Looking Back

Mrs. Geeta Sahay, Bhagalpur, Bihar

It was in 1962, when I was a student of the Shri Lakshmi Narayan Trust in Dhanbad, that respected Swami Satyananda Saraswati visited our college. During that time I had no interest in swamis and sadhus. Hence, when I came to know about it I planned to escape secretly from there. However, my plan failed and I had to stay there for his talk. As Paramahamsaji started his speech, unexpectedly we were all lost in his words. We were so much influenced that we did not want to get up even at the end. This was my first meeting with Paramahamsaji.

I was married into a family where Swami Satyananda had spent many days. My in-laws were the followers of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, the Guru of Swami Satyananda, and they met Swami Satyananda there itself. My mother-in-law even tied a rakhi on him. After my marriage in 1968 Paramahamsaji came to Bhagalpur and that was my second meeting with him.

In 1969 Paramahamsaji along with twenty-one foreign disciples, visited our place for a week. During this period I got the chance to stay near Paramahamsaji who was giving a programme in a school. My mother-in-law used to go with him, and hence the entire household responsibility was on me. I was not physically fit as I was expecting a baby. Early in the morning Paramahamsaji along with his followers and my in-laws used to go for his programme. Then I used to run into the kitchen to cook the food because they used to return by nine o'clock. After this they went for Satsang which was attended by a big crowd. Two o'clock was the time for tea and snacks and after that kirtan. After taking their food they used to return to the school at eight o'clock in the evening.

Paramahamsaji used to tell me, "Listen, please bring a cup of tea or coffee for me and only for me", but as I turned all the sannyasins used to ask for the same. The first day I got nervous as to what to do and what not to do. If I made tea for them I would disobey Paramahamsaji and if I refused, the sannyasins would feel bad. When I looked questioningly at Paramahamsaji he smilingly asked me to prepare it for everyone. Hence, I felt that, besides being a discipline-loving Guru, he also had a childlike nature.

His speeches were full of reality and used to touch my heart. Although going through the pregnancy stage, I never felt tired after all the hard work. Was it not due to his grace? Even my husband cared for Paramahamsaji and the swamis who were very polite and soft spoken. One day my mother-in-law asked Paramahamsaji if he had seen any difference in my husband's behaviour during his stay. He very calmly replied that previously he gave orders and now he requests.

After that I frequently used to meet Paramahamsaji either in Bhagalpur or in "Sivananda Kutir", Munger, but these meetings lasted just for an hour or so. In the beginning "Sivananda Kutir" was a small ashram with a few rooms and a hall where the "Akhanda jyoti" (eternal flame) used to be. The ashram was very clean and systematic, and my every visit found a new addition to it.

Once during my Guru Poornima visit I was shocked to see the popularity and deeds of Paramahamsaji. His "Pada Pujan" (worshipping of the Guru's feet) started from three o'clock in the morning and continued till twelve noon. The "prasad" and food distribution started from twelve o'clock and people kept on coming and eating. Paramahamsaji himself supervised all the works, and at last we had our lunch at three o'clock with him. After taking rest for ten minutes he again started with his work. Kirtan and "pravachan" (speeches) were scheduled for half past three. Paramahamsaji gave us his own room in which to take rest.

Paramahamsaji was against stopping children from being mischievous. Earlier when I used to visit the ashram Swami Niranjanananda was very young. I used to find him either on the top of a big tree or on the top of the main gate. When Paramahamsaji visited our place I always found Swami Niranjanji on the roof of the car. When I used to ask him to get down for food Paramahamsaji would say, "You better give him the food there itself because he is not going to get down".

Later, whenever I visited the ashram I found Paramahamsaji very busy; the ashram had developed a lot. The construction work of "Ganga Darshan" was in full swing. But besides all this he used to give his valuable time to us. He always asked about our well-being and ate with us. Once when I visited Munger during the children's camp, to drop our children there, we were amazed to see the well-systematised administration. Paramahamsaji himself was abroad and in his place was Swami Niranjanji who was a fully-grown man. He appeared like a shadow of Swami Satyanandaji. My children learned a lot during this stay. It was only because of the planning of Paramahamsaji and the hard work of Swami Niranjananandaji that the camp attended by four hundred children was such a successful one. All the devoted Sannyasis very impressively looked after the children.

Even after this I often visited Munger. By now "Ganga Darshan" was fully constructed, a lonely and sinister looking mountain had taken the form of a peaceful and holy ashram. All this credit goes to Paramahamsaji. The administration, cleanliness and hard work is worth seeing. All the Sannyasis perform their work silently and efficiently; there is no trace of laziness. Everything is peaceful and quiet and everyone is busy from kitchen to press and offices.

After this we came to know that Paramahamsaji had given the responsibilities of Bihar School of Yoga into the hands of Swami Niranjananandaji and had gone to an "unknown destination". Later we came to know that he was building "Paramahamsa Alakh Bara" near Deoghar in Rikhia. I visited there twice and also had a talk with him. It was difficult to recognise him there as his outer appearance had changed such a lot. He was no more in his air-conditioned room in Munger. In fact he was now in a small "kutiya" (hut) open on all sides. His body appeared copper-coloured from his hard tapasya. He was talking about his tapasya when people asked him when they could see him again. He said, "I will say never again because it disturbs my tapasya". He was thus unable, he said, to continue with his work. He asked me to send a few "goyatha" (cow-dung cakes used for lighting fires) and I did so. Even today he is busy in his great tapasya and it is our prayer to God to make his tapasya a success.

Today I have come to Ganga Darshan with my children at their request. Paramahamsaji is not here but still the ashram is developing day-by-day. All the ashram people are very soft and polite. They are sincere in their work. The atmosphere is very pure and holy. Swami Niranjanji appears like the replica of Swami Satyananda Saraswati. His childlike smile is eye-catching. His calibre for work is also like Paramahamsaji's - like Guru like Shisya!