The Story – Initiation
Jagannath Gune’s life path had turned.
Was it the practice of Yoga?
He had become a disciple of Manikrao to receive warrior training. He had wanted to participate more actively in India’s freedom struggle.
And there he was, practicing Yoga intensely and yearning, longing to delve further into this mystical tradition and bring it to mainstream life.
The period between 1910 and 1919 was a time of exploration and experimentation for Gune. Around 1913 he shifted to Amalner in Maharashtra to work for Khandesh education Society, first as a school teacher and then as the principal of National college in Amalner.
His spirit of nationalism was still alive and he tried to kindle that fire in the students.
He introduced various types of physical exercises in the college, and instilled an almost martial discipline among the students.
He composed patriotic songs and poetry and tried hard to introduce an indigenous culture in the college.
He is said to have set himself three goals:
1. Prepare the young generation for the service of the country.
2. Master the Indian system of physical education and integrate it with general education.
3. Bring together modern science and the science of Yoga.
At the same time, he himself lived like a yogi and a rishi.
He built himself a hut surrounded by a garden and had a pet deer and a peacock.
His hut was named KaivalyaDhama.
Many spiritual seekers and philosophers came to this hermitage.
Notables among them was Shrimant Pratap Seth, who headed the Indian Institute of Philosophy in Amalner.
The institute had a quarterly journal named “Tattvajnana Mandira” ( The temple of true knowledge ).
This journal provided Gune the inspiration and prototype for his own Yoga-Mimamsa journal. The first copy of this journal was dated 1917 . It was conceived in his hut.
Most of the ideas for pioneering research and institution building in the field of yoga happened in that hut called KaivalyaDhama.
The hut was a miniature laboratory where initial scientific studies on certain aspects of yoga were started.
The studies led the researcher to certain tentative conclusions. Gune was convinced.
Then came a major turning point in Gune’s life. A triggering event that was to further change his life and set him forward in a direction.
That trigger was the great Yogi – Paramhansa Madhavdas ji maharaj.
Madhavdas was the fourth and final major influence in the life of Swami Kuvalayananda.
Here was the preceptor who helped shape the direction of Swami Kuvalayananda’s work for the next fifty years.
Madhavdas ji was from the eastern part of India, from Bengal. He was born in a family who were devout followers of the Bhakti tradition.
In his early years he studied under Bhaktichandradas, who was the follower of the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition.
Then in 1857, he retreated to the himalayas…presumably for rigorous sadhana – for disciplined and dedicated higher practices.
Not much is known about these 12 years.
The date 1857 is very interesting as it was the year of the first Indian war of Independence – The Sepoy Mutiny .
Some say that Madhavdasji was a revolutionary and went off to the inaccessible parts of the Himalayas to escape the british. There were sects of Sadhus in deep himalayas who protected him and initiated him into the tradition of Yoga.
If that is true then it would be the common theme between the master and disciple – as people who who embarked on the path of the warrior and then became giants in a spiritual tradition.
Madhavdas represented the four major schools of philosophy- Bhakti, Advaïta, Vishishtha Advaïta Vedanta and Dvaïta Vedanta.
He held extensive knowledge of sacred and secret practices yet the objective closest to his heart was the spiritual uplifting of the masses.
Madhavdasji had spent another 12 years – 1869 to 1881 in Kanakeshwar hill, a few hours from Mumbai. He was known as ‘Mirchibaba’ as he survived solely on green chillies and buttermilk.
He was known for his Yogic Powers.
Jagannath Gune met him at Malsar. In gujarat on the banks of Narmada river, around 1919. Madhavdas was 80 years old and had settled down on the banks of the Narmada river in the state of Gujarat.
It is here that he had began to teach the secrets of practical yoga to selected disciples.
Madhavdasji had dug his own cave in the ground. A small space where he could sit for many hours in meditation, without being disturbed by changes in light, temperature, or by wild animals.
Above the cave, at ground level, there was a temple.
This is where Gune met him.
A friend of Gune had told him about this powerful yogi who was living near the banks of Narmada river.
Gune was curious.
Not much is known about that first meeting, but between 1919 and 1920, Gune kept coming back to receive teachings from Madhavdas ji. Instruction and interaction went on side by side.
It is believed that Madhavdas initiated Gune into the higher practices of Yoga.
The rationalist in Gune could hardly have accepted anything without questioning persistently.
There is a story about Gune asking Madhavdas directly : Can you show me a real yogi in a state of samadhi?
And Madhavdas says – yes, come tomorrow tomorrow in the evening the evening.
It was the full moon night.
That night Madhavdas takes Gune in a small row boat to the other side of the Narmada river – a densely forested part.
They walk into the forest and Madhavdas stops and points in a direction – Gune – Look there.
Gune looks and he is amazed by what he sees. There was a figure, a man, with matted hair sitting still, with closed eyes in a state of samadhi – total absorption.
It was after 1920 that Yoga became the prime pursuit of Gune.
He assumed the name of Swami Kuvalayananda.
This name came out of the many Sanskrit texts he had studied in college.
Kuvalayananda of Appayya Dikshitar is generally the first work of rhetoric that is put in the hands of sanskrit students.
Its Appaya Dikshitar’s poetry in the praise of Shiva.
Swami Kuvalayananda had recognized that Yoga can help humankind to evolve to higher levels of consciousness and being.
With long practice it was clear to him that it was a science and it was completely experiential.
His experiences proved what was there in the yogic texts.
He wrote – phenomena, physical and mental that an average man is not able to induce, came slowly under his control.
He saw yogins and consulted yogic literature. He talked to eminent medical men and consulted books on psychology and physiology.
But he could not find any scientific explanation of his experiences.
He found that modern sciences, and specially physiology, had nothing to say abut this phenomena.
And the Yogins knew nothing of the modern sciences.
There were a few articles published in the East and the West, but they were mostly speculative, not scientific.
Swami Kuvalayananda was disappointed. His search for scientific validation of Yogic facts was not yielding results.
But then, a whole process of study and research unfolded itself before him.
The possibilities were extremely inviting . The idea of scientific research in the field of Yoga kept haunting him night and day.
As the director of physical culture in Khandesh education society, he had access to certain resources. He had students as subjects, access to a basic laboratory and friends and sympathizers.
Swami Kuvalayananda collected about 5000 rupees, got an x-ray machine and an x-ray experts and conducted his first experiments on the digestive tube.
Yogic exercises were studied under X ray. The results were very encouraging.
These research results were shown to nobel laureate Rabindranath tagore and Scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose. They reacted favourably.
However, there were many skeptics among scientists. They said Yoga was no more than what some people felt by way of subjective experiences and it was not suited for scientific investigation.
Swami Kuvalayananda faced many taunts from these scientists. But he stood firmly rooted in his conviction of practicing yoga and investigating it scientifically for what it was worth.
Even then, his mind was troubled. The vastness of the work to be undertaken and the smallness of his means , and stature bothered him.
It needed a lot of courage to proceed on this ambitious path.
He made up his mind by proposing to found an ashram devoted to this work.
Kuvalayananda resigned from Khandesh education society in 1923 .
The small hut in Amalner, called KaivalayaDhama, was founded as a big hermitage in Lonavla in 1924. It had the same name.
The educator of Amalner, had become Swami Kuvalayananda, the path-breaking researcher and practitioner of yoga in Lonavla.