APPAJI and me through the years
Updated: Feb 25
The late Randolph Chandrakate has been instrumental in Sadguru's memorable journey through the landscape of Trinidad and Tobago. He was fierce and relentless in his devotion to Him. Nothing was too big to give. Nothing was too hard to get. Nothing was too hard to sacrifice. Here is Sandra Chandrakate's account of their first meeting with Appaji, among others!
Jaya Guru Datta!
This is a testimony with regards to my first encounters with our revered Guru.
Appaji stays with us for one week
My journey started around June 1986 when my husband was asked to accommodate Sadguru at our home at 22 Old Southern Main Rd. Chaguanas.
This was an enormous task to say the least, for, as a born Hindu I only knew of certain regular customs, like festivals my family was accustomed to. So I was sceptical both about the Swamiji and of success as a good hostess. My husband who was initially introduced to Datta Kriya Yoga by his then boss, Dr. Dayanand Chandool, attended a Kriya Yoga seminar at Arima in 1984, with Pujya Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji, where the Kriya Yoga students from out of the area had to stay in for the weekend. The journey began seriously then, as Randolph Chandrakate, my husband (now deceased), began to be more and more interested in the Swamiji, while I was more focused on usual family affairs.
Somewhere around May or June, Randolph told me an entourage of approximately seven people from India was coming to our home and it was our duty to host everyone, including the Swamiji! So, with my then two small children, ages 3 years and 9 months respectively, I took on the sole responsibility of entering a territory I knew nothing of. I grew anxious and then more and more excited, as the weeks flew with preparations. Remember this is the first time I would really be meeting Appaji physically, and had been busy with household affairs and my business, previously.
Things had to be done in special ways-- new everything for Appaji, like bed linens, mattress, renovated bathroom, all utensils, kitchen pots etc., groceries-- lots of it - and almost an entire household of newness had to be implemented. There was no one I knew who could have guided me, but I guess my personal guidance from Swamiji had already started, unknown then to me.
With lots of “where to find money” in my thoughts, my husband and I, miraculously, were able to convert our home into a shrine for His welcome.
My ‘eye to eye’ moment:
Sri Appaji arrived with His group driven by Dr. Chandool and also folks who were the original devotees and stalwarts of His mission. I in my ‘Sunday best’ a new saree, was the one to greet and welcome Him into our humble home. Dr.Chandool instructed me to perform the greeting with Purna Kumbha. The fateful moment comes as He alights from the vehicle. I walk towards him with my Tariya with lighted deya and coconut. This is a private moment I will take with me until my last breath on this earth—the moment His eyes met mine—those eyes shining like purest crystal, loving eyes boring into the innermost depths of my being, and the most compassionate smile ever, -- these I share with you. I can only say that it was like meeting a human being who was not a human being. Afterwards I felt it was like coming face to face, meeting with, the Embodiment of Divinity! From that instant, my life was about to change from wife and mother to something so infinitely fulfilling, that I will never look back or search for anything more in my existence!
I had invited a small group of friends to sing our Trinidad traditional bhajans that they knew, knew. Dinner consisting of traditional channa and aloo, mango, etc. had been prepared. Swamiji was escorted to His room. However, I could not relax. My family and I stayed next door at my mother- in- law’s, as the entire house was dedicated to our 8 guests, including Radhakrishna, who became later, Swami Manasa (deceased), and a very young ‘Prasadi’.
Breakfast would usually be prepared by Randolph’s older Aunt, known as ‘Mama’, who also cooked for our Sadguru as Kusumakka had not come. She made coconut chutney from coconut roasted on a chulha, and Swamiji would often express how much He enjoyed the food! She would be in seventh heaven! He would also take simple Nescafe Gold Blend coffee, and fresh cow’s milk every day, simple but satisfying to our younger Appaji! Lunch would be rice with dal or lentils etc. and dinner, chapatti that Mama knew how to make, with bodi, or alloo, or stringbeans or other vegetables. How much He sacrificed for us in those days-- and don’t talk about now! Often unexpected seekers/guests dropped by and they also had to be fed! The truth of the matter is, sleep was not on my schedule, for, during the entire following approximate 5-7 days Swamiji stayed in our home, I must have gotten 3 hours sleep.
Sree Chakra Puja
The next morning I was told Sri Chakra puja would start at 9 a.m sharp at our home, so gathering puja items had to be done and breakfast for the guests had to be prepared. I took on my task with pride, and my home was blessed with something so powerful that even I couldn't understand then how I could have worked 22 hours a day and still feel energized! I went to the market, did groceries, made sure all meals were prepared and the strangers who came were fed! Laundry and house cleaning was by me. I wanted it perfect! During the day when Swamiji left on temple or house visits was my laundry time--- sheets changed everyday and house cleaning. At least, then, I thought I was the one accomplishing it all, but later, I came to realise, it was and always, is, His doing! He made sure that I was successful!
Final day of his visit my family had to do Pada Puja in our living room, an unforgettable experience! My husband my two children and I had beautiful, poignant, moments with His Grace, as Appaji would call my eldest daughter and child Carina, affectionately “ Birdie” to this day, because she had 2 macaws that He fed every morning with her. These are some of my endearing memories--the little girl who had sat on his lap while He sang bhajans for her ! She will never forget those days either. “Our bond is inseparable,” she says.
