Parivrajaka Life

The sun was just about to set, spreading its last rays like molten gold over the Ganga, as the sannyasins assembled in the sadhana hall to hear the continuation of Swamiji's life. On this evening, Swami Niranjan entered the hall, followed by Swami Dharmashakti who seated herself by his side. After closing his eyes, he began intoning the Om mantra. When the chanting was completed, he opened his eyes and begin to speak. 'Until now, I have been narrating the story of Swamiji's life. However, we have come to the part where Swami Dharmashakti has first hand knowledge, as she spent many years in his service and company during this period. So, she will narrate this part of the tale.

With this brief introduction, Swami Dharmashakti began to speak. 'After twelve years of dedicated service and hard work for his guru, Swamiji left his guru's ashram and mission for the life of a wandering ascetic.

The parting words of his guru were, "Go and spread the message of yoga from door to door and from shore to shore." So, in April 1956, Swami Satyananda, glowing in the light of the wisdom imparted by his guru, set out, for nine years he moved all over the Indian subcontinent, travelling by foot, by bullock cart, by train and by any means available. In the course of his wandering, he did not view the social condition with the eyes of a common man, but with the vision of a seer.

'From Rishikesh, first he went to Delhi, where he conducted yoga classes and Satsang for two months. While in Delhi some devotees invited him to visit Rajnandgaon. He arrived there in June and within a few days he had won over the hearts of all the people. Before departing for Benares two months later, Swamiji decided to make Rajnandgaon his base. While he was wandering, letters could be directed to him there, and the devotees would chalk out his programs.

'In November, Swamiji returned to Rajnandgaon, held a few Satsangs and proceeded to Amravati. After conducting programs there, people from Durg, Raipur, Bhilai, Shakti and Rewa organised programs for him. His discourses were written up by the local newspapers which gave his teachings more publicity. From Rewa, Swamiji returned to Rajnandgaon, and decided to visit Bhagalpur in March, followed by Gangotri and Yamunotri in May. Then he resumed his wandering.

'In March 1957, after a visit to Jabalpur, he went to Bhagalpur at the request of some devotees whom he had known from his Rishikesh days. From Bhagalpur he went on to Aara, Chapra, Muzaffarpur and Munger, where he visited Karna Chaura, the site of Ganga Darshan, feeling intensely drawn to the place as if by some invisible force. In mid-May, Swamiji left Bihar for Delhi, en-route to Gangotri.

'Did Swamiji face many difficulties during his wanderings?' asked one of the swamis.

'Yes,' Swami Dharmashakti replied, 'he often faced difficulties, but he would always remain cheerful. On most occasions, the only familiar person would be the sponsor. The rest would all be strangers, who often argued and made fun. However, one meeting would suffice to transform these people.

'Swamiji never accepted gifts from anyone. If someone put money at his feet, he would distribute it among children. He carried a simple jhola, containing two dhotis, one kurta, one chadar, toothbrush and paste. If someone presented clothes, he would give them to the poor. He would walk on foot from one village to another and sleep under trees. The poor people sometimes gave him some simple fruits or a bowl of milk. The rich generally gave him harsh words.

'Once he was roaming about in a town which he had never visited before. Feeling tired and hungry, he approached the shopkeeper of a large shop and said, "Hari Om." The shopkeeper replied, "Go away. Find someone else to feed you. Young man begging, have you no shame? Learn to work." His devotees would be very upset to hear about such treatment, but Swamiji, being unmoved by both praise and blame, would just laugh.

'Sometimes while travelling from village to village by foot, Swamiji would go into the interior of the jungle and stay with the adivasis who considered him as a god just descended from heaven. Ordinarily the adivasi diet consisted of rats, snakes and crabs. But for Swamiji, they would buy flour from the market and bake round bails of dough over a fire. In the evening, they would all assemble and Swamiji would talk to them about Rama and Krishna, and they would sing kirtan and bhajan. Thus he was at ease in both huts and palaces.'

'Was Swamiji travelling more or less continuously at this time?' asked one of the swamis.

