Volume 6 - Issue 09
SEPTEMBER - 2008
Learning Pranava from the Primordial One Himself
A few years after Swami started residing in Prasanthi Nilayam (moving from the Old Mandir that was located in the Puttaparthi village), He introduced the practice of chanting “Om” at the ashram. He announced that all the devotees should assemble in the Bhajan Hall and they would be taught the correct method of chanting. Thus, began these “Omkara sessions”, every morning, at 3.30 a.m., the brahma mahurtha (divinely auspicious) hours. (Apparently later, Swami changed the time of these sessions).
A few days after the practice began, He came to our room. My younger sister had been allotted a cottage, but Swami refused to allot one to me! In any case, He entered the room and asked both of us to sit on the floor. He squatted on the floor as well, facing the two of us. Then, He asked, “Do you know the purpose of chanting omkara? I shall tell you the meaning of omkara and also teach you the proper way to chant it. It must be done correctly!”
He went on to explain the power of the omkara and said that it purifies the antahkarana – manas, buddhi, chitta and ahamkara (mind, intellect, awareness and ego). He further said that it purifies all the koshas or sheaths that the jeevaatma (individual) is encased in (annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya and aanandamaya – that is, food, life-force, mind, wisdom and bliss). “Through such purification”, He said, “Omkara takes one closer to one’s own divinity”.
And then He would chant it for us and that we used to repeat after Him in precisely the same way. There were no chairs those days for Swami! He just sat on the bare floor and chanted. We followed after Him and made an earnest attempt to learn. After a few days, He visited us again and said, “I have come to see how well you have learned! Let me see - chant omkara!” He listened to our chanting and said it was satisfactory. And then instructed us to chant it everyday.
A few days later, when we happened to be in the presence of Swami, we asked Him a question: “Swami, we don’t have a mantra. We hear that chanting a mantra is very important in the spiritual path. Will you give us upadesha and initiate us to a mantra?” He said, “No! I don’t give mantras.”
In hindsight, Swami made it clear at the time that He is pure advaita (non-dualistic) and that is what Omkara represents, although we didn’t comprehend the true purport of His statements. Omkara verily means the Parabrahma, the One beyond name and form, as explained in the Bhagavad Gita. At that time, neither had we read this sacred scripture, nor did we have any concept of what it stood for. Swami knew we were not yet ready for an in-depth explanation. Therefore, He merely told us to chant omkara and said it was good for us.
At that time, we asked him with dismay: “Swami, how will we get our mantra then?” He told us to pray to God for a mantra and assured us that we shall receive it. “But you should persevere,” He said, “It will come to you at the right time. Until then, keep praying.”
But we persisted with our requests. “Until we get the mantra what should we chant?” He said, “Each of you would have an ishtadevata - a specific form that you like. I will not prescribe to you what form to choose, but you select one. If you like Rama, then chant ‘Om Sri Rama’; if you like Krishna, chant ‘Om Sri Krishna’. Remember that you have two Gurus – one is your ishtadevata (God) and the other is the Guru who gives Upadesha (spiritual instruction).” Then, He continued in a seemingly lighter vein, “If you like My name, you may chant that as well.”
Next, He asked me which form did I like. I confessed that I liked Krishna as I relate more easily to Krishna than to Rama; the way He moved among His people, His love, and so on appealed to me. Rama was too austere, too strict about everything! Swami said that it was alright since the choice was up to me and it made no difference. This instruction was given by Swami to all four of us, my sisters and me. Several months after this incident, each one of us received a mantra in our dreams according to our prarabda (merit) or liking.
I did not receive the mantropadesha in Puttaparthi; I got it instead in Nagpur, the place where I lived at that time. Upon receiving the mantra, I arrived at Puttaparthi and Swami came to our room very shortly after that. I told Him that I received the mantra. He said, “That is very good. Tell me, what mantra did you receive?” When I revealed to Him, He warned me that one is not supposed to tell this to all and sundry. He, however, said that He is my Guru and so it was alright. He reminded me that when I visited Him the very first time, He had asked me to perform Paada pooja (worshipping His feet), and explained to me that this was the reason why He had asked me to perform the pooja then. We had not even realised that He was our Guru!
