A Humble Tribute To An Epitome Of Wisdom, Love & Compassion – Swami Dayananda Saraswati

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A Humble Tribute

To An Epitome Of

Wisdom, Love and Compassion

Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati (tinyurl.com/oa5hpau), true to his significant name, was an epitome of compassion (daya) and Vedic wisdom that manifested as unconditional love, touching a chord with all those who met him, making them feel at home, with a sense of peace and joy (ananda). This is evident on a careful perusal of the ‘Memorial Guest Book’, maintained at the ‘AVG’, for the devotees to record their Homage to their most revered Teacher and Guru. One can clearly find all through an echo of the traditional Sanskrit prayer that supplicates, “You are my mother, father, relative and friend. You are knowledge and wealth, nay you are my all in all.” It is indeed heartening to go through the pages of this book wherein the devotees and disciples of Pujya Swamiji have recorded their reverential tributes in his hallowed memory. All have freely expressed their sincere, deep feelings and personal experiences about the significant and memorable part played by Pujya Swamiji, his invigorating and enlightening teachings, his esteemed institution (AVG) and its learned teachers (acharyas), in their life, for the past three decades. An acronym, ‘AVG’ here stands for the “Arsha Vidya Gurukulam” (arshavidya.org), an institute for the traditional study of Advaita Vedanta, Sanskrit, Yoga, Ayurveda, astrology, and other classical Indian disciplines, founded by Pujya Swamiji in a 45-acre wooded campus at Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., in 1986.

The man and his mission: Here is an apt and compact expression depicting what Pujya Swamiji was, in reality: ‘If compassion, intellect, erudition, wisdom and quiet self-assurance, imbued with humbleness, were to take a human form, then it would certainly be Pujya Swamiji. He travelled extensively spreading the message of the ancient rishis of Bharat, convinced that the Vedic vision is as essential and valid today as it was thousands of years ago. Never did he seek praise nor did he encourage his disciples and devotees in that direction. Averse to publicity to the point of self-effacement, never did he intrude. He always loved to work behind the scene like true leaders do, encouraging the talents and skills of people who came into contact with him. He always found ways and means to help, reaching out to those in need, no matter how slight or serious their problem.’ (tinyurl.com/otcc8oc)

The teacher and his legacy: ‘A world renowned spiritual leader, he was a profound thinker, philosopher, teacher and writer, and his concern and vision encompassed the individual, the nation, and the world. Even as he made a lasting contribution to the spiritual civilisation as a whole, he was instrumental in creating an official voice of Hindu consciousness, striving for mutual respect, equality and freedom for all religions through dialogues at the international level, as understanding of cultures is the key to global peace. He ordained over two hundred disciples dedicated to teaching Vedanta, his students spreading across the world, continuing the teaching tradition of Vedanta. He created avenues to help people in need, and initiated projects to strengthen Vedic dharma / culture.’ (tinyurl.com/otcc8oc).

The mode of his teaching: ‘A traditional teacher of Vedanta, rooted in the richness of tradition, yet contemporary in his thinking and approach, he ensured that the truth is communicated with clarity. Impeccable logic, brilliant analysis, erudition, precise use of language, together with a child like humour, made him one of the greatest living masters of Advaita Vedanta. His message is the ancient wisdom of the Vedic rishis. He taught in language so effective that it kept the audience spell bound as he drove home the concepts. He was at home with people of all ages, of all cultures.’ (tinyurl.com/o94e4fj).

His Global Vision and endeavour at nurturing the diversity of human culture: ‘His genius did not restrict him to teaching Vedanta, but led him into spheres that impact humanity as a whole. His humaneness, a respect for all cultures, made him declare that all civilisations, all cultural forms, need to be preserved, nurtured and appreciated, for the mosaic of human civilisation enriched life as a manifestation of the universal spirit. His anguish at the loss of great civilisations of the past, made him intensely aware of the need to preserve and nurture the diversity of human culture. He was certain that there was no place in the scheme of things for aggression in religion/culture, for all cultural forms are equally valid and need to be respected. He therefore declared that religious/cultural conversion, in any form, is violence. This declaration of Pujya Swamiji echoed in universities and among other spiritual thinkers and leaders, and gradually had an international impact. His persistent endeavour in establishing and promoting mutual understanding and respect for all religions, have left an indelible mark.’ (tinyurl.com/nfnhg9z).

