Chapter 6 - The Tiger Swami
"I have discovered the Tiger Swami's address. Let us visit him tomorrow."
This welcome suggestion came from Chandi, one of my high school friends. I was eager to meet the saint
who, in his premonastic life, had caught and fought tigers with his naked hands. A boyish enthusiasm
over such remarkable feats was strong within me.
The next day dawned wintry cold, but Chandi and I sallied forth gaily. After much vain hunting in
Bhowanipur, outside Calcutta, we arrived at the right house. The door held two iron rings, which I
sounded piercingly. Notwithstanding the clamor, a servant approached with leisurely gait. His ironical
smile implied that visitors, despite their noise, were powerless to disturb the calmness of a saint's
Feeling the silent rebuke, my companion and I were thankful to be invited into the parlor. Our long
wait there caused uncomfortable misgivings. India's unwritten law for the truth seeker is patience; a
master may purposely make a test of one's eagerness to meet him. This psychological
ruse is freely employed in the West by doctors and dentists!
Finally summoned by the servant, Chandi and I entered a sleeping apartment. The famous Sohong1 Swami was seated on his bed. The sight of his tremendous body affected us
strangely. With bulging eyes, we stood speechless. We had never before seen such a chest or such
football-like biceps. On an immense neck, the swami's fierce yet calm face was adorned with flowing
locks, beard and moustache. A hint of dovelike and tigerlike qualities shone in his dark eyes. He was
unclothed, save for a tiger skin about his muscular waist.
Finding our voices, my friend and I greeted the monk, expressing our admiration for his prowess in the
extraordinary feline arena.
"Will you not tell us, please, how it is possible to subdue with bare fists the most ferocious of
jungle beasts, the royal Bengals?"
"My sons, it is nothing to me to fight tigers. I could do it today if necessary." He gave a childlike
laugh. "You look upon tigers as tigers; I know them as pussycats."
"Swamiji, I think I could impress my subconsciousness with the thought that tigers are pussycats, but
could I make tigers believe it?"
"Of course strength also is necessary! One cannot expect victory from a baby who imagines a tiger to be
a house cat! Powerful hands are my sufficient weapon."
He asked us to follow him to the patio, where he struck the edge of a wall. A brick crashed to the
floor; the sky peered boldly through the gaping lost tooth of the wall. I fairly staggered in
astonishment; he who can remove mortared bricks from a solid wall with one blow, I thought, must surely
be able to displace the teeth of tigers!
"A number of men have physical power such as mine, but still lack in cool confidence. Those who are
bodily but not mentally stalwart may find themselves fainting at mere sight of a wild beast bounding
freely in the jungle. The tiger in its natural ferocity and habitat is vastly different from the
opium-fed circus animal!
"Many a man with herculean strength has nonetheless been terrorized into abject helplessness before the
onslaught of a royal Bengal. Thus the tiger has converted the man, in his own mind, to a state as
nerveless as the pussycat's. It is possible for a man, owning a fairly strong body and an immensely
strong determination, to turn the tables on the tiger, and force it to a conviction of pussycat
defenselessness. How often I have done just that!"
I was quite willing to believe that the titan before me was able to perform the tiger-pussycat
metamorphosis. He seemed in a didactic mood; Chandi and I listened respectfully.
"Mind is the wielder of muscles. The force of a hammer blow depends on the energy applied; the power
expressed by a man's bodily instrument depends on his aggressive will and courage. The body is
literally manufactured and sustained by mind. Through pressure of instincts from past lives, strengths
or weaknesses percolate gradually into human consciousness. They express as habits, which in turn
ossify into a desirable or an undesirable body. Outward frailty has mental origin; in a vicious circle,
the habit-bound body thwarts the mind. If the master allows himself to be commanded by a servant, the
latter becomes autocratic; the mind is similarly enslaved by submitting to bodily dictation."
At our entreaty, the impressive swami consented to tell us something of his own life.
"My earliest ambition was to fight tigers. My will was mighty, but my body was feeble."
An ejaculation of surprise broke from me. It appeared incredible that this man, now "with Atlantean
shoulders, fit to bear," could ever have known weakness.
"It was by indomitable persistency in thoughts of health and strength that I overcame my handicap. I
have every reason to extol the compelling mental vigor which I found to be the real subduer of royal
"Do you think, revered swami, that I could ever fight tigers?" This was the first, and the last, time
that the bizarre ambition ever visited my mind!
"Yes." He was smiling. "But there are many kinds of tigers; some roam in jungles of human desires. No
spiritual benefit accrues by knocking beasts unconscious. Rather be victor over the inner prowlers."