'Yes,' Swami Dharmashakti replied. 'He would only stop in one place for a few days in order to conduct a program, and then move on. After leaving Bihar, he travelled to Delhi and up to Rishikesh where he met Swami Sivananda and received his blessings. From there he proceeded to Gangotri, on foot. After a 45 day, 270 mile journey, Swamiji returned to Rishikesh and gave his guru the water brought from Gangotri. Afterwards he toured Haridwar, Delhi, Mathura, Vrindavan and Agra. Then he proceeded to Amarnath via Jammu, Kashmir and Vaishnav Devi. From there he proceeded to Rewa.

'In Raipur, workers of the Bharat Sewak Samaj requested him to help educate the villagers of that area which was extremely backward. During the monsoon season, Swamiji would often tour for miles in a day with the workers, moving from village to village in wet mud, meeting the people. In two months, he toured sixty villages. Often it rained and he would get wet, but he still continued to move about regardless of the weather or the inconvenience.

'In the spring of 1958, Swamiji conducted a yoga camp at Amarkantak on the banks of the Narmada. Afterwards he travelled through Rewa to Benares, Rishikesh, Badrinath and Kedarnath. Then he went to Rameshwar and many nearby places. In July he proceeded to a village called Farhad where he stayed for Chaturmas. In November he returned to Rajnandgaon for a Yoga conference. After the conference, he established the Mahila Yoga Mandala, and began a monthly bulletin of twelve pages called 'Divya Jeevan Sandesh'. Then he left for Bombay. In December, he went to Burhanpur, then to Indore, Khamgaon and back to Rajnandgaon.

'While travelling, he would send copies of his discourses in the different places to his devotees in Rajnandgaon who would file them and get them published in the newspapers. There were also many letters to be answered and programs to be arranged. Whenever he had time, he would go through the files, answer the letters, and compile the lectures into books for publication. By 1959, his work had really started expanding.

'Swamiji must have encountered many different kinds of people in the course of his travels,' said one of the swamis.

'Yes,' Swami Dharmashakti replied. 'Once Swamiji was invited to visit a village in Rewa by the younger brother of a dacoit, who used to terrorise all the villagers and steal their belongings. When Swamiji arrived at the village, the dacoit was very angry to see him there, but when he heard that his younger brother had invited him, then he asked Swamiji to stay for one day.

'The next day when Swamiji was about to leave the village, the dacoit asked him to stay on for another day. Swamiji said, 'If I stay, there will have to be satsang, but nobody will come here. We will have to hold the Satsang at the cross-roads.' The dacoit was determined to invite everyone in the village to the Satsang, although the people were so frightened of him that the women would not come out into their own courtyards even in broad daylight, girls would not go to school and everyone carried pistols.

'The dacoit was a transformed man. He kept Swamiji in his house for three weeks. Soon everybody began to attend the Satsangs, girls began to go to school and the women came out into their courtyards. When Swamiji was leaving the village, the dacoit offered him Rs. 500/- which he refused to accept. Then the dacoit tried to force him to accept the money at gunpoint, but Swamiji was undaunted. He called the man's son and after explaining to him how to deposit the money in a bank account, he departed.

'Did Swamiji often go off to unknown places?' asked one the swamis.

'Yes,' Swami Dharmashakti replied. 'Since Swamiji left Sivananda Ashram in 1956, there have been many periods when he would just disappear for months without informing anyone as to his whereabouts. Only when he returned from such tours would we come to know that he had visited sadhus, saints, pilgrim centres, ashrams and monasteries, in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Burma and so on.

'The following year, in May 1959, Swamiji conducted a Sadhana camp at Bandha Bazaar in M.P. Afterwards he went to Mount Abu and toured many places. In July he went to Bandha Bazaar for Chaturmas, where he remained in mouna, eating only fruits and practising sadhana for three months. Afterwards he went to Bombay, Poona, Nasik, Trayambakeshwar and Allahabad.

