THE REAL-LIFE STORY OF A HOUSEHOLDER WHO BECAME A HERMIT
THE MONK WHO GAMBLED ON THE GAME OF LIFE
Satinder Soni after initiation as a sadhu was given a new name ' Swami Satyananda '. He was born in Delhi in 1947, the year, India achieved independence from the British colonial rule.
As he grew up, he showed little interest in studies but somehow completed his schooling. Despite best efforts, he failed to get an admission in a proper college, which brought a break in his studies that proved detrimental and damaging later on.
There are several people who have failed as students but have succeeded as teachers.
He joined a company, which manufactured electrical parts, he was not satisfied with the job, so he joined a garment manufacturing company. Still, he couldn’t find the job-satisfaction he was looking for, and in utter dissatisfaction, he took another risk and started his own business, it wasn’t easy for him to turn it into a profit-generating unit so he had to wind it up.
It was around this time that Nature opened up its heart for Satinder Soni for an experience that would lay the foundation for his further journey. He fell in love with the only daughter of a factory owner. Girl’s parents strongly opposed the joining together of hearts locked in love so a runaway ‘ love marriage ’ was arranged and formalized in the court. A couple of years later a son was born out of this wedlock.
Satinder was apt at speaking and writing English, be it screenplay or scripting a story.
Suddenly, one fine day, he took a step in the dark and decided to try his luck in the film industry, he launched a film in Bombay [now Mumbai], the venture didn’t pick up, the financiers backed out, therefore, the project was dropped, he suffered financial loss, and returned back to Delhi disheartened and disappointed.
Normally, when a person is surrounded by failures on all fronts and his support systems collapse, then an uncanny depressing feeling of severe despondency and dejection arises, creating a threatening situation, in which, mental and emotional ‘ Fight-or-Flight ’ response crops up, challenging the distressed person to ‘ Resist-or-Runaway ’.
In mid-1960’s ‘ Hippy Movement ’ had started and spread to India in the 70's. Rejection of conventional values, unusual appearances, and taking drugs had become the lifestyle of the hippies. Since ‘ Eastern Philosophy ’ and its spiritual bearings were espoused, so it was easy for the hippies to draw Indian youth into their fold and trick them to escape the realities of life and social responsibilities as a son, as a husband or as a father of a child.
Influenced by the mood and temper of his era, and the inspiration the movement had spread to avert and avoid all conventional social rules, Satinder Soni a ' Grihastha ' or householder in sheer despair and depression naively choose the path of ‘ Escapism ’ and become a ‘ Sadhu ’ or a hermit.
Was he moving in the direction that was destined for him ?
Probably the greatest gift that India has given to the world is the grouping of life into the pursuit of four Purusharthas. Every act pertains to either of these aims, and they are all leading a human being from one Ashrama to another, starting from Brahmacharya ( celibate ) to Sanyasa ( renunciate ), depending entirely upon the load of karmas that a human being is born with and the karmas that he accumulates as he moves along the banks of the river called life.
There comes a time in the life of a person, when he takes a decision that affects not only his being, but also his environment as well as the very foundations of his existence. This decision is triggered, not only by the accumulation of Dharma, nor simply social duties, and spiritual aspirations, but also greatly influenced by the karmas that he brings with him, when he visits planet earth. The switch from an imperfect life (householder) to a perfect life (sanyasi) can be caused by a sudden shift in consciousness that pushes a person from performing the duties of life to an attunement with the cosmos.
Such a profound leap was taken by Satinder Soni who swiftly moved from being a mere householder to that of a renunciate, from enjoying the pleasures of a physical life to plunging into the unknown territory of the universe. This happened without any preparedness because he went without touching the ashrama of vanprastha which may have helped him develop his consciousness for transcendence. Perhaps, he did not need that assistance, and Satinder Soni, who was lovingly called Billu, became Swami Satyananda.
This is what he said after donning the robes:
Quote “ I was at Muni-ki-Reti Rishikesh on the banks of the sacred Ganga, on seeing a young sadhu gathering wildflowers, wearing robes of initiation and being self-conscious and feeling a bit awkward, a stranger accosted me and said, Don’t you think my friend that you are too young to have donned up the robes ? Not liking the presence of strangers, I turned around and said. " Gentleman! I have already wasted thirty years of my life. Don’t you think I should not have ! ” So, saying I walked away to place the flowers on the altar I worshipped.” Unquote.
