Ācārya Siṁha

The Life of Swami Bhakti Gaurava Narasiṅgha Mahārāja

Chapter 16 – ‘Sparkplug’
(July-November 1973)

(Map of Eastern and Southern Africa)

Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: If I had to remember some part of my life which was totally ‘on the edge’ it would have to be my time in Africa. You had no idea what was going to happen next – you might get your head blown off, arrested by the police at a blockade, or die from overeating at a Gujarati’s home. Those were the different worlds we lived in.

In the 1970’s, Hindu communities were not only located in Kenya, but also in Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan and South Africa. In East Africa, the Indians were generally from Gujerat or Punjab, many of whom had come to do business. In South Africa, the Indians were originally from Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and had been brought as indentured labourers by the British back in the 1860s. The Indians living in Africa mostly kept themselves to themselves. They had their own residential areas, temples, community centres etc. and only mixed with the Africans when necessary. Prior to Narasiṅgha Mahārāja’s arrival, Brahmānanda Swami had travelled through East Africa and made a number of life-members – now he decided to send Mahārāja with Cyavana Dāsa to Tanzania, Zambia and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to make more members there.

Mahārāja’s travelling partner, Cyavana was the temple president of Nairobi under Brahmānanda Swami, who was the GBC. He was somewhat of a legend in that he was the first devotee to ever see Śrīla Prabhupāda. In 1965, when he was eighteen years old, he enlisted in the United States Coast Guard and was stationed at Boston Harbor. Cyavana was aboard a navy vessel when the Jaladuta came in to dock.

Cyavana Swami

(Cyavana Swami in Kenya)

Cyavana Dāsa: I was stationed aboard a Coast Guard Cutter at Boston Harbor, and on September 17th, 1965, when Śrīla Prabhupāda’s Jaladuta was moved from the anchorage over to Constitution Wharf, my ship was docked at the base nearby, I was on duty on the Quarterdeck. It is a maritime custom that when two ships pass, they offer a ‘salute’ by lowering, then raising again the ensign or flag at the stern of the ship. I offered the American flag to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s Jaladuta in this tradition, and when I looked up I was looking directly at him and he was looking directly at me. I was transfixed by his effulgence, and stood frozen in time as his ship passed. He acknowledged the greeting by slightly raising his left hand, palm outward.

Six years later, Cyavana took initiation from Śrīla Prabhupāda at the Boston temple. The night before his initiation ceremony, he was called to Prabhupāda’s room where Prabhupāda asked him to read two verses from the Bhagavad-gītā. Prabhupāda briefly commented on them, then instructed him to go to Africa and help Brahmānanda Swami.

In late July of 1973, Mahārāja and Cyavana set out to Tanzania. They would go to a town where there was a large Hindu population, meet with the most prominent members of the Hindu community and organise a program at the local Hindu samāj (community centre). After talking with these people, they would gauge who would be the most likely to become life-members, go their houses, take prasādam and talk to them about the benefits of life-membership. Nine times out of ten they were successful in convincing them. However, they would tell that person to become a member at the progam since this would encourage others. In this way, they would visit two or three other gentlemen in the town and do the same thing.

The program at the local Hindu samājs were simple. Mahārāja would make a nice altar with a big picture of Rādhā-Kṛṣna and Śrīla Prabhupāda, then when everyone arrived in the evening, there would be a bhajana, Cyavana would give a lecture from Bhagavad-gītā, then he would do a pitch to make life-members. Those who had already promised to become life-members earlier would come forward, and seeing this, other Hindu gentlemen would be inspired to do the same. Cyavana would invite each person on the stage, give them a stack of Prabhupāda’s books, Back To Godhead magazines, bhajana cassettes and photos and then point them towards Narasiṅgha Mahārāja sitting near the stage at a table and he would issue them their life-membership cards after they had deposited a cheque. The program would always end with an ārati and some simple prasādam distribution (generally rock-candy, peanuts, almonds etc.) In this way, they would make about thirty life-members at every program.

Cyavana Dāsa: We were a team. Generally, I would give the lecture and Mahārāja would be on the book table, doing the collecting and giving out life-membership cards. Then one day, we went to one hall and I told him that I wanted him to give the talk that evening to the Hindus. There were about one hundred people there. It was very successful and we made many members that night. After that, we would argue about who was gonna give the talk!

