Swami Dattananda Datta Pada Renu, Mysore
Physical body is inherited from parents but a Guru gives a divine birth. The Guru transforms the disciple into a divine personality and he have to serve the Guru with child-like faith.”
Today, I can say thanks to Sri Srinivas Bhatt, my old friend from Cochin, who took so much pain in trying to introduce me to His Holiness Sri Sri Sri Ganapathi Sachchidananda Swamiji. I had known Sri Bhatt, when he was a priest at the Gopalakrishna Temple in Cochin. I was not a spiritual person, but there was some religiousness in me, so off and on I would visit the Temple. During the late 1960s Sri Bhatt would talk about his Guru, Sri Swamiji, but for me there was no interest whatsoever. Whenever we meet, he would insist that I should come and have His darsan and blessing. I kept insisting that he should leave me alone, but he was more insistent.
I was employed as a bank-clerk and enjoying the fruits of my labor. My pastime then was taken up in singing film songs, a passion I loved. Any talks about God or God-men will immediately change my psyche. Why should I sacrifice a lucrative job and career for the sake of following these teachings? After getting the job, I developed a small ulcer in my stomach, which was later diagnosed as being cancerous. Because of this, I had no interest in being married, so I remained a bachelor. The pains from this problem, at times was so great, that I thought I would die. Sri Srinivas Bhatt was sure that if I went to Sri Swamiji, this situation would go away. Finally in 1976, I acceded to his clarion call and visited Sri Swamiji in Guruvayoor, at a Temple dedicated to Lord Krishna.
Before having the darsan of Sri Swamiji, as I was approaching the venue for His program, I heard the sweet melodious sound of a celestial singer, which was like nothing that I heard before. The sound kept pulling me closer and closer to the source and hence to my Sadguru. That first darsan was very piercing for me, so I immediately left the scene but I couldn’t leave the area. I took a room in a nearby guesthouse and decided to rest for awhile without anticipating my next move. My fate was fixed and that was that. Suddenly, through an open window a crow flew into the room and sat on a chair. I tried shooing it away to no avail, then the crow disappeared and in its place Sri Swamiji appeared sitting in the chair. I immediately prostrated at His feet and seek His blessing, a few words were spoken then the crow reappeared and flew away. My fate was fixed and that was that.
The vision of Sri Swamiji and the crow not only wiped away all my skepticisms and doubts, but also made me realize that there was God and Sri Swamiji was that God manifest in human form. When I returned home my mind started revolving in the thoughts of the vision and slowly there ensued a metamorphosis in my inner life. An intense love and faith in Sri Swamiji welled up in my heart. I felt I got a rebirth in the same body.
The following year, intuitively, I visited the Mysore Ashrama for the first time, accompanied by Sri Srinivas Bhatt who excitedly introduced me to Sri Swamiji. He inquired about my name to which I replied; my name is Bhavani Shankar, Swamiji. Thereupon His Holiness started calling me Shankar and remarked; “Shankar, I have already taken charge of your affairs and your problems. You have to finish some more karma. Finally you will come to me only. Time is fast approaching for that”. Thereafter Sri Swamiji took a flower and gave it to me, with the instructions that I worship it daily. As the flower fell into my hands it turned into a small idol of Goddess Durga. Immediately He took another flower and gave me and this turned into a small article made of Gold. I felt very happy and thought to myself, “Oh my God! Sri Swamiji is blessing me with articles made of gold and panchaloha. What a love He has for me!”
As these thoughts flashed into my mind Sri Swamiji again looked at me and said: “Don’t worry about your stomach problems. Diseases and suffering are not meaningless. They have a great purpose in our lives. With the help of doctors and medicines you could not cure your ailment, but you thought whether Swamiji could help. You thought of giving a chance to Sri Swamiji and that thought brought you here. So diseases must be welcomed. They are God sent agents to cure man’s real sickness, which is his faithlessness. God is, have faith, and have faith”. I was taken by His words and I realized that I have found my Guru.
My love for cinemas and cinema songs abated and instead I started singing Bhajans and attending Satsangha. My reading of cinema magazines gave place to the study of Bhagavad Gita and other scriptural texts. Over and above this I also got tremendous relief to my long standing stomach problems. I realized that Sri Swamiji’s unseen hands were working behind all these changes in my life.
