A Disciple Forever

Ignacio Copete, Colombia

Meeting my guru Sri Swami Satyananda was the beginning of the most important part of my life. He became my guiding light and companion on my spiritual quest. Finding one’s guru is both the end and the beginning of a quest.

When I first saw his picture, sent to promote his visit to Colombia in 1971, without knowing him I decided that he was the one who would guide me. The subsequent meeting some months later was extraordinary, but at the same time an event that flowed effortlessly. It was for me an experience full of beautiful emotional content. He ended up staying at my home during the visit, so I was lucky to have close contact with him.

The second day of his visit I asked him if he was my guru and he answered: “Of course, I have given you several signs but you did not understand.” With that, I felt that I had completed the most important task of my life, and did not ask anything else. That moment was the beginning of a most wonderful and fruitful relationship, one that touched all aspects of my personality.

I was then a young lawyer just out of school and Sri Swamiji captured me with his amazing knowledge of life, not only from the yogic point of view, but also from the scientific, political and practical perspective. I had never seen such a complete person – both in the world and outside the world. Later I learned that this constitutes the essence of a true paramahamsa.

At that time, I never thought that life would allow me to have a close relationship with such an important yogi. Early in his visit, during a satsang, I was sitting listening to Sri Swamiji speak in English for fifteen minutes and when he finished he pointed at me and said: “Now you translate.” To my surprise I could repeat all that he had said. Then and there I became his official Spanish translator, which allowed me to have first-hand experience of all the teachings that he imparted in Latin America. He would always speak for five to ten minutes and I could always translate almost word for word. Once someone commented to him that I was such a great translator, to which he answered, “It is because there is a connection with me; let him try that with someone else and see.”

I feel so blessed to have this connection which manifested itself again and again in my life. Two instances come to mind now. On one occasion I was having some health problems so I wrote to Sri Swamiji for advice. The moment I finished the letter I thought of certain yoga practices and started doing them. Some weeks later, a letter from Sri Swamiji in his own handwriting arrived telling me to do exactly the same practices that had come to my mind. In 1973, I attended the last kriya yoga course given by Sri Swamiji. During the course sessions, questions would arise in my mind regarding the performance of techniques and as soon as I would formulate the question mentally, Sri Swamiji would answer it verbally, as if it were the appropriate instruction at the time.

Sri Swamiji’s teachings came not only through his lectures or satsangs. One of the things I most cherished was the opportunity to be with him and see him act. I would watch him closely trying to imbibe the wisdom with which he managed the different situations of life. He would always make a passing remark or a very direct comment that captured the essence of that wisdom. From that I acquired the habit of thinking, ‘How would Swamiji manage this’, as part of my way of tackling life.

Being with Sri Swamiji was always a permanent source of knowledge. One time I was with him in Central America in the garden of the house we were staying in. We were walking, looking at different plants and flowers and then we sat down on a bench, and he said: “People are always trying to find gurus like Ramana Maharshi, Swami Sivananda or Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who are rare. They do not realize that all around there is another type of guru ready to give knowledge. The universe is full of them, such as plants, flowers, birds.” On another occasion we were walking with Sri Swamiji on the grounds of the old BSY ashram, which was full of visitors for a yoga convention. Suddenly he turns around and says: “The most important thing a human being can achieve is to become a witness of all that he thinks and does. When he attains that, he can accomplish anything that he sets his mind on. He becomes extremely efficient. A lifetime is worthwhile if that is achieved.”

Working with Sri Swamiji was extremely demanding. You had to analyse and observe each situation from every angle and anticipate what was coming. But on the other hand he would give everybody a chance. He was a master at using the talents that everybody had for his mission. With that, he not only expanded the mission for the good of humanity, but also helped the person who worked for him to express his full potential.

As a true guru, he always taught that personal transformation is only obtained through work on the part of the disciple. In January of 1990 I visited Sri Swamiji in Rikhia, only a few months after he arrived there. He had said that he was not a guru any more and that his disciples should consider him dead. I asked him if that were so, what would happen with his teachings to me. He answered that he had taught me everything and all I needed to do was practice. Fortunately the connection was never severed. I always remained and will always remain his disciple.

The last time I saw Sri Swamiji was in early 2008 on the last Rajasooya yajna. From that encounter two things are always present in my mind. One is that all he asked me was if I was enjoying myself. He always said that life was to enjoy. The other is that he told a group of disciples including myself, that we should not look outside, that everything was inside of us and that we already had everything. All we had to do was to learn to look inside. Now all I hope is that I can be a worthy disciple of such a great guru.