If Truth Be Told: A Monk's Memoir (18 page)

BOOK: If Truth Be Told: A Monk's Memoir
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After a long pause, she said, ‘Your sadhana is complete, my son. You already have everything; you need not torture yourself any longer.'
I listened to her intently. She had a magnetic energy about her, an extraordinary pull. She also predicted the tantric sadhanas I would do in the future, both vamachara and dakshinachara.

‘Vamachara? I have no such plan, Mother.'

’You will have to do lata sadhan, mahacheen kram, kaulik sadhana and mahamudra.’

She laughed, for she had just named sadhanas that required a female consort.

'But I'm a renunciant!'

'So?'

'How can I practise the left-handed path of tantra?'

She started laughing again.

'Why not? You think the success in your first sadhana was a coincidence?' She was referring to the tantric sadhana of Kali I had done with a woman a few years ago. I was startled and wondered how she could have known this.

'Why, wasn't your guru a tantrik?' she continued. 'Besides, the differentiation between a sanyasi and a tantrik that you speak of, is merely bookish. Your definition will change the day you experience your own truth. Next year, you'll have the vision of the Goddess, and you will receive your highest tantric initiation. You will know the next step automatically.'
'But what if I decide I won't do left-handed sadhanas in the future?'
'It's written in the book of fate,' she said. 'Anyway, you should do what you've come here to do. Many esoteric sciences have disappeared, and you have to bring them to life. You renounced this world to be free, now why are you fettering yourself?'

I bowed before her. 'Swami will do whatever Mother Divine wants him to do,' I said.

On 9 August, I retreated into my cave. It was freezing because the stones on the walls and floor were not only damp but covered by tarp, so they retained their coldness and moisture. There was no sunlight in the cave, and I didn’t have any sewn cloth to cover myself with. Our body has a natural mechanism of maintaining heat. But, for this mechanism to work effectively, the body ought to be covered. Fabric that is stitched helps retain body heat. I wasn’t wearing any such clothes as I was still adhering to Baba's instruction of wearing loose robes. He permitted knitted materials, although I couldn’t see the rationale behind this. Luckily, I had bought a flimsy shawl on my first day in Badrinath, which would prove rather handy while I lived in the cave.

On the second day there, I felt low on oxygen. I used my inhaler but it didn’t help. In the afternoon, I went down to the market and got portable oxygen cylinders. Since it was late by the time I was done, I spent the night there and came back to the cave the next day. This would be the only occasion I would leave the cave in the two months I lived there.

My intense meditation routine started two days later. I meditated almost all the time except between noon and 4 p.m. During this time, I kept my door open. I started eating one meal a day, at about 11 a.m.; it consisted of thin wheat noodles boiled in milk. There was someone from the village who used to keep a bottle of milk outside my cave every morning.

Soon, I established a routine for myself. Each day, I bathed outside during or before sunrise, and the water was freezing. But whether I had to bathe with icy water or rub snow into my skin, I wasn’t bothered. For that matter, what I ate, or if I ate at all, wasn’t a concern any longer. My time at Baba’s ashram had made me quite indifferent to such situations.

I would spend forty-five minutes daily in chores like cooking, washing dishes and fetching water from a nearby river. I always felt such tasks were a waste of time because they took me away from my sadhana. One day, I thought it would be nice if I had someone, a few hundred metres away, to do these things for me. I could eat my meal at his place, and focus on my meditation the rest of the time.

As the days went by, the locals as well as the pilgrims visiting Badrinath heard about me, and began visiting my cave to pay their respects. I was happy during the days of torrential rains because no one could visit me then. On sunny days, however, I had visitors every  afternoon. I wasn’t fond of these interactions, so I began thinking of inhabiting a more remote place for my meditation.

Even though I had never been to Odisha, an image of Jagannath Puri came into my mind. I longed to meditate by the sea, and thought Puri would be the best place to do so. I envisaged meditating and living on an isolated seashore; it sounded idyllic. The next afternoon, a voice within instructed me to go outside. I obeyed, and spotted a man standing in the distance. I waved at him and went back into the cave without waiting for him. I had done what the voice had asked me to do, and now it was up to God to take it forward. A few minutes later, a man arrived at the cave. He was wearing white, which indicates that he had been initiated as a brahmachari, a celibate monk, by his guru. He told me there were three other friends with him, but they were waiting a little distance away.

'You are from Odisha,' I said to him as soon as he sat down.

He looked taken aback and asked how I knew.

'Just like that,' I said.

'Who's Krishna Das?' I asked after a long pause.

'Why, he's my brother. How do you know his name, Swamiji?'

'Just like that,' I said.

'No, Swamiji, no one can tell names just like that. I want to be in your service.'

I then shared with him my desire of doing sadhana by the sea. We agreed that after my stint in the cave, I would meet him in Jagannath Puri. His name was Pradeep Brahmachari, and he gave me his brother’s phone number. Like me, Pradeep did not have a phone. It was already 4 p.m. and I had to close the door of my cave, so I asked him to leave.

 

 

The two months in the cave were unlike any other place I had ever lived in. Practically, there were many challenges. It was extremely cold, and any surface I touched was icy. Rats were a nuisance; it didn’t help that I lay just 4 cm above the ground. One of the side effects of meditation is that your sleep becomes light. This is because you learn to maintain a state of consciousness, of awareness. So, as the rats scuttled about, they would wake me up. Yet, all this was a small price to pay for living in the Himalayas.

