V G Suresh Kumar, Chennai
“You must be brave, you must not shed one single tear and I want you to stand strong through all this; support your mother, sister and the children. Promise me that you will not cry”.
My father Sri V R Gopalan, one of the most ardent devotees of Sri Swamiji, who had rendered yeomen services to Sri Swamiji and the institution, had his first darshan of Swamiji in the month of May 1969. I was fifteen months old at that time. A few months later, I was diagnosed with a urinary tract block which required a major surgery, but because of my tender age, it was risky and the doctors had advised my father that it was a difficult operation, the success of which could not be guaranteed.
My father, who had gone to Mysore during Navarathiri in September 1969, was very worried and agitated. Sri Swamiji asked him the reason as to his being so perturbed and my father naturally confided in his Guru and informed him about my ailment. Sri Swamiji casually said, “Don’t worry; let them do the operation. I shall be there to take care of Suresh. Inform me as soon as the date for the operation is confirmed”. My father came back to Chennai a very relieved man, knowing that our Guru was there to support and bless us in that hour of need. However, due to the stress in making requisite arrangements for the surgery, he omitted to inform Sadguru the date on which the operation was to be performed. To his great surprise, he received a telegram from Sri Swamiji on the day of operation, blessing me and my father.
Sri Swamiji was there during the operation to support me. The complicated and major operation was successful. Sri Swamiji blessed me and saved me. Thus began an enduring relationship with my Sadguru, which has spanned over four decades. Whenever anyone asks me how long you have been with the Sadguru, I take pride in stating “my age minus one”. Few are as blessed as me, to be under the “kalpavriksha”, to be guided by Him at all times. At every important juncture in my life, when crucial decisions are to be taken, he is there to guide me and ensure that I proceed in the right direction.
My father was blessed to serve in Sri Swamiji’s mission and I can take pride in saying that I am the son of a devotee, who has rendered services in various spheres to Sri Swamiji and the institution. He served at the Chennai Ashrama and played an important role in the formation of the SGS Trust in Mysore. Today, my father is no more, but he is vividly and affectionately remembered by Sri Swamiji. Growing up, I followed the footsteps of my father and Sri Swamiji became my life. As a young boy, I spent a lot of time with Sri Swamiji in the Mysore Ashrama.
I am a born left hander and do all activities only with my left hand. I was even taking food only with my left hand and though my parents tried to change the habit, they were not successful. In 1978, when I was ten years old, I was at the Mysore Ashrama waiting outside the Annapurna Mandir for food. Sri Swamiji who came there asked me, “Why are you waiting here?” I replied, “I am waiting for the bell to ring, so that I can go inside for food.” He said to me “Then go inside”. I answered “The bell must ring and only then I will go inside for food”. He replied, “Come I will take you inside today”.
He picked me up, put me on His shoulders, with my legs on either side of His head and took me inside the Hall. He put me down and directed food to be served to me. As was my practice, I began eating with my left hand. Sri Swamiji asked me “Why are you eating with your left hand”. I answered “I am left handed and do everything with my left hand, including eating food”. He said “Eat with your right hand” I tried explaining to Him that I could not do it for I had tried before and failed. He then said to me “I bless you. From today onwards you will eat with your right hand”. I ate with my right hand that day. Till this day I do everything else with my left hand but I eat perfectly well with my right hand. This is possible only because of Sri Swamiji’s blessing.
One summer, when our family was in the Mysore Ashrama, Sri Swamiji informed us that we would all be going to Bommeparthi the next day. It turned out to be one of the most memorable trips in my life. We travelled with Sri Swamiji in a fiat car. With Sri Harish as the driver, Swamiji was in the front seat. My father, mother, my sister and I were in the back seat. We had a wonderful time travelling with Sri Swamiji and spent one day at Bommeparthi. On the way back, my sister asked Sri Swamiji, “Swamiji can you drive a car?” Swamiji replied “Yes”. Both us then asked Swamiji “Please drive this car. We want to see you drive”. Sri Swamiji readily obliged. He drove the car for quite a distance. During a major part of the journey, we played various games with Sri Swamiji participating, including ‘word building game’. It was an unforgettable experience.
