Swamy Vishnudatta Padarenu, Russia
Sri Swamiji addressed me by my name, Varada Raja, greeted me, allowed me to do Namaskaram, and then began talking with me as though He had known me for several years.
I would like to recollect my sweet memories with Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji. It all started in 1980 when my beloved mother met with an accident and received some cuts on her legs. Later, as the wounds healed, she was left with diminished use of her legs. Seeing this situation, my sister was trying desparately seeking some help for her solace. This search brought them to the inauguration ceremonies of Sri Swamiji new ashrama in Giginagar, Bangalore.
When they returned home; happy having the blessing and darsan of this great saint, my mother showed a copper bracelet with what resembles a ‘Sri Chakra Yantra’ carved into it. This was given to her by Sri Swamiji for her protection, but she placed it in her puja room and it became a source of my admiration. After some persuation, she gave it to me and I proudly wore it, thus the energy of Sri Swamiji entered me through that bracelet for the first time.
Then in 1984/85, a friend asked that I visit the Mysore Ashrama with him, but I bluntly refused. My sister saw am advertisement for a yoga class that was conducted by Sri Rishi Prabakar and she thought that it might help my mother’s weak knees. I volunteered to go with them for the sole purpose of helping my brother to take my mother up the stairs. I guess that this was the start of a wonderful journey that would ultimately take me to the Mysore Ashrama, where I would meet my indisputable Guru.
Without realizing it, I was participating in the yoga courses and later I was invited to accompany the teacher to Mysore City to help him with his scheduled classes. On Sunday morning the teacher, his wife and his mother set out to visit an ashrama that was nested at the foothills on the Chumundi Hills. I was asked to accompany then and because I had nothing scheduled, I consented to go. On reaching the ashrama, I saw a black-bearded Swami in safron clothes standing near to the temple below the Audunbara tree. He looked at me and smiled while doing Abhaya mudra and blessing me. When I looked again, He was not there; He disappeared.
Later, I went into the temple to join the others and I noticed portraits of the same person that was standing outside, hanging on the walls all around the hall. I was approached by a devotee who started speaking about his Guru, Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji, whose portraits were hanging there. When I told him that I saw that person on the grass outside and He blessed me, the man was surprise and said that I was very lucky.
Earlier, when I had attended the yoga class in Bangalore, I heard some soronous music that captured my psyche and I ask the teacher about the singer. He didn’t give a response, but during the trip to the Mysore Ashrama, I distinctly heard the very song playing there. To my amazement, I found out that the singer was no other than the Primodial Guru, Sri Ganapatui Sachchidananda Swamiji. Without even seeing or knowing Him, on three different occasions I had the good fortune of experiencing His energy.
A great Avadootha, Sri Ayyyappa Swami, was a family friend. He lived in the deep forest of Kumbur in the Kodai Kanal Hills of Tamil Nadu. He was a great upsakar of Lord Subramaniam and once a year, he would spend a few weeks in our home as part of his sadhana. I used to accompany him whenever he visited the Subramaniam Swamy Temple. One day, in 1986, I was tired and thought that I would get a video cassette so that we can both watch a movie. I found a video cassette of Sri Datta Darshanam and the video seller said that it was a new movie, so I bought it.
The photo on the cover was similar to what I was taught as a child. I was surprised, because it was produced by a Swamiji. While looking at the movie I was entrailed about Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji. After viewing the movie I was attracted to story of Vishnu Datta, so I watched the video again and again. I learned about Chakras and yoga and I had practiced yoga since my childhood, so the saint felt that I should see this Swamiji who was in Mysore
While I was talking to a Saint, telling him of my plans to visit this Swamiji in Mysore, a group of bhajan singers came to my house and began to sing bhajans on Lord Dattatreya. I have been an ardent of this Lord from infancy, so these bhajans stirred my soul. I invited them into my home and served them coffee and refreshments. They explained to us that there was a function in the Guru’s Ashram on that day, and invited us to come and join the function. They talked about their Guru, and I realized that it was none other than Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji, whom I had been planning to visit in Mysore. We agreed to come to the function and made plans to visit the ashram.
Later that evening, I went to my friend’s home to accompany me to the ashram. The friend went inside his room and locked the door in order to get ready. I thought that he was taking an extraordinary long time, and as it was getting late I was getting angry, for we were going to miss the entire function. Finally, he came out, telling me to calm down, for he was a Saint and was not as pressed to meet Sri Swamiji as I was. By the time we got there, the function was finished and I was disheartened.
