I Had Work to Do

[Listen to Asha read this story]

The founding of Ananda coincided for Swamiji with the onset of arthritis in both hips. Before that, he had been a fast runner, a good skier, and a tennis player of what he calls "mild ability." Soon arthritis made all that impossible. Much of the time, walking or even standing was painful for him.

He didn’t like to give in to the pain, or to draw attention to his difficulty, so he continued to stand while lecturing or giving Kriya initiations, sometimes for two hours at a time. Only after fifteen years was he willing to sit down for some of these public programs.

“I don’t think you’re hearing a word I'm saying!” a friend complained once to Swamiji during an afternoon walk. His inattention had offended her and Swamiji felt he owed her an explanation, so he spoke more frankly than usual.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “You are right. It is taking every ounce of my willpower just to put one foot in front of the other. I see to the end of the block and tell myself, ‘You can get that far.’ When I reach that goal, I set myself another one. In that way I manage to keep going.”

“How were you able to bear it?” I once asked him.

“I had work to do,” Swamiji said. “I couldn’t allow the pain to interfere. I related to it impersonally as just one of the many obstacles I had to overcome. You can’t imagine how much willpower it took to get Ananda going.”

Only after twenty years, when Ananda was secure and the arthritis had progressed to the point where it threatened Swamiji’s ability to serve, did he finally put his attention to it. Something had to be done or he would end up crippled. In two operations several months apart, Swamiji had both hips replaced. He was a new man.

“Hello, fellow athletes!” he said to those who came to see him in the hospital. He wore a tee-shirt that proudly announced, “Watch my smoke!”

“In all my years,” the surgeon said to Swamiji, “I have never seen hips in such bad condition! On one side, a full two inches of bone had been worn away.”

“I did limp a bit,” Swamiji admitted.

“I don’t know how you walked at all!” the surgeon replied. “You should have been in a wheelchair, or bedridden.”

The surgeon was delighted with Swamiji’s quip after the second operation: “Hip, Hip, Hooray!”

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