Life Unfolding

Swami Sankalpananda Saraswati, Australia

Sri Swamiji has been the guiding light in my life, shining a light on each turn of my path. In Munger ashram in 1976, I was put in the press, to be in charge of the book-binding department. I was so scared as I had never been in charge of anything. I came to the ashram a shy young woman with little confidence and suddenly I had to be responsible for a whole department. Swamiji told me, “No one must talk, look out of the windows or leave the room without telling you first. You are not to do the work, your job is to watch and make sure the work is being done and people are following the rules.” But all I wanted to do was sit down and fold paper or unravel bundles of string! I was also put in charge of cleaning the press which was inspected each afternoon. If there was a corner missed or a cloth hanging in the wrong place, I was the one responsible, so I had to learn to speak up and show people areas they had missed or not done well enough. I hated it and just wished I could sweep and mop like everyone else.

Sri Swamiji worked on everyone like this and one could see the transformations over the months and years. When I was sent to Rajnandgaon ashram I was told to learn Hindi, Indian culture, and how to cook Indian food. I learnt much more than that. At times I felt so lonely. I worked from dawn to dusk, seven days a week, grinding spices, cleaning rice, cooking, cleaning and singing kirtan in the evening. It was a very purifying time. I became happy with my own company and I learned to respect myself, and get to know and like who I was becoming.

There were many experiences with Sri Swamiji over those years and I feel blessed to have him in my life. The last verbal instruction Sri Swamiji gave me was to get married and have children. He said to me, “Sankalpa, we need more spiritual minds in the world – have children.” I was shocked because children were not on my agenda, and I thought to myself, “Who with?” All was revealed six months later when I met my future husband with whom I have three sons.

Even though Sri Swamiji is physically no longer with us, it still feels like he is sitting in my heart where he has always been.