Prakasarao and Nandini Rao Velagapudi, Frisco, Texas, USA
Prakasarao: when a Guru sees the potential of a Sishya (disciple), He can immediately harness that potential and brings that devotee closer to Him. In that way, the Guru cleanses the Sishya and makes him an instrument in His mission.
Anyone who wants to grow spiritually and have ‘peace of mind’ should have a Sadguru such as Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji. That is our realization after meeting Sri Swamiji in 1990. In 1988, while living in Jackson, Mississippi, we heard about the presence of Sri Swamiji. I was the chairman of ‘The Hindu Temple Society of Mississippi’ when I received a call from a person in Baton Rouge asking if I would like to invite Sri Swamiji to visit the Jackson Temple. The construction of the building in the form of a huge hall was complete, but consecration of the Murtis/idols had not been performed.
Without knowing the importance and background of a Guru, I instantly dismissed the notion of inviting Him. I was not in favor of so-called spiritual men and without even consulting the other board members, I totally rejected the idea. To be honest, at that time, I did not know the significance of Guru, but the main underlying reason for my objection was we had taken some loans for the construction and we were not in a financial position to host anyone.
One month later, I had to travel to India. When I got there everyone was talking about a gentleman, Medasani Mohan, who is known for conducting Ashtavadhanam and Sahasravadhanam, a unique talent in the annals of Telugu literature. He was also a devotee of Sri Swamiji who happened to be Director of Annamacharya Project in Tirupati. My brother wanted me to go to Tirupati and meet with this person, as he knew that as I was involved in the temple project of Lord Venkateswara located in Tirupati. I went to meet him. We invited him to TANA (Telugu Association of North America), as his unusual talent and memory to perform Ashtavadhanam impressed me. During his first visit to USA, we hosted him. He spoke about his experiences with his Sadguru, Sri Swamiji, and advised us that we should meet with this Sakshat (actual) God. He insisted that we must make the time to have His darsan.
Because of his fervor and commitment I told him that I would meet with Him, although I still did not have the urge to meet Him. 1990, we were planning to perform the Prana Pratishta (consecration of idols) for the temple and we thought that it was the most opportune time for us to get the Yantras (geometric design on a metal plate representing the idol), for the Murtis (idols) blessed by Him. I sent my brother, who lives in India, to Mysore to seek an audience with His Holiness, but He was not there. In the meantime, while browsing through a copy of Hinduism Today, a monthly magazine, I saw an advertisement with a schedule for Sri Swami’s visit to the USA.
At that time, Sri Swamiji was in Augusta, Georgia at the home of a devotee. I was amazed that we were trying to meet Him in India and all of a sudden, He is here in the USA. Without knowing or understanding the protocol of reaching a Sadguru, I dialed the number and spoke to an assistant, Sri Radhakrishna, (Swami Manasa Datta). I expressed my wish to speak to Sri Swamiji and he told me that Sri Swamiji would not speak on the phone. Then I asked him if we could request Sri Swamiji to bless the Yantras. His response was that he cannot promise anything on behalf of Swamiji and have to come and meet His Holiness personally. He wanted to know where we were located. Swami Manasa Datta then informed me that Sri Swamiji will be visiting Baton Rouge, and if was convenient for us, we should try to meet Him there. He also mentioned I should not be disappointed if he doesn’t bless them. We decided to go to Baton Rouge, LA, so that we could at least have His Darshan as suggested by Radhakrishna. I was somewhat puzzled because no matter what we asked, we were not receiving favorable answers. We did visit Sri Swamiji and that was beginning of our association with His Holiness.
In 1988, Daulat Sthanki took Sri Swamiji to Disneyworld in Orlando and he asked Him if he could construct Datta Temple in Baton Rouge. Sri Swamiji informed him, “The time is not right, however, when I comeback next time, somebody from Mississippi will come and things will start happening.” I had not met Him, but, Sri Swamiji predicted my entry into His fold. He knows the past-present-and future of everything and once He makes a Sankalpa, it will definitely happen.
