Manikyamba Chaganti, Mysore
I learnt from this experience that if we have a genuine and sincere desire to offer something to Sri Swamiji, He fulfils that desire no matter how impossible it is.
Before my marriage, I was not in the spiritual line. My husband and in-laws were in the spiritual line and they had an understanding of godliness, guru and karma. Originally, I am from Andra Pradesh, I lived in Machilipatnam, Nuzividu and now in Mysore. I had the first darshan of Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji in 1971 when He visited Vijayawada. My husband took me to the temple and we arrived just when the program was finishing; Sri Swamiji was singing the final Bhajan. We received teertham from Him and left. I just thought that He was a great spiritual person, but soon forgot all about Him.
In 1974, He visited Machilipatnam and we attended His program. He gave a lecture on the state of mind we should have when we are doing pooja. He said sometimes while doing pooja, we think about making coffee for our relatives and when we break a coconut, we think of what chutney to make. He said our minds should be the flowers full of the fragrance of good thoughts about God and we must offer that in our poojas. He continued that some of us want to see God; however, we cannot even see our face without a mirror. He continued that to see God we need the mirror of a Guru. I heard these words from Him and I was impressed. I left there and in the following months whenever I looked into a mirror a thought arose in my mind about what He said. Whenever I did my pooja or broke a coconut, I remembered His words and I kept my focus on God. I began to think of Him as a great Guru. I heard so many other lectures and at times I used to forget, but Sri Swamiji would always remind us.
In 1976, Sri Swamiji visited Machilipatnam and conducted Suvasini Pooja at Mr. Raja Rao’s house; he was a great devotee of Sri Swamiji. I went and took part in the pooja even though I did not know what that pooja was. When the pooja was over, I joined the queue to receive kumkum prasadam from Sri Swamiji. I wanted to do Sashtanga namaskara to Him, but the line was going fast and I did not want to break the rules. I collected my Prasadam and walked away.
After half and hour or so someone made an announcement that, Sri Swamiji is calling the person who wanted to do Sashtanga namaskara to Him. I took no notice of this and kept talking to my friend. Then another announcement came, that the person who wanted to do the namaskara is a lady. I thought that it could not be me for I do not know Him that much and why would He call me. Then the announcement came again for the lady who participated in puja to come quickly to Sri Swamiji. Simultaneously I heard a voice in my thought saying, ‘It is you; it is you!’ Fearfully I went to Him and did Sashtanga namaskara. He said, “Okay go” and left.
In 1981, we attended the consecration of the Vijayawada Temple. Then in 1982, Sri Swamiji came to Machilipatnam for five days. My husband helped Sri Raja Rao and Mr. Kuppa Krishnamurthy in organizing and preparing for His visit. I had nothing to do, so I helped them also. Sri Swamiji came and at one of the programs I was distributing water to the devotees, for it was a hot day. I suddenly got a desire to offer a flower garland to Sri Swamiji, but having no money, at that time, to buy the flowers, I dismissed the thought.
A man came to me and said, “Sister can you and help Me.?” I followed him to a table and he gave me some lemons and told me to make a garland. I thought it was probably for a vehicle or house. I made the lemon garland and gave it to the man and asked what it was for, the man said that the garland is for Sri Swamiji. I was surprised and fearful at the same time, thinking that He may not wear the garland. At the Poornahuti ceremony, He wore the lemon garland. I was happy and that voice in me said, “You wanted to give a garland and you did.”
Later on, He was visiting various devotees’ houses to perform Pada Pooja. He was coming to our house at 5.30 am. I had no idea about the rituals for this pooja, so my in-laws and my husband made the arrangements. I wanted to play the Nagaswaran (musical instrument) music when He visits, for it is very auspicious. I know my husband was not interested in this so I hoped that my friend would have it played at her house when Sri Swamiji visits.
By 7.30 am. Sri Swamiji did not come; my friend called me and said that a music band was coming down the street. I rushed out and I saw the band coming. I asked them to perform for only five minutes and if Sri Swamiji does not come, they can leave. They had a previous appointment to attend. They came and began playing a tune I requested on the Nagaswaran. Just then, Sri Swamiji arrived. It was perfect timing. Sri Swamiji was welcomed with this music and when He went inside I paid them and they left. I learnt from this experience that if we have a genuine and sincere desire to offer something to Sri Swamiji, He fulfils that desire no matter how impossible it is.
On the fifth day of Sri Swamiji’s visit, I attended the program and overheard the volunteers saying that Sri Swamiji knows what services we perform. I thought that if He knows of the service we do, I want to know that He knows everything. Just then, He called all the volunteers for a meeting. He spoke to us for one hour and in the end He said, “I know everything that each one of you do.” I got my confirmation from Him. He then gave the ladies, a blouse piece and Datta Kankana (bracelet) and the men received a Vastram.