His typical method of interaction and communication with the devotees or for that matter with anyone, as he himself once confided, was always ‘one-to-one’, and naturally he bestowed his careful and total attention to and keen interest in the welfare of all those who approached him seeking his guidance, suggestions, or help, so much so invariably everyone, meeting him, felt that he solely belonged to them, as their only guide, friend and philosopher, nay their Godfather. Pujya Swamiji always spoke  softly and caringly, employing minimum words marked for their clarity, wit and wisdom, with a view to empower, motivate, nay inspire the listener, for a personally peaceful and socially useful life, and Pujya Swamiji’s pithy expressions, thoughtfully considered, gracefully and slowly expressed, often with a pause, conveyed nuggets of wisdom. Look at the following few samples of his familiar, laconic expressions:

  • All that is here is Ishwara; therefore there is nothing secular.
  • Ishwara is manifest in the form of various ‘orders’.
  • You need to have this ‘common minimum knowledge’.
  • Vedanta is not a book; it is what you truly are.
  • Vedanta is not a theory, which implies practice and experience, but a fact to be understood.
  • Self-knowledgecannot be an event, it is you;
  • All that is here is non-duality. How will it happen? It is clarity.
  • You, the Self, are the Whole,
  • Yet you feel small, limited, only because you do not know the reality of yourself, of who you really are,
  • So you need self knowledge to remove this self ignorance,
  • For which you need a teacher who knows the texts and who can use the words deftly, like a master artist.
  • Live intelligently.
  • Live a meaningful life.
  • The problem is you, the solution is you.
  • May your life be one that helps you grow,
  • May all your experience make you wiser.
  • Discover the value of compassion.
  • Be a contributor, not a mere consumer.
  • A person who consumes the least and contributes the most is a mature person, for in giving lies self-growth
  • Give without any strings attached,
  • By giving you become bigger.
  • There is no good or bad person. There is only right or wrong action.
  • Address problems. Do not answer their questions or turn them away.
  • There is not one God; there is ONLY God.
  • This ‘one God’ is the main cause of all conflicts in the world.
  • Religious / cultural conversion, in any form, is violence
  • Observe at least one common, universal value ̶ ‘Non-Violence’.
  • Every war first takes place in one’s mind and only later, outside.
  • Appreciation of Vedic Dharma is sine qua non for world peace.
  • Practice of japa canhelp overcome ‘chain-thinking’ and ‘listless-thinking.’’

In fact, all talks, discussions and writings of Pujya Swamiji abound in such nuggets of lofty wisdom, in pithy expressions. All his sayings and doings ultimately aimed at lokahita(commonweal), and his emphasis on the traditional three-fold practice of shravana, manana andnidhidhyasana, for the students of Vedanta, was aimed at making them free from the habitualviparita bhavana ̶ wrong notions about their true being. Time and again he insisted on the necessity for clarity of expression and communication on the part of a teacher of the adhyatma vidya, and the clarity of thinking and understanding on the part of an aspiring student, since it would go a long way in liberating the latter from the shackles of ajnana (nescience), paving the way for the knowledge of the Eternal Truth, which is the end and aim of all Vedantic enquiry and discipline.

What was unique about him: Recently, Dr. Mohanji Bhagwat, the Chief of Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh, put it very succinctly: ‘Pujya Swamiji indelibly etched the message of the glory of Bharat and social unity through his lifelong labour of love, providing a modern view of our eternal culture and aroused pride and activism about it in our society and the world at large’. Pujya Swamiji, in this respect, stands out as a resplendent star of great magnitude on the spiritual firmament adorned by a galaxy of great spiritual luminaries of our modern times. A distinguished teacher par excellence that he was, Pujya Swamiji taught Vedanta in India for more than five decades and around the world since 1976. Under Pujya Swamiji’s guidance, various centers of Vedic teaching were founded around the world – two primary centers in India at Rishikesh and Coimbatore and one in the U. S. at Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, and more than hundred centers in India and the world over that carry on the same tradition of Vedantic teaching. In the words of Sri S. Gurumurthy, the well-known columnist with a profound knowledge of current affairs, and of ‘Swadeshi’ fame, “Pujya Swamiji was undoubtedly one of the greatest teachers of Vedanta in modern times. A teacher of teachers, he has turned out more than a hundred sannyasin disciples who are highly respected as scholars and teachers in his tradition. In addition to teaching, Pujya Swamiji has initiated and supported various philanthropic efforts through the ‘All India Movement for Seva’ (tinyurl.com/om3xw44). But the greatest contribution of Pujya Swamiji has been the creation of the ‘Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha’ (tinyurl.com/q754s7c), which has emerged as the legitimate voice of the Hindus at the global level.”