Previously, Brahmānanda Swami had met with success in Tanzania, but Mahārāja and Cyavana were making life-members like never before. Enlivened by their results in Tanzania, after a few weeks, Mahārāja and Cyavana decided to go to Zambia and visit the Hindu community there. They figured that if they left at night, they could arrive early at Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, and start making contacts. Mahārāja immediately started packing their vehicle and by midnight, they had left Dar es Salaam and were on the road.

Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: It was about midnight and we were two hours out of town driving on a road through the jungle. All of a sudden, we saw a road-block – we slammed on the breaks, and just as the car lurched to a stop, these police came out of nowhere, threw open our doors, dragged us out, threw us up against the side of the car, kicked our feet apart, and pushed flashlights in our faces. We couldn’t even open our eyes! They were all screaming at us in Swahili, and whenever we did open our eyes, we were looking down the barrels of about five guns! We could hear them unloading all our stuff from the car and rummaging through it.

Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw a blue flashing light and I heard a car pull up and someone get out – then the policemen who were holding us, turned us around, stepped back and I saw that we were standing in front of a high-ranking police officer. He looked us up and down as we stood there dressed in our dhotīs, all shaved up and wearing tilaka, then craning his neck, he looked at our śikhās. He stepped forward, pulled up the sleeves of our shirts and inspected our arms. Suddenly, he swung round and starting yelling in Swahili at the other policemen – he really let loose on those guys! He slapped one of them across the face really hard, like a back-hander. The other policemen were terrified. One of them ran forward and gave us our car keys, while the other police quickly started throwing all our luggage back into the car as fast as they could. The police officer jumped back into his jeep and drove away, and all the other policemen got in their truck and did the same…and then it was all quiet again, and we were just left there, standing in front of our car in the dark, in the middle of the jungle, wondering what had just happened to us. There wasn’t even so much as a “sorry” from them!

It was obvious that they were looking for somebody, probably two other white guys. Since they pulled up our sleeves and looked at our arms, it means they were looking for needle marks, so it was obviously connected to drugs. Anyhow, these policemen thought they’d hit the jackpot and were gonna get a promotion. They called their boss, who was probably at home in bed, woke him up and told him, “We got ‘em!” It was way past midnight, so he had to get up, put on his uniform, wake up his driver, jump in his jeep, drive into the jungle and what does he find? Two frightened Hare Kṛṣṇas! It’s no wonder he was angry! 

Many times on our travels, the militia would stop our vehicle, come up to the window, look inside and seeing a bunch of white guys all shaved up, wearing tilaka and dhotīs, their jaws would just drop! While they were inspecting the contents of our vehicle, some guy would always lean his gun barrel on the window pointing at you, and his fingers would be on the trigger! I would speak to him in Swahili, “Jambo, habari ya asubuhi bwana (‘Hello, how are you, sir?’) and tell him that we were men of God, and as I did that, I would place my finger on the gun barrel and slowly push it away from me, and then he would slowly slide it back in my face again…

In Zambia, Mahārāja and Cyavana met with further success in their preaching amongst the Indians. There, they made 104 life-members and distributed many books in the villages. While they were in Lusaka, an interesting event took place. 

Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: Prabhupāda had told Cyavana some months before that he wanted him to take sannyāsa, and before we left Nairobi, at the end of June, Prabhupāda had sent a letter to him saying:

“I have already mailed my acceptance for your initiation into sannyāsa order to Brahmānanda Swami, along with sannyāsa robes etc., and you should shortly receive same.”

So Prabhupāda had sent a small package to Cyavana all the way to Africa containing some sannyāsa cloth, but everyone was thinking that when Prabhupāda comes to Africa later that year, Cyavana would take sannyāsa then. But that was not what Prabhupāda intended. Prabhupāda already considered him to be a sannyāsī – he just had to put the cloth on. That’s why Prabhupāda had said in his letter, “you should shortly receive same” – in other words, the package would go to Brahmānanda, and he was to give it to Cyavana. But nobody, including Brahmānanda, had figured that out. Why would Prabhupāda mail the cloth when he could have brought it with him when he came to Africa?

