Sohini Mehta: Swami Satchidananda’s First Disciple Passes Away at 93

Tribute by Rev. Shanti Norris

Rest in peace, beloved friend and mentor Sohini Mehta. Sohini passed away peacefully February 1, 2018, at the age of 93 in Pennsylvania.

(photo L-R: Suresh Mehta (Sohini’s husband), Swami Satchidananda, Sohini’s eldest son Pradeep, Sri Swami Sivananda, younger son Tushar, Sohini, early 1950s)

Our spiritual teacher, Swami Satchidananda often referred to Sohini as his “oldest disciple.” This was not because of her age, (although she was older than many of us) but because of her longevity as an ardent student.

Sohini was already a longtime devotee when I met her in 1970 on my first trip to India. She welcomed Swamiji, and 3 of us traveling with him as her guest in her traditional Indian home in Bombay. She was a tiny woman who moved at the speed of light. She embodied the spiritual admonition to welcome your guest as god, and lovingly fed and cared for all of us. I will never forget her profound introduction to India and her example of a devoted spiritual practitioner. She took me under her wing and I am the better for it.

She chanted continually as she did her work and served everyone. She was a Karma Yogi par excellence. She often visited the Connecticut and Virginia ashrams where she taught hundreds of us how to make chapatis. Over the years she must have made thousands of chapatis for Swamiji and his students. She was tireless in her service and left us younger students in her wake. She was the epitome of a “spiritual devotee” to those of us from the west who were new to Yoga and to the experience of being with a profound spiritual teacher.

To say that she inspired us is to minimize the profound affect she had. Her faith and devotion emanated from her and she was always upbeat and joyful. She was an example of possibility.

Several trips later, we arrived at the Bombay airport and there was no Sohini to meet Swamiji. He knew something wasn’t right and went immediately to her home where we learned that Sohini’s beloved husband Suresh had passed away the previous day. Swamiji joined the procession to the cremation ceremony with their sons and helped Sohini accept this unexpected loss. It was an extraordinary “coincidence” that this devoted woman had her teacher with her during this challenging time.

(photo L-R: Sohini’s son Pradeep, grandaughter Rita, great-grandaughters Norah & Charlotte)

Sohini was an amazing mother and grandmother. She loved her family and lived with them until sometime this past year when her health demanded her to be in a nursing home. Last fall her son Pradeep took her to the hospital where she met her granddaughter Rita’s twin daughters Norah and Charlotte, which meant the world to her. Included here is a picture of 4 generations.

(photo: A visit to Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville and posing with Mataji, Swami Gurucharanananda.)

There are hundreds of people across America, and further, who fell under Sohini’s spell. She was a spiritual mother and sister to so many of us and an embodiment of Love. I am profoundly grateful to have known her and been influenced by her.

May she dwell with the saints.

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