M S and Lalitha Rajagopal, Chennai
“Swamiji, I have now seen you, what else is there for me. Please permit me to go on pilgrimage to holy places.” Thereafter he lived for five more years visiting many pilgrimage centers.
Sometime in 1970 I had the first darshan of the Divinity that represents Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji. I owe it to my late cousin, Sri Sivan, of Vijayawada. He was older than me by many years and had a paternal affection for me, so we always felt close to each other. Due to professional compulsion, he developed club habits and in due course became an incurable alcoholic. It was a great miracle that he had a chance meeting of Sri Swamiji in Vijayawada and was saved from the very brink, by a mere touch and blessings of Sri Swamiji. I was very happy to receive this report, but when he suggested that I accompany him to Mysore I did not immediately respond. A few months later he came to me again and asked me to come along with him to Kutchery Road, Mylapore, where Sri Swamiji was visiting. I was delighted and readily took the chance of meeting Sri Swamiji at the house of Sri Venkatachallam of Kutchery Road.
The program was in an open terrace under a make-shift tent. Listening to the bhajans sung by Sri Swamiji was very enchanting. Later, we were permitted to go Sri Swamiji individually. As I went near to Him, I felt drawn light a magnet and a strange energy was forcing itself through me. Sri Swamiji merely said, “Have faith in Sri Swamiji;” that been the beginning. Since then I felt a strong urge to go to Mysore to have His darshan. A few months later, my cousin came and took me to Mysore.
My first visit was for the Shivaratri celebrations in 1971 and since then I had not missed a single function, all due to the blessings of Sri Swamiji. When we got there, the Ashram had a charming and sublime atmosphere. The prayer hall and even Sri Swamiji’s room had thatched roof. The prayer hall had only bamboo matting for wall. There were two good rooms, by the side, where I was invited to stay by three elderly people; Mr. Chandra Rao of Chennai, Dr. Krishnamurthy of Vijayawada and Sri Raja Rao of Machilipatnam. Since then I have made regular visits to attend every function.
However, I would always wait and take interviews with Sri Swamiji, but I would mostly be silent as I had no specific problems. Then, as the years went by my problems began. First, it was my wife’s health. She was diagnosed with chronic ulcer and was advised to go for immediate surgery. I went and met with Sri Swamiji at Mr. Chandra Rao house and He advised me to see Him after three days. I was wondering how I could get another chance to meet Him. Exactly three days later, Sri Swamijis was coming to the Kutchery Road Ashram. At that time, I happen to be there waiting outside for the program. Even before He went inside He called me and asked me to go ahead with the surgery saying, “I am with you.”
A few years later, she was found to have a full grown fibroid in the uterus, which was to be removed urgently by surgery. The surgeon asked me to choose four dates for the surgery. My wife and I rushed to Vijayawada where Sri Swamiji was camping. On May 3rd, as we reached the gate of the Ashram, we saw Sri Swamiji heading to the hall from the Guru Nilayam. Surprisingly He turned towards us and gestured for me to come. I related the problem and He told me that she should have the surgery on May 8th.
The next day, I came back to Madras and met with the doctor on May 5th. Since I could not dictate to the doctor about the date of the surgery, I simply presented a slip with four random dates, including May 8th. To my surprise the doctor opened the diary and said that he has fixed May 8th, the date mentioned by Sri Swamiji. A greater surprise was awaiting me at the hospital as authorities there told me that the entry has already been made for that date. A very complicated surgery involving three organs was operated on without major complications.
On the third occasion, my wife had a serious problem with her gums. Her checks were swollen like a ball. At that time, I was in Bangalore on office work and had to rush back for the surgery. It began around 8.00 p.m. and lasted for exactly one hour. The local anesthesia has little effect and she had to bear the pain, all the time thinking of Sri Swamiji, while shedding tears. After the surgery, I had to go back to Bangalore to resume my work, but in the meantime Sri Swamiji was visiting a devotee’s house in Chennai so she and our daughter went to have His darshan there. When the prasadam was offered, she could not take it and this was noticed by Mrs. Ramanjaneyulu, the wife of PRO of the Ashram.
