I would beg and implore whoever saint, or bairagi, or baba or religious master I used to meet – ” Have you seen God? Would you please show me God? None of them could show me God- How could they show me any God when they had never seen one? At last, somehow I completed my examination and wrote to my house-“It is my grave intention to have the vision of God. So, I am leaving for the purpose. Do not try to trace me out. Please take away my bag and baggage left in my room”. Thus I left- Whereto?
Then, the name of the saint, Sri Siddharudha Swamiji of Hubli was very popular. So, I thought of realizing my mission with the help of that saint and straight away came to the bus stand. A motor was leaving for shimoga. I folded my palms humbly and begged the driver as well as the conductor of the bus to take me to Shimoga. I don’t know what they thought of me and my request; but the driver agreed to take me in his bus and provided me a seat very next to him. The bus started. I was afraid if I would be recognized by any of my acquaintances. I was very gloomy. But the driver talked to me very cordially and instilled in me confidence. It was eight o’ clock in the night when I reached Shimoga. The driver had known about my mission-Hence, he took me to his home. I had my supper in his home. Next morning, he was kind enough to pay me five rupees for my journey expenses and directed the way to railway station and the route I should travel to reach Hubli. On his directions, I was able to reach Hubli by seven O’ clock in the next height. I enquired the whereabouts of the Ashram of Sri Siddharudha Swamiji and went there. The evening preaching was over and arathi was going on. I had not eaten anything since the morning.
Where should I go? The need for food increases, when all the ways of food are remote. My pocket was already empty. My attention was not towards the arathi. By that time, an old couple approached me and inquired about my sad story. They took me to their lodging, which was small room adjacent to the Ashram. It seemed that they were issueless-but gave me half of the food they had prepared for themselves. They shared the remaining half between themselves. They provided me a bed and sheet-I felt annoyed when I saw snatched away half of their food. But the couple were very happy. They next morning, they asked me to stay with them as long as I stayed in Hubli. They asked me not to be hesitant. Of course I nodded.
At the time, the Sidharudha Mutt was full with preachings, Bhajan, discussion always from morn till night. I also used to go and sit in the group. My mission was unique- I must meet Sri Siddharudha alone and request him to show me God. After patiently waiting for three weeks, I pushed myself through the crowds one day and laying myself prostrated at the fret of Sri Siddharudha I called him ” Oh…Grand Sire”. The Swamiji stared at me and asked me in his rustic fashion what I wanted. I very timidly asked him if he had the vision of God and whether he would show me. The Swamiji burst into laughter and said that I was too young for such pursuit. He bade me go and sit for preaching. I further demanded him if God could be seen by listening to the preaching’s and discussions. The Swamiji was struck with wonder at my interrogation. He praised me for my matured way of talk, but looking a while at me, he was not my Guru and ordered me to go elsewhere. I wanted to know from him who my Guru was but it was not possible for me to meet him again, though I stayed there for some more days. I was regularly fed by the old couple. But I thought that it would be not decent on my part to be any unnecessary burden to the couple. At the same juncture, I chanced to view in a newspaper about the famous Amba Prasaditha Drama Company of Mangalore, which had camped at Tumkur. For the first time in my life, I thought of eking out a way to live. Hence I approached the old couple and said-” I could not fulfil my mission here- Now, if you kindly help me, I want to go to Tumkur. There is a drama company well known to me. I went to join that company”. The old couple appreciated my point. They helped me to travel to Tumkur, but they bid me farewell with a heavy heart.
There was the least difficulty in tracing out the drama company in Tumkur. I reached there as a matter of course. The first man I met there was Shivarama Karanth. He listened to my details and replied that there was a vacancy of a clerk for the time being and as I had a good hand, I could undertake that work. If the work was agreeable, I could part take in the other areas of the company. The owner of the Company, one Ranganatha Bhat immediately agreed to offer me that responsibility. Thus the account books of the company were handed over to me. In one or two days I was entrusted with the sales of tickets and disbursement of salary and wages to the staff of the Company. I had also to enact minor roles in the drama. Thus the quantum of work was very tight and restless, day by day. The owner of the company was highly pleased with my neat work, financial honesty and accuracy. The main keys of the treasure were placed in my hands. Shivaram Karanth was swearing to make the company an ideal home of art till then; but on account of his some infirmity, he was disliked by all the people in the company. Somehow Karanth left the comapny, for good.
