Pingala Manfred Herden, Germany
The heart to heart connection between Sri Swamiji and me was becoming stronger day by day.
I am originally from Germany, now living in the Mysore Ashrama. While growing up, for seven years; from the age of eighteen, I attended many Hatha Yoga courses and practiced it, read many spiritual books and met a few German Yoga Masters. Later I lived enjoying the pleasures of life with no desire for the spiritual one.
In 1991, while I roaming in a park close to my city, I looked up into the sky and the thoughts of being a spiritual seeker started coming to me, ‘I had money, a girlfriend, a job and all the physical comforts in life. I can pursue this lifestyle, but do I want this? And then an answer came from within that I should go deeper within myself and find out about the Self?’ For this I wanted to do traveling for a long period, preferably in India.
Later, I went to an astrologer to have my horoscope read and among other things, he told me that if I would travel to India I could visit a small ashram in Mysore India, and I could meet a saint at His birthday festival. I had been to Mysore previously. So I thought I would go back there when being on a longer trip. At end of 1991, I began preparing for a trip to India. I called the boss of my job and asked if I could get some time off. My boss asked for how long I wanted to have time off from job. I was surprised at this for they usually don’t offer the choice to select a period by you. I took a nine-month leave. I spent three months in Thailand and then went to the Himalayas in North India.
As I landed in India I felt like the earth was vibrating with spiritual vibrations and I felt like being guided. I visited a Buddhist Spiritual Center, which was close to the Dalai Lama place in the Dhauladar Mountain range, Himalayas. I attended classes in Self Inquiry and did Yoga and Meditation and began feeling an energy rising within me from the lower part of the body up towards my head. This experience was not familiar to me, and I became scared and tried to get out of it. It was a totally strange experience. I felt physically and energetically irritated after that, almost as being sick. I went to a doctor later in Delhi. He examined me and declared that everything was okay with my condition. He gave me some medicine for my stomach. After this one month of lonely spiritual practice I left for South India towards Mysore.
When I got into Bangalore, I took a bus to Mysore. The bus was old and the trip was rough. In spite of this, I felt comfortable as being rocked in a cradle rushing towards my later home and Master. When I reached the Mysore Ashrama, thinking of what the astrologer said, I expected to see an old saint, who would probably be visiting this small ashram, from the mountains. But as I entered, I was impressed at the large number of people gathering there. It was the last day of Sri Swamiji’s fiftieth. Birthday Celebrations, the Golden Jubilee, and still more than one thousand people were there.
I went to the Ashram office where the German astrologer, Janardana, who had given the hint of the Ashram festival, was called. He introduced me to Swami Manasa Datta who sat there as the Ashram representative. I saw a picture of a Sri Swami on the wall and thought that He was so young and not whom I expected. Swami Manasa Datta said that I could stay for four days only. I went and put my stuff away, went into the Prayer Hall, sat down and began meditating. After five minutes I saw a spiritual personality entering the Prayer Hall with a pink glow around Him. I recognized that He could be the Swamiji. I stood up and bowed before Him, and He went by, very close to me, and sat on the dais.
There were only four persons in the hall when He came in. As He sat, the hall became filled with people. The Swami seemed to have only a serious face, and He was scanning the audience, giving every person there a powerful glimpse within a split of a second: His eyes fell on me a couple of times. I saw a few Masters in Germany who taught Yoga but I thought this Master was obviously much more powerful.
That night I had a dream where I was a leader and guide for angels with wings flying high in the sky. I was teaching them how to fly and watched them unfolding this art. I saw a female angel flying too high in the sky, and then she began to fall. I caught her and took care of her. After waking up I thought that as it was a spiritual dream, it might mean something special and was amazed at it.
One day when I went up to the Swamiji for Darshan I asked, “Can I talk to you?” He turned His head away from me and said to me very sternly, “Later!” I felt a little bit like being turned away. The fourth day came, and I had to leave. I got permission to come and spend the day time in the ashram, but had to find a place to sleep outside. I did this for a few days and got tired of it. I thought that maybe I do not belong here; there is nothing here except people running and bowing before this man. I thought they should do Yoga and meditate and do not make all this fuss around the Swami.
I left the ashram and spent a few more days in Mysore City, then headed further South to Kerala. I spent some time on the beach and enjoyed the places. I kept practicing meditation and would often get spiritual dreams. I met many interesting persons and slowly I began to change my way of seeing the world.
One day on the beach, I felt this overwhelming sensation in my heart opening it up and with the feeling that an orchestra was playing within me. I kept feeling like this for days, months, and years and even up to this day. With this experience and feeling of intensive joy inside I immediately thought that I would have to go back to Mysore to see the Swami who I felt was the cause for this tremendous new inner feeling, and that He is my Master.
