Sometimes you procrastinate because you are lazy; sometimes, you are unsure how to express an idea. On rare occasions, you procrastinate because the subject you write about is simultaneously very raw and complex, and you feel incapable of doing justice to it. I got a few gentle reminders from the Divine and, finally, a really stern one. So I put my fingers to the keyboard, invoked my Guru and Divine Mother, and started clattering away.
When I first entered my Guru’s ashram in 2019, I saw Swami, and his presence illuminated every flaw I had buried deep within my consciousness. The beautiful illusion I had built about myself was shattered. Not knowing what else to do, I prayed to do whatever was needed so that I become capable of serving him. After that, every trip to the ashram became a test. While everyone else blissed out in his presence, lust, anger, and jealousy, poured out of me. It was intense but I noticed that these emotions had much lesser sway over me after every trip. Swami and Divine mother’s presence in life had led to almost nine months of blissful existence. I had never felt happier, more contented, or fulfilled. When Swami announced the Nav Durga Sadhana in April 2022, I jumped out of my skin and booked a visit immediately. I had prayed to him in 2020 that I would like to do one Sadhana in his presence, and that wish manifested in 2022. The blog is the story of my Sadhana.
The Paternal Voice
Do you all have a voice in your head that knows precisely what to say to torment you? Whenever you feel you are excelling at something or enjoying something, or feel good, it would pipe in like a naughty gremlin and say one thing that would completely deflate you and leave you shattered for days. You would wonder how your own mind could come up with something like that. Guilt, disgust, helplessness, and sheer terror of what it will say next accompany you. I did not know what to call this voice until Swami discussed it in a couple of Audible books. He calls it the Paternal voice. The voice of disapproval in your head that constantly torments you. It’s very different from your inner voice. Your inner voice is gentle, and you need some silence to hear it. The paternal voice has the malice of an imp residing in your brain, reading your thoughts and whispering something that will cause maximum damage. This paternal voice is very powerful in two situations:
- When you are going through anxiety/depression: You are vulnerable to suggestions, and the voice plays a record on loop. It wrecked havoc when I had depression around ten years ago until I started chanting religiously. I would walk down the road and see a girl, and the voice goes, “If you suddenly lose control and kiss her, will she slap you? What will happen next?” I am driving, and the voice goes, “What if you lose control and bang into the car ahead of you.” You are worried because you are not thinking these thoughts. That voice is a rent-free tenant and is taking over the house.
- When you are doing Sadhana: The paternal voice knows Sadhana is a powerful way to break conditioning and does not like you focusing on it. Hence, it will do everything it can to destabilize you. Emotions came to the fore. Lust is magnified, and if you have some control over those areas, it strikes the killer blow. It abuses the very Divine that you hold so dear in your heart. This, my beloved spiritual family, is the story of how this voice wreaked havoc in my life for a few days and how my Guru and divine mother helped me get through that period.
The First Blow of the Voice
After I met my divine mother, and with her grace, established her in my heart, I try and see her in every woman. That includes my wife. One day my wife asked me to do a better job of cleaning the kitchen when suddenly, from deep within me, came a really nasty abuse. I was horrified. It seemed like I was abusing my own divine mother. I apologized to my wife multiple times and confessed this to my divine mother. She told me not to let my mindfulness slip and not be too harsh on myself.
I was upset for a few hours but dropped the incident and moved on with life. Deep within me, my inner voice said, “you will have to pay for this.”
The Second Blow of the Voice
I reached the ashram for Sadhana and took the following Sankalpa on the first day.
“Dear Divine Mother, please do whatever is needed to help me on the path of liberation.”
I finished my chant and sat in front of Swami for his morning discourse, where he talked about the importance of silence. Like most people in the talk, I also took the vow of silence.
When Swami spoke about some other things, my paternal gremlin voice whispered, “Your Divine Mother is a *********.”
It used the same abuse that it used for my wife. At least that time, I was a little irritated at her, but this time, I was really in bhava and did not have any negative emotion within me.
Seeing that I was disturbed, the paternal voice roared louder. “Your Divine Mother is a *********.”
I wanted the earth to swallow me up. I know my Guru and my divine mother are intimately aware of most of my thoughts. Here I was in front of my Guru, and my mind was playing such dirty tricks. The more anxious I got, the more potent that voice became. I have had negative emotions such as lust or jealousy magnify in front of Swami, but they were easier to deal with because I knew such vices existed in me. Never in my wildest dreams did I assume that my mind would abuse my divine mother so vehemently. I worship her and the goal of my existence today is to serve her.