II

His final visit to the U.S. — Recollections: Leading an intense life of eight and half decades, totally dedicated to the propagation of the Vedic vision and wisdom, and devoted to the service of the society at large, on September 23, 2015, Pujya Swamiji consciously wound up his earthly sojourn and returned to his Eternal Abode ̶ the immortal Source of all Existence. Just before hismahasamadhi, notwithstanding his delicate health, he paid a short visit to the U.S., and while at the AVG for about six weeks, he enthusiastically attended various programs, including thegurupurnima day (August 2, 2015), his own 85th birthday celebration (August 15, 2015), and the 29th anniversary celebration of the AVG (August 16, 2015), suitably addressing the gatherings on all the three occasions. On the gurupurnima day, he invoked the grace of the gurus in theparampara to “bless us all.” He concluded his birthday message with a significant statement, “All that is here is Ishwara.” And, on the 29th anniversary day of the AVG, he highlighted thegurumahima, and stressed the need to earn the anugraha of guru by seva in the form of regularsravanam, and participating in the entire program run by the guru. While at the AVG, Pujya Swamiji was very glad to see that in keeping with his vision of and the plan for a new spacious lecture hall-kitchen-dining complex at the AVG Campus was in progress. He had envisioned this project in view of increase in the number of participants in the regular Vedanta retreats, besides the other AVG programs. Finally, just before his departure to Rishikesh, having been discharged from the local Hospital after a short period of treatment, he straight away came to the AVG, and arriving at the lecture hall of the Dakshinamurthi temple, in a stretcher, was very glad to see all the devotees who had been anxiously awaiting his arrival, and addressed them for a while with deep feelings, and then went round the hall in the same stretcher, meeting each and every devotee, and blessing them profusely, before leaving for the airport. His final, parting message was brief but intense and memorable, charged as it was with deep emotions and recollections, consoling the devotees about his “inevitable departure”, quoting the Gita (2.27), “jatasya hi dhruvo mrityur…”, which the devotees gathered can never forget in their lifetime! One of the devotees, a witness to all this, records in the AVG ‘Memorial Guest Book’: “…A few feet from this wall (of the Dakshinamurthi temple), we last saw him in August of 2015. As he was lead away very carefully and with love, I saw his eyes for the last time. He was at peace in his great infirmity. He already knew that was the last moment. He had to be in this temple and on these holy grounds. I knew it. He ran a good race, fought a good fight and finally reached the finish line not for himself but for all humanity. His legacy is for everyone who walks through these portals, to discover the Divine Powers we all are endowed with, and live happily for others and purely too. ‘No sin and no guilt’ ̶ that is how I saw his life….”  “…with the passing away of Pujya Swamiji, a Great Soul and a Blessed Being, moved on to the realms unknown to most of us but known to him always. In every millennium, a handful of souls are sent to this great universe. To such the Swami belonged, belongs and will always be so. He is here and can be reached as always. His passion for the Universal Peace and Harmony as well known has been legendary and ennobling to all who ever beheld him…” “…Pujya Swamiji, with your founding of this sacred institution, the AVG, as a holy place for all of us, you have brought perennial sunshine into the lives of all Americans and Indians alike. Your legacy is not for anyone but for the whole creation. Now that you have moved on to your Eternal Abode, it is for each one of us to create our own enduring and lasting legacies far beyond us and ourselves to stand for others as you did. Those who set foot on this holy and sacred ground of the AVG will forever be transformed and transfigured beyond all drawbacks, defects and limitations that oppress us in life. We know you are here forever.”

