Meditation through songs
I heard a monastic brother of our Order telling Swami Bhuteshananda Maharaj, that he would take a book of songs whenever he went to Uttarkashi, and would concentrate on certain songs. He had beneficial results because there are many songs which help one to intensely pray to God. Surprisingly, Bhuteshanandaji Maharaj said that he too had done the same thing when he had been to Uttarakashi in his early days. A free translation of the song composed by Vidyapati is given below:
Madhav, I pray to you again and again,
Taking Tulasi and Til in hand i.e.,
formally I am offering my body to you.
Be kind enough not to forsake me.
If you start counting my faults,
You will not find a trace of merit,
You are called the Lord of the Universe,
However insignificant I am,
I am not out of the Universe.
Man, brute and bird are created,
Or created insects and moth,
By adverse fruits of action,
Going and coming again and again (i.e., cycle of birth and death),
Let these befall me,
But in all births, may I have
Unflinching devotion to your blessed company.
That is what Vidyapati humbly says for crossing the ocean of the world. Grant me refuge in Thy lotus feet, even for only a moment!
— Swami Shivamayananda
Stick to principles
I was sent to Rajkot to start our Gujarati monthly Sri Ramakrishna Jyoth. Before leaving I took the blessings of Swami Bhuteshananda Maharaj who had served for long in Rajkot. He gave me many valuable instructions on how to go about the project. Later, when he was the President of the Order, I again met him on 25th and 26th November 1996 and asked many questions regarding how to spread Ramakrishna-Vivekananda literature, how he had managed things when he was there, etc. Among other things he told me, “Never compromise on principles.” Then he narrated an incident that happened during his tenure as the head of Rajkot Ashrama.
The year was 1963. Swami Vivekananda’s Birth Centenary was being celebrated. It was decided that the Gujarati version of The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda would be brought out in 12 volumes. The Panchayat Minister of the State Government was a close friend of our ashrama. He asked Maharaj how many copies the ashrama planned to publish. When Maharaj said they had planned for a thousand copies, he said, “What! Only thousand copies! No, no, you must publish six thousand copies!” As Panchayat Minister, he made an announcement that the Government would give all panchayats 50% grant if they purchased Swamiji’s Complete Works in Gujarati. While the cost of the volumes was Rs. 60/- they would have to pay only Rs. 30/-. In this way Swamiji’s message spread across Gujarat during Bhuteshanandaji’s time. Then the Minister suggested to Maharaj that a Press Conference could be organised in which the Complete Works would be released so that it would receive publicity. Maharaj agreed. Usually such Press Conferences are held in hotels where the journalists are also offered refreshments. Maharaj did not agree to this. He said “I am a sannyasi, I will not go to a hotel.” Finally, the Minister accepted Maharaj’s stand and arranged the Press Conference at his own residence.
— Swami Nikhileswarananda
Bhakti is superior
On one occasion Swami Bhuteshananda Maharaj was describing the days of his spiritual practices in the Himalayas. He told me that once he was climbing down from the mountains alone and with very little possessions, totally free from any attachment. As he sat under a tree, he had a feeling of completeness, a sense of freedom. I asked, “Was it the highest, most desired state?” He replied, “No, bhakti is superior.”
— Swami Brahmeshananda
Celebrating spiritual birthday
I was then operating the Fax machine at the Headquarters Office in Belur Math. To handover the fax message, I was permitted to visit at any time the Trustees including Swami Bhuteshananda Maharaj, who was then the President of the Order. Once, when I went to handover a fax message to Bhuteshananda Maharaj, he said “Rajen, to keep eyes open and ears open, but to keep the mouth shut is itself a Tapsya, and you are doing that.” I then recounted to him a discussion I had with some senior swamis which gave me a new understanding of the hymn on Sri Ramakrishna composed by Swami Vivekananda which is sung every evening during sandhya arati in our ashramas. Maharaj was very happy and then he told me, “Remember, there are four things we should bear in mind:
- Sri Ramakrishna and Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi are living entities;
- They came for our good;
- They are our own;
- Have faith in their redeeming power.
Then he asked me “Do you remember the date of your mantra-diksha?” When I replied that I did, he told me, “Every year, you should celebrate that day like worldly people celebrate their birthday.” Then he explained how to celebrate the diksha day: 1) Sprinkle Ganga water on yourself (a purifying act); 2) Offer argya (flower / bilwa leaves) at the holy feet of Sri Ramakrishna giving all your karmas and karma phalas of this life and previous lives, and imagine that Sri Ramakrishna has accepted it; 3) Now your slate is clean and on it Sri Ramakrishna has written the Divine Mantra; 4) This begins your new life.
“Sri Ramakrishna is all in all. He is the Karta, the agent of action. If there is no more doership in you, then there is no question of enjoying or suffering their results.
— Swami Suvijneyananda
This is my purpose
It was probably 1995, when I visited Belur Math on one of my annual visits. I would usually stay in the Math for 2 to 3 weeks just to see Swami Bhuteshananda Maharaj. On that visit I wanted to ask him some questions. But as he was very busy, I could not get an opportunity to ask those questions. And soon it was time for me to leave. So I asked his attendant swami, “May I see him?” But unfortunately he again had an important meeting to attend. So I gave up. Then suddenly someone called me and said Maharaj would meet me before the meeting. So I went to his room and at the outset apologized, “I am sorry, I disturbed you.” He immediately replied, “No, you did not disturb me. This is my purpose.” He again strongly said, “I am here for this purpose only.”
