishna Order, and later on its Vice-President, the Swami was one among the foremost disciples of Swami Brahmananda, the great disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. A brief account of the life of the Swami and his reminiscences of his guru have been included in the beginning of this book.
In 1993, in response to the earnest request of Wolfram H. koch and a few other German Students of Vedanta, the Order sent Swami Yatiswarananda to Wiesbaden, Germany, from where three years later the Swami shifted the centre of his activities to Switzerland Geneva, Lausanne, Zurich, Campfer and St. Moritz. He also made occasional visits to France and Holland. Not a preacher in the conventional sense of the term, the Swami laid greater stress on practice than the theory. During his six years of stay in Europe, he tried to organize small circles of sincere spiritual aspirants who were eager to attain Self-realization and were willing to bear the rigours of the spiritual path. He took classes for them on books like the Spiritual Teaching of Swami Brahmananda, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Uddhava Gita, the Narada Bhakti-Sutras and selections from the Upanisads. But, of the spiritual fare that he laid out for his European Students the piece de resistance was the spiritual Teaching of Swami Brahmananda. This book was the trend-setter, and it may even be stated that all his class talks given in Germany and Switzerland were an elaboration of the teachings of his own master.
Through the influence of the Swami many lives were changed, and several men and women seemed to find some deep spiritual fulfillment. Though none of these early students became members of the Ramakrishna Order or took monastic vows, the Swami hoped that many of them would in due course become living channels for the diffusion of Vedanta and the ideals of the Ramakrishna Movement in that part of the globe. With this end in view he tried to train them in an exclusively spiritual way of life, and gave them detailed instructions regarding the practice of strict chastity, detachment, renunciation, purity in inter-personal relationships, strength of mind, completed self-surrender to the Divine, payer, meditation and, above all, seeing God in all men and women. Himself fresh from the spiritual arena, and filled with a divine fervour to share the experiences of his own exalted life with those sincere aspirants whom destiny had entrusted to his spiritual ministration, the Swami exhorted his students to practise intense meditation and make an all-out effort to realize the ultimate goal of life. A measure of the zeal and earnest response of his students could be seen in the meticulous care with which some of them took down verbatim notes of these class talks.
The pioneering work of Swami Yatiswarananda in Europe ground to a halt with the eruption of the second World War, but a valuable legacy of his sacrifice has come down to us in the form of these notes. Selections of these were later on published in Vedanta Kesari during the years 1938-40. Some of the notes were translated into French by jean Herbert and published under the title Swami Brahmananda: Discipline monastique, commentaries de Swami Yatiswarananda. The original notes of all the talks the Swami gave in Europe the files of which are preserved in the archives of Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Bangalore form the main core of the present book, which is now being published more than twelve years after his demise.
In the year 1940 Swami Yatiswarananda left Europe and went to the United States where he opened a new Vedanta Centre in Philadelphia. The experience he had gained from his work in Europe and now his acquaintance with the American culture taught him that though a large number of people were attracted to the ideal of a contemplative life, few had the inner qualifications to actualize that ideal. The more than two hundred and fifty talks on as many themes that he gave in Philadelphia, the notes of which are preserved in the archives of Bangalore Ashrama, show a distinct change in his methods of teaching and spiritual direction, change became mellowed and less rigorous. Reasoning, self-analysis based on the then popular Freudian psychology, a balanced outlook on life and an attitude of acceptance, spiritualization of secular work and service of God in man, topped the list of priorities in the scheme spiritual life that the Swami presented to his American students. He also started including in his talks humorous stories and anecdotes to illustrate his points or to relieve the strain of long listening. A few of these talks given in Philadelphia and others given later on in Bangalore, India, were brought together in the book, The Adventures in Religious Life, published a few years after the Swami's return to India.