During my next visit to the Ashrama Sri Swamiji asked me to sit and said, ‘Shankar, the last time you came I gave you articles made of gold and panchaloha. This time I will give you Jnana and Bhakti. Physical body is inherited from parents but a Guru gives a divine birth. The Guru transforms the disciple into a divine personality and you have to serve the Guru with child-like faith.” With these words Sri Swamiji materialized two small packets of vibhuti and gave them to me.
Sometime later, during another visit to Mysore, Sri Swamiji chastised me by angrily shouting “Why are you coming to the Ashram so frequently? I don’t want to see your face. Go away soon.” I became nervous as I did not understand why Sri Swamiji was so harsh on me. However, after three years of intense sadhana, during which time I listened to discourses on Gita, Ramayana and Bhagavat Purana by eminent scholars, I also had a desire to give discourses on Gita. I also got involved in attending Satsangha and singing Bhajans.
Sometime in 1982, as per my invitation, Swamiji visited my house and seemed to act in an angry peculiar manner. I was put to an awkward situation as my relations were chastising me saying “Your Swamiji does not like you at all, otherwise why He should behave like that.” I could not reply to them. However, during His next visit I was skeptical, thinking that He will exhibit the same behavior as before, but in His infinite Grace He was the most friendly and jovial guest. I begged Sri Swamiji to explain to my relatives why He had kept silent during his first visit and He explained, “Shankar, I test the intensity of my devotees’ Bhakti in different ways. I wanted to know how you would react when your relatives bullied you. Instead of being disheartened you clung to my feet with firmer grip, so you won the test.”
Then Sri Swamiji calmly said,” Shankar, I have a small problem; the devotees coming to Mysore Ashrama have some difficulties in getting conveyance to the railway station or bus stand. I would like to purchase a car as a means of transport to them, but I don’t have the money for it.” I replied, “I shall be getting nearly a lakh of rupees as my retirement benefits from the bank. I shall place the entire amount at your Holy Feet. Sri Swamiji may purchase the car or do whatever He likes. That this money should be offered at the Feet of Sri Swamiji was my life’s ambition. “However, Sri Swamiji immediately said, “wait, and don’t make any hasty decisions.”
After receiving the gratuity, I immediately took it to Sri Swamiji and placed at his holy feet. Sri Swamiji said, “Shankar, you don’t have a job now. How will you live if you give me your life’s earnings? Please take it back; I just wanted to test you. I wanted to know whether you will feel the pinch or hesitate to give me your life’s earnings, which is now your only source of income. The testing is over and you may take back the amount.” I was very adamant that Sri Swamiji should accept the amount and I didn’t budge an inch from my stand. Finally Swamiji accepted and asked me to put it in fixed deposit in a bank in joint names of Sri Swamiji and I. In His infinite grace, He asked me to utilize the interest accruing on that deposit for my livelihood. He asked me to consider the monthly interest as ‘Bhiksha’ given by Sri Swamiji. Thus I started living on Swamiji’s Bhiksha thereafter.
I am sure a worldly man would not care for his children so much as Swamiji does for his devotees. When I offered my life’s earnings to Him, He was worried about my welfare. How great is the love of Sri Swamiji for his devotees! I am sure there has never come on earth another Avatar of God who is such an ocean of compassion. Only those who have His grace can know Him. Our duty is only to pray to Him for His grace and the rest He does.
In 1984 as I came to the Ashram to witness Navaratri celebrations, I saw Sri Swamiji standing in the prayer hall talking to a few devotees that had gathered there. All the devotees were patiently listening to Swamiji, I went near and prostrated before Him. I politely enquired what the matter was, Sri Swamiji looked at me and said; “From tomorrow there won’t be anybody to clean the general toilets, the scavenger woman who has been doing that work said that she is resigning the job as she has to go urgently to her native place. To get another scavenger, that too in a short time, is very difficult, especially in this place. From tomorrow onwards more and more devotees would be coming to witness the Navaratri festival, I don’t know what to do, I am very worried.” I told Swamiji, “Please don’t worry on this account. I will clean the toilets and bathrooms; you may leave that matter to me.” “Then you take care of the toilets” so saying He returned to His room. With a smiling face, I cleaned the entire general toilets. Meanwhile, the management appointed a new scavenger to whom I handed over my charge.
