Ramkisson ‘Boloji’ Ramnarine, Trinidad
After that drink, I told them that was the final and it was my turning point. Many people say that it is difficult to give up vices but since I met my Sadguru I have not touched alcohol or meat, because of Sri Swamiji’s intervention in my life.
I was the first pundit of Dattatreya Yoga Center, Trinidad, from 1990. I have been doing all the pujas at the temple until professionally trained pundits from India took over.
Ever since I was five-six years old I have been involved in religious ceremonies like pujas and sandhya vandanam. In 1956 a group of Swamis came to Trinidad from Guyana and I got attached to these Swamis. As I grew up I became critical of pundits as I thought that they did not want to divulge general information to the public. I was very involved with a Surinamese Saint, Swami Purnananda who founded the Divine Life Society and I would attentively listen to his discourses to get more knowledge. This continued up into the 60’s.
In 1968 I graduated from college and I started working a year later. At this time I made many friends and would partake in the consumption of meat and alcohol. In 1976, the first year that Sri Swamiji came to Trinidad, I was at a teacher’s training college. As was usual, I had gone to the Aripo River with some friends; we were drinking alcohol, eating meat and having a merry good time. On the other side of the river a saintly person was there with some devotees. I did not know who He was but I knew that I had to show respect for this Swami. I raised my hands and He raised His to acknowledge me and left. We continued to have good time.
Ten years later I will meet the Swami again, personally. As I was involved in the Hindu Seva Sangha and I was told that I should go and serve a Guru that was coming to Trinidad. This Guru wanted to have a program at the California Hindu Temple and two devotees, Mukunda Balroop and Randolph Chandrakate were sent to locate the manager. I was told by the devotees that their Guru, Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji was visiting Trinidad and He wanted to visit the temple.
At that time I could not believe that someone, in a spiritual form, could leave India, visit a place and return and give me a message. I was a bit annoyed with these devotees when they said that Sri Swamiji did not want the program on Thursday but instead He wanted to have the final program there on Sunday. I did not realize that he had visited the temple spiritually. I put aside my aggravations and vexations and agreed to have the program.
I was given a copy of the schedule for His 1986 itinerary and one of the programs was to be held at Mr. Doolchan Ramdath’s residence in Princess Town, where the current Princess Town temple is located. I went there as an arrogant fellow as I may have had a few drinks beforehand. I told the organizers that I wanted to be seated in a specific area, but was told that I could not sit there as it was reserved for the Satsangha group. Without consideration, I sat down amongst the satsangha group. Then Sri Swamiji came and sat in His chair which was not more than ten feet away from me. Intuitively when everyone stood up I followed and stood up also, just to follow the crowd. Then Swamiji called out the dates of birth for the devotees around me but pointedly excluded mine. I felt very embarrassed and wanted to know why he was doing that to me.
That embarrassment should have been a good thing for me but I did not know Him then. Now Sri Swamiji laughs at me. In retrospect I know that Swamiji knows everything because he knows everybody’s date of birth and he knew mine but he did not call it. That night Swamiji performed many miracles and I watched him and thought that he was a good magician. He also showed the film Datta Darshan. On the completion of the program, I approached Mr. Balroop and asked if I can borrow the film but was told that I could not as I was not a member. I told him to tell that “bearded-man” that I wanted to borrow the film. However, before Mr. Balroop could enter the room where Sri Swamiji was sitting, He said “give him the film.” I don’t know how it came about but it could be that Swamiji was attracting me to him by giving me that film. I came home and recorded that film and was amazed to know what was on there. In fact, my attachment to Swamiji is based around that film.
The Kriya Yoga initiation program was held at the Palmyra residence of Dr Khemchand Ramdath. The Hindu Seva Sangha had scheduled me for seva for Sri Swamiji at this venue. I pretended to keep the darsan line straight, and although this was not needed, I continued to do it just to see what Swamiji was doing. He was materializing things from everywhere; under his beard, under his feet, from the palms of his hands etc. As I was the last person in the line, I said to myself, “Well Swamiji, I don’t want any gold, silver, pendants or anything like that, I just want a mala.” Swamiji must have read my mind for when I reached him he slipped a mala on my neck; then and there I knew Swamiji could read your mind. I was really dumbfounded by this incident and all the questions that I had was being answered, but I was still doubtful.
