HIS LIFE AND TEACHINGS
HITHER AND THITHER
Returning from Calcutta he visited Bombay where the business magnates, Sir Iswar Das Laxmi Das and his son Seth Purushotam Das Iswar Das, were his friends. They had gone to Bangalore in the year 1922 and resided there for about a year and a half in a bungalow opposite the Ashrama building. An acquaintance was then formed which ripened into close intimacy. The Swami became their family friend and teacher. Many of their relations and friends also came into contact with him and were blessed by him. Accepting their invitation, he visited them almost evey year. They were most happy to entertain him, serve him and spend most lavishly for any cause which he had in mind. It was they who enabled him to instal electric lights in the Ashrama at Trivandrum at a cost of nearly four thousand rupees. They supplied him with ample funds to help numerous poor students and helpless widows regularly. Neither the Swami nor they desired the public to know anything of these acts of charity and benevolence. They abhorred being advertised or even mentioned in any such connection. The Swami respected their feelings in the matter so scrupulously that he refused to disclose the source even when he was questioned about it. Spending some days in Bombay he reached Bangalore in the month of May (1925). The movement there was spreading and growing stronger every day. For the Students Home, the Government of Mysore sanctioned the free grant of a building site 15,000 sq. feet in extent. Supervising the Ashrama works, putting things in order and making enquiries as to the progress of other centres the Swami remained there till July. He then proceeded to Kerala and visiting the centres on his way reached Trivandrum in August 1925.
The Ashrama building stood in need of extension, the hilly ground all round had to be cleared and planted with useful trees and plants. Planning and executing and spending his own pocket money for these works, the Swami stayed there for over a month. This time he gave Sanyasa to seven Brahmacharins and named them Swamis Nrisimhananda, Ojasananda, Oorjasananda, Puranjanananda, Balakrishnananda, Arjavananda and Umeshananda. Mr. K. Raman Menon who had contributed handsomely for the construction of the shrine room and well having passed away, his nephew, Mr. Sankara Menon (Swami Amalananda), donated rupees three thousand in his memory, for the daily worship of Thakur. Swamiji next opened the Premananda Ashrama at Muttom and returned to Bangalore via Madras.
For the third time Swamiji visited Coorg in the year 1925. Hearing that Swamiji had arrived at Virajpet Mr. Chengappa (now Retd. Dy. Director of Agriculture) invited him to Ponnampet. The invitation was accepted and Swamiji went there by car. Many leading gentlemen of the place had assembled to meet him. As usual, there were questions put to him on a variety of subjects. His answers and conversations so impressed the audience that the idea of having an Ashrama there took deep root.
Some of the questions asked touched upon the simplicity of life advocated by Mr. Gandhi. Swamiji replied in naming words: "This sort of advocacy is a set-back to progress. Are not the Indians, as a whole, leading a simple life – a life of contentment? That contentment is not the result of enjoyment of life to the full; but is a result of indolence, helplessness, inability to achieve better and higher things. It is morbid contentment from which people should be roused and raised. That contentment is a sign of death, not of life. It is not a sign of the Satwa state – a state reached after incessant struggle. Our people have not enjoyed life as it should be. Our standard of life is to be raised, not lowered. People must have enough enjoyment before they can think of giving up." At the same time he spoke very strongly against our people imitating western manners and ways of living. Elsewhere also he used to speak feelingly of the low standard of living of our people. Before departing he asked Mr. Chengappa and two of his relations to go to Virajpet the next morning. They went there as directed and were initiated by him.
It was now four years since the great 'President Maharaj,' Swami Brahmanandaji, passed away. The Mission and its activities continued to grow, only his benign, farseeing eyes and controlling touch were not on them. Their absence resulting in the necessity for some sort of comprehensive control over the working of the organisation must have been felt by the authorities. A convention of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission was proposed to be held in Calcutta in May 1926. Swamiji was invited and Swami Saradananda lovingly pressed him to go to Calcutta at that time. Responding to the pressure Swamiji arrived in Calcutta on the 2nd of December. Then again he made a tour of all the centres and went up to Haridwar. He returned and was present at the convention. A report of the same by an observer published in the Prabuddha Bharata of May 1926 (page 223) has the following:–
"In a series of conversazione held generally in the evening after the day's work was over, the senior Swamis of the order gave opportunities to the representatives and visitors to have their doubts solved regarding the various problems of work and religion. Swamis Shivananda, Saradananda, Vijnanananda, Abhedananda, Subodhananda and Nirmalananda – all of them had sat at the feet of the Master for longer or shorter periods – created, each in his own way, an impression upon the minds of the younger members which has surely proved of inestimable value to them. These informal meetings were a prominent feature of the convention; and many confessed that they might not have a similar experience in their life-time again.x x." After the convention was over, the Swami returned to Bangalore in time to receive the President, Swami Shivananda, who arrived there on the 22nd of October and accompanied him to Madras on the 18th of November, As reported by the Vedanta Kesari (February 1927), the Swami stayed for four days at the Ramakrishna Mutt, Mylapore. On the 20th of November he gave a class talk to the students of the Ramakrishna Mission Students Home. He also held a very eloquent conversation at the Ramakrishna Mutt on the 2lst and returned to Bangalore on the same day.