Soul’s Separation from its Primal Source
Sri Shivashankaran’s mother-in-law eyed him with a frown. ‘Touch the feet of the Swami’, she ordered. Shivashankaran was not familiar with such customs. He had visited temples and bowed in front of deities there. But this was a human being that too not attired like the swamis he had seen and heard about. Also the unpleasant comments from the people he came across on their way bothered him. It was in the late sixties. Shivashankaran, a tall healthy man, whose family lived near Pothencode, was a bus conductor with KSRTC. While he was on duty for long hours, his wife and mother-in-law along with his children used to visit a Swami at Pothencode. They never informed him about this virtuous ‘misconduct’ fearing that he would raise objections.
Most of the people at Pothencode disliked swamis and ashrams those days. In Marxian Kerala, ashrams and swamis have a disdainful existence rather than a proud and respectful one. The public looks at them with a suspicious eye. Shivashankaran’s brother and relatives were no exception to this. However, Shivashankaran had an open mind and would not mind meeting a swami and listening to some ancient tales from the puranas - it would be a good riddance from his cumbersome job as a bus conductor. So he decided to go along with his mother-in-law when one day she asked him to accompany her to the Ashram. However, doubt and apprehension kept creeping up in his mind because some people at Pothencode made some unsavory comments about the Swami while they were on their way to the Ashram. His mother-in-law gave him courage saying that the comments were about some other people. He swallowed both her comments and that of the public and decided to follow her.
The slender track to the spot where the Swami had set up his Ashram was less travelled by people. Pothencode itself had very few shops those days. A very isolated and feared area was it surrounded by forests and wild animals. Human habitation was scarce. On this track to the Ashram, they encountered few jackals prying in the area. But when they reached near the Ashram, suddenly the air became calm and serene. The mother-in-law had carried with her a small parcel of raw rice for the Swami. Her family ran a provision shop. Every time she visited the Swami, she took something or the other from the shop for the Swami as a token of her devotion.
Shivashankaran saw nobody in the Ashram as they entered. A small hut made of mud and bamboo stood there. It was the prayer place. Adjacent to it was another small thatched shed. The ground was full of sharp stones and they pierced the feet of Shivashankaran. He groaned at every step as he moved forward. Suddenly a man came out from the hut. Shivashankaran stayed rooted to his feet for a few moments, because the man was unusually beautiful. His body shone like the sun. Such brilliance he had never observed in any human being before. The mother-in-law said to him that this was the Swami as she walked towards him. She handed over the parcel to Shivashankaran for a moment to touch her head at the feet of the Swami. She stood up and asked him to do the same. He folded his hands and handed over the parcel to the Swami. He was little reluctant to do what his mother-in-law did - touch his head at Swami’s feet. The Swami understood his mind and said, ‘it is enough you do it standing’. But mother-in-law insisted. So he stood on his knees and touched the feet of the Swami. As though electrified, he gripped the Swami’s feet tightly. He now felt the expanse of a tranquil ocean and a lotus in it. In the lotus was the figure of the Swami. His grip became stronger at the feet. His mother-in-law said it was enough. But he could not take his hand out from the Swami’s feet and remained there. At last the Swami asked him to get up. He got up and looked. A huge celestial figure was standing in front of him touching the vault of heaven. Completely baffled Shivashankaran trembled and began to cry. Uncontrollable tears welled up in his eyes and flowed down the cheeks. His heart was pounding with spasms of joy with an under current of sorrow, for it was the moment of soul’s realization of its long separation from its primal source.
He and his mother-in-law were led away from the presence of Guru by a sole person present in the Ashram that time with the Swami. As time went by, the disciples and devotees of the Swami began to address him as Guru. Navajyoti Sri Karunakara Guru was not just a swami, people realized. The person who attended Shivashankaran and his mother-in-law brought a piece of boiled tapioca as Prasadam. He told them with visible regret that there was nothing else in the Ashram to eat for the day. One piece was kept for the Swami’ and the other piece, three of them shared. That was their lunch that day. While narrating this to me, Sri Shivashankaran suddenly broke down and began to sob. Obviously, old memories of Guru flooded him. Today Santhigiri Ashram serves square meals to thousands of people three times daily. Behind it is the sacrifice Guru underwent in life. After retirement, now Shivashankaran serves in the Ashram dedicating his soul to the Guru and the mission which Guru began for the spiritual renaissance of India as well as of the whole world.