An idol of idealism
By Anuradha Vashisht
Acharya S Swaminathan fights a lonesome, yet determined, battle to establish the true principles of Nature and the science of natural health against remedy-mindedness and disease appeasement methods
“People these days have no time to live; they are busy with their livelihoods”
“Natural hygiene is not another alternative to medicine; actually there is no alternative to it”
“From politicians to saints and sanyasins, everyone is besotted with remedy-mindedness”
Way back in early ’50s, when Acharya Seshadri Swaminathan was asked to compulsorily contribute to the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) as an employee in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, he was stupefied.
To the foremost disciple of world-renowned Father of Nature Cure in India, Acharya K Lakshmana Sarma, the suggestion seemed nothing less than outrageous. At that time, about 700 to 800 central government employees, who were followers of Mahatama Gandhi, and who had learnt the science of health from Acharya Swaminathan, sent representations to the Ministry of Health, requesting to be exempted from making this compulsory monthly payment. Their reason was that since they totally believed in natural cure and the medical facilities provided in the scheme were of absolutely no value to them, they would never utilise the scheme.
Without going into the merits of the case, and in its usual arrogance and bias, the Ministry of Health sent a circular to all ministries that no such request might be entertained. Following this, a very senior official of the Labour and Employment Ministry called Acharya Swaminathan and said: “Your request has been turned down. Now you would have to pay through your nose.”
To this Acharya Swaminathan replied: “Sir, as a conscientious objector, my request should, in all fairness, ought to be accepted. However, since it has been rejected, to satisfy my conscience, I shall have to do severe prayaschitta (penance). For every rupee that I am forced to contribute towards the scheme, I shall educate at least a hundred persons from among the public to take to Nature to maintain their health, and avoid all types of medication. That is all I can do to overcome the predicament I am in now.”
This vow of his was over and above the promise he had already made to his Guru, Swami Pranava Brahmendra Anand Saraswati, of committing his entire life to taking the message of positive health to the common people, at the cost of his own spiritual pursuits and evolution.
“I wanted to take sansyas, but my Guru, Swami Brahmendra, who initiated me into yoga and philosophy, said that in this lifetime it is not my prarabhda (destiny). It was his aadesh (command) that I study deeply the science of natural hygiene from Acharya Laxman Sarma and then educate the people.” But yes, he did tell his Guru that he would remain forever a celibate.
For those who have known Acharya Swaminathan closely (there are some who are his followers for over five decades) the spirit and the essence behind the vow taken by him is no less than that taken by Bheeshm Pitamah, the grand patriarch of the Mahabharata.
For fifty-five years, and at age four-score and more, he has single-mindedly kept the promise he made to himself and to his Guru. From early 1950s onwards, he has stuck to his schedule of the morning lectures in some park or the other in the city of Delhi. Only the mode of transportation has changed. When age permitted, he rode his bicycle to the early morning lectures. Today, at age 83 plus, the organisers of his lectures arrange for a cab.
Come rain or hailstorm, as long as the lectures are announced, every morning 6 o’clock for the next three weeks, very diligently, he delivers a series of 21 lectures. Every three weeks, the venue changes, the group of people change; but some people from the previous group stuck to him. (A few dedicated sort, like Baldev Verma and Ram Kumar Gupta, are his ardent admires and disciples for more than fifty years!) And this has gone on for half-a-century.
What makes this man tower over other personalities of his time and calling? What gives him the stature to surpass all others who live and profess a similar vocation as Acharya Swaminathan?
Coming from an ordinary background, his strength of character has made him an extraordinary person. His staunch idealism, his radical and original thought process, and his pulsating faith in the philosophy by which he has lived throughout his life is what makes him stand out. He is unalloyed. So pure a gold that you can craft no ornament out of him. “And thank goodness for this,” he would say to it, “For ornaments are mere embellishments of the body… mere decorations… useless.” He is a man of the spirit.
That is why any attempt to adorn him with awards or honours has always come to naught. He refuses to be swayed by appreciations, gratitude, and thankfulness. As he selflessly sticks to his commitment, and moves on towards the “completion of his destiny” in this lifetime, he refuses to gather an iota of the karmic dust on his soul garment.
