Jai Sri Hari, and a warm hug to my dearest OS.me family. Guru Purnima is around the corner, and it’s time to make rice kheer again for my beloved Swami. This year Medhaji encouraged us to write about an unlikely teacher in our lives.
Hence, with my guru’s blessings, I will talk to you about a few lessons I learned from my spiritual sister Sri Devi Om. I typically don’t begin any post by invoking Swamiji. However, since I am sharing some beautiful lessons didi taught me, his blessings will keep me on track and do justice to this post.
The first time I saw Swamiji was at the 2019 Guru Purnima festival. On the second day of the trip, I knew I had come home, and my days of wandering were finally complete. Swamiji radiated so much compassion and honesty that I could not help but fall in love with him. I asked him a question during the Q&A session, and when he looked into my eyes and answered it, a sense of tranquility and peace radiated through me.
I applied for initiation, and he accepted my request at midnight on 11th February 2020. It was my marriage anniversary, and I could not have hoped for a better gift. However, I was also intimidated. I had felt the power of Swamiji’s gaze, and I wanted to be worthy of looking into his eyes without lowering mine in shame. I knew that I had to do some Sadhana, but his book on Mantra sciences was intimidating. I was also overawed by the intellect and fierce commitment Swamiji showed to the spiritual path. He was a sanyasi who had made so many sacrifices to merge with the divine. I was a householder and a lazy panda who lived a cozy and comfortable life. How could I even dare to aspire to the same outcome as him?
My Introduction to Sri Devi Didi’s Work
I was subconsciously hunting for the next steps when I started reading posts by Sri Devi didi. When I read her first post of Devi Sadhana, I knew that I had found my inspiration. She was a grihastha and yet had the tenacity and discipline to complete a wonderous sadhana, which concluded in her having a darshan of the divine. I felt a very strong connection with her even though I had never seen her. I started calling her Didi and resolved to follow some of the things she wrote in her blog posts. Her posts about Seva, Spiritual Self Evaluation, Mahabharata, and Truth reflected a deeply spiritual individual who knew so much about Sanatana Dharma’s different aspects and threaded them together seamlessly. I used her Nava Durga Sadhana thread as a motivator, did my own Gayatri Sadhana, and religiously followed her posts. I also constantly reminded her to call me Akshay Bhai.
My persistence finally paid off, and after exchanging a few emails, we had a couple of conversations. We met (virtually) and talked like we had known each other for lifetimes. I peppered didi with questions on how a grihastha could progress on the spiritual path, and she shared some gems that I want to share with all of you. Didi used examples from her own life to reinforce these lessons, but her story is her own to share whenever she is ready for it. Since this is my post, I will share how these lessons made an impact on my life.
The Power of Courage
Sri Devi Didi started by instructing me about the importance of courage when you walk the spiritual path. She described her journey and her jousts with the demons of her past. She went on to say how she made peace with them as she progressed on the spiritual path. Courage means different things for different people. One thing common for both of us was the courage to accept that we are worthy of the Love of our guru and the divine. Swamiji has emphasized that most of us have the “paternal” voice within us, constantly criticizing everything we do and telling us we are not pure enough, disciplined enough, grateful enough, or worthy enough to receive grace. One great act of courage is to love ourselves and keep telling ourselves that we are worthy. That will take away all the excuses to not walk the path our guru has laid out for us. Didi also talked about the courage needed to walk away from toxic relationships and make difficult choices to ensure we are true to ourselves.
Courage for me will mean the ability to trust that many beautiful relationships I have will continue to flower even if I don’t invest too much time gossiping with my loved ones. I need to develop the courage to embrace silence, to let go of the fear of facing an empty mind.
Most importantly, I need to give up the personality I have created of an intelligent, well-read, and knowledgeable man. FOMO drives me to spend so much time reading random things and takes away the focus and time needed to do Sadhana or even write about things I love.
Take a moment and reflect on what acts of courage you may need to perform to keep progressing on the spiritual path.
Developing the Right View of Things
The second advice Sri Devi Didi shared with me has been paradigm-shifting because it helped me reframe every situation in life. She said, “Every time you encounter a problem that you find challenging, or you feel disappointed, angry, and frustrated think about what nature is preparing you for and focus on that skill.”
I live with my parents. We also have my uncle, who never married and has always stayed with us. All of them are growing old together and have tantrums about different things. I negotiate a peace treaty every second day. Every time I do that, I now focus on how nature is teaching me patience, giving me lessons about aging, forcing me to develop negotiation skills, and how all this can help me in my spiritual journey. Similarly, when I encounter challenging situations at work, I focus on how nature is training me to acknowledge contradicting viewpoints.
