One who knows the mantra of supreme grace is liberated whether he dwells in a place of true pilgrimage, or a place without means to ford across the world, or even in the midst of the ocean of worldliness – there is no doubt about it.
~Kularnava Tantra by Sir John Woodroffe
I once read somewhere that, ‘Whatever is God’s should be humbly offered to God’. And I thought, ‘everything we own belongs to Him, so we can’t offer Him anything less than our existence…’
Of all the material gifts we can hope to place at Bhagavān’s holy feet, an offering of the self is the highest offering. A mindful chant murmured with concentration, a bhajan sung in love, anointing the sweet Lord with fragrant unguents and Yajna performed out of devotion alone is a true offering.
Impure we maybe in mind and body, lost and unsure, but the vital prana (life-force), the in-dweller in us, is Him. When He leaves the body it goes back to dust. We came to this world with nothing. We depart from this world with nothing, but a fresh set of karmic debt to our names. The wheel of karma never stops spinning.
Born and reborn countless times, we become someone new in each birth, but the old soul remains the same. Its why sometimes people flinch from life itself. They feel exhausted, alone and hollow from inside, even when they have everything. It isn’t merely the vagaries and burdens of this life, but a baggage of lifetimes that makes the soul dispirited. It affects the consciousness, slows it down, infects it and corrupts it to such a degree that a man is willing to try anything. It’s then that most of us set out on a quest to liberate ourselves. For, in the far reaches of human consciousness smolders a deep desire to be free.
A soul’s journey to find its source is Sadhana, in Sanatana Dharma. To find the Supreme entity through ways of worship is what the Vedas preach. In my own experience, little as it is, I’ve learnt with my Guru’s immense grace and patience, that if man is eager to find God, He is just as eager to welcome us back home.
An insincere and sincere sādhak, both, will experience the love of Bhagavān as they walk the path. For one day insincerity will turn into love and devotion, with divine grace. A japa of ten minutes will become twenty, one day soon, twenty minutes will become an hour, finally months and years later on a beautiful unsuspecting morning, an hour will turn into two and more. Until, one day, your love for Bhagavān will be so absolute that His grace will reflect in your very reflection. And life would be as meaningful as you would have hoped for in your most vulnerable moments.
Bhagavān’s manifestation in this world is so real that it is beyond contention. Let me share with you an anecdote.
The year was 2018, the details around the date are a bit hazy, but I do remember it was summer. I usually slept with my balcony door open in case the electricity went out in the city, a gentle night breeze would keep me cool at night. It was an auspicious time, as I had undertaken a forty-day sadhana of Lord Vishnu and His Consort Devi Laxmi, given to me by my guru, the holiest of holy, Om Swami.
The mantra had a beejakshara (seed syllable) of both, the feminine and the masculine principles of Divine energy. But as the sadhana had progressed, I had increasingly begun to lay my heart at the Goddesses’ sacred feet.
The desire to find the Divine Mother in my japa surpassed the devotion I felt for Lord Hari.
Something deep inside of me yearned for Her approval, Her affection. The love of Bhagavān couldn’t fill the empty space that only a Mother could fill for her child.
Many mornings I would clearly decide before the japa, ‘Today I’ll focus on Lord Narayana’s gentle form’, however after a little while He would turn into Devi’s loving form and I’d end up playing with Her.
Each morning, as I chanted my mantra, I found the Devi close. There were many dull mornings when I got up from my asana terribly disappointed with myself, for, I could barely sit still. The one-pointed concentration that my beloved Guru had mastered with sheer perseverance and infallible devotion was a mystery to me. This mind so small, having lived in the world, was so overwhelmed with old impressions that at times sadhana, was in name only.
But I persisted, as all sādhaks do, and called out to the graceful Mother with the tears, sorrow and joy that lay within. On the last night of my sadhana, as is my usual tradition, I put fresh sheets on my bed and wore clean night clothes in preparation of a darshan, a vision of the Goddess in a dream.
Swamiji always said that if the sadhana is successful there’s always a sign, a dream or a vision during japa. My past sadhanas had always ended with a dream of my deity appearing on the last night of the sadhana, so by now I knew the drill.
That night, as I lay my head gently on the fresh, fragrant pillow cover, I couldn’t help but feel gleeful, at the thought of having a dream of my beautiful and most favourite Goddess. It was a beautiful night, bright and twinkling with stars, a couple of nights away from a full moon.
The dream never happened, instead I was startled in the middle of the night by a frightening noise of a wild animal being hunted down.
A bit disoriented and groggy my mind tried to make sense of the blood-chilling sound that fell in my ears. As survival instinct kicked in, the mind quickly calculated, that my apartment, high on the 6th floor in the city was on the main road and not tucked away in some dense forest. There were vehicles moving on the road at all times of the night, apart from a few scrawny trees across, I was bang in the middle of a jungle of concrete. There was no wild predator lurking here!