Still, there was something that bothered me. I blurted out: “Swami, I received Rama mantra, however, my ishtadevata (chosen deity) is Krishna! Do you think this is appropriate?” He said, “Your question indicates that you have not understood the fact that Rama and Krishna are the same. Why do you see a difference? All forms are one. For some reason, you have received the Rama mantra. Accept it with reverence. If you continue to perceive a difference in forms, the efficacy of the mantra will diminish. Let Rama be your mantra, Krishna be your ishtadevata, but chant it without being conscious of a difference. Then, you will surely reach that state of consciousness. You are fortunate to have received such a good mantra.” I have been chanting the mantra I received since that day.
Divine Invitation to Kodai Kanal
During those days, Swami would ask us to visit Him mostly during the summer; He would say that since the crowd would be small, the place would be quieter and He would be able to spend a lot of time with us. So, one summer after the above incident, I arrived at Puttaparthi with my younger sister who is a brahmacharini (celibate), my 9 year old daughter and my 4 year old niece. When we arrived, Swami was at Puttaparthi. However, after a few days, unexpectedly He left Puttaparthi by car, without informing us.
We went to uncle Kasturi and asked him about Swami’s destination and expected return date. He told us that Swami had gone to Kodai Kanal. Disappointed, we asked uncle Kasturi, “What is happening? We have come all the way to Puttaparthi with the sole purpose of spending time with Swami. But He has left us high and dry, not permitting us to leave or letting us know when He would return. What shall we do?” Uncle Kasturi asked us to write a letter to Him. “Tell Him that you cannot leave Puttaparthi without His permission. He will give the date when you should return - that is the etiquette you must follow,” he said.
Thus, we wrote a letter to Swami at the address provided by uncle Kasturi. The content of the letter was: “Swami, we came here for Your sake. But you have left us here stranded. What are we supposed to do? Without Your presence here, there is no purpose in our staying at Puttaparthi. Shall we go back? What would you like us to do?” Then, we received a telegram from Swami. It simply read: “Proceed to Kodai Kanal and stay with me.”
We were happy! We went to Chennai and contacted a lady at Kodai Kanal who was a dear friend of ours for accommodation. She was a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna and owned two bungalows there. So, Kamala Sarathi’s (my sister) daughter and two more friends joined us. We were now a team of five adults and children and we had managed to organise a bungalow through my friend for a couple of months. The only problem was that this place was very far from Swami’s residence. But then it was the only bungalow available at that time.
On the very first day of our arrival in Kodai Kanal, the five of us, with two children, took the long walk up the hill to Swami’s living quarters, which was the beautiful bungalow of Mr. Venkatamuni. As we neared Susheelamma’s (Mrs. Venkatamuni) house, to our utter dismay, we saw Swami driving away in a car! He had two or three people with Him; Mr. Raja Reddy was driving and Swami sat next to him, while a couple of gentlemen were in the back seat of the car.
Swami saw us coming, stopped the car and called out: “Rani amma, come here. Don’t get worried. I am not leaving Kodai Kanal and going away somewhere else. Stay here. I will return after a couple of days. A very dear devotee of mine is seriously ill. He wants My darshan”. So, He asked to stay in Kodai Kanal until He returned and go to Susheelamma’s house for lunch everyday. So, after He returned, we used to have breakfast and dinner outside but spend almost the entire day with Swami at Susheelamma’s place. Lunch and tea were provided to us.
Lessons on Moksha
One of these days, He called us into the room and said, “There are three stages on the spiritual path. You have crossed two stages. The third one is very difficult to cross. The first two stages are like walking; they are easy. The third stage however calls for a leap – very few can do that and that’s where people hesitate.”
Now, after reading Bhagavad Gita, I have understood that the third stage Swami meant was moksha (liberation). Moksha is very difficult to achieve, one must be completely rid of ego, exist at all times in divine awareness and no trace of worldly desires must cloud the mind such as artha (wish for wealth) and kama (or desires). This is the last stage which is the state of liberation from the mind. Mind is the one that makes you think you are the body. It tells you that you are someone’s son, the other person’s brother and so on.
Swami continued, “The last stage is very difficult to reach. But you must reach it. The tests that will come your way will be difficult. You must go inward and seek the answer. Swami will tell you how to handle any situation. Eschew your ego.”
