His face lit up and a smile broke across his face as he lifted his head and saw me, recognizing someone he knew. I got to know Swami Bua when my guru, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, would invite him to the monastery where I once lived. I would often host him at the monastery and enjoyed his jovial and deeply spiritual presence. Today marks the 1st anniversary of Swami Bua’s passing and I felt it would be nice to share a little about some of my experiences with him.
It was on a cold January day in the winter of 2010 that I made my way out to Queens to see my old friend. He was being cared for by a sweet Hindu family, disciples of his, who invited me to come spend the morning with them and swami. I was warmly invited into their home and sat in the living room catching up with this sweet couple whom I had not seen in a few years. They use to bring Swami Bua to visit my guru at the monastery in Kauai, Hawaii.
As swami slowly made his way into the living room he looked up at me and smiled, recognizing a monk he once knew. I’m again amazed at how strong he is at his age. I reached down and touched his feet, the Hindu way of showing respect and humility before a wise person. Swami said “No, no” as he tried to stop me from touching his feet. I helped him to a chair by the fireplace on this cold winter day.
Swami sat quietly for a few minutes. Then he turned towards me lifted his arms in way that you would when you wish to flex your biceps and said to me “I’m the world’s strongest man” and burst out into a huge laugh. “Go ahead, press my bicep”. So I leaned over and gently pressed his right bicep with my index finger. No, that was not good enough for swami. “Harder!” swami said. So I pressed slightly harder. “Harder!” he roared this time. So I pushed strongly into his very firm bicep. Wow! I thought to myself, he’s got really strong arms. Swami laughed and closed his eyes. I took this opportunity to quietly feel my bicep. Hmm, swami was indeed stronger.
Swami then shared how he likes the Hindu monastery on Kauai and how much he loves my Guru. Swami mostly speaks in Tamil now, his mother tongue. His health has diminished over the last couple of years and it brought a tinge of sadness to me to see this happen to my old friend. But he has certainly pushed life to its limits, more than most humans.
A close relative of swami was visiting from India and I asked her if she knew how old swami was. She replied that no one really knew as they had no birth records at that time where he was born but some research she had done helped her to get a fairly accurate estimate. She said that a man that swami went to school with when they were kids use to live in New York. He has since passed and his son still lives here and is quite old. His son said that if his father was alive today he would be 126 years old. So, based on this they estimate swami’s age to be 126. I once saw a photo of swami and my guru that was taken in Paris in the 1960′s and swami did not look much different then.
I treasured the times I spent with Swami Bua. My guru would invite him to the monastery on Kauai where I lived as a monk at that time and swami visited a few times. I would often see to his needs during his visits and I always felt it a blessing to sit with him, listen and learn. He is a true yogi, one who puts foremost in his life the practice of sadhana (spiritual disciplines).
I’ll leave you all with a question I asked Swami Bua on the 28th of June 2004:
“Swami Bua, what is the best advice you can give for someone who is practicing yoga?”
Swami Bua replied “Some insects have only two senses. Some three. Animals have four senses. But man has 6 senses. The sixth being intuition. Intuition to discriminate. Discrimination is the key. Discriminating between what is right and wrong.”
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