A View of Santhigiri Ashram

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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Mystical Trail to My Guru

Nikhil, Santhigiri Ashram

There was a time when I viewed spirituality derisively. The years of my adolescence and youth! My native place is Manjapra near Kaladi in Ernakulam district. Those days I took asylum mostly in the reading room of the Grama Kshemam Library. There were thousands of books: I had read almost all of them by the time I turned 25. I did not know English, so I tried to get translated works from other languages. I also read the maximum number of contemporary publications. On looking back, I now realize that I was searching for myself in books, and through my writings. I searched for myself everywhere and opened out to one and all. I quarreled too and fumed, wept and laughed; felt happy and light hearted. I wandered day and night like one intoxicated.

Several people nurtured me with food, clothes and shelter. What not was given thus? There were many who filled me with love. A few, countable by fingers, hurt me too. Nonetheless, I did not feel for anybody. I felt a sort of detachment. A general feeling of disenchantment and despondency prevailed with a sense of helplessness capping it all. Even today, this sense of helplessness follows me. There is always an uncertainty as everything happens unbidden. Experiences march by as though in a reverie. Today, to a small extent, I can fathom their meaning. I also realise that more than what has been known, there is yet much to know. The depth of my helplessness deepens when I tread the path in between nescience and wisdom. The question is oft’ repeated: how did I become like this?

At that time, spirituality did not occupy any place in my life. I loved people, especially those who were in distress, sickly or helpless. The empathy I felt for such people might be because I felt one among them. Pathos inspired me to work for the liberation of the whole mankind. How could the human society be liberated from suffering?

The words of Bertolt Brecht influenced me a lot. “O, hungry man! Take up a book in your hand. That is a weapon.” These words made me wade through books. Books filled my dreams. I saw in my dreams books and word clusters. I wanted to write. And I wrote. A bevy of friends, who were like my own brothers, gave me inspiration. They helped me with paper and pen. I wrote for them dramas, big and small. They performed these in theaters and got numerous laurels. Nevertheless, all this did not make me happy. In fact it made me restless. What I needed was peace, I felt. When I began my journey to find peace, I encountered a flood of disquiet. I even suspected that I would be deluged and lost.

Simultaneously, I was welling up with another type of experience. That was the awareness about my self. It sprang from my experiences of reveries. What all were those reveries? Mist, rain, daylight, mountains, streams, the ocean, the sky, clouds, the stars and planets, fire, serpents, many hues of light, downpour of fire, rustic faces, figures of ascetics, elephants and so on. My days and nights were haunted by the rising and falling tides of such reveries. It would be rather correct to say that the dreams owned me and I became their possession. I had the awareness that something was happening in the backyard of my consciousness; but I did not know what it was.

I was a cause of concern for my family. I did not study; I did not go to work. I brought ten-fold loss when entrusted with business. What for should I study, I wondered. For me education was not required, neither were wealth, vocation, assets, house, comforts, name, fame and recognition. I did not know what was required either. Futile wanderings! It hurt the people in my family. Though they were poor, they loved me. I could say that they took a lot of hardships in enduring me. When I ate the food affectionately served by them, my eyes got tearful.

I could not give them the love they deserved, not even a good word. What I gave them was pain, instead. A few people asked me why I did not love the family, my own blood. My mind whispered that they were not mine. Nevertheless, I never expressed this thought in front of others. But occasionally, I expressed my anguish in front of my father. Poor man, I was much distanced from him emotionally. My mother, I do not remember seeing as she had already died before I was able to toddle.

A few of my friends would ask, “Why don’t you refer to your house as “my home’’? “I have no house of my own,” I answered them. For me, the house where I lived belonged to my relatives (father’s younger and elder brothers) or the houses of several other people who gave me shelter. My uncles and their families fed me and nurtured me. Their love towards me had a tinge of adoration. When I was five years old, my father had remarried and begun to stay separately. The people in that house too loved me.

From the very childhood, I had a desire to forsake everything and go somewhere. Whenever I felt a small displeasure, I used to leave the house. I would come back after wandering a while somewhere. Nonetheless, nobody in the family questioned me then. However, my grandmother would mutter with a shade of sorrow, “why are you like this, dear son?” Even to that maternal love, my response would be a dour retort. At the same time, I felt guilty and thought, “Why am I like this?” I used to ponder over the existential question: “who am I or what am I.”

As time went by, the feeling that it would not be proper to continue like this, got stronger. During this period, a friend of mine, who was a painter, mentioned about some visions he was experiencing in dream. (I came to know that he died recently). With the thoughts of Sigmund Freud, Jung and others in my mind, I ridiculed them all as fantasies. Nevertheless, I began to think and listen to his experiences. I felt that there was some truth in them. One day, during this period, I visited a famous Devi temple along with some of my friends. The experiences I got there, direct and intuitional, gave me peace and as much disquiet. I did not know whether I could call it as bhakti – love of god, because bhakti was always alien to me. My bhakti was love. Even today it is so.