In the present book we have included some material from the Philadelphia talks, but the major portion consist of the notes of class talks given in Germany and Switzerland. As already pointed out, the spiritual instruction contained in these talks were meant for a small group of young men and women whom he wanted to train for an intensely spiritual life. The uncompromising tone many of these instructions may appear to some of our readers to be too severe and the instructions, too difficult to practise. We are, however, publishing them in the hope that, on the other hand, those who are struggling hard in the spiritual path will get immense benefit from them. This is not a book of philosophy but a document of a lifetime's experience of a spiritual genius. Let the reader exercise his common sense take from it as much as he can actually put into practice. 'Time is an important factor', Swami Yatiswarananda once remarked. 'One must wait patiently till one sees one's way clearly by the grace of the Lord.' If this book serves to kindle the fire of aspiration in a few sincere heats and enables them to follow the true path of spiritual life, we shall consider our labours amply rewarded.
After the publication of the Adventures in Religious Life, Swami Yatiswarananda expressed a wish to some of his disciples to bring out another book on practical spirituality which would give more detailed and intimate instruction on meditative life. He seemed to have entertained the idea of incorporating in it some of the Wiesbaden and St. Moritz class talks, and excerpts from some of his letters to his European student. We are now brining out the present collection of most of his important spiritual instructions in the hope that it will bring to fruition his wish to a great extent. About half the matter in the book is now officially appearing in print for the first time. The other half is derived from articles previously published in various journals at different times.
Being a posthumous publication, it is difficult to know how the author would have liked to have its contents arranged. However, following his favourite way of classifying spiritual themes, we have divided the book into three parts with the titles 'The Idea', 'Practice' and 'Experience. 'Every seeker of Truth must learn to order his life according to a definite pattern. He must first of all have a clear understanding of the goal he is striving for. A theoretical knowledge of the real nature of the soul, the universe and God, and their interrelationships is to be gained before one embarks on the spiritual journey. The purpose of Part I entitled 'The idea' is to help the aspirant in this task. Part II entitled 'Practice' is divided into two sections. The first section deals with the qualifications and preparations necessary for a life of intense prayer and meditation. Considering the great importance the author attached to this subject, we have allotted a considerably large space to it in the hope that it will act as a corrective to the modern tendency to minimize or overlook the need for strict discipline and purity of mind in meditative life. The second section gives an account of the actual spiritual techniques to be practiced by aspirants according to their aptitude and stage of spiritual growth. Part III discusses the spiritual experience that a persevering seeker is likely to be blessed with and also some of the psychological reactions that often come in the wake of such experiences. It concludes with brief accounts of the lives of some of the great saints of world religions. A fourth part bring together a number of stray thoughts of the author, mostly recorded as St. Moritz, Switzerland.
We have tried to preserve the thoughts of the author in their original form throughout the book. The informal conversational style of the class talks has been retained. But, for the sake of greater clarity and practical utility, we have rearranged the lines and paragraphs in the original published and unpublished papers so as to give greater coherence to ideas, and organic unity to the whole book. There is now a sequential development of ideas not only from the first chapter to the last, but also within each chapter. This reshuffling has also served to eliminate repetition of ideas to a great extant, but in a work of this kind some repetition is unavoidable and may even be a necessity. Many of the captions and subheadings found in the original papers have been retained, but new ones have been added wherever found necessary. The two chapter on the lives of saints included in the third part are based on an abridged version of a series of lectures on the subject given by Swami Yatiswarananda in Bangalore during 1956-58.
This book is not a systematic exposition of the philosophy of Hindu sadhana. But it has its own distinct theoretical framework. Beneath the instructions, admonitions and practical hints lie embedded certain fundamental principles which the author found to be universally true in the course of his years of effort and foundation of the whole book have been codified in the form of what he often called 'the laws of spiritual life'; they are as follows:
1. Whatever we take to be real for the time being, affects our whole personality, thoughts, emotions and actions. Our whole being responds to this reality.
2. Our concept of reality depends upon our concept of ourselves; that is, man's conception of God evolves with the evolution of his consciousness.
3. Spiritual awakening is the transformation of one's consciousness, which mans moving from a lower center to a higher center of consciousness.
