I studied for two years (higher secondary) in a school near Madurai run by Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam of Swami Chidbhavananda. I was forced to join the school after my mother's death. My father wanted to dump me in some 'residential' school (school with hostel facility) as there was no one to cook food at our home after my mother's death. The first few days were torrid. We had to get up at 5 am. And till we were allowed to sleep at 10 pm, we had no rest (except for 30 minutes in the evening after the classes). But gradually I got used to it. One day, we were informed that Swami Chidhbavandanda was coming to the school. (His headquarters is at Tirupparaithurai). I was not enthusiastic about his visit. I had seen a lot of swamijis who thought they were agents appointed by God to 'bless' moneyed people. Their speeches too went over my head (I had just finished 10th std). But Swami Chidbhavananda totally floored me. He moved freely among students. At an interaction, he called students, asked about their problems was least bothered about whether they were clean or not. He called a dirty looking boy, patted him on his back, and said, "I know you didnt take bath today. Why?" I was dumbstruck. He was the first Swami I had seen who didnt think twice before touching 'commoners'. The only persons scared about him were the management and the teachers. I saw it first hand during his next visit. At 6.30 am, we saw the Swami coming to the students' toilets and bathrooms. He entered each toilet and checked whether they were clean. He opened the pipes to check the water supply. After he came out of the third toilet, the management flunkeys said he could now check the bathrooms. He refused, walked ahead and checked more toilets. He now knew why the management guys wanted him to stop. Only the first few toilets had been cleaned. I dont know what happened. But I was surprised to see a religious head least bothered about entering students' toilets. We could also go and meet him whenever we were free. He had great vision about education. He didnt spend money on massive temples and ashrams. He spent them on education. I regard the two years I spent there as best in my life. Though I dont think I have lived according to his advice and teachings, I think I am fortunate to have seen and talked to a Swami like him.
Posted by Dinakaran at Friday, December 24, 2004