Updated: Dec 15, 2018
My name is Sobha Day and in 1974 I met Swami Venkatesananda. I was 27 and did not know when I saw this beautiful being and listened to the first words I heard him utter: “If god exists, he’s the quietest thing in the universe. You don’t even understand one little emotion that rises in your own heart. Shall we start from there sirs?”, that from this moment on in one form or another Venkatesananda would be in my life on an almost daily basis; that this was not just a life-changer but the life-changer.
In ‘76 when he founded the Ashram in the name of his legendary master and most beloved, Swami Sivananda Maharaj of Rishikesh, India, I had no intention of moving in. I’d lived in a few communities after my return to Perth, and I was very clear that I wasn’t going to be joining another. This was the first, in a litany of my intentions around Venkatesa that never seemed to stay in place and so about six months later, I’d joined the Ashram. Though all of the “ashramites” were there because of Swamiji, many felt that they were there for life, but I made it clear that when the Swami no longer comes and stays in that room at the end of the hall I’m out of here.
Venkatesa shed the body in 1982 and I continued to live in the ashram for another six years – maybe that’s because ‘he’ didn’t leave. Maybe it’s as he said once, “if the Swami dropped dead right now nothing comes and nothing goes”. Certainly he gave us a strong daily programme that wasn’t dependent on a teacher ie early morning meditation and puja every day and every evening Sivananda Satsang (many people joined us in the evenings for satsang); fire ceremonies on full and new moons, yoga days. And when he lived in for those precious three months he came to everything and sat with us. And so it was easy to feel his quiet presence and “see” him sitting, with exquisite posture, steady, relaxed.
For some years after leaving the Ashram I continued to attend and then little by little it fell away and I would simply hire the hall and bring my students for yoga weekends (non-residential) and though the hall was beautiful and I loved working there, when I came into the main building: satsang room and library, west verandah, I felt nothing. And I would be amazed at my students, the majority of whom would be genuinely inspired by their surroundings, asking endless questions about my time at the Ashram and my teacher.
In 2011 when I came up from my home in Denmark with my friend Hamsa Warriner, who lived at the Ashram when I did, to an AGM -- I hadn’t attended one for many years -- I had no idea that this was again a life-changer. I got to be on the Board and then about a year later was nominated as Chair; my nominator commented many months later that he hadn’t expected me to take to it like a duck to water (me neither) but I did, it was what I call “Venkatesa Magic”.
The Ashram affects all our lives, in a little way or a lot. It continues to be a most magical place for me. I never visit that I am not the richer for it. I have moments, see things, hear things that so touch my heart and open my mind: the marvelous young people who come to life in such a special way in this environment, and the older people with the richness of their experience invigorating the pranic field with their wisdom, openness and sincerity -- their study, meditation and practice.
THANK GOD FOR THIS PLACE, for you that I satsang, study and practise with, and for the diverse, invigorating and committed Board Members