When the terrifying cry came again, I jumped out of bed and peeped through the mesh door. Sitting on the balcony’s railing, not five feet away from me was an Owl. Not just any Owl, but a pure snow-white Owl, his face perfectly formed, for a moment, I thought it was the face of a child. I had never felt so scared and enchanted at the same time.
The large Owl looked at me, flew down to the balcony floor, pouncing on a bloodied pigeon, as a leopard pounces on hapless sheep. Quickly opening the mesh door, I stepped out and tapped my foot hard on the floor to shoo the Owl away but to no avail. As the wounded pigeon retreated to a corner, the large bird attacked him again. His piercing cries made my heart lurch with pain and I screamed at the Owl desperately to let the injured bird be.
In response, the Owl merely fluttered his wings, and sat on the railing watching me unblinkingly. He was barely three feet away now, his face so close that if I put my hand out, I could touch his face. But the truth was, his face seemed so human that in the dead of the night, it scared me. I wondered then, why I didn’t scare him? Why didn’t he just fly away as all birds do when they sense danger? Like an ancient force he just sat there regal and commanding.
It struck me then, ‘Wasn’t the Owl, a Vahan (mount) of the Goddess of Fortune? What was this gigantic, white owl doing, sitting on my balcony, in the middle of a crowded township?’
Just then, the Owl launched another attack at the lame pigeon. Distressed beyond words, I got down on my knees, not caring about the blood on the floor where the pigeon had bled. I paid my obeisance to the white-one, my respects, just as I bow down in front of my Guru and Sri Hari.
With a sentiment of deep reverence in my heart, hands folded, I mentally prayed to him to spare the life of the pigeon.
I said to him, ‘I know the pigeon is your food, and you are right to prey on him, but please I can’t let you kill him, because it’s my dharma that I must save his life. That is what I’ve learnt from my Guru,’ I felt in my heart, it was a test of my sadhana and I mustn’t fail.
In that moment, something beautiful happened and I was certain that the Owl accepted my obeisance. His dark, wizened eyes gazed at me, and the next minute he spread his wings and flew away and away, disappearing into the vast sky in front of me.
The relief I felt at keeping the pigeon safe and having the divine darshan of the spotless white Owl is till date, a mystery to me. I went back to bed thinking it couldn’t be a coincidence that Ma’s ride, himself had visited me, on the final night of my sadhana.
Later, as I sought my Guru’s blessings on the completion of my sadhana and narrated the whole incident, Swamiji said to me, “It’s divine grace, Sadhviji. Seeing the mount of the deity is a great sign of benediction. But, more importantly, it was benediction that Divine Mother is always there to protect you. When a sādhak prays with fervor, he/she becomes the divine in that moment. That pigeon could have been anywhere, but it chose your house. Subconsciously, it knew that the divine in you, would save it from the owl.”
And then He went on to narrate a heart-touching story from Surdas’s composition ‘Ab ke rakhi lehu Bhagavān’.
As the story goes, ‘A little bird perched comfortably on a tree, gets caught between a large vulture sitting on a branch right above it and a hunter aiming at it with his arrow, from a distance. There is no escape route left.
The bird prays to God with all its heart and just then a snake appears and bites the hunter, at the precise moment he was going to shoot. As a result ,he misses the mark and ends up shooting at the preying vulture instead!’
Whenever I think back on that time, I’m always reminded, that it wasn’t the purity of my practice, but the power of my Guru’s penance that led the Golden Goddess to me. It was Swamiji’s tapas that had given me a glimpse of the Goddess of Wealth, Ma Laxmi.
The disciple of a true Guru has nothing to fear, for they’ll be uplifted by His grace, in this very lifetime. It has been many years since then and Devi Ma has bestowed upon me, many beautiful experiences.
In all these years, I’ve learnt a few simple but powerful truths:
The only sustainable joy in this world is the joy of worship.
The greed for fulfillment from a thousand things completely lose their charm, when Bhagavān and Devi’s soft, smiling faces shine in the sādhak’s mind’s eye.
The rewards that arise from penance are beyond the human mind’s imagination. It is a world so sacred and pure, it devours every sorrow and flaw of past karma, to unveil the divine spark residing within you.
A souls’ journey back home to its eternal abode is the only purpose of this human birth, and sadhana and Guru’s grace is the only vehicle, the only vahan, that can fly us home.
I offer my humble obeisance at the holy feet of my most compassionate, mighty and powerful Guru, with whose immense grace and divine blessings every Sadhana has become possible!
Sadhvi Vrinda Om is an award-winning poet and author and is one of the foremost disciples of Om Swami. Sadhvi ji’s mesmirizing non-fiction ‘Om Swami: As we know Him’, ‘The Book of Faith’ and the recent ‘The Rainmaker’, have been hailed transformational by many readers. She graduated from Sophia College, Ajmer, and went on to pursue an MBA.