1950's. I was a kid just out of Primary School. The whole of our joint family was filled with Shreedharaswamy those days. My father, and in his absence his brother(my uncle), used to do puja twice -sometimes thrice- a day with Swamy's paduka at the centre of spread with other idols of deities with Swamy's photograph too at the background. In the night it was followed by many bhajans on Swamy sung by children including myself as mandatory and often joined by adults too. Once or twice a year Swamy was invited home for pada puja and bhiksha (just three palms full of food Swamy takes, a bland one at that!) where thousands used to assemble whom the Swamy used to address, pravachana. In one such occasion I was called in the puja room by Swamy and was initiated into his moola mantra which I continued to chant. My father was one of His close 'devotee', used to accompany Him for His several tours across the length and breadth of the Country. My father used to be away months together and when he returned he spent hours in narrating the events that occur on tour including how Swamy handled different people,- the sick and the suffering in particular,- and also the detractors with customary aplomb. The narration often included the 'miracles' that happened with Him and when He is around. All these instilled in me awe and wonder towards Swamy and more importantly, I was afraid of Swamy, afraid to go near Him too, lets He admonish this erring child!
Shree Shreedharaswamy was full of inner radiance, oozing bliss and love all around. He was always engrossed in His divinity and conducted Himself in this world with highly evolved and exalted consciousness. There was never a self concern for Himself, totally selfless and strove for good of all. Thousands used to assemble wherever He was, thousands would be fed then, thousands of money was offered and all of it given away to the needy there by the end of that very day. He believed that good of all beings is possible by following sanatana dharma/eternal law, arya samskriti, and He worked tirelessly towards establishing it. His stay wherever he went was filled with performance of yaga, yajna, ashtaavadna seva, art and music shows with a grand week long celebration of the same once or twice a year, and in most of the time it was in the holy place He Himself has established, Varadahalli.
He has played very crucial role in my life too,
Shree Shreedharaswamy was a modern man with heart of Ancient Wisdom. His constant practice of yajnas, homas, was meant to check the environmental degradation such as pollution of earth, air and water. His dealing with people without any discrimination of caste, creed and gender eased social tension. He had a solution to the two most devastating modern ills such as environmental depletion and social tension. Practice of original Vedic culture was His solution and a mission too. His approach to any problem was highly enlightened, problem solving and life supporting characterised by lots of love and compassion and I can illustrate this with incidences from my own life.
I had finished my school education by 1957 and I wanted join college to pursue higher education. My father was unwilling for my education further as I being the eldest son, he wanted me to remain in the village to look after the agricultural land and property. Besides, he being a staunch follower of Orthdoxy, had reservation about modern ' English' education then. Yet, I was too keen and I was in anguish, I went on insisting. Matter went to our Supreme Court-Shree Shreedharaswamy! Every body, including me, thought that Swamy would be against modern British sponsored English education and hence I would be doomed. Swamy surprised everybody. He told my father ; "How can you change a system without knowing it. Let your son go to college and study, I may need that also". He turned towards me and said " magaa ( it is a Kannada colloquial for son ) study well and come back, ok". My joy was unbound. The most 'orthodox' man has come to my rescue!
I had a shaven head with a tuft at the back of it as a typical orthodox Brahmin of those days would have it. The very first day in my college I was humiliated and ridiculed by my mates for it. Being a very sensitive person I had a harrowing time that day. I went straight to a barber shop, got the tuft cut and transformed into a 'crop' cut. My father noticed it on that very night and got upset. "How can a sanatani/orthodox family and that too a staunch disciple of upholder of sanatana dharma, Shreedharaswamy, could tolerate such a sacrilege", he thundered. What is more, the next day was our bhiksha/food offering day at Varadahalli for the Swamy and my father ordered me not to enter inside there at the time of aposhana/taking of holy water before food, as Swamy would never allow a 'crop' fellow . At the appointed time, all the members of the family were inside except me. I believe Swamy asked where I am and when He was told of the matter, He asked them to let me in. To the utter surprise of everybody gathered, he takes me near and consoles, telling the gathering there that how can I be concentrating on studies facing such ridicule , let I be with it and my heart is known to Him!
