Vishnu and Renuka Deonarine, Trinidad
Vishnu: I felt a sense of comfort, a sense of being wanted, a sense of absolute belonging. I wanted to know Him.
Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji entered into my relatively hectic life in 1993, when He was visiting Trinidad for His fifty-first birthday celebrations. I had gone to the Ashrama, at Orange Field Road, Carapichaima on an invitation from an associate, Mr. Sherwin Seenath, a fellow attorney, where lots of preparations were taking place.
During this time, consciously or unconsciously, I was searching for inner peace. However, all my searches were running at dead ends without any results. For instance, I was involved in; drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, attending ad-hoc social activities, had membership at different clubs, and golfing. As a matter of fact, my wife will claim that she was a golf widow. Try as I may, I could not find that which I was looking for. Generally, lots of conflicts were being formed in my mind.
When I entered the ashrama on that fateful day and was in His divine presence, I felt an immediate peace and all the conflicts that had inhibited my mind were being unraveled. I understood there and then that all these conflicts were being resolved and also the thought process in the resolution of them. I knew that this was the being to which I should gravitate to and wanted to know more about Him. I felt a sense of comfort, a sense of being wanted, a sense of absolute belonging. I wanted to know Him.
During the period of His stay at the ashrama, I attended most of the programs and enjoyed immense bliss in His presence. As fate would have it, during the functions, He gave me a life size photograph of Himself and a Shiva Lingam which He materialized. Then after His departure, in the weeks and months that were to follow, my life and thought process became very turbulent. In hindsight, I felt that my karma was being accelerated. Things became very troubling with a lot of difficulties. In this state of dilemma I was directed to read the voluminous works of Swami Vivekananda, a task which I completed within a six week period.
At the completion of the reading, I got a glimpse of what Vedanta was, and ultimately what Sri Swamiji was about. An intense desire welled up in my mind, a desire to become a realized soul. This desire haunted me, because I felt that this was the path to getting to the peace for which I was seeking. Subsequently, Sri Swamiji said that I should stop reading so aggressively. Being a voracious reader, I read everything that I thought would help me get that knowledge or the peace I was searching for. I realize that the knowledge which I was seeking and pursuing was secular and not spiritual.
This turmoil in my mind was pushing me to have the darsan of Sri Swamiji. As a man possessed I could not wait to see Him, I wanted to go to Mysore. Intensely I made all the preparations and at the first opportunity I traveled to Mysore in 1994 for Shivaratri.
Arriving in Bangalore in the early morning hours, I waited till daylight and took the bus to Mysore. I am always in awe when I remembered that first trip to Mysore. On the bus I was mentally chanting the mantra, “Om Gam Ganapatya Namaha” thinking that Sri Swamiji had traveled all this way to come to Trinidad to be with us, along this route. The majestic tamarind trees along the way seemed to be bowing into each other forming a canopy over the roadway. The four hour bus trip was indeed one of the most spectacular trips of my lifetime. Before this trip, I wrote a letter to Sri Swamiji telling Him unashamedly that I wanted to become a realized soul and that I wanted to visit Him in Mysore. I received a response from the ashrama manager informing me that Sri Swamiji was very happy to have received my letter. That was it.
Somewhere I had read that when you go to your Guru you must make a sacrifice by asking for a favor or giving up something, and place that sacrifice at His feet. On my way to Mysore, I had that burning desire to give up something to Sri Swamiji. Instinctively, at the first opportunity I got to have an interview with Him I ask Sri Swamiji to help me live a celibate life. Having a strong sexual drive, I felt at that moment that I must live a celibate life and Pujya Sri Swamiji would be able to help me. In hindsight, this process formed the platform for my spiritual growth.
To help in this growth, Sri Swamiji entrusted some physical seva for me. Simple things like; the coordination for the construction of the shala and managing the stay and accommodation for the priests for the 1995 Maha Shanti Yagna, chairing the ashrama pre-school, and chairing the finance and construction committees for the re-building of the temple facilities and construction of the 85 feet Karya Siddhi Hanuman. These sevas helped tremendously in cleansing and purifying my mind and thoughts, which continues as an ongoing process. Because of this process I am pleased to state that I think I am on the right path; whatever that path may be.
By profession, I am a lawyer so I am trained to think and act along those lines. Since finding my Sadgurudeva, I have been gradually transformed to think more like a devotee of God than that of a lawyer. A query that plagued my life though was; why should I be good, ethical, or honest? Boldly, one day I emailed Sri Swamiji asking, why I should be doing all the good and positive things, when I see people who are doing the opposite advancing in life.
Almost instantaneously, I received a reply from His Holiness requesting that I read the Bhagavat Gita, the edition by Sarvapali Radhakrishna. On obtaining a copy of the book, to my amazement, the answers to my queries were embedded in a part of a sentence in the preface; “ethical actions are derived from a metaphysical realization”. Churning those words, I can candidly say that subsequently they led me the four major articles in various publications of Bhakti Mala that changed the whole concept of my thought process.
