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In the early days at the Sivananda Ashram in Val Morin, Swami Vishnudavanandaji used to be present at all the ashram activities: evening and morning satsangs, asana classes, silent walks, etc. He used to tell us, if we come to the ashram we should fully merge ourselves in ashram activities without dissipating the energies outside. He used to add especially, ” Don’t go down to the village, to the diner. It’s not the best place in the world, and its a little too far away from the ashram”.

One Sunday, another ashramite and myself were not quite happy with the 10 o’clock ashram food- some porridge and bread. So we decided to sneak out and go to visit this famous diner. We very casually walked away from the main gate, and then rushed to the restaurant, quite happy to be free and already drooling thinking of the pleasant food at the diner.

We opened the door, entered, and aaarrgghh!

Swami was sitting there, suitably dressed in a T-shirt and shorts amongst 2 or 3 secretaries, answering the mail. He was having french fries, sugar pie with ice cream and drinking tea. As soon as he saw us he invited us to sit with him and immediately with great care and a little mischievous look in his eyes, he asked ” do you want some fries and ice-cream?” Naturally, if any of us had a preconceived idea or notion of what a Guru should look like, it was totally shattered then.

His look said, ” Just because I’m not wearing swami dress and am sitting here eating fries and ice-cream, does it mean I’m not a Guru anymore?”

Look not at appearances. Look at the spirit and motivation behind them.

Swami Mahadevananda is the Yoga Acharya for the ashrams and centres in Canada, India, Thailand and Japan. He lived, learnt and worked with and alongside Swami Vishnudevananda for over 25 years, and now shares with us all the knowledge and energy he was blessed with, always helping and guiding us in continuing our service for Swamiji’s mission.