• Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

    The Words of My Master

    by Dev Kar

    Searching for my Guru

    God’s Providence, like the blue sky, is forever above us all. And so, after searching for two decades, it was Divine Providence that led me to my Guru, Sri Swami Rama. It all started after I read Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi in the late 1960s. That book inspired me to join the Self Realization Fellowship (SRF) program of the Yogoda Satsang Society founded by Yogananda. However, my search for a living Guru continued because SRF’s distance learning material could not fulfill my yearning for direct spiritual guidance.

    Then in the mid-1980s, I had the good fortune to visit Sri Satya Sai Baba’s ashram in Puttaparathi, India. It must have been his Divine will that enabled me to visit him. During my first visit, I was struck by Baba’s infinite compassion for humanity which was reflected on his face. I was seated perhaps less than ten feet from where he stopped to bless a devotee with vibhuti (sacred ash). He had rolled up his sleeves and was churning the air creating fragrant vibhuti which poured from his fingertips on to the outstretched palms of the devotee. My second visit to Baba’s ashram was also memorable. I had written a letter to Baba in my hotel room hoping to hand it to him the next morning at darshan time. Actually, there was only a slim chance of doing so given the thousands of devotees seated row upon row for Baba’s darshan and the fact that he did not accept letters from everyone.

    I was seated on the third or fourth row behind one of the many aisles that Baba could have chosen to go around the congregation that day. As fate would have it, he turned to walk by our aisle. Seized by some strange force, I broke darshan rules by standing up and stepping across the rows to hand Baba the letter. He accepted it and as I stood in his presence palms together in deep reverence, time stood still. His gaze penetrated my soul. I believe Baba guided me to Guruji since he did not initiate devotees.

    Around summer 1987, I started chanting every morning a chapter from the Chandi extolling the virtues of the Divine Mother. Given my weak Sanskrit, it was a challenge to memorize the verses and recite them with the correct pronunciation. Shortly thereafter, I started reading several books written by Swamiji. The events that followed are recounted below based mostly on my journal entries supplemented by my recollections regarding minor details.

    The early years

    In April 1988, my wife and I along with our son Anshuman and daughter Prianka (then age eight and five) drove to Honesdale hoping to meet Swamiji. It was a memorable day when our heartfelt desires were granted and we were able to meet him. Swamiji blessed us all. I still vividly remember him with his arms around my children, telling my daughter Prianka in jest “You stay with me”. Without any hesitation, she said “No, I want my mommy!” Swamiji laughed and said “OK”.  He had a special corner for children.

    I asked Swamiji whether I should continue with the practice of kriya yoga as taught by the SRF or seek initiation directly from him. He smiled and said “It is up to you” to which I said “Swamiji, I need a living Guru to guide me.” He nodded and said “I will write to you and tell you when to come for initiation”. I was floating on cloud nine.

    A few days after I reached home, his letter dated May 18, 1988, arrived asking me to come to Honesdale. My wife and I left for the Institute later that month. The morning after our arrival, we joined a kirtan group at the Institute which he was leading. Seeing me Swamiji said “Where were you? I was looking for you” (see The River of Crocodiles: Ahymsin newsletter September 2017). I believe that preparatory practices, perhaps including those from lifetimes past, created the necessary conditions to meet Swamiji and obtain his initiation. Verily, as the shastras say, when the disciple is ready, the Guru appears.

    The time for my initiation was fixed at 9:00 am on Monday, May 30, but it was advanced to 7:00 am. I had brought some fruits and flowers as offerings to Swamiji, but he said, pointing to a table, “Keep it there. It’s alright. You are my flower.” I later learned that Swamiji discouraged the plucking of flowers. Later, just prior to my initiation, he asked “Which God do you like?” I said, with great pride “Ma Durga!”