Then He said,” by cleaning the Ashram toilets you have cleaned your mind, so shortly I will give you Sanyasi Deeksha.” I felt very happy. Thanking Sri Swamiji and prostrating before him I took leave and returned to Cochin. I don’t know whether this was also a test for me. But I take it as such. Because as St Paul letter to the Corinthians says, “How deep are the depths of God and how rich are His wisdom and knowledge? How impossible to penetrate His motives, and how difficult to understand His methods.”
In 1985 I visited Kashi and proceeded to the temple to have darshan of Kasi Vishvanath. I spent a few days there and early one morning, some unseen person woke me up from my sleep. As I opened my eyes I saw a light in the room and in the middle of the light there was the same Siva Linga that I saw in the Temple earlier. Within seconds Sri Swamiji’s regal effulgent personality emerged from the Lingam in the garb of Lord Mahadeva and in a tender, affectionate voice told me, ‘I will give you Sanyaasa Deeksha on Vijaya Dasami day. So saying the vision disappeared.
Later when I visited the Ashrama for Sri Swamiji’s birthday celebrations, His Holiness called me to His side, along with all other members of the Kerala unit and announced that I would be given Sanyaasa Deeksha on the forthcoming Vijaya Dasami day. I told Swamiji about the earlier vision and how it was coming true. As decided by Sri Swamiji, my initiation into Sanyaasa took place on October 24, 1985, on Vijaya Dasami day.
In the beginning of 1986 some devotees and I were privileged to accompany Sri Swamiji to Srisailam, a holy mountain peak where one of the twelve Jyothir Lingas of Lord Siva’s is situated. Sri Swamiji entered the Sanctum Santorum and did Abhishekam, Puja and Aarthi to the Lord. Next morning Sri Swamiji and a few devotees went for a bath in the Krishna River, below the mountain peak where the river is called Patala Ganga.
Many rowing boats were engaged for the trip. Swami Manasa Datta and I accompanied Sri Swamiji while the other devotees followed. All of a sudden, when our boat reached a particular spot in the river, Sri Swamiji had a jerk and instantly went into a trance. We were all watching with eagerness and anxiety to know was the cause for the sudden jerk and trance. We started chanted Datta Stavam and within a few minutes Sri Swamiji came back to normal consciousness. We requested to Sri Swamiji to let us know the reason for this sudden jerk and trance and He said, “It is in this particular place that I had given up my body in one of my previous incarnations.”
We recalled that Sri Pada Vallabha, a great incarnation of Lord Datta, had given up his body in the holy Krishna River near Srisailam. Hearing this, the Veda pundit, Sri Somasundara Sharma, who had taught Vedas to Sri Swamiji and who later became Sri Swamiji’s ardent devotee, became very emotional and excited. He stood up in his boat and declared at the pitch of his voice that the Lord Datta had manifested now as Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji, after having manifested as Sri Pada Vallabha and Narasimha Saraswathi.
After the journey, Sri Swamiji took a dip in the river and while coming out I saw that His dress was floating in the river coming towards us. I was astonished to see the appearance of Sri Swamiji’s dress in the river. I was informed that Sri Swamiji had a similar experience in 1978 when His saffron robe appeared in the same river, in the same place and in the same manner. It was a long single piece of cloth, an Eka Vastram. Thereafter Sri Swamiji started using only Eka Vastram robe in saffron colour. Who sent the dress to Sri Swamiji in the river? This is a mystery. But, the way the dress came floating in the river as if dancing in the waters captivated the hearts of all devotees and filled them with delight.