4. Through distinct from the moral imperative, spiritual aspiration must be supported by it. The practice of concentration (meditation), if not preceded and followed by purification of mind and sublimation of instincts, is likely to lead the aspirant astray.
5. Each aspirant must first understand where he is and being from there; but making the best use of the protection and support given to him during the early years of his life, he should outgrow them and stand on his own legs, drawing his sustenance more from the Divine than from men and institutions. This is the law of spiritual growth. It means that an aspirant can move forward in the spiritual path only if he is prepared to abandon the supports which helped him in the earlier stage.
6. The realization of the Absolute the transcendental Reality lies always through the realization of the immanent divine Principle. The holy Personality (Ista De vata) is a manifestation of this divine Principle.
7. The more our consciousness expands, the more we see the Divine in all people and the more spiritual we become.
Meditation and Spiritual Life is the first important book in English published by Sri Ramakrishna Asrama, Bangalore, of which Swami Yatiswarananda was the President for fifteen years (1951-66). Its publication has been made possible, in the first place, through the devoted care with which some of his students had kept an accurate record of his talks and personal instructions. The gratitude of the readers of this book naturally goes to them. The generous monetary contributions made by a large number of devotees in India and abroad have served to meet a major part of the cost of printing this book, and to all of them we extend our thanks. Our thanks also go to many others who helped the publication in several ways on several occasions.
We send forth the book with the fervent hope that it will prove to be an unfailing source of inspiration, guidance and solace to numerous spiritual aspirants in the in the East and the West, in their journey from the unreal to the Real; from darkness to Light, and from death to Immortality.
The first edition was warmly received by spiritual aspirants in India and abroad, and its five thousand copies were exhaustd in just three years. The second edition is now being brought out to meet the growing demand for it.
In this second edition a new chapter, 'The Guru and Spiritual Guidance', which original appeared in the March 1982 issue of Prabuddha Bharata, has been included; besides, a few more teachings, gathered mostly from the author's letters to his disciples, have been added here and there, and the Index has been revised.
We are extremely happy to place before our readers this new edition of Meditation and Spiritual Life. The merit of this massive work stands paralleled only by a few others of its kind. What marks this work as a perfect guidebook to "spiritual life and meditation" is the extensive coverage of the subject Pari Passu with a soul-searching view into its important aspects. The sublime topics have been couched in a language that is lucid and simple and, moreover, the words herein bear a stamp of authority, for the author was known to be a distinguished person for his lofty attainments in this domain. For such reasons and more the book has gone through five editions till date, amply vouching for its popularity among the sincere practitioners of spiritual life and meditation.
Since the publication right has been made over to us, it gives us great joy to present this book to the readers, that too with the fervent hope that it will continue to inspire and guide spiritual aspirants not only to being but also to successfully march ahead on this path. We are grateful to Ramakrishna Math. Bangalore, for transferring the copyright of the book to us.
Swami Yatiswarananda, known as Suresh Chandra Bhattacharya in his pre-monastic life, was born on Wednesday, 16 January 1889 in his maternal uncle's house in a village named Nandanpur in the district of Pabna which is now in Bangla Desh. His father, Ishan Chandra Bhattacharya, a teacher in a Government School, was a devout Brahmin and his mother Bidhumukhi Devi too was a pious lady, and he was fortunate in being born in a religious family.
He had his early education in Jalpaiguri and Bogra and passed the B.A. examination from a school in Rangpur. He studied Rajsahi and Cooch Behar Colleges and after-wards at the Bangadasi College, Calcutta. Finally, he got admitted into the Presidency College, Calcutta from where he passed the B.A. examination, securing a gold medal for having stood first in Sanskrit in the Calcutta University. He continued his post-graduate studies in Chemistry up to the sixth year, but did not come out successful, obviously because of his indifference to his studies. At this time, he was being filled with the spirit of renunciation as a result of his contact with the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna at the Belur Math. His parents naturally wanted him to lead a householder's life, but he plainly told his mother some day towards the end of 1911 that he was going to join the Ramakrishna Order to attain God-realization and that, if he failed in his mission, he would surely come back and accede to their wishes.
