Janardhan R Tallam, Ohio, USA
With Swamiji every day is a different drama and we need to learn from that and try not to criticize.
I do not remember when my associating with Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji started. I do not know how to relate it: is it from a recent date or from childhood? Seeing Him is enough or talking with Him is what counts. I want to share my connections with Sri Swamji from my childhood so that people can understand why so many thoughts go through my mind. Looking back at my relationship, it is who I am and how my life was changed. I wish I had a much deeper and closer contact with Sri Swamiji from childhood, however I think we should be content with what we have.
I lived in a small town called Yerraguntla, about twelve kilometers from Proddatur. Those who visited Proddatur should go through Yerraguntla. When I was young, our school played field hockey with another High Scholl in Proddatur. I remember the day; it was mid-morning, I was standing and looking at the school building, comparing it with my school. Ours was a much smaller school. I was observing students going from one class to another. I remembered seeing one of the students, a boy about my age, wearing a dhoti and with vibuthi smeared on forehead, smiling with His white teeth quiet obvious, talking with His classmates and walking in the hallway. I did not pay much attention to Him and I went with the game.
Later, twice I saw this person at a different place. Normally, I would visit my sister in Jammalamadugu and the bus from the village stops in front of the Arya Bhavan, a small restaurant. It was always mid-afternoon and the place serves great masala dosa. Usually, I would stop, sometimes after school, to have afternoon tiffin. A few times I noticed the same lad from the high school waiting at the tables and smiling. It happens that the cashier of the place was my next door neighbor from Yerraguntla. I could never forget the smile on that boy’s face. Later I will explain how I remembered all this. However, still there were no communications with Him and no words exchanged.
We did not have any movie theatres in Yerraguntla, so few students used to go to late movies in Proddatur; most of the times the late movies start around 10.00 pm and finished by 2.00 am. After the movie, all of us would go to the bus-stand and sit near the Shiva temple discussing the movie; sometimes being loud and sometimes singing songs. One time, an old woman, Venkamma, came and chased us out of the temple and made it clear that we are not welcomed there. Later, I left India for the United States and I forgot about all these events.
I am now living in Youngstown, Ohio. One day after working the night-shift and having just a few hours of sleep, late in the afternoon I went to Sri Venkateswara temple in Pittsburgh. It is my habit to visit this temple once a week. This was because I went to medical school in Tirupati and have a close association with Lord Venkateswara. When I got there I saw a harmonium sitting at the main temple. I asked priest, Varadachari, about the harmonium and he explained they have a visitor from India, a good singer who would give a performance. This was great entertainment for the staff. The next week, at the same time, while walking in the hallway I saw Sri Swamiji going to the quarters, probably for an afternoon rest. Still there was no communications, even at this time.
When I left India, I left everything to my brother, Ananda Rao. I was under the impression that they were all doing well and did not pay much attention to them. However, I communicated once a month by letter. I used to receive letters from my brother asking me to meet with a Swamiji from India. I had several letters, but pretty much I ignored them. I get confused when you have more than one teacher; and on God.
We had some serious financial problems in India and at one time, my family was going to lose everything that my father built. I remember getting a phone call from Anasuya, Ananda’s wife, who was crying and requesting my help. I was not sure that I was in any position to help them out that much, but I promised that I will help them. I also advised them that the best thing to do is to leave everything to the debtors and let them take what they can. Later, I understand that Ananda went to Mysore and after ten days of sleeping in the old Datta temple, he got the chance to see Sri Swamiji. When he met with Sri Swamiji, He told Ananda that he cannot help him, however it’s only your brother that can help you.
Somehow, my thought of my family suddenly changed and I decided to help them. After several phone calls and discussion with several people, the family was saved and everyone was happy to stay in the same house where they loved to be. Since I was not financially well-off, I was sending money to them every two weeks. The last check I remember writing was for three thousand dollars. When I saw the return check it was written for thirteen thousand dollars. Everyone understands that you can make mistakes with numbers, but on a check you still have write the amount in words. I was not sure how that happened and I never will make a mistake like that. Fortunately, there was money in the bank and everything went well. Once, while driving back from Pittsburgh, after visiting the temple, it dawned on me that there was a major force behind this and someone was trying to get us closer in order to save the family.
