The river hums a rhythmic tune, the lands are bountiful and green, the birds chirp the morning song and the dogs are mischievously glee.
Vibrant flowers dance lividly as the bees come visiting by, through the willows and creeks it flows, the whispering breeze, telling the mystical tales of time.
A new day has come knocking at my door and I tiptoe out like a child. Leaving behind all worries, I steal these moments in time.
I am but a captive audience of this symphony orchestrated by my beautiful Mother Divine!
Ever since Swamiji anchored at the Ashram, the place became the centre of my life. Every opportune break I got, I would spend it here. Over the years this fondness has grown into a deeper bond. Now, it is much more to me than just my Prabhu’s abode. It is my spiritual connection to life. Every time I wander off in the wilderness of the material world, it realigns me towards my source, my beautiful Mother Divine. Every visit is a cleansing process like that of a child who has returned after playing in the muck. She is bathed and cleaned, sometimes even pulled up by her mother.
The ashram was a tiny mud hut on the onset much like the other village huts surrounding it. Swamiji still gave this place all the veneration it deserved and the rest of us followed suit. It was the portal to the Divine world that had been opened for everyone to experience and revel in.
Over my several visits in the following years, I truly realised how lucky I was to be getting the darshans of this holy land. Swamiji helped me understand the soulful presence of the flora and fauna. At times, back in 2011-12, whenever Swamiji would step out of his hut, we often competed with the dogs and cats that appeared out of nowhere vying for Swamiji’s attention. He would caress them lovingly while explaining how the entire creation is capable of reciprocating to our feelings. He would look at everything with a lot of love and care, almost having a private chat with them as if. This kindled respect and care for this land and the fellow living beings here, in my heart too.
Much to my husband’s amusement, I started talking to the fascinating variety of creepy crawlies and spiders that would find their way to my room. I would request them to stay off my bedding at night and in return I would respect their space as well. A deal had been struck and it worked too. I never woke up with a bite or rash, in the two years that we slept on the floor of the tiny hut. Swamiji had a hearty laugh when He found out about this newly acquired habit of mine.
In the beginning, the valley, till as far as you could see was barren and brown, dull and dry, parched of love as if. It was like this for most part of the year. The trees were infected and bushes and shrubs almost non-existent. Once, Swamiji was sitting on His chair at a small platform right outside the old discourse room. We were a handful of devotees sitting on a mat in front of Him. We often sat out like this enjoying the cool evening breeze with Him. To me, it was like sitting at the very centre of the valley where Swamiji sitting on His throne was presiding over His kingdom. He looked around, across the hills and prophesised that slowly the purity and piety of the holy mantras chanted at the ashram and the love from Hari kirtan would permeate throughout the valley infusing it with a new life. I knew then that the command had been given and it was only a matter of time it was carried out. Maybe that’s why the valley’s beauty inspires and humbles me more for this story of its transformation is nothing less than a miracle in itself.
I have always loved sitting alone at the ashram, staring at the vast space ahead of me, trying to take in the divinity and peace the place has to offer. I have shared many secrets and concerns, moments of joy and gratitude with this land. Over the years the ashram has become my confidant and I miss it dearly like a close friend. So when I am there, I try and enjoy every bit of it. I steal a few minutes here and there from my motherly duties and other mundane chores and over a cuppa we chat. It smiles to me through its abundance as I smile back with love and gratitude.
To a trained mind and the naked eyes it is a yet another valley, beautiful and serene sitting in the laps of Mother Nature. What it is, however, is truly the valley where Mother Nature, Sri Mata, the Mother Divine, resides in the garbh griha of the beautiful ashram temple. You have to experience it to know it. Call upon Her with all the faith in your heart and She listens. She answers back too. Sometimes subtly and other times most surprisingly or may be not so surprisingly through Swamiji Himself.
I have come to believe that it’s alive, this place. Like a parallel dimension where everything has come to life. The stones, the flowers, the little creatures and even the very air you breathe. They witness our every move, listen to our endless blabbering and whispers and even the overwhelming trail of thoughts. Nothing goes past them. And as loyal messengers of Maa, they carry these secrets to Her. It is the Kadamba Vana on Earth which is but an extension of Her.
I have whispered silly wishes into the air and even those have most uncannily come true.
One such time was when I was hurrying back from a long walk across the river bed. I was hungry like a wolf and suddenly the image of a rich cottage cheese (paneer) dish that had been served on some other special occasion at the ashram hit me like a tornado. I leapt at a comparatively sad packet of chips lying in my room as soon as I got there. It did take care of my hunger pangs but not the cravings. Chomping on its content I longingly thought of that rich, red and spicy dish with a tingling aroma with soft pieces of juicy paneer swimming in it. ‘Oh! What a torture for this foodie kid of yours, Maa. When will I ever get to taste that dish again?’ These were my last thoughts as I slipped into a deep sleep. I have always had the most restful snooze at the ashram. Anyhow, I was almost passed the fixation when I walked into the langar next day to find the very dish I had craved for on the menu. It even looked exactly the way I had envisioned it. Feeling happy like a spoilt kid I gobbled it, sheepishly grinning at my mindlessness.
This story is of little importance and almost embarrassing to share except what followed next was a devotional revelation. I was so excited by this miracle of mine that I cheerfully shared it with a few close friends as I walked back to my room. Later that night, recalling the day’s event I felt a bit shy at my foolishness. ‘What had gotten into me? Why did I have to go and rabbit out details to others, I wondered.’ But then I realised something most humbling. I remembered how everyone had reacted to my share. None of them either doubted me or made fun of me, felt jealous or even thought me as a poor starved soul. I had surely felt like one just the night before. They not only believed me but understood exactly how I felt for they seemed equally excited to hear about it. They had the ‘been there and know exactly what you mean’ reaction to it.
How beautiful is that! Everyone was so content with their own bond of faith with Sri Hari and this pious land that no doubts could ever arise. It dawned on me that this blessed land of Mother Divine has granted us all with sometimes small and other times massive experiences. It has fulfilled our endless yearnings and desires. And while there is much to admire and be happy for the gifts that others receive there is equally enough in our lives to be grateful for as well. Ashram in itself being a gift, a haven, where people from all walks of life come together with faith in their hearts and no one ever returns empty handed.
Once I asked Swamiji, why does it feel that Sri Hari listens to our prayers more at the ashram than when we pray at home? Is there really a difference or as usual am I over thinking things? Swamiji in His patented, ‘matter of fact’ way and with that ever so mystical and often mischievous smile said, “Ab headquarters mein ane ka kuch fayda tu hota hi hai. Ofcourse it’s different and more effective.”
I bow at the most beautiful feet of Jagan Maa. It is with Her grace and inspiration that I have been able to contribute this share. With this I have become a part of Her virtual world too for Swamiji is none other than Maa incarnate.
All glories to Mother Divine!
Your humble child