Sri Appaji visited our home twice again, during other visits, much to my delight, but on those occasions He made life easier for me as He brought Kusumakka who would cook for Him. I was happy, since I felt that He had been happy enough on that first visit to want to come back again to our humble home! nothing but His divine compassion, however.
My first Mysore Visit- a memorable occasion
I would never forget my first Mysore visit either. A precious memory haunts me still. From Trinidad, Carina and I went with the Roodals. Krishna Maharaj was also there in 1992. During our visit, Appaji was inaugurating the then ‘new Trinidad Cottage’. We had to welcome Him at the Trinidad Cottage. I offered Purnakumbha. To my utter surprise, Appaji ‘coughed up’ a small round crystal Shiva Lingam from His throat and gave to me. Needless to say, I was wordless with wonder, and totally ecstatic with blissful emotion! I still treasure that Lingam, whose home is my puja room along with my heart!
The Original Datta Temple
The official Dattatreya Yoga Centre started its journey in the living room of our home at 22 Old Southern Main Rd. Via my brother- in- law Siewnarine Singh, my husband took it upon himself to build the first Datta temple. The cost then was approximately 18, 000 dollars, a lot at that time but he felt it was something he had to do! So he undertook the task of building the first real ‘Home’ for Lord Dattatreya here, and with help of labour from ardent devotees, the journey of the Dattatreya Yoga Centre began. The black stone Murtis, of Anagha and Dattatreya that first adorned the small Datta temple were sent from Mysore, and had to be housed at our home in sanctity while the temple Hall was being constructed, before they were consecrated in 1988. Every night we had to light deeya and do Arathi for them! What a privilege! We had no meat in the house while they were there. Before Appaji left in 1986, the tiny, original temple was finished in approximately two weeks! His miracle again! After that satsanghs were held at our home as instructed by Appaji, and we felt extremely blessed that the Datta Yoga Centre was our home for about two years before the murthis were consecrated in Carapichaima.
Appaji tells me to go to Canada.
We had had no particular desire to go to Canada but since the chance came up for us to be sponsored as immigrants, we took it and our applications were successful. Afterwards, Appaji told me to go to Canada with the children, but my husband, Randolph had to stay here. He had been keenly practising Datta Kriya Yoga, and eventually started to teach it at the Dattatreya Yoga Centre in Carapichaima. So I ended up going with the four children. I had been there about three years and was strongly wondering what I was doing there. Then Appaji came to Canada and He asked to see me where He was staying. When I arrived, I told Him, “I don’t know what I’m doing here. I want to go back.” He said to me, “You cannot go. You have to stay here for the children.” So I stayed with them, and my husband continued Seva in Trinidad. During those years, we communicated every night by telephone, and by His, our Sadguru's Grace, things would work out.
I have known my Sadguru Sri Appaji for approximately thirty- three years of my life, during which time, my children and my late husband and I, have dedicated our life at His Feet-- with no regrets!
My ups and downs have been many, but my blessings have outweighed everything. In fact He knows, and teaches us, even though we may not realise it at the time, only later, that everything, but everything, is a huge blessing once you surrender. He takes you under His wings!
In His words ‘many will come but few will stay’. I will be in the few for I have never and will never question His love and the needs He thinks I deserve.
I believe I am the blessed one-- just to sit at His Feet was more than I deserve and just for my offsprings to be touched by Him is more than they deserve.
Lesson about death
Lastly, I would like to give my final thought on the passing of my dear husband Randolph on July 02 2011. Death is something we mortals are scarcely able to accept at once, but we were always being prepared by our Sadguru. I will explain:
Appaji has always instilled in His messages that nothing belongs to us, so drop the " I" in the things we have or feel we own. This is something we have to propagate in our children and in ourselves as a mantra, so, though Randolph's passing was a painful time for us his family, deep down, we knew that he didn't belong to us! His time was well spent doing for the greater good, if it was not on the battlefield fighting for better wages for cane farmers, or rice and oil fields workers, it was dedicated to neighbourhood service, filling out all the taxes and pension forms for the elderly and helping neighbours whenever they needed help! When he decided to build the first Datta temple it was a mission he wanted to start, and though money was non existent, he took a small loan from his credit union to enable the project to get off the ground. Today it is with great humility, we look back on his ventures and know he lives on. The same concept is seen in the decision we both accepted as Sadguru's will, when I moved to Canada without him--- we both steered the boat in different directions for the greater good of the children we were blessed with!
Appaji gives us the strength whenever we need it. Even though one of us is gone, one is still here, and is able to share some of the children's journey with our Guru Datta's Grace! The truth is, every individual's path is unique. He had prepared our family for our journey without husband/wife and father/children, one to be in Trinidad while the other had to be in Canada with the children, even without us ever knowing that our particular journeys had already started! I hope I was able to shed some light on the strength, blessings and guidance of a Guru who is so powerful that even death seems like a joy when it takes place. My husband never complained whenever he was in the hospital and pleasantly surprised the nurses by his calmness, serenity, and gift of detachment--His Sadguru's blessing to him! One nurse even indicated that in her years of her profession she had never met a patient who was so patient and calm even in his transition. Sometimes he even gave them advice!
I hope my encounter with Appaji's Divine Grace helps you on your journey. My advice is do not question or ask, just serve the master and expect nothing! I pray He accepts this poor attempt to describe my experience with Him also, with thankful Pranams at His Lotus Feet! Sri Guru Datta!
For further info. on Randolph Chandrakate: