Experiences with Swamiji

Swami Amritananda Saraswati

Many times the disciples ask me to tell about some of my inspiring experiences with Swami Satyananda. This is not an easy matter to discuss because first of all, I normally do not talk about my experiences with Swamiji, and secondly those experiences cannot be expressed in words - they are personal and inexplicable. Every disciple must experience the guru according to their own level of consciousness - my experiences will be different from yours, yours from the next person.

A tree should grow according to its own nature. We are all spiritual seekers and we want to commit ourselves to the higher life. Therefore, we have to find out the best method for ourselves, whether recommended by a guru, by some higher being, or by our own inner inspiration.

As far as my experience with Swamiji goes, since entering the ashram I never thought of going out of it. From the moment of my arrival I was given a position close to Swamiji but I never felt that I was locked in, or overwhelmed by this big responsibility. I only thought that it was by his grace alone, that I had been given this privilege to serve him in this way. It was his choice, not my choice. I had no choice - whether I was given the duty of running a machine, cleaning, taking class or singing kirtan. Whatever he indicated to me that I should do, whatever he asked me to do, I did.

There were many disciples in the ashram at that time. We all felt from our hearts that for a disciple, guru is God, and the person next to guru is the guru's servant. But later I came to know that guru's servant or guru's disciple, in fact, anything belonging to guru, is also divinized and in time it becomes like the guru himself.

Everyone lived a simple life in the ashram. There was no ill-feeling, no hatred, jealousy or competition, nor was there love or compassion. We did not know the difference between all these attitudes. Life was acceptance- just as the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening.

We well understood what goes on in the world. We understood natural feelings - that sometimes someone gets angry, animals do too, so why not us? But we were too occupied to worry about these things. We worked so hard - from the early morning till late at night. And we did it with joy - as the greatest privilege there was- to give guru seva.

There were both illiterate and highly literate disciples at that time. And we did not have any scriptural education, we did not sit down to learn our alphabet, but it all came - we all learned in the same manner. There was no difference between one disciple and the next; no difference between work, whether cleaning, typing, or cooking in the kitchen. No difference between the disciple who was closer to the guru, a purified disciple, or one being purified. We considered that all the disciples were the same as our guru.

The experience I felt throughout these early days with Swamiji was that only by our own effort do we come to deserve and derive guru's grace. Of course, guru may be there, showering us with grace all the time, non-stop. But we only step forward when we make an effort. There is no other way to receive and to achieve the guru's grace, and grace is the key to open up the higher faculties.

The experience of higher life within us is the purpose of all sadhana. But in the state of meditation, the sadhaka may also come to feel that sadhana and spiritual life are all a waste of time. At a certain stage in the relationship between guru and disciple, such dispassion also arises, and to overcome it is very important. Sometimes the disciple becomes lost in this feeling, and it takes different forms in different minds. But I would say that the best thing to do at this time is to ignore it. We know this so-called temporary vairagya will pass and it should not be given any recognition. At such times you must continue to serve the guru and to follow whichever spiritual path you have chosen for the benefit of others and yourself, whether directly or indirectly.

Sometimes we think that we are obeying the guru by practising a particular sadhana given by him. We think we are doing guru seva but in fact it is seva for one's own self. It is for our own spirit. Knowingly or unknowingly, we wish to grow and reach into higher and higher domains. Even the most rajasic or tamasic person wishes to become self-realized. He may not be aware of this intention, but in his inner and deeper layers of consciousness this desire is there. He may have great admiration for the things of this world, but he has even greater admiration for the higher spiritual path. He may criticise spiritual people, or disagree with religious practices, but internally he desires to be raised to a higher level of consciousness.

Therefore, you can say that everyone is interested in a higher way of life, and that experience you can have by living in the ashram with your guru. He may appear to give you his grace or not, it does not matter. In fact the guru is showering his grace upon us all the time; non-stop. But we have to step forward to make an effort to open ourselves, to recognise and receive this blessing. This has been my experience while living with my guru and it can also become your realisation.

(Recorded at Ganga-Darshan, Teacher Training Course on 13.5.82.)