Updated: Oct 6, 2020
How Vasudha Andrew first experienced the greatness of His Holiness Sadguru, Parama Pujya Dr. Sri Sri Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji.
Jaya Guru Datta, Humble prostrations at the Lotus feet of our Sadguru, Parama Pujya Dr. Sri Sri Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji and Sri Sri Sri Datta Vijayananada Teertha Swamiji.
Shadows of Doubt
January 2016 marked the start of my journey with Appaji, in this lifetime. An unknown but known path. Appaji’s tour to Trinidad was carded for July 2016. In January 2016, the first of many Datta satsangs was held at the Ramlogan’s residence and continued until July 2016 on a weekly basis at various devotees’ homes. Upon entering this home, for the first time in my life, I saw a huge picture of Appaji gracing the center of the stage. To me, He seemed very human like! This was not the typical Hanuman Chalisa chanting satsang that I was accustomed to attending. Needless to say, I left Datta satsang that night very confused and my mind was ridden with questions- What was paduka puja? Why did everyone worship Appaji? But, it was the beginning of an inner churning that led me once again to a place of familiarity and love--a place at the feet of my Sadguru!
Datta satsangs continued weekly and as the weekends passed, my mother “gently” coerced me into attending. I didn’t particularly wish to attend Datta satsangs as I felt I had no connection with Appaji (I was so wrong!) My mother and sister willingly attended weekly, for me to go, on the other hand, took some convincing.
My body was physically at satsangs but my mind was elsewhere as it failed to comprehend the magic I was blessed to witness weekly. Surprisingly, as time went by, I too willingly attended satsangs and also became a part of the satsang group! Even while learning various prayers and enjoying the bhajans though, I was still skeptical of the glories and magnificence of our Sadgurudeva.
Even though my mind was ridden with doubts, and I still did not feel much connection with Him like my Mom and sister did, strangely, I was still eager to learn more about Appaji. So I did what any millennial would do, I googled Sri Sri Sri Ganapathy Sachichidananda Swamiji and referred to social media, and also keenly listened to other devotees’ experiences. I was still not satisfied. I needed to know more, but I did not know exactly what I was searching for. My attendance at satsang voluntarily increased as my interest was piqued.
After continuing to attend satsangs for about few more months, one of the greatest epiphanies occurred. I’m unsure of the exact day or moment this happened but at some point before July 2016, I realized that I loved Sri Sri Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji. A sudden gush of love overwhelmed my little heart. I couldn’t comprehend that a human is able to resonate so much love, and for a Sadguru I had never met in physical form! Still, I just knew I loved Him! My mental turmoil, questioning, doubts and re-discovery of love all occurred within a six- month period. Whatever I thought I was searching for came to an end. There was nothing left to search for!
Being in Appaji’s physical presence in 2016 allowed me to realize that my heart had accepted two things prior to His physical arrival:1. Appaji is my Sadguru and 2. I love Appaji more than I could express. Appaji’s Grace has always been present in my life, however, owing to my karmas, it took 22 years for me to re-discover this love. Appaji had never left, in fact, it was I who had apparently left. His grace was always existent!
My life has changed drastically on all levels spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically, a change I welcome wholeheartedly. Even though I had been chanting Hanuman Chalisa and from small I had grown up as a traditional Hindu here, I felt that something was still missing from the worship of all these different forms of god that we were praying to! When I met Appaji physically , I found a best friend, a mother, a father and sibling in Appaji. He was, and is, that ‘something more’! There is one quote from Swamiji that made a particularly lasting impression in my life. It was shared on FB by ‘Vimala Datta Words:’
“You must develop affection for Swamiji as a family member. When you think of Swamiji as your family member, you will be protected. When you eat food, think about Swamiji. Imagine He is eating with you. Think about what He may be doing and whether He ate His meals yet. Talk to Swamiji through His photo and invite Him to eat with you. I like that. That is the relationship you must develop with the Guru. SGS.” This quote impressed upon me that being blessed with a Sadguru should never be taken for granted. Sadguru is a part of daily life and should not only be remembered during difficult times or when we visit His ashramas. Rather, we have an opportunity to nurture and strengthen our bond every minute.
Appaji helps me in my student life
During Appaji’s 2018 trip to Trinidad, on two occasions He stressed the importance of learning the Bhagavad Gita and urged devotees to begin reading or memorizing. On both occasions Appaji asked devotees to raise their hands as an indication that we would learn Gita. My hand went up on both occasions, though it felt as if I was unaware I had raised my hand, almost as if Appaji Himself raised my hand.
