When we were in the CHYK in Hong Kong, we used to chase Gurudev in every Bhiksha and bask in his love.
During one of the breakfast bhikshas after Gurudev had finished, we youngsters were surrounding him when his cup of coffee came. All these days, we had thought that we had understood the essence at Vedanta that there was no happiness in the sense objects.
And here was Gurudev with his cup of coffee and after sipping it, looked at us seriously and said, “Whoever said there is no pleasure in sense objects?” and exhilarated with a deep “Aah!” while we looked at him stunned. He seemed to revel in that cup of coffee while we kept gazing at his comical expressions of utter enjoyment. Looking at our faces, he burst out laughing and as he walked out of the house he looked back at us and said, “But, it is only temporary.”
The first time I travelled with Gurudev on flight was on our way to Sidhbari for the second Vivekachoodamani Camp. We were just sitting there and he was reading one of his magazines. Due to the air pressure my ears got blocked and my eyes started watering. I couldn’t understand what was happening. The pressure increased and ibecame even more uncomfortable. Gurudev was watching me and lovingly enquired as to what was happening to me. He then showed me how to open my ears by doing some facial exercises and ease the air pressure.
My last trip along with Gurudev was when we went to Sydney on April 25th 1993. Isabel Taylor was travelling with him but she did not have her visa for Australia. So I had to travel with Gurudev and nurse his medicines.
We were sitting together and he wrote his letters till late in.the night. “He watched a little bit of the movies and the whole night I watched him, his legs kept high white he clutched them. It seemed there was a lot of pain in his legs and there was nothing I could do. In the morning, when breakfast was served I got a chance to ask Gurudev a question. Having experienced a lot of pain myself, I asked, “Gurudev, the Atma doesn’t feel any pain and the body, being inert, can’t feel any pain. Yet how is pain experienced?”
He replied, “It is because of our attachment. Isn’t it that when you are identified with your body you experience pain? When you are asleep, where is pain?” And then, immediately, he changed the subject and started showing me the various monuments of Sydney as we landed.
In Sidhbari, we, Hong Kong Chyks, always used to wait at the door of Gurudev to walk with Gurudev in the afternoons and this tradition we maintained for many camps over the years. Gurudev used to call it Hong Kong Time. There was one camp where I was all alone. It was the last camp before I was to join the Brahmachari Course. As always, I was standing at the door while it was pouring heavily. I saw Shivaramji standing with a jug to wash Gurudev’s hands and an umbrella in the other hand. I asked if I could hold the umbrella for Gurudev. Shivaramji very lovingly handed over the umbrella. Gurudev washed his hands and as he turned and saw me with the umbrella he said, “Oh, ho !” and grabbed me into his arms and strolled along with me under the umbrella, and kept singing “Barsaat mein……..hum, turn………”
I was so lost in his divine embrace that I did not even realise that the umbrella kept hitting his head due to the strong winds. Still, he held me tight till we reached his kutia. Singing away the filmi tune in his broken Hindi. What I felt at that time can never be described in words.
He always seemed so prejudiced to be a Keralite. In the last yagna at Hong Kong, whenever he got Kerala food, he seemed to revel in it. Once, he looked at a devotee and told him that you will have to be born again to enjoy this Kerala food, as he licked his palms in his usual style. The devotee said, “I don’t want to be born again. I will realise in this life itself.” Gurudev laughed, “Even to realise you have to be born as a Keralite.” Then added that all great saints are only from Kerala. For all great saints have to be Keralites. The devotee tried to act cheeky, “But, Swamiji, our Swaroopananda will become a great saint in a few years.” Gurudev was silent for a moment. It seemed as though he was cornered, for he couldn’t say that his disciple would not be a great saint. Then, he lifted his thumb, showed his tongue like a child, and said, “Aannh I He is already half a Keralite being squeezed in oil in the Ayurveda Chikitsalaya at Coimbatore.”
Later, someone asked Gurudev as to why didn’t he conduct a yagna in Hindi even though he had studied under Swami Tapovan Maharaj in Hindi. Gurudev remarked that Swami Tapovanji had his own version of Hindi — Matayali Hindi !
Very rarely did Gurudev ever reveal himself. In our Yuva Kendra class we had come up with this very special question which nobody seemed to answer satisfactorily. In Sidhbari, after one of the informal satsangs, we got fired with this question that if the realised Master has no desires and for him the illusion of the world doesn’t exist, then for whom does he come back? Gurudev went on explaining, but either due to our tack of understanding, we kept on grilling him till, finally, he was lost in his explanation and closing his eyes, he declared, “The meditator who meditated is dead and gone. It is Narayana that flows through this body,” pointing his fingers towards his chest. Many did not understand, but those who did, saw it. He was truly Narayana.
It was in 1979 that I first met Gurudev. In those days, a yagna was on and my father insisted that I must listen to this man. He didn’t know that I was secretly reading the commentaries of Gurudev. I hardly expected that the one who wrote such a deep commentary would be such a humorous person roaring with laughter. I was told that he was a very strict disciplinarian and that people were terrified of him. Ever since I have known him I have never seen a person more gentle, more loving, more compassionate, more forgiving, more tolerant and more friendly than Gurudev.
In those days, I had certain doubts when I had heard some discourses eartier which sounded right but there was something logically wrong. There is a statement that without His will not even a leaf can move and whatever good of bad we do is done by Him. I could not conveniently blame all the wrong doings on Htim. tn his very first discourse Qurudev explained this oft – repeated statement. He satd Qod is like petrol. Without Him the car of your life can’t move. But whether it goes. to the heights or falls to the ditches, depends upon the driver of the car.
To me, Gurudev means everything. He is Parabrahma Paramatma. I admire his loving service to mankind while his humour strikes me the most.
Once, the Hong Kong Chyks had a question – and – answer session with Gurudev and we were so uplifted that we didn’t want to go back home. So we went to the only quiet peak of Hong Kong, the Victoria Peak, with its spectacular vtew.
We sat there lost in ourselves. Meanwhile, some parents panicked and called around the town, including where Gurudev was staying to find out where we had disappeared. Next morning, at the airport, everybody was talking of our late night sojourn at the peak and there came Gurudev- who was the only one who seemed to know why we went to the peak. Laughing at us, he remarked, “You need not go to the peak to meditate. In meditation, reach the peak !”
The last conversation that I had with Gurudev was on Guru Poornima. I had called him up at London over the phone. The last words he said to me were, “Swaroop, you are literally spreading your Swaroop everywhere.” I didn’t understand. Then again he said, “Swaroop, spread your Swaroop everywhere !” and reading my mind said, “You want to speak to Swami Tejomayananda? He is here,” and handed over the phone to Swami Tejomayananda.