With that experience the bud of spiritual contemplation began flowering in me. One evening, I lit a lamp in a corner of my house and began to pray. I ignored the stunned look in the eyes of my family members. They murmured among themselves as to what had come over me. However, it did not continue for long and I returned to my old ways of meaningless wanderings. After some time, there was a change. I again began to spend time mostly in prayers and spiritual contemplation. I began to get experiences. I shall briefly narrate only one such experience here, which left a deep impact on me.

Those days I resided in a room in the upper floor of a bungalow. There were other tenants in the adjacent room and downstairs. One day, they had all gone to work at the break of dawn. As I was alone, I stepped down to the ground floor and locked the main door. Keeping the key in its pre-arranged place, I entered the house through the back door. I fastened the latch and went upstairs. Sitting down in my room, I began to pray. With eyes shut, arms stretched out and palms cupped, I prayed. It was a prayer in supplication. The prayer, which started around 6 a.m., continued uninterrupted. When it was 9 a.m., suddenly, like the sprinkling of holy water, some water trickled down in my cupped palms.

I opened my eyes and looked in turn at my hands, on the roof and sideways. It was a hot summer day. The terrace was dry. I went out to look around. There was nobody. The house was a solitary one in the middle of four or five acres of land. Hardly anyone stepped inside. Then whence the appearance of water! I came back to the room, and taking a chair, sat down to think. Rational thoughts clogged the mind and it refused to yield to illogical conclusions. When days passed, I realized that it was the tender fondling of God. Several experiences followed. When their depth and expanse increased, my isolation became complete. The old group of friends had withered away. Nonetheless, a few people gave me food and also some money.

Those days, it was a boy named Ramesh who gave me food almost daily. His house was somewhere near Perumbavoor. He drilled rock with jack and hammer for a living. He lived in the room adjacent to mine. He would bring me dinner parceled from some hotel. He got piqued when I discouraged him. “Why do you feed me every day?” I repeated this question to him. His answer was, “My mind urges me to give you food. And I feel happy doing that”.

He took me along to many temples. I was not particularly inclined to do so, but for his satisfaction, I used to accompany him. What I liked was to sit down with closed eyes or lie down somewhere. When I sat or lay down thus, I saw several pictures passing through my mind’s eye. These visions made me exceedingly happy. I desired to see them repeatedly. It was later when I came to the abode of Guru that I understood these experiences as ‘darshanam’ – mystical visions. In between those visions, I got some words too from the atmosphere. I had an inner light to discern what was right and wrong in this. Looking back, I realize that I was being led to receive the grace of God. I had also been experiencing a few aspects of mystical experience, some trivial, some important.

As per one such ethereal vision and revelatory words, I undertook a trip to an ashram in the northern direction, accompanied by a friend. On seeing the swami there, I asked him piously, “Swami, What am I destined to do?” He questioned me back why I asked so. I told him about the experiences I got. He then said, “You are receiving these experiences without the help of others. Spend some more time praying deeply. Then there would be deeper experiences and a situation would arise when you would be unable to go further without the help of a Guru. At that time you come to me.” Later, the need never arose to go to him.

As the frequency and impact of the visions increased, so did the exasperation and bitterness born out of disownment, loneliness, helplessness and uncertainty. Those who had been intimate and helpful earlier now turned hostile. It deeply hurt me. Also the untimely death of a close friend at that time was a great blow. This friend had deeply loved me and prayed for me.

One day, I had an early dawn experience at 3 a.m. It occurred in the same bungalow where I stayed. I was reclining on the floor on my left side. Suddenly, I became aware of a wind which was blowing from the bottom of my spinal chord (mooladharam). The wind swirled and filled the whole room with great speed and strength like a hurricane. The room along with me was lifted up. When I tried to shift my body, somebody pressed me down. When I was thus being lifted, two serpents from the bottom of my feet, sneaked past quickly to either side. Up and up I went, beyond the clouds and skies and reached a luminous sphere. There was seen sitting cross legged on a rocky plateau, an ascetic of unmatched brilliance and perfection. Immediately below him sat seven or nine crossed legged ascetics. At the bottom of the hillock was a serene lake. In the lake were several small and big elephants and ascetics blissfully swimming and bathing. I was also bathing there in that joyous group. The baby elephants were playing mischief on me. The ascetic who sat on the hillock was seen talking something. But it was not fully audible. However, it could be discerned that he was talking about things from the beginning of creation. The mind welled up with unexplainable joy. After some time passed, the way it all went up, so it came down with me. I lay there motionless. At that time I was experiencing a tremendous energy circuit in my body. When I opened the eyes, the time was 3.20 a.m.

The next morning, I was sitting idle in my room. A young acquaintance, who was the friend of a friend of mine, walked in. We talked about several matters relating to life and society. At about noon, he took me to his house on a bicycle. I stepped inside the house along with him after the customary face, leg and hand wash. It was a small house but clean. He took me straight into their pooja room. His brother knew astrology and performed rites and rituals for others. The moment I entered the prayer room, a cat sitting nearby jumped across and the idol fell. I felt very odd at this. The face of my acquaintance also showed signs of uneasiness. I told him to take it easy and keep the idol back on its place. After this he led me to the dining room and served food. After lunch, a bed was arranged for me for a siesta. I spent four or five days with him thus. One day his astrologer brother took stock of my stars and said, “Brother, you are destined to be a sanyasi. It is seen as unavoidable.” I laughed at once when he said this. He also laughed. The question hidden in my laughter was how I should become one.