With the little money that his parents gave him he came straight to the Belur Math and Joined the Order in 1911 at the age of 22. He was an initiated disciple of Srimat Swami Brahmanandaji Maharaj, one of the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, and was invested with sannyasa by him in 1917 at Madras.
In 1921 he became the Editor of Prabuddha Bharata, in which capacity he continued for two years. Thereafter, he was made the President of the Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama at Bombay for about a year. In 1926 he was appointed the President of the Madras Math and he continued so till 1933. In 1928 he was made a Trustee of the Belur Math and a member of the Governing Body of the Ramakrishna Mission. At the invitation of a group of earnest souls, he was deputed to Wiesbaden in the Rhineland (Germany) where he arrived in November 1933. From the winter of 1935 to the end of 1938 he extended his activity to Switzerland, forming study circles at St. Moritz, and later at Geneva and other place, and also worked for several months at the Hague. In Holland, as also in Paris and London. In 1940, at the beginning of the Second World War, he left Germany and went to the U.S.A. There, in December 1942, he was able to start a Vedanta Centre at Philadelphia and was the head of that Centre up to 1949. He returned to India in 1950 from the U.S.A. via Europe. In 1951 he became the President of the Bangalore Ashrama, and in view of his sterling spiritual attainment, he was authorized by the Trustees of the Belur Math in 1952 he was elected Vice-President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission.
The Swami was well versed in eastern and western philosophies. He was an impressive speaker, a good writer, and was the author of the Adventures in Religious Life, Universal Prayer, Divine Life, Way to the Divine, and Letters and Prayer. His winning manners, feeling hearts, catholic views, and spiritual attainments earned for him the admiration and devotion of a large number of friends and admirers, devotees and disciples, in India and abroad, whose lives were very much influenced by him. From about the middle of 1965 he was suffering from various physical ailments. He was taken to Belur Math for a change of climate, and treatment. He attained mahasamadhi on 27 january 1966.
For some time before his passing away, he had been feeling that the end was approaching. He was often heard saying: 'Swami Brahmananda has taken away all power from me. There is no use of this body any longer. Better it is cast away.'
In 1906, while reading in the F.A. class, in Calcutta, I had my first acquaintance with the life and thought of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. Sri Ramakrishna's Gospel and Swamiji's Raja-yoga came to my hands almost simultaneously. By studying these and other similar books I entered into a new realm of thought. At this time I resolved to take initiation from Swami Brahmananda and lead a religious life, but its materialization took some time.
After appearing for the F.A. examination in 1907, I went to Rajsahi to join the B.A. class there. After two years' stay there, I came again to Calcutta towards the end of the summer of 1909. Swami Brahmananda, having returned from Madras, was staying in Orissa at the time. It was in 1910 that I saw him for the first time during the birthday celebrations of Sri Ramakrishna. After the celebration he left of Puri. At this time I went to Belur Math with my friend Sitapati (later Swami Raghavananda) and met the monks there. Since then, I started staying at Belur Math on Saturday and Sunday. Swami Premananda, Swami Shivananda and other Swamis, by their love and affection, endeared me to themselves. Towards the end of 1910, when Sri Maharaj (Swami Brahmananda) came to Calcutta before the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, Swami Shivananda introduced me to him. I self as if I had a special relationship with Sri Maharaj and I was not so with regard to other Swamis. In Calcutta and at the Belur Math I visited Sri Maharaj frequently and sometimes got the opportunity of doing a little bit of service to him. One day there was some celebration at Binod Babu's house. Many monks and devotees were present there. I was fanning Sri Maharaj with a big hand-fan. Suddenly he told me: 'Look, if the body and the mind are given to the world, the world destroys everything; but, if given to God, He keeps everything body and mind in good condition.' I had a great desire to become a monk and Sri Maharaj made this ideals shine brighter before me. One day I and a friend of mine went to Belur Math to meet Sri Maharaj when we heard that with Swami Premananda he had gone to Balaram Mandir (Balaram Bose's house in Calcutta). We therefore went to Balaram Mandir. Sri Maharaj asked my friend to show his palm to him. Having looked at it he said: 'Lust will be of some hindrance to you, but if Sri Ramakrishna wills, it will disappear.' Swami Premananda loved me. He requested Sri Maharaj to look at my palm also, but he did not do so. At this I felt sad at heart and thought that my friend had some possibility of monastic life while, perhaps, I didn't have even that. A few days after this incident, as I was entering the Belur Math, Sri maharaj's attendant saw me and said; 'well, Sri Maharaj was telling us that you would become a monk.' This gave me a lot of mental strength and, in due course, I became a monk. My friend, however, had to enter householder's life. He became a high-ranked official, but remained a great devotee of the Master and disciple of the Holy Mother.
