The daily pattern of Sathyaraju’s
childhood was typical of the other children in the village. His day
began at five in the morning with a bath and a light breakfast of curds
and rice. He worked at the looms until ten o’clock, dexterously weaving
cloth in the vivid hues that were a specialty of their family. After a
hurried lunch he attended school until four in the afternoon. When
school was over the boys went out to play until they were called home
for dinner, which was around six in the evening. After the evening meal
Sathyaraju would sit with his grandfather, Goli Sathyam, for an hour or
more and tell him all that had happened during the day. Thereafter, at
around seven o’clock Sathyaraju would join a bhajan party if there
happened to be one or go out again to play with his friends. Finally,
the boys would go to bed around ten at night.
Sathyaraju had an outspoken nature and a
great intolerance of dishonesty. In Adivarapupeta, people nicknamed him
with the English word “Against” because he was so contrary. He would
play practical jokes or otherwise get even with anyone taking advantage
of others, and he went out of his way to expose the dishonest.
Swamiji's Own Stories from
Swamiji used to tell devotees how his
grandfather taught him to confront fear. Others in the village tried to
be protective of him. An example Swamiji gave was how he liked to jump
from a high bridge into the Godavari River. His mother asked him to
promise never to jump off the bridge, but he would not promise.
Similarly, the villagers tried to prevent him from swimming in the ocean
as they thought it was too dangerous. But Sathyaraju liked to swim in
the ocean. Only his grandfather was supportive and allowed him to take
Another story Swamiji told was from when
he was only six years old. Sathyaraju noticed a village procession and
followed it. It was the funeral of a village rowdy. The local people had
a custom where they threw clods of dirt onto the corpse to begin the
burial. The villagers began to throw dirt onto the corpse and Sathyaraju
picked up and threw a fairly good sized rock. It hit the corpse’s head
and split it open. The villagers were upset and frightened the boy by
telling him that the dead man would come back and give the boy trouble
for throwing the rock.
Sathyaraju ran to his grandfather and told
him what had happened and what the villagers had said. The boy was
afraid the dead man would come back to get him. Goli Sathyam reassured
the boy and instructed him to return to the graveyard that night to
confront his fears. The boy went back and saw the jackals and dogs
carrying off the corpse and eating it. He realized he had nothing to
fear from that corpse.
Swamiji told this story and said that
since that time, he has not been afraid. He said that most people in
India were afraid of ghosts. They would believe a ghost was haunting a
particular place, like a tree. However Sathyaraju learned not to be
afraid. Instead he would wager that he was not afraid of the ghost.
People didn’t believe him and they would accept the bet. Sathyaraju
would fearlessly walk up to the haunted tree, then return to collect his
A Pompous Sadhu
This is another story that Swamiji used to
tell devotees. The original meaning of “sadhu” is a holy man, but the
word also has come to refer to someone who merely earns a living at it.
There was a sadhu who came to the village, a boastful and pompous fellow
who threatened dire consequences to anyone who crossed his path. One of
his repeated threats was that he would curse people to turn them into
one or another of some low animal species. The simple village folk
readily believed these threats so they went about in awe and fear of
this angry old man.
Not surprisingly, Sathyaraju took an
instant dislike to this sadhu. He was convinced in his own mind that the
sadhu had none of the powers he boasted of, and so he secretly resolved
to expose him. One day everyone was sitting in the presence of the sadhu
and he was holding forth in his usual boastful manner. Sathyaraju asked
him what he would do if someone were to steal any of his things. The
sadhu promptly threatened to turn the person into a tiger. Sathyaraju
pretended to express awe and wonder but remained quiet. A short while
later the sadhu happened to go out. Sathyaraju found himself alone in
the sadhu’s room, so he quickly took the sadhu’s bow and arrows and hid
them on a ledge just above the place where the sadhu normally slept. He
then left the room unnoticed.
When the sadhu returned he found his bow
and arrows missing. Inquiries were made and a search conducted but they
could not be found. The sadhu lost his temper and began complaining and
yelling about what he would do to the culprit. Sathyaraju, who was an
interested spectator of the whole scene, suggested in a seemingly
innocent tone that the sadhu, by his powers, should be able to locate
his missing bow and arrows as well as the culprit. This only enraged the
sadhu further and Sathyaraju was quickly hustled away by anxious
relatives for fear the sadhu would curse him.
The sadhu’s terrible anger made Sathyaraju
somewhat anxious, so he ran to his grandfather and told him in all
innocence, “I hid the sadhu’s bow and arrows. If he turns me into a
tiger, then the people will hunt me down and kill me, so tie me up
inside.” Goli Sathyam could not help being amused. He told the boy not
to worry but wait and see what would happen.
Reassured by his grandfather and realizing
that some time had already passed yet nothing had happened to him,
Sathyaraju became firm in his original conviction that the sadhu was a
hoax. He presented himself before the sadhu who was surrounded by his
usual gathering of admirers. The boy bravely told him that he had hidden
the missing bow and arrows and then showed the sadhu their hiding place.
To the astonishment and horror of his relatives, he now challenged the
sadhu to transform him into a tiger as he had been threatening to do all
The sadhu fretted and cursed but
Sathyaraju boldly stood his ground and nothing happened to him.
Sathyaraju was soundly reprimanded by his uncle and others for his
impertinent behavior but the boy had proved his point. This sadhu never
again made such boasts, nor did he ever succeed in terrorizing the