Reminiscing Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji on His 79th Birthday

26 May 2021 772 Views

Prakasarao V Velagapudi, PhD

On the 79th Birthday of Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji, we want to wish HIM a very very happy Birthday and reminisce about the nature of Sri Swamiji, the importance of a Guru in one’s life, and the significance of Guru Bhakti.

It was in 1990 that our family had the most fortunate, unforgettable, and blessed opportunity to meet Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji. My first contact with Sri Swamiji was explosive. The minute I had eye contact with Sri Swamiji, the experience was explosive and dramatic. As we came closer to Sri Swamiji, I looked at His eyes, those penetrating, sibylline eyes, and He looked at my eyes. The minute eye contact was made, it is an experience that cannot be put into words. Language becomes inadequate. Words cannot describe. Thoughts did not flow. The mind became numb. Expression of feelings was silenced. It was like an explosion in my body. It was like electricity passing through every part and particle of the body. My whole body shivered, trembled, and shook. My pulse slowed down as the sweating started. This all happened in a few seconds. Then all of a sudden as if somebody prodded us, we prostrated at those divine feet of our Sadguru right on the driveway unconcerned about a number of people watching us. Then that compassionate, enchanting smile of Sri Swamiji burst forth.

Sri Swamiji is a Sadguru par excellence, beyond our comprehension, beyond our description, and beyond our intellect. Whatever we wrote over the years, they only represent our outward description of Sri Swamiji based on our experiences. We cannot fathom the depth of an ocean, describe the luster of the sun, see the invisible treasure hidden in our own hearts, and grasp the power and energy of Sri Swamiji. No matter how much we may write and how many miracles we may describe, they would not match the powers of Sri Swamiji.

Some of His devotees describe Him as a teacher, Guru, Sadguru, Parama Guru, guide, musician, composer, Ashta Sidhi, Yogi, a man of miracles, healer, doctor, yoga man, magician, spiritual leader and simply say Swamiji; others say he follows the Vedic way. Still, others say He is a friend, family member; each person has his own way of looking at Him. Everybody has his/her own way of describing Him depending on their association and experience.

Who is this rare and extraordinary Avatara and how do you describe Him?  Amazing are His ways, wondrous are His deeds, scintillating are His eyes, enchanting is His smiles, gripping is His voice, soothing is His music, unfailing are His words, unpredictable is His behavior, peaceful is His presence, stupendous are His lectures, amusing are His examples, hilarious are His imitations; touching is His compassion, astounding is His depth of knowledge, remarkable are His powers, mesmerizing are His gestures; incredible is His vak Shuddhi (purity of speech), startling are His predictions, comforting is His counsel, incredible is His guidance, majestic is His demeanor, the royal is His walk, ever-flowing is His grace, innumerable are His blessings, mind-boggling is His recall of the events, unfailing is His Sankalpa, unimaginable is His globe-trotting, and impossible to comprehend His Avatar.

Who is Guru?

               From times immemorial a Guru or a spiritual teacher has been given the highest place of honor in India and elsewhere. It is exceedingly difficult to define, describe, elaborate, and understand the concept of Guru. According to Swami Vivekananda, “The Guru must be worshiped as God. He is God; he is nothing less than that. As you look at him, gradually the Guru melts away, and what is left?  The guru picture gives place to God Himself. The Guru is the bright mask, which God wears in order to come to us. As we look steadily on, gradually the mask falls off and God is revealed.”

Swami Sivananda illustrates the nature of Guru and how paves the way for his disciples to travel smoothly: “The spiritual path is beset with many obstacles. The Guru will guide the aspirants safely and remove all sorts of difficulties they have to face. He will inspire the students and give them spiritual powers through his blessings. Guru, Isvara, Truth and Mantra are one. There is no other way of overcoming the vicious worldly Samskaras of the passionate nature of raw, worldly-minded persons than personal contact with and service to the Guru. (Source: Autobiography of Swami Sivananda)

Swami Sri Yukteswar in his unerring wisdom defined the nature of Guru: Guru is he who has experienced Truth. He serves as a guide in the dark forest of life. If you follow him, he will lead you out of the darkness. If you try to find the way alone, you may needlessly lose yourself in the forest for many incarnations. So, follow the guru, and he will take you through safely. (The Divine Romance) -- Read more:

Bahinibhai (1628-1700) was a Varkari female saint who described the greatness of Gurus.

(1) With all my heart I will cling to the feet of the sadguru. Unceasingly I will contemplate him.

(2) If I do so, then, Oh my heart, what will be left of you there? You will find yourself in the net of contemplation.

(3) Yes, I will place my trust in the words of my sadguru, for whom I have a love that can never die.

 (4) I will always remain the slave of my- sadguru, absolutely indifferent to worldly things.

 (5) I will offer at his feet my body, my power of speech, and my heart. I will hold my sadguru in my heart.

(6) Says Bahini, "Oh my heart, rid yourself of the idea of self, and come as a suppliant to the feet of the sadguru." (Verse 117)

(1) As chief of all means of salvation stands that of the service of a guru, which changes one into Brahma Itself.

(2) I will, therefore, approach his feet, and there dwell, and then, Oh heart, who will care for you?

 (3) There are Shastras and the Vedas and many great systems of philosophy, but a sadguru is superior to them all.

(4) Says Bahini, "If I have the favor of my Swami Sadguru, he will show my heart the easy way (to salvation)." (Verse 118)

It is very difficult to define, describe, elaborate, and understand the concept of Guru. It becomes even more difficult to understand when we examine a different type of Gurus. One should learn at the outset that there are different kinds of Gurus. On one end of the spectrum any teacher is a guru, whereas, on the other end of the spectrum, we will find the incarnations of God in the human form with supernatural powers. Most people, however, forget that this has been said from the spiritual angle, and never from the physical point of view. Guru Tattvam is even far more difficult to define. It is beyond description, perception, and understanding. However, our attempts to define guru Tattvam should recognize the fact it is limited to our perceptions, knowledge, time, and language. Sri Ganapathi Sachchidananda Swamiji emphasizes this point by saying that “Guru Tattvam is not like an object which can be purchased or possessed, nor it is found or discovered as it has not been lost, stolen or hidden in a safe. It is everywhere provided you know the secret to find it.”

Is physical Presence necessary to follow a Guru?

Many of the disciples keep wondering whether Guru’s physical presence is important to be guided in their lives. There is no question that the physical presence of a Guru in one’s life inspires them to lead a good life, helps them follow a set of moral and ethical principles, consoles them at  times of critical circumstances, encourages them to mold their personalities, and ensures them to solve their day to day problems. When asked about the importance of physical presence of a Guru, Narasimha Saraswati told his disciples not to get attached to the physical presence of their Sadguru. “ It is not necessary for the disciples to be always at the physical presence of the guru … But I am indeed ever with you. Try to feel my constant presence wherever you will be and wherever you go.” (Guru Charitra, p:66).

               Srila Prabhupada told his devotees that physical presence is not important. He wrote to his disciples by saying that “Physical presence is immaterial. The presence of the transcendental sound received from the Spiritual Master should be the guidance of life. That will make our spiritual life successful. If you feel very strongly about my absence you may place my pictures on my sitting places, and this will be a source of inspiration for you.”

On another occasion Srila Prabhupada mentioned that “But always remember that I am always with you. As you are always thinking of me, I am always thinking of you also. Although physically we are not together, we are not separated spiritually. So, we should be concerned only with this spiritual connection.”

Daya Mata, the successor of Paramahansa Yogananda, recalls the conversation she had with Guruji: “No disciple should ever think for even a moment that since Guruji is no longer physically present, he is unaware of the needs of each one who enters that sacred guru-disciple relationship with him. I know for a fact that he is giving you the discipline and spiritual training you need each day of your lives. Years ago, he told me: "When I have left this physical form, I will be with you more than I ever was in this life." I have found that to be true. And he did not say this only for me, but for all his disciples who would come after his passing. - Daya Mata (SRF Magazine 2010)


Guru Bhakti

Guru Bhakti is a method by which one can scrape off the Arishadvargas (six deadly sins), and develop unquestionable faith are the teachings, behavior, and advice. According to Narada Bhakti Sutras, “What is important is not the specific manner in which God is worshiped but the degree to which the devotee is filled with love.” (48-49). Guru Bhakti means total dedication and complete devotion to Guru. Bhakti must be unwavering, and one-pointed.  A disciple should never doubt Guru’s instructions and motivations. We all should be like Sananda who did not hesitate to cross the overflowing river at the calling of Adi Sankara. For his complete devotion, the Nadi (river) made padmas (lotuses) for Sananda to walk on them to cross the river without drowning. From that incident, he is known as Padmapada. Total submission of oneself at the lotus feet of a Guru ensures bhakti toward Guru.  Kularnava Tantra emphasizes that “Devotion to the Guru is the one main truth; without that all learning, all austerity, family status, observances are useless; they are only decorations pleasing to the worldly eye. Whatever one’s station in life, if he be devoted, he is dear to the Lord and adorable as the Lord Himself.”

Tirukkural observes that “Attach yourself to Him who is free from all attachments. Bind yourself to that bond so all other bonds may be broken.: (Verse 350).

In fact,  Adi Sankara says, one must try to realize the internal enemies that are robbing the individual from coming being spiritual and stealing the precious stones of Divine knowledge. Adi Sankara cautioned thus: Kama Krodascha Lobhascha Dehe Thishtanthi Taskarah Jnana Ratno-paharaya Tasmat Jagrata Jagrata.

Adi Sankara explains that desire, anger, greed, attachment, pride, jealousy—these dacoits are residing within your own body. They are not outside. They are the enemies residing within all of us.  And why are they there? To loot you of the Jnana-Ratna, to rob you of the precious gem of spiritual wisdom or Atma-jnana, to loot you and deprive you of the precious gem of Self-awareness and make you forget your Self and weep and wail and be in ignorance. In order to deprive you of this jewel of Atma-Jnana, they are there. Therefore, oh man, oh Sadhaka, Jagrata, Jagrata. Beware, beware. In this way, from the submerged level of the Chitta or the deep within, various samskaras and Vasanas are brought into activity.

These Arishadvargas are recognized as powerful enemies of a man which are highlighted by Bhishma in Mahabharata. Yudhishthira sought the advice of from Bhishma to get rid of these internal enemies:

 “Tell me, the wise one, from what springs anger and lust, fear, and loss of judgment, the inclination to do evil to others, jealousy and malice, pride and envy, slander and the failure to bear the good of others, and unkindness and covetousness".

Answering back, Bhishma responded:

 "These vices are powerful enemies of a man. They tempt human beings. Once these vices prevail over a person, they attack him, like wolves jumping, upon their prey, and from these vices alone, all kinds of grief proceed".

Lord Krishna explains one of the possible relationships between some of these six enemies in the following verses. He shows how this Shadripus overpower the critical and discriminating ability of our intellect (Buddhi) due to which we forget the purpose of our life, and then they destroy us completely.

“Dwelling or thinking on the objects of the senses a man develops attachment for them. From attachment, desire is born. Desire gives rise to anger. From anger arises delusion. From delusion arises a failure of memory. From the failure of memory results destruction of the intellect; and through the destruction of intellect, total destruction ensues.”

Lord Krishna talks about the relationship between a Guru and a disciple in Bhagavad Gita. “Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Bhagavad Gita 4.34)

For one who actually wants to make advancement in spiritual life having a bona fide spiritual master to instruct him and show him the path is essential. Without a bona fide spiritual master, we have no strength or power ourselves to escape from the clutches of Maya. We cannot become free from this prison of Maya without the help of a bona fide spiritual master.

 Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji has been constantly instructing his devotees in all his discourses for decades that they should not fall prey to these six enemies. He has been constantly advising them to remove “I” from them and helping thousands of his disciples to overcome these enemies through bhakti yoga, karma yoga, yoga, and meditation.  One pointed concentration, total submission, undivided devotion, relentless passion to serve Sri Swamiji ensures Guru Bhakti.

A disciple wanted Narasimha Saraswati as his Guru. Realizing that this disciple left his earlier guru, Narasimha Saraswati talked about the devotion and bhakti that are essential components for any disciple, “it is never proper to talk disrespectfully of one’s Guru, and that he had committed a very great mistake in forsaking his Guru. He said it is not for the student to judge the merits and demerits of the Guru. Guru is the treasure house and abode of knowledge and wisdom. Guru is even superior to God; the student must ungrudgingly, selflessly, and dedicatedly and lovingly serve the Guru, whatever be the hardships of service. There is nothing comparable to the service rendered to the Guru. Only if the Guru is pleased will the god be pleased. ... Guru Bhakti and Guru Seva form the foundation of spiritual sadhana and winning of Guru’s grace is the fruition of all sadhana.” (Guru Charitra, P: 70)

As I mentioned before, Sri Swamiji is beyond our comprehension, intuition, understanding, and knowledge. The nature of Guru and Sadguru has been described by many of our scriptures, and numerous Gurus, and even Gods. Sri Swamiji is a Guru who can remove the ignorance, dispel the darkness, and eradicate the Arishadvargas (six enemies) provided the sishya exhibits true Bhakti toward Sri Swamiji. He is constantly looking after his devotees. The more bhakti we have, the closer we get to Swamiji.  Let us remember the greatness of Sadguru as stated in Guru Gita:

“I bow to the Sadguru who is the source of bliss, giver of great comfort, a form of pure knowledge, beyond all dualities, sky - like the essence of the Mahaavaakyas like Tatvamasi, unique, eternal, pure, steady, witness to all intellect, beyond the intellect and who is without the three qualities Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas.”  (87)

               Let us wish Sri Swamiji a very very Happy 79th Birthday again and look forward to a grand 80th Birthday in 2022. Jai Guru Datta. Jai Guru Hanuman.


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