HIS LIFE AND TEACHINGS
LAST DAYS AND MAHASAMADHI
After the last severe illness at Calcutta Swamiji never regained his former health. On the other hand he was slowly but steadily growing weaker. But quite unmindful of his bodily condition he went on working. When he reached Ottapalam he looked worn out, although his voice, his words and his actions all exhibited the same old vigour and strength. Once more he went to Calicut to make arrangements for the Association to start work. But bad season and his indisposition did not permit him to stay there many days and he returned to his beloved Ashrama and river side at Ottapalam.
Now, at any rate, the Swami seemed to have felt within himself that his main work was over. All his subsequent utterances suggested that he was about to lay down his body. 'I shall depart shortly and then you will all be free,' he would say to his senior Sanyasin diciples. Then pointing out to them he would ask a friend: 'Who will look after these children of mine, when I am gone?" One day he called the monastic discipies and told them: 'I have made myself ready to start. Now tell me what I should do with these Ashramas. Each one of you should tell me separately what each has to propose. Don't consult each other." Then each one expressed his views. To one of them Swamiji asked "Then, won't you allow me to retire at all." No, replied the disciple. 'You do not understand anything' remarked the Swamiji and asked 'How will you live.' "Obeying' Swamiji," replied the disciple. "That is now, but how in future?" he again asked. He put questions to the girl devotees also suggesting that he was about to leave them. "Who will give you Shambhu-Chutney when I go away," was one such question. Many were the hints he threw out indicating the nearness of his final departure. On the 5th of March, five weeks before his Mahasamadhi, he was conversing with a number of devotees. The Editor of Vivekavani was also present. Towards the close, Swamiji said 'I may give up the body shortly, at any time - who knows?" [Vivekavani – Vol. II, p. 709.) All the same, he was never a stricter disciplinarian or a more severe task-master than at that time. The least negligence, carelessness or remissness on the part of any disciple was treated as a great offence. Not a day passed without their having some lesson instilled into their minds, it was as if he was now smelting them and putting his own mark upon them – mark indelible and divine, mark which was to give them admission to the world of freedom and bliss. More and more work he was giving them, more and more was he showering his grace upon them and more and more was he withdrawing into his self. One day an Ashrama servant met with an accidental death. Swamiji felt very sorry for him and prayed for the peace of his soul. He also paid a handsome amount of money to his bereaved mother with instructions us to how she should invest it. Not long after, Swamiji became indisposed.
Not feeling well, he took a purgative on the morning of the 20th of April 1938. But the bowels did not move. So at about 4 p. m., a Doctor was called. He examined Swamiji, gave an enema and thought the temperature could be brought down by a quinine injection. But that injection being a muscular one, he was doubting within himself if he should inflict that pain and whether Swamiji could stand it in his then bodily condition. Reading his thoughts, Swamiji said, "Don't feel nervous, Doctor, you may do what you like with this body; it is not mine." The injection was therefore given.
The next day (21st of April 1938) his temperature fell from 103° to 99.5°; but the upper arm where the injection was given became a little swollen. It was also giving pain. Then another Doctor, an M.B.B.S., who was known to the Swamiji, was called. He prescribed certain medicines for external application also. Addressing him, Swamiji said "Docior I have some very costly lint and medicines with me. You take them and use them for poor patients, not for the paying ones." Thev were collected and properly packed and set apart to be given to the Doctor. The treatment continued, but neither the pain nor the swelling abated. Swamiji, however, continued giving instructions regarding the construction ol the gue.st house, and other Ashrama works.
On the 22nd there came a letter from the Ashrama at Palai. When it was taken to the Swami he asked whether it was for him. 'No,' said the disciple. "Then, why do you bring it to me" asked Swamiji. "Certain Ashrama matters are desired to be communicated to Swamiji" was the disciple's reply. Oh! said the Swami "I have nothing to do with Ashramas and their affair. I have no more connection with them. Let each Ashrama be looked after by its residents and let me lie down peacefully.' He did not care to have the letter read out.
On the 23rd, a slight swelling appeared on Swamiji's feet also. Referring to it, he remarked to one of his house-holder disciples, who was standing by, "you see, the children are looking intently at my swollen feet. That swelling is not like this (pointing to his arm). It is something quite different," To the little girls who were always near him, he taught some new songs, himself singing them very sweetly. He played with them, laughed with them and playfully showed them how to cry, " Who will give you mangoes nicely cut when I am gone," he is said to have asked them on that day. Poor children! They did not in the least comprehend the import of those words. To the Sanyasin disciples attending on him he said: "Don't give me any more medicine." Later on he said "I don't want anything from tomorrow forward." He added 'Let me lie down peacefully.' In spite of these significant worda, the disciples did not, in their excess of love for Sri Swamiji; beleive that the great end was so imminent.
His bodily condition was no better on the 24th. Growing anxious, the disciples wired to Dr. Tampi of Trivandrum that afternoon (Sunday). More than once Swamiji enquired if a book post had come to his address. It would appear that it was the Bengali almanac for the new year that he was expecting. Not getting it, he referred to the old one and also to the new Malayalam one. That night he was heard to say "Some one will have to go back to-morrow." It was the next day that His Holiness Swami Vijnananandaji Maharaj attained Mahasamadhi. He was also constantly calling on the Mother "Ma, Ma, Oh Ma."
He was also beared to say: "Yes, Trivandrum work is finished." It may here be mentioned that Swamiji had regarded Trivandrum work as a charge entrusted to him by Sri Sri Maharaj (Swami Brahmanandaji). The moment Swamiji read the telegram conveying the sad news of Maharaji's Mahasamadhi he expressed that he had lost all interest in life. He wished to retire. "But" he had said "it was his wish that I myself should complete the Trivandmm work and I must do It. His least wish is a command to me." That seemed to have been the main-spring of. all his subsequent activities there.
The night of the 24th passed. Till morn on the 25th Swamiji was his old self, a stupendous personality, a great master, alert, acllve, teaching, testing and directing his disciples. From now onwards, he was the embodiment of Peace. He hardly spoke anything. True to his words, he took neither medicine nor food except few drops of soda-water or orange-juice which the disciples lovingly pressed him to take. When once a few drops of Panopepton were mixed with soda-water, Swamiji reprimanded the attendant. He was physically very weak and lay absorbed in contemplation. Dr. Tampi (with Mrs. Tampi) arrived at 10 P.M., on Monday and examined Swamiji. As there was nothing to be done immediately, doctor said, he would examine him again the next morning. "That will do", said Swamiji.
The night passed very quietly. At 4 A M., one of the attending disciples went to his side and said: "Swamiji, soda". Swamiji then asked quite audibly: "What is the time"? "4 A.M.", the disciple replied. Swamiji again became silent. Ekadasi – Harivasara – had begun. At day-break, the children had their bath as usual, assembled by his side and began Bhajana and Keerthana. Doctor Tampi came and examined Swamiji. The worst fears were then almost confirmed. At about 7 A.M., Swamiji was seen attempting to get up. One of the disciples slowly raised him and kept him resting on the disciples breast. Then in low tones Swamiji said, "Yes, yes, yes, that's all right" – the last words that came out of that mouth from which had flashed forth Divine messages and commands in those thundering tones. After a while he again lay on his bed, a deep calm and holy peace settling on his benign countenance. Bhajana continued. Ganges water and Thirtham were administered. The children sang:–
Nirmalam hridayam yasya,
Tasmai Sri Gurave namah.
The last words of the chant went forth; to greet them, as it were, went out the very last and supremely peaceful breath of the Beloved Master.
Then in solemn yet anguished tones, from the host of disciples and devotees assembled, arose the spontaneous cry,
"Jai Sri Gurumaharaj Ki Jai.
Jai Sri Swanuji Maharaj Ki Jai."
The heart-rending news of the Mahasamadhi soon spread and devotees poured in from all quarters. By about noon, the Ashrama was packed with mourners. The doctor who had been attending on Swamiji and Doctor Tampi again examined the body and declared that rigor mortis had set in. Preparation for the cremation then began. At about 3 P.M. – Ekadasi being over – the body was bathed, dressed in silk and profusely garlanded with flowers. Arati was performed, and all the disciples and devotees – men, women and children – offered worship and fell prostrate at the Holy feet, In the meanwhile, a funeral pyre had been constructed with Sandalwood and other appropriate materials on the banks of the holy Bharata River. Thither the body was taken by Dr. Tampi and other devotees and disciples in procession headed by a Bhajana party including Swamiji's children. The pyre was duly lit and the fire blazed forth verily like the spirit which had inhabited the body, glowing, pure and free. By sunset, the fire died out leaving the host of devotees plunged in grief and gloom.
On the 7th day (the 2nd of May) the disciples and devotees gathered the sacred remains and deposited them in the Ashrama after due and proper ceremonies. Special puja was offered on the 13th day when about 2,000 Daridra Narayanas were sumptuously fed.