The Story – Manifestation
And so it came to pass – 90 years back Kaivalydhama – meaning abode of liberation – was founded in Lonavla.
However, after its founding the problem of making science conform to spirituality was the driving force behind Swami Kuvalayananda’s creativity.
He wanted to reveal the basic Universal Truth manifest in Yoga by de-mystifying it through science.
He wanted to challenge the exclusionary teaching of the so-called occultists and recover what he regarded as Pure Yoga manifest in the classical texts and in the teachings of his master Madhavdas ji.
The June 1924 issue of the journal Yoga mimamsa states that the research work so far led to certain conclusions.
First . the yogic system of physical culture resulted in the highest physical efficiency, maximum brain power and extended longevity.
Second Yoga as a system of preventive exercises keeps the whole nervous and glandular system in the healthiest condition.
Third, Yoga as a system of therapeutics is capable of curing chronic diseases and even mental disorders.
Now at that time, there were hardly any institutions that taught yoga formally, even as a physical exercise.
There was no institutional research of the ancient yogic texts for study, analysis and evaluation.
This ancient and mystical science had not stepped into the modern academic environment yet.
Kuvalayananda had already designed the framework for the institution. The blue-print was ready.
The ideals, the work procedure, the financial requirements and purpose of the project were well defined.
It was a combination of western and eastern thought and culture.
The ideal was to work out a philosophy that would provide maximum benefit to humanity.
There were to be libraries, laboratories and hospitals. Research staff and research subjects. Yogic therapy providers and patients.
Classrooms and outreach programs. And the vehicle of communication for all this – the Yoga Mimamsa journal.
All this amounted to a minimum outlay of a million rupees initially and yearly expenses of a hundred and seventy five thousand rupees.
The years from 1924 to 1930 was hectic.
Swami Kuvalayananda , single-handedly, was the fund raiser, the research director, the teacher, the presenter , the therapist, the writer-publisher .
Swami ji approached the princely states, wealthy individuals, made ‘magic lantern’ presentations at major institutes, met important people and wrote innumerable letters seeking assistance.
It must have been very very difficult.
In those days, Yoga was the last thing in peoples minds. It was not part of the general awareness even in India. And the scientific connection made matters even more difficult to comprehend.
Even after five years of existence, the ashram and research center was housed in rented buildings.
Swami Kuvalayananda had to tread the fine line between accepting small donations from many different people along with the effort that goes with it.
Or surrender the autonomy of the institute for substantial funds and grants.
He chose the former.
A ruling prince at that time suggested that he would bear all the expenses if the institute to his capital. Swami Kuvalayananda did not agree – so the prince agreed to fund 50% of the expenses of the institute for the next 10 years.
Yale and Harvard universities approached him with offers of help – however the research would have to be based in the United States and the research direction would primarily focus on the therapeutic benefits.
Again Kuvalayananda refused. The research would be based in India and would expand to science and classical sanskrit literature.
Four events had helped the fund situation of KaivalyaDhama initially.
First was when some friends of Kuvalaynanda came forward to bear the costs of the initial research work.
Second was the donation of a generous five thousand rupees from Shri PratapSeth who was the founder of the Institute of Philosophy in Amalner.
Third, was an yearly grant of Three thousand rupees from the Maharaja of Porbandar.
And lastly, Lalaji Gokuldasa, an advocate of Bombay high court, donated a plot of land in Borivili, now a suburb of Mumbai.
There were many, many others who helped.
But as the ashram grew, there was a simultaneous requirement of funds for the expansion of the various activities.
Some of the first experiments conducted at KaivalyaDhama were focussed on the effects of pranayama exercises. Kuvalayananda was trying to establish the relationship between the subtle and gross features of physiology.
As Dr. V Pratap, who reviewed his early work, states : ” The main effort in Pranayama is not so much to manipulate the metabolic rate as to influence the respiratory feed back center”.
