Sadguru is my strength, come what may!
Karma is like a swing for it carries you for a seesaw ride in life. When the Grace of the Guru comes in your life, you can sit on His lap and He becomes the buffer to insulate your life so that you are free from worry, by surrendering to HIM. Sadguru has put it simply- Follow the master, Faith in God, Face the Devil, Finish the Game.
Here Shanti shares a few of her experiences. She came to Trinidad as a young girl from Guyana in 1981 and stayed with her extended family in Arima where she met Sri Swamiji. There she continued her devotion at Malabar Shiva Dharma Temple as a singer of HIS bhajans and doing full seva at Malabar, better known then as Little India.
I could hardly believe it! There I was singing for my Sadguru in Mysore, during Navaratri, and to my utter delight, He turned His head from the platform where He was absorbed in Devi Sri Chakra puja, and looked at us, a group of foreigners, giving us direct Darshan for quite a while.….! Inner bliss filled my heart, as I continued singing….
Thankful Pranams to my Divine Sadguru for the blessings He has graciously bestowed upon me, especially being able to reach Mysore Ashram for Navaratri 2015—a trip I would never forget!
I had been following Sri Appaji for years before, but could only wonder what it would be like to go to India, especially for Navaratri in Appaji’s Ashram. That said year by Sadguru’s miraculous Grace, a ticket to Mysore came into my hands. My younger daughter came with me, in her words, “to make sure I reached” as my health could have been better, and I had to be on a lot medication. As we came out of the plane, I mentally thanked Dharti Mata for bringing me safely to my original homeland.
We arrived during Pitri Paksh time, and my daughter had the chance to offer Shraddha rituals for her father who had passed away suddenly in 2010. After he passed away, my health started to deteriorate. One of the Datta priests conducted the puja for us, in front of the Akala Mrityu Moksha Stupa, and then we did Pradakshina about 9 times, chanting a Dattatreya mantra. I felt my husband was lucky to have His Shraddha done there. We both felt such a sense of relief and more at peace, knowing that he would be taken care of by Lord Dattatreya. After my husband’s sudden demise, I started talking to Appaji while going about my chores, and any time I encountered any difficulty, somehow help would come, both financial and otherwise! It was only because of Appaji’s Grace, I feel, that both girls were able to finish their education and obtain jobs. Appaji was and still is, my pillar of strength to hold on to, come what may! While I was in the Ashram, I felt much better, and felt it was a healing place, and I ended up reducing my medication, all thanks to Appaji.
Before Navaratri began we were very fortunate to get permission to go to a Devi Temple with about 5 other devotees, guided by “Telephone Gayatri”. We left early on the road trip to Mookambikaa DeviTemple in Kollur, hours away.
The road was winding after awhile, going through a forested, lonely area, until we reached Kollur. I enjoyed the long trip with the others. We got down a little before the top of the hill where the Temple is, and walked for about ten minutes before reaching it. I was very excited to reach there as we were told that this was a famous Mother Goddess Kshetra in India.
That same evening, after quickly refreshing ourselves in a nearby room, everyone hurried back and lined up eagerly for Darshan of Devi. However, we were told that we could not enter the actual Temple until Appaji arrived and instead, we were to have Appaji’s Darshan when he had finished worshipping the Mother! The Temple was old and unpainted. The moment He came, I could feel a huge difference in the vibrations and on seeing Him smiling and happy, I felt more thrilled, and enormously energised and felt that the long drive was definitely more than worthwhile.
After He had finished His worship, He came out, then was sitting, so simple in His orange/peach sari and headband, at the entrance of the Temple and was accepting offerings of devotees. When I reached in front of Him, in a daze, not thinking at all, I offered a coconut, yellow and white mala, and as He flashed a quick smile at me, I looked at Him and felt that truly He was my Divine Mother blessing me with His love and compassion-- I forgot everyone and everything at that moment, I just could not think…. In the night Appaji alone went to Veerabhadra (a form of Lord Shiva) shrine there and when He finished He sat in front of the Gopuram which was beautifully lit, and we devotees sat around Him and chanted Ashtalakshmi Stuti, as instructed by Him. I felt that this was heaven, sitting at His Feet, as it was an extremely serene and uplifting experience.
The next day, we were lucky to go inside the Temple for Darshan of Mookambika Devi, before we left. Crossing a river by ferry the small group of us first went to a village where Appaji was going to meet a family privately. I felt very privileged to go there and soon afterwards, Appaji arrived and went inside with the family. They treated our small group like royalty, feeding us with many delicious dishes on leaves like in Trinidad prayers.
On the way back, in the car, I could not help thinking of the Devi Temple, feeling that probably I had wanted to go to Kollur before, and strongly feeling that Appaji had maybe fulfilled a desire of mine in a previous birth, to have the Devi’s Darshan and blessings!