One day Sri Maharaj went to Dakshineswar with a big party in two boats. I also went with him. He was in wonderful spirits. He said, ' It felt as if he was a superhuman or divine personality.
Sri Maharaj blessed me with initiation in 1911. A few days afterwards he went to Puri when I wrote to him that I wanted to become a monk. He asked Swami Shankarananda to write to me that if I had enough mental strength why should I not go over there. I therefore went to Sri Maharaj at Puri in October that year and joined the holy Order. During this time Sri Maharaj got the worship of Devi Jagadhatri performed by me at the house of Atal Babu. Swami Turiyananda was the officiating priest and Swami Ambikananda was his assistant. Kumari Puja (worship of a virgin as the goddess) was also performed. Thus he helped bring into my life a deep spiritual fervour shortly after I became a monk. Sometime later, Sri Maharaj asked me to go to Madras with Swami Sharvananda. Before going I requested him to impart some spiritual instructions. With great solemnity and intense compassion he said: 'Struggle! Struggle! Struggle.' This has been the keynote of my life I feet as if his words are still ringing in my ears.
I am reminded of a few incidents that occurred during our stay at Puri. One day Atal Babu told Swami Sharvananda: What kind of monks you are! You have no occult power.' Hearing this Sri Maharaj said: 'It is this purity of mind that matters really.' Another day Sri Maharaj was ill he had pain in the waist. On that day there was a special celebration at the Puri temple. Almost all of us though that Sri Maharaj's attendant alone would do for looking after him and went to the temple. And after passing a good deal of time there when we returned after dusk, Sri Maharaj rebuked us rather sharply for your selfishness and said in the end: 'I do not expect anything from you. Only I wish you well, and whatever I tell you is for your welfare alone.' after that I took upon myself the work of attending on Sri Maharaj at Night. One night he felt very hot and asked me to open the shutters. I was new to this work of personal service and was lacking in understanding too. So I could not think that it was necessary to close the shutters after a time. The next day Sri Maharaj felt feverish. At this I became very sad at heart. But Sri Maharaj not only didn't rebuke me himself, but also told others that I was a mere boy and did not know things well. None therefore told me anything about it, I had mi lesson all right.
I went to Madras towards the close of 1911 and was there for five years. I saw Sri Maharaj there again in 1961. I had to work hard as the manager's chair for hours together, he said one day: 'Have I sent you here to do this clerk's job? He scolded me much and took Swami Sharvananda also to task, saying, 'Without giving this boy any opportunity for study act., you are making him do the work of a clerk.'
Swami Hriharananda was Sri Maharaj's personal attendant. He used to ask me to get for Sri Maharaj good gingili oil from the market and u used to make enquiries and get the best oil available. Pointing to this, one day, Sri Maharaj said: 'Have I sent you here to enquire and find out where good gingili oil is available?' Taking all rebukes as expressions of his love and grace, and feeling in the heart of heats that he was mine and I was his, I used to feel happy at all this.
During this time Sri Maharaj ordered me to pay special attention to study and contemplation and asked me to recite daily Visnusahasranama. By his grace the mind used to be in a very good state and the heart felt a sort of union with him and was filled with great elation.