Anyhow, a few months later, we sent some photos of our preaching in Tanzania to Śrīla Prabhupāda. Well, when they reached him, he must have seen them and spoken to his secretary because while we were both in Zambia, Cyavana got a call from Brahmānanda that Prabhupāda was asking, “Why is he still a brahmacāri? I told him two months ago to take sannyāsa.” Prabhupāda’s package had already arrived in the Nairobi temple about a month before and was just sitting in Brahmānanda’s office. So Brahmānanda forwarded it to us in Zambia, and it eventually arrived at the house of one of our life-members at the end of August.

When we opened the package, we were surprised because Prabhupāda had sent his own sannyāsa cloth! Then I thought, “Well, now Cyavana needs a daṇḍa,” so I went out into the jungle, cut some bamboos and made a daṇḍa. Cyavana’s daṇḍa was the first one I ever made. So then, we were a complete team – he was a swami with a daṇḍa and I was his brahmacārī assistant. But all the Hindus still called us both ‘swamijī.’ Even when you’d show them the tail of your dhotī, they’d still say, “Yes, thank you very much, Swamiji.”

In late August, Brahmānanda called Cyavana Swami and told him that since he was the temple president of Nairobi, it was his duty to return and organise Janmāṣṭamī and Śrīla Prabhupāda’s Vyāsa Pūjā. However, he stipulated that since Narasiṅgha Mahārāja had become such a good preacher and collector, he should remain in Zambia making members. Cyavana Swami would only be gone for a week, but Mahārāja was not happy with the idea. Having no say in the matter, he was resigned to spend Janmāṣṭamī and Vyāsa Pūjā in a room at the Hindu Samāj.

Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: I had to spend Janmāṣṭamī alone in a town called Ndola. Most of the day I stayed in my room chanting and reading Kṛṣṇa Book, then just before midnight, there was a knock on the door. One of the trust members of the Samāj was inviting me to come for the midnight ārati of Kṛṣṇa. So, I went into the hall and it was totally packed with Hindus, all singing Gujerati bhajanas, and at the end of the hall there was a big curtain drawn. As soon as it was midnight, they threw back this curtain and standing there was this big cutout of Kṛṣṇa with all these electric lights spinning around His head. His leg and arms were animated – they would move backwards and forwards. The whole thing was totally cheezy! When the curtain was pulled and this cutout Kṛṣṇa was revealed, the Hindus went wild, yelling, “Kṛṣṇa Kanhaiyā-lāla ki jaya!” and then they all started pelting Kṛṣṇa with fruit!! Apples, oranges, whole bunches of bananas, pineapples, coconuts were all hitting this cutout – Bam! Bam! Bam! It was like a funfair where you try and knock something over to win a teddy-bear! I just shook my head, turned round and went back to my room…

In Cyavana’s absence, Mahārāja continued to do programs and make contacts in and around Lusaka. By the time Cyavana Swami returned from Nairobi, Mahārāja had made many more members and had collected a fair amount in donations. They both decided that the next place they should go to was Rhodesia.

Harare and Bulawayo had the largest Indian communities there, with some living in smaller areas such as Mutare, Gweru, and Kwekwe. Again, Mahārāja and Cyavana made many contacts and members in Harare and Bulawayo, but in one particular town on the outskirts, their success suddenly ran out.

Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: We went to this one place in Rhodesia, and we couldn’t get anyone set up beforehand, so we had to go in cold. But we were confident that we could definitely get at least a few members made there since we were having so much success in other places. So we organised a program, did the bhajanas and the class, then Cyavana gave the pitch to become a member – nobody raised their hand! Cyavana kept talking about how important Prabhupāda’s books were, and I was standing there with this stack of books, magazines and cassettes in my arms. We had encountered difficult places before, but usually by now, at least one or two people would step forward. Cyavana would have them come up on the stage and ask, “What’s your name?”
“Chittubhai Patel”
“Chittubhai Patel! Let’s hear it for Chittubhai Patel!” It was like an auction-house!
But that night – nothing! Nobody was coming forward. Finally, after the third attempt by Cyavana, this one old man shouted out, “Nobody’s becoming a member! Do the ārati!!”
Cyavana shouted into the mic, “No members – no ārati!” Then he turned to me and said, “Pack it up! We’re leaving!”
I jumped up, took all the books, the prasādam, the pictures, the instruments and loaded them all into our vehicle. The Hindus were miffed. We just drove away. That was the only town we ever failed to make any members in.
We drove about 200 miles away and a couple of days later, we came to one town with a bustling Hindu community. We found out where the main samāj was and asked them if we could make a program. The person in charge looked a little apprehensive and told us, “Er, swami, we cannot make a program. We heard that the Hare Kṛṣṇas did a program in one town last week and refused to do the ārati.”
Cyavana said, “Oh yeah, we heard that too. That wasn’t Hare Kṛṣna – that was Ramakrishna!”
“Oh, not Hare Kṛṣṇa?”
“No, no, sir. That was those Ramakrishna people – they didn’t do the ārati! That’s very bad. So shameful!”
So then we did our program…