When she asked her what the problem was, my daughter told her everything. She wanted to know all the details, even the date and time the surgery happened. My daughter thought, why she wants all these details? However, she told her the date and time. Then the lady said that that was the exact time that Sri Swamiji came into the hall in Vijayawada for the evening Bhajan session. After the usual invocation of Sri Ganeshaya Namaha….., He announced that He could not sing as He felt chocked because of the distress of some devotee. He asked the devotees to sing for one hour during which He sat silently. During that period, that lady thought, who could that devotee be?
During those days, Delhi devotees’ enroute to Mysore used to break their journey at Chennai and come to my house. On one occasion, Mr. Panth, the then President of the Delhi Sabha came to me on his way back from Mysore. He was in a hurry to leave for Delhi the next day. When I asked him if he could postpone his leave by another day, he told me he had to go back to look after the arrangements for Sri Swamiji’s visit to Badrinath and Kedarnath. I told him that I had no information on the program as it was news to me, so I asked him if there was a chance for me to join the party. He said that it was a small party fixed by Sri Swamiji, but I could request permission from Krishan Kumar who was making all the arrangement.
My request to Krishan Kumar had immediate effect. Within a few of days I got a letter from him saying he would be happy to accommodate my wife and me. He asked me send the remittance about five thousand rupees immediately. The next day I got the money and I sent it. Soon afterwards, Sri Swamiji’s Birthday was being celebrated, but I could not attend. Thereafter, we had to leave for Delhi to join the group of pilgrims. I simply assumed that Sri Swamiji’s permission was given. The next day, Sri Swamiji came to Delhi and was given reception at the Delhi University Hall and we were permitted to go to Him in a queue. When I prostrated and lifted my head Sri Swamiji said “You did not come for the Birthday functions, but you are meeting me here”. I was dump-founded and could not say anything. Sri Swamiji gave me a big smile and said everything was arranged for me mentally and we had His permission, although it was only a few months after my wife’s last surgery.
Later, our party set out for Himalayas in a bus with Sri Swamiji leading in a car. After crossing many Prayags we reached Gourikund. From there the climb for Kedarnath began for a distance of about eighteen kilometers. Sri Swamiji permitted people to go in group by riding on a pony or on dandy (a chair carried four Sherpa). My wife took a dandy and Sri Swamiji asked me to follow her closely. I was a trekker and kept pace with the Sherpa. As I was reaching higher altitude it was getting colder and colder and the region was snow bound. At that point Mr. Dwarka, Sri Swamiji’s boyhood friend, asked me casually to give him my shawl. After some more distance I realized that it was becoming colder. I turned around to look for Mr. Dwarka, but found Sri Swamiji coming on horseback. He was sitting on the shawl wrapped on the back of the horse and He gave me a big smile. From then, I did not feel the chilliness anymore and proceeded comfortably to Kedarnath. The next morning Sri Swamiji asked everybody if they were ready to go to temple.
At the temple, Sri Swamiji sat at the one side of Lingam at the garbagrah to perform pooja and performed the pooja as directed by the Panda. We were all standing on the other side, and then suddenly He asked me to come and stand by His side. While coming out of the garbagrah, He put His arm around my shoulder and after going out sat outside in a chair He called my wife and me to sit at His feet to have a photo taken. In Rudraprayag, Sri Swamiji was dangling His Feet while sitting on a rock in the river; there He permitted us to touch His feet. We were thrilled the experience and the effects of the touch of His Feet in the holy river cannot be described in words.
