Manik Rao was the preceptor to the Swamiji. Even kings and emperors would prostrate before Manik Rao. The Swamiji had a high regard for him- and he wanted to touch the holy feet of Manik Rao. But the Professor would not allow Shivanandji, as he was an ascetic.
I was wonderstruck to see all this. Anyway, the Swamiji introduced me to the professor. He told that he had brought a gem as his disciple. He told everything about my state of mind and implored him to take me as hiss disciple in physical culture. Professor agreed and the Swamiji left, leaving me behind.
The training of my physical culture started under the table guidance of prof. Manik Rao. The great preceptor of Manik Rao was one Sri Jumma Dada, who lived up to the age of one hundred and thirty years. I have heard Manik Rao say that Jumma Dada was a great disciplinarian. Manik Rao say that jumma Dada was a great disciplinarian. Manik Rao had acquired knowledge and virtues from his preceptor jumma Dada. To be frank, if there is any discipline in my behavior, it is on account of these great preceptors blessings.
I became professor Manik Rao’s nearest and dearest, within a month of my staying there. He would address me ” Karanataki” and assign duties- I would get up at three thirty in the early morning, take bath in cold water and perform Yoga practice learnt from Sri Palini Swamiji and Shivanandji. Then I would take a little rest and be ready to undergo physical training. After only a few days of my settling there, I was entrusted with the duty of prompting the prayers, both during morning and evening. My voice, in those days was very melodious, which attracted all the students, including my preceptor. Especially, for Saturday prayers, high dignitaries of the locality used to be invited. I was quite innocent of all these; I used to keep everything ready for worship, prompt prayers and present the Arathi before everyone. Then I would prostrate before my Guru. He used to ask the guests if he was correct in his opinion about my singing. He would ask me to sing it again before them. It was a prayer to God Maruthi- in Sanskrit and Marathi. When I sang the prayer, I would feel as if God Maruthi himself stood before me- ever lagged behind even in physical culture; a few of the items were- lathi, katti, dagger-fighting, spear, sword fighting, wrestling, horse riding; I was proficient not only in these oriental items, but a few occidental items such as double bar, single bar, Roman rings, weight lifting-which were learnt with the help of my friends. A few other difficult exercises such as Malkambh, hathyaronka Malkamb, rope climbing, rope malkambh, also were learnt. Actually, I had no time for practice. The timings of the Gymnasium were between 5-00 A.M. and 9-00 P.M. But I would get up at 3-30 in the morning and go to bed at 11-10 in the night. Sometimes, my practice would take more time. Once, professor Manik Rao was given to understand about my unwieldy routine. Some student had complained against me. But he did not pay heed. He asked the student, ” Are you in any way disturbed by his practice?” The answer was in the negative and Manik Rao told him, “then let his penance continue”. After finishing my routine late in the night, I would go to the preceptor to serve him, by massaging his feet; a tanga entered the premises of the Ashram. The sound of an awkwardly crying child was heard. Manik Rao told us, ” Listen, a boy of ten years has come. The bone on his right thigh has broken. Hurry up, join the broken bone and apply the ointment”. We hurried down and found what he said was true to the letter. We acted on the words of Guruji-took the boy to the orthopedic section, joined the bone and applied the ointment. The boy and the people who had brought him were accommodated for the night. We again appeared before the Guruji-we asked him how he was able to find out the truth about the boy from such a distance. He smiled and said, ” there is no miracle about this. This is called Shabda Bhedi art. A common man cannot understand this. But incessant practice brings home everything clear. Later on, I began to practice that too.
I remember an incident, which happened then. Once, Her Highness, the Queen of Baroda visited the Ashram. She had a high regard for Manik Rao – She asked him to show some interesting physical feat. He agreed and asked her to get a supply of mond of (mond is a measurement of weight) sweetmeats, which was immediately made available. He installed a Malkambh (Pillar to show physical feats) and poured all the sweetmeat around the pillar. He ascended the pillar, showed a few feats and jumped down. Again, he would ascend and jump down. The people were spell bound to see his feats. At last he drew our attention towards the sweetmeats. In spite of his jumping down on them for several times, not even a single sweetmeat was broken a little. They were all intact. Manik Rao weighed at least 160 monds-but his weight had not damaged the sweetmeats. Later, he explained that the feat was nothing but one of the eight achievements, called as Laghima-An aspirant should never make use of these achievements for exhibition. He should continue penance and have God realization.
