Sri Lanka—known as Ceylon when Swami Satchidananda lived there—was a true paradise. With its lovely climate and beautiful scenery it held a great attraction for tourists. Many of the Western tourists visiting Ceylon were directed to Satchidananda Thapovanam, Swamiji’s ashram. The entire country knew of the young Yoga master and his work. Letters addressed to “Swami Satchidananda, Ceylon” were immediately routed to Kandy.
One evening in 1965, Swamiji was giving a talk at the Thapovanam when the ring of the telephone interrupted. It was Fred De Silva, Kandy’s Deputy Mayor and a devotee. “Swamiji, there is a young American man staying at my guest house. He seems to be interested in Yoga and would like to come see you. When can you see him?” Swamiji replied, “Well, we are having satsang now. He can come right away.”
That young man was Conrad Rooks, the heir to the Avon Cosmetics empire and now a budding filmmaker who would go on to make the 1972 film “Siddhartha.” Rooks was on a spiritual quest of sorts and was also filming his self-styled and avant-garde autobiography, which he titled: “Chappaqua.” After spending two weeks studying Yoga with Swamiji, Rooks decided to stay three months. He continued to visit the ashram for daily instruction and discussion with his spiritual teacher. After only ten days, however, he received a cable from his office in Paris. He was asked to return for some urgent business matters. Though he didn’t want to leave, Swamiji encouraged him to take care of the business matters and to return after.
A month later Swamiji still hadn’t heard from Conrad Rooks. After another few weeks Swamiji received a call from BOAC in Colombo. “Swami Satchidananda? We have a ticket waiting for you, round-trip, Colombo-Paris-Colombo. What date will you be flying?”
“I didn’t buy any ticket. There must be some mistake.”
“The ticket came from Paris.”
“Who sent it?”
“A Mr. Conrad Rooks.”
“Well, I can’t give you a date now. I have no such plans. I will call you after I hear from Mr. Rooks myself.”
When BOAC informed Conrad of his Guru’s decision he immediately sent off a cable: “I have already sent a ticket. I am unable to come to Ceylon so you must come and visit me here for at least two months. Take a holiday and see the West. At least see Europe. Please come.” Within fifteen days Swamiji completed arrangements for the running of the ashram in his absence. He told his disciples he would return to Kandy in a month. The sister of Satchidananda Mataji, Swami Vimalanandaji, who had been initiated into sannyas by Swamiji, was put in charge of the Kandy Thapovanam. Swamiji left Kandy on the 22nd of March 1966.