I would like to share with you all my deep sense of gratitude to my Vedānta teacher, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, who passed last week in his āśrama in Rishikesh. A personal tribute penned by one of his students, Professor Anantanand Rambachan was published recently in Swarajya magazine in India. I liked it very much and thought I would share with you.
Being a scientist by training and a skeptic by nature, I decided to play it safe! I was afraid the teaching by a ‘traditional teacher’ might not appeal to me, and I knew nothing of Swami Dayananda, the resident ācārya (teacher). So, armed with a 120-day return ticket and an assurance from my beloved boss that I could come back any time to the same research position, I quit my job in the US, left for India, got my parents’ blessing, and landed in Sandeepany Sadhanalaya in Powai, Bombay.
When I arrived, Swami Dayananda was teaching an afternoon class, so I quietly entered and sat in the back. He was saying, “Yadyat kṛtakam, tattannaśyam kṛtakatvāt ghaṭavat (whatever is created is subject to destruction, like a created pot),” a logical syllogism to explain how this created physical body is subject to destruction/death. The tightness of logic and his uncompromising analysis grabbed my attention right away. I felt I had come to right place and to the right teacher. Not many days after that I told him about the never-to-be-used part of my return ticket! He made it public in a satsanga and we all had a hearty laugh! The rest, as they, is history.
He was a teacher par excellence and full of dayā, compassion, a person true to his sannyāsin name Dayānanda, one of the meanings of this word is “Bliss of Compassion.” One incident during the course that really stuck in my heart demonstrated how he lived the teaching, that is, he walked the walk, not just talk the talk.
There were a few devotees who were dissatisfied with us, his students. They felt that we lacked the ideal discipline that they felt we should have had! Swamiji was a bit hurt by this gossip. So, that evening he came to the class (all the devotees also were also attending the class) and talked about the core of the vedānta-śāstra — that a person who understood the teaching is rooted in abhaya, is unafraid (abhayam pratistām vindate – Taittirīyopaniṣad).. He said, “With this understanding of fearlessness described in the Śruti, how can I force a discipline that you all will abide by due to fear? I give you all the armamentarium necessary for you to understand and abide by the śāstra, so that you can fully own up the teaching.” Needless to say, for us, his students, the first emotion that wells up toward him is love, then only respect.
Another incident worth mention: I was in my thirties, idealistic, harsh and judgmental–hopefully in my seventies I am a bit better! In one of our many conversations I asked him why he had this motley crowd of 65 students of different ages, with different goals and agendas, and what he planned to accomplish for his efforts. His reply was disarming but reflected a keen understanding of his visionary role as a Vedānta teacher. He said “Remember Śaṅkara? For all his life of dedicated spread of Vedānta, he had only four students who continued the vedāntic teaching tradition. If I start with 65 and teach a few such courses, I am sure there will be many more than his four to carry on the teaching tradition all over the world for a long time.”
Rabindranath Tagore said that when thoughts are translated to words, something is lost. As I write this blog post, I realize how true his statement is! I invite you, many of whom are students or Swamiji, to send me your personal experience as comments to this blog so I can post them on this site.
“Yasya deve parābhaktiryathā deve tathā gurau.
Tasyaite kathithāhyarthāḥ prakāśante mahātmanaḥ.
Who has the highest love of God, and same love for the teacher,
To that great soul the Truth (of Vedānta) shines.”
Śivamānasollāsa by Sureśvarācārya