My Spiritual Journey
by Guru Ji
Om Namah Shivaya. I am Swami Shyamanand Saraswati, also known as Guru Ji. I am the spiritual leader of Ashram de la Madre Divina, an ashram originally from Venezuela. Because of the troubles in my country, we have moved the Ashram to our neighbor Colombia.
I want to tell you the story of my spiritual awakening and the long path I walked to reach this point in my life.
I was born in Maracay, Aragua, Venezuela on August 10, 1969. My parents named me Pablo Salcedo, but today I go by Swami Shyamanand Saraswati, or Guru Ji.
From very young I always had the inclination to be a spiritual being. I originally wanted to be a Christian priest. My family was not a practicing spiritual family, so I started attending church by myself at 9 years old. I even went to my First Communion by myself.
On my spiritual search I was awakened to the Vedic world at 16 years old when I read the book Siddharta, by Hermann Hesse. It made it clear to me that this was to be my path. The spiritual world is a world that resonates deeply with me.
At 19 I was a medical student at university. I took a trip to Machu Picchu in Peru. When I saw the majesty of that structure, I realized I could not study traditional medicine anymore.
After Machu Picchu I returned to Venezuela. One day when I was taking the bus, I saw a tall young man with long hair and a t-shirt that said “Mantra Yoga”. I saw him leave the bus, and I followed him because I wanted to learn about yoga. In those days you couldn’t just search yoga on Youtube. So I followed him and asked him about yoga.
That young man was a teacher of Hatha Yoga in the school Mantra Yoga Meditation, founded by Swami Devanand Saraswati. I joined his yoga school and learned Hatha Yoga there, a practice I still do today.
One day my yoga teacher did not show up to class. It was because his spiritual teacher, Swami Devanand Saraswati, who lived in India, had discarnated. His student had gone to India to spread his teacher’s ashes in the Ganges River, a tradition for the passing of Sadhus.
Before his passing, Swami Devanand Saraswati had instructed his students that when he died, they should go to India to find a Guru superior to Devanand. This Guru would complete their yoga education.
They were presented to Swami Shivanand Saraswati, a Sadhu that spoke Hindi and English. These disciples asked the Swami to return to Venezuela with them. They offered to pay his journey there.
With the grace of the gods, Swami Shivanand Saraswati agreed to leave India and settle in Venezuela to teach the disciples. This was in 1992.
At this point I had stopped going to the yoga school because my teacher was in India. But one day I had a dream of a woman coming out of a lake. The lake was full of lotus flowers. Her arms were stretched out, and when she came up from the lake the lotus flowers were on her arms.
This woman spoke to me in my dream. She said “Go to Barquisimeto because your Guru has arrived.” Barquisimeto is the city where the yoga school was.
By this time I had forgotten about the yoga school and my teacher. But when I heard this information about my “Guru”, I went to Barquisimeto to ask about the yoga teacher. There they told me, “Yes, he arrived yesterday, and he arrived with a Guru.”
This is the power of the connection. Because of that dream, I traveled 6 hours to the yoga school where the disciples had arrived with the new Guru.
When I arrived at the yoga school, I saw a painting of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess. She was coming out of a lake holding lotus flowers. I realized Lakshmi had visited me in my dream.
This yoga school was more than just yoga. It was an ashram. I didn’t know what an ashram was at the time. I didn’t know much about that world. I didn’t understand the people there bowing and touching the feet of this Guru man.
I didn’t understand the relationship of Guru and disciple. These are concepts that come from the East, and in the West we are very removed from this in our culture. So I left the very next day, and I stayed away for a whole year. But that whole year I was left thinking about what I had lived. I studied more about this world.
Eventually I returned because I wanted to learn more.
When I returned, I brought a painting I made of Adi Shankarachyra, the founder of Advaita Vedanta. I had to wait all day to see the Guru because I wasn’t a disciple. When I finally entered his room, I gave the painting to the Guru. When he saw it he went into a trance. He exclaimed to his disciples, “First of all this young man came from very far away and you all made him wait all day. What you don’t know is the day will come when none of you here in this room will be with me. Only him.” This was a divine game played by the Guru, to play with the egos of the disciples.
I spent time with this Guru, and when I returned home, this Guru called me. He had gotten me a job in that city at a hotel, as a janitor and security guard. I moved to that city and worked there, and I started attending daily ceremonies of Puja, the act of worship, with that Guru.
Now this Guru had a disciple who was his personal chef. One day, this disciple was riding the train in India going to meet the Guru. Someone offered him a cookie and asked for his blessing. The Guru had forbidden this disciple to take any food from anyone. But the disciple took the cookie. It turns out it was poisoned. He nearly died, but they were able to save his life. But this disciple never surpassed this experience. He blamed Guru for what had happened, and he left the ashram.
I had learned everything about the kitchen during my time at the ashram because I liked to cook. So when this disciple left, the position of personal chef was vacant. And I became chef to the Guru.
This was a special position. Only the personal chef travels with the Guru wherever he goes. Only the personal chef is allowed to visit the Guru during his meals. I would often eat food blessed by the Guru. This is called Maha Prasan – to eat food blessed by the mouth of the master. This is Vedic tradition.
I traveled with Guru for many years, throughout the Caribbean and South America, teaching Meditation, Pranayama, and Yapa Mala. I lived the experiences you can have by living with a great spiritual master every day.
During this time, I was also studying naturopathy, chiropractic, and manual therapy. I am licensed as a naturopathist, chiropractor, and manual therapist in Venezuela.
