Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Shivaya

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Oct 25, 2010

UP, CLOSE & PERSONAL : From A Software Professional To A Swami

Swami Yatidharmanand
UPDATE: This interview of Swami Yatidharmananda was posted almost two years back and here is the latest news about his leaving the Sivanada Ashram and going, on his own journey, a different spiritual path.... as said below in his own words...

"Given the circumstances in the physical absence of Guru Maharaj the mandate of Swamiji given to me cannot be fulfilled. I tried my best in all these years but the existing governing body is not keen in doing it. Hence, I am stepping out of the ashram premises to fulfil the task which is the mission of my life on my own. Those of you who wish to help me in digitizing and keeping the images of Guru Maharaj alive are most welcome for all support.

That there should be no illusion about the fact that henceforth I have nothing to do with Divine Life Society
." -Swami Yatidharmananda

If you would like to connect with him, please click here and leave a comment on his post announcing the same...

Now back to the interview...
A son of a business man as well as a popular Magician; Software professional, working in Hong Kong, who enjoyed Horse races and many times won small jack pots; Ambition to have large house, servants, large tract of land and nice cars…. Well that is all that it takes to make a Swami.

Well almost! Just add a burning desire to seek and serve one’s Guru – the spiritual master.

This is the unbelievable story of my long time friend, Swami Yatidharmanand of one of the most beautiful, revered and oldest ashram “Shivanand Ashram”, on the foot hills of mighty Himalayas, on the banks of Holy River Ganges in the small beautiful spiritual town Rishikesh – the spiritual capital of the world as some believes it to be.

Rishikesh and Holy River Ganges
from Sivananda Ashram
I met Swami Yatidharmanand in connection with some of the Multimedia graphic designs which Swami Ji was working with a friend of mine from a local TV channel. The project was to save the original videos of Guru Ji – Swami Chidananda Ji, the head of Shivanand Ashram at that time. Later on, when I went on my own to visit to Rishikesh to see his work on restoration of Old audio and video documents, I was pleasantly surprised to find a top of the line recording studio set up in the ashram. Swami Ji had taken up the task of saving thousands of old videos, audios. He was converting manuscripts to electronic documents of various spiritual heads. During the last decade he has done invaluable service of saving thousands of documents, audio’s and videos, taking time out of his spiritual practices, and continues the work passionately in his unique unassuming way. When asked, he says that this is his way of doing service to his Guru Ji.

I spent few days in the ashram, meeting the other yogi’s, meditating in the various prayer halls, attending chanting, rituals and prayers. Almost half of the attendees, in these sessions, I noticed from European and western countries. Those few days were the most blissful time of my own experience and spiritual learning process. I was very fortunate to stay in the Guru Niwas on the bank of holy River Ganges – the place where Guru Chidananda Swami Ji used to stay and pray. This, in itself, was quite enchanting and profound experience for me. Early morning, one wakes up to the tolling bells, sounds of mantra chants and scents of burning incense, already attuned to receive the energy and the spiritual vibrations.

Myself at Guru Nivas at
Sivananda Ashram 2004
In this setting, as I spent most of my time with Swami Ji, I started thinking about what makes one leave one’s family life and discard all relationship, material possessions and devote himself to a concept, to an idea or to a religious philosophy. Soon, I was thinking of why and how Swami Yatidharmanand got on to this spiritual path. In trying to understand what made him to become a Swami… and why, I started asking him about his previous life and his family? Initially he was quite reluctant but slowly after many years persistent enquiry, I was able to piece together his past life and the path to the present life of an ordained Swami.

So here is the story of a young boy, son of a spice merchant and a popular magician; story of a Software professional working in Hong Kong, about his journey from a materialistic world towards fulfilling his own destiny.

At the age of 10-11, playing among the other kids on the banks of river in a small town Cuttack, Orissa, young Yatidharmanand had lot of questions, most of which were left unanswered for a long time. Even though his father, a famous magician as well as a dedicated devotee of Guru Ji (Swami Chidananda Ji from Shivanand Ashram) were all there to provide the answers, he did not get them. Probably the time was not ready for him to be on this spiritual path. He had a happy childhood among brothers, sisters and friends as his father was a prosperous, well respected Spice merchant and a popular magician. Most of his time away from school was spent in company of his father and his Guru Ji, on his lecture tours. His father used to perform magical feats of materializing spiritual books from thin air, bring out garlands from magic hats etc, to attract and retain the simple village folks, to propagate Hindu religious philosophy with Swami Ji’s spiritual discourse. Over the period of many years, his father had set up a good business for the family, with an idea to leave it all behind to take care of his family when his time is to retire. His father had made up his mind long time back to join on the footsteps of his guru and renounce all to become a Sadhu at the right time. That day arrived too soon for young Yati. The business was not yet fully established and as his father left, it slowly died a natural death leaving Yati with his mother, sister and brothers to care of.

