Rama Devi Kutkatla, Vadodara
I asked them, who is this Swamiji that you believe is God? How can a man be God? My parents told me I have to experience Him for myself.
I am presently serving Sri Swamiji at His Ashrama in Vadodara. I heard of Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji in 1968, for the first time, from my sister-in-law Mrs. Krishna Kumari. They took my parents to see Sri Swamiji in Mysore. At the age of eighteen, I got married and moved to Vadodara and whenever I visited my hometown; my parents were always in Mysore with Sri Swamiji. Two years passed like that and finally one day I asked them, who is this Swamiji that you believe is God? How can a man be God? My parents told me I have to experience Him for myself.
Then in 1970, I decided to go to Mysore and see this God-man. My mother, her friend, my two year old son and I traveled by train, bus, Tonga and even on foot, to get there. When we finally got there, I thought that the Ashrama was so small. I saw Sri Swamiji sitting under a mango tree with about twenty people sitting around Him. As soon as He saw my mother He said, “See, listen, I told you Amma would come, here she is, she brought something for me.” My mother went to Sri Swamiji and did Pada namaskara.
I did my pranams from afar standing at the back. Then someone brought some fresh groundnuts for Sri Swamiji and He looked at me and asked, “Can you cook these for me?” I said, okay! My mother showed me where the kitchen was and she told me to get permission, for the Ashramites do not let anyone into Sri Swamiji’s kitchen. I asked a lady sitting outside the kitchen and hesitantly she gave me a pot and sent me in. I cooked the ground nuts, cooled them and took them for Sri Swamiji.
He put them in His pallu, ate three in the shell and distributed the rest as Prasadam. I sat in the background just observing Him. Later, we were given accommodations in a shed. In the morning my son got up and wanted milk to drink as I used to give it to him every day. I told him that there was no milk in the Ashrama and he started to cry. Just then Sri Swamiji came and asked me why I am making the boy cry. I told him that he wants milk but there is none in the Ashrama. Sri Swamiji said, “He is adamant like me!”
He then sent someone to get some milk from the cow and my son was given a glass. My son was happy. Later I went to the Chopuram, a building with a thatched roof supported by bamboo posts with mud floor. Sri Swamiji normally sits here and plays the sitar. I sat with other devotees and enjoyed Him playing. We spent four days at the Ashrama and left.
However, on the last day, Sri Swamiji told my mother to take me to Chamundi Temple and we should not eat food outside, but come back and eat at the Ashrama. We went to the Temple and when I saw Chamundi Mata I was amazed at her beauty. The image is still with me today. We went back to the Ashrama and my mother told Sri Swamiji that we were leaving. My mother probed me to ask Him any question I had, but I could think of nothing.
He gave me a packet of vibuthi and said not to open it till I got home. We got back to our village after a thirty hour journey. I was curious to know what Sri Swamiji had given me so I immediately opened the packet and there was a medallion with the images of Lord Shiva, Mother Parvathi, Lord Ganesha and Kumara Swami. I loved these deities and I got them on the medallion. I thought nothing of it then. I had this belief stuck in my mind, that a yogi or swami should not own anything. This belief re-enforced my feelings that Sri Swamiji was an ordinary man.
Later in 1974, I had a second meeting with Sri Swamiji in Madras. My mother and I went there to attend the function. We stayed at a friend’s house who was not His devotee at that time. At night while sleeping in the room I had the vision of a strange man. I asked them the next morning who was that man. They said that it was their Guru and they were amazed that I had His darshan. They convinced me to stay at their home for a Lord Vishnu pooja. My mother and I stayed and began doing the pooja.
Unconsciously, I began chanting Sri Swamiji’s prayers and I was not even aware of it. After the pooja, the people told me that they were feeling the energy from the prayers I chanted. Before leaving Madras, my mother and I went to see Sri Swamiji and again I had nothing to ask of Him.
