Swami Nirmalananda, the none-too- noticed Sage of B.R. Hills, after quite some restlessness in his worldly life when young, sought and achieved eternal blessedness, wisdom and peace in the teachings of the most spiritual personalities of many different cultures around the world, his spiritual quest taking him all around the globe. Spiritual freedom, simplicity, sincerity, clarity of thought and mind, prayers and penance formed the guiding lights of his inner and outer self. In perfect freedom and beatification, he walked alone, protected and spiritually nourished by the Almighty.
Following an inner call, Swamiji, at the impressionable age of fourteen, made a deep study of the world's major religions. He was greatly influenced by the lives and teachings of Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Thoreau, Tolstoy, Schweitzer and many others. Like Sankaracharya, Jesus and Buddha, he became a wandering monk, a 'Parivrajaka.' No place on earth was, to him, inaccessible, more especially when he was imbued with zeal and passion of spiritual conquest and outer renunciation. On his way to Europe, he visited all of West Asia, particularly Israel. In Jerusalem he met and discoursed with the Existentialist, Martin Buber. Buber reminded him of Jesus, both in looks and charisma.
Turkey, Russia, England, Europe, America, Canada, Japan, and South East Asia were the places where he searched for and found his own true unsullied reflection as God in the people and things around him. He travelled far and wide, but all his wanderings, like those of saints and prophets of the world's major religions, were the wanderings of a spiritually enlightened soul, searching for and discovering his own otherwise lost soul in the love and peace of Godliness.
Swamiji feels that his long, continuous and arduous life as a 'Parivrajaka' and his personal contacts with great philosophers and many people in different parts of the world have been the most exciting and unforgettable experiences that he ever had in his life.
Ever since he returned to India in 1964, Swamiji has been living unnoticed in silence and seclusion in his quiet and solitary Ashram in the beautiful forests of B.R. Hills in Karnataka, doing Sadhana. He is leading an intense spiritual life of immense value, guiding the aspirants who come to him or write to him for counsel and yet never going beyond the Iimits of the Ashram compound. He observed 'Mauna' for 11 years and even now is practically silent all the time except when he interacts with the tribals to whom he talks with a tender affection.
In his Ashram, the atmosphere is completely calm and peaceful. Except the songs of the birds, no other sound is heard. There is a pin-drop silence, and Swamiji is a part of this silence.
The quintessence of Swami Nirmalanandaji’s findings after decades of incessant search for Truth, the long period of intensive studies, several years of extensive wanderings throughout India and abroad and continous travels for years, meeting discussing and seeking guidance from many learned teacher of all religions, living in silence for ten years, and more and tapas and sadhanas in the forest of B.R. Hills for a century without moving out of the premises of the Ashram all these find expression in the motto: “Human glory lies in our being without a single thought, in being free disappointment, and expecting nothing by living in the moment, in the present, not in the past or the future.”
For sadhakas or students in quest of peace and self, realization of the eternal verities of life, Swamiji’s injunction has been simple and pointed “Select your road after considered though. Universe needs no corrections. Only you are to change yourself to realize your point in the Universe which stands unified and organised.”
The oceanic mind of Swamiji enjoys the bliss of silence. Confusion or duality has no place. This immanence of silence captivates and engrosses the doubters and devotees and their queries are quietened.
Swamiji is not all light alone. He is a perfect of Love in the heart and Light in the head. His compassion transcends the intellectual and spiritual planes and encompasses the saint and the sinner, plants and animals and even creations of nature.
Swamiji is a living symbol and reality of the concept of Vishwa Shanti Niketana.
Music is an eternal ingredient of Beatitude and Beatitude and Swamiji holds that the music of the heart is the language of the Universe, the Voice of heaven as it elevates the mind the heart to a high level and brings the highest form of inspiration and rejoicing. The aspirant should merge his mind in Nada Bramha (Sound Reality). According to Swamiji, the universal language of love transcends all the limitations of speech, culture, religion and concept that separate human beings. It is hard to find single life that is not touched is some way or the other by love.
Swamiji has written more than half a dozen books, which reveal the profoundest for truths for a revolutionary spiritual life. I really feel fortunate to be alive at a time when Swamiji is alive and to be able to read his thought-provoking and self-elevating books, Swamiji in his recent books has given his universal message:” Love alone can dispel present madness of hate. Let your (of love) so shine before all, as Christ asks us, that there may be ever bright and radiating light which hatred cannot overshadow. When the heart rules the mind, life has altogether a different quality and dimension.
This book, “A Garland of Flowers,” which emerges at the initiative of another devotee of Swamiji like me, Shri Raghavan, Executive Trustee, Sudakshina Trust, represents an attempt to present in one volume all the writings of Swamiji, except the book “Flowers from the Forest” and is bound to be cherished and savored by one all.