Buddha was 30 years old when he'd left home, his wife and son, coincidently, at the same age, Satinder wore the robes of a sanyasi. Yet, both were poles apart, completely different from each other like chalk and cheese, this shows that outcome of coincidences are often contradictory.
Obviously, today we see a marked deviation from the earlier to the present-day status of a sadhu.
From Lord Buddha to Swami Vivekananda [1863-1902] the last genuine spiritual master of India, the real traditions of a Sadhu, nurtured from generation to generation, were maintained and meticulously practiced. But unfortunately in the 70’s, the whole scenario changed, when young people from the west and hippies turned to the Indian Gurus.
During this time Mahesh yogi [1918-2008] became famous for being the spiritual teacher of the 'Beatles' in 1968, whether he was a sage or a charlatan is debatable. Then arose the highly provocative mystic Godman Rajneesh [1931-1990]. Who was branded for his infamous sex cult, love for expensive cars, and luxurious lifestyle.
Today, both are considered the trendsetters of the current bunch of Godman of India, who are simply their plagiarized and vulgarized replicas, so they continue to taint the high ideals of ‘ Sadhu Parampara ’ unrelentlessly, and under the garb of holy robes these so-called popular Godman are in fact business magnates, and, therefore, the media and politicians are at their beck and call.
Reverting back to the issue.
Charged with the eagerness to transform the mindset of the people, Swami Satyananda wrote several small booklets, published as Part 1, Part 2, and so on, between late 1977 and early 1978, to express his views on spirituality, he named all the editions, under one title ‘ REVIVAL ’ his sole intention was to restore ‘ Vedic Knowledge ' and ' Culture ' in its pristine form and make it an integral part of India’s mainstream. This was a tall order, indeed.
Actually, writers and orators do not recognize the fact that it is far too easy to write and speak, but it is extremely difficult to change the mindset of the people. Only, after a long wait, maybe a thousand years or more, a real ‘ Change Maker ’ is born on earth to change the course of human destiny.
Therefore, the rechristened Swami Satyanand was irritated, frustrated, and disillusioned seeing his writing and discourses hardly made the desired impact on readers and his audience, which included some foreigners mostly Europeans.
During this time he visited Germany with his so called disciples.
According to true Vedic traditions, Sadhus must shun the comforts of family life and home and spend their lives in caves, forest, ashrams or temples, and move constantly from one place to another place, they should never stay at one place for long, observing these rules was absolutely necessary to curb the worldly attachments and to subdue the ego of the Sadhu.
However, the renunciation of worldly things does not diminish the Sadhus basic requirement of clothes, food, and shelter, for which, he has to rely on the generosity of others, which amounts to humiliation and is seen as a shameful act, normally a self-respecting person tries to avoid.
Sadly, nowadays many dishonest people merely adorn the attire of a sadhu, These rogues and rascals have shamelessly turned religiousness into a commercial enterprise, they are the black sheep who do not follow social rules, etiquettes, rule of law anymore, except people who come from middle class educated families with good upbringing, and have learned to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, feel uncomfortable and ashamed in the given situation, even now.
To avoid this awkwardness, the Vedic traditions recommend ‘ Sanyas ’ should be taken after a person fulfills his duties towards his family and parents, and has a grandchild to continue his family traditions, only then he is free to renounce the world in the pursuit of ‘ Moksha ’ and not otherwise.
This traditional Vedic yardstick was grossly at variance with Swami Satyanand’s personal preferred way of renouncing his worldly life to become a monk.
Sadhus smoke ' Cannabis ’ which is ‘ illegal ’ and said to help them communicate with Gods. Swami Satyanand as a householder moderately enjoyed measured drinks as most Punjabis do. But in the absence of alcohol he started smoking cannabis.
Earlier, Satinder Soni was not satisfied with the worldly life he was leading as a householder so he took sanyas and became Swami Satyananda. Now, adding to his woes, he was once again disappointed leading a meaningless life of a Sadhu. Having no other option at hand, he reportedly, took to drugs, which is easily made available to a Sadhu illegally, with no fear of law.
Further, it was reported, there was no one to stop him so he slowly became a victim of drug addiction, and consequently his life, which was full of vibrant vibes was puffed and smoked up, turning him into a pile of ash crumbling shakily to fall and scatter on the ground.
In 1986, a Sadhu of Ramkrishan Ashram, Kankhal, Haridwar, spotted Swami Satyananda in the forest of Neel Dhara, he was roaming alone on the banks of the river Ganga, he was in the saffron dress of a Sadhu, he was frail and feeble holding a staff in his hand, and his gait was slow and gentle.