Still wishing to meet Him, we sought out the priest from the bhajan group, whom I had met earlier, and asked him if he could take us to Sri Swamiji. For some reason, the priest suddenly became very shaky and anxious and gave a series of excuses avoiding our request. My friend and I told him not to worry if it was so difficult and stood in the ashram waiting for the crowd to dissipate.
Suddenly, I noticed Sri Swamiji saying something to the priest, who had walked over and had been standing next to Him since he spoke to us. The next moment, Sri Swamiji called out ‘Vishnu Datta’ and gestured for me to come over. At this point, I did not realize how great He was and did not know that this was His way. Being so unfamiliar with Him, the moment I came within distance, I bent down and touched His Holy feet, to the great disapproval and shouts of the people standing around Him.
Sri Swamiji addressed me by my name, Varada Raja, greeted me and allowed me to do Namaskarams, and then began talking with me as though He had known me for several years. He even told me that He had previously visited my sister’s house. I was confused and astonished; I could not understand how He knew my name or knew that I was the brother of one of His devotees. Finally, He blessed me, gave me prasadam, and a Datta Vastram.
After this personal meeting, I had a deep interest to know more about Him. So, for seven days, I would go back to the ashram and talk to the priest, who would tell him stories about Sri Swamiji and his own experiences with Him. These experiences were very profound and they made deep, indelible mark in my mind, and I was very happy, so I started my journey to understanding the philosophies within His physical even more. I wanted to know all the vast realities of His existence.
During my period of introspection, one day, my sister called me and said that there were fresh lemons growing in her garden and thought that I should offer them to Sri Swamiji for Navarathri. Inadvertently, I accepted the lemons and planned to go to Mysore. However, before I could leave, riots and political agitation started happening in the city because of anger with policies of the government. Buses were not scheduled because people were attacking and throwing stones at them; there was virtually no communication between the Hills, of Bangalore, and the City.
One bus tried to come up the hills, but was stopped because of the riots. Disheartened and angered by the lack of communication, transportation, and the spoiling lemons, I began to scold Sri Swamiji in my mind. For three days, this circus continued, and finally, I was forced to throw out the lemons, which were getting spoiled. Then, on the fourth morning, when I awoke I saw His mysterious form in front of me. At first, I thought that it was an illusion, but it looked so real and it lasted for the rest of the day. Then, in the evening, to my great surprise, I heard a bus coming up the hill. With skepticism I thought it was just another vehicle, but when I looked onto the road, I saw that it was a government bus.
I took my things and went out onto the main road to meet with the driver. The driver and the people on the bus were extremely shaken up, for they had just escaped the riots in the city and did not even understand how they were able to reach here without getting hurt or attacked. I asked them if they were leaving the next day, but they just stared at me like I was crazy and told me that it was too dangerous to leave. I tried to convince them that things will be alright, but they told me that they would think about it, although they would not make any promises. They said that I should meet them in the morning to learn their decision.
For the whole night I couldn’t sleep so I spent the time praying to Swamiji that the bus would decide to leave. The next day, I found out that my prayers had been answered. We set out and traveled about for about forty kilometers until we reached the edge of the city. At this point, there was a station where the bus conductor had to give a report to some officers, who would then decide whether to permit the bus to enter the city. As I was the only passenger on the bus, the officers stepped inside and told me that there were many problems going on inside the city, and they could not permit us to enter.
What made things worse was the fact that the bus was not being permitted to go back up the hill to where I lived. I was stuck with all of my luggage, and even the lemons, with nowhere to go. I was so angered by this incident that I began to scold Sadgurudeva again, saying that I would not be able see Him if He kept sending all of these obstacles. While all this was happening, the officer entered the bus again and asked me why I was still on the bus and why I had not gone home. I explained my predicament to the officer, who then inquired about my luggage and the lemons. I told him that I was taking the lemons as offerings for Navarathri Puja held by Sri Swamiji.
To my surprise, the officer then called his subordinates and told them that this bus should enter the city escorted by two jeeps; one in the front and one in the back, so that this one passenger could make it to his destination. The officer even ordered that they should take me directly to my sister’s house and unload the lemons and luggage when they arrived.
When I arrived at my sister’s house, I was surprised to find that they were planning a trip the following Sunday to visit Swamiji as per His orders, and that they should perform Thaila Abhishekam of Lord Dattatreya to combat the domestic problems that they were experiencing. They had already told the rest of the family, but they were unable to communicate with me, so it was miraculous that I was able to reach Bangalore in time for this trip, to Mysore, to perform this auspicious puja the next day.
