Harry Roodal, Trinidad
Before this, I used to think that I was a strong, hard person, but in His presence I became a humble, soft, meek and gentle being. In the matter of a few moments my whole psyche was changed.
I was first introduced to His Holiness, Sri Sri Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji, in 1988. My family own and operate a hardware business in Freeport, a village not far from the present day ashrama in Carapichima. Sometime before this, Three persons, two of whom I remember; Randolph Chandrakate and Ramkisson ‘Boloji’ Ramnarine, introduced me to ‘what Sri Swamiji was all about’ according to their knowledge of Him.
However, during that time I still was not sure what Sri Swamiji was about. Maybe I did not want to understand, as I pride myself as being a rough-edged street person. I was an egomaniac who questioned everyone except myself. Therefore, trying to understand His awareness was not one of my thoughts. These gentlemen tried to explain what a great soul He was and about how it felt to be in His presence. But try as I may I could not understand. At that time too, I was not at all interested in religion, I stayed away from all religious activities and persons; this was me, this was my way of life. So the introduction was startling, revealing and intriguing, in the sense that I wanted to know, but skepticism was standing in my way.
I was told that the organization had gotten a parcel of land on the Orange Field Road, Carapichima, and they wanted to construct a small temple to Lord Dattatreya, a prayer hall and a house for Sri Swamiji. I was asked to supply the materials needed for the construction, on an account, which I did. Intuitively I was doing His work without realizing the impact.
During the introduction period of 1988-90, with the help of Pundit Boloji and others we organized a Ramayana Yagna at my residence. The influence of Sri Swamiji was being nurtured and the seed was sown. At the conclusion of the program, all donations collected were transferred to the Datta Yoga Center and the Divine Life Society. However, my relationship and association with the Datta Yoga Center, was growing at a tremendous pace. I would visit the compound frequently and make contributions as needed. Also trustee members would come to my home and discuss Sri Swamiji’s purpose and incarnation with the family and my interaction got deeper.
In 1990 when His Holiness came to Trinidad I was invited to meet with Him by the trustees. Because of my stubbornness I refused to adhere to the solicitations of these persons. Finally, upon their insistence, I decided to meet with His Holiness with conditions; that I will do it my way and not to His dictate. I also informed them that I will not prostrate to Him, although they were asking me to do so. Upon these conditions arrangements were made for me to visit with Him.
I arrived at the time that I was told and prepared to meet with Him. I was told that I must remove my shoes to enter into His interview room, and I flatly refused. I wanted to do this interview my way or not at all. A ‘better judgment’ prevailed and I remove my shoes and entered the second floor of His residence. My first meeting with Him was mind altering. When I entered the room Sri Swamiji was sitting in padmasana in a well-made stately chair with only His face exposed. His presence was that of distinct royalty, something that was taught to us from childhood.
As I stared into His eyes, I could feel resplendent warmth and comfort. His Lips were like that of a luscious ripened fruit and His Face showed compassion and tranquility. A charm was emanating from His being; a charm that was comforting even to me. In my satiable confusion He beckoned me to come and involuntarily I prostrated before Him, although I had previously indicated that I wouldn’t. On my bended knees I raised my body and with tears in my eyes I was sleeplessly looking at Him.
Before this, I used to think that I was a strong, hard person, but in His presence I became a humble, soft, meek and gentle being. In the matter of a few moments my whole psyche was changed. We spoke very few words, more like a question-answer session, but they were assuring and with a very civilized tone. He thoughtfully presented Himself with regality. He was the most civil and humane being I had ever met.
After the meeting I left for my home where I indicated to my wife what had happened, and to my utter amazement she was very comfortable with it. A little while later we put a request for a house visit from His Holiness, to which He obliged. The visit was scheduled late one evening and Sri Swamiji arrived in His royal splendor. About one hundred and fifty persons including family members invited and uninvited came for the program, most of whom were seeing Him for the first time.
