Beyond Appearances

Swami Agnihotri Saraswati, USA

Looking back over my life, I am convinced that Swami Satyananda has been taking care of me at least since we first met and probably even before.

I first went to Munger at the end of 1981. At that time Ganga Darshan was under construction so all the residents were living down at the old BSY. I was put in a room up at the BSY-to be. Each morning I would collect cabbages from the garden and carry them down to old BSY where I was met with a bevy of Australian female devotees who kept saying, “Wait until you meet Swamiji,” “Wait until you meet Swamiji.”

When I finally did meet Swami Satyananda it was to chop vegetables and to carry heavy stones for the clearing of the land around Ganga Darshan.

My earlier exposure and training in yoga began in 1961 in Lonavala at Kaivalyadhama where the concept of karma yoga was never mentioned, let alone put into practice. Needless to say, I was neither enamoured with karma yoga nor with Swami Satyananda, who was making me do it!

I was ready to leave Munger until one day, as a gang of us were lifting heavy rocks, Swami Satyananda came up to me and asked me how my Hindi lessons were progressing. I was flabbergasted, because at the time I was trying to learn Hindi from a set of language tapes. As there was no one else in my room and I kept the room locked, the fact that he knew this made me begin to think that Swami Satyananda might indeed be special. I then and there decided to prolong my stay.

At the end of December 1981 there was a kriya yoga course. The course was given in what is today known as Jyoti Mandir. One French man often spoke about how he was looking forward to the siddhis he would gain from kriya yoga. On the first day of the course he injured his back and could not continue. This made me think that there was more going on at BSY than met the eye.

Another time, later in my association with Swami Satyananda, after an ego-boosting conversation with him I was feeling extremely pleased with myself. But, as I climbed the steps from Yoga Arogya to Main Building I badly stubbed my toe. At that moment I knew that Sri Swamiji was teaching me a lesson. To this day, whenever ego takes me over, I counteract it by thinking back to that very painful toe-stubbing experience.

My job in Bangkok gave me two months vacation every year. These I would spend in Munger taking courses and doing lots of karma yoga (which I was gradually beginning to appreciate and even enjoy). The morning after my arrival in Munger and the day of my departure Swami Satyananda would always make a point of seeing me.

One of the great delights of these stays in Munger was listening to Swami Satyananda’s satsangs. The incredible thing about his satsangs was that, although they were in response to various questions raised by the devotees, they answered questions which were in my mind at the time which were totally unrelated to the topic which Swamiji was discussing.

Initially, I was not at all keen on taking sannyasa because traditionally, when one took sannyasa, one was supposed to give all one’s possessions to the guru and live with him for twelve years. My job working with relief and development in South-East Asia gave me a sense of usefulness and fulfillment, so I did not want to give it up. To my great surprise, when I asked Sri Swamiji if I would have to or not, he assured me that I would not. I therefore took sannyasa on Shivaratri 1985.

When I was in elementary school, my hand was stabbed with a pencil, leaving a piece of lead embedded under the skin. Immediately after my sannyasa initiation, the place where the lead was began to fester and the lead came out along with the poison. The lead from the pencil had been deep in the flesh of my left hand for over thirty years!

After Swami Satyananda had completed his panchagni sadhana and started the annual yajnas, I would regularly come from Bangkok to attend them. Despite the crowds he would always make a point of giving me a little time. In 2003, several days after the program was over, he bumped into me near the yajnashala and exclaimed, “Oh, you are still here!” The next day there was darshan in Ganesh Kutir at which I seemed to be the centre of attraction. One of the topics which Swamji brought up was my prostate and how eating garlic was good for prostate health in older men. Three years later I had to have my prostate removed.

A few weeks after this darshan I experienced a critical health issue for which I had to undergo surgery. When I left the hospital, the doctors declared I was lucky to be alive. I knew that this was thanks to the special darshan which I had had with Sri Swamiji.

The last time I saw Swami Satyananda was at Sita Kalayanam in 2008. He came over to me to enquire about my health and said, “Don’t worry about anything for I shall be looking after you.” Now that he has left the mortal coil, I can feel that this is even more the case.