Yogi Sri Krishnaprem

G. L. Joneja, Patna

Yogi Sri Krishnaprem, known as Ronald Nixon in his early life, was a brilliant product of the University of Cambridge. In his early twenties he received an offer of appointment as a lecturer in English at the University of Lucknow and sailed for India, where he spent the rest of his life. Young Professor Nixon soon became very popular among the University set. One special contact was with Dilip Kumar Roy, a musician par excellence, a great devotee of Lord Krishna and also a favourite disciple of Sri Aurobindo. Roy was a frequent guest in the house of the Vice-Chancellor, where Nixon, on the insistence of Mrs Chakravarty, the wife of the Vice-Chancellor, had taken up residence.

As time passed, a close friendship grew up between the three of them - Nixon, Roy and Mrs Chakravarty. Dilip would sing his devotional songs, and the other two would be inspired and thrilled to great spiritual heights. Dilip had no idea that Mrs Chakravarty, a well known and sophisticated socialite, was in fact a deeply devoted Krishna bhakta. Her relationship with Nixon developed into that of preceptor or guru, the latter being both a son and disciple. Few could have imagined that this fashionable lady could be a God intoxicated one, and one day in the not too distant future would renounce the world, shave her head and retire to the jungle in the Himalayan heights beyond Almora.

It was at Uttar Vrindavana, that they established a beautiful ashram and a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and Radha. Mrs Chakravarty, now a full fledged sannyasini, adopted the name Yashoda Ma, and Ronald Nixon came to be known as Krishnaprem. Two other early inmates of the ashram were Motirani, the youngest daughter of Mr and Mrs Chakravarty, and Dr Alexander, a well known English surgeon who left a prosperous worldly life to follow them.

Life in the ashram was extremely austere. They took only a single meal a day, and even gave up drinking afternoon tea, when the ashram could not afford to serve it to the labourers who worked in the ashram fields. There was no hot water available, even though the winters were very cold with heavy snowfalls.

Krishnaprem slept on the floor on a single blanket, close to the side of Yashoda Ma, his guru. All the rest, including occasional guests, slept in their own apartments. Krishnaprem was a great guru-bhakta and believed firmly that nothing could take the place of personal service to the guru for quick spiritual progress. His devotion to the guru was something very rare in modem times, especially for an ex-professor and an intellectual of such a very high order.

Ma, the guru, passed away in the early 1940's and then her daughter, Motirani, the favorite disciple of Krishnaprem, in the 1950's. Although Dilip Roy only visited the ashram very rarely, he corresponded with Krishnaprem throughout his lifetime. And Dilip was successfully guided by him, as well as by his own guru, Sri Aurobindo, to whom Dilip was in the habit of sending each letter received from Krishnaprem. Sri Aurobindo thus developed a high regard for Krishnaprem, and always commended his views to Dilip.

Besides writing to Sri Dilip Roy and a few other seeking souls, to help and guide them in their sadhana, Krishnaprem gave the world two important books, 'The Yoga of the Kathopanishad' and 'Yoga for the Westerner'. All of his writing displayed his impressive knowledge and grasp of highly spiritual and metaphysical subjects. He shunned publicity in any form, and but for Roy, posterity would have known little of him. After his passing in 1965, Roy wrote a very informative book on his friend's life and published his letters together with the notes and comments of Sri Aurobindo. Ramana Maharshi, the greatest seer of the twentieth century, commended Krishnaprem to his devotees with the words, 'A wonderful blend of gyani (knowledge) and bhakti (devotion) in one person.'