In every pore of my body
I joined Belur Math in 1976 and after some months was asked to serve as the sevak of Swami Kailasanandaji, who was one of the Vice Presidents of the Order. Though his health was not good, he would do japam for long hours many times in a day. His guru bhakti was extraordinary. He was specially blessed by Mahapurush Maharaj who gave him sannyasa much before the stipulated time. Moreover, the sannyasa ceremony was scheduled on Kali Puja day instead of Sri Ramakrishna’s Janma Tithi Puja day as was the custom. When sadhus in the Math started commenting about Mahapurush Maharaj breaking the Math rules, he went to Mahapurush Maharaj and submitted that he would wait the stipulated period of years before receiving sannyasa. For some reason, Mahapurush Maharaj was firm about his decision. He forcefully told him, “One who can make the rules can break the rules also. Will you take sannyasa or not tell me.” He immediately agreed. One day before sannyasa-diksha, Mahapurush Mj said, “So, tomorrow you are going to receive sannyasa. What name shall I give you? I am Shivananda, so you will be Kailasananda. Is that okay?”
Kailasanandaji was so imbued with guru bhakti that when he spoke, almost every sentence began with “Mahapurush Maharaj used to say…” Once or twice he told me “In every pore of my body is Mahapurush Maharaj.” He would every now and then look at the photograph of Mahapurush Maharaj in his room. Every time he went out or came in and even when he went for bathroom he would offer pranams before the photograph.
— Swami Nikhileswarananda
Mahapurush Maharaj used to say…
“Mahapurush Maharaj used to say…” If you found any swami of the Ramakrishna Order begin almost each one of his sentences with the above words, and say that with such feeling and conviction bordering almost on a passion, you could tell that it was Swami Kailasanandaji. He hardly had any personality or individuality of his own except the personality of his guru, Mahapurush Maharaj. Imagine an extremely fair and handsome, tall and well-built swami, with inward but beaming eyes, pouncing upon you the moment you enter the precincts of the Ramakrishna Math at Mylapore, Madras, greeting you with severe admonition for what at that time you would feel for nothing of what you did or said, his rebuke prefaced passionately almost always with “Mahapurush Maharaj used to say…”. Be it a new comer or a fairly well-known devotee, the treatment was almost the same. A new comer would be left wondering who this blessed Mahapurush Maharaj was, and what wrong had he done to deserve such a severe rebuke under the seal of approval and authority of one Mahapurush Maharaj whom he has never seen or heard of! Interestingly, that would seldom put the new comer off although it would initially irritate him. The sheer conviction of the tone which said these words would infect the new comer with a similar conviction that what was being said was true and intended only for his own spiritual welfare. What was the great offence of the new comer, by the way? It was apparently simple and too innocent to deserve such a severe rebuke. But nothing in spiritual life is insignificant to be ignored as too small. It is this meticulous care of ‘small’ things, this profound attention to ‘little’ details that shapes one’s character on which the edifice of one’s spiritual life is built. The offence was this. Soon after entering the precincts of the Ashrama, one is required not to turn left or right, much less to greet or talk to anybody one may happen to meet or bump into, but make straight for the shrine (Thakur-ghar as it is usually called) where lives Sri Ramakrishna in his subtle body, and first bow down before this Presiding Deity and report your entry to the Ashrama. For it is Sri Ramakrishna, and he alone, is the Head, the Presiding Deity, the Supreme Refuge, the Lord and the Witness of all that is happening in the Ashrama—again Mahapurush Maharaj’s words, quoting from the Gita (9.18): गतिर्भर्ता प्रभःु साक्षी निवासः शरणं सहृत् ु … So, first go straight to the shrine, report to him, and then and then alone, you are permitted to do anything else, transact any other business like exchanging greetings, meeting people and so on. Even this would not fully satisfy Swami Kailashanandji. Once again severely rebuked with sentences beginning as usual with “Mahapurush Maharaj used to say…”, this time for simply bowing down to Sri Ramakrishna in the shrine and walking away immediately thereafter without sitting down quietly for some time and meditating and doing japa. The lesson learnt then gets indelibly imprinted on the mind of the devotee: first make it straight to the shrine, bow down to Sri Ramakrishna, the Presiding Deity of the Ashrama, report to him about your coming, then sit down quietly in his divine presence, pray and meditate and do japa for some time before you go about attending to other things. All this lesson was imparted in all its severity through rebuke and reprimand, but always with the words: “Mahapurush Maharaj used to say…”.
