Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 30 Jan 2022


Protection during the COVID pandemic

[By Dr. Nikhil]

My wife, Devi, my daughter Arsha, and I have been devotees of Shri Datta Swami since 2005. Some time before we got married, Devi and I had each separately committed ourselves totally to the spiritual path. Our marriage was based on the foundation of dedicating our lives to the spiritual pursuit. We spent the first five years after our marriage in the US, away from our families. Even after that, we never maintained any close contacts with either of our families. Throughout our married life together, we did not cultivate any friends or social contacts either since God was our only focus. We have only relied on God for all things in life, and other than Him, we have no other support system. Most people maintain close contacts with their family & friends, and help each other during times of need. Little do they realize that it is God who alone helps all souls, even through their family and relatives. Most people cannot recognize God’s hand in that help. In our case, since our social contacts are almost non-existent, we practically experienced how God was our sole support throughout our lives. He alone is our Bhartā (Husband, Maintainer), and we are His bhāryas (dependents, wives). So, we only look to Him for support, and no one else.

There is a story from the life of Śrī Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Once Paramahamsa ran out of His home on a stormy night. Everyone wondered where He was going. He reached the home of a sick old woman who was bedridden and urgently needed to relieve herself. She had no one to lift her out of bed and take her to the bathroom. She was devoted to Paramahamsa and had prayed to Him. That is why He had rushed to her house. He Himself helped her relieve herself. This has been the story of our life too. He is the Lord Datta who has rushed to our rescue, each time we were in need.

We always remember an extraordinary statement told by Swamiji almost 17 years ago. He said that mountains of problems will come speeding towards our heads, but they will stop just an inch away from our eyebrows. They will never harm us, but instead serve as a crown on our heads. That is exactly what has been happening in our lives!

In fact, after reaching Swamiji, we realized that from the very beginning of our lives—even before meeting Swamiji—He has been protecting and guiding us every moment. In the part of our life after meeting Him, this realization has been even clearer. When no family members, or no friends were there for us, He was always there for us. Although we have physically met Him only once, and although we live more than a thousand kilometers from Him; yet within our hearts, there is not even a nanometer of distance between Him and us. When a girl gets married, her husband provides all her needs. Similarly, ever since we committed ourselves to the spiritual path, Swamiji alone has always been our Provider.

He is the One who steered us through our financial troubles in the US, soon after we got married. He is the One who saw us through Devi’s pregnancy and childbirth. He is the One who protected my job in the US. He was the constantly encouraging and guiding voice while I was making hundreds of job applications. He is the One who got us out of our financial debts. He is the One who finally granted me a job in India, within hours of applying, without even a formal interview. He is the One who has protected that job despite numerous ups and downs. He is the One who granted the most protected and devotional atmosphere for bringing up our daughter. He is the One who sent His dearest devotee, Phaniji into our lives. He is also the One who protected us during the COVID pandemic.

Each of the above incidents when explained in detail will reveal how Swamiji has been our sole Support. However, today, I would like to narrate how Swamiji protected us during the COVID pandemic.

As many of you are aware, we live on the Amrita University campus. During the COVID pandemic, the university campus went into total lockdown. All students were sent home and only the essential and resident staff were allowed to remain on campus. Some of the student hostels were temporarily converted into quarantine and isolation centers. Entry and exit in and out of the campus was highly restricted. Those entering the campus were mandatorily quarantined in the quarantine center in the student hostels. Any case of COVID was to be reported to the university authorities and the patient was to be moved into the isolation center in the hostels. All the stores within the campus were also closed and the delivery of essential vegetables was organized by the university authorities to the staff quarters. Luckily, just before the lockdown, we had managed to purchase sufficient groceries to last us some time.

We were very particular about avoiding contact with others, as far as possible. We were taking all the necessary precautions including wearing a double mask, sanitizing hands, maintaining social distancing etc., whenever we had to step out of the house. We wanted to avoid the risk of infection as much as possible. Although we had full faith in our Sadguru and Lord, Shri Datta Swami, we wanted to take all the necessary precautions, even if it meant restricting our own lifestyle. We did not want to get infected due to our carelessness and then have Him rescue us. There was of course no doubt in our minds that he would rescue us, even in the most impossible situation. For nearly two years, we had hardly stepped out of the campus except when it was absolutely necessary such as for my daughter’s exams. Other than that, during this period, we also had to travel to Pune for my parents’ hospitalization and surgery. We sought permission from Swamiji for the same, and throughout this travel and hospital visits in Pune, Swamiji fully protected us. Eventually, some of the restrictions in the campus were relaxed and small numbers of students were brought back on campus in a phased manner. I was also required to report to office. We still continued to meticulously follow all the COVID-related precautions.