Afterwards, he was never seen again by anyone, some Sadhus of the ashram said, maybe he is no more and they convincingly put across their point of view, citing the drowning incident of Swami Rama Tirtha, saying that when he went to bathe in the river Ganga, he was swept away by a strong current, and was swallowed by the holy river. He was just 33 years old when he died.
The reality is that no one saw Swami Satyananda drown or take Jal Samadhi. So, the question arises. Was drugs alone to blame for the early death of Swami Satyananda ? Maybe it's true or maybe it's not. Since there are several instances, where Sadhus having attained ‘ Moksha ’ dwelled on the soul and abandoned their body, they too had died young.
However, considering the given information, the moving memoirs or the real-life story of Satinder Soni alias Swami Satyanand can be fairly concluded as a classic case that matches with the Hindi phrase:
“ माया मिली ना पाये राम ”
This old adage applies to a person, who in his lifetime fails to acquire ‘ Material Possessions ’ as a householder, and even, fails to attain ‘ Moksha ’ by becoming a sadhu or a hermit, in other words, it simply symbolizes the culmination of failure on both the material and the spiritual front.
Interestingly, the novel ' Siddhartha ' written by Hermann Hesse was published in 1922, and Conrad Rooks the American producer made it into a Hollywood Movie in 1972. The movie delicately dealt with the spiritual journey of ' Self-discovery '. The plot of the story moved around passions, business, wealth, power, drugs, drinks, love with women and deep discontent.
Somehow this imaginary story echo's the real-life story of Satyananda, except, in the end, the fictional Siddhartha re-enters normal life happily, whereas the real Swami Satyananda enters the spirit world with a tragic end.
We are born once and will never appear again in the same form as we exist right now.
As nothing is destroyed in the cosmos so in the cosmic conundrum it is hard to explain in which form our last mortal remains will reappear, whether as a living being or as an animal or as a human being or as an inanimate thing in the form of a stone or simply as cosmic dust.
Who knows ? Perhaps God knows or he too does not know.
Our birth as a human being is the most precious gift given to us by the natural world. So it is our duty not to lead our life recklessly but naturally, rationally, ethically, and spiritually.
The moral of this real-life story is that:
‘ Drug Addiction ’ made Swami Satyanand what his real nature wasn’t destined to become, nor by any other means could he ever be so fragile, nor could he ever by any chance be prepared to do what he did unconsciously under the spell of deadly drugs.
Consequently, bringing a promising life to a miserable end too soon. He passed away ' Unnoticed ' by the world he lived in and by the people whom he loved.
' Unrecognized ' he lived and ' Unsung ' he died.
However, some reports suggest, when his inglorious end came, his frame of flesh and bones was burnt or was immersed in the river Ganga as the mortal remains of an unclaimed dead body. Since his family had ' Disowned ' him, so no family member was present at his funeral to mourn this tragic loss and now they hang their head in shame with a 'Mafinaama' or apology.
May his soul rest in peace.
The message to the world is loud and clear, say ‘ NO ’ to drugs.
We must ponder to find out what is success and what is failure. People whom we rate as successful are they really successful ? People whom we rate as a failure have they really failed ?
To judge this dichotomy.
We use a manmade yardstick to measure manmade ideological objectives. But the laws of nature have no clue what money is or what God is because both materialism and religions are manmade concepts.
Ironically, its accomplishment or its non-fulfillment is considered as the benchmark to judge the success or failure of the people, who achieve or fail to attain the manmade goals, which are not real but non-natural.
Now in this meandering milieu where do we stand ? We do not know.
Oh ! the omniscient storyteller of creation, tell us and tell us true, what is success and what is failure ?
Barring ' Nothingness ' does the joy of triumph and the sorrow of defeat occur in eternity ? Or its all about matter and energy coalescing to form patterns we call cosmic structures, which appear, disappear and reappear at regular intervals or maybe they do not.
Therefore, it is important for us to see things ' As It Is ' naturally, and not in the way we prefer to see it, through the prism of manmade ideologies. II हरि ॐ तत् सत् II
Some people have skeletons in the closet, so the ‘ Dark Secrets ’ of the family are painstakingly kept under wraps, and eventually when the time for ' Prayashchit ' or atonement comes, then a family member accepts ' Disownment ' happened under pressure, so to absolve, he with a heavy heart seeks forgiveness for the wrong doing in public domain to move on.