CHAPTER - 5
Jitendra even before he took to Sanyasa had a natural love for asceticism and Ashram life. His nature was made like that. The sages of the Puranas who lived in forest hermitages, yogis who lived in mountain caves, and the saints who lived apart from the madding crowd but still took upon themselves the burden of bettering the lot of mankind and teaching them Satya and Dharma as embodied in the Hindu epics, Puranas, and the great scriptures, Shastras and Vedantic literature, all these great world- renouncers and world-saviors, had always had an attraction for him. The long bearded ascetics of hoary aspect, their matted locks of hair bundled into a tower on their heads, looking detached from the world and divinely absorbed, chanting Slokas and walking in a state of awesome profundity, men of sunken and starved looks, men skinny and skeletonic, draped in loose- fitting saffron-cloth, either monastics of an order or isolated recluses casting about all alone in search for the Supreme, all these persons exercised a fascination on him, which dated from his school days. They used to frequent or wander around the great temples of Benares. He used to think that there was something beautiful in a man who had thrown the world away and cared nothing for it. There was also something beautiful in a man sacrificing his all and himself and found satisfaction in the service of God and mankind. He had seen them often around the Ganges too taking a holy bath by immersing themselves deep in its waters, and then performing their devotions and offering prayer to their gods on its banks.
He had watched them closely as some of them used to come to his house. They were the friends of the family. His parents used to show them all reverence and hold them as god's chosen men. They believed hat they were individuals with a lot of supernatural powers. His parents were deeply religious and these Sanyasins when they came in to the family were treated as demigods and venerated as such. What attracted Jitendra yet more was that these men always looked steeped in a sort of abysmal peace and lost in an ecstasy within themselves. These early associations had had a decisive influence on his mind. This, added to the preponderant leaning in his nature to God, could not but take him, as if by a force of gravity, into Sanyasa when the traumatic event of his parents' death in the railway accident took place. At any rate, he would have found peace nowhere else.
Even after he had become a monk, he stuck to painting as closely as ever. He saw in it a form of devotion, a sort of the worship of the Higher Power through the arrangement of colors on the canvas and bringing through it the rhythm of God. A crystallization of one's soul in what he made through his brush and the hues. A transparent unfolding of something that, though it belonged to Man, was a indefinable as God himself. There was something in Ma, that transcended him and stood apart and an artist captured it and tried to see it through his inner vision. It was this view of Art as an expression of God in Man that made him cling to painting even closer than before. Something that bubbled in the higher reaches of Man's mind, it was that which erupted on the canvas. Painting was therefore to him a part of religion. He could reach God through his saffron -robe as well as through his painting. His music on the violin, of course, he kept to himself. There too the same principle of rhythm held, the rhythm accorded with the soul of Man and woke it up more and more to the Beyond. In the concordance of sweet sounds the soul merged, saw its own reflection, and realized itself.
At the moment he was painting a portrait in his Ashram. He had his regular studio here in one of the spacious interiors.
Jitendra stood before the easel, making thoughtful motions of his head and arms as if he was struggling to wake up some old memory which was consistently slipping, to catch up with some distant event dimly verging into consciousness but evasive all the same. Jitendra never painted an object or scene or a person unless he was face to face with his subject. He was now painting the figure of his Guru who initiated him into Sanyasa and taught him the necessary Mantras. But he was long since dead. So he had to depend entirely on his memory to conjure him out in detail. But his memory gave problems which had to be solved.
The body, of course, he could produce, but the soul? It was the soul he had to paint. The body will be only the medium. It was only a support, a sort of mortal receptacle. It didn't count for much. In painting he always followed the same principle. Everything had a soul or its own abstract existence wherein lay God or his cosmic power. It was this he had to bring out. All of the soul, of course, no painter could ever paint, nor all of the inexhaustible inner being of Man, but the painter could make one see through, and get at something of it. This something could be less or more than a fragment.
The person that was shaping on the canvas seemed to be a scrappy old man, thinly plastered over with wrinkled flesh, an unshaven face with a small sticky beard, in which merged his recalcitrant and wayward mustache. The dried-up old man, though enfeebled by age, teemed with a power that showed in his eyes which, though slightly vacant-looking, seemed fiercely centered on a world beyond world. He wore two strings of Rudraksha beads around his neck. It was a hard face, yet a face in which wisdom seemed to break forth and shine. There was no particular smile on it, but still one could sense beneath it a whole world of unworldly smile. The bony figure held up his right hand in a blessing. But the intangible blessing seemed to fill and overflow the whole canvas and become tangible. He was scantily clothed in a mildewed pink-colored towel that covered his loin and a small fraction of the rest of his body. It was a garment of poverty, but still one of spiritual opulence. He sat on a tiger skin spread on a blanketed floor. The blanket too was a ragged one. This was Jitendra's Guru, Rudrendra Brahmachari, a Himalayan Yogi who lived in caves for years and years and then shifted to a hermitage in Gorakpur.
