Soon after my birth an astrologer had a look at my birth chart and announced that this boy would become a sannyasi. This statement did not go well with both my parents and grandparents who would have none of that, and sent the astrologer on his way. Although the astrologer did leave, he challenged that if what he had predicted did not happen, he would give up astrology for all time.
As a child, my interests revolved around all things mythological and I would relish the stories of Rama and Krishna narrated to me, but in all other aspects I acted as a normal child would. I was tolerably good at school and made decent grades. I loved to play on the streets and had a gang of friends with whom I would play cricket.
There was nothing in my childhood life to suggest what the astrologer said would come to pass.
Till I was thirteen years old, I used to travel to my grandparents house in Yercaud (Tamil Nadu) each holiday, and used to spend my time picking fruits from the numerous guava trees that dotted our garden. The house was situated on a large piece of land with numerous fruit bearing trees, bee hives and rose bushes, which held all of my attention during my visits there. My grandparents doted upon me, as I was the first grand child in the family, and the son of my grandfather's third son. What ever I wished for was bought; what ever I asked for was given.
One of those years when I was at Yercaud, I had an acute pain in my stomach, which got worse as time passed. The doctor who was consulted suspected it to be appendicitis and asked for me to be immediately shifted to Salem for medical attention. This was a time when hospitals in Yercaud were very basic, without good facilities, and one had to travel down hill even for emergencies. It was during this time that a helpful gentleman, Mr. Mathew, took me in his car down hill and admitted me to a hospital. By the time I was admitted, the appendix had been fully infected and had burst. The doctors were worried and had to perform an emergency appendectomy. It was during this time that my father prayed to Lord Ayyappa, that he would bring me to his temple the following year, and prayed for my life to be saved. The next year, one day my father came to me with a thulasi mala and announced that I would accompany him to Sabarimala that year. The forty five days of following the vows that go with a visit to Sabarimala was my first experience of a sattvic life. I loved the daily pujas and would insist on doing them myself. For many years this continued and it was an enjoyable period of time for me.
During the year 1991, my father was in search of a guru and had met a man who exuded all divine qualities. He accepted this person as his guru and regularly visited him. Although we used to hear stories about this godly person from my father and the miraculous powers he exhibited, I never had a chance to meet him in person. After a few months, my father's Guru was leaving for Mt. Kailash, and I too accompanied my father to see him off.
The moment I met him I felt that I had known him for eternity, and seeing him was the most natural thing to do. He immediately put me at ease and lovingly put his hand on me. Although I did not understand then, it was the defining moment of my life, which was about to change me forever. On his return, I used to visit him regularly and began to be interested in spirituality. My guru had traveled the length and breadth of the country and had visited many spiritual giants. He had visited the forests of Mahendragiri and had meditated there. A spiritual powerhouse, my Guru drew me in and showed me the play of the divine.
Being an inquisitive teenager, I used to question him and doubt many of the things he said. My guru was the type who demonstrated more and preached less. So one day, I asked him what is meditation and how does one do meditation? He answered me by placing his finger on my forehead between my eyebrows and that very instant, I went blank. No thoughts, and I could feel the energy pouring into me like a raging torrent. My entire body was buzzing and my head felt light. In an instant he not only answered my question, but set in motion a life long yearning for the divine.
After this incident, I used to have visions with regularity. One day during a public function, I was standing in a corner watching my guru dance. Then suddenly, I saw bright discs of light like a spinning saucer leaving the finger tips of my guru and entering the heads of some of the people in the audience. It was like watching a fireworks show, but the difference being, I was in a hall and there were no pyrotechnics.
Thus began my lifelong relationship with God, without which life has no meaning.
At this time, I was absolutely drunk with love for God. The only thing that mattered to me was God and I was willing to give up anything to reach him. Although in my young mind, God was a great desire, I really did not know what it was that I was searching for, but the vague feeling of separation was acutely present.
My guru was traveling with a retinue of people to Tiruvannamalai - the abode of Arunachala - on a full moon day. It was a general custom in our group to go every full moon day to Arunachala and go around the holy hill. It was an extremely enjoyable time for me as I was totally in love with Lord Shiva and consider him my “Father”. Every trip around the mountain used to and still takes me several notches higher in consciousness and fills my heart with bliss.
