I V Srikanth, Hyderabad
He was teaching the children how to be children.
In the late 1970’s, when I was twelve, my father IV Rao got transferred and our family moved to Mysore. We started liking the place and enjoying the new surroundings. A couple of months later my mother, I Vasanthamma, started to visit a small ashram out in the fields on Mysore – Ooty Road. The only commutation was either by foot or Tonga (horse carriage). It was believed that this ashram belonged to a benevolent Guru, Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji. My mother gave a mandate that everyone in the house should visit this Ashram every week. She would literally drag us, even if we wanted to go or not.
I slowly started enjoying visiting this place and Sundays became very special. On this day there would be so many activities, Homam, Puja, Bhajans and most interesting for me was lot of things to eat. Although the ashrama was small, compared to now, there would be many people gathering there on Sundays. There used to be a small hut, and an open shed where the devotees would assemble. I remember my mother with all other ladies used to be involved in different chores to decorate the Homam place that included cleaning and smearing the floor with cow dung mixture and putting Rangoli which gave the place a very Holy look.
In the mornings Sri Swamiji would perform Homam and puja, and then from 2.00 pm till 5.00 pm He will sing bhajans with the old and original instruments; veena, tablas, harmonium, etc. Being there was a complete heaven. After performing homam, my Guru took all personal interest in distributing fruits, sweets and eatables to the children and we used to jump in joy. He was so compassionate to all of us. Sometimes Sri Swamiji would become a child himself and play along with us; such were the days in the Mysore Ashrama. We didn’t understand then, but later it seemed that He was teaching the children how to be children.
During that time, there were few shacks in the compound, but lot of fruit trees. There were mangoes, tamarind, coconuts and other fruits. Those trees were so filled with fruits that the branches would touch the ground. We were about twenty-five children. Sri Swamiji would preach us that we should not pluck the fruits, because when they ripe, He would only save them for us, so we never interfered with them. He would give baskets to us to collect the fallen leaves and twigs, and place them in the trash heap. The ripened fruits that had fallen were put into another basket and placed near the puja room which was distributed to us again. As a reward of our efforts He used to show us a short movie like Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin through a projector that He bought for us in one of His foreign tours.
During His foreign tours, Sri Swamiji would bring chocolates and give them to us. I feel we all were so blessed then that even little things as chocolate was fed by Him to us (every kid). We also invited our friends to come and enjoy these good times. With them, their parents and grand-parents came and the ashrama grew.
Gradually we started pleasantly wondering as all kinds of people were coming and things were happening so quickly. Buildings were being built, temples, Anna Daana mandir, prayer halls were constructed, new lands were being acquired, and more devotees were coming. We were enjoying an extended family. Sri Swamiji was always there directing the whole show. He taught; the young boys to drive a car, others to answer a telephone or operate a camera, how to do proper gardening, proper hygiene to some, how to shoulder responsibilities, and all that was needed for our daily living. I deeply believe that this way He graduated us from collecting fruits and leaves to accepting responsibilities and learn and groom under His guidance.
This way ashrama became home to many and a stop to all those who came. We met people from different parts of the world; Europeans, Americans, West Indians, Malaysians, Australians, Africans, and many from all over Asia.
There were spiritual and non-spiritual people, professionals and non-professionals, atheists, scholars and people of different theologies. Every person who approached Him did receive something in return. Even those who came with hopelessness and criminal minds experienced changes. He never discriminated anyone.
I have seen women coming to Him and begging for children, although doctors had advised that they will not have any. Later these women came with babies in arms seeking His blessings for the newborns. I have seen parents bringing their mentally and physically challenged children, who were cured of their agony and lead good lives like any common man. I have also seen the blind, lame, deaf and dumb, some of whom were cured from their illnesses. Many persons, who renowned doctors had given up hope for a cure for them, became normal and are serving in the ashrama.
Of all the miracles and wonderful things I have seen at the ashrama, the one that will stay with me is about my sister, Nandini. She got married in 1998 with Mr.Jagan Bukkaraju and they were living in the US. In 2002 during her conception she started complaining from headaches. It was advised to get MRI scans and the scan results said she needed a surgery to correct a nerve in her head. However even after surgery the ordeal wasn’t finished for her as she yet again complained of some kind of uneasiness. Hence another surgery was performed. Couple of months later she delivered a baby girl, Yamini. Post delivery she immediately went into comatose state and was completely paralyzed.
She could not speak, respond, or move. She was completely bed-ridden and needed care round the clock. My parents went to Sri Swamiji and prayed to Him, sharing Nandini’s condition. Sri Swamiji, in His compassionate mode, assured then that everything will be alright and they should not worry. He also reassured that He will visit their house very soon. When He came to the house, He told my parents that Nandini must be brought back to India so she can have a chance of survival. Within three months my brother-in-law made all necessary arrangements and we brought her back to India.
