Swami Shyamananda Giri 1911 – 1971
extracts from Picking Up the Guru’s Banner: The Indomitable Life of Swami Shyamananda Giri, SRF link
Binayendra Narayan was born…on May 4, 1911. He gave up his body as Swami Shyamananda Giri on August 28, 1971, at the international headquarters of Self-Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society of India, Los Angeles. What transpired between is now more than history: it is a legacy of faith, strength, dedication, selflessness, and inspiration for those who knew him and for those who in generations to come will know him through the enduring monuments of his life and deeds.
His very stature and appearance commanded respect; his capabilities commanded leadership and authority. The world stepped aside and gave him these without hesitation or question. Those to whom he revealed the inner man gave him also unqualified love. And, indeed, as the years of his life rolled by, the inner man became the total of his being.
“He is no ordinary child“
“He is no ordinary child; he does not belong to the ordinary world. The course of his life is set; let him follow his way.” These prophetic words were spoken by Binayendra’s mother before she died, leaving behind the tiny three-year-old son and two older daughters. Had she glimpsed her son’s future? or had she merely observed how the tot, as soon as he could walk, would wander off by himself into the environs of a nearby temple?
“I was too small to understand why the temple attracted me,” Shyamanandaji reminisced in his later years. “I only knew I felt at home when I was there. But it was a cause of anxiety to my family whenever they would discover I was missing, and often brought me slaps of rebuke. That wasn’t so pleasant; but it didn’t change my habit.”
“God is everywhere.” This truth from the Vedic scriptures had a profound effect on the young child Binayendra. “I used to go around looking longingly at everything — the trees, the birds, the sky—trying to see God there,” Shyamananda recalled. “I would look and look at a flower, asking, ‘Lord Krishna, are You there?’ Shyamanandaji continued.
For him every moral and ideal became law. The scriptural heroes and avatars were as real to him as his childhood playmates. One day after attending kindergarten class Binayendra stayed alone and played in the compound of the small schoolhouse. Dusk began to fall. “There were no lights there in those days,” Shyamanandaji related, “but suddenly I saw that the whole area became bright. In the light I saw Hanuman. I suppose most children would have been frightened to see such a big monkey-figure and would have run away. Instead it gave me a most beautiful feeling, and I started walking slowly toward it. Then gradually the image began to fade away into the light, and the light vanished with the form. The uplifting effect of that vision remained long with me.”
Hanuman is the monkey deity well known and loved in India for his heroic deeds, related in Valmiki’s great epic, the Ramayana. Hanuman symbolizes the perfect devotee. Of himself he is a helpless, ignorant little monkey, but when he takes the name of the Lord to fulfill a task given to him by the Divine, he becomes a giant, his prowess unmatched; nothing is impossible to him. Shyamanandaji’s own tremendous accomplishments, inspired by his devotion for God and his guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, caused Sri Daya Mata to refer to him on occasion as “Paramahansaji’s Hanuman.”
Early connections to Lahiri Mahasaya
When Binayendra was a lad of nine, his father died….Thus Binayendra went to live with the Garga family…The “adopted” child was loved and raised as the eldest son of the family.
The young boy idolized his new father; which Raja Garga well merited, we are told. He was a man of noble character and extraordinary skills and accomplishments, and was well versed in the shastras (Hindu scriptures) and the ancient Sanskrit literature of India. One of his closest friends, Sri Ram Dayal Muzumdar [brother of Sri Ram Gopal Muzumdar, the “Sleepless Saint” of the Autobiography] was a great disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya, harbinger of Kriya Yoga. In retrospect, Shyamanandaji was later to wonder whether indeed Raja Garga might also have been a Kriya Yogi.
Sri Ram Dayal Muzumdar, a highly esteemed spiritual personage, was the retired principal of Sanskrit College. His translation of the Bhagavad Gita (from Sanskrit into Bengali), with commentary, was the first text of that sacred scripture read by the lad Binayendra….Sri Ram Dayal had a deep spiritual influence on the boy, and encouraged his decidedly religious nature. Shyamanandaji told us, “I never knew he was connected with this Self-Realization/Yogoda line of Gurus until years later, after I came into the work of Yogoda Satsanga Society. I was astonished to see his name in the minutes of the Society for 1919 as a member of the governing body of the Ranchi school, along with Master [Paramahansa Yogananda], Sri Yuktestwarji, and others.” …
“Something else was always pulling me”
One of the ruling families of India, the Gargas then owned and governed about five hundred villages. Binayendra’s education included learning the administrative tasks and protocol of being a “prince” of this estate. As for his academic training, he majored in world history and ultimately, as he matured, set his sights on becoming a barrister. A naturally keen intelligence, an extraordinary memory, and a strong will enabled him to excel in anything he put his mind to—whether it be his studies, sports, or hunting tigers in the jungles.
In time he married the young daughter of the family, Shantana, whose nature was a remarkable blend of discriminative strength and softness. She was his mental and spiritual equal; and the reverence and devotion with which he regarded her was perhaps one of his most admirable qualities—a rare quality, at least, in the husband-wife relationship. He was often to say of his wife: “She was unique. I was no match for her!” Their marriage was blessed with two daughters, Dipti Moyee Debi and Priti Moyee Debi, whom he affectionately called Mira and Minu.
Binayendra had everything most men only long for in life. Yet he was to say of those days, “I was always a misfit; I never really belonged anywhere. Something else was always pulling me.” So feels each soul that has been touched by God for a higher duty in life. But he never allowed regret or moroseness even a momentary place in his life. These and any form of negation were rejected in his philosophy. “I believe in being always cheerful and positive, and whatever one must do, he should do well!” Such was his lifetime avowal.