Fifty-two Years Ago - Remembering my Guru

Vishwaprem (Prema Baxi)

The news had struck me like a thunderbolt. The morning of 6th December had left me numb. I could not believe it. I was hoping to meet him soon and relive the precious memories of the past; just once - only once more. Swamiji had very graciously agreed to meet me and Upen on 12th August (Swami Satsangi was very sweet and generous to organize it) but as destiny would have it, Upen fell very ill in Calcutta and we had to straightaway fly back to Delhi. How we wish we had kept the appointment.

I had started correspondence with Swamiji in 1954 when he was still in Rishikesh. Later, I met him in Rajnandgaon in October 1958 at the house of Ma Dharmashakti and Satyabrat where he initiated me and gave me my spiritual name 'Vishwaprem'. He had put his hand on my head and a light passed through my entire body. Little did I know then that in this very house, within hardly one and half years, little Niranjan would be born who would one day guide millions of people all over the world on the path of yoga and give me initiation into karma sannyasa almost forty-five years hence on Maha Shivaratri.

Soon Swamiji came to Bombay the very next month in November and we organized various satsangs. He always reached the venue much ahead of time and was very punctual. Thereafter, he kept coming to Bombay quite often. He stayed with us in our small flat in Sion; ate with us, asking for a green chili and a piece of jaggery; he played on the harmonium and sang in his melodious voice "Manjhi, O Manjhi, kitni door kinara" (O, Boatman, how far is the shore), casting a spell on all listeners.

I traveled with him to various places in India and attended sadhana camps. He taught me public speaking by encouraging me to speak in public so very often. He virtually transformed my personality. I took down in shorthand his lectures as he delivered them in the Hindi language, simultaneously translating them into English. With a rare psychic link which was due to Swamiji's grace, often I knew even before he spoke what he was going to say.

Swamiji personally taught me asanas, pranayama, mudras, bandhas, yoga nidra, ajapa japa, and meditation, etc. which brought a flood of spiritual experiences to me with his grace. I have enumerated some of these experiences in my forth coming book My spiritual journey with Paramahamsa Satyananda. Swamiji said he was born with a purpose which was the revival of yoga and that his grand mission would one day spread all over the world and he was preparing me for that. Only brave soldiers will be able to shoulder that responsibility, he had added. I was too young and naïve - just twenty years old - to understand the implications of what he was saying.

But as destiny would have it, I had my own karmas to work out. I was married to Upen in February 1962 with Swamiji's consent and wishes. In fact, it was he who had given us the date of Basant Panchami. We thereafter visited Rajnandgaon where Swami Niranjan was born in 1960 and we had great fun playing with two-year-old Niranjan, who was as naughty then as he is sometimes today - playful and utterly charming. Swamiji had blessed us. And, much later, in 1985, I became a lawyer, and Swamiji had with amusement once asked me if I really wore the black gown and white band and appeared in the courts and argued matters before the judges! I can still see him so clearly in my mind's eye. Yes, now as a lawyer, I could help people if not through yoga but by fighting for and supporting their rights.

Swamiji guided and inspired me through his wonderful letters which later in 1962 were published as Lessons on Yoga in English and summarized in Steps to Yoga afterwards.

Swamiji himself wrote beautiful things in my diary (which are my prize possessions) and continued to write to me even afterwards, guiding me, scolding me and protecting me. Reading these letters continues to inspire me. A loving relationship with the Guru is the easiest way to transcend the tribulations of the mind in meditation and forge into mystic realms with greater ease. Love, as it were, stamps the Guru's physical form on the quietened inner mind, illuminating it in meditation and bringing tremendous joy, as it at times happened to me.

Swamiji is no more in his physical body but his form is embedded in my consciousness. I find him looking at me silently and intently as my own inner Self. He is with me all the more now that I cannot see him with my physical eyes. The mischievous twinkle in his eyes; his quick wit and laughter; the gentle movement of his head unveiling that solemn and charming expression on his face; his soft touch on my head which at once had brought peace to my troubled mind; his playfulness and joy; his sternness and tender motherly care addressing every minute detail; his humility and scholarly erudition; his mastery over the Sanskrit language and all scriptures; his compassion and detachment; his incessant efforts for the upliftment of women and children; his distribution of food, clothes, cows and cycle rickshaws, etc. to help men earn their livelihood; his wonderful marriage gifts to newly married girls as a father would give; his help to farmers to till their land with modern methods; his efforts to ensure that water could reach many villages - all this not as charity but as a service to God as His true servant, as he called himself; his vision and dream for the betterment of humanity; his powers of healing, clairvoyance, etc. which he used sparingly, his teaching of "care for your neighbour like your own family" and "serve, love, give, meditate, purify - bear insult, bear injury, highest sadhana"; his steel-like firmness and no-nonsense attitude which sometimes generated awe and love at the same time; his ability to virtually turn dust into gold by emphasizing the good points of a person, sometimes even extending to great flattery; his methods of bursting the inflated ego of his disciples; his equipoise even when some of his main disciples left and betrayed him - all this and much more remains a dream and a glorious history of the past fifty odd years, and I keep hoping that some day maybe, he will suddenly appear out of nowhere and say, "I am not gone - I am still here Vishwaprem, you have yet to keep your promise to be a messenger of yoga. For, promises must be fulfilled sooner or later."

However, there were moments when one could not understand how a person whose heart melted with compassion at the mere sight of poor and suffering people could sometimes behave so adamantly and ruthlessly; and brush aside with a mere wave of his hand the feelings of his disciples. But then he met people of different stages of evolution needing different treatment for their own good. His tantric explorations in the arena of Shakti Poojan, etc. with the holy mantras of Aim, Hrim, Klim, resounding everywhere and his search for the esoteric and mystical were beyond normal comprehension. But then he was simple and complex both. One knew him and at the same time one knew him not. One adored him and one also at times feared him (in case one did any wrong).

Adieu, beloved Guru - I will try to carry your message of love and peace wherever I go. I know, even though I disappointed you, you loved me dearly, protected me in my difficult times, and your blessings are always with me. Maybe, in some ways, I will still get a chance to dedicate the rest of my life to your great Cause. Your Sankalpa and efforts for my spiritual evolution cannot go to waste.

Swamiji, you have gone with a return ticket, choosing your own auspicious moment of exit from this great and stupendous drama of life. We will wait anxiously for your return.

Of you, one may truly say (to quote Shakespeare with a small modification) "age could not wither him nor could custom stale his infinite variety."

Hari Om Sri Swamiji! We love you as always. And, you are alive in our hearts.