'In February 1960, Swami Niranjan, a symbol of the blessings of Guru, was born, and Swamiji came to Rajnandgaon in March to bless him. Afterwards he was off to Bhilai, Raipur, Bilaspur and Raigarh. His work area was constantly expanding and his programs were in great demand. Then he went to Bombay and from there in July to Neemgaon (Barad) for Chaturmas. In October he returned to Rajnandgaon to see the copies of his first yoga publications: 'Lessons on Yoga' in English and 'Kurukshetra ki Ladai' and 'Yoga Asana' in Hindi.

'In November he went to Gondia for a program and from there to Nagpur and Amravati. Then he went to Bombay where he held discourses in many places. The devotees there compiled his Satsangs and lectures into a book which was called 'Discourses on Yoga'.

After two months in Bombay, he returned to Rajnandgaon and said, "Now, books will be printed continually, so we must set up a printing press."

'In January 1961, he went to Bihar and he toured Chapra and nearby villages. After a month he came to Munger, where he stayed at Ananda Bhavan, which overlooks the Ganga. There he practised sadhana and held satsang in the evening. He was enchanted by the natural, scenic beauty of this place and he compiled 'Siddha Prarthana', the book of bhajan and kirtan, there.

'An added attraction was Karna Chaura, the ancient stone platform located on a nearby hilltop, which had a commanding view of the Ganga. There, according to legend, Raja Karna of Mahabharata fame used to sit in court and distribute gold coins to all who asked. Swamiji used to roam about on the hill or sit on the historical platform and meditate. He had many experiences and visions there. Once he saw a luminous white figure loom up out of a crack in the platform. The figure said to him, "Yoga will be the culture of tomorrow, and this place will become the centre of yoga." Then the figure disappeared. At such times, Swamiji would decide not to go to Karna Chaura again, but he was always drawn back.

'At that time his host in Munger wanted Swamiji to stay on and he offered to build an ashram for him, but Swamiji was not in favour of this. His base in Bihar was Munger. From there he would go to Bhagalpur, Chhapra, Katrasgarh, Sitamarhi, Patna and many other places, then return to Munger. Here he translated his book, 'Lessons on Yoga', into Hindi which was called 'Yoga Sadhana, Part One' and for Part Two a compilation of letters was prepared.

'In 1961, Swamiji regularly went to Bombay, Amravati, Khamgaon, Nagpur, Rajnandgaon, Bhilai, Bilaspur, Raigarh, Calcutta and Allahabad for programs. In Bombay, the devotees were preparing four books for publication, containing the compilation of his discourses. At the same time, he was constantly receiving invitations to visit new places. His sphere of contact was increasing rapidly.'

'When was the International Yoga Fellowship Movement established?' asked one of the swamis.

'In January 1962,' Swami Dharmashakti replied. 'At that time, Swamiji was inspired to start an institution. So, he consulted with the people connected with his work and explained his plans to all. It was then he decided to prepare the blueprint. Afterwards Swamiji went to Nagpur for a Yoga camp and from there to Bombay where eight books were being printed. Five books were also being printed in Bihar and a Publication Society was formed at Rajnandgaon.

'In February of that year Swamiji spoke in Rajnandgaon on the necessity of a printing press. He said, "We are printing many books and we don't know how many mare we will have to print. The foundation of our mission rests on books." At that time he also spoke of his plan to begin publication of a regular Yoga magazine. After explaining all the work, he went on to Bombay, then to Munger and Sitamarhi where he held a program during March. When he returned to Rajnandgaon at the end of March, the International Yoga Fellowship was formalised. At that time he explained the future course of action and went on to Nagpur and Bombay where he stayed for one month. In May, he received his guru's blessings for founding the International Yoga Fellowship movement.

'That year Swamiji decided to stay at Ananda Bhavan in Munger for Chaturmas. During this period he performed kaya kalpa, an intensive purificatory practice, and took only fruits once in a day. In October, a Yoga Camp was held at Rajgir which was attended by devotees from Bhagalpur, Chapra, Bombay and Khamgaon. A meeting of the International Yoga Fellowship was held and the agenda was decided. Swamiji asked that the printing press should be installed at Rajnandgaon without delay, as there were many books waiting to be published, and many others on the way. By this time, Swamiji's mission was already off the ground. Fifteen books had been published which he went on distributing and everything was set up for the publication of a monthly magazine.

