About the book relating the experiences of Devotees of Swami Vishwananda

I went to Mauritius in 1998, because my grandmother was seriously ill and the doctors had given up hope informing the family that she did not have long to live. I remember I visited her first and then went to stay with Swami. While talking to Swami about the situation he said, “I don’t feel it’s our grandmother’s time to leave this body. She will recover even though the doctors have predicted that she has only two days to live”.  Two days later our grandmother’s health had not only improved but she walked all the way to my uncle’s (Swami’s father) house to visit us!

At the time I was seventeen years old and I was not very spiritually-minded. I remember one night we couldn’t sleep, so we decided to go up to the roof and listen to bhajans on a loudspeaker and dance. We were very excitable and energetic at 2 am in the morning and we were having lots of fun. I recall that Swami and I were dancing, holding onto each other and spinning out of control and letting off fireworks! Swami’s mother and sister had tried to convince us all to turn off the music and go to bed which we eventually agreed to do around 4 am. Everyone had started to make their way down to the house to sleep, apart from Swami, myself and another boy who stayed on the roof.

We started to chat about spirituality. I found that I was   engrossed with what Swami was saying and was becoming increasingly inquisitive. I asked him some questions about the universe, my life and spirituality. Swami listened to my questions and then presented me with a unique and awesome opportunity whereby he offered to meditate on my questions and ask a divine soul to personally come and answer them.

Swami began to meditate and about fifteen minutes later I heard an astounding deep voice from behind Swami ask me “What do you want”? I turned around to see who was actually talking to me; however I did not know who it was. Present on the roof was Swami, another boy and myself and none of us were talking! I felt a powerful energy and some sort of apparition or light appear behind Swami. I could feel this energy and see a blue and white tinted light. It felt like a surge of electricity around me. The other boy present during this time put his hands together to pray before this divine energy. I did not know what to say, so I kept silent. The divine being started to talk to me about myself and also explained to me that Swami was his child, a part of Himself born on earth in human form to awaken the divinity in us all, to realize the Supreme Lord. He also spoke to me about my special connection with Swami.

The divine being then asked me, “Do you remember when I danced as Nataraja and split the earth into two lands”? I tried to recall any memory of this event but I could not. However I nodded my head out of respect to say I remembered, but in reality I did not. I was amazed when the being then asked me, “What do you want Ravi?” I replied, “Only your blessing Bhagwan Shankar”. Swami was still meditating at this point. Shankar Bhagwan then suddenly said, “Your brother is needed, I have to leave.” I asked “But why?” He replied in a calm manner “Because your uncle and your cousin are coming now. I have to leave so that both you and your brother can greet him”. Shankar Bhagwan gave me his blessing and told me that he would always be with me and left.

At this point I thought to myself that it being four o’clock in the morning, surely my uncle would not visit us at this time of night. Swami came out of his meditation and opened his eyes.  As I turned my head, I saw my uncle and cousin approaching the house. They could not sleep so they wanted to visit us!

Ravi – UK

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Cancer is an alarm clock that is really hard to ignore. There’s just no hitting the snooze button, rolling over, and going back to sleep.

The first I heard of Swami Vishwananda was from Madhevi in 2002. We made friends when as a researcher she visited the clinic in northern Switzerland where I spent four weeks in cancer treatment. She told me Swami would be in Ticino, far south at the end of that month. She gave me intricate directions to get there but my two little girls were missing me, I was exhausted and just wanted to get home to the States. I didn’t forget Swami: There had been something compelling in his eyes as I’d gazed at his picture on the flyer.

In 2003, I made another trip to Switzerland for treatment. Again, I was so close to him and my future brothers and sisters but didn’t know it.

Four years later back home in Rhode Island, I impulsively threw open a yoga magazine I’d never read before and there he was — again. He was coming to New York, a familiar playground to me. It was to be a homecoming in many senses. I got a hold of Madhevi and discovered she’d also be there.

When Swami entered, the energy in the room shifted. His voice was like a lasso and when surrounded by stillness, I felt my life as I had known it gently slip away.

