(Photo: Ambika with Swami Satchidananda at a Yoga conference in Zinal, Switzerland, early 1980s.)

The tender care and concern Sri Swami Satchidananda showed his devotees was never more evident than in this sharing from Michelle Ambika Berthias of France, which was related to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. What is also very evident is that the protection he extended to his devotees was something he never overtly spoke about, though eventually we came to understand how far and wide it stretched.

In August 2001, I was part of the staff for the one month Integral Yoga Hatha Teacher Training being conducted at Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville in Virginia. I had planned to stay a few days after the training ended and then go on to New York where I was supposed to visit some friends for two weeks. For some reasons, that I do not remember now, my departure was postponed. Every day, I would meet Gurudev and he would say, as if he were really surprised and amused, “Oh! You are still here?”

I was in the Sivananda Hall dining room on 9/11 just a little past 9 a.m. as people started running about the Hall. My whole body felt like it was pierced by a bolt of lightning and I was totally unable to understand what was going on. The whole morning was spent in a daze as I came to learn of what had transpired. I also learned that day, for sure, “I am not the body!”

Since planes were not flying that week, I stayed longer at the Ashram. Each time I would see Gurudev he would say—but on a very different tone than before—asked : “Oh, you’re still here?” A little puzzled by this recurrent question I replied: “But Gurudev, planes are not flying!” Then he answered very softly, with a very sweet smile, “Yes, I know.”

Then I started thinking that he was telling me something that I was not yet able to understand and that he might have had something to do with my staying at the ashram longer…During my stay in New York, I was supposed to retrieve identity papers for my children from City Hall, a few blocks from the World Trade Center. My appointment at City Hall was on September 11th at 9 a.m.

About the Author:
Ambika Berthias is a senior student of Sri Swami Satchidananda, a certified Integral Yoga teacher and she directs the Integral Yoga Centre in France.