At my home a lot of Sadhus would come for food. At least every other day, one would come. I would give them food and at different times they gave me statues of Arka Ganapati, Shiva Lingam, Nandi, Coconut etc. I kept these things in my pooja place and did pooja to them. Once a Sadhu came after lunch and I told him all I had was tea. He said that he wanted something from me to break his fast and he told me to check inside for sweets. I went inside and found sweets and gave it to him. He ate and left. My husband used to caution me to be aware of all these people coming to my house. I don’t know why but I fed them and accepted their gifts.
My third encounter with Him was in 1976. My mother and I had gone to His thirty-fourth birthday celebrations at the Mysore Ashrama. I sat and observed other devotees coming with beautiful flower garlands and money and offering all this at His Feet. Seeing this I felt disgusted, I felt that a Yogi does not need all this. Then the devotees took Him in a palanquin and carried Him around. I began to feel that I should not have been there. Then suddenly Sri Swamiji shouted loudly, “This is my marriage, you all want special treatment?”
He called Mr. Bhatt, the first person He initiated into Sainthood, and told him to take the chamara (fan made of animal hair in pooja.) and wave before the people and then give them each a ladoo. Mr. Krishan Kumar was singing sad songs and Sri Swamiji shouted at him, “Why are you singing sad songs, why are you not happy?” Everyone became afraid of Him. I was a little afraid myself. I thought of giving Him the money I had with me, but I decided that I should not. I also promised myself that I will not visit this Swami again. If He wanted to see me He would have to come to Vadodara. My mother and I took leave from Sri Swamiji and returned home.
For sixteen years afterwards I sat and did introspection of myself, so I did not see Sri Swamiji again until 1991. During those sixteen years, I grew spiritually and I did not know who was guiding me. I read all kinds of religious books; works by Swami Vivekananda, Shree Rajneesh, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Mata Amritanandamayi, Swami Rama and Sri Ramana Maharishi. I was exploring these doctrines seeking spiritual knowledge.
I had started teaching, as a profession in 1979. After some time I realized how special the relationship is between student (Shishya) and teacher (Guru.). A teacher gives to the student what is best for him and the student puts all his faith in the teacher just to learn his ABC’s. Imagine how much more teaching and learning has to take place in the ABC’s of life. I began to look at a Guru-Shishya relationship differently. It was an unadulterated love given in return of firm faith.
In 1983 I took my class of forty kids to visit Mount Abu in Rajasthan. On that trip I came across many temples and gods. One that struck me was a male form with three heads. I found out later that it was Lord Dattatreya. The school children and I went and took a bath in a holy river and I found a photo of the three headed god. I took the photo to my home and began doing Datta Mantra. Around this time Sri Swamiji was still not propagating Lord Dattatreya. I also began doing pranayama and this helped a lot with my spiritual growth. I was slowly walking the spiritual path with an unseen guide.
In 1991 Sri Swamiji came to Vadodara to bless Mr. Patel’s new house. It so happened at that time my mother was at my house. Sri Swamiji sent someone to my house and the person said to me, “Sri Swamiji said that He is in Vadodara and would like you to attend the function.” My mother and I attended the function and I took two mangoes for Him. I sat looking at Him and I began crying, I felt strange for I don’t usually cry. I felt like a little child in front of Him. I was getting these thoughts that He is my Atma Bandhu, He is my guru. I cannot explain why I felt like that.
Then Sri Swamiji went inside and said that who wants to see Him must come inside. My mother and I went in and she asked Him why He didn’t take her along with my father. My father had passed away recently. Sri Swamiji told her that she still has a lot to do and see. I could not say anything to Him, I did my namaskara and left. I left with this deep desire to go to Mysore and see Him. With my husband’s permission I went to Mysore. In May, 1992, after seventeen years, I visited the Ashrama to celebrate Sri Swamiji’s fiftieth birthday.
