Friday, 17 May 2013

Saga of Service : Swami Vivekananda and Swami Akhandananda

 ॐ वीरेश्वराय विद्महे विवेकानन्दाय धीमहि । तन्नो वीर: प्रचोदयात् ।

With the guidance of of Swamiji, Gangadhar took traditional initiation of Sanyasa. After that Swamiji and Akhanadanandaji went for tour of Himalaya. He also visited west India in search of Swamiji. In Gujarat when Akhanadanandaji met Swamiji, he realized some great transformation in Swamiji. He also observed the condition of common people. His heart filled with grief by seeing poor. He found that root cause of every this is ignorance.

In June 1892 he reached Jamanagar, where he lived for a year. There he started his mission - the service of God in man. He lived with a doctor, Kaviraj Manishankar, for four months and studied Charak Sushruta Samhita. He also went to a Vedic school and learned to chant the four Vedas. He became acquainted with an old abbot of an affluent temple, who offered the him his position as well as all his wealth. Akhanadanandaji declined, quoting a hindi couplet : "The water is pure that flows, and the monk is pure who goes." In Jamanagar (Dhanvantari Puri) he met Dr. Jhandu Bhat. He was a remarkable physician and a highly spiritual person. He frequently recited the following two verses, which express his life's philosophy :" O Lord, I do not want any kingdom, nor heavenly pleasure, nor even escape from rebirth. But I do want the affliction of all beings tormented by the miseries of life to cease. O Lord, is there any way whereby I may enter into the hearts of all beings and always share the burden of their sufferings?" These verses touched Akhandanandaji's heart, and he came to realize that the highest ideal is love and serve other human beings.

While visit of Khetri in Rajasthan, he observed the pitiful conditions of the masses as well as the luxury of a handful of rulers and rich landlords. He heart melted for the downtrodden, and he drew his concerns to the local rulers' attention, asking them to ameliorate the poor condition of the masses. He wrote a letter to Swamiji in America, asking him for guidance.

Swamiji replied in early 1894 : "Go from door to door amongst the poor and lower classes of the town of Khetri and teach them religion. Also, let them have oral lessons on geography and such other subjects. No good will come of sitting idle and having princely dishes, and saying 'Rama-Krishna, O Lord!' unless you can do some good to the poor... It is preferable to live on grass for the sake of doing good to others. the ocher robe is not for enjoyment. It is the banner of heroic work....The poor, the illiterate, the ignorant, the afflicted - let these be your God. Know that service to these alone is the highest religion."

Swamiji's encouragement pushed him further, and in 1894 Akhandanandaji began his campaign against poverty. He found that the root of all suffering was the appalling ignorance of the masses; hence, education became his prime objective. He moved from door to door impressing upon the residents of Khetri the need to educate their children. By his strenuous efforts he succeeded in raising the enrollment of the local high school from 80 to 257, as well as improving the teaching staff. He next visited the villages around Khetri and started five primary schools for the village boys. The maharaja of Khetri afterwards made an annual grant of 5,000 rupees for the promotion of education in his territory. At his request, the Samskrit School at Khetri converted into a Vedic School; he also raised money to buy books for the poor students. In addition he induced Maharaja Ajit Singh to allow his poorer subjects to see him on durbar days, so that they could have direct access to their king.

In September 1894 Swamiji wrote to his Madrasi disciples from America regarding the pioneering spirit of Sri Ramkrishna's disciples. He remarked, mentioning Akhandananda : "Look at the handful of young men called into existence by the divine touch of Sri Ramkrishna's feet. They have preached the message from Assam to Sindh, from Himalaya to Cape Comorin. They have crossed the Himalayas at a height of twenty thousand feet, over snow and ice on foot, and penetrated in to the mysteries of Tibet. They have begged their bread, covered themselves with rags; they have been persecuted, followed by the police, kept in prison, and at last set free when the Government was convinced of their innocence. They are now twenty. Make them two thousand tomorrow. "

In mid of may 1897 he started famine relief work in Mahula and several other villages in the Murshidabad district. It was first organized relief work of the Ramakrishna Mission which had been started by Swami Vivekananda on 1 May 1897 in Calcutta. Akhandanandaji wrote letters to his brother disciples in Calcutta and Madras requesting financial help. He wrote in detail about the tragic scenes of the dying people . The response was immediate : Swamiji sent two monks to help him.

On 15th June 1897 Swamiji wrote him from Almora : "I am getting detailed reports of you and getting more and more delighted. It is that sort of work which can conquer the world... Work, work, work, even unto death! Those that are weak must make themselves great workers, great heroes - never mind money, it will drop from the heavens. ... It is the heart, the heart that conquers, not the brain. Books and learning, yoga and meditation and illumination - all are but dust compared with love. It is love that gives you the supernatural powers, love that gives you bhakti, love that gives illumination, and love , again, that leads to emancipation. this indeed is worship, worship of the Lord in the human tabernacle."