The first time I was in contact with Swamiji, was indirectly through the official visit of one of Swamiji’s sannyas disciples, to the Sri Premananda Centre of Grenoble, France in 1996. I was 20 and really into youngsters’ things, my studies and not that ready for spiritual matters. My family had been into spirituality for years though and as my father’s partner, Dhanalakshmi was running the Grenoble Centre, I never really forgot about Swamiji. In 2000, after finishing my studies in Ireland and moving to the United States, the time came to find a job, take my first step into a man’s world and pay back my student loan. However, despite very good qualifications I couldn’t find a job. Months passed by and I was getting worried and sad about this situation. One day my mother told me, “Why are you taking all this so seriously? Maybe you should forget all about this job searching for a while. What would you do if you could do whatever you like?”
My brother Senthil was leaving for the Ashram a couple of days later; I decided to join him. All the travel agencies I contacted told me every plane was fully booked. Incredibly, the day before my brother’s departure, someone cancelled his booking and I got a seat in the same plane my brother was taking! After a good flight, a night on the floor of Victoria station in Mumbai, another 28 hours in a train, 3rd class, and nine hours on a bus, we arrived in the Ashram around midnight. I fell asleep immediately. When Ashram speakers played mantras at 4:30 am I thought I was in another dimension of the universe, completely lost!
I soon realized I would be in the Ashram for Mahashivaratri, and I hadn’t even known Shivaratri would take place during my stay in the Ashram. I was so ‘lucky’. Whilst at the Ashram, I met Swami several times. I had prepared so many questions to ask him during the private interview. Before giving private interviews, Swamiji used to give a satsang to all the devotees present. As soon as I was thinking about one of my questions, Swamiji immediately answered it during the satsang! When it came to my turn for a private interview, I had no questions anymore. After the private interviews Swamiji was having a meeting with all the people in charge of Ashram departments. I was about to leave when Swamiji told me, “You can stay if you like.” I had studied management for years and soon understood I was receiving the best and last management lesson of my life!
The next visit to Swamiji was just after Shivaratri. I thought I would love to receive a lingam from Swamiji, but was more interested in meditation than in abhishekams, so I decided a lingam wasn’t for me. During his satsang Swamiji said, “Lingams are not only for abhishekam, some are for meditation.” I was confused, hesitating. Before private interviews started I was asked to hold Shivaratri kum-kum in my hands so the Matajis could make small packets for each of us. I was just next to Swamiji holding all this kum-kum in my hands. At the end of the interviews came my turn. Swamiji told me, “What do you want?” I felt so good but my brain was completely ‘out of order’. I had nothing to say… Swamiji just told me, “You don’t know what you want? Come back to see me tomorrow”. Travelling later that evening by bus, I felt just perfect, the best feeling in my life. And I wasn’t having massage in a Jacuzzi; I was on an Indian bus, completely packed, with the broken speaker playing music so loud only 10 cm from my ears. However, all these external things didn’t impact me in any way. In that moment I understood what Swamiji meant when he told me, “Happy?” I was smiling like an idiot in this bus. Happy!
The next day I went again to meet Swamiji, as he had told me. That morning one lady and myself were the only devotees waiting to see him. This time I decided I would ask Swamiji for a lingam. The lady went first to talk to Swami. She asked him for a lingam. Pulling a lingam from his pocket he said, “You’re lucky, that’s the last one.” All my certitudes broke down. My turn came. I thought I was sure but I was confused again and started mumbling. Swamiji just told me, “You don’t know? Come back to see me this afternoon.” Many things happened inside me during lunch time as I was waiting to meet Swami in the afternoon. As I was walking to where he was staying, I felt again like I did in the bus after having held the Shivaratri kum-kum. My brain was quiet, I had no question. I had no more fears. I decided I would ask Swamiji for a lingam, whatever his answer and reaction. When I came in, Swamiji was seated, looking at me with a big smile on his face: “So you know now!” I replied, “Yes, I want a lingam.” Swamiji put his hand in his pocket, took out a lingam and gave it to me. These first meetings and this lingam were really the start of something important in my life.
I returned to the Ashram several times after 2000. Now I think I was so lucky to be able to meet Swamiji physically in this life… In 2004 I presented Laetitia, my beloved one, to Swamiji.
At Shivaratri 2009, Laetitia and I had already been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby for almost two years when we talked about it to Swamiji asking some help. He said, “I’ll make it happen.” In February 2011 we learned Swamiji had attained Samadhi. We decided to take a flight ticket right away. After the usual “visa stories”, Laetitia and I arrived in the Ashram just a couple of minutes before Swamiji’s body was installed in the Samadhi place, so we could pay our respects to his body one last time. The Samadhi ceremony was a moment I will never forget. I was sad I would never hear Swami talking again, taking my head in his hands, or saying “Happy?” A few days later, someone told us Swamiji said his Samadhi would be very powerful and whatever we asked to his Samadhi we would get it. Of course, both Laetitia and I, without even talking about it, asked the same thing, to have a baby. After a stop-over in Sri Lanka, we arrived in France and discovered, a few weeks later, that Laetita was pregnant. After four years of trying and several medically assisted attempts, the Doctor told us the baby would have been conceived the day we were in Sri Lanka, the day following our departure from the Ashram! We were so happy Swamiji gave us this present… Zachary Murali Manohara was born nine months later, on December 8th, the “immaculate conception” day according to the Christian calendar…
I’m not sad Swamiji left his body, now I know and I’m sure Swamiji is here for us and will always be here.
Jai Prema Shanti!