12/02/2013 by Premadasa
In the fall of 2007, I was on my second spiritual pilgrimage to India, the land of my cultural and spiritual ancestry. At that time, I was visiting and touring North India. I also had the blessing of visiting South India on my first trip in January of 2007. Most people spend their lives preparing for their first trip to India once the inspiration to go there comes. Most people in India spend their entire lives in the same spot, dreaming of visiting the many spiritual sites that India has to offer. I do not take it lightly that I was able to go there twice in the same year. I also count it as a high blessing that I was able to conduct further research into my roots – my ancestors of days long gone.
In many ways, it was a big emotional and spiritual release to be in the land of my forefathers. Though my ancestry and culture emanated from this beautiful land, a small few within my large extended family have been able to visit. For me, I truly felt as if I had returned ‘home’ as I’ve never felt so at peace before in my life. In fact, on the first trip, the plane hadn’t even landed yet and to see the sun rising over the horizon gave me the feeling of finding my purpose in life – to return, to learn, and to share. My yoga practice was 9 years’ young at the time and the amount of preparation, practice, and patience with myself brought me to the true realization of becoming…
That fall of 2007 while on pilgrimage with my teachers Satchidananda and Durga of Babaji’s Kriya Yoga and an international group of students, we managed to make the arduous trek up to the Himalayas to land in the sacred town of Badrinauth. The town is highly revered among Hindus as a rite of passage and the spiritual vibrations up there to this day reverberate quite strongly within my sense of ‘I, Me, and Mine’. In fact, once that pilgrimage was complete, I remained in India on my own to trek about and I found myself returning there once again to commune with that Divine feeling – quite similar to swimming, it was all around me both inside and out.
While with our group of Babaji’s Kriya Yoga students, my teachers bestowed the name of Premadasa to me in the sacred cave once believed to be inhabited by one of India’s greatest sages, Vyasa. He was responsible for penning the epic Mahabharata which contains the spiritual text of the Bhagavad Gita. ‘Prema’ in Sanskrit means ‘Love’ and ‘Dasa’ means the ‘servant of’. The simple Hindi is ‘Premdas’. When I later asked my teachers what inspired that name for me, their reply was simply that ‘these are the qualities which you posses as we know you and that you should remember to exhibit.’
I must admit that it was a bit of a challenge to imbibe, process, and resolve to live up to the qualities of this name let alone to make the adjustment to associating this name with my Self. Up to this point and to this day, I have stumbled, fallen, upset, and hurt many people including myself so I admit to soiling the standard of this name but when I do catch myself, it is the name which I remember which causes me to right myself before committing any further act of harm, which is the first branch of the first limb of the Ashtanga Yoga System as propagated by the Sage Patanjali – ahimsa (non-violence).
When I came down from the Himalayas, I settled into the holy town of Hrishikesh and obtained permission from my Guru’s Guru, Swami Veda Bharati, disciple of Swami Rama of the Himalayan tradition, to rest, stay, learn, and practice Yoga at his most wonderful ashram. To be at rest in this holy town and to re-connect in many ways with the spiritual heritage of my beloved Guru gave me the feeling of fulfilling my life’s purpose (see above).
Much to my surprise, I learned that a dear friend and spiritual preceptor that I met over many years in the Toronto area was living in her ashram not so far away – literally a 20-minute walk! She is the late Swamini Ma Chetan Jyoti and she was a kirtan walla, a traveling ascetic singing the Holy Names of the Divine in a display known as kirtan, call-and-response chanting of the Name which can lead many into high states of ecstasy. I had the privilege of joining her with my guitar during her performances a number of times when she played around my home area. A devout devotee of Lord Krishna, she used her ashram located in a peaceful section along the banks of the Holy Ganges (the origin of my surname) to conduct a music school for under privileged children.
The day that I had walked over to see her was a bright and sunny one. I was desperate for warmth as the cold up in the Himalayas coupled with sleeping in concrete or brick rooms has sapped all warmth from me, rendering me totally vulnerable to getting sick. I was also in a deep state of ‘missing’ my connection to home and family. When one of her residents announced my name to her, she was unsure of who it was that came calling. Imagine the surprise on her face to see who it was!
I was ever so thankful for being received by her that day. We had long talks, lots of chai, and I was transfixed by the seemingly soft and flowing Holy Water. During my stay in Hrishikesh I managed to visit with her several times and as she was known to the ashramites at Swami Veda’s ashram, we had a strong neighborly connection as there were many musicians in the fold. I was even granted the special task of being her sound engineer for a concert performed by all of her students to the school’s benefactors.
It was such a magical and beautiful time. I had learned so much from her and shared so much as well. I felt more open than I ever had before in my life. There was certainly the presence of a Higher Love for sure. The time that we last met she was living with cancer and obtaining treatments which in the end could not undo her time to pass, which came in the Spring of 2008.
I have left out many personal details in the above story but it’s purpose is to explain the excerpt which I’ve attached below. It was the first thing that I came across that day once I was welcomed into her ashram. It gave me a chill as it was a story long told which I wasn’t aware of until that moment. It also recollected my most recent moments up to that point as if I were the story teller. After reading that article, I discounted and relinquished my notion of ‘coincidence’ – I see now that nothing has ever truly been coincidental. It was this article and my subsequent return to India in the winter of 2011 which inspired me to truly step forward into living the meaning of this name and to legally bind myself to this name as well.