The book begins with Swami Radha’s initial qualms about all the basic Indian discomforts she faces as any foreigner would experience. From having sleepless nights due to the lizard on the wall, bed bugs in her room, to dealing with spicy food and traveling in the local trains and taxis, seeing the poverty and the beggars, she is deeply affected and this further fuels her spiritual quest. Although, in her mind she is very curious to meet Swami Sivananda, her first meeting is quite uneventful, and she feels a mental connection with him and gets the feeling of coming home.
After making her entry into the ashram the roller coaster ride of thoughts and emotions begin to overrule her days. All her hopes of finding her calling start to diminish. From attending satsangs and watching and learning from Swami Sivananda closely, Swami Radha slowly starts to come to terms with her own doubts and as any true seeker gets consistent with her own practice and stays devoted to her Guru.
We also come across the beautiful relationship between Swami Radha and other disciples who live in the ashram, who were there to always support her. Swami Venkatesananda, Swami Vishnudevanda, Swami Chidananda, and Swami Nadabrahmananda–Swami Radha had a friend and teacher in each of them. Many times, we find her in a state of delusion, confusion, and a lack of clear vision. Her questioning mind often would make her think of why she should suffer sitting cross legged for four hours in a satsang and deal with spicy food. Her courage in asking questions to Swami Sivananda on various aspects brings clarity to her mission and purpose. On one instance when she grabs her notebook to write down something, Swami Sivananda tells her to put it away and to learn to listen with heart and intuition. On another instance she is asked to address a gathering of hundreds of people and share her knowledge for which she prepares and comes with her sheet of notes. Swami praises her industriousness in planning but takes her notes and asks her to give the speech by saying let the divine flow through, just surrender. Although she gets nervous, this episode teaches her the meaning of surrender. Her learning on the law of karma comes through from Swami Venkatesanda who shares a beautiful story and then says that the law of karma applies as long as you think ‘you’ are the doer.
The book gives the readers many gems of wisdom from Swami Sivandanda through his teachings to Swami Radha. Her efforts as a sincere disciple comes through in her dedication to learn aspects of yoga, vedanta, music, dance, and mantra chanting. From learning lessons on gifting, to managing and overcoming anger and various other aspects, Swami Radha finally realizes that to build a cathedral of consciousness one needs an experienced architect and for her it was Swami Sivananda.
The book culminates with the initiation of Swami Radha into sannyas, and the beginning of her new role and journey to take the teachings of the Master to the western world as Swami Sivananda Radha. He tells her that purity of mind comes from selfless service and that will make one divine. He also assures her that if God gives you work, he will also give you the tools for it.
She further goes on to meet Babaji and learns to invoke the divine light, which leads to the expansion of her consciousness. In his farewell speech before she leaves for Canada, Swami Sivananda extolls the devotion and dedication of Swami Radha. He also clears the myth that yoga is not about flying in the air, walking on water, or performing miracles, but in being peaceful, calm, radiating joy and having a willing heart to serve everybody, and a constant desire to attain divinity.
I highly recommend this book and leave it to you, the reader, to discover the hidden gems it has to offer.
— Chitra Ganesh, Chennai