The day that time stood still!
Guru Purnima Part 2
GURU TATTVA -----DATTATREYA—THE MEANS AND THE END
In 2004 Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji a.k.a Appaji told us, “By true service (such as Hanuman’s to Sri Rama) the Supreme state is attained, but the journey is not an easy one. Everyone comes here with the object of knowing Guru Tattva. There is only one way to know this, and that is by service and service alone. Without service untainted by selfish desires, Guru Tattva cannot be realized. Try to become a syayamsevaka (one who willingly and heartily serves the servants of the servants of the servants of the Guru). Learn to climb from the first step. The means will take care of the end….May everyone of you attain Guru Tattva." In 1990 He chanted selected verses of 'Sri Guru Gita'--which He has said on many occasions, that all devotees should study and imbibe the meaning! One question among others that He answered, was experienced by lucky souls who washed His Lotus Feet in 2010 on the beach in Tobago.
Qu based on Verses 19 and 20: What is the inner meaning of 'take the ablutions of Guru?' Sri Swamiji:
"... If ignorance must be rooted out first...drinking the ablutions of one's Guru is the way. This purifies you and annihihates all sins. Then the inner Light of Knowledge shines in you....Guru initiates you into the path to reduce the weight of action. That's all. So those who serve Guru...should understand ignorance, birth and action should be destroyed...How? ...understand that knowledge without detachment is a waste ...Guru is the inner Light of Knowledge that destroys your ignorance.... You can attain this understanding if you take the sacred ablutions of Guru with total self-surrender! ...On the emotional plane, feel your daily food and drink to be the Prasadam of your Guru...Daily worship should be be meditation upon Guru and singing His praises!"
Here is the detailed account by devotee Sruthi Persad of how compassionate our Sadguru was to us that day, granting us the rare, cherished first hand experience of some of His inherent Bliss!
Living in Trinidad and Tobago means geographically, we are far from our Avadhoota Datta Peetham in Mysuru , Karnataka. Some people may think that distance reduces the chance to be near to His Holiness. Contrary to logic , in spirituality, distance has proven to be a trick of the mind. Distance makes you no more nor no less worthy of a “Heart to Heart” connection with Sri Swamiji.
This brings me to a sweet story of togetherness and love, one of many on the Unexpected Journey of self, that reminds me that love transcends all obstacles you may think exist and shows yet again the compassionate nature of the Guru- Shishya relationship.
It was 25th March 2010 , Sri Swamiji, already in Trinidad. A few of us were buzzing around the ashram, aware of Sri Swamiji’s tentative visit to Tobago. It was definitely our Sadguru's doing that some of us devotees found our way to Tobago where Sri Swamiji was spending a few days.
There was no known program planned for Tobago so we definitely had no idea what to expect or if we would even be allowed to spend time with Appaji. We decided to “chance it” and maybe fail trying, than to not have a chance at all.
What were we gonna do in Tobago?
By Guru's Grace, we occupied a house at 'The Plantation Estate' very near to where Appaji was staying. "What was He doing?" we wondered every minute of the day. What we WERE sure of was that we were present in Tobago so even if we didn’t get to meet Him directly, it was so exciting and thrilling to be in Tobago while our Guru was there, which I am sure many of you will understand.
We found out that Appaji had a planned trip to the Nylon pool as he had done a few years ago. That night, the few senior devotees who were staying with us, shared the fantastic stories of that visit of the then “black bearded Swamiji.” With eyes agog and breaths held, like children, we all sat mesmerized by the stories being relayed; it quenched that desire of actually being close to the Guru we all held so dear to our hearts. These stories alone, being so touching, made this trip all the more fascinating. Sleep evaded everyone that night as we all felt strongly that 'something fantastic' would happen in Tobago.
We got ready the next morning and made our way down to Store Bay. It was picture perfect; a sandy beach lined with little huts for buying island memorabilia, almond trees and coconut trees providing shelter every few steps, sun beaming on anxious faces and the sea, a mass of calm and inviting turquoise blue calm water, dazzling under the Sun’s warm rays; the crispy air blasting you dry of sweat; a typical, hot day at the beach! But what followed was anything but typical!
Appaji arrived soon afterwards for the trip---a sea tour of the Buccoo Reef and the Nylon Pool aboard a glass bottom boat for coral reef gazing-- with a deck for sunbathing. There were too many devotees for one boat, so Appaji was in one boat and the rest of us were in the other boat. As we climbed into our boat, we couldn’t help wanting badly to be in the same boat with Appaji! Shanta Ramroop suggested we sing bhajans to express our love for Appaji instead of dwelling on disappointment. Our Sadguru's bhajans and music always make any journey better.
The “Other” Boat:
Since our boat was filled with many bhajan singers, we sang with great happiness at the top of our voices. We all climbed to the top deck and sang many bhajans including Pahi Pahi Gajanana.
Appaji, in the other boat, was occasionally turning to look at us all, smiling and laughing with devotees in His boat as we continued to enjoy our devotion.
Appaji was actually in BOTH boats. Physically in one boat and in the boat with us, in the form of Bhajan. Appaji is in every Bhajan, every Raga and every teaching. Whether you sing, dance, read or meditate, He is there. It’s equivalent to having Him with you, never forget that.
