The year of the first Gayatri Sadhna, 2017, conducted by Om Swamiji at the SriBadrika Ashram, India.
His words opened the Gayatri Sadhna retreat “…you must believe that God can assume a form and the form you believe in is your deity.” The emphasis on having a deity as a precursor to the Gayatri Sadhna or any of the other Sadhnas baffled me. Till that point, I had known, revered and loved only Christ Jesus. Did it mean I was going to leave Him? I focused instead on the Dish Washing ‘Seva’ assigned to me by Ma Shamata Om. Devotees dressed in white, their ‘Gau Mukhs’ slung across their shoulders, their hands dipped into it and chanting along everywhere they went formed the everyday scenario. My three red tubs, pails of water, soap solution, cloth wipes and brooms meanwhile had attracted enough attention of a few participants to join in, bringing me much relief from my unsettling thoughts.
The aftermath of this trip had left me battling at first and later ambivalent for many days until I called my dear friend Rakesh Kumar. His vivid narrations about Swamiji and Lord Krishna had always left me with a distinct enchantment.
“Who is your deity?”I asked him directly.
‘Thakurji,” his gentle voice replied with an ecstatic quiver. I could experience his whole being melt with the utterance.
“Who could be my Hindu deity? ” I asked softly.
“Reflect and find an affinity,” he urged.
Was I abandoning Christ? Could Christ still be my deity? He’s of the same divine energy. How would I do Purushcharans with Christ in it? Was I going to now partake in Idol worship?
Surrender to my Guru had to be complete. Did I ultimately believe that He would always hold me in the palm of His hands?
Memories from my childhood in New Delhi began to surface. Digging deep moats in the mud and filling them up with water in preparation for Janmashtami, Installing Krishna’s cradle and helping my Hindu friends celebrate their much-awaited festival, these formed the standard highlights of August. This ‘midnight birth’ had ‘also’ brought me immense joy. I too, had patiently waited for my turn to rock the infant Krishna’s cradle. Then flashbacks of one of my experiences with Lord Krishna in 2015, which I had later shared with Swamiji, surfaced. Krishna. It had to be Him. My deity?
Mustering some courage one evening, I addressed Lord Krishna and asked Him if he would be my deity. And from the deepest silence within my heart arose a never before experienced bliss. To me, it was a definite yes. How would I take this forward, I had thought.
The next day, I was to meet my dear friend Manisha Chalisgaonkar for lunch. The venue was left for me to decide. Being a cloudy day, a mall at Waterloo Street was chosen solely for its vegetarian food choice. Both of us reached at the appointed time, and strangely, on the spur of the moment, I urged her to accompany me to the South Indian temple next door. The music emanating from the temple was overpowering. It was nearing noon. We went in, and much to our disappointment, found the vigraha curtain drawn. The two musicians were playing their instruments. Embarrassed that I had brought my friend there and that the vigraha was closed, I remember turning back to look at the musicians who had promptly gestured to me to wait. We sat on the cobbled black floor wanting the vigraha curtain to draw aside and reveal whoever was residing in it. Many minutes had flown by and we found ourselves meditating. All of a sudden, the music reached its crescendo forcing me to open my eyes. And at that very moment, the sun appeared amid the clouds passing its bright beams through the glass shaft in the ceiling. Projecting the beams directly into the Vigraha and revealing the Divine form of Lord Krishna. I was dumbstruck. His majestic black countenance cloaked in emerald green, His left breast in shining silver armour and His beautiful hands holding His long silver flute to His smiling lips; these details are forever etched on my mind. My Deity had arrived for me and given me darshan. Shocked and unable to fathom the experience, we left. As we walked out, my eyes fell on the signboard board which read ’ The Sri Krishnan Temple, Waterloo street.
In those days, my daughter Cheryl used to voice train every Saturday with the two most prestigious choirs of Singapore. One of which was located right in front of the temple. For at least four years, I had been visiting this very temple, to pass time while waiting for my daughter. It did not occur to me to know the name of the temple or know who exactly was inside the Sanctum Sanctorum. I had, on many occasions, stared quite hard at all the black stone statues with nothing being recognisable nor making sense to me. I was like any of the many tourists who visited that temple.
And then my love story started. It’s a little like the famous Indian movie ‘Ek Duje Ke Liye’ in which the characters love each other despite language barriers. Everyone at the temple spoke Tamil. I didn’t understand a word. The musician recognised me from my first visit. He took it upon himself without my asking in guiding me to offer ‘Archana.’ For reasons unknown, the temple priests started watching out for me, sometimes instructing me and offering prayers with the utmost reverence. All ‘the black statues’ began coming to life as the ten Avatars of Lord Vishnu. Swamiji’s Homily about the Vaisnavites, the incarnations and their stories were beginning to make sense.
Swamiji had also stated to the effect that deities make their devotees worship in the way they want one to, when they want to and also accept offerings they want from their devotees. I surrendered completely as I knew not any better but did want to know and to love. Soon after, Archanas (Aarti), Sahasranamams, Thirumanjanams(Abhishekams), Homams(Havans) and other pooja’s came to me as blessings, and each time the watchful priests helped me. They still watch out for me, every single time I visit. I feel loved. Over some time, I introduced my beloved Lord to all my North Indian friends, and each one has fallen in love with this Krishna. It amazes me that despite having resided in Singapore for over 20 years, none of us had known of this temple till then.
When Krishna beckons, It’s His grace that allows us to dwell near. It’s nothing we do. It’s Him. He lets us revel in these blissful moments. So what happened to Christ Jesus? Well, I met Him alive in my beloved GuruDev Om Swamiji. His Grace is cascading.
A Janamashtmi Offering to the Living Krishna, Om Swamiji.
Keep me malleable.
Manjula Om Bains
Seva- Voluntary Service
Gau Mukh -Bag for holding the rosary
Purushcharans- a specified period of days for worshipping a deity
Thakur- Lord Krishna
Vigraha -Sanctum Sanctorium
Archana- Prayer offering conducted by a priest
Sahasranamams- Litany to a deity 1000 names or Divine Praises
Thirumanjanams(Abhishekams)- Ritual Bath of the Deity
Homams(Havans)- Ritual fire offerings