By Gurupremananda (Lynn) Cattafi
The title of Sadguru has been conferred on Swami Nirmalananda. Let me tell you how I saw it happening.
Several years ago, Swami Nirmalananda and I were attending the early morning abhishek (ritual bath) at Nityananda’s Temple in Ganeshpuri. We were surprised by it being unusually crowded, over 300 people. Often there are only 10 or 20 there for the 4:20 a.m. start.
We were informed this was the last morning that the Brahmin priests would bathe Nityananda’s murti using the traditional panchamrit (five nectars: milk, yogurt, honey, ghee and sugar). For a while, they would be using water only to protect its metal surface. Part-way through the ceremony, we saw the head priest looking around the assembled devotees.
He finally sent an assistant out in the crowd, who walked around looking for someone. Finally he came over to Swamiji and asked, “Are you a Swami?” She nodded, and he told her to accompany him behind the gates to Nityananda’s murti. The head priest explained this unusual request to Swamiji: “Nityananda is asking for you to be the one to bathe him with the panchamrit.” Swamiji was honored, humbled and absolutely ecstatic. The other Brahmins, however, were quite surprised that a woman — a Westerner to boot — was being given this great honor.
In Ganeshpuri a few years later, I attended a small yaj~na (fire ceremony) with Swami Nirmalananda. Ramesh, the same head priest who found Swamiji at Nityananda’s request during the abhishek, was officiating at this yaj~na to honor the full moon. I sat in front of puja tables with photos of Nityananda and Muktananda, just past the sacred fire. Swamiji was sitting right behind me in a place of honor, with the four priests at the sides of the fire. My seva was to perform the ceremony with the priests.
At the end, Ramesh had me wash Swamiji’s feet. Performing this ritual is a magnificent honor and a blessing! I will never forget it. Yet more amazing was that a Brahmin priest directed this ritual to be performed for Swamiji, a woman and a Westerner. It was a sign that the Brahmins recognized something extraordinary in her. We always knew the temple priests were very fond of her; this honor, however, was another level entirely.
Most astonishing, during our Vowed Member retreat in Ganeshpuri this past December, another Brahmin priest, Santosh, referred to Swamiji as Sadguru during the opening mantras at each of our two yaj~nas. Many of you met Santosh when he officiated at our August “Shiva Arrives” event. Again, Ramesh referred to Swamiji as Sadguru during the opening mantra of a special group ceremony a few weeks later in Ganeshpuri.
Sadguru is a title that is given to a Shaktipat Master. Not all swamis are Gurus, and not all Gurus are swamis. In the world, there are very few who are both. Even fewer are Gurus who are Shaktipat masters. This title is simply a new title that honors and describes what she has been giving to us all along.
However, for the Brahmins to recognize Swamiji in this capacity is a really big deal. It confers upon her the title that was given to Muktananda. Thus, it is a sign of great respect. In Ganeshpuri, villagers have begun putting her photo on their walls for her blessing. They are recognizing her as an integral part of Muktananda’s and Nityananda’s lineage.
“I would never have gone looking for a title,” Swamiji says. “Being a swami means I have renounced titles along with everyone else. Yet I recognize that people need road signs if they want to find their way to their own Divine Destiny.”
While she knows this is a natural next step, she delayed using it for years, out of concern for those who would think it egotistical of her to use this title. Others, even outside of Svaroopa® Yoga, may understand the awesome power of this title but wonder at her use of it, or maybe they will be attracted to come for what she can offer.
I raised this questions to our Board at our recent annual retreat, asking whether they felt Swamiji stepping into the Sadguru title would be fitting. The response was unanimous; all are one hundred percent for it.
We pointed out to Swamiji that she has always cautioned us against holding ourselves back or making yourself small. We want to support her in the same way.
The result will be another seismic deepening for our entire community. I can already see this happening to Swamiji as well. She is ever-expanding, ever-deepening. My goodness, how fortunate we are!
I am blessed to share with you the ever-expanding depth of our beloved Satguru, Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati. In the coming weeks, on articles, books and more, you will begin seeing her credited as “Sadguru Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati.”
OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo nama.h