I was very happy and I thought to myself, I have found my Guru; He is Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji. As soon as I thought of this, Sri Swamiji said, “I have postponed my trip, who wants to take me as their Guru?” I was in a dilemma; my husband was sitting in the back of the hall. His Guru is Kanchi Swami and should be my Guru also, since I am his wife, but I do not know anything about Kanchi Swami. I felt in my heart that Sri Swamiji should be my Guru so I stood up along with others.
Sri Swamiji then explained to us step-by-step instructions on how to face the tests for Guru Bhakti and live our lives. I thought I should offer something to Him but I had nothing with me. I do not have money or much strength to perform service, so in my mind I offered Sri Swamiji my ten-year-old son Vamshi Krishna. I thouhght even if he serves teertham in the temple, the purpose of his birth would be fulfilled. On this auspicious day in 1982, I became the Shishya of my Guru, Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji.
In 1984, my family and I visited Mysore Ashrama for the first time. The inauguration of the Universal Prayer Hall and Sri Swamiji’s forty-second birthday celebrations were taking place. I brought my husband’s niece along with us. She told Sri Swamiji that she had a severe heart condition. He advised her to get an operation done and she followed His instructions and got better, now she and her husband are great devotees of Sri Swamiji, and serving at the Jaya Durga Teertham.
My son, Vamshi, said he liked the Ashrama very much and would like to stay. Sri Swamiji asked me what I wanted; I told Him that I want to come to Mysore Ashrama repeatedly. He really blessed my wishes for I made many trips to the Ashrama in the following years, I used to bring people along with me, and they would become devotees of Sri Swamiji. I was instrumental in doing this. We were not poor, but to make frequent frequent visits to Mysore was difficult.
Later, in December 1984, Sri Swamiji visited Vijayawada. I wanted to go and see Him, but I had my duties at home to perform. I received a telegram from my father telling me that he is visiting Sri Swamiji in Vijayawada and I should meet him there. I got permission from my father-in-law and I went to Vijayawada. Before that he was in the hospital for two months. When I gave him Sri Swamiji’s raksha, he became well. I asked him to visit Sri Swamiji, but he postponed it due to lack of leave. After that the disease relapsed. My father came from Hyderabad by himself; he was ill, he had two tubes hooked on his body for urine and blood. He told me that he has taken a leave of absence from his job and will not go back until he is better. He then told me to take him to Sri Swamiji.
Some time back I told my father about Sri Swamiji, but he has never seen him, so this was his first darshan. The ashram in Vijayawada had no accommodations then, the Kalayana Mantapa was under construction. I did not know where to stay for I had not much money for a hotel, so we stayed in the unfinished Hall. After the first day, my father felt better so he took the tubes away from his body. He kept pushing me to take him to talk to Sri Swamiji. I did not know how to arrange an interview with Sri Swamiji.
The third day came and Sri Swamiji was scheduled to leave Vijayawada. When my father heard this, he began to cry saying that he is a sinner that is why he could not talk to Sri Swamiji. It was after lunch and most of the people left after the morning program. We were waiting until Sri Swamiji leaves. Just then Ganesh, Sri Swamiji’s attendant came out of Sri Swamiji’s quarters and shouted, “Who wants an interview, who wants an interview?” It sounded funny, as if he was selling something in the market. I could not believe my ears; I rushed and put my name down.
There were only seven devotees’ names on the list; as most of the people had left already. Our turn came and my father and I went in to see Sri Swamiji. He asked my father about his health and he told him about his condition, Sri Swamiji gave him some vibhuti. He looked at me and I said, “Swamiji, all my relatives should become your servants.” He gave me a big beautiful smile that said a thousand words to my heart. Now I am happy to say that all my relatives have come to Sri Swamiji and serving Him.
My father went back to Secunderabad and after two days, he was back to work. After some time he retired and kept a little job, the earnings he contributed to Sri Swamiji’s seva projects. Later on, he quit the job and offered his services at the Anantapur, Mekadatu and Vijayawada Ashrams. He passed away while serving at Vijayawada Ashrama.
My husband and I wanted Vamshi to study the Vedas, but we could not find anyone suitable to do this. My husband wanted to send him to Kanchi Swami Ashram, but I did not want Vamshi to go away from the village. I told my husband if sends Vamshi away from the house I will go away also. Later in 1984 Sri Swamiji came to Machilipatnam and I went and asked the temple officials for a meeting with Sri Swamiji for I wanted to offer something to Him. I saw Sri Swamiji and I told him, “Swamiji I am offering my son Vamshi to you and you have to make it possible for giving him to you.” Sri Swamiji nodded His head, which meant that He has heard what I said. I left and returned home.
