The following article was published in
India's 'The Hindu' Newspaper, National
edition, on Wednesday, July 24, 2002.
Sri Swami Kaleshwar ≠ Modern Day Saint
(By Nancy Fengler, Monika
Lipetz, Dr. Philip
Lipetz, R.K. Jenkins, and Dr. Clint Thompson)
In Penukonda, Andrah Pradesh, 140 km north of
Bangalore, a new flower in the garden of Indiaís spiritual heritage is quietly blooming.
Though little known in many places outside of Southern India,
the Shiva Sai Mandir - a Shirdi Baba temple, ashram, and home of Sri Kaleshwar Swami, is
providing new leadership and service to the local and global communities.
To understand what is happening in Penukonda you must
first understand its architect and guru, Sri Kaleshwar Swami. His appearance
upon first glance can be deceiving. Young, today, just 29 years old, and
often appearing younger then his chronological age, with slight physical stature -
standing 5 foot 7 inches tall, thin weighing less than 60 kg, and dark
handsome complexion; he appears more as a movie star than a saint and
miracle man. He avoids the more traditional long flowing ocher robes of the saint in
favor of simple white kurtas and punjabe dresses.
He speaks eloquently in his native Telugu to
his many crore of Indian devotees. When speaking with his western students he talks in a
unique English of unusual syntax and completely original and captivating
vocabulary. One is struck by his intentional use of body movements, the fine -
almost feminine - graceful flow of his hands and his graceful long
fingers, whether he is gesturing to make his point or performing the miraculous
manifestation of vibudhi. Even in English, which he learned at the age of 23,
his wit is displayed often in sublte ways, his speaking in double, triple
meanings at the same time the rule.
Sri Kaleshwar Swami is in one way an ambassador
for Hinduism and the Eastern spiritual knowledge in the West. Sri Kaleshwar Swami
travels regularly abroad, to Japan, Europe, and America, teaching thousands of students about Indian
spiritual tradition, Shirdi Baba, meditation, and healing techniques.
His popularity in the West is growing rapidly. His American admirers have
included many of Hollywoodís leading figures, such as the late rock star George
Harrison, and movies stars Barbara Streisand, Harrison Ford and Steven Segal.
Recently public controversy has been raised
regarding Swami Kaleshwar and the Shiva Sai Mandir. These slanderous allegations,
which insinuated a broad criminal spectrum from blue movies to narcotic trafficking
to land grabbing, were quickly shown to be petty and baseless. No
evidences have been offered to support them, and no charges are presently pending. Still, the controversy has brought more attention to Sri
Kaleshwar Swami and his Shiva Sai Mandir, which is perhaps served only to spread
SWAMI TO A WIDER AUDIENCE
Those who live, worship and study with Sri
Kaleshwar Swami at the Shiva Sai Mandir can only laugh at the ridiculous nature of the
controversy. As at any ashram, the living quarters are tight, and Sri
Kaleshwar Swamiís daily schedule and activities are easily apparent and observed by
Perhaps the hardest working saint on this
planet, Sri Kaleshwar Swami can be found literally 20 hours a day inthe Baba Mandir, near his
dhuni, or walking the grounds and its many gardens, talking with students
and devotees in person or speaking into the telephone always found in his hand.
His staff includes both Indians and Westerners, who,
except for Sri Kaleshwar Swami small private bedroom, have total access to the
ashram grounds and buildings. Sri Kaleshwar Swami is rarely alone, but instead
is generally surrounded by dozens of people. That no one person has come
forward to support the criminal allegations, now some months after they first
nefariously appeared, is undeniably telling.
Certainly the worldly and spiritual
accomplishments of Sri Swami Kaleshwar, coupled with the rapid growth of the Shiva Sai Mandir
as a spiritual center in southern India, has generated jealousy in some quarters.
Though it is not surprising, such unfounded allegation is both petty and
unnecessary. Sri Kaleshwar Swami and the Shiva Sai Mandir gives those who
visit whatever blessing is asked for, and asks for only oneís heart to be open
God in return.
Perhaps the source of the controversy surround
Swami Kaleshwar is his opinion that it is time for some saints to stop proclaiming
themselves to be gods and instead make students into saints. Swami Kaleshwar
says, ď Iím so angry at many saints, crazy saints. Why didnít they create
the strongest people, the strongest souls? Instead, they kept it all for
only themselves. ĎI am the guru, I am Swamiji, and you have to surrender to my feet,
period. You have to worship my feet, forever and everí I 100% disagree with
that. It is crazy. It is a huge deception and egoism to make all human
creation bow to their feet while saying, ĎOnly I am great, just you be there on
the floor. I will sit in the chair, just you be there, sit on the nails, sit on
the thorns.í That is what the saints did. I want to
Swami Kaleshwar says that everyone can achieve
the highest spiritual state and that the saints should teach others how to follow them.
"How did they become a saint? They did not come directly from heaven.
They also were born as humans. I know many masters in the world, especially
90% of the masters from India. Theyíre the geniuses in the world.
Supreme name and fame publicity people, powerful saints. They are the biggest
boon. But how long will it take for other souls to follow them? How much time does
it take for other souls to reach their level? Some of these guys tell me,
peacock is a peacock; a crow is a crow. The crow cannot become a peacock.
Who tries that is completely stupid.í Some saints say, ĎIím a God, you
canít become like me. Iíll bless you. Thatís it. Thatís your life
goal.' Thatís fine, so sweet; but what about experiencing what the saintís
experiencing? Iím eating a mango. It is so crazy if I just say to you,
'This is so
sweet, itís enough for you to know that it is sweet.' Some people meditate for
three years, ten years, or 30 years, and nothing happens. This is horrible.
Itís so horrible. They have no experience ≠ nothing. Nothing is there.
Itís a big crime to make you a prisoner in a spiritual prison. If you are
wasting your time struggling, struggling, struggling then big unhappiness is there.
Maybe the master is wrong. You are a spiritual prisoner. Forever
and ever you are a prisoner. Itís not normal, itís not good."