Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew not.
Swami Veda Bharati
©Lalita Arya 2015
Swami Veda loved languages. He knew so many I cannot count and among them is the sweet lilt of Bangla. He loved Tagore’s poems and this quote from Tagore’s Gitanjali was one of his favorites. It was recited in English and sung in the original Bangla at the commemoration observances of his Mahasamadhi at the SRSG ashram in Rishikesh by one of his beloved students.
This poem fully illustrates the kind of life he lived, and seems most suitable for the occasion to celebrate his life with the world he created. He was given seats in homes not his own, not as an invited guest, but as an honored and loving teacher. He traveled far and wide into unknown lands and found kinship among strangers.
He treasured the old and found it still abiding in the new. He had that ability to go back into time, pull out the relevant from the archaic and adapt it to contemporary life. His family saw this in everything he did – his three daughters, his son, their spouses, their mother, and four grand daughters. Sometimes he went so far back we would sit agape, listening, lost in time and space as he explained some little verse or answered an innocent childish question. It was strange to me to read in his booklet Song of Yoga – quote – Today is tomorrow’s yesterday – and have my young 5 year old granddaughter who had arrived with her family for the Mahasamadhi rites say to me – We traveled yesterday and went to tomorrow to get here today.
Before taking sanyaasa he had already adopted a larger family than his own, prompting a few old family friends to say to his children after his Mahasamadhi – Thank you for sharing your father with us. This was the swami he was that he could live the rules of ‘Svaahaa’ - this is no more mine - and still make others feel they belonged to him.
When I was asked to write an obituary ‘from your point of view’ I wondered, what can I write that others have not said, wept and written already? We are always caught in the dilemma of sorting the feelings, experiences, laughter, tears and of course the joy of the company of one who took vows of renunciation but who before adopting such a path was also a son, brother, uncle, spouse, father and grandfather. My daughter was concerned that I write only what is appropriate for websites relevant to a swami. What parts of that life should we deny, what do we affirm? He thought, spoke and lived spirituality, which a lot of people think of as separate from actual life. He however tried to merge that spirituality into actual living. Sometimes that was very challenging to all who knew him.
I have hesitated in the past to bring those brahmacharya/grihasta (student/householder) portions of his life to the fore, but since they were part of his psyche how can we deny these roles that helped make him the person he eventually became, enhancing the monkhood he later adopted? The qualities of such experiences made for a more complete person, trained in life’s work to continue to develop and understand that world that had always been his friend and given him a home when he left his own – a home in strange lands, a welcome in the hearts of strangers who became his students, his friends and his aides in his world wide tours of yoga practices, meditation sessions and countless lectures.
Much has already been said about his admirable scholarly achievements that were the manifestations of his desire to teach and share the knowledge of the Vedas. He was so well qualified that after his sanyaasa ceremony when Baba announced that his new name was to be Veda Bharati I was not at all surprised. He could quote the Vedas backwards and forwards from a very young age, he sang, recited and taught us not only from the scriptural treasures but from all the Sanskrit literature that was his life., his love. To him this literature, those Vedas, weren’t dry, esoteric texts. As my son said, he took delight in learning, and I think he took delight in sharing, too.
He had reached such a state of Samadhi in this life that it was bliss to sit in meditation with him. Even in ill health he did not like refusing requests for meditation. He had full faith and belief in the One who gave him this life so that his Purpose would be successful. He had found friends in the homes of strangers for he knew of the ‘one in the play of the many’.
As the poem he loved concludes –
‘When one knows thee, then alien there is none, then no door is shut. Oh, grant me my prayer that I may never lose the bliss of the touch of the one in the play of the many.’
May his teachings inspire us to find that One in the many.
May we work harmoniously together to continue in the accomplishment of his life’s desire to spread Compassion, Truth and Love.
July 26th, 2015