Jitendra knew him from childhood. The Yogi was often taken by Jitendra's parents to their house. They would hold up the little boy Jitendra for the Yogi to bless him. They sought his blessings for all their business and other ventures. They took him to their house on all auspicious occasions when they would make him an offering of Puja. He was supposed to be a man of miracles. He was deeply versed in the Hindu secret books of incantations. Whatever Jitendra could produce of his Guru on the canvas, he felt, was not his work. It was his Guru who worked himself out on it through his brush and colors. It was a distillation out of the cosmic voids.
Jitendra had a boundless Bhakthi and affection for his Guru. The Guru too loved his disciple with all his heart. For he had known him since boyhood and had carried him on his arms. Any one who had seen Jitendra as a boy would not have failed to be struck by his exceeding charm. They thought him nothing but an angel. This advanced Yogi agreed to induct Jitendra into Sanyasa only after a stubborn refusal for six months. The Yogi never wanted Jitendra to become a Sanyasin at all, at any rate not at so early an age. But Jitendra was equally obstinate. The Guru had to finally give in when Jitendra, with tears in his eyes, threatened to end his life. What had he on earth when both his parents had left him? The Guru then blessed the new Saffron-robe Jitendra had brought with him. He performed the prescribed ceremonies and pronounced him his Chela, disciple, as well as a Sanyasin. He then put into his hands the three holy books, Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads and a volume of Brahma Sutras.
All these three works were known in Hinduism as Prasthana Thraya, the Fundamental Three. They were among the foremost scriptures of Hinduism and took their place above the rest. They were all old moth-eaten copies which the Yogi had been using for decades. The Guru asked him to master the contents with not merely his mind but with all the intuitive power God would grant him if he kept worshipping and asking Him for Wisdom and Knowledge. No one could progress in the spiritual path without the grace of God. And so too one could never understand Vedas, Upanishads or other great scriptures unless God opened the inner eye. One could understand things only then. Otherwise mere books, though one might read them for centuries, would disclose nothing. What one thought knowledge would only be ignorance.
Then the Guru taught and initiated Jitendra into the famous Krishna Mantra. He told him that he could realize Lord Krishna through this Mantra and to the extent he had realized him he would himself be Lord Krishna. It all depended on one's Bhakthi, the absolute intensity of it, the faith and complete dedication. He also advised him that a Sanyasin is in the full sense of the term a Sanyasin only if he begged his food and got it from virtuous and chaste women at least once a week or once a month or at least on Poornima days. He gave Jitendra his begging bowl, Bhiksha Paatra, and blessed it. But no woman was prepared to put food into his bowl because no one wanted him to become a Sanyasin or continue as one. The Guru died six months after Jitendra took to the saffron robe. Jitendra became at times very uneasy because he could not beg food and no one was willing to oblige him. He felt at times that he was not a full Sanyasin yet. The Guru then spoke to him of the divine potency of the saffron robe and advised him that he should cherish it more than his life, and consider it a treasure from God. It would not stick to him unless he kept most scrupulously from sin.
Jitendra had learnt from Upanishads and other holy books of Hinduism that for a disciple his Guru was the foremost God. The Guru could exist in the body or mind of his disciple and open his third eye, the Eye of Knowledge. The Guru existed even after his death as a spiritual force and guided his disciple.
The immense wealth which Jitendra's parents had left him consisted mainly of buildings, house properties, large extents of costly fertile lands, company shares, bank deposits, business concerns, and plenty of jewels. Like his father, Jitendra too was a munificent spender and promoter of noble causes. He gave away large quantities of money to charitable purposes. He helped the education of poor children. The poor who had no money to marry off their daughters could count on him. He had in his own presence effected many such marriages. He had built temples and founded orphanages.
Now as Jitendra flicked through the day's correspondence, he came across a letter from his family advocate. He was a close friend and a well-wisher of the family for several years. He had asked if he could go over to the Ashram to discuss with him a report from their chartered accountant and Auditor. Jitendra rang him up and told him to come.
Accordingly the advocate turned up the next day. It was 8 A.M. The advocate had to communicate unpleasant tidings. The three holders of Power of Attorney Jitendra had appointed, each in respect of some of his properties, had embezzled lots of money. The auditor had given the details in his report. He handed over a copy to him. Jitendra was very badly upset. For a long time Jitendra had been in a dilemma. Should he form a trust to administer his properties and spend the income for some worthwhile cause or should he sell away all the properties, and make over the proceeds to the Ashram? Whatever course he took, certain relations of his should not be in. But neither could he keep them out. In either case there was the possibility of cheating. These relations had been double-dealers from the beginning. Barring these few, all his other relations were very truthful and honest. But they were already overburdened with their own work. Jitendra's mind was for a long time in a pretty bad mess. The advocate suggested an interim arrangement. It was acceptable. Jitendra agreed to it. But a foolproof final arrangement was becoming progressively impossible.