After travelling for twenty-four hours, I reached Mysore Ashrama. I went to the Ashram office where Swami Manasa Datta was again the one whom I met there. He told me that Sri Swamiji had changed his plans and was now in Europe, and I could not stay in the Ashram. I was not frustrated by that and accepted just what was offered as a possibility to me. I left the office to sit for a while in the Prayer Hall.
When I went to the foreigners’ bathroom I met Parvati there and on the way she started talking to me; I observed a white bright glow around her, and the whole atmosphere suddenly had changed and caused a intensive feeling in me. She talked to me very politely. When I told her a little bit about my new inner changes and the urge to meet Sri Swamiji now as His real devotee, she said beside other things that I would be one of the last devotees to come to Sri Swamiji.
Much later when being asked about our meeting at the bathroom place she strangely could not remember to have met me there. She offered the Angel Hall, the foreign devotees’ quarters, for me to take a shower and then we sat along with Shabari for breakfast upstairs.
There Parvati gave the hint to visit Vijayawada in one month’s time when Sri Swamiji will be there. I thought I would do that. I left the ashram and instead of visiting Rajasthan as intended before I went to some places in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu waiting for one month to pass. I had this feeling deep within myself that Sri Swamiji was my Master and I must meet Him.
I went to Vijayawada for the upcoming Ganesh Chaturthi festival and saw Sri Swamiji there. I attended all the functions and enjoyed everything. I dropped all the negative feelings I had about the devotees around Him and found myself being one of them. My meditation became very intense and I could feel the energy in me all the way up in my head, I felt like as if my skull bone was not there any more and the energy could pass easily above my head.
When I told Sri Swamiji’s assistants about my wish to meet Him, they later told me that Swamiji would give me an interview. I waited for the whole day, but He did not call me for this interview. This was okay for me. I was happy just to be with Him. On the main day of Ganesh Chaturthi, I sat in the huge crowd and He looked at me with the most compassionate look which I had not seen before on His face. It melted my heart.
I got permission to come to Mysore Ashram with the Ashram staff. I stayed at the ashram for five weeks, so that I can be there for the Navaratri Festival. I kept practicing my meditation. He gave me the name, Pingala, during this visit. When the day came I had to leave and return to Germany I had a heavy but also a joyous heart to leave my Master in physical form.
In Germany I got back to my life as a social worker, I meditatedly started and later learnt and practiced Homa rituals. I felt my inner being opening up to subtle realms of spirituality. Some Nadis and Chakras in the body opened up. Sometimes I would get the taste of Amrita in my mouth that seemed to be ten times sweeter than sugar. I attended the Satsangha in Germany regularly and would have dreams with Sri Swamiji every other night. Through these dreams, I received His Darshan, blessings and guidance. The heart to heart connection between Sri Swamiji and me was becoming stronger day by day. In 1993, I went with Sri Swamiji on His Nada Prasara Tour in Germany, Holland and Switzerland. I prepared the Homas and Pooja places for Sri Swamiji and helped in whatever way I could. In the following years 1994 to 1998, I visited Mysore once in a year.
In 1999 while being in Mysore Ashram for half a year, Sri Swamiji, after having completed the Sri Chakra Puja and passing by the sitting crowd, came suddenly close to me and sat down very near to talk to me for half an hour. He mostly scolded me for things I had not really done. But it was obviously a teaching also for all other devotees around us. Finally He assigned me to take care of the accommodation arrangements for the foreign devotees for the inauguration of the Datta Venkateswara Temple.
There were about three hundred and fifty devotees coming from abroad. This was my first official assigned duty in the Ashrama, and I was honored to serve. Before coming to the Ashrama in 1999, I had to find someone to take over my flat for the time of absence which turned out to be a little bit difficult. One day I got a call from Berlin, the young woman on the phone said that her actual name was “Blessing” (which has a different meaning in German than in English), and she would like to take over the flat, even if she had not seen it before. I felt that this was only the outcome of Sri Swamiji’s blessing.
That year, I accompanied Sri Swamiji everywhere as the only Western devotee on His tour in Andra Pradesh staying always with the staff members. It was challenging, but spiritually very beneficial. At the end of this trip, Sri Swamiji told me to come back to Mysore Ashram soon and stay here for more than one year. I had planned differently to concentrate on my new profession as a non-medical doctor in Germany. But with this special offer I changed my directions immediately and felt happy to get this golden chance.
On September 13th 2000, I came to Mysore with the intention of leaving after one year but I never left. I stayed with regular small breaks in between until this day in 2011, rendering as much Seva as possible to Sri Swamiji and the Ashrama. When I first came to India, I did not come with the intention of finding a Guru. I wanted to learn more about Yoga and Meditation. I did do that, and it led me to Sri Swamiji who became the object of my meditation. He has seated Himself in my heart and became my inner motivator and guide. He has stationed Himself within me where I do not need to see His physical form. I do not know what the future will bring He knows what and when to give and where it will finally lead to. For me He is Spirituality personified. Jaya Guru Datta