Swami Ramdas, who was known as P Vittal Rao during his pre-Sannyas days, was leading an ordinary life till God’s grace descended on him in or about the year 1920. Then he was made to think deeply on the futility of worldly pursuits and the necessity of pursuing the divine path and realizing one’s identity with the Supreme Being, which alone can lead one to ‘Peace-eternal’. He placed himself totally at the altar of God. At this time his father initiated him with the holy and all-powerful Name of God — Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram. He took to ceaseless chanting of the holy Name. When the prompting came from within to renounce the worldly life, he took to a wandering mendicant’s life. Fiery aspiration coupled with intense practice to attain the Highest, hastened his spiritual progress and, in a short time, he could behold his Beloved - God - everywhere, both within and without. He thus showed how absolute surrender to God, arising from His constant remembrance by chanting of His name, could lead to ultimate Realization quickly and getting established in unending Bliss.
Having thus attained spiritual liberation and God-vision, he started on his mission to awaken mankind to the awareness of God. In 1931 he and Mother Krishnabai, his foremost disciple and a Self-realized soul, founded Anandashram with the object of propagating the ideal of Universal Love and Service. This spiritual centre offers every kind of facility for spiritual regeneration of the soul so that it may realize its pristine divine nature.
Swami Ramdas attained Maha Nirvana in July 1963 and Mother Krishnabai in February 1989. The books authored by Swami Ramdas which come from the deep of Reality continue to inspire innumerable devotees both inside and outside India.
The birth of Swami Ramdas, who was known in his pre-Sannyas life as Vittal Rao, took place at Hosdurg, Kanhangad, North Kerala, on Thursday, the 10th April 1884. It was a day of the full moon and it happened to be Hanuman Jayanti, i.e., the birthday of Hanuman, the greatest devotee of Sri Rama. This happy synchronisation seemed to augur well in advance for the great future that was in store for the child born that day to Sri Balakrishna Rao and Srimati Lalita Bai. The one remarkable thing about him, that people who saw him then observed, was the extraordinary luster of his eyes.
Vittal was not overfond of his school or his books, and so came in for a large measure of his teacher’s wrath. He often played truant, but in vain did he hide himself in the bathroom or in the loft of the cow-pen, for his ubiquitous teacher was well aware of the favourite haunts of his recalcitrant pupil. His High School career too was marked by his extreme indifference to studies and supreme dislike for his textbooks. Although he refused to be cramped by the School curriculum, he became a voracious reader and read all the books of general interest he could ray his hands upon. His taste for literature enabled him to acquire even at so early an age a remarkable fineness and facility in his English style. His intelligence even as a student was of a high order. Whatever he once read he made his own. He was even then a good conversationalist and had inherited from his father an unequalled sense of wit and humour. He would, as he does even now, raise roars of laughter from his listeners by the unique manner in which he related incidents from his own life or observations. The humour always lay more in the narrative of an event than in the event itself and he knew it. Whatever be the situation he was placed in for the time being, it was the lighter side of it rather than the serious one that appealed to his keen sense of the comic and the ludicrous in life.
As could be expected, Vittal lagged behind in his studies with the result that he could not get through the Matriculation examination. He then joined the school of Arts and took a course in drawing and engraving. Though his progress here was remarkable, as the future prospects that this course held out were none too bright, he discontinued the course and joined the Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute of Bombay and took up the Textile Engineering course. At the end of the three-year course at the V.J.T. Institute, Vittal Rao received his diploma in Textile Manufacture.
When he was employed as Spinning Master in a cotton mill at Gulbarga, he was married to Rukmabai in the year 1908 and a daughter, Ramabai, was born to him in 1913.
Throughout his life in service, brief periods of employment were followed by longer periods of unemployment and idleness. Before he had hardly settled down at one place, depending upon the appointment he had secured, circumstances so seemed to work up that he lost the post for no fault of his and he had once again to embark on a quest of securing some fresh means of livelihood. Thus, for him, continued domestic felicity was not to be and the sweet pleasures of a home of his own were, for the greater part of the year, denied to him.
After a chequered career of several years he finally came down to Mangalore in 1917 and joined his father-in-Yaw in his business. It went against his grain to stoop to any of the ‘tricks of the trade’. Inevitably this led to clash with his father-in-Yaw and he soon severed his connection with the business and started his own business in dyeing fabrics and printing sarees. But he was too good to be a businessman and the financial condition of the business was drifting from bad to worse. His domestic life also was none too happy.
Slowly and imperceptibly the external circumstances were helping Vittal Rao’s religious inclination to become deeper and his spirit of dispassion to gain an added strength and impetus.
Every evening he spent an hour at the house of his brother, Sitaram Rao, whose children would be engaged in Bhajan before the image of Sri Krishna. During the Bhajan, Vittal Rao would lose himself in a blissful state of self-forgetfulness. It was at this time Vittal Rao started chanting the Lord’s name ‘Ram’ and the repetition of the name brought him great mental peace and joy. He kept up a ceaseless flow of the blessed Name on his tongue and its humming would automatically issue from his lips even when he was at work or was walking in the streets. He gave up the night meal and other petty comforts of the body. His wife got thoroughly frightened at the strange turn her husband’s life was rapidly taking now. No persuasion, appeal or protest either from her or from his child could induce him to alter the course he was now made to follow. Because, he felt very strongly that he was set upon this path by that Highest Power which he was struggling to attain and realize. This critical period in Vittal Rao’s life and the psychological struggle he was now undergoing have been beautifully and graphically described by him in this book.
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