After a protracted struggle, to survive in the poverty that followed, he one day decided to go to Rishikesh to confront Guru Ji and his father. The meeting with his father proved to be very impersonal as his father was well on his own spiritual journey. As his father rightfully believed that he had completed all his duties towards family, he was not interested in going back to take care of the family that he has had renounced long time back. So he gently guided his son to his Guru Ji to listen to him and seek advice.

Yati, next day, in his own young arrogance that comes from immaturity, asked Guru Ji, as he was sitting in the Samadhi hall with his set of devotees, what are use of such spirituality, service and God when one’s own family suffers due to one person’s personal bliss. Guru Ji softly told him that he does not have answer so why not ask Gurudev Swami Sivananda Ji and I am sure he will give all the answers. Being young and hot headed, Yati did not accept this answer as he was thinking, what stupidity is this, where is Swami Sivananda and how can I ask him a question as he had passed away even before I was born! Swami Yatidharmanand says that Guru Ji read his thoughts and told him very sternly and authoritatively “Look! Do not ever think that Swami Sivananda Ji is not here. He is very much present here.” 

This was a big jolt to the young man as he could not believe that Guru Ji would know what he was thinking. Although Yati at that time knew that this is just a ruse to calm him, he did not dare to disobey Guru Ji and walked into the Samadhi Shrine of Gurudev Swami Sivananda Ji. There he repeated the same questions to him, skeptically. Swami Yatidharmanand told me about that incident in his life that what happened there at that time is something that he himself was not able to comprehend. He came out of the temple dazed, in trance yet relaxed. Although it felt like few minutes in the temple, he later realised that it was almost an hour there with Guru Swami Sivananda Ji.

He says, from then on, Guru Ji took charge of his life in his own hands. He sent him to Delhi to do technical studies. So young Yati was packed off to Delhi, to get enrolled in NIIT, learning computers and studying software programming for many years.

Yati’s professional career started with NIIT and he moved on working as a software professional in various small companies and from there he migrated to Hong Kong, to work for a International Garment house, as a Computer Programmer. As in retaliation to this forced studies and family life, Yati went all out to earn as much money as possible and as early as possible so that he can full fill his own commitments towards his family, that he had left behind in India. Swami Yatidharmanand softly smiled when he recollected that he never had any other focus in his life but only to make money in order to get back to his old rich spoiled lifestyle. He remembers that as he used to go to his office in Hong Kong, through 3 shopping malls, he always aspired to own things on the shop fronts and as he was not able to afford then at that time, he would bend his head down to avoid looking and then desiring them all. Now he says that the God is so great, Guru Ji is so loving that whatever I have desired at that time, I would  get it some way by the grace of Guru Ji even at that time.

In 1995, miraculously the family money problem was solved. His brother found a job for himself and informed Young Yati that he need not worry about the family now as he himself can take care of the family.
Swami Yatidharmanand with Guru Ji
As his basic drive to work, disappeared, Yati lost all his interest in earning money. He left the job and came back to India and stayed for few weeks in Mumbai with a friend. At that point of time, Swami Ji told me that he was very confused as to what to do with his life. After long search within himself, he realised his desire to serve Guru Ji and finally after long deliberation, requested Guru Ji’s permission for the same. After initial tough resistance as well as many tries to discourage him for this ascetic life, (Swami Ji remembers that Guru Ji even made me take permission from all family members as well as my mother) finally took him under his wings.

When I asked him about his spiritual practices, he simply says, “From the beginning, I never understood spirituality, but somehow I was always happy serving. I just wanted to serve”. And when he was asked, where is he now on his spiritual growth, He says, “I am still serving and will continue to serve as long as I can” He says, its very nice to get away from all this materialistic world and be alone within your thoughts and devotion, but then some one has to serve, so that the society is more frictionless and peaceful, may be that is where I am now, serving.

And what a great service he is doing, in his own small way, for almost a decade now. To save thousands and thousands of audio, video clips, manuscripts of the ashram, which are on the verge of getting destroyed, by working day and night alone in the studio, fighting against time to save all that he can…

 नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya 

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  1. Thanks fsor this article. It was really inspiring. I have been working with Swami Yatidharmanandaji for a little while on some projects and he is truly a very inspirational person.

  2. I was very interested to read this document about Swami'ji ! thank you very much !
    and thks to him for saving audios, videos and pix from the ashram in Rishikesh where
    I went in 2004 !
    and never forgot that time when I was lost in my life ! since then I have been on my spiritual road ! because of my yoga teacher whose guru was Swami Chidananda ...!!! incredible for I knew this only when I got back to France and after I had met Chidanand Maharaj ... OM NAMAH SHIVA YA the mantra I was given in Rishikesh

  3. thanks for sharing! quite inspirational. i always enjoy your blogs of this nature!


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