When I conveyed the news about the mahasamadhi of Pujya Swamiji at Rishikesh, Swami Muktananda, the Head of Anandashram, where I reside in North Kerala, paid a reverential tribute: “We offer our mental sashtang pranams to Pujya Swamiji who is now in the form of remembrance, and pray for his blessings on all for the revival of our glorious culture for which Swamiji made untiring efforts. We are sure that the life and mission of Pujya Swamiji will continue to inspire innumerable aspirants in their sadhana.” Earlier, in the third week of August, when I had visited Pujya Swamiji at the local Hospital at Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, and silently stood along with other devotees, beside his cot in the ICU, intently looking at him, he had called me by name and asked me to “inform the Head of Anandashram” about of his delicate health, which I did promptly and conveyed the same to him. (Pujya Swamiji knew Swami Muktananda who had visited the Gurukulam at Anaikatti some time ago and had his blessings). Just a day before, I had offered Pujya Swamiji in the Hospital the kumkum prasad I had brought from the Aanandashram, which he held in his palm for a while, before being applied to his forehead. In fact, on my arrival at the AVG, Saylorsburg, in the second week of August 2015, when I had his darshan in the room where he was convalescing after a minor medical procedure at the local Hospital, the first and foremost question he had asked me was, “How is the work going on?”, referring to my work-in-hand  ̶  the proposed “Encyclopedia of Indogenic Spiritual organisations Functioning Outside India” (disoa.org), convened by Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari (vivekanandakendra.org), for which he had graciously blessed, while at the AVG, Anaikatti, Coimbatore, with a written Benediction (on May 19, 2014) wishing “all success in this noble endeavour”, himself being unable to be the convener of this Project, in view of his delicate health. On another day, when I had visited him while at the ICU at the local Hospital at Stroudsburg, he was very particular to remind me with these words: “I have told so and so…..”, referring to the arrangements he had so graciously made for my stay at the AVG, with the knowledge of the authorities there, so that the work-in-hand may go on unhindered, periodically, till the completion. In this context, I must also mention here about a rare work he had so kindly assigned to me in 2008, connected with the ‘Directory of the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha (HDAS)’ convened by him, which work took me all over India, from Kerala to Kashmir, to Assam and back to Kerala, covering some 23 states, in a period about 100 days, visiting the Maths / Ashrams of some 114 revered Acharyas, who are the members of the HDAS, and later a Directory was compiled from out of the huge data gathered during my itinerary all over India. Earlier, Pujya Swamiji had kindly made me one of the coordinators of the Second HDAS conference held in Mumbai (2005), and on successful compilation of the said Directory of the HDAS, under his instruction and guidance, he had graciously commended my humble services as an “admirable, committed effort” (vide his ‘Foreword’ to the HDAS Directory 2009). I am indeed overwhelmed when I recollect his grace and love, as a token of which he had blessed me with a set of ochre (kavi) clothes thrice; twice at the AVG, Saylorsburg (in 2013), and later at the AVG, Anaikatti (in May 2014), when I had called on him seeking his benediction for the ‘Encyclopedia Project’ (disoa.org), mentioned above.

A rare privilege: I had a rare privilege of offering my humble homage to the hallowed memory of Pujya Swamiji, in a prayer meeting held at the AVG, on October 4, 2015, where some of his disciples and devotees too paid their glowing tributes to their revered teacher and Guru. I just placed before the devotees gathered, whatever little I had scribbled in my humble work on Swami Vivekananda (vivekanandagospel.org), reminiscing about my contact with Pujya Swamiji since 1993, when I happened to meet him for the first time in the US (vide ‘Publisher’s Note’, sixth edition). The sixth edition of my book on Vivekananda commemorating the 150th year of his birth (2013) was an outcome of the benevolence of Pujya Swamiji, whose perceptive and gracious ‘Benediction’ adorns the book. Beholden to him for his loving kindness and patronage to my humble endeavours in disseminating the message of Vivekananda, I took the opportunity to remember with gratitude the laudable work Pujya Swamiji had been rendering in disseminating the traditional Vedic Knowledge, both in the East and the West. As my humble homage to the hallowed memory of Pujya Swamiji, I presented, as already mentioned above, a few lines I had written by way of the publisher’s note in the said book, which is excerpted, adapted and presented below (vide part III). Today, “although Pujya Swamiji is no more amidst us in flesh and blood, he continues to live in the form of his immortal, lofty teachings, and the legacy of his disciple-teachers, and through the various institutions established by him. The teaching is not separate from the Teacher. ‘All that is here is Ishwara’ is the main teaching of Pujya Swamiji…” (‘Arsha Vidya Newsletter’ ̶ October 2015). The real homage that we can therefore offer to a mahatma is to implicitly abide by and live up to his teachings, in our thoughts, words and deeds, thereby becoming a shining example of the same, and be blessed thereby. That is the best way to make him immensely pleased and happy. And that is the task before us, to live up to the legacy that Pujya Swamiji bequeathed to us.

