On the way to Paris, in April 1966, Swami Satchidananda stopped in Cairo, Jerusalem, and Rome. Mr. Yogendra Duraiswamy, Ambassador from Ceylon to Rome, knew Swamiji well. He met Swamiji at the plane and brought him to his home as a guest. As they sat comfortably in a drawing room and talked, the Ambassador asked, “Swamiji, would you like to meet Pope Paul VI?” Swamiji and Mr. Duraiswamy visited the Cardinal in his Vatican office. A twenty-minute meeting stretched to over two hours, as Swamiji answered the Cardinal’s questions about Yoga and the Hindu religion. When the visit ended, Cardinal Morello said, “I haven’t met a person like you before. I think you and the Holy Father must meet one another. I’ll arrange for your private audience tomorrow.” The following day Gurudev and the Ambassador returned to the Vatican. During the audience with the Pope, Swamiji praised the Holy Father’s efforts to promote understanding among all Christians. “Now, why don’t you come forward to bring the entire world together—all people, regardless of religious or racial differences? It is not only the Christians who should come together. All people should unite in the name of religious harmony. Your word could carry a great deal of weight in helping people realize the oneness of the spirit.”
Pope Paul VI nodded in agreement. “Certainly that is a noble idea, Swamiji. But for the time being I think I should concentrate on putting my own house in order before going out to help the whole world.”
Conrad Rooks also arranged for Swamiji to travel to Mt. Athos in Greece, to Switzerland, and then back to Paris. It had been over three months that Swamiji had been in Europe and he told Rooks it was time for him to return to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Rooks replied, “Swamiji, I’ve been watching you. I’ve seen so many Westerners benefit from your presence. Instead of going straight back to Ceylon why don’t you go around the other way and visit my country also. Then you can fly back via Japan.” That was the plan until the pop artist Peter Max arrived in Paris, to work with Rooks on his film, “Chappaqua.”
The minute Peter Max met Swami Satchidananda, he knew that the Swami was the person he had a vision of several weeks prior. Max was mesmerized and asked to speak to the Swami privately. As Max recalled, “In his room, I sat on the floor and he sat on the bed. There was incense all over the room. I asked him questions about Yoga, and he answered. I felt that this was the holiest of moments that I had ever experienced. I was amazed that there was a real human being like this. During the time I was in Paris, I heard many words of great wisdom from Swamiji. Every time he spoke, I had to think about it all day long. I knew that this was the real reason I was in Paris, and I knew that America really needed him.” Max convinced Rooks to alter Swamiji’s plane ticket back to Ceylon, to include a 2-day stopover in New York.