By Parvathy Raman

Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda loved and revered his Guru, Swami Tapovanji Maharaj. At every jnana yajna, he had the picture of his Guru on the stage. And Tapovanji Maharaj loved him equally well. He always replied to all the letters of his beloved disciple. It is amazing, considering how reticent and withdrawn he was in general. Every time Pujya Gurudev planned a jnana yajna in the initial years, he wrote to Tapovanji and took his blessings. The yajnas were long then, lasting for three months. And Swami Tapovan Maharaj would send messages, like the ones before the Mandukya Upanishad and Kathopanishad yajnas, which have been published here. Later, the yajna periods were reduced to suit the needs of the seekers in general and Pujya Gurudev moved from place to place, still writing to his Guru to seek his blessings regularly. When Swami Tapovan Maharaj attained mahasamadhi in January 1957, Pujya Gurudev was in Palakkad, conducting his 26th jnana yajna.

In those days, postcards were the most easily available means of long distance communication. And it was the preferred option for Swami Tapovanam, for he was a person of few words. He wrote meticulously in a neat and beautiful handwriting, using fully the limited space available in the postcard. Not a scratch or scribble is visible, though the signs of ageing and physical infirmity can be seen in the shaky handwriting of the later years.

The letters generally begin with “Dear Shri Swami Chinmayanandaji,” followed by “Om Namo Narayanaya”. Never did he take his student for granted or address him in familiar terms, shortening his name. Was it because he saw divinity alone in everyone and personal relationships faded away into insignificance? Or was it a recognition of the greatness inherent in his disciple? There is much for us to think about …

Another interesting feature of his writing is that he uses the passive voice generally. When he talks about his health, he writes as if the body is a separate entity: “Doctors have already examined the body and many medicines have already been taken. Illness is of long time. What benefit can we expect to get from such a quick visit of a doctor…” (3.9.56) In another letter dated 5.9.56, “…The body has become too weak. Even the small quantity of food of the morning also is not getting digested… In this weak condition I do not want to go anywhere, not even to Rishikesh. In this weak condition, who will serve the body there also? Talking is one thing and practising is another thing. Devotees will prepare delicious food and give us if we can eat and digest it. Nothing more they can do… And now body is not strong enough even to walk a few furlongs…” The objectivity and practical wisdom shows the extent of his detachment from his own body. The illness, pain and suffering are for the body, not for him. After all, he had dropped his identity with the body many years earlier!

The letters to and from Uttarkasi took a long time to reach their destination. In many of the letters, Pujya Gurudev has marked the date of receipt and we can see that it has taken more than a month to reach him. We can imagine Gurudev’s anxiety about the state of health of his Guru. And yet, he was a true disciple who had imbibed his Master’s wisdom. So he went on with his mission in life, teaching people yajna after yajna, with no trace of attachment that could make him deviate from his duty. Yes, genuine concern there was, and unceasing effort to take care of his Guru’s health. He kept exhorting him to see doctors and get admitted to a hospital in Delhi. To this, Swami Tapovan Maharaj replied, “Don’t people die in Delhi?”

The calm acceptance of all the travails of the body and its final destination cannot be put across with more clarity and humour. The wise disciple also understood. And yet, however wise one may be, one does grieve at the irreparable loss of the physical existence of the Guru. So did Swami Chinmayananda.

Swami Tapovanam when writing to his disciple, always addressed him as Shri Swami Chinmayanandaji.
Another example of how he addressed his disciple. Never did Swami Tapovanam take his student for granted or address him in familiar terms, shortening his name.
Picture of Swami Tapovan Maharaj, a day before his mahasamadhi.
Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda after the mahasamadhi of his Guru Swami Tapovan Maharaj.

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