The next day, Sunday, the family set out early in the morning and drove for three hours, in a taxi, from Bangalore to Mysore. By the time we reached there, we were quite hungry from the long trip, but we first went to the prayer hall to find Sri Swamiji. Much to our surprise, a stranger, who worked at the ashrama, approached me and asked if I was Vishnu Datta from Bangalore and he even asked me if my name was Varada Raja. I did not know how this stranger knew my name or where he was from, but the man continued and explained that Sri Swamiji had given him specific instructions to meet my family in the prayer hall and to take us to the dining hall for lunch. Everyone was ecstatic, for we were quite hungry and were glad for the idlis that the man served.
After we had eaten, I went back to the prayer hall and inspected the bulletin boards with all of their announcements and flyers. Finally, I sat down in front of a pillar and I noticed a flyer on the wall in front of me, which stated, “If you need Sri Swamiji’s blessings, meditate”. I thought to myself that I did not know how to meditate, but I closed my eyes and pictured Sri Swamiji, in my imagination, thinking that if this is true, He will come and talk to me. Minutes later, He walked out of His room and called “Varada”. He had a short conversation with me and then He told me that He would talk to me and my family after the Thaila Abhishekam.
There was a beautiful puja, after which Sri Swamiji sang some bhajans in the prayer hall. However, I realized that there were other pujas and other functions throughout the day in which He participated. From morning till evening, He was occupied with these functions and showed no signs of meeting me and my family. As the day was drawing to an end, we were slowly getting tired and impatient. In addition, my mother was very sick and we were anxious to go home. Suddenly, through His grace, He sent a boy over who told us that Sri Swamiji is asking when we wanted to have an interview; now or tomorrow.
The family was stunned, for most Saints would not ask the people seeking their blessings, when it was convenient for the disciples, but would rather wait for the disciples to ask them. I told the boy that we were unable to stay until the next day because my mother was sick and we had already hired a taxi, so it would be more expensive to wait until the next day. Although Sri Swamiji would normally go back to His room, for a rest after the functions are over, He was very kind and came to the interview room to meet with us instead.
When He entered the room, He addressed the family for a few minutes. Then suddenly, He turned towards me, who was sitting far away by a wall, and said, “I want a person like you”. I did not understand the message at first, as it is true with many devotees at first. However, upon leaving, He gave us special prasadam and told us to come to Mysore as often as possible, promising that He would come to my home the next time He visits Bangalore.
The next time, when He visited the ashram in Bangalore, I came to request Him to visit my home for Pada Puja. I did not know about the formal procedure for requesting Sri Swamiji to visit my home, but I told the administrators at the ashram and the group who traveled with Him about His promise. Instead of accepting this, they laughed at me and told me it was not possible. They said that Sri Swamiji only visits a place if the house owners give them a name and they create a list and agenda for Him. Incidentally, because I had not gone through these procedures and my name was not on the list, I would not be visited by Sri Swamiji.
I did not believe this: I said I would only believe His words. I said “Sri Swamiji told me He will come, so He will come”. The administrators were offended and said, “You’re such a great man that Swamiji will come to your house? We have already created a list and you are not on it”. I was offended, but did not want to further incense them, for they were in charge of the official agenda of Sri Swamiji, and I still wanted Him to visit my home.
When Sri Swamiji arrived at the ashram, I went and stood near to Him so that He would see me. He did not acknowledge me or His promise, and He did not even greet me. I remained in my position, disappointed for some time, and then suddenly He turns to the administrators and told them “I am going to these people’s house; arrange it for tomorrow”. I was very happy and the agenda was set for Him to visit my home the next day. The next day, Sri Swamiji visited my house and He enjoyed the family and the house as His own house; He called my mother as His own; He even had Bhiksha there; Finally, He blessed us and then went back to the ashram after we performed the Pada Puja.
Later that evening, I went back to the ashram, but, to my surprise, Sri Swamiji would not look at my face. I kept thinking of His enjoyment of His visit to my home, and thought I would receive some special blessings for this new- found closeness to Him. However, instead of blessing me, Swamiji began to scold me in front of everyone in the ashram. I did not know what I had done wrong, but I felt a deep sense of embarrassment, for many of the people there were looking down upon me and criticized me for doing something wrong.
This trend continued for seven months. I would go to Mysore often, but He would not look at me, no matter how hard I tried to talk to Him or grab His attention. Everyone would insult me and look down on me as if I had done something wrong. But I could not stop going to Mysore. One day during Sri Chakra Puja, I was sitting in the Universal Hall looking at the large picture of Sri Swamiji and praying. Suddenly, I heard a voice and I saw Him standing in front of me. Sri Swamiji finally spoke to me and blessed me, ending the seven- month silence.