My family; wife, Nandini, and children, Pratap and Laxmi, went to meet Sri Swamiji in Baton Rouge. When we got there Swami Manasa Datta advised us that we should go to the back side of the house as His Holiness was inside. We did as we were told, and to our surprise as we were walking on the driveway, we saw Sri Swamiji coming towards us and I made eye contact. With that contact, I had a very explosive experience; I became numb, my hair was standing on ends, my heart was pumping vigorously, I began to sweat and started crying uncontrollably. I could not control my emotions. From a tough hard-hearted person, I became a child.
After recovering from that condition, I looked up and saw Sri Swamiji looking and smiling at me, saying that, “Sri Datta has brought you here, just follow me”. Thinking literally, we followed Him to a devotee, Ramnik Modha’s house where He did Paduka Puja. At the end of the Puja, Sri Swamiji manifested a Ganapati idol from the garland that was offered and gave it to Ramnik. We have heard of these miracles, but seeing it happened was too much for our eyes. I thought that, maybe, this idol was hidden in the garland. Another doubt occurred in my mind; why do these people do Paduka Puja, if they consider Him a Guru, a God, they should be doing Puja to Him, not His padukas (sandals). Before He left, Sri Swamiji played the piano with Ramnik’s son. Before leaving their house He pinched the boy’s cheek and materialized a coin and gave to him. Again I was surprised.
We followed Sri Swamiji from there and we reached the home of Daulat Sthanki where Sri Swamiji was going to perform Bhajans. Lots of people assembled had there. We went inside and someone came and said that Sri Swamiji wanted to meet with us. We went into the room to see Him and showed the photos of the temple and informed Him that we were in the process of performing the Prana Pratishta (consecration of idols) and requested Him to bless the Yantras (square metal plate with geometric design representing a particular God/Goddess). Inadvertently, He started a conversation discussing about the number of ashrams He has, how many devotees he has, and His mission, for about thirty minutes. Someone knocked on the door and informed Him that it was getting late, but He was not disturbed; He just continued talking.
Later, He went in the den where devotees had gathered to start the Bhajans session. To my amazement instead of starting the scheduled program, Sri Swamiji called me to bring the Yantras to Him. He took them, placed them on the center table in front of Him and asked Swami Manasa Datta to explain the meaning of those Yantras which he did effortlessly. Then, He took a red rose from the garland and proceeded to materialize Kum Kum (red powder) and place it on each Yantra.
By this time, I was in no position to doubt Him anymore. Internally, I had to admit that there was power within Him. Then He said that He will keep them in His room overnight, implying that we needed to spend the night which we had not intended to. Sri Swamiji proceeded to start the program and He called me to sit next to Him. I sat beside Him on the floor and the He applied kumkum on my forehead
He took out two ‘Bhajana Yogam” books and gave one to me, telling the crowd that: “This person will do a lot of work for His mission, he will do a lot of Seva to Lord Dattatreya.” We attended the next day’s program and then left for our home. On the way we were reminiscing about the trip and trying to resolve why it had happened like that; He said that we will be doing Seva to His mission. We were so involved in the Jackson temple and doing Seva for Lord Venkateswara we never thought we would ever leave the Temple to do seva to His mission
The Prana Pratishta of Jackson Temple was celebrated from May 28 to June 2, 1990. Immediately, after the completion of the program, the problems started; differences of opinion with the trustees arose. Within a few months I resigned from the executive position (chairmanship) of the temple.
Afterwards, I started seeing Sri Swamiji’s image wherever I was; it became an obsession. I could not distance myself from His image. It appeared as though He was controlling my life. The common thought was that either; I was going insane, or Sri Swamiji had done some black magic to me.
My pride and ego didn’t allow me to go to a psychiatrist, so I started talking to His devotees. They compounded the situation by alluding to His greatness and power. This led me to read about other gurus and their effects on their devotees. I read many books and found that all the teachings were the same, but I could not discern the experience I had on my first meeting, nor my obsession with His image.
