Sadhu T.L. Vaswani
To many thousands around the world, Sadhu T.L. Vaswani is a name synonymous with reverence for all life. Indeed, he was the living embodiment of an unsullied love that knew no bounds, an all-embracing love that included all mankind, animals and all creation. He cared deeply about the birds of the air and the animals of the earth; and he protected them whenever and however he could.
Born on November 25, 1879, in Hyderabad Sind, Sadhu Vaswani's life was touched with a spark of divinity from a very early age. After a brilliant academic career culminating in the M.A.degree, his natural inclination lay in following the life of a fakir. But this was not consistent with the wishes of his mother. So he submitted to her will and pursued a teaching career, becoming a professor and principal of prestigious colleges in the country.
At the age of 30, he went to Berlin as one of lndia's representatives to the Welt Congress, the World Congress of Religions. His speech there and his subsequent lectures in different parts of Europe aroused deep interest in Indian thought and linked many with him.
Sadhu Vaswani belonged to a time when patriotism manifested itself as a struggle for freedom from the colonial yoke. He was a freedom fighter and worked as a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi in the Satyagraha Movement. A patriot of the purest ray serene, he wrote many books which inspired specially the youth of the country to offer themselves in dedicated service of the Motherland. They include Builders of Tomorrow, My Motherland, India Arisen, Youth and the Coming Renaissance, Youth and the Nation and Awake, Young Indial! Through his inspired words he enkindled the flame of patriotism in the hearts of the young. He looked at the freedom movement as something more than the ousting of the colonial ruler. To him it included the spiritual upliftment of India to free the masses from the shackles of poverty and to restore a sense of human dignity to every man.
Later, however, Sadhu Vaswani withdrew from the field of active politics and turned his attention to education, and other spheres, emphasizing that character building is nation building. With this in view, he started the "Mira Movement in Education" which has, today, its headquarters at Pune and aims at enriching students with vital truths of modern life and at the same time making them lovers of the Indian ldeaI and Indian Culture. The emphasis in this type of educational institutions is that education is a thing of the Spirit and that the end of all knowledge is service-service of the poor and lowly, the sad and afflicted ones.
Sadhu Vaswani's life was, in the words of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the then President of India, "a saga of unassuming service, spiritual illumination and a source of inspiration to us all". He worked on, day after day, wanting nothing for himself, seeking only opportunities to be of service to the poor, the lonely and the lost. In his efforts to bring solace to the poor, Sadhu Vaswani knew that they are as much starved of love as they are of bread. And so it is that he gave them an abundance of his love, filling thereby, a bigger void. "Not in decorated temples but in broken cottages is the Great God- wiping the tears of the poor and singing His new Gita for the New Age!" he said.
Sadhu Vaswani was a prolific writer-the author of several hundreds of books in English and Sindhi. He was a born orator. When he spoke, he filled the hall with the rich music of his words and the richer music of his heart. He was a poet, a mystic, a sage and, in the words of Dr. Cousins, the Irish Poet he was "a thinker and a revealer of the deep truths of the Spirit."
Seeing the beauty of the One in the many, Sadhu Vaswani felt drawn towards all religions as he saw them as different paths to the One God. "There are so many" he said, "who can believe in only one thing at a time. I am so made as to rejoice in the many and behold the beauty of the One in the many. Hence my affinity to many religions. In them all I see revelations of the One Spirit."
Implanted deep in Sadhu Vaswani's heart was reverence for an life. Every little thing he did was inspired by the Vision Cosmic. His heart bled at the cruelties inflicted upon animals day after day, for food. "Take my head," he pleaded," but pray stop all slaughter!t' This deep awareness of the need for reverence for all life, in whichever form it is manifest, formed a very essential part of Sadhu Vaswani's teachings and has been propagated by the International Meatless Day Campaign. For the last several years, hundreds of thousands of devotees have been observing Nov.25, Sadhu Vaswani's birthday as Meatless Day and Animal Rights Day expressing their shared commitment to the ideal of Reverence for all life.
Sadhu Vaswani dropped his mortal frame on Jan.16, 1966, at the age of 86. His passing on was mourned by many. The poor, whom he tended with so much love, miss him the most. They still come to pay homage at his sacred Samadhi, at the Mission Campus in Pune. To most of his devotees, Sadhu Vaswani still lives on in every nook and corner of the Mission and in the work carried on by Dada J.P Vaswani to whom he bequeathed his Torch.