These articles; Vedanta and Modern Science, Sublime Devotion, Noble Deeds, and Captivation are distinctively tied to the phrase “ethical actions are derived from a metaphysical realization”. This cast a net encircling “dharma”. Finally, I realized that it is this dharma that brings everything together and sustains the universe. The principles of; attraction, harmony, and existence definitely lies in dharma. With the guidance of my reverential Sadgurudeva, and in His infinite Grace I was able to use these principles so that I can persevere on the path of good conduct, good behavior, and all the qualities accredited to dharma.
I have been very fortunate to have some very intimate and close experiences with Sri Swamiji; including; upadesham at Mekedatu, saktipat in Nylon Pool in Tobago, detailed sadhana to my wife and me, private experiences in Kashi and Bommeparti and several others. On different occasions Sri Swamiji informed me; that He is Shiva, that He is Bhola Shankar and that I should ask for a boon there and then, that He would give me darsan every morning during my meditation, and that He would stay at my home for two nights during my 60th birthday. During the last Shivaratri at the Mysore Ashrama when His Holiness entered into the fire, Sri Swamiji gave to me the Lingam that was retrieved from the Homa pit.
Sri Swamiji also informed me that He had saved my life on several occasions. He does this for His devotees because of His infinite grace and bountiful love. What Sri Swamiji is doing for me, He is doing for all His devotees. His grace, love and purpose have no geographic or racial boundaries. It cannot be exhausted because it is limitless. There must not be any jealously or hatred.
Sri Swamiji is always counseling me, guiding me, and through these little experiences and pointers He is training my mind to get rid of all the conflicts; bringing me closer to Godhead, bringing me to that goal of realization slowly, a process which I understand will take many births. Remembering the tamarind trees from the first trip, Sri Swamiji hinted that in relation to a yogi’s development, it will take as many years as there are leaves on those tamarind trees.
The journey with Sri Swamiji, is the path, it is the progress. This journey changes the mindset and the thought-train. It eradicates the negative tendencies and brings us closer to godliness. The progress and rate of transformation depends on the purification process, your sadhana, your meditation, and most of all, His grace. My experience is a slow, sometimes painful, and sometimes happy process, a process where my mind is being cleansed and purified through the practice of; yoga, meditation and maturation.
What is this end result? Intellectually, from a theoretical point of view, through Sri Swamiji’s grace; reading holy texts, and listening to His discourses, and reflecting one can obtain the perception that everything around you is filled with godliness. When you can intuit and perceive the universe and all that is in it as mere vibrations of love, and regulated by dharma, then you will evolve to the stage that Pujya Sri Swamiji is and has always been, that state of self-realization. This is my view.
In the final analysis, the repetition of Guru’s mantra and all other mantras will have the same meaning. All sadhana, rituals and paths must lead to that realization. I cannot tell you how much change has taken place in me, but I know that there are a lot of changes. If there are changes to my life, I invite you to talk with my wife. If there are changes to my conduct and behavior, before and after meeting my Sadgurudeva, speak with my children. These are the ones who can tell you from their practical experiences.
What I can tell you is that my mind is comparatively peaceful and I am comparatively happier. My journey has just started. Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji is the cause of everything. He is the cause of my present and future states, including future births.
I bow before that Great Spirit, nay; I humbly bow before this Reverential Saint. To this Sri Sri Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji, I bow again and again. Sree Guru Datta
Renuka: I immediately realized that this is God in human form. I saw the immortal eyes of Lord Rama.
In 1991 my husband, Vishnu Deonarine, and I attended the wedding of Vishnu Ramdatt in Hindustan, Princess Town. There I saw Sri Sri Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji for the first time. I did not know who He was or for what He stood; I was just an attendee at the function. However, He sang some bhajans, and I thought that He had a beautiful voice and the songs were very soothing. At the end of the program, my husband brought some coin mala and asks me to offer them to Him. I was hesitant, but Sherwin Seenath, Vishnu’s friend convinced me that I should. When I offered the mala, it seemed like Sri Swamiji intently grabbed them from my hands. I felt that for a holy person, He was so rough and crude. No words were spoken.
In 1993 Sri Swamiji came to Trinidad to celebrate His fifty-first birthday. Vishnu was invited to see Him, by his friend Sherwin, who was a devotee. When he came home in the night he would tell me about this Guru and how He manifested things before his eyes and distribute them the devotees. He informed me that Sri Swamiji was giving discourses from the Vedas and other holy scriptures. One night when His Holiness manifested a crystal and gave it to him, he brought it home and showed if to me. I had no interest in his lamentations because I was fighting my own demons.
Vishnu and I have demanding professions; he is an attorney and I am a doctor and both are in private practice. To compound the situation, we had two young boys to look after. Vishnu was an avid golfer and he played golf everyday, even on Sundays; I was literally a golf widow. I used to thing that first it was golf and now it is God, so to listen to him was not an interest for me.
One day Vishnu told me that this Guru was going to give him Mantra Deeksha and he would like if I can get some fruits and flowers for the occasion, but I bluntly refused. Many times he asked me to accompany him to the ashrama in Orange Field and see the activities there. I used to cry about my state and wondered what will become of me. Finally, one day he told me, “why don’t you come, you have nothing to lose”, I reconsidered and decided to go.
