Swami Omkarananda

Swami Omkarananda
Shri A. Subramanian (the pre-monastic name of Reverent Swamiji) was born in Gudulur (Nilgiris), Tamil Nadu.
Swamiji completed his education there and moved to Calcutta for a livelihood.

There, He served in a managerial capacity in a well known company. Swamiji’s meticulous attention to detail, industriousness and honesty won him many laurels in that organisation. Though highly successful in His employment who travelled across the length and breadth of the country and even abroad, Swamiji vehemently experienced an unnerving lacuna within, a void that was a clarion call to look for divinity and realise God.

Swamiji’s longing for divinity reached its zenith after his mother’s demise. The impermanence of worldly ties resounded in him an immutabl longing for truth. He went into wandering and lived a monastic life in various parts of the country, in forests, mountains and near holy places.He engrossed himself in meditation, practiced the chanting of the cosmic syllable AUM day and night and achieved spiritual illumination. He, particularly, fine tuned the art of Omkar (chanting of the AUM) to immaculate perfection. Sri Tara Ma gave him the name’Swami Omkarananda’.

Though Swamiji is educated only till Standard 12, He is highly proficient in the English Language. His knowledge of the other subjects too is
admirable. He grasps what he reads in a trice and this is amply evidenced in the fact that He learnt the Devanagari script only when he was in his late fifties, which he later employed in the study of the Bhagavad Gita. He is also well versed in the Bible and the scriptures of other religions
in as much as he is knowledgeable in the Upanishads.

Swami Omkarananda has been the cornerstone behind the endeavours of Sri Tara Ma Mission. Swamiji’s expositions of the sublime verses of the Gita have been
well received all over. A celebrated orator, His lectures at Ramakrishna Math, Mumbai, and Sri Tara Ma Mission Centres in India and the UAE have been attended in large numbers. He has also conducted sessions on Omkar Dhyan Upasana besides discourses on Bhagavad Gita in UAE, Taiwan, China and Singapore.

Swami Omkarananda is a self-realised Soul who has nothing but the welfare of man and society at heart. He is deeply concerned about, and moved by the gradual erosion of values in a society, which is almost entirely materialistic in its outlook. Yet Swamiji believes that man is essentially divine and he constantly strives to train the minds of people especially children towards morality and spirituality.

Swamiji was born in a village near Gudulur, Nilgiris, which was a vast expanse of vegetation. Inevitably insects, reptiles and wild animals lived along with humans. As a child Swamiji was one day playing alone when he caught hold of a serpent, without being aware of the dangers and was keenly looking at it as it was trying to free itself. His mother, who happened to come by, caught hold of Swamiji’s hand and bade Him to free the serpent. But Swamiji’s grip did not slacken. However, for a moment, his attention was distracted, the snake freed itself and slithered away. This is glaring example of his courage even as a child.

Swamiji is very patient and calm. When faced with adverse situations He does not panic. He is not hesitant to own the blame and face the stick, if He is in the wrong. When receiving punishment He would not resist but would rather exhaust the adversary.

The village school had classes upto Std. VIII only. To pursue further studies Swamiji had to go to His maternal uncle’s house, about 40 miles away, where His uncle worked in a tea garden. Swamiji’s new school was 4 miles away from His uncle’s house. Swamiji traversed this distance everyday on foot. This walk probably carved one of the many notable aspects of His life. On the way there were orchards having different types of fruits such as oranges, guavas, pears, wild berries etc., which the children could have for free. There were also other well-maintained gardens. This environment evoked in Him a desire to live close to nature. Since then, wherever Swamiji has lived, He has developed gardens and has worked for the growth of greenery.Swamiji retains that interest even today. He observes every phase of the growth of plants minutely, talks to them like to a human being and recites the cosmic syllable ‘OM’ to them. And wondrously, they respond!

His gardens are lush and verdant. Besides gardening, Swamiji enjoys collecting driftwood on which He does carvings and transforms them into beautiful Objet’s d’art like flower vases, adornments for flower arrangements (Ikebana) and images of different animals and birds. The results are extremely eye-catching and pleasant. He often explains to devotees the significance of these creations that are placed aesthetically around Bhagirathi Dham, Sri Tara Ma’s Ashram in Hardwar.

During Swamiji’s school days there were times when He had to cook His own food. So He had to learn the culinary art, and that too without modern kitchen appliances. With His fantastic ability to absorb knowledge, He became a good enough cook and also evolved into a connoisseur.

From the time Swamiji left His village for studies He had more or less lived independently. He charted a way of life, which consisted of good dress sense, meaningful friendships with people, communication skills, perfection in whatever He did and above all – a human touch in everything He attempted.He establishes an instant rapport with anything or anyone He meets. Swamiji’s career days took him to various parts of India. He has interacted with people from abroad too. This has enabled Him to adapt to any living condition and also inculcated in Him virtues like simplicity, cleanliness, truthfulness, courage, etc. These are the cornerstones on which He has moulded his life.