That day when I reached home I was smelling vibhuti throughout the house, which continued for three months. As I felt there was a divine presence in my house, I had no choice but to give up the use of meat and alcohol. Later when my friends came to visit I gave them all the alcohol that was in the house and I had a soda. After that drink, I told them that was the final and it was my turning point. Many people say that it is difficult to give up vices but since I met my Sadguru I have not touched alcohol or meat, because of Sri Swamiji’s intervention in my life.
At the California temple, there was a room that was not cleaned so we locked it. Swamiji requested the room to be opened and that I should come there and sit with Him. Sri Swamiji sat on some old paper and looked at me and said “Boloji, I want a temple like this.” The California temple was just a bit smaller than the size of the main temple at the Dattatreya Yoga Center. I told him that I could not do it as I know what a hassle it is to try and get funds. Swamiji repeated “I want a temple like this, I want my own home, and Datta wants a home too.”
Incidentally, in 1986, an attorney, Ramesh Persad-Maharaj had donated around three acres of land to Sri Swamiji for the construction of the Datta Yoga Center, and by 1988 I was placed on the executive committee. Initially all meetings were held at members home to formulate plans for the center. People like to say that Sri Swamiji has “rich devotees” but I am a poor devotee, and members would find time to come to my home to have meetings.
In 1988 at a meeting, with Sri Swamiji, was held at the residence of Dr. Ralph Sieupersad. It was churning in my mind as to how I could go about building this temple. I kept thinking about this and was wondering if I should ask Swamiji if He was ready, not knowing that he was just waiting for me to ask. As the meeting was closing I said “Swamiji are You ready to build the temple.” Then Swamiji told Prasadi and Radhakrishna “get the Panchamgam” and after thorough checking, they informed that today was a very good day.
We headed to the donated property in Carapichaima to identify the location and to start setting the points for the temple. There was not a road, just a dirt trace to the property. We took out the sticks from some pea trees and staked out the location where the posts will be made. Buntha, a nearby villager, assisted in the excavation for the foundation as Sri Swamiji had said that in a couple of days he will come back to lay the foundation stone. Two days later we performed the pujas and laid the foundation. In fourteen days we had completed the frame of the inner sanctorum and a homa was held. For the first time there were two homas that day, one in California temple and one at Dattatreya Yoga Center. This was how the Dattatreya Yoga Center in Trinidad began.
Funds for the temple construction were not easy to come by. We also had to construct a home for Sri Swamiji. It took us two years to raise the necessary funds. This is why Sri Swamiji says that devotees from these years love Him, as they know what it was like, and that they are His family because there were so much trials and tribulations to get the temple and house built. Even the people in the village were skeptical about Sri Swamiji and His devotees and were scoffing at Him. Now you can see what we have done with His Holiness mission.
In 1990 with little funds and an impending consecration, all we had was faith. The roof of the Datta Hall was incomplete and some devotees from England were asking as to where the consecration was being held. Silently, I went to Sri Swamiji’s photograph, as I had no other means of communication with Him, and told Him that there was no money for the roof. Miraculously, the next day we got fourteen thousand dollars and the roof was covered. For the construction of the house, some people made pledges but were unable to supply the funds.
For those who does His work intently Sri Swamiji will always be there with them. During the construction of the house the floor and beams started to buckle. I informed the workers that they should leave the building immediately and only the main carpenter should remained with me. I told him to block the entrance to avoid anyone from getting in. The following morning when we came to the building, believe it or not, the two floors from a hammock state came back almost straight. I knew that, whit His grace; Sri Swamiji had realigned the building. I told the workers to get back to work as we had to get the building ready for Swamiji’s arrival in 1990.
When Sri Swamiji came in 1990, as the temple had no walls, we used coconut leaves for barricades, to prevent wind and rain, and to prepare an interview room. There were no carpet or cushion, and people had to sit on the bare floor, but it was a very enjoyable place. Sri Swamiji’s home was not ready, some people were saying that He would not sleep there, but I told them that He will sleep in His house. While He was walking from the temple to His home, the room was being painted. He asked where His home was and I said upstairs. There were no beds, television, air condition, refrigerator or anything. However, He went upstairs, called a few people and by the next morning everything was installed. This is His miracle. He wanted to stay in His home even though there were other places prepared for Him, but He decided to stay there.