The owner Ranganatha Bhat was a great actor himself, besides being a good musician. He was able to sing Pallavi in Southeren music. He would select able and good looking youths and give them proper training in acting. Let me place before you an incident which happened while I was serving in the drama company. Some town-let me not mention its name-there was a gymnasium of indigenous type. The Master of that gymnasium was a great wrestler, but a very crooked person. He had placed a number of respectable persons of the town under his thumb. People were quite afraid of him. When our drama company had a camp in that town, this wrestler compelled the company to allow the members of his gymnasium to see the drama free of cost. He repeted the same unjust means for four or five days continuously. I came to know of his theatre awaiting that devil. He arrived that day also in his usual colorurs. He had brought ten of his disciples to get entrance without ticket. I just stood in his way and demanded tickets. The man got furious and threatened to set the theatre on fire. “You will be no where till then” said I , giving a heavy blow to one of his sides. He fell down and could not get up. I snatched away his big stick and thrashed him, so that he should not get up. All his disciples took to their heels when they say the pathetic condition of their Guru. The next day, my action was appreciated by all.
The social dramas were enacted only by amateur drama companies in those days. The credit of introducing the social dramas by the professional companies goes to Ranganantha Bhat. Nisha Mahima, a drama written by Shivarama Karanth on the basis of the Marathi Drama” Ekachapyala” which was enacted on the Maharastra theatre and in which Bala Gandharva played role, was enacted in Ambaprasadith Drama Company. “Sathi Samyukta” another historical Drama was also enacted. I involved myself in all fields of action in the company-from administrative to enacting function. The drama company was day by day becoming popular. Ranganatha Bhat was becoming more and more popular, like Vardachar, Garuda Sadasiva Rao etc. Securing a number of awards likes Abhinaya Kala Vibhushana, Natyakala Visharad, having won the hearts of all people The very popular drama companies in those days were Sri Channabasaweswara Nataka company of gubbi veeranna, Varadachar Natak Company and so on. I was suffering from epilepsy and heart trouble, while I was serving in Amba Prasadith Natak Company, but I was recognized to be a good worker. I t was during that period that I received Yoga instruction by His Holiness Sri Palini Swamiji, a great Hathayogi. But my mind was again curious on having the holy vision of Almighty- I left the drama company for good, following a host of ascetics, with the fond hope of getting what I longed for.
The turmoil’s I had undergone during this wandering are inexplicable. True, for my innermost soul was indicating the fact, that unless I would undergo these turmoil’s, I could never reach my goal. It was an unexpected surprise for me to come across many a cheat in the guise of an ascetic. A few of them were opium eaters; a few others, heavy drunkards; a few more, great debauchers. Thus amid these, my journey continued, without food and drink, unclad, seeking the whereabouts of Almighty. I went on foot, from place to place. It was my greatest woe that I could not find God till then; it would make me shed tears alone not for my mendicancy, but for my inability to witness God. My feet were bleeding, due to my incessant walk, my body was emaciated in the heat of the Sun. But I would solace my self- “This is a kind of test by the Almighty. The harder the test, greater would be my inner power.” I shed tears-not for woman, neither for land, nor for money but only for a vision of God; This purpose of tears world make me quite glad.
It was at this juncture, that I came across a piece of news in a Marathi daily, that a great soul, Sri Sri Swami Shivananda would visit Pandarpur, to deliver his holy preaching’s. I immediately changed my course and with the greatest difficulty, I arrived Pandarpur. But to my misfortune, I learnt that the Swamiji just left for Poona. I straightly went again to Poona. It was herculean task to trace out the whereabouts of Swamiji in a great city like Poona. After walking about a long distance, for two or three weeks, I was able to find the great soul at last; I was very successful in winning over his heart in my favour and stayed with him. But Swamiji would never stay in a single place. I stayed with him for three to four years, and continued Yoga, learnt from Sri Palini Swamiji.