"May we hear, sir, how you changed from a tamer of wild tigers to a tamer of wild passions?"
The Tiger Swami fell into silence. Remoteness came into his gaze, summoning visions of bygone years. I
discerned his slight mental struggle to decide whether to grant my request. Finally he smiled in
"When my fame reached a zenith, it brought the intoxication of pride. I decided not only to fight
tigers but to display them in various tricks. My ambition was to force savage beasts to behave like
domesticated ones. I began to perform my feats publicly, with gratifying success.
"One evening my father entered my room in pensive mood.
"'Son, I have words of warning. I would save you from coming ills, produced by the grinding wheels of
cause and effect.'
"'Are you a fatalist, Father? Should superstition be allowed to discolor the powerful waters or my
"'I am no fatalist, son. But I believe in the just law of retribution, as taught in the holy
scriptures. There is resentment against you in the jungle family; sometime it may act to your cost.'
"'Father, you astonish me! You well know what tigers arebeautiful but merciless! Even immediately after
an enormous meal of some hapless creature, a tiger is fired with fresh lust at sight of new prey. It
may be a joyous gazelle, frisking over the jungle grass. Capturing it and biting an opening in the soft
throat, the malevolent beast tastes only a little of the mutely crying blood, and goes its wanton way.
"'Tigers are the most contemptible of the jungle breed! Who knows? my blows may inject some slight
sanity of consideration into their thick heads. I am headmaster in a forest finishing school, to teach
them gentle manners!
"'Please, Father, think of me as tiger tamer and never as tiger killer. How could my good actions bring
ill upon me? I beg you not to impose any command that I change my way of life.'"
Chandi and I were all attention, understanding the past dilemma. In India a child does not lightly
disobey his parents' wishes.
"In stoic silence Father listened to my explanation. He followed it with a disclosure which he uttered
"'Son, you compel me to relate an ominous prediction from the lips of a saint. He approached me
yesterday as I sat on the veranda in my daily meditation.
"'"Dear friend, I come with a message for your belligerent son. Let him cease his savage activities.
Otherwise, his next tiger-encounter shall result in his severe wounds, followed by six months of
deathly sickness. He shall then forsake his former ways and become a monk."'
"This tale did not impress me. I considered that Father had been the credulous victim of a deluded
The Tiger Swami made this confession with an impatient gesture, as though at some stupidity. Grimly
silent for a long time, he seemed oblivious of our presence. When he took up the dangling thread of his
narrative, it was suddenly, with subdued voice.
"Not long after Father's warning, I visited the capital city of Cooch Behar. The picturesque territory
was new to me, and I expected a restful change. As usual everywhere, a curious crowd followed me on the
streets. I would catch bits of whispered comment:
"'This is the man who fights wild tigers.'
"'Has he legs, or tree-trunks?'
"'Look at his face! He must be an incarnation of the king of tigers himself!'
"You know how village urchins function like final editions of a newspaper! With what speed do the
even-later speech-bulletins of the women circulate from house to house! Within a few hours, the whole
city was in a state of excitement over my presence.
"I was relaxing quietly in the evening, when I heard the hoofbeats of galloping horses. They stopped in
front of my dwelling place. In came a number of tall, turbaned policemen.
"I was taken aback. 'All things are possible unto these creatures of human law,' I thought. 'I wonder
if they are going to take me to task about matters utterly unknown to me.' But the officers bowed with
"'Honored Sir, we are sent to welcome you on behalf of the Prince of Cooch Behar. He is pleased to
invite you to his palace tomorrow morning.'
"I speculated awhile on the prospect. For some obscure reason I felt sharp regret at this interruption
in my quiet trip. But the suppliant manner of the policemen moved me; I agreed to go.
"I was bewildered the next day to be obsequiously escorted from my door into a magnificent coach drawn
by four horses. A servant held an ornate umbrella to protect me from the scorching sunlight. I enjoyed
the pleasant ride through the city and its woodland outskirts. The royal scion himself was at the
palace door to welcome me. He proffered his own gold-brocaded seat, smilingly placing himself in a
chair of simpler design.
"'All this politeness is certainly going to cost me something!' I thought in mounting astonishment. The
prince's motive emerged after a few casual remarks.
"'My city is filled with the rumor that you can fight wild tigers with nothing more than your naked
hands. Is it a fact?'
"'It is quite true.'
"'I can scarcely believe it! You are a Calcutta Bengali, nurtured on the white rice of city folk. Be
frank, please; have you not been fighting only spineless, opium-fed animals?' His voice was loud and
sarcastic, tinged with provincial accent.
