Kalyani Nancy Murray, Pittsburgh, USA
He said, ‘that one of the purposes for which the center was established was to prevent an earthquake that would have occurred in Western Pennsylvania that would have claimed over three million lives.’
Often people will develop a relationship with Him before they physically meet Him. This is the story of my experience with my Sadgurudeva, Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji. I met Him in 1984, for the first time, but I had seen Him in my dreams between 1982 and 1983. In those early years, one of His devotees, Padma Phyllis Turk, the manager at the Datta Retreat Center, was a participant in a program where I was working to get women into non-traditional jobs. She took the training so she could get a job to get money to travel to India to spend time with her Guru. She had previously gone there and enjoyed it immensely.
When Padma joined the program, she spoke about her Guru and His meditation practices, and a group of us started meditating together. She used Sri Swamiji’s music and His breathing, techniques called pranayamas, for the sessions. After these sessions I started having dreams, and all types of internal things began happening. It was also a time in my life when I was looking for a teacher – someone who could teach me about healing and spiritual growth. I remember very vividly making that request from the Universe; especially one night when I was really depressed. In less than six months after that request I began meditating with Padma and within a year Sri Swamiji visited Pittsburgh and I had the great fortune to meet Him.
Around 1984-1985, we were invited to Padma’s house for a devotional evening with Sri Swamiji. She introduced me to Him and I thought, ‘oh this is nice!’ not knowing what to expect, or what the protocol was. I had no idea, as a Westerner, that when you’re meeting someone of His elevated status, there were certain things you do, out of respect for their culture. I sauntered over to Him and extended my hand and without realizing it, the next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor in front of Him crying my eyes out.
Later I remember asking myself,’ what’s going on here? What has happened? ‘ I didn’t remember very much beyond that, other than I think He reached out and tapped me. I certainly had a sense that something had happened, but it wasn’t until much later that I really got flushed and a very physical sensation of warmth flowed throughout my body. I was awed being in His presence, being blessed with His momentary attention and intention. As time went by He becomes more and more present in my life.
In 1985 He did a seven-day residential retreat, in Kriya Yoga, at a monastery on the shores of Lake Eire, and I had to opportunity to spend that time with Him. Basically, Kriya Yoga is a yogic pathway to enhance your spiritual development and connect with your divinity. And that was an amazing transformative experience. We spent about six hours a day meditating under His direction and guidance; doing all of the exercises in silence. You could almost feel the energy building throughout that week.
There are different ways that He reaches out to an individual. As for the Kriya Yoga program, I had no intention of attending; however a person who was registered couldn’t make it there because she didn’t have a ride. There was one spot left and I thought that I could fill this spot. I had a car so I volunteered to take her. I wasn’t invested in going so much to learn this yoga practice, as to help out this friend that needed a ride. I thought – “Oh, I have a week off, and a good friend has given me money for my birthday…” Without even trying, I was part of this project.
During this period some amazing things were happening that were certainly outside my range of reality. A young woman who was there had just been diagnosed with cancer. He asked His assistants to pull some leaves off of a nearby tree and He placed them, for a few moments, over the area where she had the cancer. He then removed the leaves and had His assistants bury them. Later we found out that she was cancer free.
Often times, at the end of each day of the seven day retreat, He would sit and allow us to talk and do presentations. We would normally do a performance which includes a skit, and He would enjoy it very much. Mostly we did comedies, and He would laugh and really get a kick out of it. We did these funny little things and He was so happy. Once, someone presented a rose garland to Him. He took the roses and started rubbing the petals in His hand, and ash came pouring out. Before long, there was a thin smoky cloud around Him and He started blowing it out over the people and this wonderful scent of roses and jasmine filled the air. Everybody got some of the ash, and some were talking about a kind of universal high. The joy that was felt was pretty amazing.
A lot of folks have reported seeing Him before they met Him. He said we meet Him in a different realm, and that He’d often talk to us – the small group who was here, back in the 1980’s, when the center was started. Once someone asked Him, why would you come to Western Pennsylvania? He said that He was looking for a few good souls. He needed help and there were people here that He knew from previous births. That’s the sense I have, certainly of those Westerners who have been around Him for more than twenty years. All that we’ve done in our lives has prepared us for what we are doing here at the DRC.
I look at Him in a lot of ways – as a very dear friend, as a tremendous teacher, and as my spiritual guide. At different times He fulfills different roles. It’s my perception that for many Indians who are connected with the DRC, He’s been the spiritual guide for their families, maybe for multiple generations. He comes through so many venues; His music, His healing, and His support of social and medical programs. He’s like a massive social welfare agency.
Everything in my life has been transformed, and my thinking has become much more guided. Serendipitous events have occurred; things outside my range of reality. I’ve been around Him so many different times when He actually manifests things out of the air. Some people speak about being in India during the Shivaratri festivals, when He would jump into the fire pit with flames going over His head and miraculously He’s not touched by it.