— Pravrajika Dayaprana
Every being has its own purpose
This is an incident from the last phase in Swami Bhuteshananda Maharaj’s life. It was evening. He was walking along the path in the garden. I went to join him in the walk. On seeing me, he pointed at the garden and said, “Have you understood why they have cleared the garden by cutting down the sunflower plants? It is because the plants have grown old and will not give flowers any longer. What is the point in keeping the drooping old plants in the garden?” We remained silent and kept walking with him. Maharaj continued, “I was on a tour to USA. One day I saw herds of cows and buffaloes moving along the road before our car. I asked: ‘Where are they going?’ They said, ‘They have become old and hence will no longer produce milk. That is why they are being taken to the slaughterhouse.’” We remained silent.
After a while Maharaj himself broke the silence and said, “Indeed, the cows have grown old and they will not produce milk anymore; the plants have grown old and will not produce flowers any longer. Elderly men and women who visit me, rightly say that they are no longer wanted in their homes, and hence are moving to old-age homes. I have also grown old; what am I doing?” We were stunned, and could say nothing. I still remember that, after this, we walked for some time more, and Maharaj did not say anything for a long while. He was completely silent. We understood that connecting with the plants, Maharaj’s mind had become engrossed in very profound thoughts. Everyone becomes unwelcome in this world as soon as what they have to offer to the world is finished. They do not even have the right to survive or to occupy a small corner of this universe. The contribution made throughout one’s life must not be forgotten, and it should entitle one to live in this world with dignity. What kind of a world is this which mandates one is not even eligible to survive once one ceases to have the ability to contribute to the world? These were the things which Maharaj, it seemed, wanted to convey through the silence.
Again, Maharaj spoke in a solemn voice, “Did you notice how selfish mankind is! The plants had grown up, but they were cut down since they no longer produce flowers. That is, as it does not serve my purpose any more, what is its utility? We human beings always think of our own purposes —we never think that, irrespective of our purposes, a living being can have its own life, its own purpose. Sometimes men complain, ‘Why has God created these worms and insects?’ This implies that as they are of no use to us, they are useless. Without referring to himself/herself, without relating everything with his or her own purposes, a human being can never think of anything. This is, precisely, the ego-centric mentality. They do not think even for once that even those that do not serve their purposes have a life of their own.”
— Swami Ritananda
Rise above it
During one of my many visits to Belur Math I was sitting in Swami Bhuteshanandaji’s room and complaining that the local women who sat outside on the veranda of Thakur’s temple after arati gossiped then and how much it bothered me. Rather than condemn them or show sympathy towards me, he told me, “Rise above it.” He taught me we must rise above or transcend everything.
— Amrita M Salm
Not befitting a devotee
Swami Bhuteshanandaji disliked negligence in fulfilling one’s responsibilities. I used to be employed in an office. So even on festival days and functions I had to leave for work after offering my pranams at the Math. I felt bad about this and expressed the same to Maharaj. He replied, “Duties should be fulfilled with diligence.” I remember an instance when a person working at the airport came to meet Maharaj. Maharaj asked him, “Did you finish your work shift?” The devotee replied, “I informed one of my co-workers that I was leaving.” Maharaj inquired again, “Haven’t you informed your supervisor?” When the devotee replied in the negative, Maharaj became serious. After a long pause he said, “This isn’t something befitting a devotee.”
— Basanti Mukhopadhyay
Count your blessings
On a visit to Swami Bhuteshananda Maharaj, I could not help expressing my frustration, “Maharaj, we received mantra-diksha long ago – about 45 years ago –, but we don’t seem to have advanced much!”
Maharaj looked at me with a penetrating gaze and said, “Mother, isn’t it your great fortune that you have remembered God every day?” Startled, as if a bright spark of lightning struck me, I realised that it was indeed true that countless number of people did not have the great blessing of taking the name of God every day! If we look at it that way, we are blessed indeed! Such is His divine grace! I remember something that the 8th President of the Order, Swami Vishuddhanandaji Maharaj had said, “Know this well; when your guru gave you mantra-diksha, he offered you at the feet of Thakur. You are dedicated at Thakur’s feet—how blessed is your life! Do you know what we do when we initiate devotees? Just as devotees offer flowers at Thakur’s feet, we offer the seekers of initiation at His!’” Bhuteshanandaji’s words cleared my mind of the clouds of doubt which had long kept it overcast with doubts and frustrations. I returned home with my mind filled with joy and heart fully content. For many days, I experienced a heavenly sense of fulfilment.
— Santwana Das Gupta
While meeting devotees every evening, Bhuteshananda Maharaj would sometimes make some remarks that were just as witty as they were profound and universal. I remember one afternoon, in particular. An elderly lady devotee had come to meet Maharaj with her new daughter-in-law. After pranams, she said, “Maharaj, she is my daughter-in-law, a very sweet girl.” With a happy smile, Maharaj raised his hands in a gesture of blessing and said, “You see mother, you too should be sweet, then your daughter-in-law will remain sweet.” Thus, in a moment, the all-renouncing sannyasi gave the secret of domestic happiness to the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law.
— Gurudas Chattopadhyay