Shortly after returning home, she became very ill and was again hospitalized. The doctors advised that a third surgery has to be performed. We relayed this to Sri Swamiji and He told us not to worry, let the surgery be over. Just have faith. She will be alright. He also advised that after the surgery we should bring her to the Hyderabad Ashrama. We followed His directions, and during the Ugadi celebrations, in her comatose state we took her there. We placed her in front of the Datta Temple and Sri Swamiji came down from His Guru Nilayam, went straight to her and whispered something into her ear.
When my parents saw this, they were so happy, because they knew that He was blessing her and she will be alright. From the very next day we saw improvements and after twenty days she came out of her comatose state and spoke her first words; Swamiji, Amma, Jaya Guru Datta. Then there were eye movements. When the doctor, who treated her in Apollo Hospital, came to check on her progress, he said it’s a miracle. After this and for the next six months, there were partial movements in her body. By the eighth month she was almost normal. Doctors said that her progress was not from anything they have done, but through the grace of God.
Back in Hyderabad, a new ashrama was started on the Dindugal Road. This place was in the rural area, in the agricultural fields. Sri Swamiji had gotten some land there and decided to construct an ashrama. This land was a little away from the main road, with a watchman’s shack as its nearest neighbor. Three temples, a little hall and some residences were the only structures constructed there. In one residence the priest and his family stayed, in another was the watchman, an old lady, Mami, stayed in another, and Swami Dattananda Datta Pada Renu stayed in another. It was a splendor to stay here in tranquility and calmness.
Swami Datta Pada Renu was visiting and assisting in temple welfare and construction works. I was one of the volunteers for the project. I enjoyed being at the ashrama so I spent many nights on the compound. The ashrama compound was my sanctuary. I used to spend a lot of time with Swami Renu learning from his wisdom.
One evening, after all the doors and gates were secured and everyone had retired to bed, I stayed in the prayer hall, where I normally sleep with a truncheon and torchlight. About two o’clock in the morning I was woken up by movements outside, but I did not take much notice of it. I know that, the local police make periodic patrols in the ashrama fields. The movements and banging on the doors persisted for a while. I walked towards the big shutter door and asked who was there, but there was no response. However in few seconds doors were broken open and a person was marching towards me with a grinding stoner in his hand. A second person emerged with a huge stick and the third had an iron rod.
All were dressed in arm and leg guard, with hoods over their heads. I was scared and tried to escape, but the doors were locked. They attacked me and beat me head to toe with iron rods, and when I fell I saw the first person standing over me with the grinding stone. I started to call on my Guru, Swamiji, Swamiji, Swamiji. Then, as if by magic, that person fell sideways and the stone went flying from his hands. The thugs ran away outside and I was so surprised, but because of the wounds on my legs, neck and bleeding I could not move.
I saw the robbers thrashing the temple doors and breaking the donation box. They were loud and they were demanding money and other valuables. I heard Swami Renu pleading with them to take whatever they wanted, but leave the children alone. I struggled and went to the quarters only to find that their doors were locked from the outside. I opened the doors and we ran to the watchman’s shack for help. The watchman, who was there, rushed to us only to discover that those thugs escaped. We reported it to the police and cleaned up the place.
Later that morning, my mother was told about the incident, she was in a state of shock, however, happy that I was safe by Sri Swamiji’s grace. Swami Renu was puzzled and questioned her about her countenance, to which she replied, “Sri Swamiji has blessed my son, now he will live a full life, and He said He will take care of him”. She went on to tell him that “Sri Swamiji had told her previously that Srikanth will have a short life, but that He will take care of him. Now I know that He has taken care of him and he will have a long life”. Then Swami Renu said that astrologers also had predicted some bad times when he turned fifty-four. Swami was fifty-four years old then. I was showing the others where I fell and to our surprise it was the area where the homa was conducted earlier. I realize that with Sri Swamiji, you don’t have to ask for anything. Once you are with Him, He takes care of you in everyway. That is the greatest eminence of my Swamiji. He gives you chances to serve Him; service to man is service to God. He takes care of your karmas as you perform service. When He gives you a task to do and you complete it successfully, He bestows His blessings on you. This is my full realization.
It is only when you visit our ashrama, see the activities, get involved, and do the seva, only then you can feel the bliss. In the ashrama of Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji, my Sadgurudeva, although it is filled with people, there is monumental joy, happiness and peace. Once you get connected to the activities, atmosphere, and teachings of the ashrama, you will be forever indebted to yourself. You will go and come back bringing others and you will continue experiencing the wisdom of love. Your faith in Him increases and your life becomes His and He takes care of the rest. Jaya Guru Datta