The nature of Palini Swamiji and that of Sri Shivanandiji were poles apart. Palini Swamiji was of silent nature. whereas Sivanandji was highly talkative. He was a great orator, well learned man and great seer, besides being a patriot. He would infuriate the young minds with a burning desire to serve their motherland. He would preach that a nation is not merely a heap of soil. The nation is a living entity. He would address the youth and say that the motherland was undergoing a lot of trouble, and that she was servant to the foreign power. He would offer a clarion call to the young to strive hard to get the motherland released, forgetting the restricted differences of caste, creed, language etc. Then he would look at us and say that the heroes of our nation would show their prowess through their feats. It was a signal for us to demonstrate our feats of Yoga as well as Physical exercises. While I spent a few days, travelling with the Swamiji, he would speak of another great personality, Rajarathna Professor Manikya Rao of Baroda, who was an expert physical culturist besides being a strict celibate.
On one of these days, there was speech by Swamiji in Kolaba. It was a scholarly discourse on spirituality, a piece of his evergreen scholarship. The audience were spell-bound to give it a hearing. After this lecture, I was completely overtaken by my ever longing desire of having vision of God. I was shedding tears, not caring about my food. The Swamiji approached me with great love and enquired me about my grief.
I could not help sobbing- “Swamiji, I have been with you in this Ashram, just to have a vision of God, with your kind blessings, But till now, you have not kept your word. Especially after hearing your speech this day, I am unable to control my longing to see God. Kindly show him- I beg you”- so saying I fell down at his feet. The Swamiji who was listening to me took me up and solaced me-“Karnataki (this was how he used to address me). Our meditation should be according to the environment. Have you cared to notice the surrounding society? Corrodes of children living in this holy motherland are starving. ill-clad, hungry and ailing-Now, have you understood the pain of their innermost personalities? Are you not moved with pity, to see your own brethren thus suffering? And you are shedding tears to see God. These ailing beings are nothing but God Himself. You must find your God in these people-Feel that their sufferings are your own- you should try to wipe out the tears, in the eyes of these; if, in case, you do a lot of penance and have the vision of God, it would help you alone- but not to the suffering million. Mother India has sent you with a mission to put an end to the grief of these people. You should not be selfish-Now, you should render selfless service and have the blessings of the Almighty”- thus, spoke the Swamiji for two hours, in detail- he was successful in bringing about a metamorphosis in my very personality. At last, he interrogated me whether I should see God, or render selfless service to humanity. I forgot where I was. There was thorough change in me. I touched his holy feet and took an oath to follow this advice to the core.
As I have already mentioned, the Swamiji had immense respect in the celebrate of Baroda, professor Manikya Rao. He was the Bhishma of Kaliyuga. The Swamiji himself was a disciple of the professor in his early days and had learnt the physical culture along with the skills of using military weapons. I t was after this training, that the Swamiji dedicated his life to the service of the nation, after acquiring the ascetic name of Shivananda Thirtha. But he was not an ascetic in appearance, but a true Sanysin, having nothing selfish in him. He had a thorough knowledge of the scriptures of not only Hinduism, but of almost all other great religions of the world. He would cite extracts from Vedas, the Bibile, the Qurans and the like. Professor Manik Rao had a great love and regard for his speeches. Swamiji had made it a rule to participate in the Shivaji Mahotsava and Gajanana Saptaha celebrated in Baroda. I also chanced to participate in one Gajanana Saptaha, along with the Swamiji.
I rambled there and was curious about the various physical exercises-Even the most cowardly would be a great hero, if the person observed these items. After the Gajanana Saptaha, I went along with the Swamiji and while he camped at Ratnagiri, I gave words to my wish- I requested him that I longed to undergo the physical culture training at Baroda, under the guidance of the professor Manik Rao. To my great surprise, the Swamiji took me to Baroda, the very next morning. After proper admonitions to me on the way, as to how I should behave myself in Baroda, we had reached the famous Jamma Dada Gymnasium in Baroda.
As soon as the tanga stopped at the main entrance of the Gymnasium, the Swamiji took off his shoes and walked barefooted. I silently followed him. No sooner did the professor see the Swamiji than he hurried to the doors to welcome and greet. The significant meeting of this preceptor and the disciple had no words to be explained.