Meditation was almost effortless in this spiritually charged land. Thoughts didn't arise as much, and the mind was stable and serene. Moments of deep absorption would arise naturally. In addition to my own sadhana, I did what Bhairavi Ma had told me and, much to my own surprise, I did hear celestial music multiple times, exactly as she had predicted. It reaffirmed my faith in the existence of another dimension. Many a time, at night, during the day, at dawn, at dusk, I specifically stepped outside to see if it was just the blowing wind that produced this sound; however, that was not the case. I could hear it clearly both inside and outside.

On the night of 23 September, a full-moon night, I completed my forty-day sadhana. Bhairavi Ma had instructed me to do perform a yajna on this night. All mantra sadhanas require a fire offering at the end to mark the completion of the sadhana. This is done to express gratitude to all the seen and unseen forces, to the five elements, and to every entity in creation.

 

I stepped outside the cave after finishing my evening meditation.  A clear sky with no clouds, like a quiet mind with no thoughts, gave the impression of a bejewelled parasol adorned with stars. Due to the torrential rains, ceaseless like human desires, the rivers were full and the surroundings lush and green. Under the soft moonlight, the waterfalls—sheets of molten silver—dropped down to the ground in complete surrender, and the earth received them with tremendous love, much like a true devotee who drops his ego and merges with the Guru. The stars felt so close that you could extend your arm and touch them. Of course, this was an illusion the way the pleasures of the world were. The full moon had lit up the Himalayas softly. It shone quietly in the star-crowded sky, at peace with itself, just like a self-realized person.

While I was absorbed in my meagre attempt to capture in my mind the splendour and grandeur of everything around me, I heard wild dogs barking. There was possibly a snow leopard or tiger nearby, and an instinctive fear sprang up in me. Half a minute or so must have passed before I reminded myself that if the death of the body was destined at that moment, it would not require a tiger to kill. Suddenly, the Himalayas were luminous again, their beauty restored.

Pleased at the favourable weather conditions, I created a little firepit outside the cave to start the yajna. The dogs had gone quiet, and silence prevailed now—a deafening silence. With my mind quiet and consciousness channelized, I spread my mat on the ground and placed the yajna materials beside it. The chill in the air had penetrated my flimsy shawl; other than that, I wore just a loincloth. I had blankets in the cave but I chose to continue with what I had on. I sat down.

After performing the purificatory rituals, I started chanting the Vedic hymns as part of the initial invocation required for the yajna. I felt deeply in touch with my soul as I chanted mantras and poured oblations into the fire. With each oblation, the fire would rise a little. This was probably due to the camphor and other materials in the offering; to me, however, lost in my own world, it felt as if Agni was accepting every single offering I gave.

After completing the yajna, I had to go down to the river. Walking from the cave to the river was a tricky job as the path had innumerable stones of various sizes lying about, and the grass was slippery with dew. The moonlight was a poor substitute for a decent flashlight, and my little torch was less than useful. Anyway, I walked the distance of about 300 metres safely.

After performing ablutions by the river, I stayed there for sometime, allowing myself to be one with the supernal sound of the river that roared past in the quiet mountains. Eventually, I made my way back to the cave and sat outside for a while longer. My body was numb and cold, my mind quiet and peaceful and my consciousness flowed like the river I had just seen. An insight began to emerge on the horizon of my mind: beauty does not lie in the eyes of the beholder but in the
mind
of the perceiver. The cleaner the mind, the greater the beauty; the quieter the mind, the more enduring the experience. An empty mind is not a devil’s workshop; on the contrary, a passionate mind is, because a mind full of passions is often restless. An empty mind is but a divine blessing, for it is free of thoughts—a rare but coveted state for any yogi. If the mind was an ocean, a passionate mind would be tidal while an empty mind would be a calm ocean.

I stepped into my cave, which felt cosy after the extreme chill outdoors. It had got very late and I had to get up just a few hours later. I lay down on the wooden plank to protect myself from seepage as well as the damp, cold floor of stones, and covered my body with blankets. Mice, like any other night, came that night too. They must have grazed me as they ran past, and made noises that would transform the small cave into a large playground. But I slept unaware and unaffected. Everything was in order for the mind was absolutely quiet.

Where else could I have experienced such divinity? With all the challenges they offer, be it through the harsh elements or through the difficulties of living in the wild, the Himalayas, for inexplicable reasons, remain the ultimate place for meditation. The Hindu tradition says that over the course of thousands of years, some of the greatest saints have meditated in the Himalayas, and you can still feel their divine energy there. I don’t have any proof, nothing to substantiate this claim, but, having been around the world, I can say without the slightest hesitation that when it comes to spiritual vibrations and a certain purity, there is no other place in the world like the Himalayas.

The mountains of Switzerland, the meadows of New Zealand, the landscapes of North America, the beaches of Australia, the sunny coasts of the Caribbean, the French countryside … I’ve been there, and these places simply don’t match the divinity that runs through the Himalayas. Those places offer exquisite beauty, no doubt; at times, they surpass the Himalayas when it comes to grandeur, unobstructed views, even the quietude and solitude. But the help you get on your spiritual journey from the indescribable and unseen forces of the Himalayas, you cannot get elsewhere.

 

BOOK: If Truth Be Told: A Monk's Memoir
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