If he were to host a website and document the number of people he has helped move away from chronic and deadly diseases; if we were to list all those who he helped say goodbye to disease forever and move back towards positive health, it would put all existing websites on the subject to shame.
But he would do none of this. Because that is not his aim or mission in life. His mission is to bring home to every individual the point that each can be his or her own doctor, that one need not ever—today or in future—be dependent on drugs, medications, doctors and hospitals. And he continues to propagate this with a missionary zeal. He opposes and scoffs at all suggestions of making business out of people’s health.
After taking voluntary retirement in the year 1971, he spent all his time spreading the message of natural health and hygiene. Simultaneously, he strengthened his study of yoga, philosophy, the original ayurveda shastra, and our other ancient scriptures. He also studied ‘reformed’ physicians from other countries, who had taken to nature cure after realising the futility of the western medical system. Though he noted lot of similarities between their own discoveries and the conclusions that Acharya Sarma had arrived at, he realised that the hygienists of those countries were poorer by lacking the strong spiritual tradition of India.
Speaking of his Guru Acharya Sarma, Acharya Swaminathan says that he was the only person who interpreted life’s day-to-day problems with a spiritual approach. He dealt with physical and mental problems with a spiritual angle.
The fact that Acharya Sarma’s magnum opus, Practical Nature Cure (the essence of his lifelong study into the science of natural health), appears actually a misnomer is brought about quite succinctly by Acharya Swaminathan. It is nature ‘care’ and not nature ‘cure’. And this is what makes Acharya Swaminathan stand miles ahead of those who practise Nature Cure.
He is weary of using the word cure, which connotes some external application to effect treatment of a disease. What he preaches is the science of natural hygiene, and by helping others to practise the laws of nature, he has helped countless to get rid of problems as wide-ranging as arthritis and dyspepsia to cancer and tumours. Except seeking help and support from natural elements, nothing, not even a herb, is given as a cure for any diseased state or symptom. Though some sattvic herbs are used later to rejuvenate the body organs, which were earlier in a state of enervation due to the disease. The science he believes in propagates no symptomatic cure.
In fact that is a major reason—besides the fact that he is against any commercialisation of this ancient wisdom—that he evokes extreme reactions in people who have come in contact with him for whatever reason. He is either revered to a point of extreme devotion or his extreme idealism is hugely misunderstood.
Baldev Verma, a follower and disciple of Acharya S. Swaminathan for the last 48 years, is all reverence as he talks about his Guru. “He is an acharya. You know the difference between acharya and a shikshak (teacher)? A shikshak teaches but does not follow what he teaches. An acharya teaches and also follows what he teaches. It is rare to find a man so integrated, so complete in the modern world” “He is the one who has moulded my entire life, right from the age of 15, when I first met him,” he adds. Today, Verma helps Acharya Swaminathan in providing help and guidance to those who come to seek it.
Verma relates that many years ago, Acharya Swaminathan conducted a five-year advance course, which taught the seeker the complete theory and the application of natural hygiene and cure. To Acharya Swaminathan’s dismay, most of his students, immediately after the course finished, opened ‘business’ clinics to cure the ailing people. Never again, in his life, did he take up another advanced study group. What irks him is to package anything in the name of health and selling it. As he rightly believes, what is a way of life can only be lived, or taught; it cannot be packaged and marketed. So anyone who is doing so is not helping the individual to move towards complete health.
He himself has helped thousands to get rid of their problems forever. But he did it as a volunteer and not as a businessman. He maintains that the health of an individual is in his or her own hands. He has spent his entire life teaching people how to do it. His only regret is that because of lack of state support, a vast majority of the public remains untouched by this all-important knowledge. But the true karamyogi that he is, he carries on his work unaffected.
Shashi Verma, along with her husband and family, has been following the laws of nature as taught by Acharya Swaminathan for the last about eight years. They never had to use any medication all these years. Today, she is a staunch propagator of this health-enhancing system. Two years ago, she felt the need to go deeper into the subject and took on further study under the Acharya’s guidance. “I have dived deep into this ocean called Swamiji, and come out with pure pearls. I have nothing more to say on this,” says Shashi with great feeling.