It’s like my mother used to tell me as a teenager, “if you can’t take God with you to where you’re going, then you’re not meant to go there...” So why not take Him everywhere; in whatever form you see him; a companion, friend, protector, parent, Appaji is more present with you than you even realize!
Looking across from our boat, we saw Appaji standing, and some movement was happening. Curiously, we looked into the shaded part of the boat. Appaji was shuffling around and soon enough, made his way to the top deck, sitting, facing us, singing as we sang, waving as we waved, and clapping as we clapped. He wanted us to know that He was with us in our enjoyment.
As we relished ever moment of having Appaji’s physical attention, we sang to our hearts content. So so so much love-- holding on to that feeling we sailed on. And to this day for some present, you would remember Him saying and gesturing with His hand, “I am with You…”
As those words echo in your mind while reading this, “I am with you..” whenever you lose hope, or if you feel like life’s hitting you a low blow this very moment, picture Appaji sitting in that humble glass bottom boat in the middle of the sea, looking at YOU and saying loud enough for you to hear, “I am with YOU…” Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and envision that beautiful scenery with Appaji speaking directly to You. Exhale…You are going to get through this.
At the Nylon pool after Appaji offered flowers, we enjoyed a quick splash in the turquoise, crystal clear water that’s like a heavenly dot in the usual dark bluish-greenish sea colour. The weather was perfect. Picture a diamond surrounded by aqua stone; our dearest Appaji being the diamond. A sight to behold, but among us, a Treasure that can rarely be described even by the most academically inclined devotee!
A Treasure who leaves many speechless by merely His gentle smile.
A Treasure leaving one to involuntarily shed tears of blissful love.
A Treasure that Is Sadguru.
It was a most joyous occasion. Appaji sprinkled and splashed devotees and everyone shared in loud laughter and fun. Appaji loves people, He loves being around devotees. He loves us all equally, this He made quite clear.
As the diamond sparkling water of the Nylon pool washed over our faces cooling everyone down from the sweltering tropical heat, the sight of Appaji smiling wading in the center of the huge circle we formed around him, was breathtaking. We, the many races and colours of humanity like the sea around our brilliant diamond, our Lord and Maataa/Pitaa Dattatreya. You couldn’t help feeling that this definitely could be a dream and you could wake up smiling.
Regrettably soon it was time to return to shore.
Again, Appaji went into the other boat… “Oh man…we are in the “other” boat again….” However, how could we feel sad, after such a beautiful bath with Appaji, in the Nylon Pool!
For us Trinis living thousands of miles away from India, it was a rare and unique experience many of us never thought could ever be possible.
"Aao Guru Deva”:
We got back to shore and offloaded our belongings which included a case of water which no one had drunk on the journey. I guess the thirst to drink was already quenched with amazing Love from Appaji, as He came down to our level treating us as a father having fun with His children, yet somehow remaining unattached, revelling in His own Bliss, Avadhoota that He Is!
Everyone walked staggeringly from the boat onto the sand and if you’ve ever walked in sand with wet clothes on, you generally have to drag along slowly. You will definitely find your feet digging all the way into dryer parts which makes walking even slower. This tends to leave your feet covered in sand.
Kusumakka was one of the first to get to the concrete landing that led to stairs then to the carpark. Many devotees were now cleaning their feet trying to get the sand off.
I heard one devotee, Gyan Ramlogan, standing nearby, offer a warm bottle of water to Kusumakka and I thought it was to wash the sand off her feet, but Kusumakka said, " Take the water and wash Swamiji’s Feet instead.”
Gyan ji to whom Kusumakka was speaking was looking at her in a sort of disbelief… he asked her if she was sure, and she said, "Yes."
Adrenaline and excitement shrilled inside me as with all others I’m sure because “wash Swamiji’s Feet” translated to sacred washing of Sadguru’s Feet…the most divine blessing a devotee could ever wish for. My heart was beating faster now with all kinds of thoughts flashing through my mind:
“Would I get to wash Swamiji’s Feet…”
“Are we even worthy? I mean I could be a better devotee…Am I even good enough? ”
I doubtingly questioned our worthiness in seconds, thoughts whirling a million different ways trying to curb any outward expression of what I was feeling inside. Excitement of actually getting to do it. Feeling of unworthiness because I was practically new to the Datta Family and sure Appaji had no idea who I was. Happy just being there.
It was as if a million scorpions were crawling through my mind. It was like a silent confession of all my sins, hurt and trauma being recalled one by one, with each step Appaji made towards us. This was not the first time I had visual images flashing instantly across my mind in Appaji’s Presence. It happened quite often. Was it me still attached to my past?
I waited… I watched and did not want to miss the moment no matter the outcome… I tried to quiet my mind. Catching my breath, a new image popped into my head. The image of Sri Krishna washing Sudama’s feet, a picture I had saved from an old Iskcon calendar that I kept near my bed. In hindsight, I was feeling probably just like Sudama, offering Lord Krishna a small handful of puffed rice! Bottle water appeared and before knew it Appaji was standing on the beach with a few devotees near Him.