— Swami Atmapriyananda
Bow down to Me…
The Gita sloka beginning मन्मना भव मद्भक्तो मद्याजी मां नमस्कुरु ।… is extremely important for at least two reasons: 1) The first line of this verse occurs twice in the Gita, at the end of the ninth Chapter (9.34), and again at the end of the eighteenth and the very last chapter (18.65) which is considered by all the commentator-Acharyas as the essence and summary of the entire Gita; 2) Bhagavan Sri Krishna says that this and the verse following it in the eighteenth chapter are the greatest spiritual and mystical secrets in the Gita among all the esoteric and secret doctrines in the world of the Spirit—sarva-guhyatamam. Hence the supreme importance of the two Gita verses: 18.65 and 18.66. The simple meaning of the above quoted line uttered by Bhagavan is as follows: Have your mind and heart absorbed in Me, be devoted to Me, worship (or sacrifice for) Me, bow down (or surrender) to Me. There are four components here: (i) absorption in the Lord, (ii) devotion to the Lord, (iii) worshipping or sacrificing for the Lord, (iv) bowing down or surrendering to the Lord. The first two are undoubtedly difficult and the third one in the sense of worshipping and the fourth one in the sense of bowing down appear to be relatively easier. But the effects of these two, namely, worshipping and bowing down, are enormous in spiritual life. Cultivation of the habit of repeated worship and repeated bowing down to the Lord’s image has been recommended in the Bhakti Shastras as a great sadhana and potent means of receiving God’s grace. These acts bring the sadhaka closer to God. One could learn the truth of the above simple but most effective spiritual practice from Swami Kailasanandaji’s life. On the night of Kali Puja, Swami Kailasanandaji would sit through the whole night, silently doing japam with his fingers (we have never seen him use a japamala or rosary). It was a joy for us to watch him meditating and doing japa. Interestingly, he would keep bowing down again and again with folded hands in the midst of his japa and continue doing japa. When I studied the Gita in later life, I remembered this incident of his repeated bowing down in the context of Sri Bhagavan’s exhortation mam namaskuru. In fact, this act of bowing was so characteristic of Swami Kailasananda and several other disciples of Sri Ramakrishna’s direct disciples that we began to understand the importance and beauty of this simple sadhana. Swami Kailasanandaji Maharaj would bow down before the photograph or murti of Sri Ramakrishna before leaving the Ashrama on any tour and again bow down first to Sri Ramakrishna immediately on return to the Ashrama from outside. This is a tradition in Ramakrishna Order followed by all the sannyasis. But an interesting phenomenon, in fact an extension of the above tradition, that we have observed in Swami Kailasanandaji was the habit of bowing down to Sri Ramakrishna’s photograph in his room before leaving the room even for a short while, as if taking permission from the Lord and informing Him of his leaving. Again on return to the room, he would bow down as if to report to the Lord his return. This mam namaskuru sadhana thus became a vivid experience in his life and some of us have been ‘infected’ with this habit to our immense spiritual benefit.
— Swami Atmapriyananda
Always with the Guru
I was blessed to receive Swami Kailasanandaji’s guidance when I started my monastic life as a novice at Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, in 1965. I served Maharaj for three years. Our scriptures lay stress on devotion to one’s guru. The Shvetasvatara Upanishad says, ‘Yatha deve tatha gurou’, “You should have as much devotion to guru as you have for God.” Kailasananda Maharaj’s devotion surpassed the idea proposed in this statement. His devotion to guru was a notch above his devotion to God. Let me explain. There was a small photo of his guru Swami Shivanandaji hanging on the wall in his room. Every time he came out of his room, he would touch the feet of Mahapurush Maharaj with his forehead and just smile. Again whenever he returned to his room he would automatically go to the photo and bow down once again. I noticed that this routine would take place at least twenty to thirty times a day. There was something charming and spontaneous about the habit. Not once did I see him forget. Not once did he seem to make an effort to remember. For him the picture was so real and his salutation to his guru, was so organic.
