Swami Swahananda (1921-2012) , the head of the Vedanta Society of Southern California for thirty-six years, worked ceaselessly to spread Sri Ramakrishna's message. He established seventeen centers and sub-centers throughout the United States and has left the Ramakrishna movement in the West a rich legacy.
In this intimate, loving portrait, Dr. Malay Das presents Swami Swahananda as he knew him during the last seventeen years of the swami's life. We witness the guru's compassionate care for devotees and disciples, his ability to love with detachment, and his dignity and grace during his final illness.
What emerges in this book is not only a vivid account of a remarkable spiritual leader. It is also the enrichment of Dr. Das's life that occurred as a result of knowing his guru. Over the course of their relationship, the swami became Dr. Das's spiritual father, and Dr. Das became not only Swahanandaji's disciple but also his physician, traveling with him and eventually helping to shepherd him through his final days. Beyond Dr. Das's formal initiation in which he received his mantra, his relationship with Swami Swahananda was itself an initiation into a more God-centered life than he had known before.
This book will remind those who knew Swami Swahananda of the ways he touched and left an imprint on their lives. For those readers who did not have the opportunity to meet the swami in person, the book offers them a glimpse into the life and work of this great monk and spiritual teacher.
MALAY R. DAS, MD, has maintained a nephrology practice in Los Angeles since 1982. In 1995, he met Swami Swahananda and began the journey as a disciple and devotee described in this book. He lives in Los Angeles with his family, who are also devotees of the Ramakrishna tradition.
HEN I FIRST MET SWAMI SWAHANANDA, I did not know much about spiritual life or scriptures, but I recognized even then that he was not an ordinary sadhu (holy person), or for that matter an ordinary person. I was struck by his remarkable and unmistakable presence, expressed in his every gesture. He radiated purity and compassion and a high level of consciousness.
As I began to spend time with him, I noticed that not only I but others felt uplifted in his presence. He was like Lord Shiva, who can absorb everyone's grief and transmit tranquility to them in return. Moreover, Swami Swahananda's blessings were not limited to those immediately around him. His disciples and devotees, as well as his fellow sadhus, across the globe benefited equally from his concern and compassion.
At first, I was so naive about spiritual life that I assumed there was a secret to God-realization, and I would bother Swami Swahananda with questions about it. However, I gradually came to understand that there is no secret. Rather, the "secret" is right there in front of us, evident in the way a holy person lives.
I began noticing the way Swami Swahananda maintained spirituality as a reference point in all his actions, whether serious or in fun. Spirituality was like a thread on which flowers are strung. Individually the flowers vary, but the thread runs through them all. In this way, everything he did and said formed a beautiful garland of love, selfless service, detachment, and realization. He lived the message of Sri Ramakrishna, which was also what he taught.
During the last years of his life, I was fortunate to be in close company with Swami Swahananda as a disciple, as a physician, and in other ways. Perhaps because of my medical training, I would observe and then analyze his behaviour, comparing it with what I found in holy books, especially about the lives of Sri Ramakrishna, Sarada Devi, and the direct disciples. Once I thought I understood something I had seen him do, I would then ask him about my conclusion. Sometimes he would encourage me, saying, "I like your analysis because you try to compare your thinking with what you have read." I took this as confirmation of what I had said. As in the story, in The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, of the mother who cooks fish a different way for each child according to that child's constitution, Swami Swahananda would guide each devotee or disciple in the way that best suited him or her.
This book is not intended as a biography of Swami Swahananda. It is about my relationship with him and how I came to understand him. Because I never thought I was going to write about Swami Swahananda, I did not make a practice of noting down incidents soon after they happened, although in 2004 I did start writing a few things down in a diary. So in writing this book, I have largely recalled incidents from memory. For this reason, these accounts may contain some factual inaccuracies. It is not possible for any one of us to describe fully who Swami Swahananda was. Mose who were fortunate to know him can only share what we saw, heard, and experienced in his presence.
It is not possible for a per-son like me to describe him. In the ocean of spirituality, he was a whale and I am a small fish. Making my recollections available in this book gives me great joy, and I hope it can benefit others.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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