My relationship with Swami Satchidananda began with meeting Dr. Sandra (Amrita) McLanahan, at a conference in Tarrytown, New York where she was one of the speakers. She was a student of the Swami, and she was young, energetic, and spoke of Yoga, spirituality, and holistic medicine. She had an MD from a prominent medical school in the East and had set up her practice as a doctor of holistic health near Satchidananda Ashram in Connecticut, and later at the ashram in Virginia. It was Amrita who got me to go to the ashram for a retreat, and in 1986, the LOTUS opening.
At the ashram, I met Swami Satchidananda, and was taken aback by something about him—his spiritual presence. Over time, and during subsequent visits, he and I became friends of sort. I never became the real student. I was “too busy.” He would often chide me about that, in a loving way.
In 1997, again through the encouragement of Amrita, I took one of our third world surgery mission teams to India and we offered free cleft palate surgeries for those in need in Coimbatore, the birthplace of Swamiji.
The night before the first day of surgery, Swamiji was giving a talk. Our medical was invited to sit at the front. He introduced each of our team and when he got to me, he said some nice things, then followed with this: “Some say Craig Bradley is a student of mine,” then he paused, and said, “but, actually, he is a friend.” The audience oohed and awed. They missed the inside joke. What he was actually saying was that Craig will probably never commit to being a true student of mine, so we will just be friends. He nailed me again. Ego was still in my way.
That next day, at KG Hospital where we were set up to do the surgeries, we were operating on a child’s cleft palate, when Swamiji walked into the operating room. We stopped operating for a moment in deference to his presence. There was indeed a hush over the room—it wasn’t just another person who had come to join us. Even the non-believers stood, with mouth agape behind their surgical masks.
All knew that something special was going on. I motioned him to the head of the operating table and my assistant made room for him to peer within the child’s mouth—a mouth full of the rawness of surgery and a site that, to the uninitiated, would make one repel. He wasn’t repelled in the least, just so curious. It was a powerful experience.
This journey to India was a special journey, and after I returned back home, I soon returned to the Ashram and took my initiation. I was given my Sanskrit name, Krishna, by Gurudev (as I began to call him). And, now, I was a student wannabe.
About the Author:
Craig Bradley, MD is a Cosmetic, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Specialist in Chicago, Illinois and has over 55 years of experience in the medical field. He graduated from University of Tennessee College of Medicine medical school in 1966. Dr. Bradley has spent vacation time doing free operations in rural areas in South Asia, including the Philippines, Thailand, India, and other countries.