Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

Mahasamadhi Satsang

by Jagadananda Das

In the days following Swamiji’s Mahasamadhi, the devotees at SRSG gathered each evening to share their recollections. Though the group was not a huge gathering, we heard from many... Swami Ritavan, Swami Radha, Dr. Prabhu, Surendra, Bhagaban Dev, Angiras Arya, Stomy Persaud, Medhawati (Mei Wan), Tejaswini, Bhola Shankar Dabral, Smita Deshpande, Mrs. Vimala Kapoor, Pandit Priyadarshan, Brahmachari Ramprakash Das, etc.  Some of these were recorded, but most were not.

These could be divided into three groups: those that knew Swamiji since the early days in Minnesota, those who were with him during the time he spent at Sadhana Mandir, and then those who became Gurukulam students at SRSG. Unfortunately there was no one who really knew him from before that time. Perhaps one day Mrs. Arya and others who knew him then will share a little more and give us some insight to those early days.

Swamiji’s appointed Ashrama Pramukha Swami Ritavan Bharati started the proceedings with a broad overview of Swamiji’s life.

We were blessed to have the presence of Swamiji’s son Angiras and daughter Stomya who, though still grieving, came on Sunday to share a few thoughts. Stomya reminded us that their experience was quite different from most others, since they had seen Swamiji in his householder life and known him as their own father. Stomya said, “I picked up the first volume of Yoga Sutra while in the ashram this time and started to read it, though I had read it before, and it seemed familiar to me in a new way that I could not quite define. Then it came to me that it was my father’s way of thinking. It was the way he had trained us as children to be logical and to justify our requests with proper argumentation.

“My father would be sitting on his armchair in the living room, surrounded by books. Whenever I wanted to go out or had some special request as a teenager, I would have to present my reasons in a structured and orderly way, and that way I could usually get approval from him.”

She also told an amusing anecdote about Swamiji in Minneapolis, who would walk the few blocks from their home to the Meditation Center wearing a dhoti. In the 70’s this would still have been a pretty strange sight, and one day some local punks surrounded him and started to challenge him in a somewhat threatening way, “What are you doing wearing a dress, weirdo?”

Unperturbed, the then Pandit Usharbudh Arya said, “I will show you what I do.” And he started to lead them in a relaxation exercise. In a few minutes the young men were in a trance and even had to sit down on the sidewalk, and Swamiji continued on into the Center for his program.

Angiras spoke only briefly, as he was still processing his grief, but speaking after his sister, stressed that just as Swamiji’s disciples needed him, he also needed them.

“A lot of people have been talking about how grateful they are to Swamiji, to my father for everything he did for them, everything he is doing for them and I don’t know how many people realize how much his global family meant for him and that he needed all of you, he needed everybody whose lives he touched.  He left home when he was thirteen and since then he travelled the world and he created a global family.  And what everybody gave to him is beyond measure and I hope everyone knows that.” 

Joanne talked about the family atmosphere that existed in the early days in Minneapolis and how Swamiji allowed his students into the home, and how some made themselves so at home that they would even raid the refrigerator.

Swami Radha talked about how her life weaved in and out of Minneapolis and Honesdale and how she observed Swamiji’s transformation over the years as he aged and moved inward and then expanded his own mission independently of the Himalayan Institute, defining his message more and more simply.

From the second group, we had primarily Bhagaban Dev, Bhola Shankar and Surendra, all of whom made it clear that being Swamiji’s personal assistant or servant, especially during the years at Sadhana Mandir, was a 24 hour-a-day job where one had to be on call at any time of the day or night. Bhola said that he got on-the-job training with Swamiji that could not be found in any MBA college anywhere. He also told a few anecdotes, in particular from two occasions, which he said were ones when Swamiji changed personality. Usually, he said, Swamiji would always be so gentle, smooth and measured in his speech and movements. But once, when traveling at night between Varanasi and Allahabad, Swamiji wanted to stop at the Vindhyavasini Shakti Peeth, which was in the middle of a forest somewhere on the road in between. He had the car stop five miles from the temple and the two of them walked that distance. Swamiji walked at a determined pace, which Bhola had never seen him do before. When they arrived at the deserted temple, Swamiji just sat down went into samadhi, sitting for four hours.

Bhagaban Dev shared some of what it was like to serve Swamiji in close contact for eight years at Sadhana Mandir, and the limits of frustration that he sometimes reached but how Swamiji’s kindness and love always made it possible for him to continue.

Bhola and Surendra were present at the time of Swamiji’s maha-prayana, some of which they shared. This should probably get an article of its own when the full details are available from all those who were present. 

Medhawati made everyone laugh with her story of how she made her first cup of tea for Swamiji – which seemed to be a bit of a theme, as Bhagaban Dev also talked about making a cup of tea for him. And then later, when Swamiji gave her the name Medhawati, she only heard the last syllable and thought he was asking her to make a cup of tea. She also said in the beginning Swamiji moved so quickly and silently that she often was unable to find him. She joked that she wanted to put ankle-bells on him so that they would know when he was moving from one place to another.



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