Without a doubt I signed up to participate in Gita classes because this sadhana was and still is near and dear to Appaji’s heart. It’s also another means through which we can connect with Him. I signed up to be a memorization student. Actually, I was under the impression that this was the only category that members of the satsang group were supposed to register for. Had I known that reading category was also an option, I would’ve definitely chosen that category. My Gita journey would have been simpler, but Appaji doesn’t give us the easy way out. Whatever the chosen path, there are lessons to be learnt.
Apart from participating in Gita classes, I was also in the final year of university. To add to regular classes and exams, I also had a thesis to prepare simultaneously. Just my luck, my thesis and Gita class spanned the same 10 months! This year (2018-2019) was filled with challenges as juggling Gita memorization and academics was no easy task. Both required equal time, attention and energy. Also, both became equally important as they were both an offering to Appaji.
Many times I questioned “What did I get myself into by signing up for Gita memorization?” and contemplated withdrawing from the programme. Twenty-four hours in a day felt as if it was not enough time to devote to learning slokas, preparing course material and writing a thesis. Sounds like I’m complaining (which I did a fair share of) but regardless of the many challenges that came my way while studying Gita and balancing academics, I’m truly grateful to Appaji for blessing me with this opportunity! Many lessons were taught by Appaji in a silent manner during this time. I had a small picture of Appaji on my desk where I was doing assignments and memorization also. Every time I found myself in difficulty, I would talk to Him in that photo thus: " What do we do now Appaji?” To my relief, the answer would always come to my mind, and He would give me the intelligence and strength I needed to persevere, and I felt He was with me throughout this entire difficult year! I firmly believe that I would never have made it without Him that year! These are lessons that will forever remain with me and serve as a foundation of strength, faith, and perseverance!
I felt strongly that Appaji was always by my side whispering Gita slokas in my ear during my Gita practice and assessment sessions, especially when I forgot slokas. I prayed to my Sadguru and felt Appaji guided my hands across my keyboard and especially while I working on my thesis. Appaji sat in my examination room, giving me the needed intelligence to pass all my courses! Still, Karmas were after all, to be worked out first, to a certain extent! After hours, sometimes days of unsuccessful research, just when I would become desperate, Appaji displayed His “magic godly leela” and opened tabs with the relevant information that I had been seeking. Whenever Pujya Sri Balaswamiji gave Yoga Vasistha discourses on Facebook I logged on and although I was not aware of what was being said due to the language barrier, I listened to it playing in the background, while studying. Sri BalaSwamiji’s divine voice was soothing and He was the best company guiding me through. Through this, I’m humbled and appreciative of these and many other miracles I witnessed during my student days. While on campus there were instances and robberies and sexual assualts in the vicinity of the building i had my classes. However, Appaji always ensured my safety and He still continues to do so! Thank You, Appaji and BalaSwamiji for all Your blessings and miracles!
A blessed experience with Jayalakshmi Mata and Appaji
In 2018, a few devotees suggested that an offering should be made to Appaji in the form of a play depicting His birth. The play was amazingly narrated and each cast member performed the appropriate action and provided facial expressions to match. Scenes of the play were directly taken from “Reflections of the Absolute: Life of Sri Sri Sri Ganapathy Sachichidananda Swamiji” (commonly called Appaji’s Life History). This was not a regular play that one would perform for a school function. Rather, this was a play depicting the most important events that led to Appaji’s birth and showcased members of Appaji’s family. Each cast member had to approach their respective roles with a high level of seriousness and dedication. But, most importantly love for Sadguru was the essential ingredient.
Unknown to me, I was cast to be a part of the production. However, when I received a message indicating that I was cast to play the role of Jayalakshmi Mata, I was shocked! Many thoughts raced through my mind at that point. I had very little knowledge of Jayalakshmi Mata nor did I feel a connection to Her so I felt it was best that someone else who shared a connection with Jayalakshmi Mata be given the opportunity. Also, just the thought of knowing that the play was intended to be performed live and Appaji Himself would be seated attentively looking on was nerve wrecking, to say the least. Thus, I declined to participate.
However, the Director of the play said something to me that made me, without a doubt, agree to participate. She reminded me of Pujya Balaswamiji’s words. Bala Swamiji once said (this is by no means verbatim), when offering something to Appaji even if it is broken, wrap it in love and Appaji will accept. There was no need to be convinced anymore, I knew with certainty that participating in this play was my offering to Appaji.