My difficulties increased by the day and one day I decided that unless I got the answers to some of my questions, I would not eat. “Who am I? What is my life? What for I am living? What should I do? Where should I go? Whom shall I meet? For seven days I took only water and a little quantity of boiled beans. On the seventh day morning at about 9 a.m., there was a word: “It will be revealed to you.” That was the word. I understood that this word was different from the earlier ones. I ate food. Days passed by. The house owner informed me that he desired to demolish the building and sell the property. Where would I go, I wearied myself with this thought. “There was no place for me to go. There was no house of my own to take shelter, wailed my soul. I had already left my house and the family sometime before.

One night I went to sleep with such searing thoughts. That night I experienced a vision. I was taken in front of a huge bungalow and was ushered in. “This is your house,” somebody spoke. Before I could survey the inner chambers, the vision broke. “Would I be able to own such a house?’ I had not desired for one such.” Therefore, I decided that it was not mine. It was a false vision, I thought. However, I came to know from Guru (through the revered Guru Apparent, Shishyapoojitha Janani) that it was not so and it related to a previous birth. Just two days before vacating the rented room, I got news that one of my close relatives had died. Therefore, I was compelled to go there. After fixedly looking at my people awhile, I left the place quickly along with the friend who had accompanied me.

When I left my native place, I had no clear idea as to where I should go. I had some vague information about (Navajyothisree Karunakara) Guru through whatever little was written and heard about him. I decided that as a last resort, I should visit Guru. On my way to see him, I stayed for two days at another ashram. Once earlier I had stayed there and received certain mystical experiences. When I reached there, it was past noon. A yagna was taking place and presently the offerings of the yagna were being distributed to the assembly. Somebody said that the person who came in just now also had an entitlement to the yagna. I was therefore asked to recite the mantra that they chanted for me, which I did. They also gave me some prasadham.
On the second day of my stay there, at about 6 a.m., there was an experience of vision and an instruction. It was a vision with naked eyes. What I saw was the ashram of Guru and the prayers here. The word was an instruction to proceed to the ashram. But I understood these things only after reaching here. Till then, I did not have an idea which place was signified in the vision. When I met Guru face to face, he asked me what I had seen. I told him a few things that immediately came to my mind. Along with that I began expressing my woes. Guru cut short my dialogue and said succinctly, “Poor thing! May you leave all that! What you have experienced are some big aspects. You may stay here. About what you ought to do here, you will get to know yourself.” When I thus began to stay at the ashram, an instruction was received that I should go to work in the dairy. I worked there for sometime. Subsequently, I came to the Publication Division. It was after this that a word was received to be by the side of Guru and do the work I perform presently. This revelatory instruction was received in the manner of ‘Prathyakshavaham Dharmam’ (the self apparent dharma). However, I did not get an opportunity to inform this to Guru. Nevertheless it happened on its own. It is a testimony to the truthfulness of ‘Word is Truth, Truth is Guru, Guru is God’. Like this there are several experiences in my life.

When I began to be by the side of Guru, I did not suffer any unfamiliarity, anxiety, fear or doubt whatsoever. It was just like continuing with a work already begun. I only knew that I was obeying Guru. I keenly listened to Guru’s conversations. All subjects under the heavens found a reciprocal reference in Guru’s talks. It surprised me greatly and opened before me a new world of knowledge. Each word of Guru made me realize that it was the truth. It was part of my character that I believed something only if it convinced my conscience.

After Guru’s merger with the Adisankalpam - the primordial plane of consciousness - I was overcome with a gnawing sense of emptiness. The doors of life, which had opened to me, would they get shut? “Now who will own me like Guru did? Who is able to do that here?” I was in a quagmire. One afternoon, the revered Shishyapoojitha Janani, the Guru Apparent, said to me in the hall of Guru. “You are living for this. Then why are you not taking it up?” Saying this, she immediately went out of the hall. My eyes were flooded with tears and I knelt down. That moment, a word of Guru came to my mind. ‘Dear Son, this disownment…….’ The sentence which Guru did not complete then was presently finished by the revered Shishyapoojitha Janani. That moment was my realization that the revered Janani is the continuation of Guru, nay, Guru Himself. More experiences occurred which confirmed that realization. In fact, I knew Guru through the revered Janani. It was the revered Janani who made me realize the truth of Guru. By the same manner, it was Guru who made me realize the truth of Shishyapoojitha Janani. It is experience! Each moment that I am with the revered Janani, I get convinced of the truth of Guru. But my Karmagati (karmic proclivity) holds me back from doing many a good thing. There are still limitations in me. I pray that all these shortcomings be wiped out and I be able to fulfil this in the right manner. I submit my words, thoughts and myself at the feet of Guru and conclude this presently.
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