What is the purpose of my life? That’s a typical confusion of every seeker, and I was no exception to it. Hoping to solve the puzzle and taking a cue from my parents, even as a teenager, I had started contemplating on one verse from the Gita each morning.
Step 1: Cognizance
Gradually, Indian philosophy engulfed me, and it became my favorite pastime to accumulate knowledge about the scriptures. When situations spiraled downwards, at the right moment in my life, Nature brought in a catalyst of change in the form of Om Swami. Swami’s Divine presence and wisdom profoundly influenced me, and he became my benchmark in many ways.
Hungry to learn more, I sincerely watched his videos, read all his books, almost by-hearted his blogs, and never missed an opportunity to observe him like a hawk! I stalked him around to every retreat he conducted, ranging from Mahamudra Meditation to Zen. Thanks to Swami, I became well-informed on diverse subjects. Besides that, I continued learning about self-development and Sanatana Dharma’s scriptures from various other sources as well. Unfortunately, all of this intellectual knowledge made me restless and left me wanting for more.
Step 2: Selfless Service
Nevertheless, there’s always a ray of hope in every situation. For me, that was my natural inclination towards acts of kindness. Capitalizing on that, Nature routinely put me in circumstances that required selfless sacrifices. This service attitude made me push myself, sometimes way too much, to carry out all my responsibilities to the best of my ability. It resulted in a life of agony, but it strengthened me as a person. On top of all the mundane work, I was also privileged to spend hours in Seva (social service). My philanthropic tendency even motivated me to convert every plausible errand into random acts of kindness. To give myself more productive time, I put an end to socializing.
As I settled in with my service activities and experienced a fleeting sense of purpose, Nature made other plans! My deteriorating health, some creative differences with the volunteers, and Swami’s change in priorities with the advent of Black Lotus put an end to my Seva. Sadly, my life went back to feeling purposeless.
Step 3: Persistence
Since I didn’t have any service-oriented work, I managed to take slightly better care of myself. At this point, along with the name Aveksha (means care, observation & attention to), a divine vision of Devi’s form that was glowing brighter than the sun appeared as an internal vision, rekindling my spiritual journey. Still, the growing frustration of a fruitless life made it impossible for me to focus on anything. Disheartened, I decided to indulge in worldly pleasures. Thanks to the encouragement of Sridhar, my best friend as well as husband, I embarked on a journey to spend forty days at Sri Badrika Ashram.
En route, I had an unshakable faith that Om Swami would help me figure out a path. Disappointingly, Swami wasn’t in the Ashram for practically my entire trip. This unforeseen occurrence, or maybe I should say Divine ordinance, forced me to spend time with Sri Hari, the charming deity at the Ashram’s temple.
Step 4: Bhakti
A subtle change transpired in me. Unlike never before, I started craving for time with the idol, that appeared like Lord Krishna to me. Most of my time was spent singing hymns in the temple or conversing quietly with the Divine. I chanted my favorite mantra whenever I felt agitated or frightened, which was often. Like I had naturally and unconsciously done during my childhood, I resumed crying out, and even fighting with the Divine, about my never-ending troubles. Wondrously, I started receiving responses from Sri Hari in unexpected ways.
For instance, a few temporary construction workers at the Ashram repeatedly eve-teased me. Being a relative newbie at the Ashram, I didn’t feel comfortable talking about this to anyone and endured it silently. Finally, I reprimanded Sri Hari, “Such unruly behavior by these people, in your Ashram? You are watching and doing nothing?” To my astonishment, those men instantly stopped troubling me! When I looked at them out of curiosity, their faces appeared to display fear.
