My first meeting with Sri Swamiji was in 1977 when he came to the Mangrove Ashram in Australia for Guru Poornima. That particular July there were two full moons, and he celebrated Guru Poornima in Australia on 1st July, and then returned to India to celebrate it a second time in Munger later in the same month. To the best of our knowledge, that was the first time he had celebrated a Guru Poornima program outside of India, and we were very excited and honoured to have him here with us in Australia for such an occasion.
I was a teenage schoolgirl in Sydney at the time and had started visiting the Mangrove Ashram earlier that same year. I had found myself very much drawn to the photographs of Sri Swamiji on display in the ashram, and inspired by the teachings and the tradition, and this opportunity to actually meet him in person was not to be missed! I received mantra diksha and spiritual name from him on that occasion, and an immeasurable boon of inspiration. Swami Niranjan, who was then aged seventeen, was also in Australia at that time, and when we went for mantra diksha, it was he who let each of us into the room, and then sat beside Sri Swamiji while he spoke with us. When Sri Swamiji gave me my mantra, Swami Niranjan had to write it on a slip of paper, show that to Sri Swamiji, and when approved, pass it to me – it took some years for it to strike me that even with that very first initiation, I received it from Sri Swamiji through the medium of Swami Niranjan, and that mediumship is of course still going on today.
Two years later, when I took poorna sannyasa, Sri Swamiji said to his latest crop of brand-new aspirant swamis, that each one of us was as much his disciple as those who had been with him for years already, and if he appeared to have more contact with this or that person, it was merely due to the nature of the work. We should never feel our personal bond with him to be any less because of physical distance. As he departed from Mangrove that same day, he held his hand out to us from the car window, and somehow thirty people managed to hold his hand all at the same time.
Between 1976 and 1984, Sri Swamiji visited Mangrove nearly every year in the course of his tours about the world, sometimes just for a few days, sometimes longer. His last visit, in 1984, was for six months, and on this occasion he traveled the length and breadth of Australia, giving satsang and programs at every Satyananda Yoga centre in the country. His visits were the high point of each year and we would clean the whole ashram from top to bottom in preparation for his arrival, even to the point of polishing the hinges on doors, and washing the leaves of the plants in the gardens! While we did not have much of personal contact with him, there would always be opportunity for a comment from him or some small experience to boost the level of inspiration. And such moments of connection, however small and rare, would be infinitely precious jewels of teaching for us that none of us would ever forget.
In 1988, Sri Swamiji departed from Munger and Bihar School of Yoga – to which he had given all his energies for over two decades, and embarked on a pursuit of his own sadhana that eventually established him in Rikhia. While I was living in Munger I had the opportunity to observe the quiet social revolution that was beginning in Rikhia. While most of us think of what is to come in terms of days, weeks, months, or maybe a year or two, Sri Swamiji was always looking ahead, not just for the next several years, but for generations to come. Each year when the multitudes would flock to Rikhia for the Sat Chandi Mahayajna, we would see people from every country in the world, from all walks of life, from every age group and area of society, all brought together like a huge family, because of Sri Swamiji and the inspiration he gave. It is the children of the local villagers and their children’s children who will show the fruits of the work that Rikhiapeeth has been doing, all of which has been designed with such intelligence and clarity of purpose that it can only continue to grow and expand for years to come.
I recall an incident in Rikhia where somebody had donated a mango tree sapling, and Sri Swamiji was asking the swami who had received it for details on the type of mango, where it had come from, what it needed for optimum growing conditions, etc. The swami had not managed to obtain any information at all, and Sri Swamiji explained to her that in order for it to be given effectively to someone in need, it was necessary to know everything about it so that the recipient could properly obtain the eventual benefits of the fruit. I have never observed another person with such a wide avenue of awareness, for even seemingly mundane details like asking a person unexpectedly invited to stay the night, “Do you have a toothbrush?”
Back at Mangrove Ashram, the presence of Sri Swamiji still feels as strong as it was when I first came here in 1977. Now he has left his body, but I cannot find it in myself to feel grief. It seems to me that he had been saying that he wanted to go for some time, and he made very sure that everything was ready for his departure before he went, and the fact that he has gone now shows that everything was indeed ready.
All I can feel is enormous gratitude for my good fortune in having the opportunity to know him in my lifetime, and for that continuing inspiration in my life, and the lives of all in our enormous worldwide family which have been touched by Sri Swami Satyananda.