In a private interview the next day we spoke about my decision around age six to be a monk, my entering a religious order at eighteen and leaving a few years later, about cancer and Archangel Michael. He assured me that cancer “would not be a problem.” Later in the waiting room, looking over the Hudson, he said he didn’t much care for New York. He noticed a scab on my hand where a small but deep wound was healing. Smiling, he flicked away something invisible from the spot a few times. I kept falling into his eyes and asked him if he was my guru. “Listen to your heart,” was all he said, his eyes twinkling mischievously.

I returned home, set up a little altar, placed his picture next to my bed and began using the vibhuti in ways that seemed to make sense. I spoke to Swami in my mind and heart. I never seemed to hear answers but that was all right.

That was April. In July, my life as I’d known it ended once again— and not very gently at all. I returned to New York for a six-month follow-up ultrasound and expected to hear the same news I’d heard every four to six months for the previous five years — that the cancer was still growing, but slowly and that what I’d been doing to manage it as a chronic condition was still working.

Instead, I learned it had metastasized to my lymphatic system. I was advised to go to Holland for a unique MRI soon. This would clearly show the extent of it and help determine appropriate treatment options. Holland had been coming up for months in the strangest ways.

On hearing the news, I wandered numbly around the city before going to New Jersey to see my father. He is close to ninety and still living independently, but he is now the child and I am the parent. I lied to him by saying the cancer situation was unchanged. There was no way to take this in. I couldn’t get my head around it.

Metastasized prostate cancer is medically incurable. From a medical perspective, it’s the beginning of the end. Although I had always believed I wouldn’t die of this cancer, and Swami had confirmed that, there was no way to integrate this new development with my long-held belief. I knew Swami would not let me down. I knew he’d help me find the healing only God can provide. The only treatment option for me now was a spiritual one. It was a relief in a sense.

In August I arrived in Nijmegen on the easternmost edge of Holland, curiously being within walking distance from Germany and Swami’s ashram. The MRI results were worse than expected and there were gracious apologies from the two kind-hearted doctors. Ay-yi-yay! Nothing about it felt real. I felt alone but hopeful. I was to see Swami again.

From the beginning, I’d believed the cancer was a wake-up call from my Self to me; it would only be a death and rebirth of my spirit. It brought me back to the spiritual path in a more focused and intense way than ever before.

At fifty-eight, it had been forty years since I’d first entered a monastery. Since early childhood I knew I was supposed to do God’s work. It had been crystal-clear to me up until my mid-twenties that my purpose was that of a priest-teacher-counsellor. By my early thirties, I’d been ordained in a non-denominational church after two years of study. Dissatisfied, I investigated ordination in the Episcopal Church and the Unitarian Association, visited the Trappist monks, sat Zen, explored the metaphysical world, and attended the Kripalu Centre in Massachusetts for years during which time it became an ashram of nearly 300 monks and nuns.

Yet, something about the Hindu experience felt good. I loved the music, chanting and dancing. Even though I was well versed in world mythologies, much of it seemed very strange. I could never see myself with a guru. Perhaps I lacked faith and trust — or I wasn’t eating enough curry. As time went by, demands of a growing family, two sets of aging parents and running a business took me increasingly further from spiritual practice.

At the end of August 2006, I arrived at Steffenshof. Swami was there and a mudra workshop was scheduled in Freiburg. Madhevi would be going — she’d always guided my evolving connection to Swami. Everyday at the ashram and workshop I seemed to meet another old friend. I’d landed undeniably right in my spiritual family. It was intoxicating and my feet had trouble finding the ground.

Seeds of wisdom

Waiting for my interview with Swami, I collected seeds as I did wherever I went. My life was plants and I’d worked as a horticulturist for eighteen years. Since around the same time in childhood that I had imagined becoming a monk, plants had been my passion.

