- *Continued from my last post, Part 1*
Like I mentioned previously, the inspiration for me to take up the 16 days Sri Suktam Sadhana was primarily because Swamiji was offering so much of himself into it and laying such an ancient and divine practice for us city dwellers and cooperate rat runners without any judgment of whether or not we are ready and deserving of it. And secondly because I saw it as a means to strengthen my Bhakti.
Now before I go any further, I need to provide context here and walk you over the bridge that connects the ‘Before’ me ( as mentioned in my previous post) to now. So, sometime early 2021 it quite clearly dawned upon me, that while I had a very strong spiritual seeking, and understood Vedantic and Yogic philosophies intellectually, experientially I was standing behind the start line.
I wanted to learn what it means to truly surrender, I wanted to know first hand what it feels like to be drenched in Bhakti and I wanted the occasional sparks of intense love and compassion that I felt to extend out and rebuild the very fabric of my existence. From here started my new journey that revealed to me my Gurudev, our Swamiji’s face (who I’ve been closely following since 2013 -14 but knew him to be my Guru only last year. A story for another time maybe :)).
In my quest to understand more about devotion and bhakti I picked up the life of Sri Chaitanya Mahabrabhu, the embodiment of love and bhakti himself, and drew nectar from every single page every single event of his life. Till then the non dualistic approach vs the dualist school of thought was black and white to me, but now I discovered the warmth of all the colours in between.
Adi Shankaracharya who was a staunch non-dualist was also the same person who wrote the Soundary Lahihi, the Ganga Stotram and so many more beautiful hymns in praise of the divine form. Sri Ramakrishna, a dualist on the outside was actually an advaiti from within. So here was the key I was missing all along. We need Ma to get to Hari or Prakriti to get to Purusha or through the dual to the non dual not the other way round 🙂 ( at least not for me). So I started learning more and more about the Bhakti marg and I must mention that Swami Sarvapriyananda’s teachings ( I’ve attached links to a few videos that helped me below) showed me the way and cleared all my doubts which finally brought me to see Sri Hari and Swamiji :).
I can go on writing about this but the crux of my finding was that mere spiritual wisdom is no good till we add huge dollops of bhava into it and develop complete surrender to our Guru or Ista and practice Bhakti in full fervor, keeping the ultimate reality of oneness brewing in low flame on the back burner.
Now, coming back to my experience of the Sri Suktam Sadhana, I saw it as a means to deepen my bhakti and I tried to follow to my best capacity all the do’s and dont’s of Swamiji’s instructions. I also added some of my own flavors to it. I’d make small Sri charans with sandalwood paste and make the toes with sindoor near my meditation room door and infront of my alter while singing ‘Jai Ambe Hare, Jagadambe Hare’, It deeply touched me when one morning Swamiji said that the lines, ‘akash ka soonapan, mere tanha man me payal chankati tum aajao jeevan me’ made him think of the Divine mother! and since then I stated humming it while prepping for the evening chants.
The japa was often messy as I was trying to chant, think of the meaning (apparent and esoteric) of each word, feel the emotions as well as try and memorize it all at the same time. For an amateur like me, even my sankalpa of 108 times felt long and I would be in awe of people who’d taken the sankalpa of chanting it a 1000 times! (hopefully I’ll get there one day :))
The first few days I even took my mala out of the japa bag a few times to see how much more is left but that got better and by the fifth day or so I was actually enjoying sitting through the entire session. However, my struggle with chanting, feeling and thinking of the meaning simultaneously stayed till the last. I’d alternate between just concentrating on the sound of the mantra, then for a few rounds think of the meaning and then for some try and visualize the Divine light in my heart. But what I am proud of is that I did not have too many stray thoughts. My distractions were all regarding how to get it right and not if the clothes are still out drying in the balcony ;p
I loved the Yagna sessions with Swamiji in the mornings and I’d join through os.me somehow I found that more comfortable as compared to the Sadhana app. I’d imagine myself sharing the Yagna kund with Swamiji, and since he was managing the fire and offerings I could just sit and listen to him 🙂 It was so beautiful to start in the dark silence of the wee hours, while most of the world slept, and get up to find the sun already out and freshly made tea and biscuits ready for me (imagine being this blessed :D).
I’m so thankful for my family who never questioned or raised a single eyebrow watching me suddenly chanting, praying, wearing a red and white tika and on the occasional curious peeps found me do pretend yagnas to a laptop screen! No one came in my way, infact and on the contrary, made way for me so I had absolutely no hindrance of any kind.
Such is the beauty of grace and such are the mysterious ways of the divine. When the time is right and when the heart is open to possibilities beyond the offerings of this material world, the invisible gates to the yonder or shall I say to the within, open up. It may be dark and confusing in the beginning, but what’s there to fear when we have our Guru standing right at the gate, with his ever so benevolent face, holding up a light for us, showing us the way.
* To be continued in Part 3*
Links to Swami Sarvapriyananda’s videos
Link to Part 1 of this article