“Bhagwanji aap rehna, mujhe kuch nahi aata” (Lord, please be present, I don’t know anything), I uttered slowly, albeit with great faith when it was my turn to be in the divine presence of our Gurudev Bhagwan OM Swamiji in the October of 2019. I was requesting Bhagwanji’s presence for Shri Ramayana paath, which we wanted to organize at my place.
For the past two years, I and my dear ones had been singing Shri Sundarkaand paath regularly. This little chapter from Sri Ramayana gave a new meaning to our familial bond. With each recitation, we found ourselves getting closer and closer, and looking forward to the next one. Not only that, we observed that within a few days of each recitation, someone in our group would benefit, spiritually or materially, or both. One of us, for example, got cured of an excruciating pain in the shoulder, a relative who had been jobless for quite some time, got a decent job, one lady’s husband got a promotion.
We attributed all this to Shri Hari’s and Guru’s grace. To express our gratitude, we decided to recite Shri Ramayana paath. However, the fact that Shri Ramayana paath takes approx. 24 hours to complete and that it should be “akhand” (without break), made me a bit anxious.
So here I was at Sri Badrika Ashram, requesting Swamiji’s blessing for the paath. The smile on his face was quite assuring. There was nothing to worry about. I felt that Swamiji would bless the event. I was excited at this yet another opportunity to be able to witness the “divine hand” of Swamiji at play. His assurance was enough to set all my anxieties at rest.
We were around 15-20 people, however, when the president of the society where I put up suggested that we make the paath open for all as this would be the first time Shri Ramayana paath would be held for the entire society, I did a double take. We had also planned for a bhandara (lunch) post the paath; catering to some 500 odd people (should we agree to make the event open for all) would require us to re-plan the whole event! Was this Gurudev’s will? I was apprehensive but got reminded of my commitment to watch Gurudev’s “leela” (play) and to go with the flow, so we agreed with the President’s suggestion.
“Don’t worry about the funds, everyone will contribute”, the President assured us. We put up notices, however, only a few people came forward with their contribution.
I wasn’t sure how to proceed with the event. Thoughts, such as how much money would be required for the event now that it was open for all, who would help me organize the bhandara, would people turn up to sing during their allotted time, and so on were making me nervous. Just as I had been silently praying to Swamiji for guidance, my 13-year old daughter came to me and of her own offered her savings of a few years for the event. I hadn’t shared my trepidations with her, this was too much of a coincidence! Thinking this to have come as a direction from Gurudev himself, I decided to take the money. My daughter’s savings amounted to approximately 13 thousand rupees. The amount was sufficient to get us started. (Post the event, I realized that contributions from our Sundarkaand group, participants from our society, and my daughter proved to be sufficient, we never felt scarcity, whatsoever.)
As for organizing the bhandara, a Sai devotee kindly offered to oversee the preparations.
For the paath, each person was allotted an hour, however, as most of us were first timers, people had doubts. Some felt that we would not be able to go about it the right way and that mistakes were bound to happen. As a solution, someone offered to get a well versed Pundit to recite the paath.
We were, however, not keen on having someone else sing for us. It took some convincing before consensus happened. We decided to begin the paath with a request to Shri Hari to ignore our mistakes and to give us the right “bhava” (feeling) for the paath.
The lady who had voiced her doubts earlier wasn’t convinced though. She later came over to my place saying that this would be a novice attempt and that she was very skeptical that we would even pull it through. She left, but her words kept ringing in my ears. Would we, a bunch of first-timers, actually be able to pull the paath through to completion? Some of us had not even once heard a recitation of the paath. Doubts of all kinds started assailing my mind, making me go weak. Once again I turned toward my Gurudev; this time for both guidance and strength. In no time a lightness came over me, enthusing me all over and I went back to the preparations with fresh zeal.
How did the paath finally go?
Unbelievable, but all of us who sang had a similar kind of experience—once we started, we didn’t want the paath to end. Something kept us glued to our books. People who came once wanted to come again. The lady who had been skeptical, initially came for about an hour but stayed for all of 2.5 hours. Later she came for another stint of 1.5 hours and was thankful that her first Ramayana recitation had been absolutely wonderful.
We were not surprised, Swamiji had lighted up each person’s heart with bliss.
Although initially each person had been allotted an hour’s slot, never was there a time when the room was not full of people singing with great emotional fervor, sometimes slowly, sometimes fast, sometimes loudly, sometimes softly, and with great bhav. Every heart, every eye was moist with devotion.
At completion, we had planned Shri Sundarkaand paath. For this, so many people turned up that although my living room is quite big, we had to keep laying additional rugs to accommodate all. Devotion and love was in the air; it was a unique experience.
The bhandara that followed was simple, yet delicious, everyone enjoyed.
I had 3 wishes for the Ramayana paath:
All who attend the paath should feel fulfilled spiritually,
All who partake of the bhandara should enjoy it,
We should be able to serve with love, all who come for the paath.
I had read somewhere, “Guru gives far more than what destiny can.”
That day I experienced it too; Divine Bhagwan OM Swamiji had fulfilled all my wishes.
I also learnt that any endeavour, big or small that has Guru’s grace, will turn out beautifully. All obeisance at Gurudev Bhagwan OM Swamiji’s lotus feet.