On the way to Badrinath, we stayed for the night at the last point, Joshi Math. There my wife monthly period started. We were devastated and did not know what to do. I decided to go to Sri Swamiji and I virtually crashed into His room. When I told Him what has happened He calmly said, “Never mind about it, she can come anywhere, just don’t tell a soul. However, you can go to Sri Shankarcharya Mutt, but do not take Amma.” After I had left the Shankara Mutt, she came down to look around. Suddenly, she found some dry fruits dropping on her head. When she looked up she found Sri Swamiji standing on the balcony; it was He who dropped the fruits on her head and told her that she had done a pradakshina. What a Blessing?
In Badrinath Sri Swamiji announced that arrangements have been made for people to do Shraadha at Brahmakabalam saying that this place is bigger than Gaya and then He went back into His room. I again rushed to His room and said, “Swamiji, it is just six months since my father passed away and although I am not the eldest son, please tell me what I should do?” He said, “Go and do this Shraadha, it is best opportunity for you”. I went to the temple where there are three hot springs and took bath in preparation for the Shraadha.
During those early years, Sri Swamiji was having ‘Lord Shiva Hamsa’ and He was not easily approachable. We would be nervous when meeting with Him, but then He would give a big smile and with that all our problems will vanished.
Navaratri is an ethereal experience; we just cannot describe it. During one Navaratri we were in the Rama-Shankara-Kutira and we were asked to assemble in the Prayer Hall around 11.00 p.m. There was a very special pooja with strange rangoli designs on the floor and big baskets filled with coconuts. During the pooja Sri Swamiji took the coconuts, one by one, and broke every single one from waist height, as though He is bouncing a ball. He said that it was Gandharva Lokha Pooja and those who saw it were very blessed, as this pooja is not known to anybody on earth.
On another occasion, He called us to see the constructions which were taking place in the new Prayer Hall. We were excited and thrilled. Sri Swamiji took us inside and climbs the staircase. When we reached the top landing He took off His Padukas and gave them to me. He took us to every corner of the building and also explained what each room was intended for. Then He asked me if I had seen His old abode on the ground floor. When I said no, He called the engineer and asked him to open the ground floor door. He let us to the ground floor and again showed the place, explaining everything in detail.
He said “See this place” He was pointing a square opening in the floor which only had a wooden frame as its cover. He said that that was the underground cellar, which is now the abode of Arka Ganapathy. Earlier, this was Sri Swamiji’s Dhyana Room where He used to frequently go into Samadhi. He said that there is only a wooden stair case leading to the room and that the room has no ventilation; even insects would die there.
However, during Navaratri, Mother Ganga would come every day and would disappear on Dasami day, leaving no trace of dampness anywhere. One day, jokingly He asked the engineer to pump out the water, but even after twenty-four hours, the water level remained the same. During the next Navaratri I had the blessing of receiving this teertham from Sri Swamiji.
There was another room where the door way was only five feet in height. Sri Swamiji said, “This door frame was donated by a very good devotee who was born blind”. This blind man believed that he would get vision if Sri Swamiji accepted and installed that door frame. After the installation of the frame the man got his vision. Sri Swamiji asked him what he wanted, but he said “Swamiji, I have now seen you, what else is there for me. Please permit me to go on pilgrimage to holy places.” Thereafter he lived for five more years visiting many pilgrimage centers.
Sri Swamiji then took us to the Ram-Shankara-Kutira which hosts the Kriya Yoga hall. There were stacks of rare offerings and collectables made to Sri Swamiji by devotees; some of which are in present museum. Sri Swamiji said, “Swamiji does not need them, but all these items were offered by devotees for fulfillment of their wishes and one day these will be exhibited in a museum in the Ashram”.
When I took my children for the first time to the Ashram, I had plans to stay there for few days. However, the next day Sri Swamiji asked me to leave the Ashram. I was very surprised and asked Him why should I have to go back home? With a divine smile, He said, “Take the children and stay comfortably in a lodge; do some sightseeing with them and come back to the Ashram before we leave.
We used assume that Sri Swamiji was Lord Shiva, Goddess Devi or both. Then, just one year before He planned to build a Datta temple He mentioned about Dattatreya. He undertook certain strange observances before the construction was started. He observed Mauna Vratam for some months and had a hut built for Him next to the Ram-Shankara-Kutira, on the way to bathrooms. Overlooking the hut was huge Avadumbara tree. One day, we saw marks like foot prints, here and there, on the trunk of the tree rising upwards. We recognized then as Sri Swamiji’s footprints. Later He explained to some devotees that one night He thought of going up the tree and so those footprints were the result of that.
Once, for a Purnima day, our family and the family of Mr. Krishna Pillai were camping in Mekedatu for one week. Sri Ram Babu, the priest there, was our host and looked after us very well. I asked Ram Babu how the purnami pooja was being performed at the temple. He said they collected funds from nearby villages and manage somehow. We asked whether we could bear the cost this time and he agreed. The next day Mr. Pillai and I proceeded to Kanakapur to buy the pooja items and provisions. Around mid-day we were returning, to the ashrama, by car with Mr. Pillai driving. As we slowed down I saw Sri Swamiji coming across the field with some foreigners. As He neared the car He peered through the window and gave me a big smile.
Then I saw Him taking a bath in the Sangama. Next, I observed Him coming from inside the garbagrah of the Datta temple with wet cloths. He held out His Lotus Feet saying, “Take it quickly.” At that point, I was sobbing loudly. Krishna Pillai shook me; I opened my eyes and told him what I had gone through. Later, I related this incident to Sri Ram Babu. He said that it was no dream; to him I have had the darshan of Sri Swamiji. He said that things like this happen in Mekedatu and only last week a stranger who had taken a bath at the Sangama came here out of curiosity, along the river path. When he saw Sri Swamiji’s photo, he said this was the person whom he saw bathing in the Sangama while he was there.
During one of my visits to Mekedatu I saw a Shiva Lingam which was about eight inches tall protruding out from the ground. Earlier there was a signboard nearby from the Karnataka State Government declaring their intention to develop the site as a picnic resort. This area happened to be holy spot where Sri Swamiji had intended to put up the Datta temple. It seems that protests from the Ashram were taken lightly and dismissed. However, when the work started the Lingam appeared at that spot and they gave up the work. I visited Mekedatu again after sometime with Sri Swamiji and I found that Lingam has grown to more than two feet tall. Even while in the ground, Sri Swamiji performed Pooja to the Lingam. When the Datta Pratishta took place, Sri Swamiji had the Lingam taken out and installed before Datta. He also declared, from the Gopura Vimanam, that the Lingam had the power to rid people of the sins of non-observance of samaras if they took a bath in Sangama and perform abhishekam to the Lingam. This is being observed to date by all.
For Kumbha Abhishekam, I went there and as I got down from the bus somebody told me that Sri Swamiji was on the other bank of the river. Without a thought I waded through the water and reached the other side. I saw Sri Swamiji standing with a group of people, radiant like a sun. I realized that I had not taken a bath and stood a little aloof. I was carrying a rose garland, but the petals dropped off inside the cover. Sri Swamiji gestured to me to come to Him. I rushed over and poured the rose petals on His Feet. After coming back, I realized that I dropped the flowers on the rough ground and did not know what to do. Even as the thought crossed my mind, Sri Swamiji asked the people to scoop the earth with the petals and place them in the water.
In my house I have a rare photo of Sri Swamiji standing with a staff in His hand on a hilly and forested area, looking like Lord Shiva. From His outstretched hand, rays of light like a car beam could be seen. The light is so powerful and the beams are very clear in the photo, even in broad daylight. This incident happened one day when He was coming down from the Chamundi Hills along the rugged path. Some devotees where with Him and they were very thirsty, but there was no water around. Sri Swamiji held out His right hand and the beam of light; more powerful than sunlight appeared and struck a rock. The rock split and water gushed out; the devotees thirst was quenched and such a wonder they were able to see.