At this juncture, an All India Ayruvedic Conference was held in Baroda. The President of this great Conference was a great man Baba Lakshman Das Sadhu from Lahore. I had an opportunity to witness, this great occasion. After seeing this memorable gathering, a burning desire to learn Ayurveda took shape in my mind. Immediately I wrote to Swami Shivanandaji, stating my desire. The Swamiji immediately hurried to Baroda- Both the Swamihji and Manik Rao had a long discussion about my desire. At last they decided to send me to Lahore to be an Ayurvedic disciple to Baba Lakshamana Das Sadhu- An urgent gathering was convinced and I was given the title B.P.C. and blessed. The Swami Shivananda took me to Lahore. On the way, he told me- “Baba Lakshman Das is a versatile genius. He is an adept both in Yoga and Ayurveda. You must win over his love with modesty and care, and be his disciple. If I take youth to him and introduce you as his disciple, he may not agree. He may ask me to teach you these. Hence, I should not appear before him. I will take you to the gates of Kaivalyashrama of Lahore and leave you alone. The future attempts are left to you”. Accordingly, he left me in front of the gates of the Ashram and returned-
I very timidly entered the Ashram and stood before its gate; just in front, Baba Lakshmana Das himself sat on a seat. His face was resplendent with vigour and lustre. I was stunned for a while, standing and looking at him. He interrogated me in his gentle voice in Hindi “Tum koun ho?” I wanted to reply very politely; but only uttered “Mai …Mai…” and could not talk any further. The Swamiji stood up, came to me, and holding my hands, took me inside. “Don’t be afraid; talk calmly”, he said. After recovering myself, I spoke to him-“Maharaj, I am not afraid even of the God of Death. My nature is quite bold. I had seen you while you’re kind self had been to Baroda for the Great Ayurvedic Conference. I had felt quite happy with your learned speech on Ayurveda”.
“What were you doing there in Baroda?” asked he.
“I was serving the celate Prof.Manik Rao and getting Physical Education from him”.
“Oh, He is really great. He sis the Homeland of manly instruction, and an apostle of discipline .I had visited his Gymnasium while I called at Baroda. Especially his store of weapons is worthy of seeing. Even an impotent would be a hero, by looking at those weapons. His lathi was as big as a pounder”.
He told another episode about the Maharaja of Baroda, who wanted to take all those weapons. But Manik Rao had refused saying, “There is sufficient room in my store of weapons”.
After this, Lakshman Baba inquired me ot what I was till them. I explained in brief all about my previous life, and told him that I was Practicising Yoga under the directions of Swami Shivanandji and that Hatha Yoga was taught to me by Sri Palini Swamiji and so on.
Baba heard me with interest-“you are a great adventurer. Even your Guru, that Shivananda is also a great man. But his life is not settled. I had suggested him many a time to settle in some place and preach and propagate yoga. But he is not heeding. He is a nomad”- said he.
“Maharaj, I have been striving hard to be a man, and to realize this object, I have been serving since my boyhood, many great sages”. I said.
“Then, you are a great robber”, he told. “Quite so, I am a great robber” was my reply.
“Many disciples who had come to the Ashram to be educated, robbed me of many valuable things of the Ashram. What do you rob here?”
“I am not an ordinary robber who steals the mundane things. I am robber to rob you of your great knowledge:”-was my rejoinder.
Baba Lakshman Das was damn pleased with this- he got me into his firm embrace and took me to be his disciple. He began to teach me Ayurveda from the very next day. He taught me anatomy and metabolism on the basis of the ancient scriptures written by Charaka, Sushruta, Vagbhata, Bhavamisra, Saran-gadhara, Madhavachary and so on. Baba’s instructions were quite c classical and in strict accordance with the classical treatises on the Science of medicine.
