Through the Lens

Swami Karmakaruna Saraswati, New Zealand

Words seem useless when trying to describe someone of such unimaginable magnitude as Sri Swami Satyananda.

In recent years, I have been honoured to have the opportunity to photograph Sri Swamiji. As I followed him with the camera, I learned so much from his actions. He always seemed to be several steps ahead of everyone else. Many times, when I thought I had Sri Swamiji in the camera lens, he would quickly change course and one time he jumped the fence! I watched the way he managed people, how he was father to the kanyas and batuks, cared for his neighbours, the way he showed up early for everything. I saw the way he would change plans at the last moment to always keep everyone on their toes. I witnessed him describe his vision of the new university at Rikhia while on a tour of all the properties. To my amazement, the next year it was being built. I saw how he cared for every detail, from the tiles in the new buildings to the grand vision of a Kanya Kitchen. Through that little lens, I tasted a minute fraction of this great man’s immensity and this has been enough to impress me forever.

I saw so many expressions emanate from his hands, his face, through the changes in his voice just before he would expand, larger than life into a serious moment or into laughter that shook the building.

Sri Swamiji could be anything at any one moment: an expression of a child or the lover of the Cosmic Mother; an elder wise man, then a politician, a warrior, a historian or an astrologer; next, mimicking the animals around Rikhia to prove a point, followed by a father stern and then soft; and always the humble disciple as he described his guru Sri Swami Sivananda with so much love. He would answer all our questions, even before we could ask them and each time I left Rikhia more full than I could imagine was possible.

Swami Satyananda led by example and served all in need. In the West, he gave us practices, books and the inspiration to live a more balanced, healthy life using scientific tools for the intellectual mind. In Rikhia, he provided access to education, medical care and housing. All, especially children, widows and pensioners received not only the necessities, but also pride and confidence. If we can follow even one of his deeds or teachings, then we will also contribute to the world being a better place.

While I miss Sri Swamiji’s physical presence and long to see his face full of expression and the words of profound truth on his lips, my deepest self knows that he is within and around us, and will live on forever. May we all work towards sharing his ideals and serve our fellow beings with head, heart and hands.