After these incidents, I finally understood that this ashram was different. I had gone to so many other ashramas that were all focused on discipline, but in this ashram, there is no discipline. You can see small boys and children doing whatever they want and Sri Swamiji enjoying it. I imagined Swamiji would give me special blessings, and in other ashramas, people would do the same. But He would often sit with others and talk about material things; worldly things. He never talked about great spiritual matters. I wanted spiritual growth, and often thought about leaving, but something would always bring me back. He gave so many opportunities for me to understand how He cured so many people, how He changed so many lives. Finally, He opened my eyes to the secret; I would never understand such power, all I could do is stand under His shade, and doing this would open up the reality. If I tried to understand it, I would only get confused.
Every day there was a test, but I could feel Swamiji’s love. I did not understand why or how He loved me so much, but it was love mixed with scolding. I did not know whether to love Him or hate Him. Every time He scolded me, I wanted to run away; and yet, every time He showed love, I wanted to be closer to Him. For so many years, I could not understand my relationship with Him. He gave me many mantras, and He taught me many lessons. All of the dreams I dreamt about Him was where He was blessing me. I thought that they were just manifestations of my longing for spiritual growth. I thought they were just illusions. However, I later found out that they were no illusions: He had actually come to me and blessed me.
I often said that the most important thing Sri Swamiji taught me was how to be a human, and to stop dreaming of super humans. Many people go to ashramas and see such spiritual people or events, and they start to dream of such matters. He taught me that true spiritual bliss is not an illusion, it is not a dream. You can have all of these practices and pujas, but first, you must become a primary human. He looked inside me and took away all of my animosities and animal nature, with His grace. After this, I became very simple and pure, and this simplicity revealed the true nature of Sri Swamiji: He lives like an ordinary man, when He is truly extraordinary. He looks human, but He is Divine.
Everyone who comes near to Him starts a slow process: a process of change and purification. It was hard for me, as it is for many people, for I had to sacrifice a lot and had to change my nature, my teachings. When you come near to Him, you have to leave your bad habits behind; you have to leave everything behind. It is hard for many people to do this, but when you are able to do this, He is with you always. Many people don’t understand this, which makes the tests severe.
I had seen many Saints perform pujas, but Swamiji’s pujas are very unique; you can feel the energy of the puja and the energy in Him as He does the Sri Chakra Puja. Swamiji used to look at me and pass this Divine energy to me; He would give me prasadam and teertham, and I could feel changes inside of me. I would see the Divine Mother sitting next to Him during these pujas. Sri Chakra Puja became part of my life and after the programs with His grace I would sometimes be given Him massages.
I used to joke with Sri Swamiji, saying that my pujas; massaging His Feet and body, seeing His face, were so much easier than having to invoke God and be disciplined in an actual puja. “Swamiji is God and is the Divine Mother. We have no need for this and that puja, for Swamiji is right in front of us. Concentrate on the form of Swamiji, keep Him in the heart, and that is enough.”
Swamiji never used to talk about spiritual matters. He used to tell me and others, “If you are looking for yoga, meditation, spiritual matters, go somewhere else; I am a material man”. Once, He told me that I am such a great and holy man, and I felt proud to be praised in such a way by Him. However, the next day, He scolded me and called me idiot for wanting His blessings. I felt depressed, and wanted to ask His permission to go back to Bangalore, but He would not look at me. I was so sad that I sat down and cried in front of His photo. Then, suddenly, He came out and blessed me and told me that I would get whatever I wanted.
I used to think that I am such a spiritual person and I knew what I was doing. Sri Swamiji, without even speaking, taught me that all that I was doing, all that I was thinking was wrong. I was so changed by my experiences and lessons with Sri Swamiji that I used to say that my stay with Him was death, in that my old self was killed and I was reborn, with all of my sins washed away and my mindset on life and the world changed.
Once Sri Swamiji sent me to Russia with nothing; no resources but a train ticket that I got through a loan from a friend. I went to achieve something, but I could not speak the language, I had no money, my spirit was brought down. Russia is a bad place; you can’t talk about God or Saints: it is a Communist country with many dangers. Sri Swamiji took me there to contemplate and establish my life. By the time I came back, I had grown spiritually and mentally. When Sri Swamiji came and first saw me after I came back from my trip, He said that He was proud of me, just as a mother or father is proud of their child.
I used to say, “People see Divinity in me, they think I am superhuman. However, I know that I am truly a human, and I love my master; Swamiji taught me how to live without illusion; how to live by being humble; how to reach God without becoming a monk, without saying you sacrifice this and that, but to live like a human and still reach God.”