It was two years and I had forgotten about the previous incident. I arrived at the temple and sat with Dr Dhanragee Dial and started to talk. Then I heard a commotion and when I looked out I saw Sri Swamiji coming into the hall. The audience was chanting the Siveti Sauriti and I thought, my god, how holy this place is. All the pujas were performed and I enjoyed them immensely, but there was no connection with Sri Swamiji. I did not feel a sense of belonging.
We were then informed that Sri Swamiji was giving interviews, and Vishnu said the he will try to get a sitting for me. Arrangements were made and I accepted to go to Him. My intention though, was to go to Him and tell Him off for encouraging my husband to be away from home. I also wanted to see Him close-up to understand who he really was. On entering the room, I could not believe my eyes as I saw the most holy individual sitting on that chair that I was lost for words. I introduced myself and said that I had come to speak with god.
He said, “First you must have a Guru”. I asked, “How will I know my Guru?” and He said, “Don’t worry, you will know” and He handed me packets of Kumkum and vibhuti. That was the interview. I was about to leave when I noticed a small table on which people had placed money and other things. I did not give any, although I had money on my person. I thought that this was not about money; it was spirituality.
Something was churning in me and I went back a second time to the ashrama. This time, my mind was overtaken, I was very depressed and I was crying. A man, Krishna Maharaj, saw my predicament and came over to comfort me. Fearlessly I started to discuss my problems with him and he asks that we move to the back of the hall. He advised me that Sri Swamiji is here and there is no problem that He cannot solve, all I had to do was to go to Him. I told him that because I was crying I was too embarrassed to be in front of Him, and anyway I had to report for work almost immediately.
The rain started falling lightly and we made an attempt to leave. However, Guru’s (God) plan supersedes all others. When we were walking across the grass, as if by magic, the curtain on Sri Swamiji’s door blew open and His Holiness saw us leaving. He immediately sent His assistant to stop us from leaving as He wanted to see us. We sat in the hall and waited for Him to come out. When He came out He entered the hall and I saw the most radiant smile that I have ever seen. His form and gait was so resplendent that I became mesmerized.
I immediately realized that this is God in human form. I saw the immortal eyes of Lord Rama. I believed that, then and there, whatsoever He wanted me to do I would unhesitatingly do. I knew He was my Guru and at long last I was in His abode, where I will forever be. We were advised that the next day He was giving Mantra Deeksha to those who wanted to accept. I went home and told the two children that today I have seen God and tomorrow I will take them there.
The next day was a school day, but in my enthusiasm, I had them stay away from school and took them with me. We prepared, got there early and when our turn came we entered to room. Sri Swamiji said that He was happy that I came and He gave us Datta Deeksha. Now I had that person on whom I can depend, without the thought of shedding a tear. No longer was I a widow; I had all the physical roles of existence tied into one bundle. How fortunate I was.
I have had many wonderful experiences with Him, both physical and spiritual. Someone recently told me that with all the miracles He performs and the miracles we experience, the greatest miracle is to know Him. When I look at the multitude of people in the world, I feel special that I came to know Him. We are very lucky to be with Him, for this opportunity is a well deserving one. Out of so many billions that inhabit the earth, He is one. And each one of us is fortunate to be with Him now.
Before meeting Sri Swamiji, I was a very worldly person; I indulged in partying and hanging out with friends. I thought that I was comfortable and therefore I lived the good life. However, when I came in contact with this bastion of pure consciousness and goodness I realized that my journey has not even started. He made saw myself from within and allowed me to grow slowly and stealthily. Most people will recount these as changes to their lives, but for me they are His dormant directives being awakened.
In 1994 for His fifty second birthday celebration, I was invited to visit the Mysore Ashrama for the first time. Being a little apprehensive I took a room outside the ashrama compound. I enjoyed the festivities and was having a wonderful time just being in His presence. One night when I retired, I had a vision of a place that was surreal and eerie, but I was not afraid. I was walking through a low-lit tunnel and towards the end I saw a very dark skinned man without a shirt sitting in a lotus position. There was a wonderful brilliance around Him and He was motioning me to come towards Him. Unhesitatingly I bowed before Him and then I was awake.
In excitement, the next day I related the experience to Sri Swamiji and He informed me that Sri Guru Dattatreya had given darsan then. I was astounded and became very confused. I questioned myself as to why I was that deserving. I know that He is everything to me; I understand that He will take care of all His devotees, and I feel justified to shout that He is my God within and without.
In 2006, during the Datta Jayanti celebrations, my family was invited to have an interview with His Holiness. During that interview I noticed a Halo around Sri Swamiji. Many times I distracted myself, thinking it was an illusion; however when I look again towards Him the Halo was still seen. I attribute this to the divinity present in my Sadgurudeva Parama Pujya, Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji. I love Sri Swamiji and I am greatly comforted to know that I met Him. He is my rock. Jaya Guru Datta.