I was fascinated by the giant Impatiens growing at the corner of Swami’s house, by itself under a tree. This genus of plants gets its name, meaning impatience, because its seed pods literally explode when ripe. In the wrong location it can be highly invasive. I wondered how this lone Impatiens got there. I cupped the pods in my hands because the lightest touch could spray the seeds without warning. Just then Swami came over, greatly amused at how this worked. He and I playfully squeezed every pod, trying to catch the seeds, laughing and talking as we did.

The ripe seeds were black and the unripe ones white. It’s been my experience that a seed can continue to ripen if it’s fully formed, germinate and grow. Swami took my cupped hand holding the fruits of our fun-filled labor: it was a palm full of lovely black and white dots. Just two days before, the MRI scan in Holland had shown the cancerous lymph nodes in white and the normal ones in black. He said, “You know, the white ones will never grow.” Defaulting to my professional knowhow I said, “Well, actually, if you let them ripen, a lot of them will germinate…” Squeezing my hand tightly Swami said loudly, with his eyes blazing, “NO! …No, they will never grow. They have no life.”

In my mind I was saying something like, “He’s really good at Swami stuff but I guess he just doesn’t know much about horticulture…” Mamma mia. Smiling, he left and said I should come back to see him at two o’clock.

Forty years in the desert

Back an hour later, I was still unaware of what had really happened earlier. He gave me healing oil and told me firmly that I was not going to die of cancer and that I needed to stay positive. He closed his hands and eyes and said my name, Michael. When he opened his hands, there was a ring. I flung my arms around him Italian-style and told him I loved him. I don’t recall all he or I said. We were swimming in a warm sea of feeling. I told Swami I wanted to be initiated and he said, “Sure, we will do it tonight after darshan.”

Thereafter I went to the little chapel filled with icons where I could assimilate what had just occurred. I recognized this as the very same Labor Day weekend that it had been precisely forty years ago when I’d first tried to become a monk: It was a biblical metaphor. I’d entered the Dominican order in Providence, Rhode Island forty years before. Now it seemed that forty years of wandering in the desert had come to an end. Realizing the search was over, that I’d reached the Promised Land, I lay face down on the floor and wept. Gratitude and relief overwhelmed me. I’d been carrying broken-heartedness for so long. In that moment, all of my spiritual aspirations from childhood were fulfilled. I knew I was being healed in every way.

The seeds of a whole new spiritual life were sown within me that night at initiation: I’m sure they’ll grow to flower and bear much fruit. By divine design, my guardian angel and friend Madhevi was there to witness Swami initiating me as jal brahmachari Shrihara. The name stands for Lakshmi and Vishnu, the eternal feminine and the eternal masculine.

It was only when driving back to Holland that I got the real meaning of Swami’s words while collecting seeds: The white ones will never grow! They have no life! Now I won’t be surprised when I sow all those Impatiens seeds if half don’t grow.

St. Thomas Aquinas, the medieval Dominican mystic, coined the phrase “felix culpa” to describe original sin, the happy fault, the fortunate fault in human nature that called forth the need for a saviour and brought Jesus to the world. Without the happy fault of cancer, I might not have been blessed by Swami’s presence in my life. Perhaps he was drawing me in all along, waiting for the vehicle of cancer to bring me back to the remembrance of my true Self and a place of readiness.

On a retreat in the States that same year, Swami spoke of himself as a bridge – a bridge to God. God is the true destination.

Shrihara – Michael J. Chille – USA

Shirdi Sai Baba

On Swami Vishwananda’s twenty first birthday on the thirteenth of June, we went to Mauritius, the island in Africa where Swami was born and grew up. There, Swamiji materialized a golden Narashimha murti. One morning he called us into his room, “Look what appeared on the wall! He exclaimed. “It is like a shadow.” I told him, “It is Shirdi Sai Baba sitting and blessing with his hand!” Months later, Swami was in our house in Nairobi and called us one morning into his  room, “Look what appeared on the wall!” He said. I told him, “Again, it is Shirdi Sai Baba sitting and blessing with his hand, like a shadow.”