We wash Sadguru Datta Appaji's Divine Padas
Gyanji and Satishji bent and happily were privileged to wash those Divine Feet!
As they finished, with a simple gesture Appaji allowed everyone who had madly scrambled around, to also come and do the same. Soulful, soothing, heartfelt singing of the bhajan “Aao Guru Deva, Darshana Deejo…”---- (a traditional Hindi bhajan asking for Guru’s darshan comparing him to the holy Hindu Trinity/Dattatreya whose Grace allows us to discover the Light of Atman/Guru/God within us) broke into my thoughts, as a more orderly, quiet queue formed. A devotee told me later that Satishji was singing. As Appaji stood still, listening, He seemed to go into a blissful, yet serene trance with a very distant look in His still open, beautiful, divine eyes! A few senior members of the group rinsed the sand off his feet. He then gently lifted his right foot and said something that as I’m writing, brings tears to my eyes,
"Take teertham…” This was the taking of the ablutions of the Guru as drink, like teertham from Sree Chakra Puja! As Appaji had explained in verse 20 from 'Sri Guru Gita', anything we drink we should deeply feel to be the sacred ablutions of the Guru, yet here we were by some divine punya, taking it from His physical Feet !
We were allowed to drink…to quench that thirst brought on by life’s many hurdles.
Slowly, calmly, everyone got closer, and a more orderly queue formed and everyone got to wash and take small handfuls or droplets of water that glistened and cooled Sri Swamiji’s Lotus Feet. I was in a daze.
I was transfixed for a moment, quietly looking and enjoying the looks on everyone faces. And as I write, feeling that divine nectar spring at the back of my mouth, sweetening my throat, I remember slowly, reverently and carefully bending down, under moving devotees and reaching out my hand to the side of His foot in a sort of gentle rubbing motion then collecting one, maybe two droplets of the Datta Amrita that trickled off His toes. I turned, closed my eyes and placed the droplets into my mouth, wiping what remained from my hands onto my eyes.
Gyan Ramlogan fondly recalls:
Back on the beach --indelible experience
"Thanks to Appaji's inspiration, Satish had asked Appaji at DYC Ashrama after our discussion, as to whether some devotees, including members of the satsangh group could come to Tobago. To our delight, HE had said 'Yes', and so our invaluable time in Tobago with Him had come true! On our return from the Nylon Pool, I had asked Kusumakka if we could bring some water so that SHE could wash Swamiji’s Feet. She replied, "Yes," but that she would not wash Appaji’s Feet, but that I would do it. I was in shock and called Satish to do the same.
Right then and there we brought a case of water from Satesh's van, and upon Appaji’s instruction we began to wash His Feet--with Him standing on the sand barefoot!"
"But I always believe that we should never be selfish in doing seva. So I asked Appaji if the other devotees could also wash His Feet. He looked at us with the love of a Divine Mother and said, “YES, let everyone come and wash Feet.” Later, Kusumakka told me that that was a very rare opportunity they had never seen happening anywhere before! Humble thanks to Appaji for that most wonderful and rare chance--one for me, beyond words- as my Appaji is the Supreme God, and all teerthas, (holy pilgrimage spots, holy rivers and oceans-- all gods are in His Feet, as stated in 'Sri Guru Gita'!"
As we stood up, Satish organised more water and started to sing "Aao Guru Deva...."
Shruti continues her experience:
I cannot explain how Lord Krishna felt when he washed Sudama’s feet but I remembered a picture of Him having a tear in his eye…the only ever picture to ever depict a tear in Lord Krishna’s eye. The Lord does not differentiate between rich and poor, caste nor class, everyone is worthy, even the ones like the poor, devoted Sudama .
Sudama never forgot Krishna and Krishna never forgot Sudama…like Appaji, never forgetting us, so we should never forget Him. Distance matters not!
Just as Sri Krishna then proceeded to wash the feet of his devotee and poor Brahmin friend Sudama, Appaji has washed and will continue to wash our minds of those thoughts that torment us, of those experiences that leave us bruised and scared and He will continue to show us Grace and affection.
Every pain felt by a devotee is also felt by the Guru…that is the depth of the connection and the love shared in the Guru/Shisya relationship.
Living miles away from Mysuru, with no other choice but to form a relationship with my Guru in my heart, I felt close to Appaji in that moment in Tobago. I felt protected. I felt " He is my family"…but most of all I felt worthy of love.
This is Guru Tattva--
Pure Love and Compassion that seeks nothing in return
He does everything in His power to soothe our karmic scars . He helps with every path we take in life, blessing and uplifting us unexpectedly, through His sheer Divinity, which is His True Nature!
For All devotees unable to see Sri Swamiji in the flesh due to Covid or whatever other circumstance, just remember Him as Datta Sadguru "Smartrgami Sanovatu'. Don’t waste your God given senses, mind nor intellect while you have them, as He Himself always says!
Create the connection with Swamiji and hold on to your end of the line, because He is holding on to His end and He’s not going to let go --life after life if need be! He is both our way to God as well as our God, our final destination!
Sri Guru Datta!