A View of Santhigiri Ashram

A View of Santhigiri Ashram
Lotus Parnasala and Sahakarana Mandiram , Santhigiri Ashram, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Dark Trials of Disciples

Gurucharanam Saranam

The Dark Trials of Disciples
Mukundan P.R.

You are stripped of your clothes at a busy junction in your town or village. You are shocked beyond words. But you are allowed the freedom to feel mad, mad to any point. You are stripped of your inner clothes in the thick of life in the society. Your inner clothes are your ‘self’, your self esteem, your pride, your freedom, your mind, intelligence and whatever other things you possess. You are shocked and stricken beyond words. You get terribly mad and angry, but you are not to become mad and angry. You are pulverized and made to feel that you are unwanted and ignored. Yet you are unable to protest. How is the deal? Yes, you like it or not, this is the deal, the test what a Guru sometime offers to a disciple. If you succeed to swim across this risky swiveling current, well, you may reach the bund of spiritual flood light. This exactly was what had happened to two of the disciples once.

A young man with tremendous enthusiasm gets inspired by Guru and becomes a follower. Once he went to see Guru in the ashram. When he was about to enter the ashram gate, he saw Guru coming out with a group of disciples. He immediately took position outside the gate to have a glimpse of Guru. Hundreds of people lined both sides of the pathway with folded hands. Guru, radiating divine love greets people with folded hands on his chest in the manner of greeting, walked ahead. This disciple also stood there. Guru moved smiling at every single face raising their soul to unexplainable joy. Guru approached the next man beside this disciple and smiled at him with compassion and overwhelming joy. But when the turn of this disciple came, Guru’s expression changed. Guru looked at him with extreme hatred and anger. The disciple became pale with utter shock. He looked around to see if others saw this. Guru went ahead and smiled at the next person with extreme joy as ever before. This disciple, who was ignored by Guru with such viciousness was heart broken. He became dumb with shock. But somehow he decided to wait again for Guru’s return as if to make sure that what had happened just now was real.

Guru had gone to the Ashram hospital complex nearby and was expected back within a short while. So he waited, this time just in front of the ashram gate where Guru’s car would stop. He took such a position that when Guru got down from the vehicle, he would be face to face with Guru. There was no way Guru could avoid seeing him. He stood there impatiently as he had lost all his senses. He tried to compose himself and waited there with a flicker of hope. The vehicle of Guru arrived. The door of the vehicle opened and Guru alighted. This disciple stood just in front. Then the unimaginable happened. Guru turned his back to the door and swung around blessing devotees lining the pathway. What a benign smile Guru had! Then he turned his gaze at this disciple. Suddenly, again, the same indescribable face of hatred, anger and disownment stared at him. The disciple was frightened out of his wits. He melted like wasp and burnt like a peace of meat. He could not imagine what mistake he might have committed, however hard he tried to think.

He walked away slowly, lifeless and terribly lost. The path of life was closed and there was darkness all around. He was unwanted in the portal of light. In a fog of utter dismay and disillusionment this disciple reached the Thampanoor railway station. The night had already fallen. He found out a platform bench and sat there fully fazed. The world around him disappeared dimly as a dream leaving the night to tick away in burning silence. When he opened his eyes, he saw Swami Jyotirmaya Jnana Tapaswi (now expired) standing in front of him. The disciple jumped to his feet in surprise and folded his hands seeing the revered Swami. The Swami asked him where he was going. He had no time to think about his nameless destination, so he said abruptly that he was going to Kanyakumari. In the same abrupt manner, the Kanyakumari Express was then screeching to a halt in the platform. The train appeared from nowhere as if to make his impromptu statement to a holy person not become untrue. So they departed; the Swami to his own destination and the disciple to Kanyakumari, the destination providence chose for him then.

The disciple touched the long shore of Kanyakumari. He had waited in the station to ensure that all people went out and the ticket collector was not in prowling distance; for he had not purchased a ticket. He walked out of the station and soon reached in front of a small chapel. He went inside and knocked the door. A priest opened the door. This disciple then mentioned to the priest that he was there as he had some doubts to clarify. The priest looked at the disciple with sharp eyes for a moment. It was early morning. The priest asked him to get in. As he stepped inside and waited, the priest came back with a towel and toothpaste and asked him to get fresh showing the direction of a bathroom inside. This disciple meekly went and took bath. When he came back freshened up, he saw the arrangement of breakfast on the table. There were four plates and three men sitting on the table. The priest invited him to occupy the vacant chair. It was a heavy and sumptuous breakfast for him with eggs and chapattis.

After the breakfast, the priest asked him what doubt he wanted to get clarified. The disciple informed the priest that he had a question to ask him when he came in, but now the question slipped by him. He forgot what he wanted to ask. The priest got up and went inside and came back quickly. Handing over a few rupee notes to the disciple he ordered, ‘you should go back immediately from wherever you came’. The disciple came out from the chapel and began to walk. After some distance he enquired with some passerby whether there was any ashram nearby. He was then directed to an ashram about six or eight kilometers away from the town.

The ashram looked like a small house. A person with a bright face and in ochre clothes was sitting in the verandah. He self confessed that he was not a guru and his house was not an ashram in actual sense. He was serving in Vivekananda Kendra as an engineer and now quietly spending his days after retirement. The Swami asked the disciple from where he came. He hesitated a moment and then told him that he had come from Santhigiri Ashram. The Swami became enthused and told the disciple that it was a place of ‘experience’. The disciple thought to himself. Yes, I have experienced it. He reflected on the experience of the previous day with Guru.

He now tried to reflect on the words of the priest at Kanyakumari and of this Swami. The priest had asked him to go back from where he came. And from where did he come to Kanyakumari? From Santhigiri. Now this Swami also confirms that Santhigiri is a place of ‘experience’. The disciple’s heart began to loosen a little. He felt that he should sleep right down there in the ashram of the Swami. The Swami agreed to his request for taking a nap in his premises. The disciple found matted coconut leaves to sleep on in the open ground. He slept. When he got up the Swami asked him to have lunch, but he politely refused. He got back to the railway station. The Kanyakumari Express was parked ready to proceed on its whistling journey. He boarded the train and reached Thiruvananthapuram and from there went straight to Santhigiri Ashram.

In the Ashram, it was time for Guru darshan. People were queuing to have a vision of Guru. When his turn came, Guru looked at him. He began to laugh with unbound compassion and love. Guru asked him, ‘So, you have come back’. The disciple, his eyes filled with tears, fell on the feet of Guru. The sluices of his heart were blown away in that flood of joy, for he was back to Guru, in the bosom of that eternal love. May be the trial was for obtaining this boundless joy thousand times magnified and embedding it in the soul permanently. May be it was to demolish some demon in the soul. May be it was the expiation for a dirty sin. May be it was a phase in the spiritual growth of the disciple.

Listening this unusual experience of Sreekumar Kottarakara, who shared it with us the other day, I felt that all disciples including me undergo such experiences in varying degrees, contexts and circumstances. Another story is of Sri Babu, Kottayam, which is more pathetic. At the same time it shows how a disciple should possess firm will power and determination to earn the grace of Guru.

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