Sri Maharaj was kind enough to take me to Kanya Kumari along with his party. I had never read the Candi(Durga-sap-tasati) ceremoniously before. I didn't like the fighting and killing mentioned therein. I used to recite only the prayer hymns. Coming to know all this, Sri Maharaj scolded me and asked me to recite the entire Candi ceremoniously as least once a fortnight. He asked me to recite the Visnusahasranama and the Candi for three years. I did so for more then that time.
So as to avoid becoming conceited, I did not write articles or deliver lectures, and refrained from religious discussions etc. one day, at the Haripad Ashrama in Travancore, Sri Maharaj commanding said: 'Tell others what you hear and learn from us.' Again, one day at Madras, he said: 'The habit of study must be made such that you will feel ill if you miss it any day. If the mind does not remain absorbed in studies it won't come lower.' On another occasion he said:' What shall I write? No ideas.' Afterwards, by the grace of my guru, I never suffered from want of idea. One morning, while we were at the Bangalore Ashrama, he showed me a few physical exercises and to them I added those shown by Sri Maharaj. He had told me more than once:' Physical, intellectual, moral and spiritual progress have to go hand in hand.' After coming to Madras, Sri Maharaj himself suggested many a time that he would ordain me into sannyasa. Other monks, however, advised me to go to him in advance and pray for sannyasa. I went to him and like to initiate me into sannyasa.' To this he affectionately said: 'None can be considered fit for sannyasa. But I would initiate you into it.'
One the day of my sannyasa, I felt that Sri Maharaj was vibrating with a wonderful spiritual fervour. After the hama etc., when I paid my obeisance to him, he put his hand on my head and I immediately had the experience of a vast Presence as if he, the world and myself were merged in an infinite existence. He graciously gave me an idea of what a guru really was. Then I realized the truth of the hymn:' Salutations to the guru who has made it possible to realize Him by whom this entire universe of movable and immovable objects is pervaded.'
That day, after nightfall, many of us sat round Sri Maharaj. Swami Sharvananda was also there. Sri Maharaj's mind was tuned very high spiritually. I thought that he would speak about spiritual practices and contemplation, but without doing so, pointing to me, he said.' What spiritual practice will you do! Go from door to door and let people listen to the holy name of God. That in itself is a great sadhana.' Calling Swami Sharvananda by name, he said; 'Sharvananda, these days I very much appreciate the attitude of Sri Ramanujacarya helping everybody hear the name of God.' That day Sri Maharaj brought into me a new inspiration and directed my thoughts into a new channel. That direction is still there. On account of this new inspiration received at Madras I began laying stress on study, meditation, etc. and started taking classes and speaking at meetings. It was later that I took to writing articles earnestly.
The construction of the new building of the Madras Math also reveals Sri Maharaj's divine Power. The old Math building having been damaged, the monastery had to be shifted to a rented house. Swami Sharvananda and ourselves could not make out at all how we build the new house for the Math. Land, of course, had been bought earlier. Coming to Madras, Sri Maharaj said that he would lay the foundation of the new building and asked Swami Sharvananda to collect money, even to take some loan for the purpose. Help, however, came unexpectedly, and within eight months the entire building except the front hall was made ready for use. Sri Maharaj, after his return from Bangalore, and shortly after our initiation into sannyasa, consecrated the new Math building.
On the day the day of dedication of the new Math I was performing the evening arati of Sri Ramakrishna. Sri Maharaj was standing a little behind me. While performing the arati I felt as if everything was filled by a great Presence. I perceived that great Presence in all the picture and in Sri Maharaj as well as in everyone present as I was doing the arati. Even now, when I try to perform arati I get that feeling. This is a special blessing of Sri Maharaj. That same evening, we were sitting in front of Sri Maharaj on the terrace of the rented building. Sri Maharaj said: 'I fervently told Sri Ramakrishna: "They are just boys. How would they build a new house? Thou shouldst kindly make everything possible." And so, you see, by His grace, the new building has come up.'