    With infinite compassion, as if not wanting to disappoint, Swamiji said “Your Ma Durga does not look like how you see Her in pictures and posters. She is a ‘jyoti’, a flame burning within you. You are not to do any rituals, but only manas puja (mental worship).” He then chanted the following sloka in Sanskrit:

    “Sivah saktya yukto yadi bhavati saktah prabhavitum
    na cadevam devo na khalu kusalah spanditumapi.....”

    explaining that “Siva and Sakti are not two, but one. If you remove ‘eekar’ (a letter in Sanskrit) from Siva, it becomes ‘Sav’ or dead! Siva cannot move without Shakti. There is a book that is called Saundarya Lahiri. You must study that book.” (I later came to know that Guruji had chanted part of Verse I of the Saundarya Lahiri).

    I was then initiated into the Himalayan Tradition or Parampara. Guruji instructed me on the preparation for meditation and adopting the correct posture. He then explained the meaning of my mantra and said “Don’t leave this (mantra). Fifty percent of the effort (towards self-realization) is yours and fifty percent is mine. The practice of meditation must be regular at a fixed time in a quiet corner of your house. Our relationship is very high and pure. I will always love you and guide you. You can come and visit me whenever I am in Chicago or Honesdale or anywhere else.”

    I felt as if the long-lost love of a thousand mothers had come together for one majestic moment.

    Sometime after my initiation, when I asked Guruji whether I will ever be cured of my long-standing psoriatic arthritis, he said in Hindi “Nehi, shant ho sakta hai” meaning “No, but it can be pacified”. Over time, my worries related to this condition receded. I reposed in the firm conviction that Guruji will look after me for he said so. His words were the new Gita for me.

    However, I had to pay my karmic debts and battle TB in 2016/17. I had contracted TB at some point in the past which remained latent and of which I was unaware. Latent TB became active when, in an effort to control psoriatic arthritis, the biologic suppressed my immune system (see The River of Crocodiles). Apart from this bump on the road, psoriatic arthritis has been well-controlled since I started treatment with a biologic in 2004.

    During another visit to the Institute to see him in late May, 1990, he looked at me and muttered to himself in Hindi: “Abhi Tak Mast May Nehi Aya”, meaning “He has not come into carefree joy yet”. That remark still rings in my ears. Far from being disheartened at my lack of progress, I was actually elated because I took Guruji’s observation to mean that if I continued my practices, I had the potential to attain “mast” or causeless joy. The qualifier “causeless” means that the joy does not come from the things of this world such as making money, getting a big promotion, or winning the lottery. His remark that day shall continue to motivate me on the spiritual path for the rest of my life.

    On that visit, I mentioned to him that the doctor had prescribed a potent skin ointment to control the discomfort and spread of psoriasis patches. Guruji said “Do not use that ointment because if you do, the patches will start to appear on your face!” I did not say anything. Guruji then instructed me on a higher technique of meditation than the one I was supposed to have received. This one aimed at purifying the various chakras and establishing the mantra more firmly in the conscious and subconscious mind. Imparting the technique and the mantra, Guruji said “Do not identify yourself with the mind and the things of this world. Your essential nature is existence, consciousness, bliss—Sat, Chit, Ananda. You are not the self but Atman, which is part of the Paratman, the Eternal Self.”

    Later, when I was back at home, I thought since the dermatologist prescribed this medicine, it should be alright. After all, Guruji was not a dermatologist! How could he know more about the side effects of this medicine than the dermatologist? So, I continued to use it as prescribed. Sure enough, after a few weeks of using it, psoriasis patches started to appear on my face! I was terrified and depressed and immediately stopped using the medicine with a deep apology and prayer to Guruji. Mercifully, the facial patches slowly cleared in a few weeks. Again, I was flabbergasted by Guruji’s power of words and his ability to predict events.

    I meet Guruji with my “elder brother”

    The next highlight of my visit to see Guruji was on June 4, 1993. My late friend, Subalda, whom I looked upon as my elder brother, had accompanied me on that trip to the Institute. When we arrived there on the evening of June 4th, Swamiji had already finished playing tennis and was sitting on the lawn with some disciples and visitors surrounding him. Even though he was engaged, he did not fail to welcome me and said “When did you come?” I felt as if I had just come home. I said, “We came only this afternoon.” He then asked when I was leaving, and I said, “We plan to leave tomorrow, Guruji.” After we touched his feet, we sat on the grass listening to him speak and watching him play with children. Before he retired to his quarters, he gave us some cookies and told us that he would meet with us tomorrow.