— Swami Raghaveshananda
Poison called gossip and newspaper politics
Swami Kailasanandaji was a strict disciplinarian and came down heavily on monastics as well as devotees violating, according to his standards, any norms of spiritual life. Two big impediments to spiritual life that Swami Kailasanandaji carefully warned the monastic inmates and the devotees about were: 1) idle gossip and, 2) newspaper politics. There is an interesting incident that illustrates Swami Kailasanandaji’s extreme strictness about brahmacharins not paying even the least attention to newspapers. We heard about this incident from a very senior sannyasi, Swami Bhavaharanandaji, who was a brahmachari (called Sudhansu, his premonastic name) at Mylapore Ramakrishna Math in Madras under Swami Kailasanandaji’s watchful eyes during his initial period of training. Brahmachari Sudhansu was in-charge of electrical maintenance in the ashrama and he had to, on one occasion, replace a fused bulb in the courtyard. Newspapers used to be kept on a large round table in that courtyard and when this brahmachari was getting on a chair nearby to be able to reach out to the bulb to the replaced, his eyes accidentally fell on the huge political headlines on the front page of the newspapers. No sooner than this happened, about which the brahmachari himself was not quite conscious, there was a huge roar like that of a ferocious and angry lion roaring at its prey. Thoroughly shaken by this unexpected sound and out of sheer nervousness the brahmachari dropped the new bulb that he was holding in his hand and it broke to pieces. Before he even realized what had happened and could come to terms with the situation, Swami Kailasanandaji was seen directing at him some of the choicest expletives, rebuking him severely for eyeing the newspapers, his sentences interspersed with his favourite phrase “Mahapurush Maharaj used to say…”. Swami Bhavaharanandaji told us how in later life he reaped immense spiritual benefit from those few years of training under Swami Kailasanandaji during the formative period of his monastic life. Swami Kailasanandaji used to say that most of the direct monastic disciples of Sri Ramakrishna were very hard taskmasters, harsh in their training albeit with a deeply loving heart. He used to remark funnily, “Most of these great disciples of Sri Ramakrishna whom we now admire and worship were almost impossible to live with! It is good that you have all never met them, for who knows you might have dropped out after receiving their harsh rebukes, in the form of some of the choicest expletives to boot!” We have seen that many of the disciples of the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna—Swami Kailasanandaji was one glorious example—were trained in this unique art!
— Swami Atmapriyananda
Not fruits, it is prasad
I was then (1958-60) a brahmachari in the Probationers’ Training Centre, Belur Math. Swami Kailasanandaji was staying in a room on the first floor of the Math building. He had come from Madras to attend the Trustees’ Meeting. One day in the afternoon, as directed by one of the swamis from the Math-kitchen store, I went to Kailasanandaji’s room with some consecrated fruits and sweets for him. After keeping the prasad packet on the table, I bowed down to him and said “Maharaj, the fruits and sweets are kept here”. Immediately, with great force he said, “Not fruits, it is prasad.” That phrase is still ringing in my ears. I have observed many a times the vivid picture of his intense devotion and faith in Sri Ramakrishna from the way he used to pronounce the word ‘prasad’. Indeed, in spiritual life, such firm faith is very essential. Swami Vivekananda has repeatedly mentioned about Nachiketa’s shraddha or conviction. J. Arthur Thomson has said: “The longer I live, the more obvious it is to me that the most sacred act of a man’s life is to say and feel, ‘I believe such and such to be true’. All the greatest rewards and all heaviest penalties of existence cling about that act.” As I’m growing old, I’m clearly feeling that the life’s holiest deed is to be able to believe something to be true.
— Swami Tathagathananda
After darshan do japam
At Madras, Kailasananda Maharaj would go to have darshan of Mother Durga again and again during the autumnal worship of the mother at the Madras Bengali Association. I accompanied him a couple of times. We used to carry flowers, fruits, and sweets for the Divine Mother. I noticed that even amidst the heavy crowd, Kailasanandaji would just sit in front of the Mother’s image and do japam. On being asked why he did that, his reply was, “Mahapurush Maharaj always used to tell that after having darshan of gods and goddesses we should sit at that place and do japa for some time. So, I do it.”
— Swami Tathagathananda