While studying in the seventh standard, I went through a very difficult phase in my life. Every human being does at one point of time in his life due to the seven and half years circle of Lord Saneeswara (Saturn planet). I had gone to Mysore to attend the Shivaratri Festival, as I usually did every year. Sri Swamiji, who could see that I was going through a difficult phase in my life, commanded me to sit in the first row near the Homa kunda (fire pit) and to stay awake all night.
In obedience to his command, I sat there throughout the night. At about 4.00 am He entered the Homa kunda. After a while, He came out with a lingam in His hand and walked towards me. His Feet were covered with ashes. He hit my forehead with His right leg with great force. He then told my father that He was blessing me. There was a remarkable change thereafter and Sri Swamiji had blessed me by giving me the strength to undergo the difficult period in life.
My grandfather, Sri V G Ramachandran, who was very attached to the Paramacharya of Kanchi and had served the Kanchi Mutt with distinction, was also an ardent devotee of Sri Swamiji and was deeply attached to Sri Swamiji. My grandmother also rendered services to Sri Swamiji and was always in charge of the kitchen during Sri Swamiji’s visit to Chennai. Sri Swamiji affectionately called her “Mummy”.
I remember one incident involving my father, which to this day is a reminder to me that I must implicitly follow the instructions of the Sadguru. In 1976, when the Gnana Bodha Sabha at Kutchery Road, Mylapore, Chennai was ready for inauguration, my father requested Sri Swamiji for tentative dates. Sri Swamiji suggested that the function be held after Shivaratri, which was in March, but my father insisted that the function be held in February and Sri Swamiji reluctantly agreed.
My father planned to organize a function on a grand scale with a Souvenir to be prepared and released. With the date on which the function was to be held fast approaching, all the other members of the committee had to leave on one pretext or another and my father was left alone. He, as a lawyer, had to attend to his regular court work and also the preparations. One day, on returning home, under great duress, when questioned by my grandmother as to why he was straining himself, unable to control himself, had an outburst and used harsh language against Sri Swamiji and ended up saying “Let the function go to dogs.” Things improved the next day and the members started coming back to work along with my father. Here I extract my father’s narrative:
“Three days before the program, I went to the airport to receive Sri Swamiji, who was coming from Bombay. As soon as he entered the car, the first question was, “Gopal, how many causalities are there in your camp,” meaning thereby the non-availability of my fellow committee members. I asked, “Swamiji why this testing” and He said, “I told you to have the function in March, but you were adamant and particular to have it this day. I wanted to avoid it and advised you, but if you are destined to suffer, in spite of my advice, you have to suffer.” That was a lesson to me: a lesson to everyone. Sri Swamiji foresees everything and gives His advice and guidance. You cannot expect Him to come out openly and give detailed instructions. We must have implicit faith in Him; otherwise we will be in trouble.
Later, Sri Swamiji called my mother and said, “Mummy, last Wednesday at 8:30 pm, Gopal scolded me.” And He actually repeated all the words and expressions I used, both in Tamil and English to my great surprise. Only my mother and I knew about it and no one else. Sri Swamiji was in Bombay, how could He reproduce the very same language and expressions, as if He was personally present? Then He called my friend, C K Rajaram, who had arranged the Bombay program and asked him to explain what had happened at Bombay.
Rajaram said that Sri Swamiji was addressing a small gathering and suddenly He had a shooting pain to His ears; He stopped the discourse and told the gathering that a devotee was cursing Him and immediately went inside the room. He bolted the door from inside and did not even take bhiksha. Sri Swamiji turned to me and said “Look Gopal, don’t think Sri Swamiji does not know what is happening in your house. I am watching you and your movements from the photo I gave you and you cannot escape. Because of you and your utterances the program at Bombay was cancelled. Avoid repeating this mistake.” It was again a thrilling experience. I came to realize that Sri Swamiji has been watching the devotees and their movements meticulously even from far off places. Nobody can escape Him. He has such a phenomenal power.”
I narrate the above incident only to emphasize that all devotees must implicitly follow Sadguru’s instructions and directions. I always endeavor to do so.