Just a day before we were scheduled to leave, I finished shopping for a few personal needs that I would use on my trip and returned home. While parking my two-wheeler, I absentmindedly forgot to engage the stand properly and subsequently dropped the two-wheeler on my leg. The hot silencer burned through my right foot and left it in a mess – burnt and inflamed. With a swollen leg it was next to impossible to walk 15 kilometers bare foot around the hill and would not only put my body through great pain, but could also inconvenience the entire group.
I was shattered. Not only was I going to miss the chance to travel with my Guru, but I was also going to miss the chance to go around Arunachala – the love of my life. At that moment, I made a resolution to make the trip come what may and decided to tell people that I would take my time to complete the trip and would find my way back home. They could come back without me. I tied a bandage tightly around my leg, packed my bags and landed up at my Guru’s House in the morning. I begged him to let me come, but his advice was not to strain my leg and he would not let me come. Instead, he asked me to go to the Kapaleeshwara temple at Mylapore and pray there.
Crest fallen at the lost opportunity, but left with no choice, I tearfully saw them off and made my way to the Kapaleeshwara temple and was slowly limping my way around the temple. There I saw an old woman, who I presumed to be a beggar since she asked me for some money. When I gave her a few coins from my pocket, she intently gazed on my leg and told me in a commanding tone “Put your feet firmly on the ground”.
While it was strange that a beggar lady should address me thus, I did not make much of it and actually planted my feet firmly on the ground and started to walk. After a few steps, I suddenly realized that the pain was reducing rapidly and the swelling was gone. I hastily retraced my steps to thank the old lady and ask her how this was possible, but she was gone. Where she was seated was just no one, just cold stone, but in the sanctum sanctorum Mother’s eyes were no more of stone, but sparkling. It was then that I realized what my guru had been telling me all along, God does appear to us. He still does perform miracles, but it is just that we do not realize that we have been blessed. We expect God to come to us with a conch in hand or with a trident in hand, but fail to understand that god operates through us, through fellow humans and when he does come to visit, our conditioning makes us miss it.
Soon after this incident, my faith in God grew steadily and my guru gifted me a spate of spiritual experiences. My preferred method of communication with him was to ask him questions in my mind and just keep quiet. The answers arrived either in his speech or through circumstances. While I was enjoying myself, HE was silently preparing me for the next stage of my evolution.
“Fire is comforting on a cold day from a safe distance, but as one gets closer it starts becoming a little uncomfortable and when there is minimal separation, it is indeed painful. When one is eventually consumed by it, One becomes that fire itself – The same it is with the Divine”
What we know as ourselves is more often than not the body-mind complex, which manifests as the Ego. This sense of “Me” and “Mine” is what causes desire, attachment, enjoyment and suffering. Unless these barriers are broken down, we continue to associate with thoughts & actions, continue celebrating birth & condemning death, inviting pleasure & rejecting pain, desiring good &repulsing bad. I was a good student at school and made excellent grades. In fact I had an acute interest in science, especially biology and delighted in literature and theater. But once my mind was filled with the desire for God, all else took a back seat. I was meditating regularly and reading all books on philosophy and god that I could get. I realized that god was a greater addiction than anything I knew then. As a result my grades collapsed. And so did my desire to continue in Samsara. I went to seek permission from my Guru to take sannyasa and tread the path of renunciation. As far as I was concerned, I was finished with the world and assumed I could escape the cycle by ignoring it.
It was at this time, that I received from my Guru probably the most important teaching. He asked me a simple question. “What is it that you are going to do by becoming a sannyasi ?” My natural reply was to think of God and strive to reach him. Then came the thunderbolt, “If it is God you want to think of, why don’t you think of him at home, with the air conditioner on?”
“Why do you want to exchange an ever silver plate for a bhiksha vessel and your t-shirt / jeans for a monk’s robe?” “The Basic affliction remains. Unless renunciation is automatic, it is never effective.”
He then gave me the highest teaching; of living in the world, yet without it. Like a lotus leaf. Floating on water; yet not getting wet. He asked me to study, to work, to remain in the family. But at the same time pin myself on to the lotus feet of the Lord. God had many plans for me, many experiences in store, by which I would mature into a full individual with a first hand experience of the world.
It was not yet time for the prophecy to pass...
Author: Bala G.