Later, we sold our house in order to move into a bigger one. The new people of the house painted this wall white.  One week later they called us and said, “You know this wall with the form of this holy man. We painted it several times in one week and finally it had completely gone, but today it has come back again the same as before.” “Well, you can believe what you want”, I told them. “But I would suggest you leave it as it is; if Sri Shirdi Sai Baba wants to stay in your home let it be, it is a blessing for all of you.

In our new house, Swami came to visit and we had a Shirdi Sai Baba puja. Swami needed kumkum, but I only had red kumkum. He told me: “I don’t want this one; I need a good one, a yellow kumkum.” “But I don’t know where to get another kumkum of that sort in Nairobi,” I replied. If you need it, you can materialize it.” He did not say anything; he just went up to his room.  After a while he came down with a handful of yellow kumkum. The wall of his room was filled with this very yellow kumkum!

Kajal and Sanjit – Nairobi – Kenya

At one of our coffee meetings my girlfriend spoke of a wise young man in Springen with whom it would be possible for me to have a personal interview.  We decided to go there together. Our oldest girlfriend (she is nearly ninety and almost blind) wished to have a close look at his picture and put it right in front of her eyes. Suddenly she exclaimed: “Oh how lovely he is!” and she kissed the picture five times. She asked me to ask Swami Vishwananda to give her his blessing.

When I came to visit Swami Vishwananda a month later I experienced very wondrous things on many levels. I entered the gift shop and saw the shelf with his personal things. Among the items there was a travel guide of Egypt. For a brief moment I was thinking to buy it since I had  intended to go to Egypt for a long time but decided instead to buy a German book because I would understand it better than an English one. The very next day when I passed by the same shelf I glanced casually at the items; I saw there was exactly the same travel guide book of Egypt but this time it was in the German language! I bought it.

For my personal interview with Swami, I had two photos with me, one of my daughters, the other one of my ninety-year old girlfriend. When I entered the room where Swami was sitting, I started to cry. Sathyananda, a resident of Swami’s spiritual centre had told me that Swami meets every person just as the respective person needs it. I had a feeling that I was facing a mother who had raised many children with whom I could talk about everything and who would understand my worries.

I showed Swami the picture of my ninety-year old friend and he took it very close to his eyes and called out:” I know her, she is lovely!!!” and he kissed the picture five times just as my friend had done with his picture. I told Swami my friend’s request and he said he would look after it. Then he asked me to tell her that it would be a great honour for him if she would pray to God for him. He said this several times so I promised to do so.  He then took vibhuti, kissed it and asked me to take it to my old friend. Since then my friend prays daily for Swami that he may have the strength to help all and to fulfil his assignments.

Then I showed Swami the picture of my daughter who is twelve years old and has Down Syndrome (also called mongoloid) and I told him that she is disabled. I started to cry and told Swami that when my daughter was five years old she had dragged herself away from my hand to run across a very busy road right in front of everybody’s shocked eyes. My heart almost broke. Nothing happened to her but I am always very worried because of her behaviour in road traffic.

Swami said: “Nobody is disabled. Your daughter lives from the level of consciousness. Her mind is not in the way as it is with you. You can learn something from her that you cannot learn from anybody else in the world.” Then he asked me what I believed the task of a master teacher should be. I answered spontaneously without thinking: “to make people happy.” “No!” Swami insisted, “His task is to help people become master teachers themselves. Then he said: “On the level of consciousness, there are no master teachers and no students. We are only there to learn from one another.”

Swami spoke with me for a very long time and I poured out my heart to him.  The conversation gave me courage, trust, hope and insight into many things. He also spoke in a very friendly manner about my life-task and my work.

When finally I had no other questions left, I said good-bye.  As I was leaving, something seemed to occur to him. He asked again for the name of my daughter, and while I was answering he moved his opened left hand and threw a silver pendant towards me. “That is for her,” he said, “Let´s see, what she says“.

I was so happy about the gift for my daughter. Then, to my utter surprise he asked me:  “What is on it? “ I showed the pendant to him quietly. He called out beaming with joy : “Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning and Music“.