One day I got call from Dr. Prakash Rao who introduced himself and explained his role with the ‘Datta Yoga Center, USA’. He explained about Sri Swamiji works and mission and requested me to be part of the organization. Since I was involved with another temple and did not have much time, I respectfully y declined. Later, I received a cassette tape with Sri Swamijis songs and you will not believe how many times I played it; I still have the cassette at home.
Then later, in the 1990s, I started reading the publications of Bhaktimala which automatically started coming to my house: I am sure Ananda Rao must have given my mailing address to the ‘Bhakti Mala’ office. From reading these little books, you could realize how the ashram was; going through difficulties times with new buildings, transportation and most of all, keeping the visitors comfortable.
Then I found out that my nephew was spending time in Mysore and he was very happy. Suddenly, one day I was informed that he had an accidental death, but I could not do anything from where I was. Today, my mind searches as to why this happened; he is related to a person who saves lives, but Sri Swamiji let him go. Of course, my nephew did not follow Sri Swamijis advice and no one in the Ashram was watching him. Many times these thoughts go through my mind as to why this had to happen. Then one day I realize that it’s ones Karma and when your time comes you need to leave this world. I never heard my family making any negative comments about Sri Swamiji after that tragic accident, but they have gotten closer to Him.
Finally, in 1996 I met Sri Swamiji at the Pittsburgh Airport and I saw Him shedding tears when I mentioned about my nephew. Later, I had an interview with Sri Swamiji at West Sunbury; it was brief, probably for one minute. During that interview, suddenly I asked Him, “Can you be my guru.” He waved His hand and my interview ended. After reading Sri Swamiji’s life story, about His rather hard life in Proddatur, I realized that He was none other than that boy I saw in my adolescence years. I also learnt that as a child, Sri Swamiji used to have a few hours of undisturbed sleep and wake up early in the mornings to practise yoga asana.
After meeting Him I decided to visit Mysore. My first visit to Mysore was nothing but troubles; from the Airport in Bangalore to Mysore City; I was cheated by the taxi cab and the porter at the Railway station. When I got to the station the train was moving and the porter threw the luggage and collected a good amount of money. I never even purchased a ticket. I was tired, hungry and thirsty, but finally I reached the Mysore Ashram. My brother misunderstood my date of arrival and did not come to the Airport. However, I never felt mad or had any thoughts of canceling my trip to the Mysore Ashram; I spend about a week at the Ashram. I also had a lot of problems to go to Hyderabad to attend my nephew’s, Srinivasulu, marriage, but with the help of Sri Swamiji I was able to get there, on the day of marriage.
Looking back at the events, I feel this are not troubles, but challenges one has to face to meet the right person. First, I want to say why did Swamiji did not reply to accept me as His devotee. After ten years of listening and reading, I realized that He is indirectly teaching us how to be good students learning from day to day life experiences. By reading His sayings, you do not need to read and learn all the ancient scriptures, if you follow what Sri Swamiji is saying, that is enough to change your life.
Though I am trained as a surgeon and have been practicing for quite a few years, I work in a busy Emergency Department for more than thirty years. Most of my patients are critical need patients and several times a day there are life threatening situations and I am constantly saving lives. People expects us to know everything and save every life. I am happy that I choose to do what I am doing and today I know that there is someone guiding me to make my job easier.
Sri Swamiji is in my life every minute, every hour and all day. Every time I have to make a decision about a critical problem at work, I would always consult with Him and He is able to help me. Several of my colleagues make positive comment to me. Once, I was told that twenty years is burn- off period for any Emergency Room Physician, however I am doing this since the 1970s and I am still continuing to work.
I am not sure when I am going to stop, but friends usually asked me what the force behind this is. I try explaining to them that they should have faith in whatever they do at all times, and do the right thing; do not look to get riches or gain power. I have given many books on Sri Swamji to a few of my friends and daily I forward by emails, simple teachings from His life to them. Finally, if you have faith, serve Him sincerely and do not try to become selfish. With Swamiji every day is a different drama and we need to learn from that and try not to criticize.
I want to thank Sri Swamiji for taking care of my family and protecting them from evil things. Though I am first male person in the family and by rights they are supposed to listen to me, I have no doubt that Sri Swamiji is the eldest brother and we all come after Him. Since I met Sri Swamiji, I do not know how many times, of course in my mind, I argued with Him and became angry. I debated on everything that was done. Later I found that the reasons why these happen; is that physically I am not close to Him, but internally I am closer that I think. Jaya Guru Datta