Although I met Gurudev Swami Satchidananda many times during my childhood, it seemed I was too preoccupied with other matters. All that changed thirteen years later. By this time I had been to university, married, had two children, and was working in our own business. Why did I feel an emptiness? Why did I have a feeling that I wasn’t doing what I was born to do? Disillusioned with life, seeing suffering and injustices, I felt confused and bewildered.
One afternoon I stayed home from work and cried and cried till I got so angry that I shouted out loud, “If there is a God, show your face, otherwise I will know you are truly not there and I will not bother to pray or be good anymore!” Two days later, I received a call from Gurudev telling me that he was on the way to Zinal, Switzerland for a Yoga conference and could make a stop in Gibraltar. I organized for Gurudev to give a talk. I had heard Gurudev speak many times before that, but it never struck me the same way. I saw the love between the disciples and the Guru. I watched the way Gurudev laughed, taught, and loved, and I was mesmerized and imagined that I was sitting next to Lord Jesus. I just wanted to be next to him all the time as my heart was full and I was finally home.
Lesson I: When the student is ready, the Master appears. One knows the Master by the feeling in the heart. It starts to radiate a love difficult to describe!
I will never forget how someone asked him why he was wearing a gold watch if he had renounced everything. The room went quiet. Amused, Gurudev took off his watch and said, “Please, take the watch, you seem more attached to it than I.” Seeing the man’s discomfort, Gurudev continued to explain, “When I was in Zinal, some devotees had forced me to wear this watch. They said that if I did not accept it, they would not donate any money to the ashram, so for the sake of serving others, I took it. But now you have freed me from this, so please take it.”
Lesson II: The master is totally non-attached to any object: be it a nugget of gold or a clod of dirt. It is the onlooker that makes the judgments according to his or her own perceptions. The master reveals the weakness of the student simply by being a pure channel of love—just like a mirror that reflects one’s image.
Soon I was learning all about meditation. Keeping the mind quiet was an impossible task! I was shocked to discover how many negative thoughts went through me every day! What surprised me most was how I had lived for years without even being aware of my thought processes. During this time I immersed myself in Gurudev’s books — To Know Your Self, Beyond Words, The Living Gita, and The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which I hardly understood at that time. I would call Gurudev every few weeks and ask him, “Gurudev, what can I do next?” His answer was always the same, “Nalanie, you are already doing it.” I remember getting so frustrated. I was desperate to learn all the spiritual secrets! Why wasn’t he giving me instructions?
Lesson III: Spirituality cannot be reached by knowing anything. It is an experience, a way of being. We are that. My beautiful Master was teaching me patience. Even though I felt frustrated, and he could hear it in my voice, he just told me to keep going. You see, I thought I could obtain spirituality by reading. Yes, it helped. It gave me guideposts, but I had to do the work. As Sri Patanjali would say “Practice becomes well-grounded, when done for a long time, without a break, and with all earnestness.”
I started reading about mantras and being initiated, and my mind then became obsessed with the thought, “I need a mantra!” I never spoke about this to anyone, not even Gurudev. Then, one night I had a dream in which Gurudev came to me saying, “Darling, here is your mantra.” He kissed my cheek and I woke up ecstatic! It was 6:40 a.m. in Gibraltar. I was so excited that I woke and told my husband about the dream. Ten minutes later, the phone rang. It was Gurudev! What was he doing calling me at 1:00 a.m. USA time?
“Nalanie, do you have a paper and pencil?” I rushed to get them. “Yes, Gurudev.” My heart was pounding; it had to be something important. “Here is your mantra. Write it down.” He spelled it for me, repeated it twice, said goodnight, and hung up. That was it!
Lesson IV: I learnt from that moment that my Master was truly always with me. How else could he get into my dreams and give me the mantra I was desperate for? How could he have known? The Guru-disciple relationship is truly beyond words. And his love for his disciples is boundless.
Author: Nalanie Chellaram
About the author:
Nalanie Chellaram is a senior disciple of Sri Swami Satchidananda and Chairwoman of the Integral Yoga Centre in Sotogrande Alto, Spain and Gibraltar. She is also the founder of Service in Satchidananda, a non-profit international collective of charities established in honor of Sri Swami Satchidananda and based on his core teaching of selfless service. In March 2008, Nalanie was recognized by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for her “Services to Humanity.” In 2014, she was honored with the Sri Swami Satchidananda Humanitarian Award by Integral Yoga International.