After I had left I thought that at least one hour had passed but in fact it was only ten minutes on the watch.  I then went into the garden with my girlfriend and we sat down on a bench where a small clay elephant was also sitting. My friend had received a ring from Swami. At that very moment a blue butterfly flew up in front of us and I had never seen one before so I said:” Look, Swami made a ring for you, a pendant for my daughter and for me he made a butterfly.” “And”, my friend said smilingly, “Does that not make you wonder?” I didn’t  quite understand what she had meant so she pointed out to me that the blue butterfly was printed on my business cards my letterhead and my homepage,  it is the logo for my work. It was so obvious and yet at that moment I was not able to see the connection by myself.

We came home. I ordered an Indian harmonium and I was wondering where I could learn to sing bhajans. A friend of my girlfriend gave me a call and told me that she had visitors from India, two people who had lived in an ashram for thirty years and who knew how to sing bhajans. They were prepared to teach us right away. They stayed for two weeks and are willing to come back next year to teach us more. By now we are a group, we practice on a regular basis and we enjoy it very much. People from the vicinity with varied cultural backgrounds come together and also my daughter who especially enjoys to play the drums and to sing with everybody.

Shortly after coming back home I picked up my daughter from her grandparents and she greeted me with the words: “Yes, Eva, I´d love to come with you to the elephant.” In the car on the way home I asked her: ”Do you know what an Avatar is?” She answered right away: “Yes!” I asked, “And? What is it?” “A spider making a cobweb“, she answered.

I showed her a photo of Swami and asked her: “Who is that?“ “A friend”, she answered. “And this friend has sent you a present,” I said.  With a movement of my open hand I gave her the pendant. “I also want to know how to perform magic!” my daughter exclaimed vehemently as she took the coin and left for her room. I heard her speaking, laughing and crying for more than an hour. Then, she came back.

She showed me the pendant and said insistently: “Eva, do you know what this is? This is wish fulfilling. I often looked at the pendant and tried to figure out what sort of sign was on the backside, it was an open rectangle and in it were many endless graphic figures.

When I took my daughter to her father, we had to pass that spot where many years ago she had torn herself away from my hand. I always had to think of that incident when we passed by there. This time it was very special. Somebody had painted with green paint on the open rectangle on the asphalt which was like the one on the pendant that Swami had given my daughter. I think of this a lot. Later I found this sign in a book. It is a yantra that establishes cosmic balance.

My daughter is very cooperative now and she is learning to read and write and even to calculate a bit. We also sing to Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning and Music. My daughter likes to help in the household and there is a lot of peace, joy and harmony in my house.

My work is getting more and more appreciated. Swami had warned me: “No matter what if there are many or few people coming to you, always stay humble and know that every gift comes from God, nothing comes from you. If you forget this everything will be taken from you. For that stay humble.”

I have this often on my mind. Sometimes I ask silently for the ability to see life and people a little bit the way Swami does. I give thanks to life for helping me meet such a teacher who grants me miracles on so many levels. The greatest miracle for me is the fact that my daughter and I get along so well and that we are so happy. I wish the way to Springen was not so far so that I could take her to Swami. I wish they will meet one day.

Eva – Salzburg – Austria

For many years I have done my sadhana (yoga/ meditation) in the morning. All of a sudden, a very intense aggression against Swamiji started to surface in me during my sadhana. This continued for several months. It made me very sad and I could not find an explanation for it.
One day I had the opportunity to bring this up with Swami and to tell him that it actually hurt me deeply. He looked at me and said that I had an aggression towards myself that he took away from me. From that moment on the aggression has gone and it has never appeared since. I am eternally grateful for this grace that I experienced through Swami.

Rolf – Germany

When I was eleven years old, I went to a sleep-away camp where we sang every night around the campfire. I had a favourite song and I have never forgotten it; it meant a lot to me as a child.

Although I was unaware of it then, the possibilities it evoked in me inspired a lifelong quest for God

 My God and I walk through the fields together.

