HIS LIFE AND TEACHINGS
INVITED TO KERALA
The fame of Bangalore and the name of the Swami spread to Kerala. One day there came to the Swami a call from distant Haripad, a small, out of-the-way village in the southernmost State of Travancore. This is the State which owns and in which is situate the Holy Shrine of Kanyakumari – the southernmost Thirtha of Bharatavarsha Sages, ascetics, pilgrims and devotees of all sects of Hindu hold the Thirtha dear to their hearts. They have poured their hearts' devotion there at the Mother's feet. They have had consolations and revelations from them. Dearer it has become to us of this age because of its association with the Prophet-Saint of Modern India, – Swami Vivekananda – because of the deep meditation and the vision he had there and the inspiration he drew from it.
One of the ancient rulers of the State, Kulasekhara Perumal, was a devotee of a rare type. He was a contemporary of Sri Krishna Chaitanya. They had met and embraced each other and wept together, taking the name of their Beloved Lord. This Dharmarajya (Land of Righteousness), the most orthodox, the most priest-ridden in India, the mother-land of Sankara has ever had great devotees in humble positions. And it is a strange fact that whenever there has been a religious revival in any part of India, Kerala has been stirred by it, has shared in it and contributed to its growth. It was so at the time of Chaitanya; it is so even now. There is some connection between Bengal and Kerala, deeper than what is apparent to the eye. That Parasurama peopled Kerala from Bengal may be a myth: nevertheless Bengal and Kerala have many features in common. Ever since the Swami Vivekananda woke up the note of Vedanta in the Parliament of Religions at Chicago, he has had ardent devotees and admiring listeners in Kerala. Swami Ramakrishnanandaji, at the invitation of Babu Kalipada Ghose, a great Grihastha disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, came to Trivandrum in 1904 and stayed for some months. He roused the latent spirituality of many by his inspiring talks, learned lectures, Gita classes and above all, by his unsurpassed devotion to Sri Guru Maharaj and supreme Nishta to the ideal. Religious associations had been formed in,many places, Haripad being one among them. The members met regularly to study the words of Swami Vivekananda. Desiring to be further enlightened and inspired by the direct disciples of his Master, the Haripad Association requested the Swami to bless them by his presence at Haripad on the occasion of the Masters' Birthday celebration in February 1911. Mr. Padmanabhan Tampi, the President of the Association, had already met the Swami at Madras when Swami Ramakrishnananda had introduced him to Swami Nirmalananda and told Mr. Tampi that the Swami was a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and was mentioned in the Gospel as 'Tulasi.' The Swami readily consented to be present on the occasion. The association desired to present him with a welcome address. For particulars regarding the activities to be embodied in the address, the Secretary of the Association (the late Mr. Subba Raya Iyer, a Vakil) wrote to the Swami Ramakrishnanandaji at Madras. The latter replied, as follows :–
"My dear friend,
Many thanks for your kind letter. The Swami Nirmalanandaji is a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna who took Sanyasa from Swami Vivekananda. Swami Vivekananda named him 'Nirmala' on account of his rare purity of character. He travelled far and wide all over India, spending most of his time in the Himalayas for a period of nearly 12 years. He made the Maharaja of Chamba one of his greatest admirers. Our President, the Swami Brahmanandaji, sent him over to America. Swami Nirmalananda worked so well in America that the people there did not like to leave him. But urgent calls from his native land made him come back to work for the regenertion of his own mother-land. He worked for some time in eastern Bengal and Assam. Then he was sent over to Bangalore whence you have invited him.
The Association sent him Rupees forty for the expenses of his journey. The Swami arrived at Ernakulam (The Railway terminus) on the 15th of the month. He was met by the Secretary and another member of the Association. They had expected the Swami to travel second class and to have an attendant. But to their surprise, the Swami stepped out of a third class compartment, he was alone, and they were more than surprised when he returned the unspent money to them. He was then escorted to Alleppey by steamboat. "There the vakils, Government officials, teachers and students of the Sanatana Dharmavidyalaya received him at the landing and took him to the Vidyalaya. A request being made to him then and there, he delivered a very eloquent and inspiring lecture on Bhakti. He dwelt on it under three heads, sakama bhakti in the beginning, developing into Nishkamabhakti and culminating in jnanamisra Bhakti or Parabhakti. From the time of landing at Alleppey to the moment of his departure from Haripad he was given strenuous work.
