"Unflinching devotion to the Teacher is paramount in the life of a true seeker. To begin with, an external God can be the object of faith. But once the devotee grows to be a seeker, only a Wise Teacher can fulfil his quest.  It is then for the seeker to get purified and enlightened by the words of wisdom from his Guru.  Their bond and attunement put the Teacher on the pedestal of God.  Such an impeccable Guru-sishya bond alone bestows wisdom, strength and fulfillment to the seeker."

The Guiding force of Narayanashrama Tapovanam & Center for Inner Resources Development

Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha

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[Published in Vicharasetu – October 1990. The author Ma Gurupriya was then ‘Ratnadeepa’]

The name of this article was suggested by Swamiji. Aroopji who looks after Vicharasetu had requested Swamiji to suggest a title while sending the typed script to the press. I was in the kitchen when Aroopji came and asked: “In the company of my Lord – is it OK?” I nodded.

Soon my eyes were full of tears. The words – In the company of my Lordkept on ringing in my ears. What are these tears for, this horripilation all over the body, I wondered! Why bliss is filling me to the core? Yes, it is a feeling of being blessed, a feeling that I belong to my Lord; a feeling as if I am sitting near His feet looking up to His face – happy and contented just to be in His company.

The word ‘Lord’ brings in this great meaning to my mind. It makes me feel like an instrument in His hands. Above all, it gives a sense of belonging, a sense of surrender.

He Blessed Me with Disinterestedness

They said I must write, in the same style, all my experiences, whatever comes to my mind. One month passed, I wrote nothing. Words get shaped in the mind; they come and go, but there is hardly any time to sit and put them on paper. My Lord wants me to write; my ‘little pet’ whispers: “Will you not write about me?”… Where from do I start, I wonder!

In the company of my Lord. My Lord had been preparing me to crave for His company. First He grew in me disinterestedness in life. I realized that everything in this world is absolutely transitory, that no joy would last forever. Life did not seem to have any definite purpose or aim. I was 23, doing research in Physics in the University of Delhi. At home, we were a happy family – parents and two dear brothers. Apparently there was no cause for disinterestedness.

Still I used to think: “What, if I have a luxurious life, a good husband, enough recognition? Will all these make me permanently happy?” In my heart I felt that happiness cannot come through all these; none of these can bring lasting joy. Then what is the aim? What do I look forward to? Aimlessness and disinterestedness grew to such an extent that it created a load in my heart; there used to be always a heaviness, a vacuum.

I talked about this to nobody – neither to my parents nor to my brothers and friends. I would instead ask my Lord, present in my heart: “Is there no lasting peace and joy? Who will tell me? Who will show me the way?” Sometimes I would even weep before Him.

My mother had cultivated in us a very good habit of praying to God before going to sleep. She had told us to pray to God to make us ‘good’ and ‘worthy’. What these words meant, I had no clear idea in my childhood, but later I used to associate purity, large-heartedness and righteousness with these words. I liked these virtues, wanted to have them.

I used to think of Gods and Goddesses – Siva, Krishna, Durga, Kali, etc, but to concentrate on all of them one by one separately used to take a long time. So finally I decided to concentrate only on a pair of feet. Slowly, these ‘Lotus Feet’ became my sole object of concentration.

A Clear Message

Through this habit of prayer, I started talking freely to my Lord. He was the only companion who knew of my disinterestedness, of my heavy heart. But He chose to remain non-responding, until one day a friend visited me. Through this friend, my Lord sent me the message: “Do not grieve. Surely there is a path.”

He came from Calcutta. A Ph.D. student of physics in Calcutta University, he came to Delhi to pursue matters regarding visa for going abroad. I had met him earlier only once in Calcutta, introduced to me by some common friends of Calcutta University. While in Delhi, he dropped in our house one day.

Little did I know, that day was the beginning of a completely new chapter in my life. How the subject of spirituality came up, I do not remember distinctly now. Perhaps the sight of a book that I was reading initiated the discussion.

He started discussing about spirituality and saadhana. He talked about Baba, his Guru – how he went to Baba, with what quest, and then how it led to his deeksha. He inspiringly spoke about the powerful and sublime transforming effects of deeksha and the consequent saadhana. Hours passed; I sat motionless, listening to him.

Right from childhood, he had been seeking Truth, seeking the Absolute, the Origin of the universe, and enquiring into this ‘I’ – what it is and on what does it subsist. He understood after going to Baba that however one may study the Śaastras and think about the Vedantic Truth, the first confident step on the path of seeking consists in deeksha or ‘initiation’ from a Sadguru, a Knower of Truth. His life, he felt, had completely changed after initiation and he had gained an absolutely new insight into spiritual seeking.