Your first meeting with Swami Nirmalananda is still fresh in your memory, though your fast advancing age has been robbing you of your in memory of many other happenings in your life.
It was on a delightful evening, on the 7th November 1990, at B.R. Hills, in Karnataka.
What a lovely place, the B.R. Hills! With tall trees, Nature's bounty, welcoming you all the way up with green leaves rustling in the refreshing breeze with freshness and fullness of life, the air is beautifully fresh and purifying. You forget yourself and the rat -race of a life you lead in Bombay from where you had come. The silence and the solitude you find here is so penetrating that you can hear the echo of the distant mountains. As you savour the fragrance of the forest and listen to the songs of birds, and the sounds of animals at a distance, you stand in mute wonder, gazing at the incredible beauty of the forest, with a feeling of awe and sacredness towards Swami Nirmalanandal.
You are thrilled at the prospect of meeting Swamiji for the first time. How long you have waited! As you stand there at the door-step of his Ashram, you hark back to the time you had first come to know of him. When was it? Sometime in December 1984, you recall. You marvel at the manner in which divinity plays a part in bringing about contact between ordinary human beings and great souls. You recall one of your visits to the Sage of Kanchi towards the end of 1984 when he hands over to you an article on Zen Buddhism, an article titled "Zen as a way of life", explaining to you that it has been written by a realised soul and asking you to publish it in DILlP, a periodical which you have been publishing at his benign command.
In everything the sages do, there is always a divine inner meaning. If it is so in his having commanded you to publish DILlP, it is again so in his asking you to publish Swami Nirmalandas' article in DILlP.
It is the publication of this article in DILIP that brings you close to Swami Nirmalananda! You immediately begin to establish contact with Swamiji, though of course you could do" so only through the medium of a letter. And, what a treasure of love and affection pours forth from Swamiji! You begin to wonder whether you really deserve to be blessed so much by Swamiji. Reading your mind even from that distance and sensing your mother- fixation, Swamiji, in his infinite kindness, asks you to look at him as your mother! And you have taken all this time, caught in your 'vishavri ksha ' of , sam sara', to go to meet your mother! What a moment of expectation for you it is now as you stand there at the doorstep of his ashram waiting to have a glimpse of him!
Swamiji has been expecting you and, opening the door, he steps out to welcome you. A loud, benevolent laugh from him greets you as though to say "so, you have come after all", and he steps forward to prevent you from falling at his feet, lifting you in a motherly embrace. What a great moment for you in your life! You look at his small frame in wonder and recapture in your mind all that you have read about him. Is this the soul, you begin to ask yourself, that has wandered for five long years all over the world as a ' Parivrajaka ' in quest of truth, peace and harmony, seeking guidance from many spiritual luminaries, and has now been living in this solitary ashram in silence and seclusion, doing sadhana ? The following lines of Longfellow come to your mind
How true it is with Swamiji, you tell yourself When the ordinary human beings while away their time in a slumber of . easy going, indolence and pleasure-seeking way of Life, with thoughts 'often acting as a dope, blunting the sensitivity of mind, here stands Swamiji, a living example of a great soul always awake, a soul that has been soaring higher and higher in the heavens!
As you look at him in silence, his noble face, pictured in grey and brown, takes an honoured place in the long portrait gallery of your memory. His eyes are extraordinarily tranquil and beautiful, the eyes of a dreamer. His face, you feel, is one that might have belonged to the rishis of yore, with the added quality of intellectuality.
The whole atmosphere is beautifully peaceful- you become part of it _ there is complete peace, joy and contentment, something you have never known before. Each moment looks new and vivid. You stand there before him speechless, as if dazed completely, forgetful of yourself. His "sowlabhya" annexes you to him even at the very first sight.
As though to wake you up from your dream, he benevolently suggests that you would do well to retire, since you must have had a tiresome journey and guides you to an out-house reserved for your stay. He asks you to come and meet him again after taking rest.
You meet him later in the evening and spend a couple of hours, partly in evening worship, singing hymns, and partly in mediation. You notice he has not spoken a word to you right from the beginning and you remind yourself that Swamiji observes complete silken. As you pour out your heart to him, he answers you by writing out on pieces of papers, comm unicating with you in silence. You notice how steady his handwriting is from the beginning to the end.
How eloquent, you find his silence is, and you are reminded of the famous line in Sri Dakshinamoorthi Stotram Gurostu maunam vyaakhyaanam sishyaastu chchinna samsayaah "(The Teacher is teaching through silence and the disciples get rid of all their doubts)
It is now time for you to eat, Swamiji says, like a mother, and feeds you with eatables he has cooked himself. When you feel somewhat embarrassed that Swamiji should himself serve you food - and show your embarrassment - Swamiji admonishes you by asking you if you would ever feel embarrassed if you were to be served by your mother!
