Siewdath and Latchmie Saroop, Trinidad
I always wanted to have a Guru and I knew that He was a Master, but it took about a year or so for me to realize who He was to me. I still cannot say who He is exactly as yet, but I have complete faith and confidence in Him.
In 1988 my mother was very ill; she had suffered a stroke and also had heart complaint among other ailments. I visited many doctors hoping for a cure but none was able to help her. I was told that she was not going to live very long, so out of compassion I decided that I had to try and find some spiritual help for her. I was told that I should visit Sri Krishna Maharaj who was teaching a yoga class at the California Temple. My family and I went and met with him and after our meeting he started to discuss his Guru, His Holiness Sri Sri Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji.
When we were leaving the temple, two women who where there, asked us for a ride to the main road. Incidentally, when the women left the car a small picture of Sri Swamiji fell out, and my sons, who were sitting in the backseat, saw it and exclaimed that we have a “Swami” in the car. Neither the children nor us had seen or known anything about the Swami so it was amazing to hear them talk about this Him. That is how Sri Swamiji first appeared into our home, by the appearance of that picture. I wanted to know about Him so I started searching for His devotees and learning from them. I was told that Sri Swamiji will be visiting Trinidad later that year and I should have His darsan.
I saw Him physically for the first time in Arima. Not understanding His mission or who He was, I just stood there looking at Him while everyone was prostrating. I wanted to know ‘who was this man, and why was everyone bowing down before Him’. I hesitated to take part because this was not something that we were accustomed to. I thought that to deitify a living person was against the norm of my religion and teachings. I just stood in my place and observed the proceedings. However, something about His personality had me riveted to His form, as though He was trying to tell me something.
I got a copy of His itinerary and later went to the home of Dr Ralph Sieupersad where Sri Swamiji was performing a homa during which we saw Him passing His hands in the fire. When He was finished He stated calling the names of devotees. When He called my name, my entire family went up and He waved His hand. I was awed at all the commotions but I was sincerely enjoying it. I was so taken up by the contexts of His programs that I wanted to attend everyone. A Kriya Yoga program was organized and I enrolled as a student, One day while Swamiji was passing through the hall He stopped and looking at me, He said, “I’m going home to your place”. I wondered why He wanted to come to our family place as we really did not have a house at this time.
Pundit Boloji informed me that if Sri Swamiji says He is coming to your home, He will be coming; no matter where you live, even if it is in an ant’s hole He will come. We lived in very poor conditions in the rural Penal area, but with His grace Sri Swamiji did visit us. Our house, at that time was just a tin roof on four walls. We had very little furniture, so we borrowed a bed and a table for the occasion. We bought a recliner for His Holiness to sit and curtains to block off an area for His privacy. The preparation was well accepted and before He left He gave us a small Murti of Ganesha for the prayer room. He also said something in His language that I could not understand.
I heard about the Aripo River, where Sri Swamiji, in another incarnation, had done His penance about thirty five thousand years ago. I visited the area and thought; how can I be of service to Him here? The next year I got involved; in the Aripo River site construction and all aspects of the ashram life and my family started attending the services at the center. For me, it’s a matter of experience with Sri Swamiji. Things began happening and I realized that there was nothing else but to follow Him. I always wanted to have a Guru and I knew that He was a Master, but it took about a year or so for me to realize who He was to me. I still cannot say who He is exactly as yet, but I have complete faith and confidence in Him.
I learnt that He wanted a Shiva Temple constructed on the banks of the river so that all devotees can come and worship. Although the location was not yet decided on, I went and scout the area for a possible site. During my reconnaissance I stumbled upon a mapepire, one of Trinidad’s deadlier snakes, and not understanding the spiritual context of places and animals, I killed it. I was later told that I shouldn’t have killed the snake as it was sacred to that area. I was advised that I should make some special offerings and after that was done we never saw another snake.
In the early 1990s a group of devotees, from my village, started going to the Aripo River every Sunday, to assist with the construction of the Shiva Temple. Interestingly, all the stones, gravel and sand that was needed for that days work will be available to us. At that time it did not occur to us that something miraculous was happening, we thought that it was just happening. It was only when I started looking through my diary that I realized that it was a miracle, and that everything was put in place by Him, as we needed it. When I told Him about the children that helped build the temple and asked if I can bring them so they could get some recognition He said “no, I already know who they are, I was with you every day and if you bring these children it will just swell their egos. Let them serve.”