One person in the party clicked his camera and the camera instantly became ashes. Then they fell at Sri Swamiji’s feet and begged for permission to take the picture of such a miracle. Sri Swamiji permitted them and told them to take not more than one or two copies. One copy is with me. The story of this incident was revealed to us by Sri Swamiji Himself when He visited our house for Pada Pooja and Bhiksha. Among the people who attended was a lady from Vijayawada called Ms. Pani. She took liberty and asked Sri Swamiji to direct me to make a copy of the photo for her. Sri Swamiji gave a enigmatic smile and did not say anything.
Months passed and I did not oblige since I would not let anybody touch the photo. Thereafter, one day, Mr. Nageswara Rao, an auditor and a close devotee from Vijayawada came to my house on his way back from Mysore after auditing the Mysore Ashram. When he saw the photo he asked me if he could take a copy as he had a camera with him. I let him do it by putting the photo on TV stand and then he left. Sometime afterwards he met me at the Mysore Ashrama and looked nervous and agitated.
He asked me whether I had received a letter from him. I said no! He also said that he tried to get to me by phone, but he could not do so. I asked him what the matter was. Then he said, “I was about to develop the film and when I opened the camera I found to my consternation that the entire role was missing. I panicked and telephoned Mysore, but even before I could explain I got the reply that I should not have tried to take a copy of the photo, however, since I was a close devotee, my camera was spared.
In 1991, my daughter’s marriage took place in Mysore Ashram. It was arranged by a new devotee who professed to know the party well. The bridegroom turned out to be an incurable alcoholic. After a trying period, I took my daughter back home and refused to send her back to her in-laws. With Sri Swamiji’s infinite grace, He visited us one day and told me that He supported us and asked us to file for a divorce. Years went by and just before the Mekedatu Kumbha Abhishekam; I got a call from the Ashram to come for the Datta Jayanti celebrations, well in advance. With Sri Swamiji’s blessings my daughter was married to an Indo-American, Sri Shekar from New Jersey. The marriage was unique as Sri Swamiji Himself instantly presented the Mangala Sutra to perform the marriage.
The prayer hall was packed and Sri Swamiji recounted everything and said that all these years the family never made a complaint about their problems, even in front of my photo. Within two days there was the Kumbha Abhishekam at Mekedatu and I was very keen on attending it. In fact, Sri Swamiji announced that there was no arrangement to stay in Mekedatu, but people can come in buses in the morning and return to Mysore by night. He also said that we should be contented with our participation during Datta Jayanti and if possible, do not try to go to Mekedatu.
I assumed that the message was not for me and took a bus. My family was in another bus. On the way, my bus met with an accident close to Mekedatu as it tumbled and rolled down a slope not far from the Ashram. There were about thirty-five passengers in that bus and almost all escaped without any injury, except two of us, Mr. Yadeshwari and me. We had similar injuries with fracture in the right arm with some bruises.
I was the last one to be pulled out of the mangled remains of the bus. I was taken to the Ashram and put on a bed with others. After sometime, Sri Swamiji came, gave teertham, touched me and told me everything will be alright after the treatment. I was taken by ambulance to Bangalore for immediate treatment under the charge of the Ashram Doctors. The next morning, we were taken to Mysore and made to sit on chairs in the prayer hall. Sri Swamiji told us, me in particular, that He had given Purna Janmas. He then permitted me to go back to Madras and continue my treatment. I soon came to my normal self and resumed all my activity including Yoga.
We were blessed that in any crises Sri Swamiji protects us for He is omnipresent. There is no greater blessing than having Sri Swamiji in our lives, which was accumulated by punya of many births. He is the soul in our body. Our entire family goes by His protection and guidance in every matter. Jaya Guru Datta.
Sri Swamiji Says:
The aim and purpose of the human life is to unfold the Spirit in man. The aim is considered to be the highest and the most important goal of human existence. This goal is called ‘Liberation’ (Moksha) in the scriptures.