Raja Srinivasa Sarma and Parvathi Ganduri, USA: “He found me, He set the stage for me, He gave me a role to play”
Raja Srinivasa Sarma and Parvathi Ganduri, Florida
Parvathi: . Everything that Sri Swamiji does is for our benefit. He asks us to do Seva and when we serve, we are not serving Him but we are serving ourselves.
I grew up in Machilipatnam India and moved to USA upon marriage to my husband Raja Srinivasa Sarma. I am from a family of seven children, four girls and three boys. My father was a communist and did not believe that God could take the form of a human being. He believed in the traditional forms of God like Rama and Krishna. This did not hinder my mother in her spiritual practices, she believed in the concept of God and Guru, and my father never controlled or stopped her religious pursuits.
In 1984, when I was around the age of seven, Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji inaugurated a Temple in Machilipatnam with Sri Narasimha Saraswati Padukas. My mother was involved with the Temple work even before its inauguration. My brothers, sisters, and I used to accompany her whenever she went to the temple. We used to do work in a playful manner. After the temple’s inauguration, we attended all the functions. Our world began revolving around Sri Swamiji.
In 1987, Sri Swamiji visited our house and my mother was so happy. We lived in a rented three-room apartment and wanted to make it beautiful for Sri Swamiji. My siblings and I drew pictures of Datta and Swamiji and decorated the walls with them. When Sri Swamiji walked into the house, He looked at us, all seven children standing in a line, looking like a ladder. He looked at the walls and said, “Oh! I love this place, Datta-Datta everywhere.” We welcomed Him and enjoyed His Company.
The youngest child, my brother, was three years old. My mother told Him about her concerns for us; her daughters and our marriage etc. and He told her, “Everything will be all right; Sri Swamiji is there and will take care.” He did take care of us. Each one of us got married and has good lives. My father did not have to search for any alliance, and he did not have big dowries to give, yet alliances from very reputable families came to him.
Once my mother and I had to attend a function in our town and my father took my siblings to Mysore to celebrate the Shivaratri Festival. On their way back home, the compartment in the train they were travelling in got derailed. It ran on the track by itself for a few miles and stopped. It remained there for some time until some people came. Luckily, no other train was coming at that time and by Sri Swamiji’s grace, none of them got hurt.
In 1986, the movie, Datta Darshanam was released and Sri Swamiji encouraged us to go to the movie theatre and watch it. We saw the movie many times. A group of us; children, used to walk barefooted going around the town shouting, “Watch the movie, Datta Darshanam!” We would sing Datta Bhajans and encourage everyone to know about Lord Dattatreya. Sometimes we were on the road for five hours and would collect ten to one hundred rupees. We would put the money in the Hundi in the temple feeling that we have accomplished such a great task for Sri Swamiji. We were not aware that He gave us the sacred opportunity to beg alms, a practice which removes the ego.
We were always at the temple ready to help. For the Laksha Patri Puja, offering of one Hundred thousand leaves with the name of God written on them, the children used to go and pick the leaves from the trees. It was fun for us to climb the trees and compete among ourselves to see who would collect the most leaves. After collecting, we sorted the leaves in bundles, and then we wrote ‘Jaya Guru Datta’ on each leaf. Anxiously we waited for the start of the sacred ritual of chanting God’s name while offering the leaves. The entire process would take about a week, but we were not aware that He gave us the sacred opportunity to perform Datta Deeksha.
For the Shivaratri Festivals we would stay awake mainly to re-dress the Gods every three hours for the poojas. We enjoyed doing this and then we would chant the prayers for the poojas. The night of vigil devotion would come and go and we were not even aware that He gave us the sacred opportunity to perform Tapas.
When we became young adults, we used to attend Sri Swamiji Yoga Camps in the Temple. Daily we would wake up, take our bath and be ready for Him at 5.00 Am. in the Temple for our Yoga Class. Around this time, I began doing parayana by reading His autobiography, I read it many times and each time I would experience it differently. I was not aware that He was teaching me discipline.