When I completed High School, I wanted to become a lawyer, but my father wanted me to study a degree in commerce and then progress further by studying business administration. As I would not agree, He took me to Sri Swamiji and requested His guidance. Sri Swamiji blessed me to study law as I desired and I thus graduated in law and enrolled as a lawyer in 1990. I am practicing as a lawyer and am indeed blessed by the Sadguru.
In 1995, when I was twenty-seven years old, my father was in the process of securing a suitable alliance for me and He became worried as there was a delay. Sri Swamiji visited Chennai in the middle of that year. While He was there, He directed my father to arrange for a trip to Kumbakonam, a town known for its famous temples, built by the great Chola kings. My father, who, by that time was involved in the activities of many temples around Kumbakonam, including Patteeswaram, the famous Shiva Temple, where the shrine of Goddess Durga Devi, is situate, was only too happy to oblige. The problem faced by my father was regarding the stay of Sri Swamiji as He could not be made to stay in a hotel.
My father therefore made enquiries in Kumbakonam and was informed that one Sri Ramesh had a beautiful bungalow, where even the seers from Kanchi stayed during their visit to Kumbakonam. My father approached Sri Ramesh and he informed my father that he would give an answer in twenty-four hours. Sri Ramesh thereafter seems to have contacted the Kanchi Mutt seeking guidance and was explicitly told to welcome Sri Swamiji and have Him stay at his house. He was further told that he was blessed to have such an opportunity to host the stay of the Sadguru. The next day Sri Ramesh informed my father that he would indeed be glad to have Sri Swamiji stay at his house.
Sri Swamiji visited Kumbakonam and had darshan at many temples including Patteeswaram. However, He was very attached to Goddess Durga Devi, one of the important deities in that temple. All of us had a wonderful time being with Sri Swamiji and going to many temples with Him.
On the day He was to depart, Sri Swamiji called our family upstairs to the room in which He was staying and He asked my father “Gopal, do you know why I came to Kumbakonam”. My father replied “To visit to all the temples and have darshan, Swamiji”. Swamiji then said “No Gopal. The visit is not only for going to the temples. I came to fix an alliance for Suresh. I have done it. I am now leaving”. We were all surprised. Nothing extraordinary had happened during His stay at Kumbakonam. Fixing an alliance meant seeing the prospective bride; exchanging horoscopes, views and finalizing the marriage. We had not seen the bride nor was there even any indication that there was a proposal regarding my marriage. But, we all knew that when Sri Swamiji said something, there was a meaning in it. He blessed our family and departed to Mysore.
One week thereafter, my father received a cover by post from Kumbakonam. It contained a letter written by my proposed fayher-in0law elder brother (who is an auditor in Kumbakonam and the eldest member of his family). The letter stated that all of them had come to have darshan of Sri Swamiji during His stay in Kumbakonam. There they came to know about our family and our dedication to Sri Swamiji and also my father’s contributions to various temples around Kumbakonam, including Patteeswaram. Because of this they were happy to propose an alliance. He further stated that their family would be happy if his brother’s daughter, Revathi, was given in marriage to me.
My father requested instructions from Sri Swamiji and He was directed to proceed. He therefore replied that we would be happy to consider the proposal. They sent a photograph of my future wife and her horoscope. On enquiries, we came to know that Sri Ramesh was Revathi aunt’s son. My father, my mother and I were of the unanimous opinion that the final decision would have to be taken only by Sri Swamiji. I even declined to have a look at the photograph unless Sri Swamiji approved so my father went to Mysore with the letter, the photograph and the horoscope.
Navaratri celebrations were going on and my father was in Mysore on the day of Saraswathi pooja. When he saw Sri Swamiji and informed Him about the developments, Sri Swamiji said “Yes Gopal. She is your daughter-in-law. Suresh will be very happy in life with Revathi as his wife. Perform the marriage”. My father rushed back to Chennai the same day and informed the family about our acceptance. He asked that we would like to see Revathi the very next day in the Patteeswaram Temple and requested him to make all arrangements.