After four months of being on the road, Mahārāja and Cyavana Swami returned to Nairobi. Brahmānanda Swami was extremely satisfied with all their endeavours, and in particular he was happy that Narasiṅgha Mahārāja has become such a good preacher amongst the Hindu community and a very competent collector.

Mahārāja adjusted to temple life again – attending the morning program, going out on hari-nāma, taking part in prasādam distribution and other such activities. He also began to do some Deity sevā. Every night, he would help make ten different varieties of milk-sweets to be offered to the Deities at maṅgala-ārati the next morning. After the sweets had been offered, he would clean the Deities’ plate and put all the mahā-prasāda sweets in a locker. The protocol in the temple was that after maṅgala-ārati, all the sweets would be taken to Brahmānanda Swami, and after he had taken his share, whatever was left would be passed out to the devotees.

But one morning, Mahārāja decided to break protocol. Instead of putting the sweets in the locker, he took them all up onto the pūjārī room roof. Just as the sun was coming up over the horizon, Mahārāja sat down, calmly chanted his gayatri-mantras – and then proceeded to eat all the sweets! Then, smiling to himself, he lay down, closed his eyes and nodded off.

Meanwhile downstairs, Brahmānanda called Śarma, the head pūjārī, to his office. “Prabhu, where are the maṅgalaārati sweets?”
Śarma shrugged his shoulders, “Beats me! They’re not in the locker. Somebody must have taken them.”
Brahmānanda’s face went red! “Who did that? Who? I wanna know who did that right now! Call everyone here, one by one!”
Śarma went to the temple room where everyone was chanting japa, told them what had happened, and informed them that Brahmānanda wanted to see everyone individually. The first lucky brahmacārī entered Brahmānanda’s office and was immediately slapped and pushed against the wall. When Brahmānanda was convinced that he was innocent, he sent him out and told him to send the next devotee in.

Ten minutes later, Mahārāja woke up from his siesta and heard the commotion below. Running downstairs, he asked Śarma what had happened, and when he was told, he immediately ran into Brahmānanda’s office, just as he was about to interrogate another brahmacārī. As he burst in, Brahmānanda looked at him fiercely.
“What happened?” asked Mahārāja.
Brahmānanda yelled, “I wanna know who stole the maṅgala-ārati sweets!”
“I did,” Mahārāja replied.
Brahmānanda dropped the brahmacārī he was holding by the neck, “You…you did?” he stuttered.
Mahārāja nodded, “Yup!”
Brahmānanda stood there and fumed, not knowing what to say or do. Mahārāja was the first devotee to wake up in the temple, the first devotee on saṅkīrtana, and he was now one of his top collectors.
“Hmm…okay.” Brahmānanda finally replied. Mahārāja offered his obeisances and left the office.

Śrīla Prabhupāda was scheduled to come to Nairobi in November where he would install large Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Deities in the temple and speak at a week-long Hare Kṛṣṇa festival that Brahmānanda and Cyavana had arranged. Prior to this, Mahārāja remembers Cyavana Swami sharing a letter with him that he had recently received from Śrīla Prabhupāda. During their travels together, one Indian gentleman  had given them a śālagrāma-śilā and they were not sure what to do with it, therefore Cyavana had written to Prabhupāda asking him.