During the Aripo Temple construction, one night while we were lying in bed, my three year old son stared at me and asked if there were good and bad spirits. I said yes, but I also asked him what he meant. He said that his little friends whom he met at the river had come home with him. I asked him what friends, and he said that whenever he went to the river he would play with some little beings and tonight they came home with him. They told him that I would go back the following week and they would return then. The small beings had small horses and they stayed for the week and played with my sons. They said when they returned to the river they would meet up with other beings there and that the boys would be safe and there would be no harm to them. My sons would go to the river and spend the entire day in the water that sometimes could be ice cold but was comfortable to them. They would play there all day and have no complaints as they would be playing with their friends.
My family had an extraordinary brown cow that had a third ear. My father thought that the cow was special, because of its color and behavior. When Sri Swamiji visited our home He saw the cow and said He wanted it in Mysore. The person who was given the responsibility of transporting it wasn’t able to do it, so the cow remained here. However, each time it gave birth Sri Swamiji would be advised and He will say what we should do with the calf.
In 1995, during the Maha Shanti Yagna, Sri Swamiji requested that the cow be brought to the Carapichaima Ashram. When she got there my father tethered her to a fence and she started to act mean and was trying to get away. However when Sri Swamiji came down and she saw Him, she became calm and started crying and wanted to go to Him. My father loose the rope from the fence and the cow went straight to Sri Swamiji, bend her knees and placed her head in front of His Holy Feet. Sri Swamiji blessed her and her behavior became very tranquil. This incident was published in the daily newspaper and lots of people came to see the cow.
I am an elementary school teacher and after I got married I continued living at my parent’s house. We were all devotees of Sri Swamiji and He had installed a Datta Murti on the premises. I took the lead for doing devotion duties at the home, but there were some petty rivalry about the successorship of the property. Not wanting problems I decided that my family and I will move out but what should I do about the Datta Murti. I advised Sri Swamiji about my predicament and He told me to get a smaller Datta Murti and keep it with me at all times.
We must not question Sri Swamiji’s sayings, action or motives; we must follow unhindered. In 2000, Sri Swamiji advised us that we should build a center in Penal. We had a piece of property and we thought that we would build a little room and moved there. When we started to layout the building, it started to rain and the land began flooding, so all the plans we had ended. Adjacent to the property, the government owned some lands, which sit on top of some hills, which we were allowed to use for religious purposes. We applied for the lands and built the Sri Sachchidananda Yoga Center; sometimes working day and night with little support. Whenever He comes to Trinidad, I would give Him a report and He would always say that we must finish it. We are still working to have it completed. I understand that in the future He will perform the consecration for the Sri Jayalakshmi Mata Yoga Center. Sri Swamiji seems very happy about the project.
In addition to the Yoga Center, we also constructed a Guru Nilayam and a small cottage for us on the compound. I know that this was part of His plan. People from everywhere come to see the temple. We are here to help Sri Swamiji’s mission in South Trinidad. No matter what you go through you can always say that whatever happens, happens for the best. As a teacher here at the local elementary school I encourage a lot of the children to come to the center and get involved in the programs. When the children come, they often bring their parents and grand-parents. In this way we are teaching a village about the mission of our Sadgurudeva. The people of Penal really do not know Swamiji and many of them are just being introduced to him. However, there is a lot of support for the Ashrama.
One evening, after finishing work at the ashrama, I was going down the hill and I had an accident. The tractor that on which I was riding ran off the road and I fell. When I got up, my left hand was completely twisted and the elbow was facing forward. I just sat and twisted it back in place instinctively. My children had seen the accident and they curiously asked me, who that person was standing beside me. I did not know what they were talking about as I was alone. They told me that they saw someone standing over me when I fell. I went to the hospital and they did an x-ray but found nothing wrong. The doctors never believed that the bone came out and went back in. I had no pain with that accident. When Swami Manasa Datta, who was in Trinidad at the time, saw it, he and asked me if it was an accident or an incident. I told him it was both. He said that I should not worry, and I must stop the construction for one year. We did as he told us and restarted only after the year was completed. Now my arm is stronger than before.