Finally, I came across a book by Richard Alport, who later became Swami Ramdass. In that book he discussed his meeting with his Guru, Neem Karoli Baba, in the Himalayas. When He was touched on the forehead his experience was exactly the same as I had with Sri Swamiji. He also discussed that when a Guru sees the potential of a Sishya (disciple), He can immediately harness that potential and brings that devotee closer to Him. In that way, the Guru cleanses the Sishya and makes him an instrument in His mission.
Piecing all this information together, I realize that there was some merit in all these happenings so I became eager to see Him again. As luck would have it, Sri Swamiji was in Trinidad, so, Nandini and I went there to meet Him. In the meantime, I was in contact with Padma Turk in Pittsburg. I offered my help in producing the newsletter that she had attempted. With this project in thought, also, we went to Trinidad. When we got there, we settled in the Ashrama, and attended Sri Chakra Puja in the morning. Sri Swamiji was going to have a meeting with the Board of Trustees, but, while sitting there, someone came and told us that Sri Swamiji wanted to see us.
We went into the room and as I saw Him, I started crying uncontrollably. After awhile, I composed myself and began talking with Him. I invited Him to visit Jackson for the upcoming Nada Prasara tour the next year. I was told that the protocol to invite Sri Swamiji to a city required one to be a devotee and must go to Mysore Ashrama to give the invitation. However, Sri Swamiji looked at His assistants and said, “He is my devotee and believes in Me. He has come here, to my Ashrama, to invite me. He has followed the protocol, so arrangements should be made for the visit.”
In 1993, Sri Swamiji started the Nada Prasara tour, and before coming to Jackson, we went to see Him in Baton Rouge. There was a lot of discussion about the tour, His mission and the Datta Yoga Center in West Sunbury. He wanted to close the Center and move it elsewhere. He also wanted at least one of the three rocks to be moved and placed at another location with an office. Then a German devotee, Agastya, came and informed us that Sri Swamiji wanted to see us where the meeting was going on. We went into the room where the meeting was taking place and Nandini offered some property in Jackson for the purpose as the discussion was going on to move the Center.
Sri Swamiji looked at Padma Turk and informed her that she was no longer the President of DYC and that she must go to India for some time. He told in the meeting, “Dr Prakash Rao will be the new president of the organization and he will take care of the mission.” In 1990, He had predicted that I would serve His mission, and three years later, and after only three meetings I was thrust into the presidency of His organization. I realized that whatsoever comes from His lips will surely happen.
He then made a startling revelation; He said, “Do you know why you left the Hindu Temple? It was I who did that; if you had stayed there, you would not have come to me. I created that Leela (divine play), and no one has bad opinion of you, so there is nothing to worry about.” We went back to Jackson and continued with the preparation for Sri Swamiji’s visit.
The night before the program, the trustees of the Temple called to announce that they would not receive Sri Swamiji with Poorna Kumba (a procedure to welcome holy dignitaries to the temple), but He can have His program as scheduled in the temple. When we told Him about this turn of events, Sri Swamiji said that there are three things of importance: “(a) they will come to realize it, (b) they will experience it and (c) there are no Murthis (idols) there and they are all right here in your house.”
Sri Swamiji wanted to see the property that Nandini had previously offered, so we took Him there and pledged nine acres from a twenty-acre plot, for His Ashrama. She also asked for the privilege to build a home near to the temple, He promised her that the time would come when this will happen. However in 1995, it was decided to have the temple built in Baton Rouge. Later, Nandini got her wish, as she got a home next to the Karya Siddhi Hanuman Temple in Frisco, Texas. We can probably write a book on our experiences and our narration here ends due to lack of time.
Nandini: He said, “Sai Baba is talking to you through me now, and since you cannot see Sai Baba in the physical form, He is talking to you through me.”
When I initially met Sri Swamiji in 1990, my feelings were neutral, I neither liked nor disliked Him, but I had the utmost respect for Him, as I have for all saints. Before marriage, my mother’s family worshiped their Guru, Sri Manik Prabhu, belonging to the linage of Lord Dattatreya. At the age of sixteen, I was introduced to Shirdi Sai Baba, considered to be belonging to Datta Parampara.