"'I challenge you to fight my newly-caught tiger, Raja Begum.2 If
you can successfully resist him, bind him with a chain, and leave his cage in a conscious state, you
shall have this royal Bengal! Several thousand rupees and many other gifts shall also be bestowed. If
you refuse to meet him in combat, I shall blazon your name throughout the state as an impostor!'
"His insolent words struck me like a volley of bullets. I shot an angry acceptance. Half risen from the
chair in his excitement, the prince sank back with a sadistic smile. I was reminded of the Roman
emperors who delighted in setting Christians in bestial arenas.
"'The match will be set for a week hence. I regret that I cannot give you permission to view the tiger
"Whether the prince feared I might seek to hypnotize the beast, or secretly feed him opium, I know not!
"I left the palace, noting with amusement that the royal umbrella and panoplied coach were now missing.
"The following week I methodically prepared my mind and body for the coming ordeal. Through my servant
I learned of fantastic tales. The saint's direful prediction to my father had somehow got abroad,
enlarging as it ran. Many simple villagers believed that an evil spirit, cursed by the gods, had
reincarnated as a tiger which took various demoniac forms at night, but remained a striped animal
during the day. This demon-tiger was supposed to be the one sent to humble me.
"Another imaginative version was that animal prayers to Tiger Heaven had achieved a response in the
shape of Raja Begum. He was to be the instrument to punish methe audacious biped, so insulting to the
entire tiger species! A furless, fangless man daring to challenge a claw-armed, sturdy-limbed tiger!
The concentrated venom of all humiliated tigersthe villagers declaredhad gathered momentum sufficient
to operate hidden laws and bring about the fall of the proud tiger tamer.
"My servant further apprized me that the prince was in his element as manager of the bout between man
and beast. He had supervised the erection of a storm-proof pavilion, designed to accommodate thousands.
Its center held Raja Begum in an enormous iron cage, surrounded by an outer safety room. The captive
emitted a ceaseless series of blood-curdling roars. He was fed sparingly, to kindle a wrathful
appetite. Perhaps the prince expected me to be the meal of reward!
"Crowds from the city and suburbs bought tickets eagerly in response to the beat of drums announcing
the unique contest. The day of battle saw hundreds turned away for lack of seats. Many men broke
through the tent openings, or crowded any space below the galleries."
As the Tiger Swami's story approached a climax, my excitement mounted with it; Chandi also was raptly
"Amidst piercing sound-explosions from Raja Begum, and the hubbub of the somewhat terrified crowd, I
quietly made my appearance. Scantily clad around the waist, I was otherwise unprotected by clothing. I
opened the bolt on the door of the safety room and calmly locked it behind me. The tiger sensed blood.
Leaping with a thunderous crash on his bars, he sent forth a fearsome welcome. The audience was hushed
with pitiful fear; I seemed a meek lamb before the raging beast.
"In a trice I was within the cage; but as I slammed the door, Raja Begum was headlong upon me. My right
hand was desperately torn. Human blood, the greatest treat a tiger can know, fell in appalling streams.
The prophecy of the saint seemed about to be fulfilled.
"I rallied instantly from the shock of the first serious injury I had ever received. Banishing the
sight of my gory fingers by thrusting them beneath my waist cloth, I swung my left arm in a
bone-cracking blow. The beast reeled back, swirled around the rear of the cage, and sprang forward
convulsively. My famous fistic punishment rained on his head.
"But Raja Begum's taste of blood had acted like the maddening first sip of wine to a dipsomaniac
long-deprived. Punctuated by deafening roar, the brute's assaults grew in fury. My inadequate defense
of only one hand left me vulnerable before claws and fangs. But I dealt out dazing retribution.
Mutually ensanguined, we struggled as to the death. The cage was pandemonium, as blood splashed in all
directions, and blasts of pain and lethal lust came from the bestial throat.
"'Shoot him!' 'Kill the tiger!' Shrieks arose from the audience. So fast did man and beast move, that a
guard's bullet went amiss. I mustered all my will force, bellowed fiercely, and landed a final
concussive blow. The tiger collapsed and lay quietly.
"Like a pussycat!" I interjected.
The swami laughed in hearty appreciation, then continued the engrossing tale.
"Raja Begum was vanquished at last. His royal pride was further humbled: with my lacerated hands, I
audaciously forced open his jaws. For a dramatic moment, I held my head within the yawning deathtrap. I
looked around for a chain. Pulling one from a pile on the floor, I bound the tiger by his neck to the
cage bars. In triumph I moved toward the door.
