Swamini Jayanthi Kumaraswami will be celebrating her birthday on May 14th. She was but a child of seven years when she started to get visions and began predicting events before they happened. On one occasion she told her mother that she heard people talking to her and felt her body being elevated. She says her parents were simple people and so her mother would tell her to forget these episodes and go and study.
At the age of 11, she started telling her friends what she saw in her dream-like state. People would surround her asking her about their life and how to bring about a change. Brought up in a simple Tamil family in South India, she could not have imagined that her purpose in life would take her to the islands in the Caribbean.
Her fame spread by word of mouth. Some months later she had a visit from an African pop star living in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) who asked to bring her to the BVI. As word of her work spread throughout the region, she began visiting other islands like Guadeloupe, St Lucia and Martinique.
Sri Jayanthi Kumaraswami says she never had the chance to learn with a guru in real life. However, she says that when she was seven she felt that “somebody would come to her and teach her in her mind. My mother did not know any rituals, but I would tell my mother how to do pujas and would tell my father to do Shiva puja. I somehow knew the mantras by heart. I learnt all I know from some form of energy who was talking to me at that early age.”
Swamini in her conversation with CSP talks about taking spirituality to the Carribean. For the last 15 years, the people of Chase Village, Chaguanashe associate her with Indian values and culture. She is the founder and leader of the Jai Sathya Mission of Trinidad and Tobago (a local branch of an international charity) which helps underprivileged families, youth in education, animal welfare and feeding the poor. She says “living the life of a householder while following a path of spirituality is difficult. Then one has desires of fulfilling things in the material world. I began thinking about the philosophical aspect of my powers. So I embraced the life of spirituality. I told them that only those who don’t eat meat could meet me. Some people were reluctant to give up their eating habits, but slowly I started to influence them.”
She would speak to people about how to reach a space of peace and happiness through meditation and how to live in a family without quarreling. “I would hold satsangs and people in the Caribbean were deeply interested in finding solutions to daily problems.”
Talking about the religious diversity in Trinidad, where she stayed, she says that people of all faiths and nationalities including Muslims, Jews and Syrians would be drawn to Hinduism. Explaining why this is so, she says, “Hinduism is like a big tree with many branches. It also has various kinds of trees of philosophy which people are free to follow. There are many paths to peace. If one is not attracted to one way, one can follow another.”
Her method of spreading the wisdom of Hinduism was very simple. She would allow people to ask questions. “I wanted them to ask me what the want rather than me telling them what I want to. I could tell them about the Mahabharata and Ramayana, but I need to also tell them about the things they are concerned about in their daily lives and which Hinduism addresses.”
People ask her about the difference about prayer and spirituality, the meaning of worship, whether an ancestral curse will have an impact in the future, what is enlightenment, what is the third eye and many other things. At a recent online meeting, someone asked her about Hitler, and why he did what he did. What was the role of Karma in his actions.
Asked about the difference between the rituals and practices of Hinduism and that of the native people, she says they are similar, except that “Hinduism is very deep. We know both what to do and what not to do. In Hinduism we learn how to open the door and also how to close the door. Other practices often will teach only how to open the door and not how to close it. We know that how to finish is as important as knowing how to start. The problem in the whole world is that only a small part of the complete knowledge is learnt.”
Asked to explain further, she says that when we are doing a homa, we collect the wooden sticks, and put them inside the homa kundam and light the flame. “In the end we put water to pacify the agni, as shanti and also put flowers. This is unique to our Vedic culture. We always end with a prayer to Ganga, Yamuna, Kaveri, Pushkarini and with Shanti Shanti Shanti.”
Sri Jayanthi Kumaraswami says the people in the West Indies are very interested in Shivaratri and are serious devotees. “The follow all fasts and don’t even have a sip of water. During Diwali and Navaratri they keep a fast. However, after those 10 days you can’t find them. They think fasting is only about not eating food at all. But I tell them that fasting is also not eating meat on other days. They go back to their normal lifestyle immediately after but in some ways they are more strict about their religious practices than Indians, but are less consistent.
People outside India are fascinated by chanting of mantras. She tells them that “Chanting - the repetition again and again of mantras helps achieve our goals and also fulfil our desires. It helps control our mind and overcome some distress. Mantra is a way of giving food to the soul just as we give food to the body. Just like we take supplements for our body, mantras are the energy or power for the soul. We can achieve anything in this world by chanting mantras.”
She has not started an ashram in Trinidad as she believes that those immersed in spirituality should travel from place to place to spread their wisdom. She has travelled all over Tamil Nadu, and in other parts of India and the world, walking from place to place. “An ashram is not for me, it should be for the people who come to visit me. We hope to have a place like this soon in the Carribean,” she adds.