At the consecration Sri Swamiji was joyfully and ecstatically dancing on the stage; only when warned by Radhakrishna that the stage was not strong did He ease the jumping. When Swamiji went to the Datta temple to do the Kumbha Abhishekam, only a few people were allowed to go as it was not very stable. Sri Swamiji, a few others and myself went to do Kumbha Abhishekam. Unbelievably, directly from the sun in the sky a cone-shaped halo came to touch the Datta temple. Swamiji told us that all three hundred and sixty-six thousand saints, sages and all deities would have come to witness this consecration that had taken place. The day before that we had gone to consecrate the Aripo River and the same thing happened.
There were many events in my life that Sri Swamiji has helped me in. In 1986 I was driving on the fast lane of the highway and suddenly I tipped the brakes but did not know why. At that moment a tire with a rim flew out of a car and if I did not apply my brakes then, it would have hit me in the temple which is deadly. The car was demolished. That was one of my first experiences knowing that Swamiji had saved my life.
Before we were told that Sri Swamiji was indeed Lard Datta, I had photographs of Sri Swamiji and Lord Datta and I would tell people that they were the same person. I understand that Sri Swamiji knows everything and He can read your thoughts. There were many times when I was in doubt as to what would happen next, as was the case with the building of the temple, and I would come to the photograph and talk to Him; about not having funds and then we would get some almost immediately.
Another incident where Sri Swamiji knows everything that is happening was when we began building the temple. The Ramdath family had given thirty five thousand dollars and other people giving small donations. I also started an account, of ten thousand dollars in credit, with a hardware store owner, Mr. Harry Roodall, who at this time did not know about Swamiji, with the hope that one day this money would be repaid. I told him I needed for the Dattatreya Yoga Center. He said sure but wanted to know who would be responsible for paying. I told him that I would find a way even if the money was not coming from the members.
He did open the account and give me the in credit. This was not sufficient and I asked him for a further ten thousand dollars limit and he gave it again. Like this the amount went up to forty-four thousand dollars. This gentleman came a few days before the consecration and brought all his trucks and workers and said “they are at your disposal.” However, just before the consecration he asked if he can meet Sri Swamiji. I made the arrangements and Mr. Roodall had an audience with His Holiness. Afterwards he came out smiling and said to me that no money was owed. I don’t know what happened in that room but the total bill was completely written off after that meeting.
Swamiji used to come into my dreams and tell me what I should do. After the consecration in 1990 we used to have satsangha and service and there were many people who were still skeptical to what this Dattatreya devotion was about until Swamiji came into their lives. One such person was called Brocko. One day he was cutting the temple’s grass and hit a nest of deadly African bees. His body was covered in bee stings and he thought that he was going to die. I told him that he was not going to die, that Swamiji will save him. He is not a Hindu but was still saved. There are other people who had skin diseases and they have been given relief by Swamiji.
In 2005 I had a head operation. A cyst was removed from my head and I had three operations. Swamiji has said that he has given me a second life. Swamiji has said that he will help those who help themselves and who would do work if given a second chance, and I am such persons. I have served Swamiji for fourteen years in the first temple and since the operation I am thankful that I am living by His Grace.
In 1988, peculiar forces led me to attend the Academy of Hinduism Punditry class. For two years I studied with Pundit Khemraj and his pundits. After the consecration of the temple, Swamiji told me to get two young people to be trained to become pundits so they will run the ashram. I looked but could not find anyone so asked for more time but when Swamiji saw that I could not find anyone he assigned me to go to the temple to be the pundit.
My satisfaction in the position was; that there were so many devotees with problems and doubts about Swamiji, and it was my duty to speak with them. I did not know what I should tell them, all I knew what was to be said was coming out of my lips. Many times people would ask for help, and after saying the Datta Stavam, the right words would come to provide satisfaction to them. I used to read the Guru Gita every night. There are times where members would come and I would know their problems and when asked how, I would tell them that when I opened the Guru Gita I was guided to read that part. People were finding solace in Dattatreya Yoga Center. Swamiji was putting the words in my mouth to help people and help the temple membership grow. Swamiji gave the advice and explanations to people’s problems. I consider myself an instrument. Even today when I do mantra pushpa I tell people I cannot do this part, you must pray for yourselves.
People have come to say that it is Swamiji that has helped them and that I am just the instrument. Carrying about Swamiji’s mission is something that I enjoy. I maybe one of the few pundits in Trinidad that do the South Indian style of puja and I make sure that Datta puja is always done. This way I know that Swamiji is helping everyone that asks me to do puja for them. The mission of carrying out Swamiji’s work is not only in the temple, it’s at people’s home as well, and it is spreading far and wide. Jaya Guru Datta.