17 November 2007

Sri Krishnaprema (Richard Nixon)

Many years ago a book on Krishnaprema came to my hand. At that time I was passing through a bad time and was very much depressed. The book helped me to a great extent to gathering myself again in my normal optimism. What moved me most was his fiery love for his lord Krishna. But Krishnaprema was not an ordinary Vaishnav sannyasin. He was an intellectual and highly educated English man. His was not a sentimental, credulous and narrow Vaishnava mind that we are accustomed to see around us. He was rooted in his true and divine love. But I was personally attached to a single statement amongst many of what were quoted to have said by him in the book. This opening single sentence of his statement inspired me and also helped me to discover a truth of our life. The line was: “The finest timber comes from the slowest growing trees.” I am quoting below the whole text which begins with the above line. “The finest timber comes from the slowest growing trees. He who expects to blossom into a yogi in a few months or even in a few years of practice is found to be disappointed and had better leave the whole subject alone. He, however, who has the sincerity and courage to face whatever is in him, and the persistence to go on with his struggle in the face of obstacles within and without, and the humility to recognize that all that he has done is to take the first few steps on a tremendous journey, is certain to achieve something which he would not give away in exchange even for the whole world, for, as Sri Krishna teaches in the Gita, even the seeker after yoga goes far beyond the hopes and fears of ordinary religion and even a little of this dharma delivers from great fear.”


Richard Nixon was an English person and was a brilliant student of Cambridge University. He joined the British Army in his early twenties during the Second World War. Later he came to India as a professor of English literature. He taught in Benaras and Lucknow Universities. He was then better known there as Professor Richard Nixon. In India he came in contact with Yashoda Mai and became initiated by her in Vaishnavism. He took sannyas from his guru Yashoda Mai who renamed him as Sri Krishnaprema..He was deeply inclined in the traditional Bhaktiyoga of Indian spiritual discipline. In Uttar Vrindavana Yashoda Mai established an ashram and built a temple dedicated to Lord Sri Krishna. G. L. Janeja of Patna wrote under his article ‘Yogi Sri Krishnaprema-“Life in the ashram was extremely austere. They took only a single meal a day and even gave up drinking afternoon tea-when the ashram could not afford to serve it to the labourers who worked in the ashram fields. There was no hot water available, even though the winters were very cold with heavy snow falls. Krishnaprema slept on the floor on a single blanket, close to the side of Yashoda Ma, his guru. All the rest, including the occasional guests slept in their own apartments. Krishnaprema was a great guru-bhakta (devoted to guru) and believed firmly that nothing could take the place of personal service to the guru for quick spiritual progress. His devotion to the guru was something very rare in modern times especially for an ex-professor and an intellectual of such a very high order.” Dilip Kumar Roy a renowned singer and a devotee of Sri Aurobindo came in close contact with Krishnaprem and a friendship grew between them. Dilip K. Roy would often exchange his views and thoughts on spiritual matters with this English gentleman who was then living Uttar Vrindavan in Almora. Dilip loved to send his views on many things especially on spiritual matters to his guru-Sri Aurobindo. Once he sought his guru’s opinions on a matter related to Krishnaprema’s and after sending him one such letter, he received a reply from Sri Aurobindo on the question of faith and optism in the context of an experience of Krishnaprem. Sri Aurobindo wrote: “As for faith, Krishnaprem’s meaning is clear enough. Faith in the spiritual sense is not a mental belief which can waver and change. It can wear that form in the mind, but that belief is not the faith itself, it is only the external form. Just as the body, the external form, can change but the spirit remains the same, so it is here. Faith is a certitude in the soul which does not depend on reasoning, on this or that mental idea, on circumstances, on this and that passing condition of the mind or the vital or the body. It may be hidden, eclipsed, may even seem quenched, but it appears again after the storm or the eclipse; it is seen burning still in the soul when one has thought that it was extinguished forever. The mind may be a shifting sea of doubts and yet that faith may be there within and, if so, it will keep even the doubt-racked mind in the way so that it goes on in spite of itself towards its destined goal. Faith is a spiritual certitude of the spiritual, the divine, the soul’s ideal, something that clings to that even when it is not fulfilled in life, even when the immediate facts or the persistent circumstances seem to deny it. This is a common experience in the life of the human being; if it were not so, man would be a plaything of a changing mind or a sport of circumstances. I have, I think, more than once, written the same thing as Krishnaprem though in a different language. “If you understand this and keep it in mind, Krishnaprem’s experience and the image in which he saw it should be sufficiently clear. The needle is this power in the soul and the card with its directions the guiding indications given by it to the mind and life. The ship is the psychological structure of ideas, beliefs, spiritual and psychic experiences, the whole building of the inner life in which one moves onward in the voyage towards the goal. When the storm comes, a storm of doubts, failures, disappointments, adverse circumstances and what not, the crew – let us say, the powers of the mind and vital and the physical consciousness – begin to disbelieve, despond, stand aghast at the contradiction between our hopes and beliefs and the present facts and they even turn in their rage of disbelief and despair to deny and destroy the structure of their inner thought and life which was bearing on them, tear up even the compass which was their help and guide, even to reject the needle, the great contrast in their spirit. But when they have come to the point of drowning, that power acts on them, they turn to it instinctively for refuge and then suddenly they find all cleared,all the destruction was their own illusory action and the ship reappears as strong as before. This is an experience which most seekers have had many times, especially in the earlier or middle course of their sadhana. All that has been done seems to be undone, then suddenly or slowly the storm passes, the constant needle reappears; it may even be that ship which was a small sloop or at most a schooner or a frigate becomes an armed cruiser and finally a great battleship unsinkable and indestructible. That is a parable but its meaning should be quite intelligible, and it is a pragmatic fact of spiritual experience. I may add that this inmost faith or fixed needle of spiritual aspiration may be there without one’s clearly knowing it; one may think that one has only beliefs, propensities, a yearning in the heart or a vital preference which seem to be temporarily destroyed or suspended, yet the hidden constant remains, resumes its action, keeps us on a way and carries us through. It can be said of it in the words of the Gita that even a little of this delivers us from great danger, carries us to the other side of all difficulties, sarva durgani.” Krishnaprem held a great regard for Sri Aurobindo and once remarked that Sri Aurobindo who fought against the English rule gave the English the most wonderful thing in their language by writing Savitri in English. The language was enlightened to an uncharted height so far unknown to this language. I can not remind the exact sentences Krishnaprema used for his comment on Savitri –unfortunately but the sense was close to it. Sri Krishnaprem passed away on November 14th 1965. His last words to his beloved disciple; M Ashish were-“My ship is sailing”. For further reading on Krishnaprema and the life and sadhana of Yashoda Mai-the suggested book is: "Yogi Sri Krishna Prem " by Dilip Kumar Roy Published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay -400- 007