Narayan, hailing from Andhra Pradesh, joined the Order in 1934 and received his mantra-diksha from Swami Akhandanandaji in 1936. Akhandanandaji challenged Narayan to walk a thousand miles to the Order’s centre at Kankhal in Haridwar and serve there. The 22-year old youth did just that on barefoot and for the next 9 years served at the Kankhal hospital. He received sannyasa-diksha from Swami Virajanandaji in 1944. After serving at the Karachi and Vishakapatnam centres in India, he went to USA in 1954 and served at the Vedanta Society of Boston and Providence till his mahasamadhi on 3 May 2009.
Lessons from Swami Sarvagatananda
Him only know
On meeting Swami Sarvagatanandaji for the first time I said, “Maharaj, I have heard so much about you.” He replied, “There is only one person you need to know and that is Sri Ramakrishna. Once you know Him, you know everyone.” His words still resonate after 45 years.
— Amrita M Salm
Take what you can
In 1972 after coming east to Pennsylvania, I began coming occasionally to the Vedanta Center in Boston. I remember on one visit, I bought a copy of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. I was on my way out with it when I heard Swami Sarvagatanandaji say, in his loud voice, “Who has bought a copy of the ‘Gospel’?” I answered that it was me, whereupon he broke into a broad smile and said, “Well, take what you can use and leave the rest!” Then he turned around like any sensible person and went to lunch.
I cannot express how wonderful that concept is to me! How beautiful to hear, “When you can, I’d like to hear from you” coming from one who stands so very close to everything I hold dear. No lies, no pressure, no salesmanship. Simplicity, and understanding that the truth will call to its own at the right time.
–– Carolyn T. Amory
This ideal will be attractive one day
In 1963 I graduated from college and came to Boston, a rebellious child of ‘the sixties,’ but Swami Sarvagatanandaji was here waiting for me— a steadying influence…Our big ‘sixties’ principle was to question everything about society, our parents, our teachers, and here was a man who encouraged that approach. He said a real devotee, challenges his teachers very rigorously. “An honest doubt,” he said, “is a stepping stone to the truth.”
Swami’s celibacy troubled me—in the light of my 1960’s ideal of the free and sexually fulfilled human being. One day, I got up the courage and asked him, “Swami, you took a vow of chastity, but didn’t you ever have a desire for women?” He smiled, obviously welcoming that question very much. “Yes, Bob, I did, but I wanted something else much more. I wanted God.” Now that was an answer that impressed me, a man in touch with and totally committed to his deepest desires. And then he said something that seemed highly improbable, “Bob, someday this ideal will become very attractive to you as well.”
— Bob Doolittle
No compromise with truth
I remember one day he told us about an incident when he was sponsored to come to the States and he went to get a visa from the US Embassy in Delhi. During those days it was required that the applicants sign an oath that they will never side with (or have sympathy towards) Russia or her other allies. Maharaj crossed out that clause and was questioned by the consul general for this noncompliance. Maharaj said, “If you can give me in writing that your country will never be friends with Russia and always remain enemies with Russia I will be agreeing to that clause.” Thousands had agreed to this clause and none had asked this question before. The consul was simply shocked by this honest answer. An American who was accompanying the Swami explained to the puzzled consul general that these swamis are men of God and truth and will not sign a pledge for life that they do not believe in. Needless to say the consul general waived that clause and gave the visa with his compliments!
In student life sometimes disappointments with exams or very frequent tests makes one think that all this education is of no real use and therefore it is best to drop it all and lead a spiritual life! Under Maharaj’s guidance, nothing like this could escape and I was made to see that I was using it as an escape from duties. He would quote often Socrates: “An unexamined life is not worth living,” or “Check what motives you have when you want to give up like that.” See what your goal is and what the consequences are of your action. If you run away now this will haunt you for ever. Stand up and do not give in to unmanliness is the message of our Vedic sages and Gita. This wise counsel kept us on track.
— Surendar M. Jain