Till that time I knew nothing about spirituality and spiritual seeking. The disinterestedness that my heart was loaded with and the helplessness and purposelessness that my mind was engulfed in, could only make me weep before my Lord and pray to Him to relieve me, to show me the path to eternal peace and joy.

As I listened to this friend, about his spiritual journey and experiences, I felt as if a door was opening within me. I could see a ray of light, a glimpse of the sole purpose of life. I felt inspired and enlightened. I asked him whether one attains peace after taking deeksha. He said: “Peace lies in the path of non-expectation, non-attachment.”

He left, leaving me full with the message: Yes, surely there is a path – a path to light and expansion, peace and confidence.

A Vision

I still remember that night – the night following that conversation. In my sleep, I woke up several times seeing a vision. I saw a courtyard, a cot, on which was seated a white bearded man with his legs hanging. I was shedding tears profusely keeping my head on his feet. Is this Baba, I wondered! Most of the night I kept awake with tears rolling down my cheeks. I never knew that tears could be so blissful, bringing deep peace and sublimity. I felt I had a glimpse of an anchor.

I met this friend again before he left for Calcutta. I knew I must tell him everything – about my disinterestedness, my heavy heart. I knew not I had so many questions to ask. He replied them one after another. There was a calm and natural note underlying his words and also a force of Truth and confidence.

Lord Appears in the Form of Guru

My Lord now grew in me a desire to write to Baba.

I wrote my first letter to Baba. Never did I feel that I was writing to a completely unknown person. I was certain that he would accept me, give me shelter and guidance. I placed all my load, my helplessness, at his feet.

In my heart, I used to nurture a beautiful picture of ‘me’ – pure, calm, contented and poised, full of love and compassion for everybody. But, in practice, I used to be a failure mostly. The ‘imperfect me’ used to give pain and disappointment. I wrote to Baba about this too. I requested him to guide me and asked whether deeksha from Guru was indispensable.

Within a few days, came Baba’s reply – a short letter in shaky handwriting. As I read on, the eyes became full, making the words and lines hazy. The letter was full of warmth, love and concern.

Baba wrote: “Maa-go (as we lovingly address our mother in Bengali), take my Sivaashis. I feel concerned reading about the state of your mind. To realize the meaninglessness of this objective world and to have vairaagya is very rare and fortunate. Let your prayers be fulfilled.

“To learn any vidyaa, you know, a teacher is required; but all the doubts about the necessity of a teacher or Guru arise in the case of this supreme vidyaa! Yes, Guru is indispensable. In submitting to a Guru, ‘the superior’ is recognized and ego (ahankaara) is sublimated. Come, if you have time and convenience. I shall hear you and help you as far as possible.”

I felt like running to Baba, but there was no scope. Who would accompany me and where was the permission from parents? My parents thought this to be disorderly – taking interest in spiritual path suddenly and at such an early age. (Later on, of course, they understood the greatness of this path, and now they feel proud that their child has taken to this path exclusively.) When it was overwhelming darkness all around, having spotted the lighthouse, there was no means of going near it physically. But I could write letters, and that I did, because by then my Lord had instilled in me this firm belief that “this is the way and I must hold on to it tightly and sincerely. Salvation lies only in this”.

Baba wrote again in his second letter: “…I feel concerned and attracted reading your emotional letter. But what is to be done, I do not know. As long as there is hindrance, one must think that the time for initiation has not yet come. Parents are also like Guru; they are your well-wishers; why would they hinder your well-being? May be, just now they do not agree. Never should you get irritated. Pray at his feet with all your heart to give you the opportunity. He will set everything right.

“Before the treatment of a patient, the doctor has to go through the case carefully and patiently. Then only the right medicine can be prescribed. This is a great responsibility. Unless I meet you and listen to you, how can I prescribe the medicine for you? At times it may not be effective; it may even be harmful.

“This eagerness for deeksha is also a saadhana. Mentally keep on chanting this mantra: ‘O Lord, give me deeksha!’ From this alone, everything else will come to you by itself. Do not be disappointed; have no fear; the Lord resides within your own heart.”

Even then, I was growing more and more impatient about initiation. He wrote again in response to my third letter: “…I bless you; let your desire be fulfilled. But there is a little delay; do not worry about that at all. Proceed as I have written in my earlier letter; you will find that there are so many things to be experienced within. These are all milestones, not the destination. Slowly, the confirmation of all these you will find in Shaastras. But do not be impatient about this path now. Presently be attentive to your studies and research. Ultimately you will find that ‘all roads lead to Rome’.  …

“Even if I do not live till you attain the goal, some Jnaani – pre-ordained – will tell you the rest and fulfill your desire.”