But Jitendra, the Sanyasin, was a Karma Yogi. He would keep doing his duty whether what issued out of it was good or bad, But whatever it was it should not affect his poise or the tranquillity of his spirit. It was his moral duty to save and augment what his parents had left. It was Dharma, Karma Yoga, Bhakthi for those who begot him.
The advocate had always offered the wisest counsel. There were three other advocates too who were in high favor with his family and who too were discharging for him various other responsibilities. They always put him wise, and entered into action at once whenever there were problems. The inherited private estate of Jitendra was too vast and immense. There had to be senior seasoned advocates who had to be constantly kept in to watch over and advise.
The press at Haridwar, which printed Jitendra's magazine, Madhura Vauhini and his books had, of late, begun to fail. It was a well established one with a good reputation and did quality work. But it fell on evil times and its finances became shaky and dwindled. Its custom shrank. Neither could they collect the large dues which others had to pay them nor could they pay the large dues which they had to pay to others. They had borrowed large sums from the banks. And the banks had issued notices that they were going to take out legal proceedings. The suppliers of printing materials, paper, machineries and spare parts, types and other things refused to supply goods on credit. They knew the serious financial setbacks of the press. There were litigations which left the owners in very bad straits. The owners had no option but to wind it up. This was because they found there was no one who was willing to buy it. It had such large liabilities.
Swami Jitendra turned the matter over in his mind. Could he efficiently manage the press if he bought it? Ideas came and went, but the preponderant course of his thinking was to buy it out since he had voluminous matter all through the year which had to be printed. He paid the price in a single check and bought it. The proprietor thanked him. He suggested the discharge of certain personnel who had become useless on account of age and other things, and were quite a deadweight. One of them was one Akbar Khan who was a faithful worker, but who was of late not in too good a state physically or mentally. He was the foreman of the press that once filled his role very satisfactorily, but now rattled by age and disease and with a failing eyesight, could do nothing but limp around, muttering half audible instructions and delivering hoarse and ineffectual admonitions. His body had dried up. He trembled when he got into a state. He spoke endlessly and forgot what he spoke. He came to half a dozen conclusions on a single issue.
Swami Jitendra knew him very well. He had done good work for the magazine. The Swamiji had taken a great liking for him. He was therefore unwilling to deprive him of his work. But the efficiency of the press was more important. That was the first thing he had to set his mind on. He decided to discharge him too. There were a few others too going, and he should not and could not make an exception in his case. But he didn't want to throw him on his own resources, for he had none. He was in stark poverty and passing through miseries already. He could not discard him in a ragged condition like a piece of junk.
But Akbar Khan had more misfortunes to narrate then Jitendra was aware of. He lived, not in Haridwar but in a village rather far removed from Haridwar, and in an out-of-the way place where there was not much of transport facility. He had been incurring a lot of expense on that account and that made a good drain on his small earnings. He lived in a rented house which was nothing more than a cubicle, and he had not paid the rent for fourteen months. The house-owner had given him eviction notice which was the fourth one in the last fifteen months, and also a notice for the payment of rent arrears within a dateline failing which he might be forced to seek relief under law. Each time Akbar Khan had to beg him for mercy. Now it was going to be just a matter of a week or two when he would be forcibly evicted and thrown on the streets.
His family was a large one consisting of his sickly wife, parents, and a daughter. And a couple of old relations too lived with him. They never minded his hardships and kept complaining as if they were not being taken good care of. He had to feed and shelter them because they had lent him money and they had none else to depend upon. The provision store-keeper had barred him from entering his premises because he was too bad a customer and a chronic defaulter. His two sons had broken away from him and loathed his very sight. They had nothing to do with penniless parents who would otherwise be a burden too on them. He counted for nothing. They treated him like a ridiculous lumber. They had all but spat on him.
Akbar Khan owned two acres of land on which nothing would grow. He had kept a few cows on it which he personally fed and looked after. But still they were not thriving because he had no money to buy them proper feed. He made just a little income out of these animals. He had enough experience in the keeping of cattle, and knew how to make a profit out of the milk yield. But his two sons who had chosen to live apart had forcibly taken out of him his land and the cattle. He tried to get them back with the assistance of some local elders, who thought they would prevail upon them and make them see reason. But things became worse. They beat him up and threw him away with a warning that he should never come into their sight again. Three times during the past five years he had seriously thought of suicide, but he had his daughter to be married off. She was already getting beyond the mating age. It was that which had always stood in the way. He was being pressed and suffocated by too many hardships. Jitendra could easily see that.