At Madras I used to be preoccupied with various activities. I used to get very little time for studies or meditation. As soon as Sri Maharaj arrived at Madras, he understood that I needed a change. He wished that I should leave Madras and go to Bangalore. But I had no desire to go to Bangalore. But Maharaj knew that that was good for me. So he said one day: 'Fool! You don't understand your own interest! There is no need for you to stay at Madras any more proceed to Bangalore.'
Earlier, Swami Nirmalananda had requested Sri Maharaj to send me to Bangalore. I had heard that Maharaj had also more or less agreed to it. In early summer of 1917 Sri Maharaj left for Puri. A few days later, I too left for Bangalore in obedience to Sri Maharaj's wish. While there, I was given to much spiritual practices and religious studies. At the Bangalore Ashrama I used to conduct the Sunday classes too. In late summer of the same year, I had enteric fever and had a severe burning sensation all over the body. I was admitted into a hospital. During this time an influenza epidemic was on. One morning an old man was brought in and placed in a bed next to mine; by evening all was over with him.
I was experiencing great pain. But my mind was very clear then. There was no fear of death. But I did feel that it would be difficult to bear any increase in suffering. Death would have been more welcome. When such a though arose in my mind, I had a vision of Sri Maharaj. He said: 'How can you die? You have yet to do Sri Ramakrishna's work!' Saying so, he disappeared. My mind was filled with a new fervour. Tears began to roll down my eyes profusely. There was no question of any fear of death; on the other hand, a wonderful peace and a sense of resignation came over me. And the disease too, took a turn for the better.
After spending more than a year at Bangalore and another year of spiritual practices at various places in the Madras Presidency, I went to Bhuvaneshwar to meet Sri Maharaj at the end of December 1919. There I got the rare privilege of spending a few days in his holy company. The construction of the Bhuvaneshwar Math was nearing completion at that time. It was during this period that, one evening, Sri Atal Maitra of Puri arrived with his first wife. The old man was very much downcast, filled with sorrow. Sri Maharaj asked Swami Varadananda to sing. Varadananda sang the song beginning:
Hearing the song, and more than that by having the darsan of Sri Maharaj and hearing his words, the old man's face brightened and he was filled with joy. We all felt very happy at this transformation.
After a few days, stay at Bhuvaneshwar, Sri Maharaj sent Calcutta with Swami Gokulananda who was sock. From Calcutta I went to Belur Math where I spent a few months. During this time, in 1920, before Swamiji's birth anniversary, Sri Maharaj arrived at Belur. We all used to go and sit in his room and meditate, and chant various hymns.
My last darsan of Sri Maharaj was at Varanasi in the year 1921, a few days before Swami Vivekananda's birth anniversary. Then I was staying with Swami Turiyananda. Sri Maharaj brought about a new spiritual current in the Varanasi Sevashrama and Aditya Ashrama. At this time, he gave me, too, much spiritual inspiration. One day he enquired about my spiritual practices. I said: 'I feel as if there is no inner awakening. So I am not getting peace of mind. We have been born with some bad samskaras (mental impressions) and they prove to be hurdles to spiritual growth.' Maharaj replied: 'Don't think that way. Practise japa at the dead of night. Do purascarana (a ritual involving a particular number of japa). Inner awakening will come of its own accord.'
Another day I went to him, feeling restless in mind. Seeing me approaching, he got up and came towards me and gave me many instructions within a short time. He said: 'Your mind becomes restless only because you don't want to do what I tell you to do.' Placing his palm on my head, he blessed me and filled my heart with peace.
It was Sri Maharaj's desire that I should go to Mayavati and take charge of Prabuddha bharata. But he did not tell me anything himself. It was Swami Suddhnanda and Swami Madhavananda who told me several times about my going to Mayavati. But I was not agreeable to this.
One morning, while I was with Swami Turiyananda, busy attending an him, I felt as if something was breaking down within me and a wail coming up from the depth of my mind. Tears also poured down the eyes. The more I wiped, the more the tears came. Along with it I noticed an attitude of self-surrender coming over me. I understood that it was the play of Sri Maharaj. He was graciously removing the obstinacy and the obstacles of my mind. By evening my mind settled down.