    At 9:30 am the next morning, Subalda and I were waiting to see Guruji when I was called in. I thought he will see us separately. When I entered his room, he said in Hindi “Did you come alone?” I said “No, Guruji, my friend came with me.” To which he said “Bulao na”, in Hindi meaning “Why don’t you call him?” So, I went to find Subalda. After we entered his room, I said, by way of introduction, “Guruji, Subalda is my very good friend, and I treat him like my elder brother. He is a very good astrologer.”  Guruji did not say anything, but his facial expression said “Yes, I already know.” (And I thought “Guruji, what can I tell you? You know everything!”).

    Subalda said “Swamiji, may I do your kundali (horoscope)? I have been studying astrology for the past 43 years”. Guruji smiled and said “OK, go ahead”. Subalda then asked Guruji his birthday and his “lagna”. According to Vedic astrology, a person’s lagna is determined by that point of the zodiacal belt that coincides with the position of the eastern horizon at the time and place of birth. Guruji said the date of birth was October 25, 1923, on kumbh lagna. He then asked Subalda where in Calcutta he was from noting that he had spent some years there and went to school in Shantineketan. I did not know this and was surprised. Then Guruji said that he was raised by the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee family. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was the son of Sri Asutosh Mukherjee, an illustrious figure of Bengal known to most Bengalis.    

    We then started talking about the planned Himalayan Institute Hospital in Jolly Grant, near Dehra Dun, India. Guruji said he will work hard till his last breath to complete the project. It will be the largest hospital in Asia which will serve the poor and those in the surrounding hinterlands. The hospital will cost around $680 million. I was astonished and asked Guruji where all that money will come from? Guruji said “If your World Bank can lend money, don’t you think that God’s bank can give money too?” We were amazed by such confidence which could only have come from a direct connection to the Divine. Guruji was simply carrying out the Divine will. Many years later, I read that he said “When I wanted things they never came to me. But the day I determined I didn’t want them, I began getting them.”

    I then asked Guruji about the significance of an experience I had during meditation. I said “Guruji, recently while meditating I saw a searing white light that was so bright that it frightened me. I felt as if I was going to lose myself, my identity. I wonder what it was.” Guruji said “It’s nothing. When the mind settles, it happens.” (I told myself, “Don’t be under the delusion that it is an indication of spiritual progress. There is nothing there to hanker for. Move on.”)

    Just before taking his leave, after we touched Guruji’s feet in pranam, he said to Subalda “There is something higher than astrology.” I shall always remember this. Later, when we were back in our room, Subalda said “When I touched Swamiji’s feet, it was as cold as stone!” (Mysterious are your ways Guruji! We shall never know them.)

    From here to eternity

    Apart from my last meeting with Guruji in 1995, about which I wrote in The River of Crocodiles, I recollect one other meeting with him the previous year. I had returned from Cancun, Mexico where I had gone on a vacation with my family. While standing close to the beach with the water up to my chest and my ten-year old daughter swimming nearby, the floor beneath my feet suddenly gave way and I sank like a rock. I did not know swimming and was rapidly taking in water. Absolute panic gripped me as I fought to save myself from drowning. Although by then I was meditating for about six years, the force of self-preservation was so strong that it swamped any chance of the mantra coming to the fore and rescuing me. It became clear to me that any notion of spiritual progress was a delusion. The path to self-realization seemed to stretch from here to eternity.

    It was only Guruji’s grace and protection that saved me. When I recounted my ordeal to Guruji and thanked him profusely for saving me, he simply said “The Divine Mother saved you” although his eyes said “I knew about this incident”. He was the very epitome of humility. Now that Guruji is no longer on the physical plane, he continues to spread across every moment of my life like a rainbow that spreads across the sky in splendor.

    Editor’s Note:

    Four lectures by Swami Rama on Saundaryalahari, the Wave of Beauty, can be seen on YouTube



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