When Dr. Prakasarao, my husband, my children and I, met Sri Swamiji for the first time, he had unique experiences. I offered my Pranams to show my respect. Several things took place during this visit which I am omitting to be brief. My husband was eager to meet Sri Swamiji again and having come to know that He was going to visit Trinidad we both decided to visit Sri Swamiji there. On our way to Trinidad, we had a layover in Dallas; I met my cousin who lives there. I expressed my confusion about meeting Sri Swamiji since I already had Shirdi Sai Baba as my Sadguru. She advised me that I should not go to Him with a dubious or conflicting mind and I should clarify my doubts by checking with Sri Swamiji Himself, since I had already accepted Shirdi Sai Baba as a Sadguru from my teenage years. She suggested that I should put that question to Sri Swamiji and He would definitely help me.
Nevertheless, we went to Trinidad. The next morning we attended the Sri Chakra Puja which was new to us. We stood in the darsan line, after the Puja, and when Sri Swamiji saw us He said, “Oh! Datta has brought you here.” Soon after darshan, somebody came running informing us that Sri Swamiji has called us for interview. We were taken by surprise as we had not requested it. In fact, they were going to have a Board meeting then. We went in and Dr. Rao started sobbing.
I took the opportunity to tell Sri Swamiji, “I don’t want to offend Shirdi Sai Baba, as He had been my Guru since age sixteen, but I hold utmost respect for you”. Sri Swamiji closed His eyes and said exactly what I prayed to Sai Baba every day after performing my daily Puja. He said, “Sai Baba is talking to you through me now, and since you cannot see Sai Baba in the physical form, He is talking to you through me.” I was taken aback, as I used to pray every day to Sai Baba to visit me physically and needed to communicate with Him. I had no doubts in my mind about what He said. In fact, I feel that both of them are taking care of me and my family and they are One and the same. When I met Him in Trinidad, I saw my father in Him in His behavior, which I lost when I was nine years old. From then onwards I spoke to Him as I would to my father, very informal, but with respect.
Every Thursday, I am accustomed to performing Aarti to Sai Baba in Marathi as they do in Shirdi. When Sri Swamiji visited us in Jackson, MS for the first time, the next day was a Thursday. As usual I did my Aarti to Sri Swamiji after Pada Puja. Sri Swamiji looked at me and said, “You should do the Aarthi as you usually do.” I became very emotional and started crying. Even to this day I do Aarthi to Sai Baba and to Sri Swamiji’s picture.
He told me, “You will see how much change I am going to bring in you.” I was somewhat confused and said, “Swamiji, you are in Mysore and I am in Jackson, how can you change me,” being ignorant about Guru Tattva then. Slowly the process of change took place within me; those who know me have complimented me on these changes. He taught me the essence of Guru Tattva and the way to treat a Guru. Guru is Smatrugami, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. Now I no longer see him as a father figure, but I see the cosmic consciousness that is the Guru.
In 2002, I was traveling to India and I was in New York waiting for my Air India flight. There was a snow storm and flights were not allowed to leave, so I returned to Jackson. When I got home I saw that our house was completely smoked out due to a fire accident, but the house was still intact. The Padukas and small Vigrahas (idols) in the puja room were untarnished. Later in 2005, during the Memphis Temple Kumba Abhishekam, Sri Swamiji called me and told me that He stays in my house as Agni Devata. I asked Him what He meant and He reminded me of that incident.
Each and every day I understand His Leelas (miracles) more and more. My greatest knowledge that I have gained from His association is that even though the Guru may not be present in the physical form, if you surrender to Him, He will take care of you. He is Omnipresent and is aware of what goes on with us. Jaya Guru Datta
Sri Swamiji Says:
One must remember Mother Annapoorna with gratitude before taking food. When out of anger a plate of food or a glass of drink is rudely pushed away, that person and that household will suffer from poverty and stomach ailments. It is a sin to abuse and criticize food even if it does not meet your taste.