Later, Sri Swamiji released His own production of ‘Datta Darshanam’, the movie, to cinemas in Vijayawada. His idea was to attract the masses, especially the illiterate and the rustics, to the life and message of Lord Datta through screening the film Datta Darshanam. Sri Swamiji, along with thousands of devotees would go in the early hours of morning, even in slum areas distributing free tickets to the people. Hundreds of cars and motor-bikes would join in the procession but Sri Swamiji would walk and distribute the tickets. Everybody was chanting the Maha Mantra ‘Sri Guru Datta – Jai Guru Datta.’ Thus the Lord’s name was reverberating throughout Vijayawada.
It was at this time that Sri Swamiji took the Anagha Vrata Pooja from the Bramhanda Purana and introduced it to the public. It was His sankalpa that Anagha Vrata Pooja should be made popular, as this pooja confers lot of benefits on the devotees and grants their wishes. Today, Anagha Vrata Pooja is very popular among Datta devotees, especially the devotees of Sri Swamiji. Another important point is that some ignorant people don’t worship Lord Datta for the simple reason that He is a Brahmachari and so He may not bless them to lead a householder’s life. To put an end to this misconception Sri Swamiji consecrated many temples where the idols of Lord Datta along with Anagha Devi are installed. Thus Sri Swamiji is not only a reviver who contributed much to the worship of Lord Datta by introducing Anagha Vrata Pooja, but also His Holiness is a daring revolutionary who promoted the worship of Lord Datta along with His divine consort Sri Anagha Devi.
Sri Swamiji knows even the smallest thoughts and actions of His devotees. Once after a bout of a virus attack, my health became very weak and I lacked resistance to cold. During the winter I would bathe only on alternate days which continued and became a habit with me. During a meeting with the Trustees and Sri Swamiji, He spoke as follows: “Some people think only mental purity is needed for spiritual Sadhana. It is not so. Bodily purity is also needed. One should not ignore the body, thinking it as of no significance in spiritual life. Body is the dwelling place of the divinity in man so it has to be kept clean. The only thing is that while a man takes care of his body he should not forget his spiritual dimension.” I immediately realized that Sri Swamiji is indirectly giving a hint to me and not to others. I restored to my old habit of having my bath daily and in summer even twice a day.
In 1999 I had a severe heart-attack on the premises of Lord Venkateshwara Temple as I was doing pradakshina to the Lord. I felt like a heavy stone falling upon my chest and I fell down with severe pain. At that time Sri Swamiji was present there and Mr. Jaggu, the Manager of the Temple, took me to Him. Sri Swamiji did not say anything to me. He simply called me to His side and moved His hand on my chest. With His benign touch the pain in the heart area instantly disappeared. Next day I went to the Ashram Hospital for a check up. Looking at my E.C.G and X-ray, the doctors said that I must have already had a severe heart-attack. I said, “Yes, by Sri Swamiji’s grace I am saved.”
I got another attack in January 2010. It was early morning, I was in deep sleep. I woke up with severe pain in the heart. I was calling, “Swamiji, Swamiji, the pain is severe and I am alone in my room, please help me.” After a few minutes the pain was gone and I slipped into a stupor. Then I had a vision where Sri Swamiji appeared and touching my chest He said, “You are not alone in your room, I am also here with you.” I felt very courageous. I got up and felt as if nothing had happened. I had my bath and went to attend Sri Chakra pooja. As Sri Swamiji was on tour, Sri Bala Swamiji was doing the pooja.
When Sri Swamiji returned to Mysore after His tour I informed His Holiness about my heart-attack and the dream vision. Sri Swamiji said, “Lead a silent life. One who has received Guru’s grace will be silent. Talkativeness is also a sort of disease. Along with the tongue the restless mind needs to be controlled. Then it gains power and clarity. Practicing long silence is ascetic life. The Guru is pleased by silent ascetic life.”
In the Bhagavat Gita, Sri Krishna says, “Among things profound, I am Silence.
Sri Swamiji Says:
A man may say that he is a disciple of such and such a great Master, but unless the Master also accepts him as His disciple, the awakening of his spiritual consciousness will not take place. As it is the all powerful king alone who appoints his ministers and other officials, even so, it is the Guru alone who selects His disciples and accepts them as such.
Do not implicate God with your problems. Our sufferings are due to our past karmas (actions). We have to learn to accept happiness and sorrow as fruits of our past actions and exhaust them by experiencing them with dignity and composure.