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 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 my self 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 prophesy to pass…..
[ Editor’s note. You can read part one of this article here: My Initiation Into Spirituality ]