After this, one morning, as I went to pay my obeisance to him, he said: 'Look, they all wish that you should go to Mayavati and take charge of Prabuddha Bharata.' He had already broken my stiffness. I therefore, without any hesitation, said: 'Maharaj, if you order, I would surely go.' Sri Maharaj was much pleased with my reply and blessed me. After this it was settled that I would go to Mayavati. One morning, after prostrating before him, I along with Swami Suddhananda, Swami Madhavananda and other monks sat near him. Sri Maharaj asked me at the very outset: 'How are your spiritual practices going on?' In reply, I said: 'There is much work to do. I do not get enough time.' To this he said: 'It's wrong to think there is no time because of work. It is due to the restlessness of mind that one feel like that.' And this opened the flood-gates of Sri Maharaj's speech. With great feeling he said: 'One should prepare the mind by doing work and worship together.' These instructions are there in the 'Work and Worship' chapter of The Eternal Companion. These were addressed particularly to me. On that day he established a special relationship of love between myself. Swami Madhavananda and other brother monks. He said: 'Just as Madhavananda is dear to me so are you and others too.' When I think that all are dear to Sri Maharaj, then I also feel that all are dear to me as well. Sri Maharaj regarded his own disciples and those of the Holy Mother equally dear to him. He used to say that all had come to do Sri Ramakrishna's and Swami Vivekananda's work. One day, pointing specially to me, he said: 'By doing their work in this spirit, bondage can never come. Rather through it will come all progress spiritual, moral, intellectual and physical. Surrender yourself at their feet; Offer you body and mind to them; be as a slave unto them.' This and other instructions of Sri Maharaj have become the stay of my life.
I had a desire to talk some day to Sri Maharaj with a very open heart. I was nursing a bit of wounded feeling against him. When he had gone to Madras he told me that he would take me with him to Bengal on his return, but instead be sent me to Bangalore. Again, towards the end of 1919, when I went to Bhuvaneshwar, he did not allow me to stay with him for long and sent me to Bengal. For all these I had a complaining heart and was feeling unquiet within. I was seeking an opportunity for speaking out my mind to him, and one day it came. On Sri Maharaj's auspicious birthday in 1921 Kali Puja was performed. I planned that I would see him the next evening when others would go to the bank of the Ganga for the immersion of the image. I did not, however, tell him about it. That evening I went to his room. Swami visuddhananda was sitting near him. Peta Puri was also there. As soon as Sri Maharaj saw me, he, like a child, exclaimed to Peta Puri: 'Look, what a yogi I am !' I learnt that a little while ago he had asked Peta Puri to see if I had come; he knew that I would.
That day we had a lot of talk. Sri Maharaj said that he knew that I had a desire to move and visit place when o went to Bhuvaneshwar and, therefore, sent me to Bengal. He also knew that this tendency in me would soon disappear. In order, therefore, to get this done earlier, he had sent me away hurriedly. I felt ashamed when I found how deep was his concern in all that he did for me. He removed all my mental depressions and made my mind clean. As a result of it a new bond of inner relationship was created between him and myself-shortly after this Sri Maharaj went away to Belur, leaving behind within my mind his divine image firmly established. The spiritual fervour he instilled in me and the ideas of piety and service he showed me while at Madras and Varanasi still continue to inspire me. He is even now, through his grace, bringing to me in a subtle way new light and fresh inspiration. As Ramakrishna's words that it is God Himself who comes in the form of a guru.
I am glad to learn that Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Banglore, is publishing this book- Meditation and Spiritual Life-compiled from the talks and writings of Swami Yatiswarananda.
Swami Yatiswarananda was a senior monk of the Ramakrishna Order, who contributed much to spiritual life by his talks, articles and ministration, in India and abroad. The present book deals in detail with the spiritual ideal and its practice as exemplified in the life of Sri Ramakrishna, and also practical hints on spiritual life.
I hope this publication will inspire spiritual aspirants and help them in their struggle to attain the Truth.
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