I shall start my writing on this platform by describing one thing that changed me from within. I was around 50 years old when this happened.
I am fond of reading spiritual and religious books. I came across a book written by a housewife when looking for spiritual books in a bookstore.
This book was written by her in the question-answer format on the subject of spirituality in a very simple language. She had imagined that her son is asking her questions and she is answering them. I scanned the book and realized that she had the gift of simplifying complicated concepts. The book was in Marathi which is my mother tongue and was priced moderately. I purchased the book and read it in one sitting.
She had given her phone number in the book in case someone wanted to speak to her. She had also said that she does not consider herself a guru and does not accept disciples. She had said that she is a simple housewife and people should treat her as such.
I went to meet her. I found that she was what she said she was. If I asked her any question beyond her capacity to answer, she admitted it straight away. I was really impressed by this.
Finally, I asked her a question that was troubling me for many days. By this time I had started calling her ‘Aai’, a word for mother in Marathi.
“Aai, I read a lot of religious and spiritual books, and when I am reading such books I experience that I am elevated to a higher plane and I love that sensation. Yet, when I put down the book and enter into the everyday world, I realise that I was the same old petty-minded Sushil. I am puzzled by this phenomenon. Many of these books promise great spiritual rewards if one reads them regularly. Then why it doesn’t happen in my case? What is the reason? Is my faith weak or are the promises false?”
Aai smiled and said, “Do you really want to know?” I nodded vigorously.
“What you are suffering from is called ‘Spiritual Indigestion’. You are just reading a lot of books and it is only feeding your ego. You think you are better than other people because you read quality books and others read trash. You do not realize that mere reading will not make you a better person. You need to practice what you read.”
“Then tell me, Aai, what should I do?”
“Stop reading and try to follow a routine sadhana which will take just a few minutes of your time. Can you do that?”
I nodded again. I was finding it difficult to speak, I just wanted to listen to her.
“At the end of your bath in the morning, take water in your palm and think of all your ‘Karmas’till that moment and dedicate them to any Guru of your choice by giving the ‘Arghya’ of the water in your palm.”
“Is that all?”
“No. You need to do one more thing. After dressing up sit on a clean asana and conduct a ‘Mansapuja’ of your Guru or any spiritual person you respect. Just offer ‘Gandh’, Pushp’, Dhup’, ‘Deep’ and ‘Naivedya’ by reciting a simple mantra in mind which I am going to give you.”
“But Aai, what you are asking me to do is very simple and will not take more than a couple of minutes!” “Will it really make a difference?”
“You just start doing this regularly and observe what happens.”
Right from the next day, I started following her instruction. There were two simple mantras to be recited mentally, one for dedicating my karmas and the other for Manaspuja. I started doing it regularly. One day while I was conducting the Manspuja, a thought in the form of a question came to my mind. ‘I am cleaning my body by taking a bath every day, let go of my karmas by dedicating them to my Guru and also do the Manspuja after putting on clean clothes. But I have not looked at the garbage inside! How can my puja be accepted if I am not clean from within?”
This was a very important moment in my life. I started the habit of introspection. I took a notebook and wrote down all my memories right from childhood. I wrote down each and every incident and analyzed it threadbare. I examined the happenings and my reactions to them. I was very honest in doing this because I was doing it for myself at my own initiative. I was confessing my mistakes, my acts of commission, and omission to myself. This exercise destroyed many closely held beliefs about myself in my mind. I understood my mistakes and the reasons behind those mistakes. I realized my true character and started repenting for my mistakes. My Manspuja lengthened. I started apologizing mentally to the people I had wronged. My behavior softened. I did it in person wherever possible. I also became lenient to other’s mistakes.
The process is continuous. I have realized the power of introspection.
I do not know if mentally apologizing to people I have wronged in the past will be really effective. I do not know if my apology will reach them. I do not know if they will forgive me. I find it difficult to forgive myself. My only consolation is that my regret is genuine and I shall not commit the same mistakes again.