My mother, twelve other people and I went on the trip. We put our luggage under a tree and covered them with straw mats since there was not much accommodation. We slept in the Pundarika Hall; this was behind the Guru Nilayam. On this trip Sri Swamiji did not talk to me. He was a silent teacher for me. One man asked me for my advice on his problem. He said he visited many Kshetra and Gurus, but has not found peace of mind.
While talking to him it was like he was talking to me. I told him that he has to fix his attention on one path and one Guru and he will make progress. Then I found out that whatever I spoke to anyone about, Sri Swamiji would talk on the same topic right after. On one occasion I asked Sri Swamiji if I should continue my practice of Pranayama and Datta Mantra. He said firmly that I should keep doing them. I felt happy and realized that He Himself had prompted me to do these things.
We were ready to leave and went to Sri Swamiji for His permission; He said to stay for two more days. I did not question Him why; but I later found out that the bus service in Karnataka state was on strike. While staying back, I saw the writings on Yoga Brahma in the ashram and asked a man to explain it to me; he said that he had no time. I thought that if Sri Swamiji wants me to know about this it will come to me in some form. I bought a cassette and a book and left the Ashrama.
I left feeling closer to Sri Swamiji, on the trip I experienced His omnipresence, His omnipotence, and His omniscience forms. When I got to my home I opened up the book I bought and it explained all about Yoga Brahma. From that day I believed that whatever He wants me to know He will reveal it to me.
In October, 1993 my husband accompanied me to Mysore Ashrama for the Navaratri Celebrations, because he did not want me to travel alone. My mother also met us there. In those days the festivities were elaborate and intense. Sri Swamiji started poojas from 6.30am and went till 5.00pm; then He performed the aarti which was followed by bhajans. Food was served only after the program.
On the last day, after conducting the Shanti Homa, Sri Swamiji called my mother, my husband and I for an interview. Sri Swamiji asked my husband, “Professor what do you want?” my husband replied, “Nothing Swamiji, I have come only to see you.” Sri Swamiji got up, went out and came with a paper and told me “I want to have an Ashrama in Vadodara, I wanted it to be there before the Surat Ashrama, but I have no one there.” I immediately replied, “If you allow me to do that, I am ready Swamiji.” Sri Swamiji turned to me and said, “Ramadevi, you are going to start? Okay, go and start!”
My husband and I returned to Vadodara and from the next Thursday we started having Bhajans satsanghas. I invited a lot of people including other professors at my husband’s job. They came mostly because they know me from certain social circles. Once they began to like the bhajans they came for that purpose only. As time went by we started having bhajans on Sundays.
A fellow teacher, Madhuri Tewari was hospitalized with diabetes. She could not move her legs. She asked me to help her with my Yoga. I invited her to come to Bhajans and Yoga at my house. I used to do pranayama with the Yoga and then we would sit and listen to Sri Swamiji’s Dhyana cassettes. One day she came and realized that she could move her legs. She was very happy. She asked me what she can do for me. I told her if she wants to do something, do it for Sri Swamiji. Later on she was able to get off the diabetic injections and the pills. She became an ardent devotee of Sri Swamiji.
One day a man with many ailments came to me for help. His liver was the only functioning organ in his body. I told him that I can only teach him yoga and cannot cure his ailments. When he first came to my house someone lifted him inside. After three months of practicing yoga he was able to walk and he drove to my house. People began telling me that I can perform miracles. I told them that I cannot do miracles; it is the work of my Guru, Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji. He is the doer; I am just an instrument and the medium in His hands.
I was invited to speak at various clubs; including the Rotary and Lions Clubs. I spoke about Sri Swamiji, His healing music, Yoga and Pranayama. Then more people began attending the Bhajan and Yoga meeting at my house. After some time we registered the meetings as ‘Sri Datta Satsangha’ and it officially became a part of the Mysore Ashrama organization.