I was doing PhD in Clinical Psychology in National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscince(NIMHANS), Bangalore, during 1967-69. An acquaintance who was doing Master's in Sociology turned into friendship and finally resulted in a marriage proposal during that period. My father objected on the ground that although she belonged to our caste but not the sub-caste and would not follow our sampradaya/tradition . After nearly an year of waiting and pleading, the matter was again referred to our Supreme Court/Swamiji!. Swamiji was in ekaanta vaasa, would not see/meet anybody and rarely talked too. Yet, behind a screen, He spoke more than an hour to me where all members of the family were also there. He inquired about my studies, the curriculum, talked on the human body with all its filth and diseases hidden inside, the human relationship based on such considerations and so on and finally after hearing my version of the issue on hand, the verdict came. He tells my father, " magaa , she was his wife in the former life, died unsatisfied, has come again for fulfilment, let him marry her". Again everyone gathered there was astounded, my gratitude to Swamy finding no boundary.
I was gradually drifting away from religious faith partly as a reaction to excessive orthodoxy prevailing at home and partly because of my acquaintance with modern European Existentialism and Literature and as such , psychologically, I was far away from Swamy and my family there. As I was moving further in that direction and studies, I happen to come across the work of Fritz Capra, Deepak Chopra, Colin Wilson and others in my own profession of Clinical Psychology who while strongly grounded in modern science started questioning its premises and laid the firm bases for spirituality and inner growth. It was somewhere around 1973. I was teaching at Mysore University. It was a crisis situation for me. My atheistic considerations crumbled, deeply shaken by the turn of events, my inner longing for spirituality hitherto neglected started surfacing and I wanted to meet Shreedharaswamy. But he was in a long- I think five year long- mouna ekanta vaasa/vow of silence and solitary existence , I was fidgeting in myself. Alas, I heard the news of His demise. I wept, incessantly and uncontrollably. At a time when I wanted Him intensely, I missed Him. A wealth of spirituality that was there all along so near to me, I had neglected and now I am repenting like a fool. I was driven, as if from an unseen hand, towards a fresh and formal initiation to Meditation in a well known centre in Mysore. Ever since, since the last thirty five years, I would have missed now and then food or sleep or interaction with the near and dear ones due to the pressures of work but never missed even for a single day, my meditation.
Swamy has played a pivotal role in my life. He supported my higher education, he permitted me to be a modern without being subservient to it, he supported my marriage and finally, before His leaving His mortal body, drew me back and put me firmly to access my spiritual domain. I often feel that His unseen hand shaped my success. Although I was very successful as a teacher, my administrative sojourn such as Chairman of the University Department, Registrar and later Vice-Chancellor of one of the largest University in the Country, I had to face several crisis. In all such situations, I was able to come clean with greater effectiveness without my very conscious effort. I felt some unseen force is guiding me in spite of myself. Who else that force would be than my Shreedharaswamy.
I think I must end with this last narration. I think it was during the 1960's. My father always insisted that I should visit Swamy whenever I go to my place near Sagar or when Swamiji visited the place where I was staying. Once in Varadahalli, Swamiji was in an intense mood. He told me that if and when rishis/sages and devatas/gods give Him green signal, He would take world tour in the cause of establishing sanatana dharma, and asked me whether I would join him. I had said " yes if You will it". Yet deep in my heart I was not enthusiastic for the reason stated above. Once I had met Him when He camped in Bangalore. He received me on the terrace of the house and had said that He is keen on launching the movement across the world but gods say the time has not come. When I asked my father, after His departure, on the mission of Swamy, I was told that destiny and gods, did not permit the launch as the time has not come and perhaps that is the reason He went on a long seclusion before departing. My father also said that He had told that he would come back to do it when time is ripe and gods ordain.
O Swamy, where are you? Has not the time come? Please see that I do not miss you this time before I leave! I pine for you, I long for you!
P.S. This is a two part article originally posted in http://groups.yahoo.com/groups/shreedharswami on July 26 and 30, 2008 or shreedharswami in yahoo group search