'In 1963, the January edition of Yoga Vidya in Hindi and Yoga in English was printed in Bombay. Later, when the Yoga Vidya Printing Press was installed at Rajnandgaon, the magazines were printed there. All the devotees, disciples and friends of yoga received copies of the magazines. Everyone co-operated and gave all possible assistance for the success of this endeavour.

'That year Swamiji was again staying at Ananda Bhavan in Munger during chaturmas. On July 14th at midnight, while practising his sadhana, he had an inner awakening in the form of a dream, but it was as real as if it were happening physically in front of him. In that dream he saw Swami Sivananda travelling in a steamboat from Sivananda Ashram to Swarga Ashram on the other side of the Ganga. From the steamboat the sound of bugles, conches and drums could be heard. Swami Sivananda was sitting alone on the steamboat. He was the only passenger, Swamiji was witnessing the whole scene from the bank in front of Darshan Maha Vidyalaya, which is a little above Sivananda Ashram. While crossing, the flywheel of the steamboat splashed a little bit of Ganga water on him and his experience finished. Immediately he understood that his guru had left the body. When the Ganga water was splashed on him Swamiji saw Swami Sivananda looking at him. Otherwise he was looking towards the other side. With the splashing of water, Swamiji realised that he had been anointed or appointed. His guru's grace was upon him, and he would have to start working earnestly for the propagation of yoga.

'The next day Swamiji left Munger for Delhi and Rishikesh. As soon as he arrived at his guru's ashram, he found that his dream was correct. Then he returned to Munger and informed his host that he would settle there. Sannyasins have a tradition that wherever the disciple happens to be staying when his guru leaves the physical body, no matter where it may be in the world, the sannyasin should establish himself at that place. So, Swamiji said, "I will abide by the tradition, and do my duty. Because I was blessed by my guru for the last time in Munger, I will stay in Munger." This was the opportunity that his host bad been waiting for and he immediately agreed. It had always been his earnest wish that Swamiji would settle in Munger. So, under his patronage, the construction of an ashram began.

'In October, Swamiji went to Rajnandgaon and told his devotees there that his wandering life would end in December. From January, he would be staying in Munger where the ashram was being built. Then he went on to Bombay, Poona. Amravati, Khamgaon, Neemgaon and the caves of Elephanta and Ellora. It was at this time that he again received his guru's darshan and special Instructions. He also received the blessings and darshan of many divine forces and the state of Paramahamsa was conferred upon him. From that moment, Swamiji renounced the wearing of kurta, chappal and watch, and restricted his dress to a dhoti and an upper cloth.

'Afterwards, he went on to Nagpur, Gondia, Dongargath, and back to Rajnandgaon, where a tremendous crowd had gathered from many places for his darshan. Then he passed through Durg, Bhilai, Raipur, Bilaspur, Raigarh, Bhubaneshwar, Calcutta, Chapra and Bhagalpur, on his way back to Munger. With this he concluded the chapter of his life as a wandering sannyasin. The ashram was nearing completion and the devotees were busy organising for the inaugural function and the reception of guests. On 19th January 1964, Basant Panchami, Swamiji inaugurated the ashram. He lit the akhanda jyoti in the memory of his guru and offered the first ahuti (oblation) into the fire.

'From that time, Swamiji found that every now and then, his soul would open. He would find his guru there who would tell him what he had to do. In this way, over the next twenty years, he was able to establish the Bihar School of Yoga, Sivananda Ashram and Ganga Darshan, and become the guide for hundreds of ashrams and centres throughout India and the world. He always said that this work was not an outcome of his own experiences or abilities, but it was because of the instructions and guidance which his guru whispered to him from time to time. Such was his link with the guru.'