In the years to follow I would go and meet Sri Swamiji when He visited Surat and request Him to visit Vadodara. In 1994 He told me that He would come to my house and spend three days if I don’t pester Him. I told Him that I don’t want Him to come to my house, but to come for the people of Vadodara. He then said, No! I don’t want to come to Vadodara, why do you keep asking me. In 1995 when He came to Surat, He did not call me for an interview so I waited until the program was finished.
Then at 7.00pm He called me behind the Datta Mandir and said to me, “What do you want? You are pestering me! You are really troublesome!” I said to Him, “I don’t know anything, when are you coming to Vadodara?” He then said, “Okay! I will come to Vadodara, but I want a big concert.” I then said, “Fine, we will have a big concert, you promise!” I left happy knowing that He will visit Vadodara. I love and respect Sri Swamiji, I feel He is part of my family and I tend to talk to Him in the same manner.
The concert was arranged by Members of Sri Datta Satsangha. We got a big hall, from the Parsee people, to accommodate the audience. They were invited to the concert and they all came and enjoyed it. Madhuri Tewari went from house to house collecting funds. Sometimes she was scolded but that did not stop her. She collected more than ten thousand rupees. Other families contributed in different ways, some sponsored the advertising, some did the food etc. When Sri Swamiji came to the venue, He saw seven hundred chairs; He told me it should be twelve hundred.
None of the families were there; they were at their houses thinking that Sri Swamiji would go to their house first. My sons and I had to get the place prepared. Sri Swamiji went and stayed at Mr. Patel’s house and the next day He came to Hall for programs. After the Sri Chakra pooja He called me and said to me, “Do you want to become ‘mother’.” I could not understand what He was saying and then He said to me “I am coming to your house for Bhiksha.” I was about to leave for my home to prepare, but He told me to stay until the Poornahurti of the Homa.
I left after the Homa and told my husband to delay Sri Swamiji as long as he can. I rushed to my house and began preparing food for Him. Sri Swamiji arrived after thirty minutes. He said, “I have come.” He told Kusumakka to help me in the kitchen; He wants to take a rest. He went to one of my son’s bedroom and rested. Later He had His Bhiksha then He went back into the bedroom and asked for Luv and Kush. This is how He used to call my twin sons. They came along with my husband and my mother to the room.
Sri Swamiji enquired about their studies and materialized two rings with white stones and told them to wear them and think of Him. I was happy for them. He saw my pooja room and I asked Him why did all these Sadhus come to my house to eat, and why did they give me gifts. He said to me, “How many times I came to your house and gave you things and how many times you fed me.” I was stunned and happy at the same time, for He was in my life before I was in His. In the evening Sri Swamiji did the concert and it was a huge success. After the concert He told my sons that they will be His pilots for the next day when He will visit various houses for Pada Pooja. They were happy to offer their services. Before He left Vadodara He told me not to worry about Him for other devotees will take care of Him, the only thing I have to do is to take care of the Ashrama. This was in 1996 and to this day that is what I have been doing.
In 1998 when He visited again, He asked me why I haven’t started a trust. I told Him that if He wants a trust we will form one. He told me He was going to Surat and in two days I must get constitution name and membership list to Him. I gathered the members, got the information and I went to Surat. When I arrived at the Datta Temple it was 11.00am; Sri Swamiji was out for Pada poojas. I sat on the steps and waited till 5.30pm. When He returned, He saw me and said, “Come, come I have been waiting for that paper, why are you sitting on the steps?” I went and gave Him the papers; Murali and Vamshi were the signatories, and so the trust was formed. Then Sri Swamiji said to me, “Now the trust is formed, I want land, but what to do, when you get land you call me and I will come to Vadodara, I promise.” I left Surat and went back to Vadodara with the intention of finding land for Sri Swamiji.
Sri Swamiji had already told one devotee who had experience in purchasing land to meet with me. He and I found this land and made a down payment and got a contract. I immediately told Sri Swamiji and He said He will not come till the land is paid off. I worked at my job from 6.45am to 1pm; I would then go around asking for donations. The land was costing around eight lakhs. Finally with the help of other devotees in October, 1999 we paid for the land in full. I phoned Sri Swamiji and asked Him, “When are you coming to Vadodara?” He said, “I am in Bombay, I will come tomorrow.”