Time passed, and my Guru had become old. He was 76 years old. After 15 years in Venezuela, he planned to return to India permanently. I was asked to go with him, which I had the desire to do. But I had a family to take care of. So before I could go with my Guru, I had to organize a business that could be managed by itself. I had to leave this for my family to survive. This labor took me 6 years to do. I built this business and prepared to travel to India. But fate played a role. With the plane ticket in my hand, finally ready, I got a call from India. “Guru Ji is in a coma.”
As I was boarding the plane, I got a second call. “Guru Ji has disincarnated.”
As I flew to India, they were putting my Guru’s remains in the intersection of the Yamunaji and Gangaji river, as tradition calls. I arrived a day after everything was over.
I was not able to be with my Guru in his final days. I was not there to see his remains off. After living with him everyday for 15 years. I was devastated.
When I returned from India to Venezuela, I found that my son started to become schizophrenic. And every day I had to live with the knowledge that I wasn’t able to see my Guru depart, and that my son was being overcome by darkness.
I thought all those years of spiritual discipline were for nothing. It was immense pain. I was suffering from many directions.
Now to save my son, I started searching for medicines everywhere I could. I encountered the sacred plant medicine of Yage, also known as Ayahuasca. You should know that as a Sannyasin, a disciple of the Hindu faith, I was forbidden to take this medicine. This is because as Sannyasins, we consider our state of consciousness to be supreme.
But this medicine wasn’t for me. It was to save my son from his demons. And if he had to take it, I had to take it first. I had to know what it was.
So I took the Ayahuasca medicine. Everything disintegrates. I begin to hear a mantra… Jai Shree Ram… Jai Shree Ram… Jai Shree Ram. Again and again and again. Jai Shree Ram.
Because of my years of meditation and discipline, I was able to access a region of consciousness that most others could not. The final key to open the door was this Ayahuasca medicine.
I had not known what meditation was until that moment. With the medicine, I reached the highest levels of meditation.
Communing with the Ayahuasca medicine, I entered a vision. I was in a room with my Guru days before he went into the coma. Guru Ji saw me and was astonished – he could not believe he was seeing me! We hugged and cried together. It was spiritual healing at the deepest levels.
When I came back from the vision, the tears stopped flowing. The pain stopped. My suffering had ended.
I realized the Ayahuasca wasn’t for my son. It was for me.
This was the turning point for me to go into shamanism. After this I went to live with the Santo Daime group in Brazil, who use Ayahuasca regularly as their sacrament in ceremony. I lived with them for a month preparing 1,500 liters of Ayahuasca medicine.
It was a rapid education in shamanism.
During the Santo Daime ceremonies, Lakshmi came to me again in a vision. She said, “I have a new medicine for your people. Jurema.”
When you are communing with a sacred plant medicine, the visions you see are the desires of your mind. And so my desire was to become a shaman.
I started learning what I could about Jurema. It turns out Jurema is indigenous only to three countries – Mexico, Brazil, and Venezuela. Learning that it was in my country of Venezuela, I started to seek out the plant.
I went to the plains because the Jurema tree grows in dry, flat regions. There I met a farmer and I asked him if he had seen the plant. He said, “There’s one right behind you.” And so it was.
My path had taken me to this medicine which had become a lost tradition, originally of Aztec and Mayan culture. Colonialism had wiped this tradition off the Earth. But through the prayer that I had made my life to be, I was blessed with the knowledge of the plant and the desire to cultivate it into medicine.
And so with a lot of prayer and tobacco I started preparing Jurema medicine from the root of this tree, scientifically named Mimosa Tenuiflora.
The molecular compound found in these plants is DMT. This molecule is native in humans. We produce it in our pineal gland, our third eye.
Jurema contains DMT and this allows access to more of our consciousness. But the DMT does not activate without a Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor, or MAOI.
My search had turned to finding the right MAOI for the Jurema medicine. I went back into the Amazon and met one of the great shamans of our time, Shaman Jose Antonio Bolivar, of the Piaroa tribe in Venezuela’s Amazon.
From Shaman Bolivar I learned about the different types of Caapi, a vine consumed as powder, and an MAOI. Shaman Bolivar cultivated the most powerful Caapi of South America.
In the spiral of the Piaroa temple, with the Jurema brew I had been crafting, and with Shaman Bolivar’s Caapi, for the first time the Jurema medicine opened up. We were lifted intensely. Shaman Bolivar took a maraca and healed someone while with the medicine. From this point on, Shaman Bolivar and his followers recognized Jurema as a genuine healing and sacred medicine.
Shaman Bolivar disincarnated about two years ago, at 130 years old. At his age, he was still constructing temples and planting food gardens. He could climb the tallest trees to cut branches. He was known as the “Amazon Buddha”, the most powerful shaman on Earth in the ancient traditions.
Praises to Swami Shivanand Saraswati and Shaman Bolivar, my two teachers and masters of the highest realms of consciousness.
With this perfect combination of Caapi and Jurema, I began serving in ceremony throughout Venezuela. With each brew I kept tweaking and perfecting the drink.
Ten years have passed since I first began working with this lost tradition. Over the course of the last decade, I have been perfecting the medicine to the point that it can now be considered a Soma, a divine drink and deity.
Spirituality and healing have been my life’s work. Because of the strife in my country of Venezuela, we have moved our ashram to Colombia. In Colombia we feel welcome and encouraged to keep going with our labor. And in Colombia we have the great opportunity to host people from all over the world at our ashram.
This is what I offer to you. To come to Colombia and commune with us and sacred Jurema. To explore your own consciousness. To find the keys to the deepest healing that are already within you. It is a divine gift to be able to learn from the wisdom of the Earth, through these plants, and to learn from the great masters that have come before us.
In gratitude for your love and energy.
Om Namah Shivaya.
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