I know that my connection to Him, and that of a lot of folks, is a heart to heart sense of connection. I’m not thinking. It’s nothing rational. It’s really totally emotional – like someone just reached into me and took a hold of and caressed my heart. In those moments I’m overwhelmed by an immensity of feeling. There aren’t any words to explain it.
There are times, while sitting in prayer, or listening to His music, I’ll get these feelings… that of being with Him, feeling cared for and protected. There is a sense that somewhere out there, there is someone who knows, and who has information way beyond our range of reality, and He is keeping an eye on things for us. I guess that there is divine underlying wisdom to what’s going on….that we’re being cared for and guided to our place in the Universe.
By the 1990s, the Datta Yoga Center had become a part of my life. A core group of devotees, from as far away as Washington State to the New England States, had devoted themselves to the construction and preservation of His project. In 1993, to our amazement, He told us that He was going to close down the center. He said to someone that the purpose of the center had been achieved. Then someone asked him, ‘what do you mean by that? We did what we were asked to do here, in building it.’
He said, ‘that one of the purposes for which the center was established was to prevent an earthquake that would have occurred in Western Pennsylvania that would have claimed over three million lives.’ Then He said that He was moving the center closer to the Mississippi Delta area for prevention of future catastrophic events. That was our understanding. That was certainly before Katrina and right before the Mississippi flooding that produced floods all the way up through St. Louis.
During Sri Swamiji’s early visits He conveyed to us that this place should be open to everyone, of every creed, color, denomination, and religious persuasion. People should be able to come here and find solutions for their own spiritual development and personal healing. Indicative of that, when the mediation building was built, He asked that icons – representations of the world’s major religions – be placed there. There are statues of Jesus and Mary and some iconography of the Judeo-Christian religions. There are also representations from Buddhism and Hinduism.
People from the area, consisting basically of a Judeo-Christian culture, couldn’t connect with the name Datta. Jesus is an important spiritual presence here; Swamiji recognized that. So Jesus’ image became present in iconography on the property, in various statues and things, and in the mediation hall. However, local people, when they first came here thought it was some kind of weird place to be, or that the people coming here were a cult of some kind.
We had a small problem with vandalism, not of structures, but our signs were removed, and people coming here couldn’t find us. We placed this problem at His Feet a couple years ago and Sri Swamiji said, ‘Well, just change the signage, put Jesus DRC on it.’ We did and since then we’ve not had any trouble.
When He speaks, He speaks on multiple levels, from practicality to a universal concept of divinity—whether you call your divinity; Jesus, Allah, Buddha or Krishna, it really is not that significant. It’s the connection with the heart that matters.
One of the more unusual things, that was really a more personal story for me was, when the center got started and we cleared the land, Sri Swamiji came back to be with us for a short time. We rented a couple of RV’s and He stayed on the property, and people traveling would stay in the other trailer and we’d stay and camp. In the mornings He will do poojas at the Shiva stone and then we would clear some more forest undergrowth. Each morning we’d clear a little bit more space and do a little bit more talking about what was going to happen. During this time I was camping there. Then I started having all these dreams, vivid dreams.
Part of my background is in construction, so I did some drawing of things that I would see, mostly buildings, and take them to Him. If He did not approve He would tell me, “Keep on dreaming” One morning, Josh Capy and I were with Him when He started walking around the Shiva stone at a certain distance. We asked Him what it was that He was doing.’ He calmly said, “This is the size that the building will be. This is basically the circumference I want the building to be.” The next morning I gave him some drawings and He said, ‘Well that’s close enough, you’ll get more.’ I figured that He was saying that, ‘you’ll get some more information, but you’ve gotten enough now, and you can take it to an architect or someone who can draw the construction drawings.’
We found an architect, a young guy, who had always wanted to design a church. He had actually studied to be a priest. He did the job of finalizing the design and drawings of the Universal Temple for us at a very reasonable rate. Unfortunately he died before the building was completed, but Swamiji had given him the opportunity to fulfill his desire. His partners came for the consecration of the building when it was finished. That, to me, was a really unusual progression; ‘When you need the information, you’ll get it.’ I think when you find the pathway, which is your roadway to what you’re seeking, it’s like one of those things; following what we feel is our internal truth.
The greatest advancement for me has been through the ability to work with people; people whom I never knew, or would not have known. He brought us all together for a common purpose and bond. He came here to be with us to show us how we can all live together. This was a” Karma Farm.” It was amazing how He was able to foster a relationship with so many souls. He ardently and meticulously took a project and nurtured it to a point of easy management. I have seen where He takes care of the most downtrodden beings and lifts them to divinity. What more can I say. I am in His Datta family and I am happy. I have ‘peace of mind.’ Jaya Guru Datta