One life for Swamiji’s work
Once Surendranath visited Swami Adbhutananda, a monastic disciple of Sri Ramakrishna in Varanasi. After hearing about the work of the Student’s Home Adbhutanandaji remarked, “What you are doing is very good work; many will be benefitted by it. But you will not attain God by it. For God-realisation you have to be a beggar on the street (i.e. possessing nothing).” These words raised a storm in his mind and he even thought of not returning to Calcutta, and instead go away to the Himalayas. But the next day Adbhutanandaji told, “See Suren, Raja (Brahmanandaji) is foremost among us; do what he says.”
With an agitated mind he returned to Calcutta and decided to leave the Student’s Home and join Belur Math. When he came to Belur Math to finalise his decision he met Swami Shivanandaji. Without being asked Mahapurush Maharaj told him, “After seeing you I feel you should carry on the work you are doing. It will do good to many.” Suren questioned, “Are you saying so observing my poor eagerness to visit the Math?” Shivanandaji assured him saying, “No. It is not so. You have taken up a work well-suited to your nature. You will surely be blessed by this work. This is the kind of work after Swamiji’s own heart. Due to lack of man power we could not initiate such work till now. God willing you have started it, stick to it. It will bring welfare to many people.” When Premanandaji heard of Shivanandaji’s advice he said: “Accept Mahapurush’s words as daivavani— divine oracle.”
On another occasion Surendra again came to Belur Math desiring to leave the Student’s Home and be an inmate of the Math. When he expressed his desire to Swami Brahmanandaji, Brahmanandaji sent him to Shivanandaji for his guidance. Shivanandaji exhorted, “Carry on what you are doing. Listen, I say, stay there. It will bring welfare to many. Your ‘spiritual progress’ will not be hampered by this work; I assure you, it won’t be obstructed. And even if it is obstructed slightly— I assure you that won’t happen — even if marginally hindered, can you not ‘sacrifice’ one life for Swamiji’s work?” Surendra could not speak a single word.
— Swami Viswashrayananda
Spirituality and science
It was 1937 or 38. The book Sri Ramakrishna and Spiritual Renaissance had already been written by Nirvedanandaji. The Ramakrishna Mission Calcutta Students’ Home was then located at Gauripur. Some eminent and scholarly personalities, who were friends of Maharaj, had come for a visit. After lunch, when they were chatting, Nirvedanandaji briefed them about the analysis and discussion he had made in his book on the findings of the physical science. Everyone supported his views.
In course of the conversation, Maharaj said, “Our ancient saints and sages assert about spiritual truth, that they have had direct realisation of it, and following the required process we too can realise it for ourselves and become fulfilled. Now we should believe in their words or test it for ourselves. Even you scientists say the same thing.”
Dr. Meghnad Saha, the noted India astrophysicist and a close-friend of Maharaj, who did not care for so-called religion, disagreed and said, “But Swamiji, there is a lacuna in what you have said. If you don’t agree with what we say, we will take you to the laboratory and demonstrate before you. Whereas you (implying spiritual practitioners) cannot do that.”
“Nor can you, Meghnad,” said Maharaj.
Hearing this unexpected reply, Dr. Saha was startled and asked, “What do you mean?”
Pointing to the field in front of them where an illiterate farmer was tilling his land, Maharaj said, “Tell me, can you take this farmer to the laboratory and make him understand your latest theory of Astrophysics?”
“That I cannot do Swamiji; he requires training for that,” replied Dr Saha.
Maharaj then said, “Similar is the case with spirituality. Mental discipline is needed.”
— An alumni
One thing at a time
One evening during World War II, Swami Nirvedananda Maharaj and we students were sitting with a map spread out in front of us. Intense discussion was going on about the progress of the war along with map pointing—marking with pins the places conquered by the Axis powers and by the Allies.
After some time Brahmachari Priyalal came and said, “Maharaj, it is already dusk and the bell for evening prayers has been sounded.”
Immediately Maharaj got up, went to his room, sprinkled some Ganga water on himself and sat down for japa. The brahmachari was amazed! Is this possible? A person, who was engrossed in a discussion on war just a moment ago, has now sat down for japa? Is japa and meditation so easy?
Later the brahmachari expressed his doubt to Nirvedananda Maharaj. What Maharaj said in reply cleared all his doubts! Maharaj said, “See, when I was doing the map pointing I was thinking only about the Second World War. I did not think about japa or meditation. So when I am doing japa and meditation why should I think of other things?”
— Swami Chandrananda
Value of two annas
“Have you made us work throughout the year just for two annas?” I asked Swami Nirvedanandaji . Maharaj replied, “I would have done it even if it meant loss. When you return from college, you carry in you an ounce of poison of pride— ‘I am doing higher studies, I am superior than the common masses.’ But when you return and take up the garden hoe in your hand, that poison is neutralised. That’s why this arrangement.”
We were talking about our vegetable garden. Upon returning from the college we had to work either in the vegetable garden or in the flower garden till the sports hour. In our times in Gouripur in 1934, each student was assigned with a small plot in the farm. This increased our enthusiasm. Even if it was a winter evening after we returned from college, we irrigated the plots using lanterns. Sometimes on our way to college we used to sell the vegetables which were in excess after the ashrama’s use. At the end of the year, it was found that we profited only 2-anas from the farm after all the expenditure. That prompted my remark.
This was our Vidyarthi Ashrama and its method of education. Every work was consciously and meticulously designed for the physical, mental and spiritual developments of the students.
— Swami Viswashrayananda