Jai Sri Hari, and a warm hug to the OS.me family. I hope you are doing well and enjoying the roller coaster ride that life is offering us these days. I check the COVID numbers every day, swaying between anxiety and hope and praying that this wretched pandemic leaves us very soon.

Previously, I have written multiple posts about my Sadhana and my experiences. However, today’s post is significantly more important than any of those posts.

The one-line summary of today’s post is simply “Always Listen to Swami.” Swamiji has always talked about maintaining the sanctity of Sadhana and has called it an intensely personal experience. I have always believed that he sits on top of Kailash, and most of us are in the Gangetic planes. We need some markers to guide us and motivate us to keep climbing. I used a lot of Sri Devi Didi’s posts as markers and used them as motivation. My only intention about writing about my Sadhana was to lay down some signposts for beginners like me who were trying to begin Sadhana but were hesitant to start because it seemed very intimidating.

Today I simply wanted to share my experience of why I think Swami asks us to keep it private. To help you understand this, I will share the story of the first time I fell in love. It’s a very personal story, but I cannot find any other example to convey my experience.

I smelt her before I saw her. I volunteered in a temple during my four years in college end went to the temple every evening. I was on the first floor of a temple that had a dedicated room for the Devi. A faint hint of jasmine and sandal wafted into my nostrils, and I instinctively turned towards the door. She glided through the door wearing a simple salwar kameez. Her light brown eyes noticed me staring, and her almond face crinkled into a polite smile as she stepped forward to bow down to the divine mother. I closed my eyes and soaked in the memory of her almond face, the delicate eyelashes, and the perfectly formed nose. It took thirty seconds to move from being unaware of her existence to falling in love with her.

She went down to the ground floor, took prasadam, and walked out of the temple. I felt a blazing inferno light up in my chest, and a gentle warmth permeated my whole being. We completed the final aarti at 9 PM, and I floated back home. None of my friends noticed anything different.

I had only had two golden rules in life. First, never use the temple for anything other than seva or worship. Next, never get involved with a friend’s sisters or dad’s friend’s daughters. The next few years were going to test these rules severely.

I smelt the same combination of jasmine and sandal was a few weeks later when I walked into my house. My family worshipped Satya Sai Baba, and the Sai Bhajan had just finished. She was visiting with her parents, who were Sai Devotees, and I mutely stared before introducing myself. The embers that had been simmering in my chest were a blazing inferno again. I told my mother I would spend the night at my friend’s house, took a couple of cups of prasadam, and walked out of the house. The rain was pounding on the streets, and I walked in complete ecstasy for forty-five minutes to my friend’s house.

Again, I told none of my friends about this gentle warmth I felt in my chest and just smiled when they called me mad for walking in the rain. I spent four years of my college without telling anyone about this one-sided relationship. The jasmine-scented girl and I became extremely good friends, and her parents became the second set of parents to me. The fire crackled gently in my heart for those four years. Every meeting was a joyful occasion, and every conversation was memorable. I never felt the need to tell her or anyone else about my feelings. The love I felt was coming from within me and transforming me and I did not feel obliged to discuss it with anyone else. This simmering secret fire protected me for four years in college. While all my friends had their shares of affairs, heartbreaks, and struggles, I sailed through those years joyfully. I never felt the urge to meet and talk to any other girl and politely refused a few expressions of interest.

When I look back at this experience, I realize that the only reason it lasted as long as it did, is because I never spoke to anyone about it. Some emotions and feelings are meant to be enjoyed and treasured silently. If I had discussed my feelings with her or my friends, things could never be the same. Friends would want gossip, she would wish for either closure or answers, and I had nothing to give. I knew that I could never violate the two rules I had in my life. I met her in the temple, and she was my dad’s friend’s daughter.

I am telling you this incredibly personal story because that’s the only way I can explain the sanctity of Sadhana. The joy, calmness, and intense relationship you feel with the divine during sadhana is a very personal emotion. When you write about it or even tell someone about it, you analyze it. The analysis significantly reduces the impact of your Sadhana. Swamiji has mentioned this in multiple videos and blog posts, but I am a stubborn individual. I always felt that posting about my experience would help other people get started, and that did happen. Shivani Di reached out and started her own Sadhana, and a couple of other people wrote about starting their own journeys.

However, the one thing Swamiji always values is honesty and truth. The truth is that discussing my Sadhana and writing about it did reduce its impact. When I took the Sankalpa on the first day, it felt like an invisible armor had wrapped itself around me. I laughed at temptations for the next thirty days and completed my Sadhana. However, after completing the final day, I felt the armor snap and all my tendencies came rushing back. That’s when I realized the importance of coming out of the Sadhana correctly. It became almost impossible even to sing Sri Hari aarti every day. I did not meditate or even listen to Swamiji’s video for the next few days. It took a few weeks, chatting to Meera Di and reading Sri Devi Didi’s posts, to get back into the path of bhakti. When I reflected on why I struggled so much post-Sadhana, I realized I had not allowed enough time for the Sadhana to sink within me. The tiny flame I had so carefully nurtured within me, had extinguished entirely when I exposed it to the world. That’s when I had a satori about why I could sustain a one-sided relationship for four years and yet could not even enjoy the effects of my Sadhana for one day after completing it.

Sadhana is a private affair between you and the divine. The way they manifest for you is very personal and intimate. When you are ready to share it, you will receive a sign from the divine. Until then, ensure that you fully immerse yourself inwards before sharing your experiences.

Another unrelated lesson is that your first major crush/love may not be the best person for you. In fact, in my case, it would have been a car crash. We have been conditioned to think that we must possess everything we love. On most occasions, it’s best to enjoy the emotion versus trying to get together with that person. Familiarity leads to contempt in many cases, and in others, you take the person for granted very quickly. Marriage is not a decision you can take lightly, and love is simply one of the prerequisites.

I met my wife Rashmi in my first job, and there was nothing magical about our meeting. It was not love at first sight. There was no scent of jasmine or magical lonely walks in the rain. We graduated from being colleagues to friends, and finally, life partners. The bond gradually deepened over time due to a mutual love for reading, good food, and robust intellectual debates. She challenged me every time she felt I was wrong, pushed me to challenge my conditing, and made me a significantly better person. We have now completed thirteen years with each other, and it’s been a fantastic ride.

Thank you so much for reading a long and rambling post. The journey of self-realization is full of pitfalls, and if even one of you learns from my challenges, I would consider myself lucky. Here is a song I listen to when I miss Swami these days.

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Akshay

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