Similarly, ? Punjani, who suffered from osteoarthritis for eight years before starting to follow the principles of nature and got rid of the problem, feels it is nothing short of a miracle. What is even more amazing is that at 65, he no longer uses his reading glasses. That, for him, is a bonus. Now he enthusiastically helps in carrying Acharya Swaminathan’s work forward by organising his lectures or guiding his own employees to give up faulty habits and adopt more hygienic ways of living.
Value of virtue
Acharya Swaminathan is greatly concerned that each individual should be able to take care of his or her own health, without any dependence on anything but nature and his own commonsense. “As Acharya Sarma would often say: ‘Commonsense applied to an uncommon extent is wisdom,’” says Acharya Swaminathan with a twinkle in his eye, “I want every individual to wisely apply the laws of nature to his own self to always retain his optimum level of health. The science of nature ‘care’ is applied physiology, applied psychology, applied nutrition and applied ethics. Here, every individual should also practise virtue at every level, since every virtue has nutritive value for the human body, mind and soul. Thus, it is important for holistic health that one should also practise the virtues of serenity, regularity, sincerity, simplicity, charity, magnanimity and nobility.”
“Lot of people these days talk of holistic health remedies for curing the people…,” I mumble meekly, by now in total awe of his serenity and his spirit of child-like purity.
“I am not a believer of khichri-pathy,” says the Acharya in good humour. But next moment, his steely resolve is unmistakably visible: “The Laws of Nature are eternal, immutable, inviolable. No one can ever escape or circumvent them. Anyone who tries to meddle with them will suffer. That is why the humanity is suffering.”
The Acharya is scathing in his attack: “Does anyone truly understand the meaning of holistic? Holistic is not using various methodologies of cure simultaneously to give relief to the patient. Holistic is a total approach. It is a way of life. Man is a triple unity of body-mind-spirit. We cannot maintain health unless we care for all three as nature intended us to take care. This total approach is lacking. The spiritual people today give no importance to the body. We need to have an all-round view and not compartmentalise our life.”
“The disease does not come from outside. Neither is it caused by germs or viruses. It is born within. A state of dis-ease is the effect of our faulty living habits. Is it very difficult to understand that you need to build up your health to defeat the cause of disease, and not quell the symptoms? The people should understand that medications only suppress the problem, but the disease keeps simmering inside, till it takes the form of a chronic, and later, a destructive disease,” explains Acharya Swaminathan.
Explaining the laws of nature, he sums up: “Hygiene is the science of health that is based on the principles of cleanliness, which means that we also need to keep our insides clean. But how can one maintain internal cleanliness when we eat such unhygienic stuff like refined, processed, packaged and tinned foods, which are can give you nothing but disease. He also doesn’t have his basic needs of food, water, air warmth, rest, recreation, exercise and sleep in proper proportion. The problem is that the modern man eats too much, breathes too little and eliminates incompletely.”
“Here, isn’t it the duty of the government to educate people so that they know how to maintain their internal hygiene. And isn’t the quality of food more important than quantity? The fact is that no one is looking for health; everyone is looking for ways to fight disease. You have to see things in their proper perspective. If you light the lamp, darkness would go. So if you increase your health levels, there would be no disease,” he stresses. And adds: “But beware. Natural hygiene is not another alternative to medicine; actually there is no alternative to it. It is a way of life.”
It is significant and ironic at the same time that Acharya Swaminathan is alone the torch-bearer of his Guru’s legacy, today. Though Acharya Sarma had many disciples, who followed the way of life as taught by Acharya Sarma, today their families alone enjoy the benefits. The onerous task, the debilitating responsibility to take his Guru’s message to every nook and corner of the country is resting on Achraya Swaminathan’s shoulders alone, and precariously so. Reason: the mist on the minds of the people can only see the gross and garish western lifestyle so popularised by the media. They are far removed from the life-enhancing subtle values, which make us complete as humans.
As Acharya Swaminathan says, “From politicians to saints and sanyasins, everyone is besotted with remedy-mindedness. No doubt the state of the health of the people is what it is.” “People these days have no time to live; they are busy with their livelihoods,” he says wryly.
As I take leave from him, I feel there is something very touching about his dedication and commitment to the cause he has taken up. But the next instant it dawns upon me that he is truly detached from his karma, is seeking no results, and is only accepting and fulfilling his prarabdha, and gracefully so. And yet, as I look into his eyes I see only deep compassion reflected in them. Involuntarily, my hands extend to his feet.