In 2003 Sri Swamiji came to Trinidad, for almost a month, to consecrate the Karya Siddhi Hanuman. My wife Latchmie volunteered in the kitchen but she was having problems with her feet being swollen at times. As is His custom, He will always come to bless the kitchen staff. She went up to Him thinking that she needed to be blessed to get rid of the swelling as she needed her feet to do His seva. When she got to Him, He turned away and started talking to someone else so she started to move back. Prasadiji told her that she should wait, but with the entire temple watching and wondering why she was waiting, she started to back off again. Prasadiji again told her that she should wait for awhile.
While waiting she started to feel an intense heat moving through her entire body. A few seconds later Sri Swamiji watched her, smiled and shook His head. From that moment all her foot problems vanished. Earlier that same year she had to have an operation for fibroids. She told the doctor that she could not schedule the surgery until Sri Swamiji left Trinidad. Two weeks after He left she went back to schedule the surgery and when the doctor did another ultra sound they found nothing. The doctor would not believe it and scheduled for her to do more intensive testing, bur they still could not find anything. He said that whatever happened was a miracle as he could not find a trace of it.
One of my sons fell off a boat in the ocean in water of about ninety feet in depth. He was wearing his safety gear which was causing him to sink fast. As he was sinking all that he could think of was Sri Swamiji and he started to pray. Suddenly he saw a piece of rope dangling in front of him, he grabbed it and the crew was able to reach him and get him out of the water. Later when we met Swamiji at the Datta Yoga Center, before we could say anything, Swamiji told him “I saved your life”. My son immediately started to cry in front of Swamiji. We have all experienced Sri Swamiji’s grace and I think that is what made us so strong. I do not want another life other than being with Swamiji. I am comfortable. It may not be the best of everything or luxurious but we have everything that we need. Our children, even though they have their own lives, are still very close to us and anything we need done they are there to help.
Three kittens moved into the temple and we could not get rid of them. They would do pradakshina around the Murtis, and then first in line for prasadam. One of the boys, Suresh, became very close to them. Once he was playing with one of them and was not paying attention to what was going on. A vehicle almost ran over him, but the kitten jump in its way and was crushed instead. Another time he had a sore throat and was unable to speak and another kitten spent the night with him. The next morning Suresh was able to speak but the kitten became dumb. After that the kitten walked away and was never seen again.
In November 2009, one night when Latchmie went to bed she saw a blue light in front of her face. She told me about it and I made fun of her. When she turned to another direction she saw yellow lights as if she was going through a tunnel at high speed. She told me that she was not feeling well and she did not know what was going on for the last fifteen minutes or so. She felt as though she was going to die. Her feet and hands were numb and she had lost feelings in all limbs. She told me she thought she was going to die and she wanted to die at Sri Swamiji’s feet. She was having severe migraines, dizzy spells and cold sweats. I held her around her waist and dragged her to the temple, and we sat in front of Sri Swamiji’s photo. She was still feeling as though she was in the tunnel with the lights, and we started to pray.
As we were praying the symptoms started to ease but she complained that she was feeling a pull to the top of her head. After awhile she started to become normal and started relating what had happened. The next morning I took her to medical professionals for their diagnosis but it turned out that it was not a medical but a spiritual problem. After that experience a soft spot with an open wound was visible on the top of her head. Randolph Chandrakate, another devotee who came to our assistance, said that her soul was already leaving her body and the dizziness and cold sweats were her nerves and other body systems disconnecting themselves. However Sri Swamiji pulled her back as she still has work to do for Him.
Her head is still not healed and her memory has been affected, but she is much better now. She feels as though she is living a leased life by the grace of Sri Swamiji. Everyone has some experience and if you sit and think about it you will realize that if it wasn’t for Him things would have been totally different. I am glad that I have known my Sadguru through all these years. There are things that you cannot explain that automatically falls into place, and once you think about it, you could see the connections.
Jaya Guru Datta