This approach does not mean you don’t challenge what’s wrong. If you are getting harassed at work, you should complain or find a better work environment. However, instead of self-pity, you can choose to focus on the lesson you are learning and strengthen your personality. I have tried this approach in many situations, and it worked splendidly for me.
A broken heart can mean nature wants you to fall in love with yourself. Poverty can mean nature is teaching you how to be happy with less. If this seems extreme, think about how Swamiji spent so many months in Naga Baba’s ashram, where he barely got a couple of square meals each day. In a heartbreaking paragraph, he writes about being invited for a meal and the joy of eating a couple of mangoes. He told us how that experience shattered the little bit of ego remaining within him and opened him up to receive the divine.
If you are interested in learning more about this approach, I would highly recommend reading “In Love with the World” by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, a Tibetan spiritual master. In early June 2011, Mingyur Rinpoche walked out of his monastery in Bodhgaya, India. He embarked upon a ‘wandering retreat’ through the Himalayas and the plains of India that lasted four and a half years. The purpose of the retreat was to walk away from all comforts and break the tendencies of the mind. This book was recommended by my dear friend Ravi Trivedi, who is a fountain of spiritual knowledge.
The Importance of Mantra Chanting
The third key point didi shared with me has also been shared many times by Swamiji. Anytime when you are free, mentally chant a mantra that you love. Your monkey mind will gradually get used to it, and it will become a subconscious process. A few years ago, my wife had a bad stomach ache. Since it was late in the night, she took antacid and lay down in bed. I just put my hand on her stomach and started chanting a mantra. I did it for about twenty minutes, and we both drifted off to sleep. I woke up a few hours later that I was still chanting, and my whole body felt so light that I could have floated off my bed. I continued chanting and went back to sleep. Didi talked about the power of mantras and how it is so beneficial for grihasthas because they can do it while focusing on other chores. Swamiji has written an excellent book on the Science of Mantras. If you want to start with something lighter, I would recommend The Mantram Handbook by Eknath Easwaran.
The most critical thing didi talked about was the importance of family in a grihastha’s life when walking the spiritual path. She emphatically stated that if you are married today, then that’s how nature planned it for you. Your partner has to be a part of your journey. They need to understand and, wherever possible, support your journey. My own spiritual journey has shown the importance of this lesson. I have been looking for a spiritual master for a few years and had been associated with Art of Living and Isha before I met Swamiji. My wife followed Ramashram Satsang since she was a child and was also looking for a living master but never talked openly about it. When I started worshiping Swamiji and Sri Hari, she adopted a wait and watch attitude to see if this was also a fad. She sat with me during the Navadurga Sadhana that Swamiji conducted during COVID, where he said we should sit with a dream we want to accomplish. I wished that I could walk the path set by Swamiji without any domestic strife. That was a big dream because my wife used to worry that one day I would run away and become a monk. A few months later, when I did my nine-day Gayatri Sadhana, I needed to make one more wish. I told Gayatri Ma that I have everything I need, so I am not asking for anything. However, if she likes my Sadhana, she can give me anything she believes is good for me. I have written about my Sadhana here. On the last day, Swamiji appeared in my wife’s dream while I was doing Sadhana. He was with a young girl and they both stayed at my wife’s house. My wife woke up saying she has found the living guru she has been looking for and has since embraced all of Swamiji’s teachings much more sincerely than me. Since we both started walking the path, our Pooja room is much cleaner, the diya is washed daily, and if I sing Sri Hari aarti in the morning, she sings it in the evening. Overall, the journey seems easier and the process seems complete.
I know that many devotees may not be in this situation today but remember the rule about focusing on nature’s message. Stay the path, dear parivar, and be open to his grace.
Thank you, dear parivar, for being such a warm and loving family. It’s only because of your warmth and affection that I can write about my journey so honestly, and it’s a cathartic process.
Thank you, Sri Devi didi, for all the blessings and love you showered on me. You embraced me wholeheartedly and gave me everything I need to continue walking this beautiful path.
Another person I want to thank from the bottom of my heart is Meera Di. She truly lives up to the magnificent name bestowed upon her by her parents and Swamiji. Meera OM silently does so much for so many people that it’s a wonder we don’t hear more about it. She does that while taking care of her in-laws, husband, kids, and her mother. Her work with the AIIMS ward has impacted many lives, and her devotion to Swamiji is an inspiration.