The next day He really came to Vadodara. He was on the road and I was on the land. He said to, “I am not coming on the land.” I replied, “Yes, you must come!” He then said, “If I come you are going to complain.” I told Him, “No, I will not.” Then He said, “This is so far away, who will come here, this you will complain to me.” I said, “Swamiji if you wish everybody will come, nothing is hard for you.” All the people gathered there were watching us and wondered what was going on. Then He said to me, “Do you promise that you will not complain if nobody comes to this place.” I said, “Yes Swamiji, I promise not to complain.” With this He came on the land and Vamshi did the Bhoomi pooja.
In 2000 we wanted to build a prayer hall in Vadodara in honor of my mother-in-law. I phoned up Mysore Ashrama and told Prasadi to seek Sri Swamiji’s blessings and He said to go ahead. We built the hall and in 2003 Sri Manasa Datta and Sri Vamshi came to install Datta padukas they brought from Mysore. Sri Swamiji was in Hrishikesh and had gotten ill. They did the installation of the padukas and told us that we must conduct monthly homas. The board members took various duties for the maintenance of the Hall. At the function one man in the crowd volunteered to take care of the place and daily functions since he lived close by. I was a little sad that Sri Swamiji did not come himself and I comforted myself that He was ill that is why He did not come.
In 2001 at my house my sons had moved out and I renovated my house making the upstairs suitable for Sri Swamiji and His Pariwara when they come to Vadodara. Then the trust members constructed a Guru Nilayam on the Temple site for Sri Swamiji. In 2005 Sri Swamiji was coming to Vadodara after such a long time. He came and did programs and said that we must put mosquito nets in the room then only He will stay. Then He left for Surat. Two days after, we got news that He was coming back to Vadodara. I made basic food preparation in case He comes or does not come. He came to my house and said that He has come back for He knew I felt bad He did not come to my house. He went into the kitchen looking for mirchi bhaji and jilebi He asks me to prepare and call Him when they were ready.
We finished preparing and when Sri Swamiji’s cook saw the food He said that He does not eat this kind of food and does not want it. Then Prasadi told Sri Swamiji asked Amma to prepare; so send it upstairs. Sri Swamiji had bhiksha and sent prasadam for us; we were overjoyed. He went to bed. In the morning we all left for the airport. He asked me to ride with Him and He spoke to me about the temple and other things. At the airport before leaving He told me that my children have grown and left but now the ashram in Vadodara is my fourth child. He continued that if I am there the Ashrama will grow, but if I am not there it will not. This was His instruction and blessing from Sri Swamiji.
In the following years we expanded the Vadodara Ashrama. Things are going slowly but in the right direction. From my childhood Sri Swamiji was guiding my life without me knowing it. Such is the grace of this Guru. He revealed Himself physically to me when He thought it was best. He had once asked me if I wanted to be mother. I now know what He meant. Some of the devotees and my workers come to me with their problems and I give whatever help I can. They said I am like a mother to them and so they call me ‘mother.’ I say the same thing I said to some people many years ago, I am not the ‘mother.’ Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji is the divine mother, I am only His instrument. When I do pooja or housework I do it with the same conviction that I am doing it for Him. In this way the actions and results go to Him. I am free from it. I am His instrument and I pray that I will always be. Jaya Guru Datta
Sri Swamiji Says:
“Learning and teaching are like the two wings of a bird. If one wing is lost, the bird will no doubt live, but cannot fly. If both the wings are lost the bird is as good as its dead. Hence the injunction – STUDY AND TEACH.”
“Remember God and worship Him when you are happy. Forget yourself when you are in sorrows. Peace comes to you of its own accord. Energy and enthusiasm (to act), and courage of the mind to move forward, can be acquired from serenity.”