A Divine Vision
During this partial solitude, at my room in the Ashram, Sri Hari’s devotion had propelled me into a transcendental state. Suddenly, in front of my wide-awake eyes, my roof appeared to open up. A snow-covered mountain emerged at its place. Cold winds chilled my entire body. It felt like the whole room had transformed into Mount Kailash! There, slightly above my head, the progenitors of this universe were performing the Ananda Thandav, the happy dance of creation. I received a heavenly vision of Lord Shiva dancing alongside the Divine Mother. It lasted for a few seconds, and then the room was back to usual. Initially, I was in a state of confusion, and some intuitions about my previous birth made it worse. It took a while before the truth dawned upon me, but I was still in a bit of denial.
For a few days after this, the entire world intermittently appeared as energy forms. Everywhere I went, the word Sri echoed so loudly that I couldn’t miss it. Now, even in the idol of Sri Hari, I couldn’t see anything but the Divine Mother! It seemed like Uma, my birth name, had dissolved into Sri Devi, the formless Divine Energy of this creation. In solitude, my mind was in a meditative state and firmly established in the Divine. Yet, in the company of others, I was intensely affected by their emotions.
While I was dealing with these experiences, it was time for a Shivaratri event, and Om Swami arrived at the Ashram. As if addressing the question: why did Sri Hari appear as Shiva-Shakti to me, for the first time on February 13, 2018, he decorated the deity as Ardha-Nareeshvara, the combined form of Shiva and Shakti. The Divine had reassured me about my vision, and I was rendered speechless by Sri Hari’s Leela (divine play).
Step 5: Sadhana
On returning home, my inner turbulence magnified to new heights. My entire trip of forty days, including those incredible experiences, appeared pointless. The subsequent year brought along unendurable turmoil that caused grief to my loved ones as well. Looking for relief, I decided to perform the Sadhana of Sri Devi. As I gathered some details and prepared to get started, Om Swami conducted a virtual Devi Bhagavatam event. Yet again, Nature had responded positively to my needs. Excitedly, I adopted Swami’s teachings with some cosmetic tweaks, added in a few things from my research, and commenced the Sadhana.
That feeling of peace I had experienced at the Ashram temple reemerged as my practice intensified. As my attachment to the Divine Mother increased, a natural sense of detachment towards this world started seeping in. By taking care of myself, supporting my family, worshiping the Divine Mother, and doing something meaningful through my blogs, I began to feel fulfilled. When the internal storm subsided, it was all crystal clear. I realized that I had already achieved my life’s purpose, and I wasn’t aware of it!
In the current world, hypocrisy has overtaken Dharma. The corporate and retail world have converted humans into selfish robots, who are eternally in a hurry and addicted to socializing. Festivals, pilgrimages, and even prayer meets have become gossiping opportunities. Bhakti has become transactional, rituals have come to be blind, and empathy a hard-to-find commodity. Due to this, there is insecurity and suffering everywhere.
Amidst this chaos, the gracious Sri Hari, my Lord Krishna, had walked me on a journey that could inspire many seekers in the future. When situations compelled me to be a householder, I had succumbed to the norms. While I was howling, whining, and complaining, through some challenging circumstances and a couple of beautiful people, Nature had marched me on the shortest possible course to internal peace. If that wasn’t enough, Sri Hari had morphed my life into a purpose by itself and made me a testimonial for the time-tested path proposed by Sanatana Dharma: Gyaan, Nishkama Karma, Bhakti, and Sadhana.
Gyaan or cognizance engages the intellect and triggers transformation. Nishkama Karma, functioning in this world with the attitude of selfless service, disciplines the mind. Bhakti replenishes our bitter and wounded hearts with tenderness, thereby speeding up the process of self-purification. Sadhana, performing austerities or meditative activities, bestows emotional tranquility by channelizing our energy and aiding us in building objectivity.
A genuine practitioner of these Yogic teachings develops pristine mindfulness and gets cleansed out of their negative tendencies. Such purified hearts experience eternal peace and exude unconditional love. That pure love, which reflects as Karuna or divine compassion, is the shortest route to Moksha, liberation from all forms of suffering. That is the universal path of Karuna, implied in the epic discourse of Bhagavad Gita, by one of the greatest Yogi of all times, the epitome of compassion, Lord Krishna.