"But that fiend incarnate, Raja Begum, had stamina worthy of his supposed demoniac origin. With an
incredible lunge, he snapped the chain and leaped on my back. My shoulder fast in his jaws, I fell
violently. But in a trice I had him pinned beneath me. Under merciless blows, the treacherous animal
sank into semiconsciousness. This time I secured him more carefully. Slowly I left the cage.
"I found myself in a new uproar, this time one of delight. The crowd's cheer broke as though from a
single gigantic throat. Disastrously mauled, I had yet fulfilled the three conditions of the
fightstunning the tiger, binding him with a chain, and leaving him without requiring assistance for
myself. In addition, I had so drastically injured and frightened the aggressive beast that he had been
content to overlook the opportune prize of my head in his mouth!
"After my wounds were treated, I was honoured and garlanded; hundreds of gold pieces showered at my
feet. The whole city entered a holiday period. Endless discussions were heard on all sides about my
victory over one of the largest and most savage tigers ever seen. Raja Begum was presented to me, as
promised, but I felt no elation. A spiritual change had entered my heart. It seemed that with my final
exit from the cage I had also closed the door on my worldly ambitions.
"A woeful period followed. For six months I lay near death from blood poisoning. As soon as I was well
enough to leave Cooch Behar, I returned to my native town.
"'I know now that my teacher is the holy man who gave the wise warning.' I humbly made this confession
to my father. 'Oh, if I could only find him!' My longing was sincere, for one day the saint arrived
"'Enough of tiger taming.' He spoke with calm assurance. 'Come with me; I will teach you to subdue the
beasts of ignorance roaming in jungles of the human mind. You are used to an audience: let it be a
galaxy of angels, entertained by your thrilling mastery of yoga!'
"I was initiated into the spiritual path by my saintly guru. He opened my soul-doors, rusty and
resistant with long disuse. Hand in hand, we soon set out for my training in the Himalayas."
Chandi and I bowed at the swami's feet, grateful for his vivid outline of a life truly cyclonic. I felt
amply repaid for the long probationary wait in the cold parlor!
Chapter1 - My Parents and Early Life
Chapter2 - My Mother's Death and the Mystic Amulet
Chapter3 - The Saint With Two Bodies
Chapter4 - My Interrupted Flight Toward the Himalayas
Chapter5 - A "Perfume Saint" Displays His Wonders
Chapter6 - The Tiger Swami
Chapter7 - The Levitating Saint
Chapter8 - India's Great Scientist, J.C. Bose
Chapter9 - The Blissful Devotee and His Cosmic Romance
Chapter10 - I Meet My Master, Sri Yukteswar
Chapter11 - Two Penniless Boys in Brindaban
Chapter12 - Years in My Master's Hermitage
Chapter13 - The Sleepless Saint
Chapter14 - An Experience in Cosmic Consciousness
Chapter15 - The Cauliflower Robbery
Chapter16 - Outwitting the Stars
Chapter17 - Sasi and the Three Sapphires
Chapter18 - A Mohammedan Wonder-Worker
Chapter19 - My Master, in Calcutta, Appears in Serampore
Chapter20 - We Do Not Visit Kashmir
Chapter21 - We Visit Kashmir
Chapter22 - The Heart of a Stone Image
Chapter23 - I Receive My University Degree
Chapter24 - I Become a Monk of the Swami Order
Chapter25 - Brother Ananta and Sister Nalini
Chapter26 - The Science of Kriya Yoga
Chapter27 - Founding a Yoga School in Ranchi
Chapter28 - Kashi, Reborn and Rediscovered
Chapter29 - Rabindranath Tagore and I Compare Schools
Chapter30 - The Law of Miracles
Chapter31 - An Interview with the Sacred Mother
Chapter32 - Rama is Raised From the Dead
Chapter33 - Babaji, the Yogi-Christ of Modern India
Chapter34 - Materializing a Palace in the Himalaya
Chapter35 - The Christlike Life of Lahiri Mahasaya
Chapter36 - Babaji's Interest in the West
Chapter37 - I Go to America
Chapter38 - Luther Burbank -- A Saint Amidst the Roses
Chapter39 - Therese Neumann, the Catholic Stigmatist
Chapter40 - I Return to India
Chapter41 - An Idyll in South India
Chapter42 - Last Days With My Guru
Chapter43 - The Resurrection of Sri Yukteswar
Chapter44 - With Mahatma Gandhi in Wardha
Chapter45 - The Bengali "Joy-Permeated" Mother
Chapter46 - The Woman Yogi Who Never Eats
Chapter47 - I Return to the West
Chapter48 - At Encinitas in California
Chapter49 - The Years - 1940 - 1951