Who was Swami Nikhilananda?
Swami Nikhilananda was born in 1895 in Bangladesh, at the time a part of India, and had his education in the University of Calcutta. As a graduate he chose the profession of journalism. He then joined the Indian freedom movement and was incarcerated for a period in an English prison camp.
As a boy, through his pious parents, he became acquainted with the teachings of Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. These teachings made an indelible impression on his young mind and brought him in touch with the direct disciples of Ramakrishna. He was initiated by Holy Mother. He also met the direct disciples of Ramakrishna, Swamis Brahmananda, Saradananda, Sivananda, Turiyananda, Premananda, Akhandananda, Abhedananda as well as Mahendranath Gupta, the recorder of Kathamrita among others.
After coming into their influence, he abandoned his role as a freedom fighter and renounced the world to join the Ramakrishna Order. As a Brahmachari, for many years he devoted himself to the study of the Scriptures under eminent teachers, practiced spiritual disciplines, and served the Order in various capacities, until, in 1931, he was deputed by the Order to come to America as one of its representatives. Nikhilananda was considered a brilliant speaker and was invited to lecture at different universities, churches, and synagogues, and to participate in inter-religious conferences East and West.
I am confident that this good man had many fine things to say about compassion and happiness in a difficult world. Unfortunately, one of his writings, often titled, “Power of Thought: Slow Down Ageing by Thinking Young” does not appear to represent his best work. He writes…
Think young. Thinking has a positive and tremendous effect on our body. If an overweight person wishes to become slim, she will have to think slim. Carrying on with the “fat image” will do no good. You have to think slim through all your senses. Create a slim healthy image in your mind and the body will follow suit.
The positive thinking is pretty powerful but even powerful thinking needs support from action.
Imagine yourself as being slim, healthy, young and beautiful and your body will begin to eat healthy, good food. Every cell in your body will follow these fresh instructions and you will begin to feel young, healthy and energetic.
If just thinking one was “young, healthy and energetic” was really all that was required to actually be “young, healthy and energetic,” our world would be a very different place.
To stay young keep the company of young people. They are alive and fresh. Children remain in the moment. How do we know we have become old? One direct indicator is when we talk more about our past. We are then mentally old. We are young and vibrant when we think about the future. Young people look more towards the future.
I am also an advocate of young and old being together. I see these intergenerational alliances as providing benefits to both parties because both parties give and receive.
The closer we get to death, the more we seem to long for childhood. So bring your childhood enthusiasm and zest into the present moment, without thinking too much either of the past or present.
Living in the moment is a powerful spiritual experience. We can see it in full when we are in the presence of a person who is experiencing a peaceful death. I might re-write this excerpt above like this….
“Every day we move one day closer to death. In the later decades of life, this fact blossoms into an awareness of one’s mortality. The loss of the illusion of immortality provides us with a new perspective on the years we spent living as children. Revisiting those years in our minds allows us to harvest insights that can refresh our spirit in old age, even in our final hours.”