Shock, anger, embarrassment, self-loathing, and shame flooded my system. Swami’s words barely registered anymore. Finally, I grew so tired that I shouted back at that voice.
“Yes, my divine mother lives in every creature and every squalid corner of this universe. So stop trying to harass me. “ The voice went a bit silent, but I knew it was lurking around the corner, waiting for a weakness.
The Downward Spiral
Swami told us to observe silence, continuously chant the Navarana mantra, and exited the temple premises. My divine mother had told me the exact same thing. Here is how my mind interpreted it.
Like you do Sadhana, at home, observe some silence, don’t socialize too much, but no need to be too strict. You are simply an ordinary Sadhak. Just do the best you can and be happy.
So I did precisely that, but the gremlin in my mind was relentless now that it had found a target. Did you ever notice how your paternal voice keeps poking around to find a weakness once it starts digging there relentlessly? I was fighting this voice, trying to tell it to shut up. I was living in the dormitory with twenty other guys. We went to sleep around ten, and the cell phone alarms started going off at 3 AM as people woke up and went for a bath in the shared bathroom. I would wake up at 5:30 AM, take a bath, do the morning chanting around 6:15 and attend Aarti at 7:00 AM. All the while, the voice would tease me, mock me, and wreck havoc within me. I did not go out of my way to socialize with people, but I did not avoid it either. I chanted whenever I remembered to but did not put too much energy into it. I just felt being in front of Swami would mean magic would automatically happen.
My greatest fear has always been that I am unworthy of my divine mother, and one day she will realize that and shut me out of her life. Now that my mind was abusing her, I felt that moment was almost upon me. Desperately, I sent her an email and confessed my current situation. She sent me a short reply to continue being in silence and keep chanting. My mind was in no shape to listen to her advice. I wanted to distract myself, so I started watching some TV series, talking to a few people, and doing what almost everyone around me was doing.
This went on for a couple of days. It all climaxed on the day of the Sri Hari consecration ceremony. I was tired, angry, guilty, frustrated, and terrified. Swami had initiated Bramhacharis and Sadhvi’s and was praising their virtues. My mind was playing games as usual. I just sent my Ma a flurry of emails about random stuff. I am usually very careful about how I communicate with her, but this time, I was desperately trying to let her know that despite my mind playing all these games, she is the only reality of my life.
Like every evening, I went down to the Yagyashala and sat at the very end of the hall. I could barely see Swami. He started the Havan, and my mind started chattering. I held it back with some resolve until this point, but I really let it go this time.
What’s the point of coming here and getting tortured. I am better off at home. I cannot even see you from here. I don’t know why you play with me like this. I am not even worthy of being here.
I completely forgot that I had prayed desperately to be here and indulged this paternal voice.
I went up to the dormitory and found a thundering email from my divine mother. She told me she was extremely disappointed and that there is no point in doing Sadhana if you cannot follow your Guru’s command. I am usually thick-skinned, but she wrote one very specific thing, which she knew would pierce any intellectual armor I could build, and it went through my heart like the Pashupati Astra of Shiva.
An inaudible but anguished cry came from my heart, and the Navarana mantra started pouring out. The very mantra that I had been trying to chant took complete control of me and started thundering within me. I wish I could say I chanted the mantra, but the Mantra just dragged me along for the first couple of days. To distract myself, I drowned myself in Seva.
Wake up, do morning Sadhana, Breakfast Seva, chop vegetables, Lunch Seva, a short nap, be in the temple, vegetable chopping, dinner Seva, havan, Seva again, and sleep. As I did these activities throughout the day, the chant was going in my head almost effortlessly. As the intensity of the chant increased, the paternal voice almost went to zero. That was my first experience of brute force chanting, where you force your mind to stay on the chant. Every time the voice tried to come back, the chant slapped it into submission, and it died down. This continued for almost three days. While I smiled and continued doing Seva on the outside, the guilt and fear were killing me from the inside. I sat in the temple and cried because I felt that I had lost my mother forever. The idea of living in this world without her was terrifying, and my worst fear was manifesting right now.