Swami Kuvalayananda called it ‘nerve culture’. According to him, deep breathing exercises were not only to take in large quantities of oxygen to vitalize the system, but its primary value was in how it affected the nerves.
Swami Kuvalayananda and others conducted experiments on brain waves, pulse rates and blood pressure to discover the subtle flow of ‘prana’ in the gross bodily functions.
They had already discovered the ‘Madhavdas vacuum’ in 1924 and challenged the conclusions reached by Dr. Bell and Dr. Meltzer of the Rockefeller Research Institute in New York. Thus establishing that important effect of kriyas had more to do with ‘akasa’ and ‘prana’..ether and subtle air. This was more linked to the theory of Yogic Physiology rather than to the theory of functional biology and structural anatomy.
The focus was on the ‘subtle’ as laid out in the yogic texts. And Kuvalayananda and his team tried to establish the subtle through its relationship with the gross.
They were designing experiments that would make the invisible visible.
Swami Kuvalayanandas prime objective, as stated by him : “The main effort of Kaivalyadhama is in scientifically probing the human mind and to dig deeper and deeper in the inner space, till the effort to conquer the outer and inner spaces converge and ultimately meet to solve the riddle of the cosmos.”
It was a journey of exploration and discovery of the transcendental laws.
Other sages like Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda have been concerned about the spiritual reform of all mankind, not just the mankind of India. However, here was a man who had taken his analysis away from the inherently bounded ideas of Indian philosophy and spirituality, into the domain of the modern conditions of life.
Swami Kuvalayananda was a tireless worker. Between 1924 and the independence in 1947, he had made his work known to major nationalist leaders, like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lala Lajpat Rai, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya and many others.
Gandhi had approached him for treatment.
His work attracted the attention of a few researchers in the United States and Eastern Europe. People came from Columbia and Yale university, from Universities of California and Colorado. They came from Czechoslovak academy of sciences and the Medical University of Budapest.
They found an atmosphere of quiet culture and scholarship at KaivalyaDhama.
They described Swami Kuvalayananda with his long white ‘corkscrew’ hair, white “walrus’ mustache , and round rimmed glasses on penetrating eyes as ” radiating an air of saintliness”.
In 1934 the government allotted a plot of land in Mumbai, for a yogic health center. Over the years, thousands of people benefitted from the training and the therapy facilities.
The G S College of yoga and cultural synthesis came into being in 1951, as a result of a substantial donation from a wealthy individual.
One of the unique features of the College was that formal and informal relationships between the teacher and the taught co-existed side by side, formal in teaching, and informal in all other matters.
Initially there was a two year course leading to the ‘Diploma of Yoga Pravishta’ (D.Y.P).
A student of the 1957 batch, currently Honorary Secretary of Kaivalyadhama, Sri O.P. Tiwari, asked Swami Kuvalayananda once why it had only to be a ‘diploma’ after such a rigorous postgraduate level studies and training.
Kuvalayananda replied : “You cannot be more than that in the field of yoga in two years”
The Swami Scientist Educator carried on with his experiments in an ashram laboratory trying to prove that Yoga is real, that chakras are factual rather than magical.
As Joseph Alter writes in his book, Yoga in Modern India – Yoga was not simply modernized by Swami Kuvalayananda; Yoga was analyzed in such a way that it has come to harmonize with the modernity manifest in science to create an alternative. And to a large extent it is this harmonic hybridity that has enabled Yoga to colonize the west.
Swami Kuvalayananda passed away in 1966.
He left a message on the blackboard in his bedroom at Kaivalyadhama, Bombay (now Mumbai). It reads:
The wise who look inward, they get permanent peace – not others. One should accept whatever comes one’s way, without losing heart.
He left a message on his office table, carved into the wooden paperweight, as follows: (If you) want to live then learn to die.
And also in his prayer room, a framed picture on the wall states:
For the Yogi, praise and insult are verily poison and nectar. The wise declare that insult is nectar and praise the gravest poison.