All of us went to Kumbakonam the very next day and I saw my future wife in person on Vijayadasami day in the shrine of Goddess Durga Devi. My alliance was fixed. Till this date, our horoscopes have not been compared. What is the need when the divine hands have fixed the alliance? Sri Swamiji could foresee everything and had come to Kumbakonam to fix my alliance. The fact that He stayed in the house of Sri Ramesh, Revathi’s cousin, was instrumental in my marriage being fixed. I am happily married and we are blessed with three beautiful children, all named by Sri Swamiji. My eldest daughter was born on 6th January 1996 was named her ‘Hemavathi.
On the same evening, when performing bhajans in the Chennai Ashrama, Sri Swamiji played the raga Hemavathi for more than one hour. It only showed how overjoyed my Sadguru was when I was blessed with my first child. My second daughter, born on 3rd May 1999 was named ‘Narayani’ Sri Swamiji who had great love for my grandmother, whom he called “Mummy” always says that He sees my grand-mother in her. On 26th July 2001, I was blessed with my third child, a son. named him “Poosha Datta.” I am proud to say that my children have followed the footsteps of my grand-father, my father and myself. They are all very attached and dedicated to Sri Swamiji. We are indeed blessed in that four generations of our family have been with Sri Swamiji and are serving Him.
In 2002, Sri Swamiji’s 60th birthday was celebrated in a grand manner. My father had an important role in the celebrations. He organised sixty priests from Thanjavur District to go to Mysore to perform the rituals. In fact he stayed in the Ashrama for nearly a month during the celebrations. On the last day, after the program, when Sri Swamiji was returning to his abode, my father started to go with Him on the catwalk. He turned to my father and said, “Gopal, this passage is only for me. You must go down and walk through the Universal Prayer Hall to come to Guru Nilayam”. My father replied “Yes Swamiji, time has come for me to go down, but I pray that you will be the guiding light for my son’. With that my father left.
In July 2002, after performing my son’s first birthday, in the evening my father called me and told me “This is the last function I have performed in this family. Hereafter, you, my son will take care of everything. Do seva to Sri Swamiji as I have been doing and also do seva to the Temples. Take care of the family.” My father had a premonition that his end was near. On 17th September 2002, my father passed away at the age of sixty five. That evening, Sri Swamiji spoke to me over phone and commanded “You must be brave, you must not shed one single tear and I want you to stand strong through all this; support your mother, sister and the children. Promise me that you will not cry”. I promised my Sadguru.
I was only thirt- four years old and still very young in my career as a lawyer. I was inconsolable. He was not only my father but my mentor in the profession. I was at a total loss. However, I implicitly followed Sri Swamiji’s directions and remained strong. I performed the funeral rites and the obsequies. After completing the thirteenth day ceremonies, I went to Mysore with my sister to have the darshan of Sri Swamiji.
Sri Swamiji then said to me, “Your father may have left his body but his soul will always be in this Ashrama. He is always inside me; he is my atmabhakta (devotee close to my heart). Whenever you want to see him come to the Ashrama and see me. When you see me, you will be seeing him.” Sri Swamiji’s words gave me solace and confidence. I then asked Him to bless me to do well in my profession and also to bless me to serve Him as my father did. Sri Swamiji has indeed blessed me. I am now happy in my profession and rendering services to Sri Swamiji and the institution to the best of my ability. I am now a Trustee of the Chennai Ashrama.
My father was a noble soul who served Sri Swamiji for over 32 years. I am doing my best to emulate him. My mother is very devoted to Sri Swamiji and has been rendering services with unwavering devotion to Sri Swamiji. My wife is also very supportive and is an equally ardent devotee of Sri Swamiji.
My father had arranged Sri Swamiji’s first trip to many temples in Tamil Nadu in the early ‘70s. I was blessed to arrange the first trip for Sri Datta Vijayananda Teertha Swamiji to temples in Tamil Nadu. I take pride and consider it my privilege to serve Sri Swamiji and Sri Bala Swamiji. By Sadguru’s grace, my children are continuing and will continue this service to our Sadguru.
Sri Swamiji once said that Sadguru is like a train into which the devotees – passengers get on. Some passengers journey till the end whilst certain others detrain in the middle. My family has boarded our Sadguru, Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda; train and has travelled and continue to travel with Him. May He shower His blessings on all of us and bless us to stay with Him on the train forever and also make the journey a happy one while rendering services to the best of our ability.
Jaya Guru Datta