Now, after Baba left his body and especially after coming to the Ashram, each moment I realize how true his statements were!

Isvara-bhakti and Guru-bhakti

Ever since I started writing to Baba, I developed a strong feeling that Guru is the only person who knows and wishes the supreme well being of a man. He is the sole refuge. He understands best what is good for the disciple and what is not. I also developed a belief that the bond of love between a Guru and his disciple is unique in character.

But never did my mind pick up for introspection the comparison between Isvara-bhakti and Guru-bhakti. There was no scope for conflict either; I used to remain happy with my emotions generated through contemplation of God as well as Guru. I had heard and read that Guru is considered to be God himself. I had chanted so many times – Isvaro Gururaatmeti moortibheda-vibhaagine – that God, Guru and the Self are the same, the difference being only in name and form. But never did it come to my mind that Guru-bhakti is more difficult to attain than Isvara-bhakti.

Only when Swamiji mentioned about it, I had an absolutely new insight. I understood that we may speak about total surrender, but the difficulty comes when the Guru says or does something which is opposed to our own likes and dislikes. I realized that unless these obstacles are overcome, these tests of devotion are undergone, the surrender will never be complete. I realized, deeper and deeper everyday, how much the constant company of the living Lord is essential to rise above likes and dislikes.

Till then I had the feeling of blessedness only in connection with services directly linked to Swamiji – cooking his food, looking after his clothes, etc. But, I had not grown love for the other domestic chores. The whole day used to be spent in looking after the Ashram and I used to consider all work other than looking after Swamiji and listening to his discussions on spiritual topics to be absolutely non-spiritual. While doing various items of domestic work, I used to feel that the mind remained away from the core.

One day Swamiji told me: “In Jnaana saadhana, the saadhaka finds a severe crisis in overcoming the mind’s sense of differentiation, bheda-darsana. He finds ‘spirituality and delight’ in the thought of God, Brahman or Atma, but the world activities take his mind away form God or Soul, and that distraction torments him immensely.

“But, the world is undoubtedly the handiwork of God. Many things in the world may be made and unmade by man, but what about the world itself, including the various creatures and mankind with its supreme status? So, by simple analysis, whenever you think of the world, you must inevitably relate it to God, the Creator. When you see the world, instantly the sight must generate in your mind a feeling of Godliness. With time, this feeling should grow in depth and profundity.

“But, seldom does the saadhaka succeed in this, although he may speak without difficulty that the world is God’s creation. May be, at the fag end of his search or struggle, the world which had always remained God’s own handiwork, appears to him as such. Is this not a wonder, a basic self-defeating position?

“Only when you feel that the world is not godly, the worldly activities become different from Godly activities. Our Chhota Swamiji (Swami Nirupamananda Tirtha, who was at the Ashram then – ed.) spends hours everyday in devotional recitation and worship. People who come to the Ashram will find his performance pleasing and devotional. To them, the routine conduct of Ashram affairs – looking after food, shelter and other necessities of the inmates and visitors – may not appear to be devotional or spiritual. But is there any such difference?

“I say time and again that to enable a few to engage themselves in worship or meditation and enable some others to enjoy the benefit of Satsang, is it not absolutely essential that a few have to be on their toes, engaged in various activities in the kitchen and elsewhere! Where is the demarcation then between spiritual activities and worldly activities of a true saadhaka?

“About vyavahaara (activities), laukika (worldly) and daivika (Godly) are a differentiation which the saadhaka’s mind picks up and suffers from. But, like so many other dvandvas, this also – which is perhaps the ultimate one – the saadhaka has to dissolve and transcend.”

My Lord knew how to transform my outlook and lead me to a higher level where all work became His work. I understood that those activities that seemed to be non-spiritual, are also His. All the details of the Ashram are to be looked after properly because that is His abode. Moreover, if the Ashram is not looked after properly, how will the devotees come and have darśan of their beloved Lord? If there were no residential facilities at the pilgrim centres then what would be the plight of the pilgrims?

Gradually, the mind expanded and started feeling happy to look after everything in the Ashram. I was never given to much of physical strain. I was mostly engaged in studies. Initially the body found it difficult to take up so much of physical strain, foregoing sleep and rest to a large extent. When the hands would not move at all, I used to pray to my ‘little pet’: “I am exhausted; move my hands and give them strength. Give greater strength to the mind.”

Long back, from Kharagpur, I had written to Swamiji to explain to me the meaning of ‘Mat-karmakrit  mat-paramah’ mentioned in the Gita. He did not reply that letter. I knew not that he had his own ways of exposition!

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