Not understanding or knowing that Sri Swamiji meals were pre-prepared by others, as was the custom, sumptuous meals were prepared for the occasion. Meals were prepared for Sri Swamiji, His entourage, and invited guess. At that time it never occurred to us that there were so many others and that we must also serve them.
On His Holiness arrival, He was taken to a private room where for the first time my family will perform Pada Puja, a ritual we had never known previously. When the Pada Puja was completed, some of my immediate and extended family members, some of whom had some kind of afflictions, were given permission to speak with Sri Swamiji. He spoke with them, blessed them and in His Grace relived them of their problems. Even my wife, Ms Roodal, was assured by Him that “He will take care of us, and that He will look after us”. Since then, that simple phrase have kept, my wife, two children and myself bonded to Him.
Then as if He was taking a break from tradition, Sri Swamiji informed us that He will have Bhiksha and asked that we all leave the room. After Bhiksha Sri Swamiji left and returned to the Ashrama. Now reality started to hit home as we now had a large crowd to serve. We were astonished to see that the prepared food was enough to feed all the people who were there. More amazing was; Sri Swamiji had drunk some juice that was filled in a small vessel and without refilling, the remainder was used to fill the cups of all attendees.
This incident confirmed to us as to who Sri Swamiji was, and the power that He possesses. Moreover, for about three months after this incident, the aromatic smell of vibhuti was lingering throughout the compound. Sri Swamiji presence was felt by many persons, and all our affairs, physical and otherwise had taken a positive turn. This was so profound.
My experience with Sri Swamiji is a personal and unique one; not one of spirituality and religiousness, just person to person. It has been a personal interaction between Him and I. Mainly; it has been with things that concern matters of the ashrama and its physical representation. Others are what His beliefs and concepts are. All in all it is only about His mission. My family and I are only concern with what He wants and how to get it done.
To this end, there is a group of senior devotees who consults with each other as to what His Holiness will want to enhance the physical appearance of the Carapichima Ashrama. We will not wait for His dictates, but will ask in a modest way and perform the designated task. Some others will get confused by our doings and try to hamper the projects. But when this group comes to know of Sri Swamiji’s thoughts for a project; it remains fixed within those thoughts and accomplishes that thought without the distinction of a reward.
We believe that His expectations are; that true devotees will rise to the challenge of performing the task of fulfilling His thoughts and needs. This group has worked assiduously, and in a timely manner to produce what is known today as the Dattatreya Yoga Center, Trinidad so that the membership of the Ashrama can worship comfortable without cause of concern.
Working with His Holiness projects, I have learnt that I had to change the way I conducted myself. I realized that my personal behavior that I possess before meeting Him; that of being brutish, callous, egocentric, and otherwise had to be modified. I also realize that my likeness for alcohol and meat had to end. To emulate Him was the process needed to be with Him. To change is the challenge at hand. So to represent Him, first you must look within and without.
The results of my experiences with His Holiness throughout these years have been in the simple indications of His being. Once He indicated that He has the power to change people’s lives for the betterment of their good. However, this can only come about if the recipient is ready for that change. They must indicate their readiness and acceptance.
Finally, taking a pattern from my life, what I can say is that; for those who follow Him or would want to follow Him genuinely, you must follow His teachings and His sayings, no matter what. You must create that link and connection, and Sri Swamiji will ensure that He will protect you. In my discussion with Him in March, 2010, Sri Sri Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji, my Sadgurudeva, assured me that wherever I go He will always come and be with me. He will always take care of me and He will always be with me. Jaya Guru Datta.
Sri Swamiji Says:
Perform actions, speak and move about in the world in an appropriate manner. But never get attached to any thing. A spy who lives in the place of an enemy king pretends as though he belongs to the place but desists from developing mental attachment with any of its inmates. From time to time, he finds out the secrets of the enemy emperor. You should follow this example and find out the secret of this world.
We have to develop liberal attitude. When we say “universal brotherhood”, it should not stop in the speech and should be translated to real life. I am sure every one of you in this mammoth crowd can help one other person in their lives.