III

A Humble Homage: As far back as 1893, Swami Vivekananda unfurled the banner of Vedanta in the West, and also made Yoga familiar to the Westerners through his renowned treatise: ‘Raja Yoga’. After the great Swami, following in his footsteps, his Vedanta Centers have been doing a great work in disseminating the Vedic Wisdom in the West, for many decades. Following the trail blazed by Swami Vivekananda many more personages and institutions have also been doing good work in this direction, and the contributions of Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati, in this regard, are laudable. It is worth mentioning that for decades, in India and around the world, Pujya Swamiji has been doing tremendous work, tirelessly disseminating the Vedic Knowledge, through his well established institutions in India and the U.S. He has also taken keen interest in providing Yoga training to the aspirants through qualified Yoga teachers in his Gurukulam at Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. In view of his total dedication to the dissemination of Vedic lore, besides the provision for study and practice of Yoga–both of which were very dear to Swami Vivekananda, and in grateful acknowledgment of Pujya Swamiji’s greatest contributions to the cause of Hindu Dharma, the sixth edition (2013) of our book on Swami Vivekananda was dedicated to Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati.

I must say here that literally it was Swami Vivekananda who brought me in touch with Pujya Swamiji, in as much as we together participated in Washington, in a program (‘The Global Vision 2000’ held in 1993) celebrating the centenary of Swami Vivekananda’s appearance at the Chicago Parliament of Religions in 1893. While Pujya Swamiji spoke eloquently on the occasion, I had the rare privilege of paying my reverential Homage to Swami Vivekananda.

Later, in the year 2000, when Pujya Swamiji invited me to participate in the ‘UN Millennium Peace Summit’ at New York, I also had the unique privilege of visiting the AVG (along with the other monastic delegates to the Summit from India), where we were all formally honoured by Pujya Swamiji himself. Since then by the Divine Grace I have been able to visit abroad, from time to time, to attend various programs and conferences in the US. I have also been able to attend the annual AVG Anniversary Programs and other programs at the AVG, and every time Pujya Swamiji and the AVG have been very kind, helpful and supportive during my visit and stay there.

Whatever little knowledge of Vedanta I have gained (vide Part IV of this Homage, below) is solely due to my participation, from time to time, in the lecture programs and Vedanta classes conducted by Pujya Swamiji and his senior disciples who are the Acharyas at the AVG.

I feel greatly elated when I visualize in my mind how overjoyed Swami Vivekananda would have been if he were to visit Pujya Swamiji’s AVG at Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, to see the great work done there for the past 29 years, in the service of disseminating Vedic Knowledge in particular, and the Hindu Dharma and the Samaj, in general! Let the lines from Pujya Swamiji’s ‘Benediction’ to my book speak: “Swami Vivekananda is looked upon by an informed Indian as a person who enshrined in himself all that is true and noble of the spiritual heritage of Bharat. His vision to make everyone see the beauty of oneness, love and harmony, backed by his tireless efforts to actualize it, is getting unfolded all over the world not only through the Mission and Order he founded but also through various other individuals and institutions who owe to Swamiji’s vision for their inspiration…”–significant lines indeed revealing the source of inspiration behind the great work done by the AVG!