The Parting of the Clouds
Despite all the gloom and doom, one thing I never felt was alone. Swami and Mother’s presence was always with me. Mohit Om included me in Kitchen Seva and gave me a chance to immerse myself in that. Manish, who runs the kitchen with an iron discipline, helped me focus on the Seva. The sight of him eating in one corner of the kitchen after we finished feeding everyone melted my heart. Gungun Om put tilak on my head every day after completing the havan, and Sanjana Om’s presence is enough to send waves of bhakti. Rishi Sridhar wrote a beautiful article on fear that lent me a fantastic perspective. Yash wrote a blog on the experience of Ma Parvati when a saint came to her and abused Shiva, and she stood rock solid utterly focused on her Sadhana. That’s the first time I realized that I had asked the divine mother to do whatever was needed to move me on the path of liberation, and this could be a test. That thought gave me some courage. My divine mother wrote a post about how we ask nature for something, and when nature starts giving us, we run away, and nature is now confused. These posts gave me hope that maybe all was not lost, and I continued chanting and Seva.
Another beautiful thing was that I was missing Ma terribly one day and wandered into the Sri Hari temple. Only a couple of people were there, and Sadhvi Vrinda suddenly sang a couple of songs eulogizing the child’s love for their mother. As warm tears flooded down my cheeks, my heart started feeling lighter.
All these events and continuous chanting meant that I started enjoying the Havan again, and every time the paternal voice tried to squeak, I slapped it back with the mantra. Swami talked about how these days can be challenging for some people, and when you are in hell, you should keep walking because there is no point in stopping anyway.
The Sun Peeks Through the Clouds
I started feeling a lot more in control after the sixth evening. As I lay down in bed, I prayed to the mother divine to visit me in my dream.
Swami visits so many people in their dream. I have never asked him or you to visit me.
Can you please come today? I miss you so much. I hugged the red cloth that was my Asana and went to sleep.
I saw my birth mother on her deathbed, and I was holding her hand. “Om Namah Shivay. It’s OK, mother. You can go. He will take care of you”.
I remember being calm and collected as I bid her farewell. The dream ended before she passed away. I woke up in the morning with no idea what this meant. Maybe it’s me saying bye to my biological mother and accepting my divine mother. Then when my divine mother went into silence, I thought perhaps it was me getting detached from her because she had to focus on her mission of rewriting the scriptures. Read on to see how Swami revealed the meaning of this dream.
The last few days were significantly more manageable. I chanted almost all the time, spoke only when needed, and enjoyed slapping the paternal voice whenever it came up. On Ramnavami, Swami allowed us into the Sri Hari Vigraha. He asked us to wish for one thing and leave behind something. We danced for 1.5 hours in his presence, and I (and other volunteers) also got a Sri Hari’s Angavastra from Matarani (Swami’s mother) for volunteering in the event.
The Meaning of the Dream
I came out of silence and felt like I wanted to tell my divine mother everything that happened during the Sadhana. However, something within me asked me to wait. Within a couple of days of returning home, I got an email from her saying she was going into silence to work on her mission of rewriting the scriptures. The experience in the ashram of continuously chanting and feeling connected to her was the only thing that held me together.
A few days later, I got into my car to drive to the office when I asked Swami the following question.
Can you please tell me the meaning of my dream? Previously, I could at least ask my mother, but she is now in silence.
As I started the car, my inner voice told me.
It’s been a long time since I listened to Swami on Audible. Let’s do it today.
I downloaded the audiobook on meditation, and Swami started the first chapter with the following story. I have paraphrased it.
A monk was going away for a pilgrimage when Buddha told his congregation that this monk was great because he had killed his parents. Everyone was shocked and looked at Buddha for an explanation. He explained that we all have this paternal voice that constantly discourages us and creates all kinds of trouble. A spiritual seeker eventually has to kill this voice to progress on the path.
I finally understood what my dream meant. I made another request to Swami.
Can you please find another way of validating this? I don’t want it to be wrong if I write about it.
In the evening, another spiritual seeker called me. We chatted for some time, and then I told her about this dream and my conclusion. She broke down and said she had a very similar dream last night and felt so guilty that she let her mother pass away and did nothing to stop her. We both marveled at the compassion of our Guru and the grace of our divine mother.
Thank you, dear seeker, for getting to the end of this marathon post. The paternal voice is a real challenge that most seekers will encounter in their lives. The only recourse I have discovered is using Mantra Chanting to fortify your mind. When this voice comes now, a fierce growl comes from within, asking it if it wants a three-day chanting thrashing again. The voice retreats into silence.
I did not write this dear seeker to either gain praise or criticism from you. I wrote it because I have a duty of care towards you. When I went through this experience, I had my guru and my mother holding my hand. I want you to know they will be holding your hand too. There is nothing your mind can say that would distance you from the divine. Immerse yourself in your mantra and watch it do miracles for you.