By Swami Yogeshananda
Trabuco Canyon, Holy Mother Mission, 2010.
Paperback, 73 pages, US$6.75.
Available from www.vedanta.org and www.holymothermission.org
Review by William Page
This is a sequel to Swami Yogeshananda’s earlier book, Six Lighted Windows. Published in 1995, that book recorded the author’s memories of six swamis who worked in the West: Swamis Yatiswarananda, Prabhavananda, Ashokananda, Nikhilananda, Madhavananda, and Ghanananda. They were all swamis of the “second generation”—that is, they were disciples of the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna.
This new book records memories of four more swamis whom the author knew: Swamis Shantaswarupananda, Aseshananda, Shraddhananda, and Lokeswarananda. They were not included in the earlier book because they were still living at the time.
Like its predecessor, Four More Lighted Windows is a gem. While all Vedantists will find it enlightening, those who were privileged to know the swamis personally will find it especially appealing.
The differences in personality among the four swamis were striking. One was self-contained and contemplative; another was outgoing and gregarious. One was admired for his deep scholarship, another for his efficiency as an administrator. (You have to read the book to find out who was which.) But they were all men of deep love and spirituality, all jewels in the crown.
The author augments his memories with excerpts from notebooks he kept and from other sources. Aside from anecdotes about all four swamis, there is a treasure-trove of illuminating insights here.
The most important part of a sadhu’s life is the inner side, to cultivate which he has renounced the world.
From Swami Shantaswarupananda: “From the standpoint of sadhu life [transfer from center to center] is a healthy practice. It prevents getting attached to a place and people… The most important part of a sadhu’s life is the inner side, to cultivate which he has renounced the world. Worldly people do not care much for their inner life except when they are in great distress. For a sadhu, the inner side of life is of utmost importance under all circumstances.” (20-21)
From Swami Aseshananda: “There must be some enjoyment before renunciation can come.” (39) “The test of a man is what he does with his solitariness.” (40) “At the time of realization our conceptions all become untrue—that is, in the light of greater truth. But until then, conceptions are necessary.” (43)
From Swami Shraddhananda, in a Christmas lecture: “The saying ‘man is created in God’s image’ has to be fulfilled by us, as it was in him [Jesus]. ‘Be ye perfect…’ Perfection means purity… The privilege of life is to search out God, reach Him, and bring God to mankind. The enlightened life is the only real enlightenment.” (54)
From Swami Lokeswarananda: “I am glad that ______ has taken his present misfortune in his stride and is able to carry on as if nothing has happened. Nothing has indeed happened, except that he has learnt that it is not enough to be good, but one must be cautious also.” (72)
Every religion needs living exemplars to inspire the rest of us. Books about exemplars who lived recently serve the same purpose. They give us a standard to aspire to and show us what high levels of spiritual growth can be attained by human beings who lived in our own time.
Swami Yogeshananda notes that we do not usually appreciate these great souls until after they have departed. Many of us have discovered this. Some maturation on our part is necessary before we can realize their greatness. Books like Six Lighted Windows and Four More Lighted Windows remind us of their greatness, inspire us to persevere, and light the way before us.
WILLIAM PAGE is a retired teacher of English who has been associated with the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society of Massachusetts since 1960 and is currently a member of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society of Thailand.