Whenever Sri Swamiji visited the Machilipatnam Ashrama, He would casually sit and talk with us. We used to ask Him questions like, why did Lord Rama send Sita Devi into the forest. He would give us the answer in a simple way that our young minds would understand. Once I asked Him, what is Maya? He explained it telling the analogy of the snake and the rope. He said, “In the dark if you see a rope on the ground it would seem like a snake, but if you put light over it, you will see it is a rope. In the same way if you have the light of knowledge, Maya will not affect you.” Sometimes He taught us Bhajans and Prayers. Other times He helped us with little skits. We had little training in dance and music but we danced and sang like professionals. We were not aware that He gave us the sacred tools of devotion.
I got married in 1998 with His approval and blessings. He gave me a wonderful husband, two daughters and a son. We are presently living in USA. I do think of the wonderful times I spent with Sri Swamiji in Machilipatnam, India and it gives me strength to live my life. I realized that He did everything in my life for me, because He loves me. Everything that Sri Swamiji does is for our benefit. He asks us to do Seva and when we serve, we are not serving Him but we are serving ourselves. We build Temples and other institutions saying it is for Him, but we are the ones who use it. When He asks us for money, does He take the money for Himself? No, He uses the money for the many Humanitarian Projects that He has initiated. In the end, Sri Swamiji does not lose nor gain anything from us. He is our Kalpavriksha. Jaya Guru Datta
Raja: He found me, He set the stage for me, He gave me a role to play, He taught me my lines, He opened the curtains and the play began, I am performing. The name of the play is, Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji
I am originally from Machilipatnam India and presently residing in Florida USA. I met Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji for the first time in 1982 when He visited my home town. He came and stayed at a devotee’s house and conducted a public program in a Kalayana Mantapa in the town. I was twelve years old and in High School. I grew up in a family which participated in daily rituals and poojas, so it became a part of my life. I understood what was expected of me and I followed in the tradition.
Once, our landlord told us that his Guru was coming to conduct a program; we were open to the concept of Gurus and spiritualism so we attended the program. When I saw Sri Swamiji at the landlord’s house, I took a liking to Him and so did my family. I felt that there was something different about this Guru. We began attending His temple in Vijayawada for big festivals and in our town we began having Satsangha once per week at various devotees’ homes.
The following year a devotee donated some lands to Sri Swamiji and He gave His devotees in the town permission to construct a temple. I helped in whatever way I could, cut bushes to clear the land etc. In 1984 He came and inaugurated the temple with the installation of Sri Narasimha Saraswati Padukas. I began attending the temple frequently, learning the bhajans and prayers. The temple activities were fun to do. I performed tasks with children of the same age and we imbibed spiritual concepts through play.
On one occasion the children and I were collecting leaves to perform, Laksha Patri Puja. (An offering of one hundred thousand leaves with the name of God written on them.) I had to climb up a very high wall to reach the branches of the tree and I slipped and fell on the side of the wall facing the road, and I fell unto the roadway. I lay there for about a minute, then got up and walked away with only a sprain in my foot. By Sri Swamiji’s grace the busy roadway was clear of traffic and I was not hurt.
After the Temple was inaugurated Sri Swamiji made many visits to Machilipatnam. I used to spend all my time in the temple. He used to sit and talk to us about spiritual concepts through stories and taught us how to sing Bhajans and recite mantras. He made this a fun experience for us. On one of His visits, He went upstairs in His room to rest and the contractor was finishing some work around the Sri Narasimha Saraswati Padukas. He was pounding close to the Padukas and it seemed that he would accidentally hit the padukas. Sri Swamiji told someone upstairs, “Go and see what is happening, someone is hitting my Padukas.” The man came downstairs and saw that it was the contractor. We were surprised that Sri Swamiji felt the blows from all the way upstairs.
My parents became very devoted to Sri Swamiji and His blessings fell on my entire family. We were five children, and Sri Swamiji told my parents that He will take care of us. This He did throughout our lives till now. Once my younger brother was doing some electric work in Nuzividu Ashrama with the electricity turned off. Someone came and accidentally turned on the breaker. My brother received an electric shock over his entire body; by Sri Swamiji’s grace he had no permanent injury.