Another issue Śrīla Prabhupāda addressed in the letter concerned books from the Gauḍīya Maṭha. While Cyavana was in Zambia with Mahārāja, Brahmānanda wrote to him saying that he had confiscated some Gauḍīya Maṭha books that a few of the devotees in Nairobi had obtained, somehow or other. Cyavana replied to Brahmānanda that he thought this was a bad sign, On his return, Cyavana looked at the books and saw that many of the topics in them were of a higher nature.

Prabhupada's Letter to Cyavana 1973

(Prabhupada’s Letter to Cyavana)

Prabhupāda’s response to Cyavana was as follows:

My Dear Cyavana Swami:

Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter from Zambia dated August 24, 1973. I am very much pleased with your preaching there, how you are making members and distributing books. It is also encouraging that the Indians there are taking note of the authority of this movement of Lord Caitanya.

Regarding the saligram sila, it will be installed along with the other Deities. I shall advise you. I am planning to come to Nairobi on the 19th or 20th of November for your installation program and remain there up to the end of the month when I shall start for South Africa.

Brahmananda Swami has read me your letter regarding the students there reading other books. I request you to stop this practice. Our students have no time to read our own books, but they have time to read other’s books, and the money to purchase them? Why this mentality is there? You are a serious student, therefore you have correctly found out the defect in these books. We don’t want babaji class. We want active preachers.

I hope this meets you in good health.

Your ever well-wisher,

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

One morning, Mahārāja went out to buy some kitchen supplies from a local Hindu shop, when he had an unusual encounter.

Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: I was in a Hindu shop buying something and I was just wearing a chaddar and dhotī – no shirt. I had tilaka, shaved head, neck-beads etc. Then I turned around and there were these two big Maasai warriors standing right next to me. Generally, the Maasai would never come into the main cities, but they would sometimes come into town. I was looking at these Maasai, and they were looking at me. They were wearing chaddars dyed with rock-dye, and I was wearing cloth dyed with rock dye; I had ‘paint’ on my face, and they had paint on the faces; I was shirtless, they were shirtless. Finally, one of them pointed his finger at me and asked, “Tribe? Tribe?”
Then I told him, “Brahmacārī. Brahmacārī.”
And they slowly nodded their heads and said, “Ohhh…brahmacārī, brahmacārī”
Then I told them, “Hare Kṛṣṇa! and took off.

(Masaai in Kenya)

When November finally arrived, the devotees in Nairobi were naturally excited at the prospect of seeing Śrīla Prabhupāda and hosting him in their temple for a week. As it got closer to November 23rd, the date that had been fixed for Prabhupāda’s arrival, their excitement increased. On that day, Mahārāja volunteered to remain in the temple to prepare for Prabhupāda and his entourage, while all the other devotees drove to the airport to pick up His Divine Grace. But there was a problem.

Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: They all left before maṅgala-ārati, and I was waiting for hours in anticipation. I did the whole morning program alone, and at every point I was expecting Prabhupāda to arrive. Then 8:00 rolled around and I thought that for sure, I would turn around and Prabhupāda was going to walk right through the door. Then breakfast time came, and I had all the prasādam ready – still nobody came. Then at around 10:30, the phone rang and they told me that immigration was not letting Śrīla Prabhupāda into the country.

When Prabhupāda and his entourage landed in Nairobi, the devotees offered him garlands and bowed down to him. All the Africans who were walking through the airport stopped – they were in shock to see so many white men bowing down to an Indian. Suddenly, three immigration officers approached Prabhupāda and his party, asked for their passports and told them to wait. From 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., Prabhupāda sat and waited, and every time one of the devotees inquired at the immigration counter, they were told to sit down. Eventually, an immigration officer informed the devotees that ‘higher authorities’ had refused to allow Śrīla Prabhupāda entry into Kenya. No other information was given, but as Prabhupāda sat with the devotees and waited for further developments, he told them his theory as to why he had been denied. He said that the Kenyan government was concerned with the influence that Indians had in Kenya, and he also felt that the Christians were afraid that the devotees were becoming more popular and had perhaps influenced the government. Śrīla Prabhupāda looked at this in a positive light. “It is a good sign,” he said, “Our preaching is effective, because now they are afraid.” Prabhupāda also told the devotees that, “This is a sign that Kṛṣṇa wants me to stop my travelling, stay in one place and do my translation work.”

Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: When I got the news that Prabhupāda was stuck in the airport, I immediately went there, but they didn’t want to let me in. I made up some story that my grandfather was inside and I had to see him before he left, and they finally let me through. When I went into the lounge, I saw Prabhupāda sitting there with Akṣayānanda Swami and Pradyumna, whom he was travelling with, and from our temple there were about fifteen devotees – Brahmānanda Swami, Cyavana Swami, Bhagavat, Śarma, Śakti-mati and others. They were all talking with Śrīla Prabhupāda.

There was one airport lady walking around offering tea to everyone, and she came up to Prabhupāda as if he was just another person and offered him some tea. Prabhupāda politely refused, saying, “No thank you” also as if he was just another person.

I just sat on the floor watching Prabhupāda and I remember thinking that everything he did seemed so impressive. At one point, he cleared his throat, got up, went over to an ashtray and spat into it. You generally don’t see that in the western world, but in India, it’s common. In the west they just swallow it again!
Anyhow, Prabhupāda sat down again and asked if anyone had any questions. I asked Brahmānanda if I could ask one and he said yes. I was still thinking of those Maasai I saw in the store a few weeks before – after that, I had seen them around town a number of times. I said, “Śrīla Prabhupāda, I’ve been travelling for several months in Africa, and I’ve noticed there’s one race of Africans called Maasai. They have big śikhās and they carry a clay waterpot like a kamaṇḍalu.”
Prabhupāda raised his eyebrows in surprise and went, “Hmm!”
“They wear wooden beads around their necks…”
“Hmm!”
“They carry a stick like a daṇḍa…”
“Hmm!”
“They wear chaddars coloured with rock-dye..”
“Hmm!”
“They sleep under trees or next to rivers…”
“Hmm!”
“They keep cows.”
“Hmm!”
Then I said, “So I was wondering, do they have any connection to Vedic India – maybe through some incarnation or someone from India coming here?”
Prabhupāda paused for a moment, and before he could reply, Bhagavat Dāsa said, “Yes Prabhupāda, they also mix the blood, milk and urine of the cow together and drink it.”
Then Prabhupāda shook his head and wrinkled his face as if he had just bit into a lemon, and said, “No connection! No connection!”

Prabhupāda had already endured a nine hour flight from Bombay to Nairobi, waited six hours in the airport due to immigration – now the devotees had organised a flight to London which would take another nine hours. When Prabhupāda’s plane arrived, all the devotees offered their obeisances to him and he walked through the gate to board. It was at this point that Mahārāja noticed Śrīla Prabhupāda’s bag next to his seat.

Prabhupada with Small Bag

(Śrīla Prabhupāda waiting in the airport with his white bag)

Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: In those days, Śrīla Prabhupāda used to travel with this small white bag where he would keep his passport and other small things, and I noticed that it was next to the seat he had been sitting in. Everybody else had followed Prabhupāda to the main gate to see him off and I was at the back when I noticed it. So I grabbed it, ran towards the gate, pushed past all the devotees and the guards and saw that Prabhupāda and his party had already boarded. I dashed across the tarmac towards the plane, ran up the steps, and entered. Inside I saw Prabhupāda was looking for his seat and the other devotees with him were kinda spaced out (which is probably why they forgot his bag). Eventually, I managed to get Akṣayānanda’s attention and passed the bag over to him. His eyes popped out of his head when he saw it as if to say, “Jeez! If I had forgotten this, I would have been in trouble!” Then I got off the plane. In those days, airport security was pretty relaxed – try doing that nowadays and you’d end up being mowed down by security!

Later, when they were back at the temple, Cyavana told Mahārāja that while they were all talking to Śrīla Prabhupāda, before Narasiṅgha Mahārāja had arrived at the airport, he was telling Prabhupāda of his experiences preaching in Africa. At one point in the conversation, Cyavana told Prabhupāda that he was travelling with one brahmacārī who was like a sparkplug!

Forty years later, Narasiṅgha Mahārāja was talking to a disciple when he remembered this incident. “Sparkplug?” He mused, “Why a sparkplug?” The disciple reasoned that Cyavana Swami had likened him to a sparkplug due to his dynamic tendency to immediately get things going and because of his tendency to ignite enthusiasm in others.