Detailed instructions were imparted on the nature and qualities of the medicinal herbs and natural Vegetation. When there was no instruction, we used to go the Ayurvedic Library and study great treatises. We would also learn by heart, the lexicons of Ayurveda by Madanpal, Dhanwantari, Slagrama’s Basavaraja, Bhanuprakash and host of others. We used to participate in the preparations of the medicines in the work shop. If I was doubtful about any topic, I would directly approach Baba and in turn he would solve my problems. I used to make notes on those Classics and show to Baba, who appreciated very much my method of study. Thus, my study of Ayurveda was quite thorough. Besides, I worked hard in therapeutics also. Many a patient was cured by me successfully. In those days, medicines prepared elsewhere were not made use of. On the contrary, medicines were prepared and manufactured in a scientific manner there alone, in the Ashram itself. I became an adept in the manufacture of medicines.
The next lessons were given on Siddhu Vidya or Alchemy. This school of thought was propounded by Nagarjuna. Vishwanatha, Mahanandi, Mathsyendrananth, Kapali, Bhaluki, Agasthya and a host of others later developed this branch of Ayruveda. This branch explains about the cure of deadly diseases by administering the medicines prepared by mizing the different kinds of metals and alloys. Baba Lakshma Das had the specialization in this branch. Whereas many other Siddha Vydyas prepared the ash(Bhasma) using gold, silver, mercury, copper, mica, sulphur and lead, after hundreads of burning processes, Baba Lakshman Das would prepare the ash within the first or the second burning process. He taught me the old tradition “Siddhayoga! Before my training was concluded, the Baba sent me to an hospital, run by German Doctors at Lahore, so that I might see the modus operandi. When I went there and mentioned the name of the Baba, the Head of the Hospital immediately permitted to have a detailed look of every part of the hospital. All the doctors, and nurses there were from Germany only, except a few menials and sweepers there who were the only Indians. While I observer the doctors, it was astonishing to find them serving the lepors with the utmost care and love, washing their wounds and applying medicines and again dress them-without the least sense of loathsomeness. They were all very cordial and kind to those ailing. I had a thorough vision of the hospital from morning nine till one in the afternoon. When I returned to the Ashram, the Baba was awaiting. He asked me-“What Karnataki, Did you have a vision of the hospital for leprosy?”.
“Yes, Guruji”, I replied.
“What did you see there?”
“Guruji, I found there every doctor, each nurse viewing the Almighty Himself in those patients”. I told.
“Wonderful; you said it very well my dear boy, I wish you should also learn and cultivate the habit of seeing God in the ailing patients. This was my very purpose of sending your there”.
This was how he always aimed at making me an ideal doctor.
I returned to Varuda, from Lahore and met Sri Swami Shivanandji again- I explained to him everything in details- Anyway, he seemed to be unhappy about me for leaving Baba. Again I joined him and began to go round the land, giving demonstration of Yoga and physical culture. It was at this time that the Swamiji was invited to inaugurate a new gymnasium at Bhatkal, a town in North Kannada District. As he was very busy, he intimated the organizers of the function that he would send his disciple Raghavendra(me) who knew Kannada also very well, besides being an adept in Yoga and physical culture. Those people accepted this and the Swami wrote to them that Mr. Raghavendra Rao, B.P.C. would be coming over there on such and such a date, on such and such a time. Accordingly, I went to Bhatkal Via Hubli by a bus. The entire town wore a festive look; the people gave me a grand welcome. They shouted the slogans of “Sri Shivananda Maharaja Ki Jai”. As soon as I stepped down from the bus, the people showered flowers on me, and garlanded me. But the police officer who had accompanied me, appeared before mean thundered- “You are under arrest”. This was a surprise- but undaunted, I enquired him about this. The reply was quite ticklish. “You bear the letters B.P.C. after your name. You must have been a member of Bombay provincial Congress Committee”. I could not control my laughter .I had to explain and enlarge the abbreviated form of B.P.C. as Bachelor of Physical Culture, the degree I was awarded. The Police officer released me, duly apologizing for his folly. There was a grand procession afterwards, along the streets of Bhatkal. I delivered a talk on Yoga and physical culture in a gathering convened in front of Sri Venkataramana Swamy Temple. Every arrangement was made for my stay there alone.