I first met Swami Premeshananda (1884–1967), also a
disciple of Holy Mother, in 1948 or 49 at the Sargachhi Ashrama,
and I began visiting him regularly. He was a charming man.
Every day after his bath he would go to the shrine upstairs
and meditate for about half an hour. I watched him closely.
Soon after he sat for meditation he would undergo a strange
transformation. His face brightened with a flush, which gradually
spread to his chest. Later, when he went down the stairs,
I noticed that his steps were unsteady. I was sitting by his
side when he was eating his noon meal, and I began to ask
him some questions. But I quickly realized that I should not
have done so, for I clearly observed that until he had eaten
a little food, he could not talk distinctly. I understood
that he was still overwhelmed with a spiritual mood from his
meditation in the shrine, and naturally it took some time
for him to regain his normal state. This happened every day.
During the summer of 1964 I spent two weeks in the holy company
of Swami Atulananda (formerly Cornelius J Heijblom of Amsterdam),
a disciple of Holy Mother. He was then staying at Sri Sarada
Kutir at Barlowgunj, in the foothills of the Mussoorie Hills.
Normally indrawn, he was a typical contemplative. When he
sat for meditation, his face seemed to get bright with a light.
His answers to our questions revealed something of the richness
of his spiritual experiences. These things have been recorded
in the book Atman Alone Abides. Whenever he spoke of
Swami Turiyananda, a change came over him. Swami Atulananda
passed away at the age of 97 on 21 August 1966. During the
last three or four days of his life he was repeating ‘Jai
Ma’. And the last words he uttered were ‘Om Ma’
and ‘Hari Om’.
the tradition of the Ramakrishna Order, the outward expression
of spiritual experience is scrupulously avoided, for often
such expression betrays a desire for special recognition.
This obstructs one’s progress and even leads one astray. Yet
we have seen few swamis - such as Swami Gadadharananda, a
disciple of Swami Shivananda - who could not control their
spiritual ecstasies. Swami Gadadharananda passed away in 1971.
His experiences accorded with the signs of genuine spiritual
experience as they could be experienced by others also and
they did not contradict reason.
Swami Yatiswarananda and Swami Premeshananda were not
public speakers as such, but their talks before groups of
devotees always touched the core of one’s heart. These talks
were unforgettable. Though some of the previous incidents
were rare, there was another kind that was quite common. For
example, I lived with Swami Purnatmananda, a disciple of Swami
Brahmananda, at Almora - once for five months and another
time for two months. As head of the Almora centre, he had
many duties. But throughout the day, whenever he had any time,
he would sit with his back straight telling his beads. There
would be a glow on his countenance that would bring joy to
my heart. It reminded me of something ‘M’ had said: ‘You have
to see a monk at his best, when he is meditating.’
Swami Saswatananda (1894–1963) was known as a staunch
Vedantin. He taught another young swami and me the Mandukya
Karika. His words had such conviction and were so powerful
that they went deep in our hearts. Once he said: ‘All that
you see is apparent and illusory. It is only the all-pervading
Brahman that you really see.’ There was so much force and
conviction in these words that for about three days I strongly
felt that what he
said was true.
Swami Hitananda (d. 1984) was a disciple of Swami Shivananda.
As soon as he would begin performing the worship in the shrine
at Belur Math, he would become an altogether different person.
He would seem to radiate spirituality.
October 1958 I met Swami Sadashivananda (d. 1960), a disciple
of Swami Vivekananda, at the Varanasi Sevashrama. As I made
pranams to him, he lovingly embraced me and showered his blessings
on me. He repeatedly told me how happy Swami Vivekananda would
have been to see a young man like me. I was verwhelmed by
his personality, but I could hardly understand him. He tried
to impress upon me that Swamiji was all love. Swami Sadashivananda
would become a changed person in the presence of bright young
men. Later I met
him again and had a similar experience.
sweltering summer afternoon in May, 1963, I went by bus to
Belur Math. I was to hand over an envelope given by Swami
Lokeswarananda to the General Secretary, Swami Vireswarananda
(1892–1985). When I reached the General Secretary’s office
it was 2.30 p.m., and I was perspiring. Swami Vireswarananda
was then going through the mail, and he quietly asked me to
sit down on a chair. Then he went over to a cupboard and began
preparing a glass of sherbet. Assuming that he was preparing
it for himself, I immediately offered my services. But the
swami bade me sit quietly. In those days there was only one
office assistant in the headquarters office. The swami sent
that boy to Belur Bazaar to bring some ice and gave him two
paise. Then he returned to his mail. After some time the boy
returned. When the Swami was satisfied that the pieces of
ice were clean, he put them in the tumbler of sherbet and
offered it to me. Overwhelmed at this development, I quietly
drank the sherbet with tears rolling down my cheeks.
Nrisimhananda (d. 1992), a disciple of Swami Nirmalananda,
served leprosy patients in the village of Adur in Kerala for
forty years. The patients there did not want him to leave
them. I went to see him in the company of a senior swami.
It was a winter morning, and Swami Nrisimhananda, who was
then over seventy years old, was in tattered gerua
robes. I humbly offered him my woollen wrapper, but he refused
to accept it. I talked with him for some time about his experiences,
and later I corresponded with him. He repeatedly assured me
that he had realized the truth that our yogis aspire to achieve
through japa and meditation. I was deeply impressed by his
these incidents, and many more, touched my heart. Such things
are not seen in mundane life. They hinted at the joy of spiritual
illumination and seemed to invite me to enter the inner chamber
of spiritual life.
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