Later on my brother developed a skin allergy on his foot.. He visited the doctor and was prescribed medication to ease the itching. Six months passed and the allergy was still there, itching and looking bad on his skin. My family visited Mysore Ashrama for Shivaratri Festival and he went to help with the washing of the dishes for the three days festival. At the end of the three days his skin rash disappeared completely. Sri Swamiji, like a loving parent took care of him without him even asking for help.
My father was a heart patient and would suffer frequent attacks. The attacks would come at any time so my mother would sit at his bedside during the night to watch him. One night she fell asleep and my father went to the bathroom, he got an attack and fell unconscious and woke up after two hours. When he visited the doctors they were puzzled as to how he survived that attack. Sri Swamiji told my mother that He had extended my father’s life.
My sister fell off her bicycle one day and injured her toe. She neglected to take care of it and after three weeks, it became infected and began to pain. We took her to the doctor who said that surgery had to be performed to remove the toe for it would infect the other toes. My sister did not want this, for missing a toe. She asked my brother to take her to Sri Swamiji in Mysore. When they arrived there Sri Swamiji was not in the ashram. They spent three days doing prayers in the temple and she did Pradakshinam to GuruNilayam several times and returned home. My sister’s toe healed slowly and she did not require surgery. Sri Swamiji heard her prayers even though He was not there physically.
In 1992, the week before Navarathri I got this strong desire to study the Mother Goddess. I read and studied the meaning of the Lalitha Sahasranama, and then I went to Mysore Ashrama for the Navarathri Festival and took part in the poojas. One day, during the program, Sri Swamiji gave me upadesam for the Mother Goddess. When I received the mantra from Him, I already knew the meaning of it. He knew that my upadesam would have taken place at this time so He prepared me for it without me being aware of why I was doing it. Like this, He orchestrates everything in my life.
I went to Sri Swamiji and asked Him for His guidance before I did my bachelors degree, masters degree and job placement. Whatever He told me to do, I did it, I did not question the advice He gave, even for a second. Friends used to say to me, “What does a Swami know about engineering stuff?” I used to tell them He is my engineer.
My family used to always talk about Sri Swamiji in our house. When we met Him later He would tell us exactly what we were saying. In this way He revealed His omnipresence to us. My family and I would always accompany Him on His Andra Pradesh tours and enjoy His lectures, bhajans and poojas.
Sri Swamiji blessed my marriage to Parvathi, who is also from my place, growing up together with Him in our lives. After marriage we moved to USA. We have two daughters and a son. In December of 2009 a devotee accompanied us on a road trip from Florida to the DRC in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. We were taking our nine month old son to Sri Balaji for his hair cutting ceremony. On the way back to Florida in my mini van, I was driving with the lady devotee in the front passenger seat. My wife was holding my son in the second row and my daughters were in the third row. Suddenly our van skidded and went on the opposite lane and collided with an oncoming vehicle.
The impact deplored all the air bags in the van. I came out of the vehicle; I was fine and so was everyone in the van. The passengers in the other vehicle were injured and taken by ambulance to the hospital. Both vehicles were totaled. The owner of the other vehicle pursued a legal battle for financial settlement in the maximum amount of four hundred thousand dollars. We spent some sleepless nights over this but knew deep in our hearts that Sri Swamiji knows all about this and He knows what is best for us.
This gave us an opportunity to reinvent our spiritual relationship with Him. We prayed for His strength to face our Karmas. My wife and I did a forty day Audumbara Deeksha and on the forty-first day we got news from the lawyers that we are relieved from all financial obligations to the other party. We suffered very little financial loses with this incident but gained a lot of spiritual strength. Sri Swamiji saved us from a deadly accident even though we did not call on Him. He was with us at that moment.
In 1982 when I first saw Sri Swamiji in our landlord’s house, I had done nothing to make that happen. He made that landlord his excuse to find me. He found me, He set the stage for me, He gave me a role to play, He taught me my lines, He opened the curtains and the play began, I am performing. The name of the play is, Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji.
Jaya Guru Datta
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