We walk and talk, like good friends should and do.

He takes my hand.

Our voices join in laughter.

My God and I, forever will we roam.

Later in life, this quest led me to spend 30 years on my spiritual journey, hoping to find a teacher who would and could guide me to achieve enlightenment in this lifetime. One day in June 2005, a friend called to tell me that a young guru from Mauritius was coming to America for the first time. Although my friend and his partner had not met the guru, they planned to spend a week with him during which he would give public darshans. My friend’s partner would be celebrating his birthday during that week and he asked if I would come and celebrate with him, his partner and the guru, at Alders Gate, a convenient five-minute walk from my home. “Yes, I’ll be there”, I spontaneously told my friend.

After agreeing to see the guru, I became curious about him and decided to look at his website. As I gazed at his picture, I felt a rush of shakti move up my spine and intuitively sensed that I would be spending a lot of time with this Swami.

On July 2, as I entered the building where I was to meet my friends and the guru, I felt a palpable air of excitement. I felt nervous, excited and somewhat tentative. I was surprised to see that my friends were not there. I sat as close to the chair, obviously prepared for Swami Vishwananda, as I could. When he came in and sat down, love radiated from him. In his presence I felt I could be safe for the rest of my life.

Swami led us in chanting for a short time and then he gave darshan. As I knelt in front of him and looked into his eyes, I started trembling with shakti rushing through my body. I experienced profound peace, stillness and a presence I had never felt before as love poured through me. I returned to my seat and went into a deep meditation. I heard the words, “This is the one you have been searching for.

The darshan ended as Swamiji stood up, looked directly at me and said to everyone, “Find Krishna within.” Swami left. Then, to my surprise, a short time later he reappeared. He greeted everyone with love and casually spoke with people. I asked Swami a question and he answered simply and directly, “All you have to do is unlock the little door to your heart.”

My friends never showed up that day. But they gave me the greatest gift of my life, my beloved Swamiji. That first meeting with Swami Vishwananda was the beginning of walking in the fields with my guru.

Nandini – Linda Novack – USA

 “What do we have to do?” the crowd asks John the Baptist in a film about Jesus Christ. And John answers with: “Change your hearts!” It is Swami Vishwananda who has helped me to understand what this change of heart needed to be for me. Several years ago someone phoned me to say that a young Swami would be visiting and asked if I would like to go and see him. ‘Oh no, I do not want anyone in orange in my life anymore,’ was my immediate reaction. For there comes a time that one realizes that, yes, we may need the help from a Teacher, but the actual change can be made only by ourselves. I had engaged in several spiritual groups with their Teachers and teachings; read many books; done various exercise-practices and engaged in service for the poor, the ill and the downtrodden for very many years. Now, finally, I felt the urgent need to be with my Divine Source, with the Self with a capital ‘S’. And so, my ’no’ seemed definite. However, the person who invited me to see the young Swami was persistent and frequently kept phoning me with the same invitation. Finally I agreed to go see him. When I saw Swami Vishwananda that first time, I liked his simplicity. As time passed, I got more and more familiar with his ‘just love’ approach to spirituality. This proved to be my ‘missing link’. Time in nature showed me non-duality: no good, no bad, just Existence. Then one day, tired from work, I sat down in my easy-chair to rest. Suddenly, I experienced this Divine state of non-duality deep within my own heart, a state of Pure Love. And when one experiences the true Divine Love, there is no good or bad, no ego or egotism and no greed nor clinging need. There is only giving and sharing when we experience this Love. The experience transformed my heart. Even though this transformation is an ‘all ready and go’ state, I am still working at consciously applying it at any given moment. I want to become like Swami Vishwananda who always loves purely and in whose heart and mind no thought arises except that of Divine Love. To be able to see and experience this was not an overnight happening. The realization took some time before the window opened to allow a better glimpse of who Swami Vishwananda in reality is, and who we all really are! And this, for me, is the greatest miracle.

Tarakeshwari – Netherlands

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