Therefore, I prayed intensely to Appaji and Jayalakshmi Mata for guidance to perform each scene with love. For me, preparing for this play was a bit challenging because, each scene required a different level of emotion, facial expressions and physical movement throughout the stage. Even though there were no spoken lines, it was still a lot to remember. Regardless of this, by Appaji and Jayalakshmi Mata’s grace everything worked out well.
For weeks the cast practiced tirelessly, together or individually memorizing our scenes. We were all determined to offer this play, a Trinidad Production, at Appaji’s lotus feet. Our goal was to make Appaji happy with this offering. For every practice session, we imagined Appaji sitting in front of the stage looking on and guiding us. Ultimately, Appaji was the Director of this play. This play was His miracle.
On July 24th 2018, the stage was set and the highly anticipated moment the cast prepared for finally arrived. For the first two scenes of the play, I was unable to see Appaji clearly from the stage. Therefore, I could not tell if Appaji was happy with the play thus far. The last thing any member of the cast wanted was to make Appaji unhappy or offend Him in any way. This thought was foremost in my mind prior to the play and for its duration also. Thankfully, I was able to discreetly ask a devotee standing at the corner of the stage “Is Appaji happy?” His response was “Yes, Appaji is happy”. That was all I needed to know in order to continue with the remainder of scenes. After this, for the duration of the play, I oddly felt a great sense of peace and calm.
Strangely, recollecting moments from my scenes prove to be a task, even as I write this. Although I would’ve practiced and memorized my scenes and was well-aware of what was required, I felt like on this day I was not conscious of my physical movements or facial expressions throughout the play. “I” did not performed any action! It was Appaji and Jayalakshmi Mata who held both my hands and guided me in accordance with each scene. Thank you Appaji and Jayalakshmi Mata!
The most powerful and memorable scene of the entire play was the last scene; the birth of Appaji. I distinctly remember holding back tears during this scene because our Lord Sachichidananda was born, yet, He was physically seated in front of us! The bhajan Swagatam Guru Datta was sung after His birth still resonates in my mind and heart when I recollect this particular scene. At the end of the play, Appaji smiled. I was relieved and happy that our Sadguru was happy. What more could we have asked for?
During Appaji’s speech at the end of the night, He suddenly said “I have something hiding in here” as he placed his hands into a coiled rose mala sitting on the couch next to Him, “Come Jayalakshmi Mata”. My mother, who played the role of a Gypsy, was sitting next to me whispered “Go up”. Confused and in a daze, my body somehow ended up on the stage. I prostrated to Appaji’s padukas which were gently resting on a white fluffy mat. I couldn’t believe that I saw Appaji’s padukas up close! That moment was surreal. As I looked at Appaji, suddenly Appaji’s hands were stretched out and there was something dangling in the air. Appaji materialized prasadam. It was unbelievable!
With a humble heart, I will always cherish these moments and this prasadam from Appaji. This experience will forever be etched in my heart as it has taught me to put Sadguru first whenever doing any type of seva and offer it to Him. For when this is done, He will take care of the results.
Devotees commonly say to each other “May Appaji’s Grace be with you”, but what is the definition of Grace? What’s the difference between Guru’s grace and Guru’s blessings? Although not pressured by this question, it did secure a space in my mind. Recently, I read this quote by Sri Ramana Maharshi: Talk 319 “Grace is both the beginning and the end. Introversion is due to Grace; Perseverance is Grace and Realization is Grace.” Immediately, I mentally questioned “What is Sadguru’s Grace?”
After reading this quote, I was holding a box which blocked my vision as I aimlessly walked from one room to another. Suddenly, my foot hit one of my Dad’s tools he had left lying on the floor. I stopped and figured, “Oh no! I’ll probably have some sort of an injury,” because my Dad’s tools are mostly metal and sharp edged. When I looked down, my foot had hit the wooden handle and not the sharp metal edge! Within two minutes or less of questioning Appaji had provided an answer. I knew right away, with certainty after this experience, that Guru’s Grace, is a protective shield. To me, it is powerful, unfailing, silent and eternal!
To Appaji, whose compassion is unwavering and never-ending, to Divinity personified, I am forever grateful.
Thank you Appaji and BalaSwamiji for Your Grace!
Jai Appaji! Jai Balaswamiji! Jai Jayalakshmi Mata!