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YOGALife - Spring 1994
Table of Contents Om
 ·  Beginnings
 ·  Years with the Master
 ·  A Gurubai Remembers
 ·  People are Waiting


On December 31st 1927, a boy was born in Kannimangalam, a small village in the Palghat District of Kerala. According to Indian custom, an astrologer immediately drew up a horoscope for the child. Among the predictions were: At the age of six months, the child was named and given rice (solid food) for the first time. This ceremony took place at the famous temple of Lord Subramanya at Palini. This handsome child of black curly hair, golden colored skin, and beautiful limbs was given the name of Thankaswamy. Thanka means gold and Swamy, master. If he wanted anything, Thankaswamy was stubborn. Usually success was his whatever or whomever his opponents or obstacles were. He could not be threatened; fear was absent. Whatever had to be done would be finished soon. When this stubborness in worldly things changed to spiritual goals, it was the cause of his great progress. In 1943, Swamiji (then known as Swamy Kuttan Nair) graduated from Nemmara High School. He was a good student with an interest in engineerig and a thirst to see more of the world. He had a secret plan to join the Navy. There he could get scientific and electrical training. He went to a recruiting station, lied about his age and was rejected after the required medical examination -- underweight (93 lbs.), too short, and too rapid a heartbeat (probably nervous).

Standing dejected, waiting for the train to return to his village, a slightly older boy approached and struck up a conversation. The boy convinced Swamy Kuttan to go with him to Madras and join the Army. When the train arrived in Madras, the station master called the police, as the boys had not paid their passage. The young stranger ended up paying with his fountain pen. The Army recruiting agents received a commision for each person signed up; they did not care that Swamy Kuttan was under age. They asked if he would like to join the engineering Corps, painting a rosy picture. This was his dream, so he agreed readily. His new friend disappeared and never returned. In later life, Swami Vishnu-devanandaji often reflected that this boy had been an instrument to bring him to where the next step was possible.

Meeting the Master

"I first heard about Swami Sivananda in a strange way. Looking in the waste paper basket for a lost paper, I found one small pamphlet called Sadhana Tattwa. His teachings were so simple and straight-forward, 'An ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory.'

"I got a couple of days leave of absence from the army and went to see him. There was no kind of religious hypocrisy, no sitting on a tiger skin with ashes smeared all over his body. He had an extraordinary spiritual glow."

"The second time I saw him, Swami Sivananda was coming up the stairs in my direction. I didn't want to have to bow my head to him. I was young and arrogant and never wanted to bow my head to anybody -- Swami, God-realized soul, or whoever, I didn't care. But it is the tradition that you should bow your head to a holy man. To avoid the situation, I just moved out of his path. Master saw me and headed in my direction. He asked me who I was and where I was coming from. Then he bowed down and touched my feet!! My whole body began to shake violently. With all my heart, with all my life and love, I learned to bow without any type of reservation. He touched my heart not with miracles or shows of holiness, but with his perfect egoless nature. He didn't consider that I was just a stupid boy standing there, although I was just that. He touched my heart and broke that egoism in me. I didn't think anything else in this world would have broken this ego. That was my first lesson, and if I could attain one millionth of the state of egolessness of the Master, it is His Grace."

Before leaving the Ashram, Swamy Kuttan summoned up the courage to seek the advice of the Master. "How should I go about my Sadhana?" he asked. The Master replied, "Keep a Spiritual Diary." God had spoken to him. >From that time on, he was absolutely regular in maintaining the diary and, needless to mention, in his Sadhana as well. The Guru had assumed charge of the disciple's life.

Discharged from the army in 1946, he again visited the Ashram before returning home. At this time a great lesson was learned by Kuttan Swamy. It is the custom at the Ashram to do Arati (waving of lights) every evening. Everyone assembled on the banks of the Ganges to watch Master perform this evening worship of the river. The young visitor was skeptical. After all, he had a scientific temperament and knew that a river is only water, H2O -- imagine worshipping H20!! But, as he watched the Saint waving the lights, he saw the river become a mass of flowing lights. It appeared as a divine flow, a manifestation of the Grace of the Lord. It whispered to him, "God pervades everything; this too is His Special Form."
Returning hime, his outlook on life was transformed. One fine morning in August, 1947, the postman brought the Call from the Himalayas, an invitation to the Celebration of SriGurudev's 60th birthday. He planned to go for only a few days, something told him he would not be returning.

At the Ashram, Swami Kuttan was asked to assist with the Ashram chores. Lentils were washed before cooking, then set out in the sun to dry. His karma yoga was to protect the lentils from the monkeys. One day, as he was doing this, Master passed by. He looked at the young man and said, "Stay here." "Yes, Swamiji," was the instant reply. A moment later, he realized that he had given his word, and once given, it could not be taken back.

So Sri Gurudev accepted this new disciple and welcomed him as a permanent staff member. He blessed him with initiation into Brahmacharya, with the name Vishnu Chaitanya. On Sivaratri, March 1948, Vishnu Chaitanya became Swami Vishnu-devananda. From then on, Master always lovingly called him "Vishnu Swamiji."

When the loving parents learned that their son had joined Siva's divine army, they wrote a distraught letter. Vishnu Swamiji showed it to the Master, who coolly handed it back with the words "Matha Naasti Pitha Naasti." (There is neither mother nor father for you). The troubled heart found instantaneous peace.

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