Soon it was Navaratri, the greatest time of my life in Appaji’s Ashram, enjoying the daily worship of Devi, my Divine Mother. Every day seemed more precious than the last, and after enjoying the procession with Appaji dressed as Divine Mother for a couple of days, I preferred to sit quietly inside while waiting for Him to arrive in Nada Mantapam. The crowd could be overwhelming at times….We foreigners, called ‘angels’ by Appaji, were all thrilled to hear we might get to sing bhajans for Appaji, and so, we diligently practised with Sheetalji a couple of days before. Sheetalji trained us, both young and old, with all different accents, French, German, English, American, and Trinidadian among them, to sing bhajans for our beloved Appaji while He was performing Sree Chakra puja! What a task he had! I must say I feel so grateful to Sheetalji. I feel he has a mountain of patience.
But the lucky day came, and we sang our hearts out, offering “Sri Mata Sri Rajni” and “Lakshmi Narahari Lakshmi Parasukha...” to Him. What joy—I have no words, but can only prostrate to Him over and over for raising His head from the Puja, and looking at us for quite awhile as we were singing—definitely, the Mother showering love on the group, including me, His undeserving child! Another unexpected treat of His Grace! I felt also lucky to be able to visit Chamundi Devi Temple and make offerings there too.
One day, shortly before we left, in Shuka Vana, Appaji saw us and told us, “I am always with you.” I always remember these words with tears of joy, and thank Him for this comforting blessing!
When I was leaving, the night before, both my daughter and I cried and cried, feeling we were leaving our real home, Appaji's Mysore Ashram!
Years later, I realised that it was through singing His bhajans that my devotion first grew. In 1986, I had become interested in Him, loved and learnt ‘Shankara Shiva’, Datta Stava and used to chant the 108 names of Dattatreya. When I first met Him in Arima later that year, I had had a problem on my mind. “Don’t worry, do seva and everything would be alright,” He had told me. And it did come true and strengthened my faith in Him! I was always in the satsangh group from Arima days, and continued at the Datta Yoga Centre for quite awhile. Whenever possible I still sing Appaji’s bhajans, and in the satsangh group we sing Hanuman Chalisa and Shivaya Rudraya Namaha at the Malabar Shiva Dharm Temple.
By Guru’s Grace, In California Temple 1986 visit, was another pleasantly surprising experience , as Appaji had impromptu held a Datta Stava Competition between North, South and Central devotees. I represented North, and bowing to Appaji before I started, to me, unbelievable but true, I won the first prize, a medallion of Sri Dattatreya! I feel now He was the one who wanted it so! One night after the Kriya Yoga Course in 1988, at Dr. K. Ramdath’s in Palmyra, no one among the local singers seemed to know the bhajans, or seemed to be confident, and somehow I was called to the front and given the microphone. I remember holding the mike a little away from my mouth, as He had corrected me on a previous occasion when I had also got the chance to chorus Him as both He and His bhajans were still unfamiliar to Trinidadians! Even though a couple of bhajans I too did not know, I tried my best to chorus Him. When I look back now, what a miracle it seems, definitely Appaji’s miracle, like Divine Mother hugging me, pulling me closer...!
One afternoon while He was staying in Palmyra, as He was coming down the stairs, He suddenly stopped. I was standing close by in the front. He then looked at me and gave me a yellow flower He had in his hand. At the time, I had not a clue what that meant…I only know that after that my life was never the same and I can only guess that He let me know then, that I belonged in His Datta family!
On February 27th 1991, full moon day devotees arranged a boat trip down the islands with Appaji. “ More than one hundred devotees were on the boat. It was a happy occasion for everyone. As the boat was moving in the Caribbean Sea, all were dancing in merriment.” (from one of my favourite books ‘Gems of the Purest Rays Serene’, compiled by Sri Swami DattaPada Renu, C.S. Radhakrishna, later Swami Manasa, and Sri Subramaniam who were here for three months on Appaji’s instructions.) My little toddler daughter, Gauri, started to dance to the bhajans as we were singing, and I was sitting with her in front of Appaji. Then He played with her and picked her up, before giving her back to me. I am very thankful that she got His blessing so unexpectedly, and He also blessed my second daughter, in my womb at the time! On that trip too He had told us “What is the easy way to get rid of lust and greed? The easy way is chanting the Lord's name-- I give you this mantra ‘Om Dram Dattaya Namaha’…the name of Datta is necessary not only for the safety of the boat journey, but also for the journey through life.” We then chanted and chanted that mantra to our heart’s content, glad for this initiation while on the sea. Nowadays, we have to chant as much as possible 'Om Aim Hreem Shreem Shiva Rama Anagha Dattaya Namaha' for protection from all obstacles and dangers!
To me, Appaji is looking after me as only Divine Mother can, coaxing, spoiling, disciplining me and rewarding me according to my karma. By His Grace, I feel he is always protecting, guiding and blessing me. All the gods are in Him, my Datta Mata and Datta Pita!
Thank You Appaji!
I love You!