|I am always with you - Alana Vasanta Gorfaine, Las Vegas, Nevada|
This is the thought for the month of January 1999 on our Beloved Poojya Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji 's calendar. It had been my fear since meeting with Him in this life in 1993 that He may somehow leave me I would no longer have the blessing of being in His presence. In certainty I now know that He will always be there because to have Swamiji commune with you is to partake in the timelessness of creation itself.
How could I possibly have known that in my gross ignorance of 1993?
Santa Cruz, California, U.S.A :
It was in March of 1993 that an acquaintance showed me Swamiji's picture and suggested that I drive up to SantaCruz, California that evening to go and 'hear' Swamiji. Not having anything else to do, I went to Kali Ray’s Yoga Center hoping to enjoy some profound lecture from 'this man from India.' Sitting in the back of the room, very much aware of my blinding headache, I watched the procession of Swarniji entering the room with his entourage. Anticipating a discourse that would 'somehow instantly 'enlighten' me, I was disappointed in 'just' hearing His music, which to my untrained ear, sounded rather discordant to me. Initially it seemed a virtual cacophony of weird musical instruments, and at times I kept repeating to myself, "oh, I wish He would just speak!" Much to my chagrin, this didn't happen and the next I knew, people were walking up to Him and presenting flowers at His feet. "Why are they doing this?", I wondered. Some generous stranger smilingly presented me with some flowers and encouraged me to get in line to receive 'darshan'. ("What on earth does that mean", I wondered further.. "Oh, I'll just go with the flow .... but there's absolutely no way I am going to lie down on the floor in front of Him .. and what is this "Jai Guru Datta" that everyone says when they hug each other, anyway? Oh, dear, have I walked into some sort of cult similar to the one in Oregon with that other Guru?") So I stood in line thinking that I would give 'this man from India' the flowers and somehow manage a smile when I reached the front of the line. But when I stood directly in front of Him, I found myself unable to make eye contact, felt humbled, and suddenly found myself bowing at His feet. I returned to my place in the room, slightly trembling .• but thinking it was the air conditioner, During my 45-minute drive home that night, I thought it had been a boring, unnecessary experience not to be repeated at any cost. Yet, driving home I remember musing to myself as to why the music had so agitated me. However, I felt myself awaken the following morning with a voice compelling me rather urgently to "go and hear Him again .... You must "Oh, come on, Alana, you hated last night", my own inner voice countered. But the 'other' voice reiterated: "Give Him another chance. You will learn from the experience."
After I made inquiries as to Swamiji 's schedule, I decided to go to Kaliji 's Ashrama in Santa Cruz the forthcoming Sunday morning. Entering her beautiful home that morning, I was surprised at the number of people but luckily managed to find myself a place in one of the rooms where television monitors had been set up so that we could view the main room where Swamiji was going to conduct a puja. Outside on the terrace, Prasadi and others were chanting and preparing what I would later on learn was the Homa pit. Then, Swamiji came on the screen in front of me. The expression on some people's faces changed to smiles of recognition, I thought, and many seemed to be glowing with love, which completely baffled me, so I decided to see whether I could find some space in the main room where I hoped somehow, by osmosis, to understand this event. In His room, now, the effect on the audience was magnified. As Swamiji was performing the puja, some people had tears rolling down their faces, while others were glowing in total enchantment and entrancement, and a few, like me, were squirming and fidgeting, trying to assume a more comfortable sitting position. I watched and inwardly mused, "Why are people so emotionally charged by a man from India pouring various liquids over little statues? What on earth is this craziness?" At that very moment, Swamiji made a 45 degree turn, looking over His right shoulder and looked directly into my eyes. Immediately I said to myself: "This is Mother, Father, brother, sister, friend ... this is God Himself!" Even though fifteen feet away, I felt His overwhelming love, compassion and understanding. For the first time in my life, I knew what unconditional love felt like. The tears instantly rolled down my face as I felt and remembered Creation itself. My throat tightened in this recognition of being accepted by Universal Love. My squirming stopped and I started noticing the beauty of Swamiji 's movements, every gesture was a caress to the cosmos, His hand mudras punctuating His personal commune with Creation. Instinctively I felt that this ritual was not something done merely by rote to somehow appease the followers. Not having the slightest notion of His actions, I knew that it was for our benefit. He was praying for us, not Himself. My thought was then, "I haven't the slightest idea of what it is that I am witnessing, but I know with that deep knowing when recognizing Truth that I have to be in His presence to learn and experience not only what He is and what He teaches, but to discover who I AM."
The following three evenings I attended Swamiji 's Kriya Yoga class. The Monday evening I learned that Swamiji was presenting a concert at a local church on Friday night, but discovered with disappointment that all the tickets were already sold out. Yes, despite my disastrous opinion of my first musical encounter with Swamiji, I knew that I had to be in Swamiji's presence as much as possible. Well, on the Tuesday evening, after the Kriya Yoga class, Swamiji went behind the counter where the books and cassettes were being sold and beckoned to me. Stunned and in fear of making a total fool of myself, I approached in trepidation. With incredible sweetness, He asked, "You coming to concert Friday night?" "No, Swamiji, there are no tickets left." "No, you see, Swamiji has ticket for you." That bewildered me. Swamiji continued, "You come to India this year for Navaratri. Very beautiful ... you will see." I had absolutely no idea of what He was saying. Me go to India! Hmm ... I had those wishes when I was a teenager particularly after reading Autobiography of a Yogi by Pararnahamsa Yogananda (a part of myself that I had long buried, I thought, since at that period of my life my yearnings for spiritual knowledge and in particular, what the Indian Vedic culture could teach me could not be shared with anyone I knew). Now, I was delicately being 'awaken' up by this beautiful, gentle Being who was no like no other I had ever encountered. And what is Navaratri, anyway? I totally mispronounced the word when asking others what and when this event would be in India. I drove home with great skepticism as to Swamiji's comment about the concert ticket. So, if He had a ticket, where is it? In retrospect, I shudder at my doubts. The following night, the last of the Kriya Yoga course, about halfway through the evening I looked up and caught the eye of a stranger at the opposite side of the room who immediately stood up , walked over to me and said, "I don't know why I'm doing this . My name is Justin, but I have an extra ticket for Friday night's concert and something compelled me to offer it to you ... would you like it?" I reacted with childlike glee, shouting "Yes! Yes!" The charming gentleman would not even accept my money for the ticket and I didn't even see him that Friday night. I was just beginning to grasp the mysterious and wondrous ways of Swamiji. His playfulness is to me, one of His most endearing qualities. And, yes ... I did enjoy Swamiji's music that Friday night! It is my belief that my initial unfavorable response to Swamiji 's music was a deliberate influence to ensure that when I heard the 'voice' the following morning urging me to return to hear Swamiji again, I would recognize it as a Divine Being encouraging me and beckoning me.
Trinidad, West Indies :
Trinidad means, the three 'Dads ': Brahma, Vishnu & Shiva. This is the embodiment of our Beloved Sadguru.
Some months later I bumped into one of Swarniji 's devotees who told me that He was in Trinidad. I thought Swamiji was back in India. Not knowing precisely where Trinidad was, but knowing that it was closer than India, I hurried back to the office, called up the travel agent, ready to leave in a few days for Trinidad! The entire stay there would be only five days, three days in Trinidad and two in Tobago. However, after only one day in Tobago, I rushed back to spend one more night at the Ashrama in Trinidad where I rushed into the arms of my dear friend, Stella Siewratten upon arrival and shouted, "Stella, I'm home again!" As beautiful as Tobago was, it represented just another place to me. Trinidad.will always be very dear to m~~the kindness of the people towards me, the Temple, the Aripo River, the incredible concerts by Swamiji, the discourses with Swamiji, our" Silent Teacher" encouraging me to listen to the voice of the Soul. It was here, too, that Swamiji gave me my Sanskrit name of Vasant (to me it sounded like Vasanta, so that's who I am now.)
Also, how could I ever forget that it was here that I started to truly develop my appreciation for Swamiji 's music. I clearly recall seeing Dr. L. Subrahmaniam delivering those exquisite sounds on the violin as he never look his eyes off Swamiji . His devotion was apparent. I remember, in particular, when Swamiji announced that they would be playing an excerpt from the new CD Inner Healing for the first time. Stella and I both spontaneously reached for each other, both comforted in the fact that there was another who understood the vulnerability that the music brought about, shamelessly letting the tears roll down our cheeks.
Ramesh, Radha Krishna and Jaitra, Swamiji's Celestial Music troupe, played with such skill, joy and beauty, enabling me to possess a completely different appreciation of Swamiji's music. As Swamiji says, "Music will have no effect on you if you do not cultivate the art of listening". So, I am still in the process of developing my nadopasana (musical sound concentration). Not a day goes by now without my listening to the exquisite sounds of Swamiji. In fact, at times I just repeat the "Amba Bhavani" and "Inner Healing" cassettes. How could I not have recognized the Divinity in His music. As Swamiji says, "Music is my language, Music is my expression and Music is my religion ", If listening to His music is religion, then I shall stay a member of this Temple forever! I was still struggling with the prayers and the bhajans, however. I just could not seem to connect with the Sanskrit. Then suddenly I heard something being sang which touched the very core of my being and I turned to my friend Stella and said, "I like that prayer that has the verse, .... Bhaddhrani pashyantu ... ' in it." (l was barely able to pronounce the words!) Smiling very sweetly, she pointed to the bhajan"Tvarneva Mata’. It was some years later when I discovered the meaning of the following verse. I now have it on my altar and sing it every day:
Sarve cha sukhinah santu
Mayall of us live happily
June, 1993 gave me my first experience of the glorious Aripo River. Swamiji has revealed that the Aripo River has its connection to the holy Ganges and was known as the Sararipu Nadi, meaning the confluence of five rivers. Here, seven great Rishis came to bathe, meditate and do penance. Therefore, these waters contain both spiritual and medicinal properties. Swamiji has said that the Puranas state that taking a bath in the waters of a sacred river, with devotion and belief, can heal both physically and mentally. Swamiji meditated on the ancient scripts and determined that it was the Aripo River.
Seeing Swamiji in the River just dazzled me. He seemed to be One with the water and all of Nature itself. Standing above the rock and looking down at us, He became a spiritual giant. Swamiji then came down in the water and I had this overwhelming urge to approach Him and have Him 'dunk' me. He seemed to know what I wanted and as I carne within a few feet He approached and laughingly put his hand on top of my head and gently put me under the water. Suddenly feeling bubbling child-like joy, I came up laughingly expecting a repeat of what I later remembered as an initiation. But, it was now another's turn. I couldn't believe my own reaction. I was a grown woman acting like a six years old, giggling with great abandon and feeling so free. I have since learned that Swamiji seems, at times, to bring the child out in me and I have had very Vivid visions of Swamiji and I as children, laughing on a beach together. Swamiji then manifested bottles of perfume from beneath the surface of the water, tossing them around, evoking even more joy in me as I reveled not only in this miracle but also the wonderful aroma.
Somehow the journey back to the Ashrama that day didn't seem so bumpy!
I was granted my first interview with Swamiji on my last day there. I stood in fear in line since I felt so inadequate. How could I ever say any of the Sanskrit prayers, sing any of the bhajans. I barely knew what was happening around me during services when people were chanting and singing. It all seemed so overwhelming. How could I ever continue any of this upon my return home? Now it was my turn to enter the interview room. All I could do for the most part was just sit at His feet and stare blankly. His perfection engulfed me. I felt like a two year old with very limited vocabulary. Eventually I mustered the courage to ask Him what spiritual practices He suggested for me. Very gently, He said, "Sing one or more bhajans each day ..... perhaps you only do Datta Stava". Then, as if He sensed that even this may be too much for someone like me who could not grasp very much of the Sanskrit prayers then, He said, "Just take one grain of rice each day and place it in a special place, and then you remember Datta." My heart swelled. "This I can do", I thought. Swamiji's kindness and understanding made everything alright. I knew that some day, I would manage more than 'just a grain of rice.' As I type this and listen to the CD "Bhajana Mala, Garland of Bhajans" I thank Swamiji for holding my hand all the way.