Tears roll in your eyes. You recall that, among the different devotional moods in which the Vedic seer adores divinity, you find also the approach as to one's mother. The conception of divinity, as parents - father and mother - is the most natural and primary mode of worship. You recall Kalidasa who held that the whole world of thought and expression is essentially of the form of Siva and Sakti. You recall that the most complete Mother Divine of Rig Veda is Aditi , the mother of all gods. The wonderful mother is the mystic potency, who projects the variegated picture of the Universe.
You lose count of time and Swamiji solicitously suggests that you retire to bed and meet him again in the morning. He wants you to make the most of your stay at the ashram by going for a long walk into the forest early in the morning and enjoy the beauty of Nature!
When you do so the next morning, you are just thrilled. The range of cliffs overlooking the forest valley serves as an ideal place for quiet contemplation. You try to fwd a suitable spot near the famous B. R. Temple at the top of the hill, for-sitting and watching the wonderful panorama of nature. Thousands of villages dotted with green paddy fields can be seen stretching miles and miles away, while a winding river, cutting across the land, is silently flowing by. Gazing at the distant horizon, your silent thought goes beyond the frontiers of recognition and reaches the fabulous beauty of nature, and the fascinating inner mind gets intermingled, becoming indistinguishable as a whole!
The indescribable beauty of that scene cannot be described in words. The bright morning sun slowly coming up makes the whole scene more vivid, fabulous and fascinating.
What a delight it is to see the little birds flying away bashfully from your presence as you try to approach them while some of them merely play by hopping from plant to plant. You look at the squirrels running hither and thither shaking their bushy tails with wild excite- ment and enthusiasm.
You suddenly realise, with a jerk, that all this beauty, peace, silence and harmony would soon vanish when you go back to Bombay, since gobackyou must, not being a liberated soul, free from 'Samsara'
You return to the Ashram from your morning walk, at once blissful and anguished, blissful with peace and harmony after the morning walk and anguished that you must soon go away from all this beautiful at- mosphere!
In the afternoon, you tell Swamiji how blessed and blissful you feel, being in the Ashram, and how tormented at the same time you feel at the thought of having to go back to Bombay soon. Swamiji is surprised that you have to go back so soon. He expects you to stay at least for a week, if not more. He wants you to stay for at least a day more. How typically mother-like!
What a scintillating and unforgettable experience these two days with Swamiji have been!
The more you have come to know him by being closely around and spending hours with him, the more you marvel at his encyclopaedic mind. You laugh with him enjoying his humour.
His intrinsic greatness, his gentle look, his benign smile and inviting sweetness shorten the distance between himself and you.
You marvel how in the midst of his unceasing work for the betterment of the tribal people around and interviews to visitors at all odd hours, not to speak of unrelenting meditations, he finds time to acquire proficiency in every aspects of life, literature and philosophy!
Talking about the tribal’s, the motherly love with which he deals with them, the tender affection with which he listens and speaks to them (yes, though he observes complete silence with the rest of the world, he makes an exception so far as the tribal are concerned and does speak to them in kindness) endear him to all the tribal around. Truly, like a mother, he rejoices in their welfare.
Like all good things that come to an end, the time arrives for you to tear yourself away from him, when he shows you a copy of the first edition of his book "Flowers from the Forest", a beautiful account of his meditations. He explains that a second edition is due to be published and wants you to comment on blurbs prepared to appear in the second and the third cover. That induces you to ask him how he would like the idea of the other booklets of his being republished in the form of a book and whether you would be permitted to undertake the publication thereof. Swamiji is immensely pleased with the idea and blesses the proposal. He also approves of your suggestion that the book be titled "A Garland of Forest Flowers".
The title suggests itself when you recall how lovely, sweet and innocent the forest' flowers are! Radiating their loveliness to one and all, without withholding for themselves, they do not pick and choose, nor do they make any distinction between good and bad. They abandon themselves totally to Nature and therefore God Himself takes care of them!
A Garland of Forest Flowers! A garland indeed! A wreath of mustard flowers in their golden color! Wild jasmines spreading their aroma! Lovely red flowers devoid of fragrance looking like rustic persons! All beautiful forest flowers strung together as a garland! A miscellany! A collection of gems of wisdom from Swamiji word with a wealth of meaning and yet sublime!
This then is the background to the publication of this book.
In these days when doubts asail our faith and discord divides our fold when rationalization derides our beliefs swamiji word rejuvenate our inner self. May readers enjoy savouring every word of swamiji.
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