After the strange encounter with the ‘Aughad’, mentioned in my previous post, I developed a newfound interest in the esoteric. My reading gradually diversified to include topics ranging from unsolved mysteries, magic tricks, science experiments, ghosts and supernatural to Indian culture and mythologies. One day I even picked up a book on hypnosis, thinking that it will be a cool trick to play on my friends…you know, making them do things… Unfortunately, staring at the candle flame got me nothing but a prescription for eyeglasses 😦 .
It was during that time when I met this amazing friend of mine, who I’ll, henceforth, endearingly, refer to as ‘Chhotu’. One day, Chhotu gave me a book and insisted that I read it. The book was written by some swami and emphasized the importance of having a guru for enlightenment.
“What a sleazy attempt of Gurus to emphasize their own importance!”, I thought.
I tried to warn Chhotu about the perils of being influenced by such people, but without success. So, while the newspapers, television and every other media were busy exposing Gurus and their frauds, this dear friend of mine was enticing me to adore one.
“That’s cute!”, I thought.
However, the fact is: You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink!
I just skimmed the book and returned it, saying it was all skullduggery.
A few months later, I got through the pre-medical examinations and was invited to attend the counseling, to reserve my place in my chosen college. With every passing day I was getting increasingly nervous thinking whether I would get my preferred college or not. So, two days before my counseling, I went to meet Chhotu, hoping that talking with Chhotu would clear out my mind. That day, I found Chhotu accompanied with another person, who also became my friend later, and who, I will hereafter refer to as ‘Lambu’ (again, endearingly) .
Lambu had brought a book for Chhotu, but Chhotu again thrust the book into my hands.
“Another book! What now?”, I thought
It was a different book, but written by the same person whose book Chhotu had given me earlier. It was evident that Lambu was casting a sinister influence over Chhotu .
Lambu explained: “it is a spiritual autobiography of a guru”.
“Thanks! But not interested!”, I said.
Then, immediately afterwards, Chhotu took over the cue and started grilling me with questions like:
“Haven’t you always wondered what becoming enlightened means?”
It’s true, I nodded my head.
“Haven’t you always wondered what happens between starting a ‘sadhna’ and getting enlightened?”
I nodded my head in affirmation again, now aware that I was being led into a trap.
“Haven’t you always wondered how they know that they have become ‘enlightened’?”
“Ok, Ok, I’ll read the book”, I promised.
After a little chit-chat I went back home and although I didn’t show (or, so I thought), I had indeed become curious about that book. So, as soon as I was free, I started flipping through it’s pages. It was a soft cover, reasonably thick book, on which Lambu had neatly put a cover of brown paper. The book also had some pictures of that Guru and also those of that Guru’s Guru (Gurus generally tend to have a lineage).
“Not a very presentable example of Guru”, I thought. I had seen depictions of Buddha, Christ and Guru Nanak, along with pictures of Vivekanand, and based on those, my mental picture of a Guru was that of someone with an aura of heavenly bliss, with eyes overflowing with Godly grace and with a smile that warms the cockles of my heart. Nada! Nothing of that sort was evident in the photographs. The only consolation was that even Sai Baba of Shirdi and Swami Ram Krishna Paramhansa (a few of the genuine saints), also didn’t fit my mental imagery of a Guru. Nevertheless, I was in no hurry to surrender my logic.
The book was entertaining I must say, “but you don’t read a spiritual scripture for entertainment; they are also meant to tell the truth”, I thought.
When I returned the book, the very next day, Chhotu wouldn’t believe that I had actually read it. So, I had to convince Chhotu by describing some of the incidents from the book. Following which, there was again this intimidating question – “what do you think about the book?”
“Honestly, the book was entertaining and informative, but all those spiritual experiences could have been one’s imagination; maybe the entire book was a fiction after all”, I said, almost too soon. I could clearly see the disappointment on Chhotu’s face and I immediately repented my rashness.
We talked for about an hour and then I left. As I dragged my feet into my house, I was already feeling bad for hurting Chhotu’s feelings. The feeling of guilt was further worsened by the growing anxiety for the next day’s events. I struggled with my thoughts and subsequently decided to try meditating – this time using a technique recommended in that book, called ‘Naam-Jap’ (repeating the divine name). Naam-Jap is a highly respected practice in Bhakti yoga and many saints are said to have attained divinity repeating a divine name.
You see, Words have immense power. People can laugh away an incessant ranting of a person if they don’t understand the meaning of his words, even if, by the looks of that person, they can guess that he is hurling abuses. But if someone were to explain those same people, that the person is calling them ‘filthy mo***f**rs’ they would probably feel like punching him in the face. There are times when, even if the words are not directed specifically towards you, you can still feel their effect. I’m talking about a scenario where you’re trapped in an elevator, with a couple who simply cannot finish a sentence without uttering – ‘f**k’. You don’t feel very good then, do you? When such is the power of words, imagine what would happen if you concentrate on a word that bears a divine meaning for you – like Rama, Krishna, Christ, Guru Nanak, or Sai Baba.
“It’s decided”, I thought. Even if I don’t believe in that Guru, I do relate with the practice of ‘Naam-Jap’, which that Guru recommends. Furthermore, the choice of name for ‘Naam-Jap’ was also an easy one. It had to be Lord Hanuman. So, that night, before having dinner, I decided to meditate on the name ‘Hanuman’.
Interestingly, that book also mentioned that if you can manage to sit in a ‘Padmasan’ (the Lotus posture), continuously for 3 hours, you’ll be able to master the posture. I tried to convince myself that it wouldn’t be particularly difficult for me, considering, I had been practicing Yoga in school (we had to necessarily attend the yoga class, every Saturday 😦 ). However, deep inside, I knew – sitting in a Padmasan for even an hour is a long shot for me. Nevertheless, I closed the door of my room, put on a cassette of nature music, sat down in a Padmasan, closed my eyes, and started chanting in my mind – “jai-Hanuman-jai-jai-Hanuman-jai-Hanuman-jai-jai-Hanuman”.
At that time, I was hoping that, by Chanting Lord Hanuman’s name and mastering the lotus posture, I would probably get some kind of a spiritual power or a divine blessing that would mysteriously grant me my coveted place in a medical college. I didn’t, however, have the slightest idea that I was about to get much more than I bargained for.
This was indeed going to be the turning point of my life!
No, I couldn’t master the Padmasan, nor acquire a spiritual power, but I received something else – something that was exceedingly more valuable and which jump started my spiritual journey, that very night!
I’ll be writing about that experience in my next post.
Take care and God bless!
PS – please don’t ask me the name of that book…not just yet!