During a period when Sri Swamiji was away inaugurating a Dattatreya Temple, I was in the Mysore Ashram taking care of the herbal garden, planting and watering plants. He came back early from His trip and a rumor went around that He was sick. He will never admit or show when He is sick or tired, but when He arrived, everyone greeted Him and it could be seen that He was very tired. I went back to my gardening, but later a boy approached me with a message that Sri Swamiji wanted to see me. I got up and followed the boy, who led me to a bathroom, where He was sitting in nothing but a loin cloth. He told me that He was ready to take His bath, and asked me to rub oil and massage Him. As I went about this task, He began telling the story of His Arka Ganapathi, a plant, it is said, whose root will grow to face north and take the shape of Lord Ganapathi after five hundred years:
One day, Lord Ganapathi came to Sri Swamiji in a vision and said that He wished to come to Him. Knowing exactly what this meant, He told a trustee that someone will give an Arka Ganapathi to him. The trustee did not know what Arka Ganapathi was and did not understand the purpose of this message. The disciple then went home and arranged a function where he would have to receive Sri Swamiji. He invited many of his relatives and friends to try and find an Arka Ganapathi, as they were quite rare. He went to one of his close friends, who explained that he was having significant troubles and obstacles in his home and his business.
This friend explained that he did not know the cause of his troubles, but that they had started when a Saint gave him a strange object. He was afraid that this was the cause of his suffering, so he asked the trustee to take it from his home and give it to his Guru, Sri Swamiji. The trustee told him to show him the object so he could decide if Sri Swamiji would accept it. The friend led him to the cupboard, and when he opened it, the trustee was shocked to find it was an Arka Ganapathi. The trustee brought it back home, where he performed the proper rituals and brought it to Sri Swamiji in the Mysore Ashrama, where it is to this day.
After Sri Swamiji finished this story, I began to massage His stomach. Suddenly, a shock emanated from Swamiji’s abdomen and electrified me. After this incident, I began to have visions of Ganapathi, Dattatreya, and the Divine Mother. I had many such great visions and thanked Sri Swamiji for blessing me with this constant Divine power, able to be seen so frequently in the forms that I loved. From these visions, the connection between Sri Swamiji and me grew stronger. There were no cuts, no tears, no severs; there was just constant enjoyment of the grace and guidance of Swamiji.
I often wondered why Sri Swamiji simply showed so much love to all of us, to all of these people, despite the fact that they were doing so much wrong. However, eventually I understood that if He chooses to ignore us and chastise us for our mistakes, then there would be no one to truly love us and accept us. He blesses without expecting anything else in return. We are often selfish in saying that we are sacrificing so much to come see Him; to follow His wishes and instructions, for we do not see along the way that He is the one sacrificing so much for us. We must simply try to follow Him with simple heart, feel Him more and more, and stop analyzing why He does the things He does.
One time, He sent me and another person to Anantapur to prepare for His arrival for the inauguration of Datta Temple. After completing this job, we went to a hotel to get some masala dosas, and entered into a conversation. The other man asked me if I had ever seen Sri Sathya Sai Baba materialize things before, for I had been a keen follower of Sai Baba and traveled with Him on some occasions. I said that I had seen Sai Baba materialize things quite often, but that I had never seen Sri Swamiji materialize objects. So, after this conversation, we went back to the temple, and the next day, His Holiness arrived. After the function, He began to walk up to His room and was climbing the stairs. On the first step, He stopped, turned around and called a person from the back of the room. When the person came, Sri Swamiji waved His hand and a crystal Surya appeared from the void. With humility and calmness, He turned to me, smiled, and said, “I can also materialize these things”.
On another occasion, a bank in Karnataka was being inaugurated and Sri Swamiji wanted to go to give a donation and make a deposit. At this time, the ten- rupee coin had just been released as a new form of currency. So, when He got to the bank, Sri Swamiji waved His hand and caused ten ten- rupee coins to appear in His hand to give to the bank.
There are so many experiences, but “My connection with Him is continuous, there is no cut. Every moment and every second I enjoy it, and He’s always with me. I don’t feel a separation, and I am always in Divine union with Datta. My guru is guiding me wherever I go, gracing whatever I do in my life. The experiences and the things I enjoyed with Him as a physical and ordinary person are still there. Anyone who wants to be with Swamiji should learn to be a human, how to be a simple person. They should love their family, respect their elders, and learn from Sri Swamiji.” Jaya Guru Datta