Swamiji is a great lover of the English language in which He is very proficient and He always strives to see that others, especially children, are also rendered proficient in it. Wherever He comes in contact with children, He always corrects them when they speak the language incorrectly. His passion for the language developed during the times when He changed jobs in order to come up in life. He had set up a practice of learning at least two new words everyday and this, over the years, has given Him a vocabulary, which is the envy of many.

Besides English, Swamiji has also learnt German, Sanskrit, Hindi, Telugu, Japanese etc. The ease with which He learns languages can be exemplified with the fact that He learnt the Devanagari script in a very short time while He was in His late fifties. Swamiji’s mother’s demise brought about a major change in His life. He developed a wanderlust in quest of divinity, which took Him to various places in South India. A trip to Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s abode at Puttaparthi, to have His Darshan (which Swamiji earnestly wanted), came after a long wait. To Swamiji’s surprise, Sai Baba asked Him to get back to His job at Calcutta, which, though He had resigned from, was waiting for Him when He went back. But the urge for taking to the life of a recluse continued in Swamiji and contacts with individuals who were devotees of Sai Baba increased his urge further. The interaction with Sri Tara Ma that Swamiji had during one of His stays at Puttaparthi goaded Him to follow the spiritual path, in which He later got immersed.

Swami Omkarananda has been associated with Sri Tara Ma Mission ever since its inception in 1971. He is a friend, philosopher and guide, to whom everybody turns whenever they have any queries or doubts. He is a very well-read person with a profound and an all-encompassing knowledge of Scriptures and all things ethical. He is well-versed with all the major religions of the world such as Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism etc. About His knowledge of the Hindu religion, what He does not know, is perhaps not worth knowing. He has mastered several spiritual practices particularly the ‘Omkar’ and has tuned it to such a fine art that Sri Tara Ma gave Him the name, Swami Omkarananda. Swamiji is an adept in Yoga and Meditation. He can meditate for hours together and withdraw from the everyday world whenever He feels like. Even the yogic exercises, He can perform for long periods. Yet, Swamiji is not a pedant.

He is essentially simple and retains a natural humility that at once attracts and mesmerises. An embodiment of all that is good in man, He is the personification of the adage “Simple Living and High Thinking”. He is a great lover of children and nothing gives him more joy than being with them. He always addresses children as “My dear, dear children of God” He talks to children and takes keen interest in their activities and uses incidents from their daily life to take them from the “Normal” to the “Supernormal” i.e., the Realisation of the Ultimate Self – the true meaning and purpose of life.

Swamiji treats all living beings as equal and always emphasises that animals have feelings like humans. He says that all animate beings and inanimate objects can sense and react to stimuli like human beings. In Bhagirathi Dham at Hardwar there was a dog named ‘Kuma San’ of whom Swamiji was very fond. He would treat Kuma San like any other inmate of the Ashram. One night the dog, normally a vegetarian, came from a trip outside stinking horribly, possibly because of having eaten something non-vegetarian or the like. The inmates of the Ashram abused the dog and drove him away from his usual place. Late in the night the dog disturbed everybody by his howling and Swamiji shouted at him and perhaps even gave him a beating. Next morning Swamiji was in tears when He greeted the dog. He sadly asked him in these words: “Why did you eat an unwanted thing yesterday. Was it not because of this that I had to beat you?” It shows the intense humanity in Swamiji. Swamiji has travelled widely to all parts of the country and abroad also. He has been the dynamic force behind all the pilgrimages and trips that Sri Tara Ma has undertaken.

Education is a passion with Swamiji. He is always involved in guiding the activities of the Sri Ma Group of Institutions, may it be at Thane or Hardwar or elsewhere. The education that Swamiji has in mind goes beyond academics. It encompasses development of the character, human values and all that is meant to be the finest part of a human being.

Swamiji has given discourses and continues to do so on a variety of subjects, all pertaining to the upliftment of the quality-mental, physical and spiritual-of human life. In the Ashrams, in the Institutions, during visits to devotees’ houses, during Sadhana Camps etc. people listen to Swamiji’s talks with rapture. Swamiji’s teachings are implied to aid one and all in day to day life. Even without having been a householder Swamiji is fully knowledgeable about all the problems that face laypersons and His talks have benefitted many of them.

Swamiji does not confine Himself to religion in the sense that we normally use the word. His religion is not based on orthodoxy but on activity in every sphere and walk of life. He keeps himself informed about contemporary events. He also has a wide knowledge of the developments in Science and Technology. He is an avid reader of books and has an infinite capacity to absorb all that he reads and recall them to enhance the quality of his discourses. He believes in “Yogah Karmasu Kausalam” (Action done unto perfection is verily Yoga), Bhagavad Gita Ch. 2/50 and lives up to the dictum. He has another favourite slogan, which He uses whenever anybody approaches Him and that is ‘Go ahead’. All of Swamiji’s transparent human qualities and wisdom are vividly reflected in His teachings. Anyone who reads His articles or comes into contact with Swamiji in any manner whatsoever has to necessarily come out of the exercise a better man than before. A meeting with Swamiji is an experience to be cherished. He is the Ultimate Guru!