IV

What I have learnt:As a concluding part of this humble Homage, let me present here below, in a nutshell, what little I have gathered directly from Pujya Swamiji and also by way of attending the various Vedanta camps conducted by his senior disciple-Acharyas at the AVG, from time to time. Of course, what is presented is in my own humble way and language, being a student of Vivekananda literature, with the background of my little understanding of the teachings of Swami Vivekananda, reinforced by whatever I have learnt from the Founders of and other mahatmas at Anandashram, Kanhangad, Kerala, India:

Prior to mentation, conception or cognition, is our true nature that is Divine, the Pure Being, ever shining in every one as the ‘I am’ (existence), ‘I know I am’ (awareness), and ‘am limitless’  ̶  hence ever free, perfect, peaceful and blissful, the ‘Self’ that is the immediate Presence, indubitable, self-evident, self-revealing, nameless and formless, motionless, beyond time and space, undifferentiated, undivided, indivisible, absolute, homogenous mass of consciousness,indicated by the Upanishadic dictum           satyam-jnanam-anantam (Existence-Knowledge-Infinitude, the Ultimate Reality), pervading and interpenetrating everything and immanent in everyone; which on cognition, appears as theworld of multifarious names and forms including our body-mind-sense complex and all movements; on mentation appears as thoughts; and on intuition ̶ direct perception without the means of knowledge, ever abides as the Pure Being,shining as the ‘knowing’ (awareness), in which there is no ‘doing’ (movement); the attributesless, immutable, real natureof everyone.

The goal of life is to discover, realise and manifest our true nature that is Divine (satyam-jnaanam-anantam), in our workaday world, in our interaction, in our thoughts, words and deeds; freed from all pairs of opposites such as attraction and aversion, elation and dejection etc.; devoid of the sense of ‘doership’ and ‘enjoyership’, realising the fact that ‘I am not the agent of action, ever uninvolved as I am’; the three modes of nature in my body-mind-sense complex alone are interacting with their counterparts in the external nature;‘I am not the experiencer of the results of action, ever perfect and full as I am’; ‘ever the indivisible witness consciousness, in relation to the body-mind-sense complex’; ‘pure consciousness alone appearing to have become everything that is cognizable to the five senses, including the body-mind-sense complex, and all that is conceivable by the mind’, untrammelled by names and forms.

By regular sadhana (spiritual practice), backed by shravana ̶ listening, with reverence and aspiration, to the exposition of the shastra by a qualified and competent teacher, manana ̶ constant reflection on the subject matter of shravana, and nididhyasana ̶ total absorption as a result of manana, negating all wrong notions and all that is non-self, we continually nurture our awareness of who we really are, always remembering the fourfold aspect of our divine nature ̶ the unmanifest, the manifest, theimmanent and the transcendent; the unmanifest being devoid ofthe threemodesof nature;nameless and formless;free from all pairs of opposites;free from the sense of ‘doership’ and ‘enjoyership’;immutable; appearing as all that is cognizable to the five senses including our body-mind-sense complex, and all that is conceivable by the mind; and yet transcending all that is cognizable and conceivable; nevertheless immediately accessible in as much as It is ever immanent in all, as the very core of our being, hence needing our constant supplication seeking Its grace to manifest in us:

O Divine Master*,

Seated in our heart,

The inner controller;

Though unmanifest

And ever immutable,

Thou art everything,

And yet beyond everything;

O the Indweller of all,

Hearken to our heartfelt prayer,

And manifest in all.

          Even as we constantly remember and supplicate to the divine within to manifest in us, we carry on all our daily chores as our humble offering unto the Divine, looking upon all as the manifestation of the same Divine, imbued with unconditional love for one and all, and interacting with everyone in perfect harmony and peace. “Real worship consists in constantly remembering and glorifying the great Truth that dwells in the hearts of us all….Tutor the mind to behold God everywhere, by making it dwell in    God-thought, and earn everlasting peace and joy” (̶  Swami Ramdas).

* “Guru is a word that has different meanings according to the context in which it is used. Guru is an institution. That individual may be different, but he is called guru. Guru is also used in the sense of Parameshvara: Gururbrahma gururvishnuhu gururdevo  maheshvarah. There guru, the word, is used in the primary sense, the ultimate reality” ( ̶ Swami Dayananda Saraswati).

    Here ‘Divine Master’ (to mean Guru) is used in the primary sense.

Source: Global Hindu News (GHN)

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