This entire upadesh (instruction) was about how we must root out feelings of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ completely. That is why He didn’t give me living quarters at Puttaparthi; He said, "You are working for ‘thou’ and ‘thine’. Why should I give you a room? It will bring you down to the level of ‘I’ and ‘Mine’ if I do. You are all scared to make the last leap and balk; don’t do that. Stagnant water begins to emit foul odour. You must flow like the river, which is pure. Face the trials and tribulations because they are tests that must be passed – Baba is putting you through an examination and depending on your performance, you’ll pass or fail. Don’t be scared, I am with you. Take one step at a time. Give up more and more – if someone hurts you, keep your composure. Do not react. If someone is pompous, keep calm and composed. You react because of your limited ego. Take the leap and I will help you. Do not stop!”
Husband’s Career – Taken Care by the Lord
Before this visit, during an earlier conversation with Swami about my husband, I had told him, “Swami, my husband is passing through a bad phase. He is very depressed because he has been overlooked for a promotion he deserved.” My husband should have been promoted to the post of the director of health services, but the chief minister did not want the promotion to happen for political reasons. The chief minister installed his nephew in the position in spite of him being junior to my husband professionally.
Now, my husband had to report to him which drove him very close to the decision of even resigning the post. All this transpired when I was in Delhi to help my sister with her delivery. He was alone, was very agitated, and had a strong urge to go to Puttaparthi and see Swami. He thought nobody could give him solace and guide him, except Swami.
But he did not inform me that he was going to Puttaparthi. He quietly arrived at the ashram from Indore and went to uncle Kasturi. He introduced himself as my husband and requested him for an opportunity to see Baba. Mr. Kasturi said, “Baba is not here! You cannot see Him; you will have to go back”. My husband was very disappointed and decided to return to Indore.
In a little while, Baba arrived in the car! He went straight to his room, sent for Mr. Kasturi and said “Rani Maa’s husband, Subramanya, is here, is he not? Send him upstairs immediately!” My husband went to Swami and poured his heart out. He also told Swami that he had kept this matter as well as his visit to Puttaparthi a secret from me. Swami told him, “Don’t worry about Rani Maa! She is mine. I will take care of her.” My husband said he would like to resign after this experience at work. Swami said, “No. You cannot do that. Stay back and I will help you. It will take time, but leave everything to me.” After that my husband spent some time with uncle Kasturi and returned very consoled.
So, this had happened sometime back, and now in Kodai Kanal Swami called me alone into the room one day and spoke about this issue. He said, “I have written a letter to Subramanyam.” He had dictated it to Mr. Raja Reddy. It was written in English in nice handwriting. He handed me the letter and asked me to read it. It was about how one should constantly observe dharma (righteousness) and leave the rest to Swami. It was 3-4 pages long with a lot of spiritual advice. Oftentimes, people engage in dharma partly and indulge partly in adharma (unrighteousness).
In the letter, Swami said, “Everything will happen at the right time. You must adhere to dharma and leave everything else to Me.” After I read the letter, He asked me, “Rani Maa, is the letter alright?” I said, “Swami, why this question? Who am I to comment on a letter written by You?” He said, “No, you must know what I have said to your husband, and you must feel happy that I have provided the right advice.” I said, “Swami, since you have written it, it must be so. Who am I to remark anything on it?”
Swami then mailed that letter. After a few years, my husband appealed to the health secretary of the government that injustice had been done to him. The IAS officer, Mr. Varadan, who was the secretary to the Madhya Pradesh state government, was a dear friend of ours. He took up the case and fought for the cause of justice with the government. Mr. Varadan’s initiative prompted the chief minister and the health minister to create the post of an additional director of health services, unheard of in the history of state, to correct the wrong that had been done and promote my husband to this post. Notice Baba’s miracle!
A few months after this incident, a state level meeting for health services was organised at Indore to be chaired by the Director, who was the chief minister’s nephew. All the doctors and the directors representing various districts of Madhya Pradesh were to attend. When the meeting began, after having spoken a few sentences, the Director collapsed on the stage. My husband, who sat next to him, caught him as he fell. He was rushed to the hospital but did not survive. Subsequently, my husband was designated as the Director and the temporary post of the Additional Director was abolished. This illustrates what Swami said, “Do dharma and the results will come at the right time. Leave that to Me.”
(To be continued…)
Vol 6 Issue 09 - SEPTEMBER 2008
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