On January 21st 1985, the day of Vamshi’s thirteenth birthday we took him to Sri Swamiji in Vijayawada and told Him that it was Vamshi’s birthday. Sri Swamiji said, “Why don’t you teach him Veda?” At once, both my husband and I replied, “Take him to Mysore, Swamiji.” He then said, “It is not that easy, you all three have to agree, anyway don’t worry he will come.” My husband and I were happy.
On February 3rd, we took Vamshi to the Mysore Ashrama. Sri Swamiji asked us to give Vamshi along with a coconut. Vamshi was very attached to me and used to cry for me. I had gone to my home and Sri Swamiji told me to come back to Mysore and stay with him. I came and my husband joined me later for the Shivaratri Festival. While I was there, Sri Swamiji did not talk to me. He called us and said to my husband, “Your wife was weeping. I was waiting for you to come; I want to talk to you both.” We went and sat with Him and He said to us, “I am taking your child, what you want me to do for him?” We both said, “We don’t know anything, you do as you please.” Then I added, “Swamiji I would like him to get his education and let him fulfill his duties what a human should do to obtain God.” Sri Swamiji acknowledged what I said, by nodding His head. After spending twenty days, we left the Ashrama. When we were leaving, Vamshi began to cry and Sri Swamiji told us to leave, he will be all right.
When I returned home in Machilipatnam, I missed Vamshi so much. I consoled myself by thinking that I had given Sri Swamiji the best offering I could, nothing else in my life was equal to Vamshi. Later on Sri Swamiji told me that I had given Him myself; (Vamshi) and He will take good care. On a visit to Mysore, and after Vamshi had done a small Homa, Sri Swamiji said to me, “You always say education, education for him, see how much your son has studied, this is the greatest education.” I simply said, “Yes Swamiji!”
My spiritual life continued when Sri Swamiji became my Guru. I faced many challenges and with His grace, I overcame them and grew stronger daily. I had to deal with relatives and people in my town telling me constantly that I had done a wrong thing by sending Vamshi to Sri Swamiji. They said that he was a brilliant boy and could have become a scientist or even a millionaire. I told them that there are a lot of scientists and millionaires who come and bow to Sri Swamiji feet, why do they come to Him? Obviously, they are missing something in their lives. After a while, I learnt to listen and ignore them.
After Vamshi went to Mysore, we moved to Nuzividu because my husband’s job was there. Sri Swamiji introduced Anagha pooja at this time and I began doing it also. Upon the order of Sri Swamiji, I began doing Anagha Poojas at various devotees’ houses, even in other places like, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Eluru, Mekadatu, Delhi, Kulu in Himachal Pradesh and other villages. After performing this pooja, many of the people got their desires fulfilled and so became devotees of Sri Swamiji. I began teaching the little children to sing bhajans, chant Sri Swamiji’s prayers and to perform Anagha pooja. I used to listen to Sri Swamiji’s tapes with His music and chants. Some of them in languages I could not understand, but I used to be in a trance feeling the emotions of the chants.
Later, I asked Sri Swamiji to take my second son also; He said, “He is my son also, but let him be with you.” He is protecting our family, each and every moment and guiding us at every stage. My second son, Chandra Shekar Chaganti, is working in the USA for Union Pacific Railroads. Sri Swamiji has rescued him from three fatal accidents and gave him life, health, education and all the eight types of wealth. He and his family, Lakshmi and Chidatma, love Sri Swamiji dearly. They serve Him sincerely with pure devotion.
When I first met Sri Swamiji in Machilipatnam, I mentioned to Him that I had a bad cough. Over the years the cough persisted, but my mind changed, I thought I should not ask Sri Swamiji to take away my karma (cough) but ask Him only for the strength to bear it. With this mind, I forgot about my cough. I only felt bad about it when I disturbed people around me.
Once I went to Sri Swamiji and He asked, “How is your health?” I said, “Fine, Swamiji.” I began telling Him about an Anagha Pooja I conducted and how happy the people were. He interrupted me, “How is your cough?” I said, “It is there, but I am okay.” Then I started talking about the pooja and He stopped me and said. “It is your karma and you have to bear it, I can distribute some of it, but I cannot take it away.” He gave me some vibhuti and I left. Some days later, my cough became less irritating and some of my relatives started coughing. Now my cough is not so severe.
In my spiritual growth, I felt subtle changes within me by doing simple things like reading the ‘Datta Darshanam’ book. I read it twenty-five times. Moreover, every time I read it I fely some thing shift within me, even though it is the same. Sri Swamiji knows the effects of these things, and the reasons why He encourages us to read and watch the movie of Datta Darshanam. When the movie was released, He told us to go in the theatre and watch it as much as we can. I watched it forty times. I do not know what the secret is but I experienced changes within me on all levels. I did no homas, yagnas nor tirats to find spirituality. My spirituality came to me in the form of my Guru, Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji. He orchestrated my life from birth and is now playing the instrument and I am enjoying the sweet music. Jaya Guru Datta