The next morning the Swami started for Haripad by country boat. At the landing he was received by a large party composed of the members of the Association, the Vakils of the local bar, the local officials and other gentlemen. He was presented with two addresses, one in Sanskrit and the other in English. Thanking them for the address the Swami said that "he viewed the addresses not as presented to his humble self, but as indicating their spirit of bhakti towards Sri Guru Maharaj." Swamiji, when speaking of his Guru, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, was chocked and actually burst into tears which moved the audience deeply (P. B. XVI 95). The following day was the day fixed for the anniversary celebration. The whole morning was spent in Bhajana at the local temple. After procession "the poor of all classes were fed to the number of nearly 2,500, three centres being specially set apart for feeding the Pulayas and other so-called unapproachables." (P. B. XVI 95). This was followed by a public meeting at which Swamiji delivered a soul-stirring speach on the 'Inherent strength of Hinduism.' Swamiji's address was translated to the audience, the majority of which did not know English. "After the evening bhajana the Swami held a conversation which was full of life and spirit."
Next morning he gave a few words of advice to the students of the Shanmughavilasam School, discoursed on various spiritual topics, gave a lesson to the Association on Bhaghavadgita and held a meditation class. In the evening, he paid a visit to the S. V. High School where he addressed the students on their duties. After giving the members of the Association some valuable advice about the line of work to be followed by them, he took leave of them and returned to Bangalore via Quilon.
What deep and lasting impression he created in the hearts of some at his very first visit and how the course of their lives was permanently changed will be clear from a few interesting incidents. One among those present uttering the words "Nilakandha Bhakta makes his Pranama" leapt up to the Swami at one bound and fell down near him lost in devotion. The Swami took him up, saying "he is a Bhakta of Neelakandha, I am not worthy to accept his Pranama." Swamiji spoke highly of him and called him Bhakta, a name by which he was known afterwards till he took up Sanyasa. He became a Brahmacharin, got initiation from the President Maharaj and is now Swami Purushotamanandaji, living in the Vasishtaguha, Rishikesh.
Another devotee wept bitterly and Swamiji called him his 'weeping boy.' In his subsequent letters from Bangalore he used to ask the Association to take particular care of 'my weeping boy.' This devotee gave his property as a site for the tirst Ramakrishna Ashrama in Kerala. He lived as a Brahmacharin in that Ashrama, got initiation from Swami Brahma- nanda and became one of Swamiji's Sanyasin disciples. He is the Swami Chitsukhananda.
Mr. Subbaraya Iyer who was a Vakil desired the Swami to accept a donation of Rs. 1,000 for the Mission. Swamiji asked him to reserve it, as 'Haripad itself may have use for it.' That came in as the first donation for the Haripad Ashrama. It is clear that the Swami felt the atmosphere there as spiritual, and that it was going to have a shrine for Sri Guru Maharaj. When Sri Maharaj visited it, he spoke very highly of the spirituality of the place. Mr. Subbaraya Iyer was then issueless and had given up all hopes of having any, but after getting Swamiji's blessings he became the father of three children. The first born was named by him Ramakrishna.
From Haripad Swamiji went to Quilon where he held a discourse, A visitor asked him why, in spite of his great efforts he had not succeeded in realisation, Swamiji said "A candidate may fail 6 times in the matriculation examination, in the 7th he may come out successful. This is the case in religion also." As a matter of fact the questioner had failed six times and passed the seventh time only in his matriculation. All marvelled at the reply.
At the time of parting, those present and those who had escorted him naturally wanted to make pranamas at the feet of the Swami. But before they realised what he was about to do, he fell prostrate before them all, quietly got into the railway compartment and shut the door. He had made his mark in Kerala.