Despite our best efforts, one evening, my daughter, Arsha caught the infection and developed a fever. So far, Swamiji had kept our family protected. But when this happened, we could realize that the fruits of one’s deeds must inevitably be borne by each person. Devi and I calmly accepted the will of Swamiji, and told our daughter to not be worried at all since Swamiji is always protecting us. We told her to sing Swamiji’s bhajans as Swamiji always says. During the night, Arsha’s fever rose to 102°F, but almost miraculously, it subsided the very next day. Within a day or two, she was back to normal. We clearly saw Swamiji's miraculous hand in her speedy recovery. However, by then, I had developed a sore throat. I had a lot of work pressure, and I was struggling to balance my time between work and divine service. Soon, I came down with a fever and my temperature was consistently above 102°F.

If I were to go into the isolation center, Devi and Arsha would be in difficulty because neither of them can drive any vehicle and the distances in the campus are quite far. Our quarters are located at the very far end of the nearly 400-acre campus, which is roughly 2 kilometers from the main gate. There was also no other means of transport available within the campus during lockdown. So, we decided to home quarantine ourselves for fourteen days—all three of us. That way, even though we did not go to the isolation center, we would not be endangering anyone else.

When I came down with the infection, we called and informed Swamiji about this. Swamiji told us that there would hardly be anyone who has not been infected. He said jokingly that there is no need to test whether a person is infected, but that testing may be done only to find out who is still left uninfected! He assured us to not be worried. He also told me to take some medicines. The issue with that was that since I was the only person in the family who could drive, I would have to go out of the campus to a medical store and get the medicines. We were afraid that if the campus security detected my fever in the thermal scanning at the campus security gate, they would directly put me in the isolation center. Hence, we tried to bring down the fever temporarily with paracetamol, so that I could drive down to the medical store and get the medicines. However, my fever would not subside even with paracetamol. With great difficulty the fever came down to some 101°C and Devi and I decided to take the chance and make a quick dash for the medical store. Due to the grace of Swamiji, we were not stopped at the security gate, and we were able to return quickly with the medicines recommended by Swamiji.

Over the next few days, my condition worsened. Swamiji was constantly monitoring my condition at least twice a day, and Devi would give Him regular updates. I could not speak with Swamiji since I had lost my voice due to the severe sore throat. However, I could feel the presence of Swamiji constantly with me. I felt His warm love and it filled me with a calm and blissful feeling, despite the pain in the throat and the overall discomfort. My fever remained steadily high at close to 104°F and it would come down to 102°F upon taking paracetamol. One evening, Swamiji called and told us to recite the mantra, “Śrī Subrahmanya, Śri Subrahmanya” repeatedly. Miraculously, by next morning, my sore throat had drastically improved, and the fever had also reduced. I felt certain that Swamiji had transferred my suffering on His own body. Over the next few days, my fever totally subsided, and I gradually regained my strength. I must have been sick for about 10 days, and I only had to miss satsang on one weekend. By the time of the next weekend satsang, my voice had recovered to more than 80% with Swamiji’s grace, and I was able to speak properly during it.

Throughout my sickness, Devi hardly slept. She would keep checking on me every now and then, even during the night. During the day, she would be cooking, serving me, and doing all the household chores. My daughter, Arsha, helped a lot with the chores as she usually does at home. We could see the wonderful plan of Swamiji. He ensured that Arsha had fully recovered before I fell ill. Her recovery was unusually quick, so that part of her suffering would be in terms of helping out with the household chores. Due to Swamiji’s grace, Devi never got a fever, even though she was serving me in close proximity. She had a lot of body-ache and weakness, but she did not fall completely sick. In that low-intensity sickness, she had to work very hard to take care of me. Many times, she felt as if she would collapse due to exhaustion, but Swamiji protected her and gave her strength. Her low-intensity sickness continued for a couple of weeks, even after I recovered.

In this way, Swamiji supremely protected my entire family. He upheld His divine administration by delivering the inevitable fruits of the deeds of each of us. Yet, miraculously, we did not suffer. Instead, due to Swamiji’s grace, we experienced the bliss of His warm and protective divine love. We also had the satisfaction of having exhausted the fruits of our deeds. I also got the much-needed rest from work. I wish that all devotees experience such bliss from Lord Datta.

Through this episode, we realized that we are Atri, in a peculiar sense. Tri means three in Sanskrit. Externally, it seems that we are three members in the family. But A-tri means ‘not three’. It means that we are not just three members in the family; we are four. The Head of our family is Shri Datta Swami, and we are His three dependents.

The word thanks is too inadequate before Your grace on us. Yet with folded hands, we offer salutations and thanks at your divine lotus feet.

Your eternal dependents,

Nikhil, Devi, and Arsha.